Posts Tagged ‘Taypikala Hotel’


May 23, 2010

Timing is everything (at least sometimes) and while it might be argued that we arrived in Peru at an unfortunate time, right on the heels of the worst flooding in a dozen years or more, it could also be argued that we arrived precisely at the best of moments. It was, after all, the first part of February. 

What was significant about the timing? Among other things, it was significant because Peruvians celebrate the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria during the first two weeks of February. And nowhere in Peru is this festival a bigger deal than in Puno. And we would be passing through Puno on our way to Chucuito, where we would be staying at the Taypikala Hotel. 

You see, the Virgin de la Candelaria is the patron saint of Puno and Puno is the folkoloric center of Peru. In other words, if one wanted a quick emersion (akin to jumping into the Boulder Reservoir on January 1) into Peruvian culture, being dropped into the center of Puno during the first part of February would do it. 

And that is exactly what happened. We were collected at the Juliaca Airport by one of Jorge Luis Delgado’s guides, who decided it would be a great thing for us to experience the festival first-hand. Forget jet lag, long layovers, and sleep deprivation. How could we forego such an opportunity? In fact, none of us wanted to forego it. We really had no idea what we were signing up for, but our guide promised to get Jorge Luis’ permission to make an unscheduled stop in Puno to see the parade. One cell phone call later, permission had been granted and another cell phone call forged the plan. 

We were cautioned to be careful. Pickpockets abounded during the festival and foreigners were easy prey. Our guide had spoken to a friend of his who just happened to live in Puno on the parade route. So the plan was for us to leave the bus under the care of our driver and go as a group to the home of our patron. Once there, we would pass through his house, entering through a back door and exiting through a front door—and right out onto the street where the parade was already in full swing. 

But what in the world was this festival about? The festival is a lovely melding of native and Catholic tradition, honoring both Mary and Pachamama. It is held during the first two weeks of February and there are celebrations on a daily basis during this time. The festival includes religious ceremonies, dancing contests, parades, and feasts. 

There are at least a couple of legends that place the Virgin on the shores of Lake Titicaca. She is known as the Virgin of Candelaria or Mamacha Candelaria and became the patroness of Puno where, historically, it is said that she saved the city when it was under siege by Tupac Amaru II in 1781. Puno was controlled by the Spanish at the time. The people of Puno decided to take a statue of the Virgin Mary (the Spanish had brought their religion with them) on a procession through the city’s streets, complete with candles and musicians, probably as a way of beseeching her for help in the matter.Tupac’s warriors left and the reason for their leaving is a bit obscure. The Virgin may have done the job for the people of Puno. In any event, the city seems to have been celebrating on a yearly basis ever since. 

Thousands of dancers and musicians parade through the city during this celebration and we were to be witnesses to it. Once in Puno, we filed down the street like a group of kindergarteners on a field trip. We were greeted by our host at his door and led through the house. And when we passed through the front door . . . we entered another world. 

The street was packed with people, some sitting in lawn chairs, others standing hunched together, and still others just sitting on the pavement. We had been told we could wander down the street for a block or so if we wanted, but most of us were too stunned by the spectacle to do anything other than stay pretty much where we were. Anyone armed with a camera pulled it out and began snapping pictures with approximately the same glee as the dancers and musicians in the procession were displaying. 

And there was plenty to photograph. My own camera was in my carry-on, buried under other luggage on the bus. I knew I’d never get to it, so I resigned myself to seeing the procession without photographing it. It might have been the better way to go because it was in-your-face palpably present. Mardi Gras in the US has nothing on Candelaria! The dancers and musicians had vibrantly colored costumes that in any other context would be thought of as garish. 

The older women—the grandmothers—danced through the procession with grace and enough vigor to tip us all off to the fact that this is not a country of slackers. These people are fit—even those who are carrying both age and pounds. They swung their skirts back and forth as they moved in a display that was both feminine enticement and feminine power. They swung their colorful fringed shawls along with their skirts and somehow managed to keep their traditional bowler hats on their heads. The young women wore mini-dresses and boots with thick platform soles that were reminiscent of the 1970s (or Adam Lambert). The musicians were a riot of color and sound. Among the dancers were those in Diablada (devil) costumes and they were gruesomely riveting. These were offset by dancers in stylized armor, the two groups symbolizing the battle between the Archangel Michael and the devil’s army. 

It is customary for the dancers to have buckets of water thrown at them (ostensibly to cool them off) and the old custom has been enhanced or added to with the practice of foam fights. That is, some parade watchers lurk with cans of foam and splash parade participants and other observers alike in good natured play. 

We had but thirty minutes to enjoy the festivities. It was enough. The parade had been in full swing by the time we arrived and was winding down by the time thirty minutes had passed.  We piled back onto the bus, made our way through the Puno revelers, and drove for a time along the shores of Lake Titicaca. It was dark by then, so the lake was but a dark presence. 

Once at the hotel, we received our room assignments and dragged our weary bodies to them. I was surprised when I opened the door to my room. While I’d had no expectation about the accommodations, I suppose I had been thinking along the lines of a budget motel in the U.S., which is how rooms outside the U.S. often struck me. Instead, I found a room that was beautifully appointed. I walked over to the window, looked out, and gasped, “Holy >#*!!” I was looking down onto a beautiful garden courtyard, well lit by soft lights. There were flowers everywhere, a foot bridge, wrought iron tables and chairs . . . and the roof of the wing across from me was planted as a flower garden. Beyond that, I could just make out the lake. 

View from my window at the Taypikala Hotel in Chucuito

I hadn’t just come home—I was in heaven.

copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall


April 28, 2010

Sometimes things change in an instant. My trip to Peru didn’t exactly change in an instant, but it changed almost overnight. In late January, 2010, flooding and mudslides in Peru made Machu Picchu inaccessible. People lost their homes. Some died. Tourists had to be rescued by helicopter. Fortunately, Machu Picchu itself was not lost, but it would be lost to tourism for weeks or months to come. In fact, the entire Sacred Valley had endured flooding and some areas near Lake Titicaca had been flooded, too

My side trip to Machu Picchu was washed away in the floods. Visiting the Sacred Valley was in question. For a few days I was not sure that the trip would happen at all. Fortunately, while the trip schedule had to morph a bit, the trip was still on. Instead of visiting Machu Picchu, we would be going to what many believed to be the most important archeological site in the Americas: Tiwanaku, in Bolivia.

Now this was truly interesting. A couple of years earlier, I had been sitting meditation one morning when I received the very clear message that I would be going to Bolivia one day. I wasn’t even quite sure where in South America Bolivia was. I was skeptical. (Yes, I admit it. I sometimes question what comes in meditation, even though it is right on, more often than not.) Bolivia? What in the world would bring me to Bolivia? And now, two years later, it seemed I would be going to Bolivia on a side trip.

Part of the Denver contingent gathered at DIA on February 7. The first leg of the trip for us was Denver to Miami. Then Miami to Lima and Lima to Juliaca. From Juliaca, we would take a bus to Puno and on to Jorge’s hotel, the Taypikala Hotel, which was on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in the little village of Chucuito.

I suspected that my flight from Denver to Miami was going to be a good one when the man already seated next to my assigned seat on the airplane greeted me even before I sat down and offered to help me stash my carryon. He had a huge smile and emanated peace. I quickly learned that his name was Shane Senevirante, he had been born in Sri Lanka, and he was the owner of an open wheel (Indie style) race car team called Team Stargate Worlds. Yep, the same folks connected with the television series and movie sponsored his team. He was heading to Miami to meet up with one of his drivers, Simone De Silvestro.

Shane and I chatted the entire flight. We talked about open wheel car racing, shamanism, family, Peru, Sri Lanka, and leadership. That conversation with Shane gave me hope. Here was a young team owner in the highly competitive field of car racing speaking about the importance of maintaining harmony within his team. He genuinely cared about his team members and their overall well being. He had a firm grasp on business necessity, but he also had a firm understanding of the importance of maintaining internal peace. And he cared deeply about his family.

If someone had suggested that enlightened leadership could be found in the race car industry, I would have seriously doubted the veracity of the comment and the sanity of the speaker. Yet there I was, impressed by the wisdom and commitment to principles coming from a young race team owner. I had dropped out of corporate America more than a decade earlier because of unenlightened leadership and greed. This young man was making me rethink my position on business. I planned to keep an eye on him and his team.

The layover in Miami was many hours. It might have been exhausting, but wasn’t because our group bonded during those hours. We had come together for a purpose: to join with others to activate the Solar Disc. It was a service trip for all of us and joining together in service, in and of itself, helped forge that bond. But we also had so much time to wait at the less than inspiring Miami International Airport that we were able to share stories about ourselves and our lives, buy a group gift for Jorge and another for one of his guides, and otherwise gel as team. The layover was enlivening instead of exhausting.

The layover in Lima was also long and we were just a little rumpled around the edges at that point. But the flight to Juliaca was awe inspiring. The Peruvian Andes were blanketed in green—and not just any shade of green, but a vibrant mixture of forest green, Kelly green, and spring green that was surely the essence of what God meant by the word “life,” and could easily be the pictorial stand-in for the word.

The Juliaca airport was a diminutive tarmac break among all that green, like a nest tucked into the terraced hills. I found myself grateful for the pilot who had managed the landing. At the luggage carousel—and there was only one, so it was easy to find—a smiling little band of locals greeted us with pan flutes and guitars. Their cheerful traditional Peruvian music created an immediate sense of celebration, but my reaction was that of having all the wind sucked right out of me. Tears sprang to my eyes.

I felt as if I had come home . . . after a long absence.  

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall