Peru | Beer Bar – Oxen – Blessings

by Jim and Melanie

Mixed among our visits to archeological sites in Peru were several other learning experiences. Three are described in this post. More will follow.

Beer Bar and Sapo Game

We boarded the bus after breakfast on the day of our first visit to Machu Picchu. Very soon, we stopped in a small town in front of a bar. It seemed early to stop for a beer. Walter our guide wanted us to experience some of what the locals do for fun and entertainment. We entered a room that was mostly empty except for this unusual small table. It looked beat-up with holes cut into it. A drawer handle was in front. A brass frog, or sapo, sat on the center with a gaping mouth.

The drawer pulled out to reveal compartments and numbers. There were several metal coins inside. Click any images for greater detail.

People come to the bar, drink corn beer locals call aja, and challenge each other to a game to see who can toss the coins into the mouth of the sapo. That gives you 5000 points. Other holes give you a lot fewer points. We split into two groups and enjoyed a game. It was a fun way to start the day. (Our team won big, largely thanks to a “hole in one” by Valorie, one of our tourmates.)

After the game we went to another room to see how the corn beer is made and have a taste. Walter called it aja. Further research found the name chicha de jora. First the corn is sprouted, or germinated as seen in the right photo.

The malt sugars are extracted. The wort is boiled then allowed to ferment in earthen vessels for several days. The process is similar to making domestic beers today. The result is a beer of about 2% alcohol. It is pale straw colored and a little milky looking. The pink beer at the far right has been flavored with a fruit juice to make it more palatable. The flavor was different from beers we are used to, but it was okay with and without juice.

Bars don’t need a license to make or sell beer. When home brewers have a batch ready, they put a small red flag out in front of their home to advertise that they have beer available.

Oxen Farming

Fields of maize (corn,) potatoes, tomatoes, and quinoa were often seen during our bus rides. The land is mountainous. Any flat places are rather small. Flat areas are found in valleys. The Inca constructed terraces where possible on the slopes. We saw a few small tractors on broader tracts. Most work was done by hand and by teams of oxen. Planting season was beginning, and seed is spread by hand on the rich soil.  

Shaman Blessing Ceremony

In Chinchero we were joined by a local shaman for a ceremony of blessings for our health and world peace. The shaman is a popular person and on-call for ceremonies over a wide area. We gathered on benches under an open-air structure. A small table draped by colorful cloth stood in front of him. Gift-wrapping paper was on the table held down by small stones. Our guide, Walter, translated comments by the shaman for each offering.

Small items were placed onto the paper to express our thanks for family and friends, wishes for health and peace, and hopes for the future.

We were given coca leaves which we placed around the offerings with our own special wishes. The final arrangement was blessed by the shaman.

The paper was wrapped around the offerings, tied it with string, and moved over each of us. He started a small fire and made offerings around it before setting the paper on it to burn.

We were all moved by the experience. It allowed us to reach inside our spiritual selves in our own thoughts. It was peaceful and drew us together.

A month after our return home, we invited close friends to a Peruvian-inspired dinner. As thanks after eating, we had our own ceremony. We took our wrapped offerings outside and burned them. Afterward, we came inside and ate dessert.

Would you like to read more about our travels in Peru? Here are links to all of our posts on Peru:

Peru | Lima | First Impressions
Peru | Textiles and Ceramics
Peru | Arts & Crafts
Peru | Pisac & Ollantaytambo
Peru | Machu Picchu
Peru | Tipon and Sacsayhuaman
Peru | Beer Bar – Oxen – Blessings
Peru | Hillside Homes | Traffic Woes
Peru | Everyday Life
Inca Pot | c 1500
Noon @ Ollantaytambo
Peru | Machu Picchu Plus Much More


6 thoughts on “Peru | Beer Bar – Oxen – Blessings

  1. Eliza Waters

    It’s great that you got to experience a shaman blessing as well as other Peruvian culture.
    Seeing the little ‘good luck’ figurine at the bar brought back memories of those little kitchen gods that were seen everywhere. I even have one that is a bit battered, but packed away somewhere. I had it out for years. My little stuffed llama still presides over the livingroom however!

  2. Jim R Post author

    I’m glad to hear you still enjoy your treasures. One of our fellow travelers gave Melanie a tiny wool sheep before we left Lima. It was her birthday.

    1. Jim R Post author

      We have several more ‘local adventures’ to report. We were well taken care of. The beer was ok. Not one I would buy at the store. But the locals can get it very cheap.

  3. shoreacres

    The game you were introduced to is remarkably similar to a traditional Texas game called cornhole: tossing beanbags into a board with a hole. It may be popular elsewhere, but I wasn’t introduced to it until I got to Texas. It’s lots of fun. This one reminded me a bit of Tiddly-winks, too, given the different values for each box.

    The corn beer’s interesting. I’ve never heard of that, either. In Liberia, you might think we had rice wine, given the predominance of rice as the staple crop. But, no: instead we had palm wine. No distilling necessary for that. You just climb to the top of the tree, insert a tap, hang a bucket, and wait for it to fill up. The longer the stuff sat around, the yeastier it got. Fermented palm wine could be used to make bread.

    1. Jim R Post author

      People have taken advantage of the fermentation of foods for a long time and in many ways. Yeast is our friend.

      We have cornhole here, too. I like the game. You need a steady hand to toss accurately. Beer doesn’t help. 🙂


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