We did it again! Our dance flashmob during Novalima’s concert at Clark Street Wold Music Festival was a lot of fun and here is the video to prove it. Thanks to everyone who participated, and specially to Milagros Guerrero Ormeño, lead singer of the Peruvian dance band, Novalima, for being our accomplice!
Do you have any ideas for another flashmob? Leave your comment here. We want to hear it!
I know, I have been on a blog hiatus for a while. The reason? I took a break from Chicago and travelled to Peru, my home country. The objective? Challenge myself by doing my first trek ever: the 4-day Inca Trail to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas and one of the seven modern wonders of the world. Despite being my fourth time going there, I knew this time would be something special. The Inca Trail (also known as Camino Inca) is the most famous trek in South America and one of the most beautiful treks in the world.
This trail is part of a vast network of stone-paved roads that connected all corners of the Inca empire. Walking the 26 miles of this portion of the trail entails going up and down infinite, narrow and steep stone steps (climbing up and down stairs takes on a whole new meaning!), walking through valleys, mountain passes that can go as high as 4300 meters (14,000 feet) above sea level, precipices, rivers, gorgeous snow peaked mountains, lush cloud forests, tropical vegetation (including orchids) and amazing Inca ruins.
Yes, the trek is challenging, but it is also magical. Walking the trail feels like walking with the Incas through history.
I kept thinking about the time and effort they must have spent to build it and of the harmony with its natural surroundings. This talks volumes about Inca cosmology. Andean people thought that “in order to maintain some sort of peace, they had both to maintain a careful equilibrium between themselves and their environment” . And they definitely followed this principle when building this trail: I was in awe of the beauty of it all! After arriving in Machu Picchu and hearing the incredible stories from our guide, I felt a strong connection with a part of me that had been submerged by the colonial mentality that is so prevalent in Peruvian society since the arrival of the Spaniards to Peru: my Andean roots.
As we were leaving Machu Picchu, an intense emotion overcame me. It was a great feeling of accomplishment, but also a mixed feeling of nostalgia and rage. I felt the weight of history in my heart right then. It was the end of an incredible journey that challenged me physically, emotionally and spiritually…but the challenge was totally worth it! I would suggest adding this trek to your bucket list, especially if you have Peruvian roots. Sadly, only very few us do it. Here is a nice video that really brings back how I felt walking the trail:.
If you are ready to go, then keep in mind the following tips:
Book in advance. The Peruvian government has limited the access to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to 500 people per day (including porters), so it is recommended to book at least six months in advance, especially if you are planning on going during the peak season (June-August). I would be careful doing the Inca Trail during the rainy season (November-March) as it can get even more challenging. Also, it is required to be part of a tour group, so you need to contact a travel agency to make arrangements. Hiring a good one will make your experience a pleasant one. I took this tour with Peru Experience, and the service was great. They took care of everything. Our guide, Jose Sotelo, was excellent and enhanced our experience with his love and deep knowledge of Andean culture.
Arrive to Qosqo (The Quechua word for Cusco) at least 2 days before starting the trail to get used to the altitude. Once you get to Qosqo, you should take it easy, very easy. Drink lots of muña tea (the Andean mint) or coca leaf tea to help you acclimatize (don’t worry, coca leaves are legal in Peru. Chewing the leaves or drinking the tea does not have narcotic effects, but will help with altitude sickness. In fact, the coca plant was sacred during Inca times and is still widely consumed in the Andes. Our hotel offered it for free along with coffee in the lobby.) You may also get sorojchi pills for the altitude.
Bring a book that will help you immerse into Andean culture. I brought Los Comentarios Reales by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a 16th century chronicle of The Incan Empire written by the child of a noble Spaniard and an Incan princess (he is considered the first Peruvian ever because of his Inca and Spaniard blood).
Bring money to buy snacks and water (or to use the toilet) along the road. I was surprised to find people living along the trail during the first segment of the trip (there is even a small cemetery that we passed. And no, it is not a cemetery for Inca Trail trekkers). Save some cash for the third night to tip the porters and the cook. Tips are optional, but it is expected to tip if you are happy with the service. By the way, I have the utmost admiration for the porters. These guys had to walk the same trail but with huge bundles on their backs and had everything ready for us ahead of time. You should also tip the guide at the end of the trip.
Buy a portable charger for the road for any necessary batteries and charge them up before you start the trek. I forgot to bring one so I could not take as many pics as I would have liked.
Pack lightly. Yes, I know, it is hard for some of us to wear the same clothes twice in a row. But trust me, you will be thankful you did. When packing, keep in mind the following:
Bring a day backpack . There is no need for a big camping backpack. The porters will carry everything for you except your clothes, water, and necessities. Bring a headlight or a lamp/flashlight.
Bring repellent, sunblock, water, long underwear, toilet paper, wipes, soap, and a towel.
Toilets during the trek are not the best. Avoid them if you can and use the “Inca bathroom” for number one.
Bring rainproof gear, particularly during the rainy season. The second night is the coldest, so bring a fleece sweater, hat, gloves and long undies. You will also need some of these for the second day, when you reach the highest pass of the trek. Remember to wear layers as temperature changes frequently
7.Once you start trekking, be aware of how you walk. The steeper the slope, the slower and shorter your steps should be. When going down, keep your weight in the front half of your feet. Don’t place all your weight on them. Walk as if you were stepping on eggs and step down sideways when the steps are narrow. Remember to breathe slowly, deeply and steadily all the time.
8. This trail can be challenging for people who are afraid of heights. You will pass a lot of cliffs through while going down narrow roads that have steep steps (which makes me wonder: were the Incas giants? Did they have long legs that were fit for these high steps? Did they just like the challenge?). The third day was the hardest day for me because of that. We descended thousands of steps along these narrow roads next to precipices. My knees were in pain, and I felt exhausted. I was ready to quit and take the next bus to Machu Picchu out of my fear of heights. If you feel like that: don’t quit! Keep going. Take an ibuprofen for the pain, rest and pat yourself on the back for having survived a day of hard trekking. Let me tell you: by the fourth day I was a trooper! We did the last day of the trek to Machu Picchu in less time than what it normally takes.
9. Try to learn some words in Quechua and talk to the porters (ask your guide or click here for some words). It will enhance your experience and the porters will appreciate your interest in their culture.
If you are looking for ways to contribute to a good cause this weekend, let me suggest these fundraising events organized by the Peruvian Arts Society and the Peruvian American Medical Society. Your donation will go to healthcare projects that will benefit communities located in remote areas of Peru. Here is the information:
Wanna learn a little of Afro-Peruvian dance? Then come to a FREE mini dance flash mob rehearsal tomorrow Sunday October 28 at Africaribe Cultural Center (2547 W Division) between 11am and 1pm. Easy steps and tons of fun. We will do the dance flash mob at a place nearby immediately after rehearsal.
If you can, bring the following:
Casual, comfortable, street clothes (bright-colored tops are preferred)
An empty glass bottle and a metal spoon to be used as musical instrument.
Today at 5pm is the opening of the newest Peruvian restaurant in town: 4 Suyos. Located in Logan Square, 4 Suyos will feature locally-sourced, traditional Peruvian food (with a few twists). This restaurant is the creation of Humberto Trujillo from Peru and Erin Slucter from Michigan. They met two years ago when Humberto cooked for Erin’s family. They became so fascinated by Humberto’s cooking and with Peruvian cuisine, that Erin decided to embark on a culinary adventure with him and open a Peruvian restaurant.
4 Suyos wants to offer all Chicago Urbanite followers a free appetizer per table every time you mention this blog. This offer is valid until March 26, 2012, so go ahead, try their food, and let me know what you think. Here is a link to their menu: 4suyos_menu
Congratulations to Erin and Humberto and thanks for the offer! I can’t wait to try your food. Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal!)
Come to a fun and educational guided tasting event honoring the 477th Anniversary of the city of Lima, and discover why it was declared the “Gastronomic Capital of the Americas” at the International Gastronomic Summit Madrid Fusion.
Two Pisco-based cocktails
Tasting of five varieties of Pisco guided by Sommelier Juan Illescas
Causa Limeña de Pulpo. Exclusively found in Peruvian Cuisine, a cold, tangy, mildly spicy mash potato cake topped with olive mayo and octopus.
Anticucho. Of African origin and sold mostly by street vendors, an incomparable skewer of beautiful texture and mouthwatering flavor.
Aji de Gallina, a delicious and traditional chicken stew that resulted from the fusion of Peruvian cuisine with French cooking traditions. It is a spicy, nutty cheese sauce served over baby yellow potatoes.
Surprise Dessert from Colonial Lima.
Special performance by Peruvian Tenor Javier Bernardo, from the Lyric Opera of Chicago
When: Thursday January 19 2012 from 7 to 11pm
(Tasting goes from 7 to 9pm and DJ until 11pm)
Where: Between Peruvian Cafe & Pisco Bar 1324 N Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60622
Cost: $35 at the door
Questions? Please call (773) 257 3679 , (773) 292-0585 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of Peruvian doctors and volunteers from Chicago will go to the town of Huaytara in Peru this Summer to provide free medical care. They visit small villages with little or no access to doctors. They have done this medical mission for several years now and it really makes a difference!
All proceeds from this party go to travel and medical supplies for a Medical Mission organized by PAMS (Peruvian American Medical Society).
When: Friday December 9, 2011 starting at 7pm
Where: Women Institute MedSpa (4101 North Western Ave. Chicago IL 60618)
A delightful musical journey through the diaspora of the African community in the Americas was experienced last Saturday evening at Susana Baca’s concert at Mayne Stage. The celebrated Afro-Peruvian music singer came to Chicago to present her latest album titled Afrodiaspora. This album celebrates the African presence in the Americas through a compilation of songs that go from New Orleans to Peru. This compilation is the result of Susana’s numerous trips to different parts of this continent. During these trips, she found that the music of these countries had something in common: the sound of African rhythms.A barefooted Susana in a long flowing white dress took the stage and got our entire attention with her soft movements and ethereal voice. She was the perfect guide to embark us on this musical journey in time and space. What a wonderful journey we had! We heard from Colombian Cumbia, to Flamenco mixed with Tango and Panalivio, and Funk from New Orleans mixed with Peruvian Festejo. My favorite song from this album is Yana Runa, a beautiful mix of Afro Peruvian and Andean rhythms. Susana, as a good travel guide, took the time to explain the story behind each of the songs she interpreted. She explained, for example, that the song titled Ay mi Palomita (which actually belongs to a previous album), is a song that the Black Slaves and Peruvian Indians used to sing during the sugar cane harvest in the Northern Coast Region of Peru.Susana has recently been named the Minister of Culture of Peru. She is the first Afro-Peruvian woman appointed to that post. Fernando Hoyle, her tour manager, says that she is trying to be “una ministra cantante” (a singer minister), and hopefully keep touring while she is fulfilling her government duties. I hope she is able to do it. Susana radiates so much light and soul during her live performances that I never get tired to go to her concerts. It is always a pleasure to see her perform. If you have not had the chance to see her live, here is a sample of her performance at Mayne Stage:
To listen to the songs of Susana Baca’s new album Afrodiaspora, and to buy the CD, visit susanabaca.com
If you are looking for an interesting event to attend tomorrow evening, you should go to Between (1324 N Milwaukee). This is a Peruvian Cafe and Lounge located in Wicker Park that boasts to be the only Peruvian Pisco lounge in the city. If this is not enough reason for you to check this place, I must add the fabulous cuisine of its Chef Jose Victorio, and the gracious hosting of its owner Carl Anderson.
Tomorrow at 8pm, Between will be offering a PERUVIAN PISCO TASTING / PAIRING. Taste (6) Piscos with Food Courses, learn about Pisco, pairing with food and creating cocktail recipes. Make your own Pisco Sour, the national cocktail of Peru. Ticket costs $30, BUT if you call and say you’re from Chicago Urbanite it’s $15 – limited seating – CALL FOR RESERVATIONS at (312) 493-9442
Summer is now in full swing in Chicago and there are many world music and dance activities going on in the city. My pick for this weekend is the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival. This festival is a two-day celebration organized by the Old Town School of Folk Music, an institution committed to teach and celebrate music and cultural expressions rooted in the tradition of diverse American and global communities. The festival attracts 30,000 people for a spectacular array of music and dance performances from around the world. The festival also offers dance workshops, children’s activities, food, drink, and retail vendors. This year, I will have the pleasure to participate in this great celebration as a dancer with Peruvian Folk Dance Center. If you are interested in seeing this performance, come by 3:30 pm today. There is a $10 donation to get in the festival ($5 for seniors, 65 and over, and $5 for kids). For more information about other performances and dance workshops, go to http://www.chicagofolkandroots.org/. Hope to see you there!