Saturday, June 15, 2013

Race of the chasquis, part 2

     In my last post, I described a little bit about the planning process for the Race of the Chasquis, and how Kristi and I went with Sergio, Tomas and Chasqui to walk the route. Sergio and Tomas were two of the organizing team, and Chasqui ran in the race. His name is really Abel, but he goes by Chasqui. He's a marathon runner. He once ran the length of the Inca road from Ecuador, the whole length of Peru, and to Bolivia, in a period of 3 months. So he's earned the right to the name of Chasqui. He helped us a lot with getting ready for the race.
     Our Peace Corps entrants were my sitemate Kristi, and two other environment volunteers: Stasia and Laura. They arrived the afternoon before the race. We gathered in Chasqui's art studio to finish the racers' costumes. Chasqui painted designs on the tunics.
     Each runner was required to carry a quipu, so we made them. A quipu is a message system that the Inca used by tying knots onto lengths of string of various colors. The knots could indicate time, place, number and some nouns. A quipu could carry information like "bring 60 llamas to stable 6 in Cusco in 3 weeks and we'll pay you 413 coins for them". No one knows exactly how to translate quipus anymore. We certainly don't. Our quipus probably said "two Guinea pigs April".

     We started the quipus by rolling thread into thicker strings. It's easier with two people.
It's also easier if you lick your hands first.
It took quite a while, but it was fun. We were happy to get to spend time with Stasia and Laura, who live north of here, several hours away by bus. We rolled...
 and rolled...
and rolled.
until we had a pile of quipu strings. Then we tied knots (two guinea pigs april?) and constructed the quipus.
We also made knee fringes for each of the runners.
Meanwhile, Chasqui kept on painting tunics.
The costumes also had to have a pututo, which is a conch shell horn. I bought the shells on vacation in Paracas, and Chasqui made the blow holes. None of us could make more than a squeal on them. Fortunately, there were no points awarded for being able to play the things. Each chasqui also had to wear a red headband (red means from Sausa) which we sewed up, and into which we stuck a feather. The costume also included a manta (brightly colored piece of cloth), a woven belt, a bag and a slingshot. After we finished everything, we went out in the street and practiced with the slingshots, throwing rocks up the dirt road. This drew quite a crowd of small children, who watched us with amazement. Chasqui and four gringas, flinging stones at nothing and laughing.

The final product was pretty impressive: three American Peace Corps volunteers, outfitted as messengers from the long-ago Inca civilization, ready to run a 5k race over a mountain in the Andes.

1 comment:

  1. AH now I see! It was soooooo fabulous to SEE you tonight!