The (Andean) Village People


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, December 27, 2003 was originally posted on December 28, 2003.

DAY 70: “Guess what,” I asked Lara at an early morning breakfast before our day trip to the Sacred Valley.  “I got a traditional Andean band to play ‘Y.M.C.A.’ tonight at 8:30.”

“Excellent,” she said.  We were both looking forward to it.  I even sent out an e-mail to The Ohio Boys about it in case they got back from Machu Picchu in time.

BEFORE LISTENING TO TUNES FROM THE VILLAGE PEOPLE of North America, we hopped on our “budget” tour bus to see the village people of South America.  I label our tour bus “budget” because although it was decent, it wasn’t as fancy as every other tour bus we saw — that and the fact that in just twenty minutes of leaving the city, it broke down going up the mountain.  Everyone had to get off the bus so that the driver could try and get it going again without it rolling backwards down the hill.  He eventually got the bus rolling upward, but then went back to town for gas or something.  The rest of us had to hike the short way up to Sacsaywaman, where the bus eventually picked all of us up — plus some new guy that looked like a younger, blonde Russell Crowe.

Back on track, we rode on the road through the Sacred Valley of the Incas with our tour guide Rudy at the bus’ microphone.  She had us all introduce ourselves with our countries of origin — our bus was full of tourists from Bolivia, the U.S.A., Chile, Australia and Peru.  Lara and I thought it would be cool to sit in the back of the bus — cool kids always sit in the back of the bus — but we ended up sitting behind this young Peruvian couple that wouldn’t stop making out.  Sure it’s fine if you kiss in public, but these guys were like twelve-year-olds learning to kiss for the first time — no open mouth — just constantly annoying little pecks over and over. 

“Yuck, get a room you two,” Lara complained to me.  She was ready to slap one on the back of the head.

OUR FIRST STOP WAS THE VILLAGE OF PISAQ, home of busy Sunday markets (picture above) and quiet little side streets.  The Andean village people set up vending stands all over the main strip to attract the hundreds of tourists out for a bargain on ponchos, hats, stuffed llama dolls, pan flutes and other various souvenirs.  Lara went looking for a hat to wear on her upcoming trek on the Inca Trail, while I only ended up just getting a pack of gum at a little store.

A drive up the Chongo Valley brought us to the Parque Arqueologico de Pisaq, an old Incan site known for its agricultural terraces and its ruins of Intihuatana, linked together by an undulating path full of hundreds of tourists, some more rude than the other.  Lara and I played the game of trying to figure out where everyone was from without asking them — more fun that way.  We wondered about The New Guy that got on the bus after the breakdown in the morning.  Lara reckoned he was English, but he wasn’t very good at speaking the language.

We hiked from the ruins of Intihuatana back on a path to the bus, and it was a short but exhausting hike — good practice for Lara’s four-day Inca trek.  I bought a bottle of water for us, and we shared it with The New Guy.  I initiated a conversation with him in Spanish and he replied fluently back.  He was Oscar from Spain, working in Arequipa with his fiancee, on holiday in Cusco for a while.  We got to talking in Spanish about working in Peru and so forth, and for a minute I thought to myself how amazing it was that I had come to South America totally clueless in Spanish, and had gradually come to the level where I could have a conversation with a guy from Spain — or ask someone to learn “Y.M.C.A.” for me for that matter.

AFTER A LUNCH STOP at a buffet restaurant in the town of Urubamba, we rode over to Ollantaytambo, a former Incan fortress with agricultural terraces that made you wish you had a really big SlinkyRudy continued to lead our group, stopping off at the points of interests in Spanish and English to explain the history of the site, and its significance with the sun and Southern Cross — particular points on the site lit up at the exact minute of the summer and winter solstices.  When Rudy did the Spanish explanation to the majority of the group, the Australians, Lara and I just admired the mountains around the valley

One particularly amazing thing at Ollantaytambo was this fountain that channeled mountain water through underground channels into rock basins.  This particular fountain was designed in a way that, if you swept your hand with the current, the water would flow very hard, but if you swiped your finger across the stream, it would turn off like magic.  The Incan belief was that anyone who could turn the “faucet” on and off was a virgin, and in the end, we found out that according to the Incas, we all were — except for possibly the smooching Peruvian couple.  They hadn’t left the bus, had closed the curtains and had their hair disheveled when we got back on.

THE LAST STOP OF OUR SACRED VALLEY TOUR was sacred not to the Incas, but the Christians:  the colonial village of Chinchero with its famous adobe church.  Lara and I lost our group but followed Oscar up the streets of vendors to the church grounds.  The sun was setting fast, so we head back to the parking area, where I snacked on a barbecued stick of mystery meat I bought from one of the village people.  I told Oscar that if he had nothing to do, to come to Chez Maggy at 8:30 because I had gotten a band to learn and play “Y.M.C.A.”

BECAUSE OF THE BREAKDOWN IN THE MORNING, we were running late by about 90 minutes.  It was nighttime by the time we got back to Cusco, and I still needed to run some errands before the performance.  Lara and I got off the bus and split up to do our things.  I told her to “meet me at Chez Maggy at 8:30,” which sounds simple enough — until you walk down the pedestrian mall and realize there are four Chez Maggy’s.  Maggy, whoever she was, probably took the strategy of Starbucks and put multiple locations within a two block radius of each other. 

I went to “my” Chez Maggy to check out the scene and ran into Carlos the guitarist.  “[Ready?]” I asked him.


“[You learned it?]”


I couldn’t wait.

He asked me about my friends, and I told them that I simply said “Chez Maggy” not realizing there were multiple ones.  I scoped out all three on the same street, waiting for Lara, Oscar or The Ohio Boys — they could have gone to any of them.  The waitress of “my” Chez Maggy gave me a stool to sit on out on the stoop, which is where Lara found me before accidentally going into the wrong one. 

The Ohio Boys and Oscar either went to the wrong Chez Maggy or never showed up, so it was just me and Lara in one of the smaller Chez Maggy’s, more intimate for a live performance.  There was a group of four seemingly Australians on the other side of the room that pretty much kept to themselves.  “Those guys don’t know what they’re in for,” I said.

Finally, Marcos, Carlos and Roy came in with their instruments in hand, smiles on faces.  “[You learned it?]” I asked Roy.

“[Yes, but it won’t be perfect.]”

“[That’s fine.]”

The three of them performed their standard Andean tunes, “Sariri” and “El Condor Pasa,” the song that Simon and Garfunkel completely ripped off and brought to the Western World.  Roy and Marcos took turns playing drum and flute, while Carlos strummed his guitar and made additional percussion sounds with his voice.  Lara and I had a blast watching them, but the snobby Australians paid no attention to the performance and behaved like it was more of a nuisance than entertainment.  Carlos and Roy even danced and sang towards the four, but they completely ignored them — they wouldn’t even clap after each song.

“That’s just rude,” I told Lara.  No matter, it was like Lara and I had a private serenade on our last night together in Peru.

Finally the moment of truth came.  Marcos switched to drums, Roy got on a pan flute and Carlos held his guitar.  There was four drumstick taps and then, all of a sudden, they were actually playing the disco classic “Y.M.C.A.” live with their instruments (1.7 MB WAVe file).  I wasn’t sure what to expect from them, whether they’d tried to sing it or just do the chorus, but Roy’s pan flute melody actually started off with the notes for “young men…”  It exceeded all of my expectations.

“[I’m sorry it’s not so good, I only listened to it once,]” Roy apologized, thinking that they’d failed my request.

“[No, no, it was] perfecto!”  Lara and I gave them a standing ovation.  We each bought a CD from them, and I gave them an extra fifteen soles for their efforts.

FOR MY FINAL DINNER WITH LARA in Peru, she had some burritos while I ordered items from the traditional Andean food menu:  sopa de la criolla, a delicious noodle soup with beef, egg and noodles; broiled alpaca (an small animal similar to the llama); maté de coca, tea made with coca leaves; and of course, another pisco sour.  It was a great night out after a long and tiring day — a perfect last night in Cusco for me. 

Even in a city like Cusco in the middle of the Andes mountains, you can get yourself clean… you can have a good meal… you can hang out with all the boys…

ATTENTION USERS SINCE DECEMBER 14, 2003:  We are experiencing technical difficulties with the links to the other sections of  It’s not just supposed to go to the home page with my portrait — there’s plenty more, including this “Would You” slideshow that everyone raves about.  Stay tuned and sorry for the inconvenience!!!

Next entry: The Redemption Cookie

Previous entry: Two Women, A Llama and The Bird

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Comments for “The (Andean) Village People”

  • That’s a bug out…too bad they couldn’t do the Bula Dance! grin

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  08:10 PM

  • I’m working on the Tech difficulties.  Hopefully tonite, I’ll have more progress in resolving this issue.

    Where’s the fountain picture to make you look like your peeing??  or can only wheat pull that off?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  08:14 PM

  • Wow.
    I can’t believe you got them to play YMCA.
    Erik, you are a GOD.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  12/28  at  08:14 PM

  • MARKYT:  Thanks for all your efforts!

    I HAVE been looking for a fountain to do the “pee” trick, but nothing has worked out yet.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  08:24 PM

  • DUNLAVEY:  Praise me… PRAISE MEEE!  wink 

    How’s THAT for interaction with the locals?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  08:28 PM

  • THAT WAS AMAZING!!!! I love that .wav file!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  10:41 PM

  • Marcos, Carlos & Roy are awesome! Maybe you can hire them to play at Roz’s wedding.. hehehe

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  12:12 AM

  • “it’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A…“HAHA!!!!!! soooo GREAT:) i’m dancing in my seat!! 

    that was weird hearing your laugh…

    roz definatly needs those guys at her wedding!!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  02:14 AM

  • very impressive version of Y.M.C.A…I’ll have to add it to the ipod. What do you have planned for the New Year?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  03:51 AM

  • Luis

    I don’t have Sasha’s email. Is it someone I should know. Perhaps I’ve forgotten.


    Posted by Neven  on  12/29  at  09:15 AM

  • woohoo…now i know what i’ll be whistling all day!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  01:01 PM

  • WOW! they did an incredible job with the ymca song. i kind of like their version better than the original. i think it is the pan flute, i love pan flutes.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  02:11 PM

  • hey erik how long did it take for you to get a visa for brazil?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  03:17 PM

  • hey Erik
    that rendition of Y.M.C.A. was awesome! I can’t believe you got them to do that! Thanks for letting us cubicle jockies live vicariously through you smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  04:15 PM

  • Scott:  Visa for Brazil?  Hmm…  forgot to ask…  Word on the backpacker trail is that its no big deal to just get one at a border town, even if its just for a small fee…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  08:35 PM

  • ok, ok, your RIGHT day 70 WAS AMAZING! now when i go to Cusco, i wonder how many bands WILL be playing YMCA… you should get someone to play the “chicken dance song” NEXT!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/30  at  03:44 AM

  • HAHAHA!  That was pretty good!  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/05  at  10:15 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
The Redemption Cookie

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Two Women, A Llama and The Bird


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