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Full Circle

Day 195: On the Camisea and Urubamba River

Shivankoreni, Peru 
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Shivankoreni. Simple wooden huts, expensive new corrugated iron roofs.
Michael Palin - Full CircleIn the Matsiguenga village of Shivankoreni the Fiesta de San Juan begins with a series of mournful blasts on a conch shell summoning the villagers to ancient ceremonies. At least, this is what it sounds like as we scramble up the slippery clay path that leads from the river to a collection of wood-framed, tin-roofed houses raised a few feet above hardened mud and receding grass. In fact, any conch shell exists only in my imagination. The sound is produced by blowing through a length of yellow plastic tubing and the ancient ceremonies turn out to be a football match. Even my illusion about the timelessness of this riverside village is quickly disabused when I ask the headman how far back in the mists of time lie the origins of the village. 'Thirty-seven years.'

Shivankoreni is a settlement in transition. The wood frame huts are traditional but the tin roofs are a sign of prosperity. The football match, organized by the younger men with all the earnestness of a club game in England - a team list, distribution of shirts of roughly the same colour - is totally ignored by the village elders who lie about in their plain, sandy-coloured robes, on the stoops of their houses, propped up on one elbow like long-redundant emperors.

The football game, too, is a mixture of ancient and modern. The bow and arrow fisherman we met yesterday has neat skills, a sense of tactics and a pair of football boots, while others play in patched shorts and bare feet. A specially appointed time-keeper keeps the first half to a strict forty-five minutes, but then mysteriously disappears, resulting in an epic second half of almost sixty-three minutes.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 195
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Shivankoreni
  • Book page no: 265

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