Homestay in Peru: Coporaque with the locals

When you are in Peru you should also get to know the people and how they live. We spent one night in Coporaque with a lovely family. Here is what we experienced.

We arrive in Chivay, the main town in the Colca Canyon area. It is an area of high altitude, of about 3,500 metres above sea level. A man with a big straw hat takes us with him to his family, to his home in Coporaque. He is our guest Dad for the next day. Our Spanish is really bad, so conversations are limited to very basic information. The taxi stops in front of a white wall and a red iron door. A little girl stucks her head out and says: „Hello, this is our house. We have a kitchen. This is our family, this is my mummy. My name is Nicole and I am four years old!“ She shows us four fingers. Wow – a lot of information, in Spanish. But this, I understand 🙂

The family welcomes us warmly with Mom, Dad, Nicole and Grandmother. The house is not a house as we know it. It is more like a wall surrounding several small buildings. All of those buildings consist of only one room. There is one building for a small bathroom (with toilet and shower with warm water – depending on the amount of sunshine during the day), one building with the kitchen, one with the bed rooms and one little building with our room. It is lovely. Decorated in bright colours with the traditional dresses of the Colca Canyon.

Lunch: so much food!

We have barely arrived and are seated at the table. Nicole starts explaining the various devices in the ktichen: an oven, a sink, a cupboard with Quinoa. She goes to school and she likes it a lot. What she does not like a lot, is eating her food. Mom serves us a delicious soup of potatos and quinoa with vegetables. What we don’t know: this is only the first course. We have just driven over the pass of almost 5,000 metres above sea level and the headache starts to kick in. Food is not on top of our list right now. However, Mom serves us huge portions of potato-pie, rice with vegetables and cooked vegetables. It is just too good to let it go. Nicole prefers small quinoa biscuits, her soup remains untouched.

Thermal water and cultural Colca Canyon

In the afternoon, Dad takes us on a short trip through the astonishing landscape. Terraces of agricultural land all around, on the horizon the volcano Ubinas that sends ist smoke to the skies. Is it like this every day? Yes, every day the volcano is smoking. In 2006, there was a big outbreak of the volcano with fire visible in Coporaque. The accompanying earthquake destroyed a lot in the area, even in Coporaque. We pass donkeys and bulls, fields of corn and potatoes and we find a fruit of little cactuses that can be used as food and red colour. „Sometimes, they paint the mountain with it“, Dad tells us.

Our destination: the local hot spring. After about 40 minutes walk we arrive as the only guests of a series of round stone pools. All filled with natural hot water directly from the springs. The one in the middle is filled with the „original“ hot water, so it is really hot. All the others are mixed with cold water. We quickly change and enjoy the indulging experience of the hot water and the most beautiful landscape around us.

After our skin has turned all wrinkly and the sun sets, we take a taxi back to Coporaque. The local church is very important for the community, and Nicole finds her friends to play there. „Tomorrow, there is a wedding in this church. The entire town is attending and all of them will go inside the church“, Dad says. The cracks of the earthquake can be seen on the church’s walls. He leads us to a little building just next to the church and shows us a  local project. The aim is to show photographs of former times, when the town was built. He is part of this organisation and very proud of it. His job is stitching traditional clothes and other fabrics, they are also exhibited in the cultural center. He proudly shows his artisan work. Nicole wants to go home, as it is getting cold outside.

A special overnight stay

When we go back, the headaches caused by the altitude are strong. We decide to have a little nap before dinner. Food – again? We are happy to close our eyes, but it only feels like a second. I attend dinner on my own, as my partner suffers a lot from the altitude. He is covered with loads of blankets and takes medicine. All he wants is to close his eyes and sleep.

I take my seat next to Nicole, who once again refuses her dinner. She starts negotiating with her parents on how many spoonfuls she needs to eat. Family life – it seems to be the same everywhere! Nicole asks me whether I have to brush my teeth, too, because she doesn’t like it. But she uses the grown-up’s toothpaste already, which makes her proud. She points at my nose and asks what I got there. Dad explains to her that it is a piercing and basically it is the same as here ear studs. She seems to be shocked that someone has an earring in their nose! Dad explains that she can have it as soon as she is grown up, wherever she wants, in her nose, her lip or her eyebrow. She waves her hands and shouts: “NOOOO!”

As it is mother’s day soon, Nicole shows me what she has made for her Mom. It is a lovely card with lots of hearts. „It will be a big celebration with all the moms in the town centre“, Mom tells me. „But of course, also the wedding is going on the same weekend!“ I guess, the entire town will be a big party!

Gratefully I take the tea, the extra hot water and an electric oven to our room. Now it is dark outside and around 0 degrees Celcius. The night is cold but we wake up without headaches or other symptoms caused by the altitude. After we eat the homemade cake that Mom made in the middle of the night, just for us, we say goodbye to our family for just one night. Too bad that our Spanish is so bad, next time we will be prepared 🙂