Festival de Tinajani – aka More Skirt Twirling Photos

Traditional dances from various regions of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile

As the bus from Puno approached Juliaca, I turned to the campesina woman next to me and asked how I could continue on to the Festival de Tinajani.  Her face lit up and she told me, “Nosotros vamos a Tinajani tambien!” – “We´re going to Tinajani also!” I asked how we proceed there from Juliaca, and she explained rapidly, so I figured it was best just to follow her.  She was with a group of 3 other adults and 2 children, and after we unloaded their buckets of what I assumed was soup to sell at the festival, we attempted to find a taxi.  Ten minutes passed without luck, only bicycle taxis came by, and so I tried again to ask her where I go to get to the next city near the festival.  She convinced me to wait, and finally we got a taxi, loaded the buckets, and all piled in.  Deposited at a large plaza and market area, we happily discovered there were direct buses to the festival, and wouldn´t have to go to Ayaviri first.  I asked the oldest woman how much my share of the taxi was.  “Dos Soles” she quickly replied.  Based on my knowledge of transportation prices, my experience with Peruvians, and the smug expression on her face, I assume I paid for the entire family…and their soup, which I had helped to load and unload.

We all sat on the bus for several minutes, and the passengers started to get antsy.  “Vamos!” they all began to yell.  We moved a bit, stopped some more, moved a bit.  People started to get off to try their luck with another bus.  The young woman sitting next to me had been attaching yarn braid extensions into her hair, and so I assumed she was a dancer headed to the festival.  As soon as she got up, I knew it was best to follow her.  We got on the next bus, which filled up when a man butted right in front of us (an everyday experience in most any line in this country), and unfortunately we had to stand for the ride.   An hour and a half later, we turned off right before Ayaviri, onto a dirt road heading into the altiplano, the high plains between the two spines of the Andes.  As we followed buses and cattle trucks loaded to capacity with festival-goers, a continuous series of buses and combis, now empty, passed us on their way out.  The festival was nowhere in sight, just desolate, dry grasslands, fields, and pastures with cows, sheep, and llamas.  After twenty minutes, the dramatic rocks which I had seen in pictures came into view, then the parking lot loaded with hundreds of buses, then the crowds, covering the hillsides.  Emerging from the bus, I didn´t know where to turn.  There was color and activity in every direction, so overwhelming I didn´t know where to start.  I didn´t want to miss any photo opportunity, but I just had to begin.  Right next to me was a field with some dance groups practicing.  After a few minutes there, I weaved through the vehicles, and merged with the crowd crossing a precarious plywood bridge to the site.  I moved through the rows of food vendors and people eating lunch, chicharones on grills sputtering grease at every turn.  At the dance site, I tried to determine how to best sneak my way in, but each corner was filled with crowds and police.  I circumnavigated the entire area, since I saw other photographers on the far side.  I waved my camera in front of a guard and he let me pass.

Since I had no idea how I was going to return to Puno, how difficult it might be, and how long it might take, I knew I couldn´t stay long.  So I alternated between taking photos, filming videos, wiping the dust off my camera, and blowing it off my lens.  Group after group of dancers performed, each with their own band of musicians and singers.  The announcer´s voice boomed through the PA system constantly, even over the music and voices of the singers, “TINAJANI RAYMI!”  “La Provincia de MELGAR!”  The crowds continued to grow on the rocks and hillsides surrounding the site.  At 1:30 I forced myself away, knowing I had to be on my way out of there by 2:00.  But on the hillside there was so much more activity:  kids flying kites, groups of dancers waiting, carnival games and foosball tables.  I made my way back through the food area, to the parking lot, and once again found myself in the practice field.  A group of women danced in a circle, surrounded by men parading huge red and white banners.  Another amazing photo opportunity!  I snapped as fast as I could, and then delved back into the parking area looking for the combis heading back to Ayaviri.

I got the last seat on one just about to head out, and encountered a small group of Spaniards, the other other tourists I saw the whole day.  We spent the ride amused by the smiles and laughter of an adorable little girl, just as entertaining as the festival we just came from.

I just got off the bus – dancers practicing in a field

The crowd, visible from the parking lot

One of the market and lunch streets

So much overwhelming color, activity, and so many people, I didn’t know where to start!

I got my way into the photographers’ row, right at the side of the dance area

Skirt-twirling action!

Dust, dust and more dust – not so good for the camera and the sensor.  Luckily I had my Rocket Blower with me.

This dance involved sweeping the dirt right onto me!

Danza Tondero de Piura, surprising to see so far south

Awaiting their turn to dance

transportation costs:

Moto-taxi from hostal to Terminal Terestre Puno – s/. 1.50 – 7 min
Bus from Puno to Juliaca – s/. 2 – 1.5 hr
Taxi with family and food to Plaza – s/. 2 – 5 min
Bus directo from Juliaca to Tinajani – s/. 5 – 2 hr

total: s/. 10.50 – 4 hours

return trip:
Combi Tinajani to Ayaviri plaza – s/. 1.50 – 25 min
Bike taxi to Ayaviri Terminal – s/. 1 – 5 min
Bus from Ayaviri to Juliaca – s/. 3.50 – 1.5 hr
Bike Taxi to paradero – s/. 2 – the slowest 10 minutes of my life, as every other bike taxi passed us
Bus from Juliaca to Puno – s/. 2.50 – 1.5 hr

total: s/. 10.50 again! – 4 hours

Additional photos can be viewed at www.dojoklo.com in the Dance or Peru galleries.