By Neil Bamford
I Woke up this morning, and had a slight headache, and my mouth tasted like a lobo had spent the night in it! Pisco sours and bud. Probably not a Great mix, but also an entertaining night.
So today I was off to venture over to check out La fiesta de la Tirana. Its a small town, some 40 of so miles west of Iquique, and every year they hold a large festival to remember, or celebrate athe Virgin de carmen , who during the spanish conquests, initially revolted against the Spanish, but after she was hapured and imprisoned, she fell in love with a spanish soldier. She eventually wanted to marry him, but when the locals found out, they killed her.
The festival takes place every year on July 16 th, and is the biggest localized festival in Chile, attracting around 250,000 visitors evey year, and all the 1200 inhabitants of the village get involved.
True love, never an easy course to follow!
Anyway, enough of the history lesson. So I got up, got wrapped up, since the mists had descended on the City, and then headed a few blocks north from the hostel, to a bus stop, that had been pointed out by the hostel worker, Manuel. It only cost about 2000 Pesos, for the trip, and as the bus wound its way up the side of the huge sand dune, that dominated the skyline, the city looked very bonita below. I soon got talking my spanenglish to an older bloke, Victor, from Santiago, who was a landscape artist and gardener. We had a right conversation about tomatoes and heirba. Very enlightening.
The journey to the fiesta took about an hour and a half. I soon realisef I was overdressed, because as soon as we ascended up to the heights of the desert, the clouds disappeared, and the sun baked everything below. Phew.
As we got nearer the town, the traffic built up, and as we turned off the local highway, it turned to a crawl, but gave the local vendors plenty of time to hop on buses and sell their melting ice lollies and warm water. Ha. I was amazed at how many people were walking miles, in the midday heat of between 25 – 30 C. A very hardy folk. Always remember drink plenty of water kids.
When we got about 500 Metres from the town, I decided to walk the rest of the way, since the bus was now crawling, in the traffic.
The main road in was thronged with locals, and many touristas, wearing shorts, t shirts, and looking very excited to be there. The whole place had a great festival atmosphere. Maybe like Glastonbury, but with sun and sand.
As I walked through the dusty, busy streets, I noticed that there were hardly any trees, and the low, town, seemed to pant in the heat. Many locals and tourists were clingin to the shadows for ease. How would the dancers be able to perform in such extreme temperatures?
But my fears were averted. As I wandered the streets towards the main square, I could here the pounding of the bass drums, and as I got nearer, the thongs of people grew and grew. There were many cocinas that had popped up in houses and shops, and the smell of barbequed pollo and other carne was intoquicating.
Once I arrived at the main square, and the sun scorched down onto the cobbles, I was overcome by the colours, and movement, as many costumed dancers girrated and danced in many different groups around the square. In the central plaza, myriads of devils, and monstrous looking creations performed complex dance routines, while brass bands played on in the shade of the shops and cafes. These weren’t short dance routines either. Some of the dances went of for almost half an hour, and in the scorching sun, they took on an almost dream like existance. Each dance group had different costumes, music, tempo and characteristics of the costume. But all of them were entertaining to watch, and I applaude the dexterity, and stamina of each performers. Some which were wearing heavy, fur costumes, and others were just children.
After each performance, regardless of the heat, the performers would take time to stand with tourists and locals, for an opportune photo opportunity. (See photos below.), before starting another dance later on.
I stayed probably for an hour and a half, watching the different dance groups, and it was such a joyous experience, and i’m glad I made the effort to travel out to Tirana.
Regardless of the heat, it was great to see so many people, performers, and tourists a like enjoying themselves, and goes to show that even in the desert, and without the need for drink, fiestas are still very popular, and very enjoyable.
So if you’re around Iquique in mid July, and you are bored of lounging on the beach. Get yourself along to La Tirana, for one hell of a Fiesta, and tell them Neil sent you.
A great day out, and now back to Iquique for a Siesta!
– Neil Bamford is from Yorkshire in North England. He is traveling around Chile to experience the sights, food, people and breathtaking scenery. He loves to share his stories to encourage more people to travel this way.