Life In A Rural Community…
As well as being an impressive Inca archaeological site, the village of Raqchi, in the Cusco region of Peru, presents an insight into life in a rural community by offering travellers the opportunity to stay with a local family.
So after surfing the sand dunes in Huacachina, hiking the lush, green hills in Huaraz and being charmed by the colonial architecture of Cusco, next on our agenda was to visit Raqchi and experience a Peruvian community ‘home stay’ ourselves.
A glimpse of the rural community village of Raqchi.
One Of The Family
Unlike many other tourist attractions the world over, we found that the Raqchi home stay is not a tourist trap. Raqchi opens its doors with a firm view of sharing the daily life of the community.
During our two day/ one night stay in the village, we were welcomed and invited to get to know the local people from a number of cultural perspectives. This included learning the process of making pottery, finding out how to play traditional Peruvian instruments, taking part in agricultural and farming activities and discovering ancient mystic rituals from the Andes; all of which have survived throughout time as the Raqchi community continues to preserve these pre-Hispanic traditions.
A pottery lesson in the community square.
Previously, our only experience of a home stay was in a remote village in northern Thailand on our last RTW trip where locals did not really interact with us, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect here in Peru. Any misgivings we had however quickly faded, as from the moment we arrived in Raqchi we were welcomed with open arms and made to feel like part of the family.
The Raqchi community get ready to greet us as our overland truck arrives.
A warm welcome from our host family, Mama Martina and her daughters.
A Warm Welcome
A fantastic community greeting awaited our afternoon arrival. The families of the village were dressed in traditional clothing and welcomed us with a song and a shaking of hands.
We were then divided into groups of four, introduced to our host family and taken back to their home. We stayed with Mama Martina and her three beautiful daughters Lisbeth, Vanessa and Raquel in her lovely house Casa Hospedaje Pacha Phuyu.
The stunning view from the back of Mama Martina’s house.
Wayne making himself at home for the night in our twin bedroom.
Meeting more of the family… New kittens!
Lisbeth introducing me to the kittens.
After a look around we were ushered into the dining room for a welcome hot drink. Mama Martina brought us various teas to choose from including coca leaves, fresh chamomile and thyme. My favourite was a leaf that had a distinct lemon flavour after infusion. It was lovely.
Coca tea, lemon, chamomile, thyme, take your pick!
Then before dinner, it was time for a visit to the cornfields at the back of Martina’s house and a lesson on some farming and harvesting techniques. We found out that corn, potatoes, ollucos, habas (broad bean), pea, tarwi, quinoa and wheat are all locally produced here at Raqchi.
Vanessa showing us the corn growing in the fields at the back of the house.
Along with Vanessa and her sisters, we picked some corn and habas to use in the evening’s dinner. You can’t get fresher than that straight from field to fork! The girls also presented us with a culinary treat in the form of the base of the corn plant. They took the bottom of the stem, peeled it and took a bite, getting us to do the same. The stem was crunchy like celery but tasted really sweet. A real treat and just shows how Peruvians do not waste anything!
Picking corn for dinner. Wayne carries it home the traditional way.
Next we helped Mama Martina peel and prepare the vegetables for dinner and watched as she cooked over a traditional stove. Whilst dinner was cooking, Vanessa also showed us the vast collection of ceremonial artifacts from around the world that Martina has collected. Then it was time for a very filling meal of three courses! We had a corn soup starter followed by rice with chicken, then a little dish of fruit for desert.
Ready for a family dinner. Enjoying a corn soup starter.
Preparing To Party Peruvian Style
After dinner Mama Martina brought out some traditional clothes for us all to dress in. Wayne being the only male, had a poncho and a woolly hat, whereas myself and the other girls wore elaborately embroidered jackets and brightly coloured full skirts that all differed slightly. Not forgetting the bright coloured patterned fabric that is folded up and fastened around your shoulders which is used to carry things on your back (that we called a ‘baby pouch’). If there’s not a baby inside, the women usually carry their shopping, vegetables, pottery and a whole host of other objects inside the material! To complete my outfit was a hat in the shape of a flat disc which is placed on your head and tied under your chin (that is actually very heavy!)
Getting dressed up in traditional Peruvian clothing.
Wayne practises playing the drum.
Intricately embroidered fabrics. (Plus my baby pouch!)
Our home stay group all ready for the party with Mama Martina in the centre.
Once dressed, we headed across the village in the dark to the community square (set in the courtyard of another house) where we met the rest of the Odyssey group and their families who were all aptly dressed in similar attire! After lots of photos and merriment, the evening then started with a traditional ceremony that was about making offerings to the mountains and Pachamama (Mother Earth).
Taking the lead from the head of the community, we were all given six coca leaves, three in each hand (three for the mountains and three for Pachamama, Mother Earth). Then one by one we got up, made wishes or said a prayer, blew on our leaves and put them in special pots. Then we had to take turns to blow three times into each pot. It’s known as an act of love, thanksgiving and gratitude. Once this is complete the contents of each pot are offered to the earth and buried in a sacred place. It was a very sombre experience to be part of. The ceremony was then completed with a round of hugs and handshakes between visitors and villagers.
After the ceremony it was time for traditional Peruvian music and dancing!
Finally it was time for music and dancing! A villager began singing and playing his guitar and we all had to dance with partners. We had great fun interacting with the community and being part of their traditional customs. (And there was not a beer in sight!)
Passing around the ‘baby’ to complete the look!
Breakfast With Mama
The next morning, Mama Martina presented us with a hearty Peruvian breakfast. As Peru grows over 4,000 different varieties of potatoes, it was only fitting that potato was on the menu! Along with fried tortillas, a boiled egg and freshly baked bread.
Mama Martina cooks up a storm at breakfast using her traditional oven.
Tortilla, potato, egg and freshly baked bread.
Daily Life In The Community
After breakfast it was back to the community square for a pottery demonstration. Raqchi is famous for it’s pottery and we we shown how to make a simple bowl from volcanic clay. What is amazing is that the pottery is completely made by hand, including the potters wheel which is manually turned, yet all the pots look identical.
Pottery demonstration in the community square.
Johnny, one of our Odyssey group tries to master the art of making a pot.
After the demonstration we were given the chance to buy some of the authentic hand made pottery produced in the village. It wasn’t a hard sell. The products were fantastic and many of us wanted to buy something as a souvenir. We came away with a handmade chess set, the pottery figures being Incas versus the Spanish! (An excellent price at 20 soles, approximately £5 GBP).
Hand made pottery for sale after the demonstration.
The Temple Of Wiracocha
Following the pottery demonstration we went to look around the market that’s set up next to the entrance of the archaeological site; then it was time to visit the ruins. The ruins are actually the remains of the Temple of Wiracocha, which was once one of the holiest shrines in the Inca empire. We discovered that twenty-two columns made of stone blocks helped support the largest known Inca roof. Most were destroyed by the Spanish, but their foundations are clearly seen.
Inca archaeological site at Raqchi.
The central wall of the Temple of Wiracocha.
A guide from the village will take you around the ruins for 10 soles p/p.
Remains of roof pillars.
The central wall up close.
Can you see the Peruvian face on the right?
More Inca ruins…
Beautiful scenery around the village of Raqchi.
A bird Wayne spotted.
Afterwards we headed back to our home for lunch, which was another 3 course extravaganza! With a starter of bean ceviche, a mix of beans, cheese, red onion and herbs dressed in lemon juice, then another soup, vegetable and quinoa with a whole potato in the middle. After this we were given beef steak with potato, corn on the cob and a salad. Finally were presented with a special Easter desert of plum fruit jelly, rice pudding and dulce leche.
Heading back home for lunch and goodbyes. One of the pet puppies named ‘Chihuaua’.
After thanking the family for this wonderful feast and saying goodbye to Martina’s daughters, including the kittens and puppies, all that was left to do was to head back to the square and say goodbye to the mamas and the rest of the community of Raqchi. What wonderful hosts they had been!
Our group says goodbye to Mama Martina.
Saying farewell to the Raqchi community.
What an amazing experience to be part of the Raqchi community even for such a short time and one that we’ll never forget. The smiles, hospitality and generosity of the Peruvians to welcome us into their homes and share with us their customs and traditions has left a lasting impression on us and firmly marked Peru as one of our favourite countries in South America!
Have you experienced a home stay? Where was it and what was your overall impression? We’d love to know how it was for you!