When we flew into Cusco, we hired a shuttle to take us to Auguas Caliente near Matchu Pitchu. On the way we had a little pit stop in a predominately Quechua town. Quechua is the language of the Inca Empire. Although most people in Peru speak Spanish (the national language thanks to those pesky Spanish invaders), more than 8 million people throughout the Andes section of South America speak Quechua. Our driver told us it’s a fading language, mostly spoken in more rural communities – taught to children by their families as it’s not taught in school.
Just as North America has its Native American named cities and landmarks, you can see the Quechua language woven throughout Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. We even use quite a few words originally derived from Quechua – lima, puma, quinoa, jerky, coca, condor and llama.
We stopped in this small town to visit a group of indigenous people. Sure, kind of a tourist trap deal, I get it….but when in Rome. A group of six woman and one older man greeted us and offered us coca tea (well known tea of the coca leaf thought to aid with altitude sickness and aid in digestion. No, it doesn’t make you high like cocaine – if it did, there would be a lot more different kinds of tourists here).
They had us sit down and showed us how they create dye from local berries for the wool they use to make various clothes and blankets. They also had a small pen of Cuy (Guinea Pigs) – cooked for special occasions. Yes, they eat Guinea Pigs in Peru, it’s a delicacy and yes I tried it (tasted a bit like dove or some other game bird).
Then came the tourist trap part – the gauntlet of merchandise they were selling. Basically the same stuff you can find all over Peru. I bought a few items (can’t remember what) but I do remember them getting awfully pushy. Now you really have to haggle a bit – you can’t ever take the first price. Although they got a little pushy, it was still a great experience and I highly recommend doing it if you’re in Peru. I had similar experiences in Thailand and while I wouldn’t do them again – I’m glad I did it once. When traveling abroad – go all-in.