A Visit from Mom: On the Big Yellow Bus

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May 1, 2013 by jiejie768

Alejandro snapped this picture of our tour group before we got started.

Alejandro snapped this picture of our tour group before we got started.

This grassy area was once designated as a park for Spanish children whose Colonial Governor parents didn't want them mixing with the locals.

This grassy area was once designated as a park for Spanish children whose Colonial Governor parents didn’t want them mixing with the locals.

Most of my mother’s visit to Ayacucho was pretty low key, highlighted by lots of junk food and chatting late into the evening in GeGe’s kitchen. Most of the adventure on this trip was to come when we left Ayacucho and headed to Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Here, instead of his traditional eagle, St. John is depicted with an Andean condor.

Here, instead of his traditional eagle, St. John is depicted with an Andean condor.

There were, however, a couple of highlights toward the end of her week in Huamanga. The first came Thursday, April 4, when we took the city tour on the big yellow bus driven by our good friend and KATC landlord Alejandro. (Another highlight of that Thursday was Isak’s fourth birthday … really can’t pass up a chance to put pictures of that kid on the blog).

We got up early Thursday and headed to the city center to meet Alejandro. Mom rode down in the bus with him as she was staying in Alejandro’s guest room. Regardless, we all met at about 9 a.m. and begin our own private tour of the city in the giant yellow bus (usually the tour is in the afternoon, but for the low, low price of 10 soles extra apiece, we were able to arrange a special tour for the morning so as to make it to school on time).

This retablo in Ayacucho's central cathedral is either the oldest or the biggest of its kind. Not sure which.

This retablo in Ayacucho’s central cathedral is either the oldest or the biggest of its kind. Not sure which.

Surprisingly, even after seven months in Ayacucho, the vast majority of things we saw on the tour were new to Meg and I. We started by touring the courtyard of an old mansion off the plaza. Meg and I had peered in and seen the cannons sitting on the grass, but until that day we never knew what the building was. Turns out it’s government offices. During colonial times, however, it was home to the Spanish governors and staff. The grassy area in the courtyard was designated as a park for the Spanish children who were not allowed out into the city to mix with the Peruvian children.

From there, we crossed the plaza and learned a little about the statue of General Mariscal Sucre who led the army that liberated Peru on Dec. 9, 1824, in the famed Battle of Ayacucho. We eventually wound up at the Cathedral. Meg and I had been inside the Cathedral just twice before, and it was nice to have Ruso, the tour guide for Alejandro’s company, along to tell us a little about the history of the altars and retablos inside (Ruso speaks no English, so Meg translated everything for Mom). My favorite quirk to Ayacucho’s cathedral was the statue of St. John with a pet condor. St. John’s symbol is an eagle, but here it was modified to a condor in order to represent the Andean people.

This model at the museum depicts what life in the Ayacucho region may have been like thousands of years before Christ.

This model at the museum depicts what life in the Ayacucho region may have been like thousands of years before Christ.

There was lots of cool pottery at the museum as well. I liked this one that depicted a village.

There was lots of cool pottery at the museum as well. I liked this one that depicted a village.

After the cathedral, we boarded the bus, left the city center and headed to the outskirts and a natural history museum at the university campus. It was fun to ride around town on top of the bus and get a different perspective of the city. We also learned during this ride that the Universidad Nacional de San Cristobal de Huamanga (Ayacucho’s college) is the oldest state-run university in Peru.

These skulls at the museum show how some of the native people used cranial modification. The holes in some of them also indicate the people practiced brain surgery.

These skulls at the museum show how some of the native people used cranial modification. The holes in some of them also indicate the people practiced brain surgery.

The museum itself was surprisingly interesting (I’m not much for museums, and neither is Mom). But, it wasn’t an overly large space and we learned a little about the various people that have inhabited the region over the past several thousand years. Having been to the Wari Ruins about an hour outside of Ayacucho, Meg and I found it interesting to get more background on the Wari and other cultures that predate them.

The next stop on the tour consisted of an extended stop at the artisan market (made possible by our status as the only ones on the tour) where Mom was able to do some gift shopping for folks back home.

Maneuvering this bus through the narrow streets of Ayacucho takes a skill that I do not posses.

Maneuvering this bus through the narrow streets of Ayacucho takes a skill that I do not posses.

This monument is dedicated to the journalists who bravely covered detailed the horrors carried out by both the Shining Path and the Peruvian Military during the 1980s and 1990s. Also, Slugbug White!

This monument is dedicated to the journalists who bravely covered the horrors carried out by both the Shining Path and the Peruvian Military during the 1980s and 1990s. Also, Slugbug White!

After leaving the artisan market, our route was altered by a miner’s protest marching through town. This provided some hairy moments as the enormous bus was forced to navigate streets most definitely not built for a vehicle that large. Several times Ruso had to lift power wires and run them to the back of the bus to make sure they weren’t ripped down. He also used an intricate series of foot stamps (we were upstairs) to indicate to Alejandro how much room he had on each side (usually not much). Meg and I were pretty used to this kind of maneuvering in Ayacucho, if not on such a grand scale, but for Mom this was as entertaining as anything else on the tour.

Mom couldn't help but take a picture of this less-than-safe adjustment made to the giant scaffolding outside the Santa Teresa Monastery (see below).

Mom couldn’t help but take a picture of this less-than-safe adjustment made to the giant scaffolding outside the Santa Teresa Monastery (see below).

Bus Tour — Safety Inspection 2

Once we managed to circumvent the protests, and return to our planned route, we stopped at the Santa Teresa Monastery. Meg and I actually live two blocks from the backside of the monastery, but we had never been inside the church at the front. The monastery is home to cloistered nuns. It was interesting to see the choir loft in the church, because it was obstructed by intricate woodwork. Apparently the nuns can be heard, just not seen.

From there, we returned to Carmen Alto and took another tour of the Cerro de Acuchimay. This part of the trip was abbreviated as we’d already visited the cerro, and more importantly, we had lunch waiting for us at Alejandro’s (GeGe’s) house. Hilda, who is Alejandro’s wife and a homework tutor at Kids at the Crossroads, had prepared puca picante for everyone after the tour (the benefits of the private tour went on). It was Mom’s first (and only) taste of the Ayacucho staple, and it was excellent. Meg and I had eaten puca before at the cerro, but we’d never had Hilda’s and we both agreed it was superior to what we’d had before.

"Yeah, I get it guys, there's numbers, now just let me jam stuff into place where I want!"

“Yeah, I get it guys, there’s numbers, now just let me jam stuff into place where I want!”

After lunch, Meg, Mom and I walked down to the market and got Isak his birthday present: a puzzle to help him learn to count. Meg has detailed this purchase in another post, but the photo above shows just how hard the little guy is working (countin’ ain’t easy people).

Catch up on all our adventures with Mom:

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