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Festival Costumes and Jungle Sunsets in Peru

Next in our series of blog posts from the CAT Travel team we have Marcos (one of our South America Travel Specialists) telling us about his travels in Peru.

What´s your name and what do you do at CAT Travel?

I´m Marcos from Argentina and I’ve been working as a Travel Specialist with CAT since 2009, helping people plan their trips around South America.

It was a good match!

Where are your three favorite places in Latin America and why?

I love Rio de Janeiro, it´s a place where I would choose to live in the future. Then there’s Paucartambo, near Cusco in Peru – I have such wonderful memories of my Peru trip and the amazing folklore of the region. It’s a great place to see the mix of cultures between indigenous Peru and the Spanish conquerers. Finally, El Chalten in Argentina for the best mountain scenery in all of Patagonia, ideal for trekking and taking some time off unplugged from daily life.

Can you choose one place and tell us about a time when you visited it?

I´ll tell you about my vacation in Peru to the small village of Paucartambo near Cusco, between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Jungle. It made such an impression on me that I actually visited twice! The first time was in 2005 with my friend Ximena, and the second time in 2006 on my own.

One of the painted festival masks

Every July 16th there is a big celebration in Paucartambo (and across much of the Cusco region) to honor Mamacha, or the Virgin del Carmen. Celebrations go on the entire weekend and include music, parades, special costumes with incredibly beautiful handmade clothes and masks, games, drinks and food. It’s a great party!

Virgen del Carmen festival parade

In 2005 we met three little children there who took us for a walk around the narrow streets of Paucartambo. They were like little guides giving us so much information about their lives and stories about the amazing area of Peru they lived in. It was a really happy experience and we gave them a book as a present and invited them for lunch. We also promised that we would return to Paucartambo someday, so the following year, in the same month, I did!

I went to visit the kids’ house, met their parents and took them all out for a meal. They asked me if I could come back to Peru in December when their older daughter would graduate from primary school, to be a kind of godfather for her. I told them it was a great honor for me, but I couldn’t as I needed to be in Buenos Aires. When I got back to Argentina I sent a dress by mail for her to wear for such an important event in her life. …I still wonder sometimes about that family, as I never got back to Paucartambo again and we lost contact.

What made the trip so special?

Without a doubt meeting the local people, making real human connections and getting an insight into their lives and culture. The countryside was also incredible. July is mid-winter in Peru and it was amazing going to the edge of the jungle and seeing the sun rising up from under the jungle mist.

Sunrise over the jungle

What about the food, any recommendations?

Peruvian food is delicious and really interesting. I especially like the food from the Andes region, things like cuy (guinea pig), llama, all those different types of potatoes, corn, quinoa, rocoto and lovely soups.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

Experiencing the local hospitality. Also, the amazing fabric designs, masks and costumes at the festival, and the beautiful sunrise views over the mountains and jungle.

So many amazing costumes

What is it about travel in Latin America that you find inspiring?

That despite the tourism explosion in the past few years you can still find places that are unspoiled. Also, the mix of cultures is wonderful, and you can always find a place to relax…

Where´s next on your Latin America travel list and why?

The Galapagos Islands, to see all that amazing wildlife. I find it fascinating that the animals there aren’t scared of humans and that you can get really close. I’m a real wildlife fanatic and I also love nature photography, so cruising the Galapagos Islands with an expert naturalist guide would be like a dream come true.