Cultural places in South America
Have you wondered how fast you can go on a banana tree trunk? Well, at the annual Tapati festival on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) one of the competitions is the Haka Pei race, where semi-naked Polynesians slide down a very steep hill on top of two trunks tied together. It takes bravery to do it, for they reach speeds up to 80 km/h. The whole festival runs for two weeks and starts in January or February, and the goal is to pick a new queen for the year. Each candidate is backed up by their whole clan and the groups then compete against each other in a range of traditional arts and sports, like the Haka Pei. It is a unique opportunity to see ancient Rapa Nui traditions come alive and get spoiled with muscular warriors and seductive beauties performing traditional Rapa Nui dance.
Every Tuesday, the small village of Silvia holds its weekly market. Buses loaded with Guambiano Indians and sacks of potatoes in every colour and shape arrive early to return equally loaded in the afternoon. The Indians are dressed in their finest, which just happens to be the same for all. Ankle boots, deep blue scarf, bowler hat and wraparound skirt, and that includes the men too. It is a great mix of trading and get together at the plaza for catching up on the latest gossip. It is just one of those lovely places that Colombia is so full of, but again not many visitors come here (luckily).
The advanced civilization of the Incan empire was full of tradition and ceremony. But few festivals were more important than Inti Raymi (Festival of the sun). Celebrated around the (Southern) winter solstice (June 21/22), the occasion is commemorated in a number of places throughout the former empire, including Ecuador. Places like Otovalo or Ingapirca are likely the best places to see traditional dances and costumes from, not only local but international groups who come to contribute to the festive atmosphere. It's a wonderful opportunity to take in some ancient culture, just be careful with the Chicha, the fermented drink saved especially for the festival!
The huge Saturday market in delightful Otavalo is popular with locals as well gringos. The town square is packed with small stalls offering an massive range of knitted and weaved souvenirs in all colours of the rainbow, some more authentic looking than others. Down the side streets more local goods are sold by the beautiful dressed indigenous people. Both the men and women still wear their traditional clothes, which for women is a white embroidered blouse and a folded scarf on the head, and for the men white trousers and shirt. Both have long hair that is plaited and hanging down their back.
Every Thursday the town of Saquisilí turn into one giant market. Actually it is several markets that are spread over the town. Indigenous people from remote villages in the surrounding hills come in to sell their goods, whether it is a goat, old shoes or a bag full of guinea pigs... and they are not sold as pets. The people are covered under colorful ponchos and felt hats sporting a fashionable peacock feather. It is a wonderful messy and rowdy affair, that starts early and phase out around midday. While Otavalo market is for tourists, this is the real deal.
A short taxi ride from Puno brings you to Sillustani. This is a pre-Inca burial ground on the shores of Lake Umayo. The Aymara people built towers called Chulpas, where they buried mummified corpses. The inside of the towers represent the womb and the mummies were buried in the fetal position representing rebirth. Probably only the vip’s of their time were buried in these Chulpas.
Many of the towers are in good condition and the setting is absolutely stunning with clear blue skies and clear blue water as a background!
On the way between Sillustani and Puno are several typical Aymara houses where you’ll be welcome to stop for a visit.