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Full Circle

Day 195: On the Camisea and Urubamba River

Shivankoreni, Peru 
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Shivankoreni. The women's game.
Michael Palin - Full CircleA women's game follows. This is shorter and much more exciting. There is no semblance of a team strip, most of them play in dresses and skirts. Nor is there any inequality of footwear. All are barefoot. It's a cracking game though. Skirts are hitched up and shots hammered in from twenty yards. The memory of a slim girl weaving through the defence in a long cotton frock and finding where the net would be, if they had one, from twenty yards out, will stay with me for a long time.

After the football, a car battery is produced, laid on the table and leads attached to what at first looks like some small generator but turns out to be a sound system. Spanish disco music fills the air but no one responds to it. There is much drinking of masato, fermented yucca juice, which is made by the women of the village. Only after I've tasted a wooden bowlful of it am I told that the older women still use saliva as a substitute for sugar in its preparation. It tasted quite harmless, like slightly sour raspberry yoghurt. Wait in some apprehension to see the effect of Matsiguenga spittle on my troubled gastric system.

The feast itself is peremptory. The women emerge from their huts with various dishes and a circle is formed in the shade of a grove of trees, where rush mats have been laid out and banana leaves cut on which to place the food. The elders are roused from their porches and, when standing, look even more magnificently lazy and imperial, with striped habits and headbands. The more illustrious of them have deep red parallel lines painted on their faces with achiote, made from the ground up beans of a hairy red fruit found abundantly on bushes here (and now much sought after by western cosmetic manufacturers).
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 195
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Shivankoreni
  • Book page no: 266

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