During our walk through the market and town of Urubamba with Giancarlo, the manager of Sacred Dreams Lodge , we bumped into the hotel’s bar tender Francisco. He’s a really friendly, young guy with long black hair and an endearing smile.
After a quick chat Francisco pointed us down the street and informed us that Takanakuy was taking place. Puzzled, we asked what that was. He explained that it is the one time of the year that the town is allowed to sort out their differences. We were told that was the reason the town was so friendly, because they just save up their anger for Takanakuy when they can let it all out and take their revenge. A very bizarre and yet oddly sensible concept. Or, at least, how they explained it.
Giancarlo had just returned from years of living in Europe, and wasn’t originally from Urubamba, so had actually never seen one of these fights either. Naturally we invited him to come watch it with us at the town’s bull fighting ring.
Giancarlo explained when he had the urge for a cigarette that people here don’t smoke. He says they hate it. So he wouldn’t be caught smoking in public, especially in such a tight crowd. When he made that comment it dawned on me that, he was right, no one was smoking. It’s always interesting to see how some cultures are heavy smokers, and some never seemed to pick up the habit and/or are very against the very act.
As we waited with anticipation for the fighters to arrive, ladies came around in their beautiful traditional Peruvian attire selling frozen goodies, roasted corn on the cob, drinks and jello to the crowd. Reminded me of hotdogs at a football game. Ages passed before the men finally danced into the ring with toques pulled over their heads decorated like scary masks.
The competitors showed their skills (or lack there of), swinging their fists and feet in all directions, kicking up more dust than making contact with their opponents. The endless waiting and delays between fights made the crowd grow restless. The audience started shouting and a couple of beer bottles were even thrown into the pit, smashing into a thousand pieces at the feet of the fighters. After a few very wild demonstrations of attempted violence, the fighters sat down for beers and started chatting and laughing away, oblivious to the boiling aggravation in the crowd. We’d all come and paid to see a real fight! But they were not delivering.
Then before we knew it, the van with the speakers that had organized the event was racing off up the dirt road, leaving us in their dust. While the shocked crowd was distracted cursing and hitting the van as it made its escape, the fighters were gathering up their stuff and dashed away in the opposite direction.
Now the town was furious. They’d been had!!!! Everyone started leaping from their seats. In a fit of rage they chased after the fighters who were making a break for the river. Trying to avoid being trampled, we ran in the opposite direction but we couldn’t contain our curious nature and promptly turned back around and followed the mass down to the river as well.
“I really wasn’t expecting this for a Sunday,” Giancarlo said as we ran after the crowd which had just changed direction once again.
They’d caught the guy who was selling the tickets for the event, and they demanded to have their money back, calling him a thief. Screaming and tearing at his clothes, a woman ripped his wallet out of his inside shirt pocket as he put up his hands in begging surrender. I was sure he would have bleeding ears by the end of it from all the shouting, that was of course, if they didn’t hang him first. As they completely surrounded and swallowed him up, we decided to leave.
The three of us jumped on Giancarlo’s motorcycle and left before the rioting town stampeded over it on their way to the town centre.
Bumping down the dark dirt roads with only the single headlight to guide our way, dogs jumped out from hidden corners barking and biting our heels as we passed. It was like living in a video game not knowing which dog was or wasn’t going to attack when we passed. The trees were black silhouettes in the night, the mountains towering above us as we neared the Sacred Dreams Lodge. The first stars started popping out sharp in the sky, a truly magical setting.
The night ended with a BBQ in the lovely setting of Sacred Dreams Lodge. Francisco did a great job cooking up the vegetables we had bought earlier in the market. When we explained our bizarre Takanakuy story to him, he said he didn’t know if he should be glad or apologize for recommending it to us.
I’d say, definitely a good thing. It was such a unique experience, one I will not soon forget, and one that made my 25th birthday even more memorable.
There are still many mysteries left unsolved for me when it comes to Takanakuy.
Below you will find a wonderful 2:28 minute video that Kees put together of our Takanakuy experience. It’s a must watch, and if you enjoy it, please subscribe to his channel “Sticky Visuals” because there’s a lot more to come! He also sent his very first tweet into the Twittersphere! His handle is @stickyvisuals, he’d really appreciate your follow.
Categories: Savannah Grace