We arrived around dinner time to the capitol of the region of Ayacucho. The snow had left us long behind in the altitude of the mountains, but the rain started when we reached the city. We stopped to get something to eat at a local restaurant that served deep-fried guinea pig, a typical Peruvian dish. I had tried it before, but this was the first time that the entire guinea pig was presented before me in its entirety, with his eyes starting up at me and his hands outstretched. I did the best I could, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat the parts that I wouldn’t eat of a chicken. None of the kids had this problem, and the guinea pigs were nearly gone before I knew it. I guess they never had a guinea pig as a pet. It wasn’t half bad.
Since it was the Independence Day holiday weekend, there were slim pickings for accommodation. When we arrived to our hotel, we realized why it wasn’t our first choice. We had to wait for them to put some of the beds together from scratch before we could get into the rooms, since the hotel was nearing capacity. We decided to take a walk around the city, and get some snacks and drinks for the next day’s journey. I was able to see the university in Ayacucho where the former leader of the Shining Path had been a philosophy professor, San Cristóbal of Huamanga University. Little colorful mini-taxis roamed the streets around the Plaza de Armas, which is the name given to the main square in most Latin American cities and towns. The taxis were basically motorcycles with three wheels and a small box-like cabin for passengers. I got the chance to take a ride around the town, moving as fast as the taxi could possibly go–and it was pretty cheap too.
We had to get up pretty early in the morning. We left the city around 5 in the morning to drive about an hour to Huanta, the town where we would meet three family members of victims of the Putka massacre, and one of the few survivors. These four Peruvians, originally from the area near Putka, would guide us to the site of the massacre. They would also tell the story of what had happened on Christmas day in 1984 in Putka, so long ago. It would be the first time they had returned to Putka since the massacre. I will not use their names, just in case.
Stay tuned for Part 4