When organising visits to local communities in Peru, it is essential for us that we ensure the visit is authentic, tasteful and, above all, representative of what local life and tradition in Peru actually entails.
In this spirit, the following series of photos were taken on a recent visit by Aracari guests to the community of Chuquibamba, part of the Tierra de los Yachaqs project. The accompanying report is written by Aracari guide Juan Llanos.
If you are interested in an authentic comunity visit such as those with Tierra de los Yachaqs during your trip to Peru, contact us to enquire further.
Visit to the community of Chuquibamba
by Juan Llanos
After a beautiful drive from Cusco of around 2 hours, our group was joyfully greeted by the people of the community. During our introduction, we were given local dress to wear during the visit; the clothing is unique to the locals of Chuquibamba, a symbol of their identity. It is important for guests to the village to wear the same clothes during their time here so that they feel welcome and not an “outsider”.
After meeting and greeting with the community members, we climbed to more than 3,500 metres above sea level to visit the tombs of the villagers’ ancestors. This sanctuary, adorned by skulls and bones, is a shrine of great importance as this is where the local people come to ask for the advice of their predecessors. There are also a collection of local arts and crafts, such as baskets, necklaces and other adornments, crafted from the trunk of the sacred Achupalla plant and its thorns.
As the local guides explained to me in Quechua, the Achupalla is a very important plant for everyday life, as it provides food for their guinea pigs and llamas; it is used in medicines and ointments to quickly heal wounds; and it is also fermented into a drink to accompany festivals. They have to cut the plant up and remove the thorns before using it.
“A strong wind came one morning and blew away all of the plants and trees that grew here,” explained one of the community leaders. “Afterwards Achupalla began to grow all over the place, and until this day it continues to grow here, you don’t find it anywhere else.” The other elders from the village looked nonplussed that he had told me this story; they still hold this legend as a very closely guarded secret, an important part of the fabric and essence of their community.
Following this pilgramage, our group returned downhill to the village where refreshments made from muña (a type of Andean peppermint) awaited us. We were then invited for a meal: in the local style, this began with plates of corn, green beans, cheese and hot yellow potatoes, followed by pumpkin with white rice and more cheese. This was accompanied by Muña tea as well as other herbal teas to help with digestion.
To complete the visit, our guests were bid farewell in true Andean style: they participated in traditional dancing accompanied by unique local music before heading back to Cusco.