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Argentine Widow Sleeps in Late Husband’s Mausoleum to Keep Him Company

Some people have strange ways of honoring their loved ones who have passed a way. Take Adriana Villarreal, an Argentine widow who sleeps in her late husband’s small mausoleum to keep him company, because she loves him so much.

43-year-old Adriana Villarreal, from Buenos Aires, recently made headlines in the Argentinian media after she confessed spending a few nights a year in her dead husband’s mausoleum. According to Gustavo Braganza, a police commissioner from the town of Dos de Mayo, his colleagues went to investigate what was going on in the San Lazaro cemetery, after reports of someone living there and playing loud music. When they knocked on the tomb door, Villarreal greeted them in her pijamas, and they could actually see she had been living next to a coffin and an embalmed body.

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Los Santos Malandros – The Thug Saints of Venezuela

An idol of a man dressed in blue jeans, orange shirt, green baseball cap and a gun stuck in his belt is hardly something you’d expect to see at a place of worship. But it’s pretty common in Venezuela, the country with the highest murder rates in the world. Religious cults worship thugs and criminals who are long dead and gone. Even though the most widespread religion in Venezuela is Christianity, the worship of local thugs is so strong that it cannot be overlooked. The people who participate in such cult worship are more often than not, from the poorest sections of society.

With an average murder rate of about 14,000 a year, Venezuela isn’t exactly the safest place in the world. In such a scenario, I suppose it would be easiest for the people to relate to a God with whom they can connect, as compared to the Christian saints. And that is what makes the Maria Lionza cult so popular. According to this alternate religion, the dead co-exist with the living and they can be accessed through a few people who act as a medium.

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Magic Mountain Lodge – Chile’s Water Spewing Volcano Hotel

Ever wondered what it would be like to live inside a volcano? Now you can have your chance at a hotel that’s shaped like one – Magic Mountain. There’s even stuff spewing off the top (water, not molten lava) and cascading down the walls and windows. But it doesn’t look much like a volcano, not to me at least. I think it’s got this old-world charm to it, like a tower from Medieval times. Especially with the antique doors and windows, and a shaky wooden drawbridge to let people into their rooms.

The Magic Mountain Hotel is located in Huilo Huilo, a private Natural Reserve in the Los Rios region of Chile. The antique appearance ends with the exterior however, as the interiors are done up in luxury. There are only 9 rooms, named after bird species found in the area. Each of them overlooks the thick forest and wildlife outside, including toucans, iguanas, pumas and lizards. Guests even get a glimpse of a real-life volcano from the hotel – the enormous Arenal Volcano. Outside the rooms the special services provided to guests are definitely worth a mention. Hot tubs made out of huge tree trunks, overlooking the forest are a major tourist attraction at Magic Mountain, as is the world’s longest zip line running through the grounds.

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The Flying Men of Bolivia’s Yungas Valley

It truly amazes me how people are able to find great shortcuts in any kind of situation. A while ago, we wrote about Bamboo Drifting , which was a means to cross rivers in China by balancing on a thin bamboo pole. Deep valleys exist in the jungles of Bolivia too, but the locals have chosen flying over rowing, and it’s much faster. On foot, the journey would take a good 1 hour, as they’d have to walk down to the bottom, cross the river and climb up the other side. But 30 seconds is all it takes for the people of Yungas Valley to fly across.

No, they haven’t mysteriously sprouted wings, nor do they use any fancy machines. Their flying equipment is simple – 20 ropes strung across the valley with old rusting pulleys, 200 meters above the river and stretching as long as 400 meters. Several of the local cocoa harvesters, the Cocaleros, use the ropes every day to travel to and fro along with their goods. They tie themselves to the pulleys using strips of fabric, and glide across effortlessly. Branches and leaves are used as brakes to stop themselves so they don’t end up crashing into the other side.

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Colombian City Inaugurates Giant Outdoor Escalator

The last time we spoke about the Colombian city of Medellin here on OC, it was about the tours based on the life of deceased drug-lord Pablo Escobar. Now the city is in the news again, for an entirely different reason. The residents of Medellin who have long been victims of war and urban violence have a reason to cheer – a giant outdoor escalator worth $6.7 million, installed by the Colombian Government. It was unveiled on Monday.

Comuna 13 is a relatively poor hillside neighborhood in Medellin, whose residents have to make a 35-minute hike uphill every single day to get home from the center of the city. This is roughly equivalent to climbing 28 flights of stairs. Now, thanks to the initiative of the Colombian officials, they do not have to make the exhausting journey any longer. The new escalator will allow residents to complete the trip home in just 6 minutes. What’s more, it’s completely free of cost.

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Peruvian Mayor Says Tap Water Makes Men Gay

Be careful before taking that sip! It might just make you gay. Or so believes a Peruvian Mayor, Jose Benitez. This by far sounds like one of the most unusual and irrational beliefs associated with homosexuality. Does Mr. Mayor actually have something to back his claims? Let’s find out.

It is definitely an established fact that the drinking water in the area consists of several minerals. It is the very presence of these minerals that is causing the Mayor of Humarey to make such claims. In fact, the supply of potable water to Humarey comes from the neighboring town of Tabalosos, and this water is known to have high levels of the mineral strontium. It is interesting to note that Tabalosos has been in the news before. For none other than its high population of homosexuals. It was reported that around 14,000 gay men inhabited the town at one point of time. A correlation has been drawn between strontium and the gay population.

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Peruvian Smoothie Stand Sells “Delicious” Frog Juice

A counter-top restaurant in Lima, Peru has been selling fresh frog juice for the last 15 years, and some locals drink it every day because they say it gives them strength.

There’s nothing like a glass of fresh juice in the morning, right? Peruvian restaurant owner Carmen Gonzales would agree with this 100%, only she has a different kind of juice in mind – frog juice, For the last 15 years she and various other juice stand owners have been serving her Jugo de Rana to locals and tourists brave enough to try it, and business is better than ever. She sells about 80 frog-based drinks every day, and some of her clients have them as breakfast drinks, early in the morning, because it gives them energy for the entire day.

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Chilean Taekwondo Instructor Opens Real-Life Jedi Academy

Following a dream of combining his passion for martial arts with his love for the Star Wars saga, a Chilean taekwondo instructor has opened the first Jedi school in South America.

William Berrueta has been a fan of the Star Wars franchise for a very long time, but it was the Star Wars Exhibition Tour, which came to Chile in 2005, that inspired the martial arts instructor to start a training program for young sci-fi enthusiasts, based on Jedi powers. It took a while for the 46-year-old to fulfill his dream, but last Thursday, the “Jedi Temple” school, in Quilpué, finally opened its doors to 20 would-be Jedi warriors, aged between six and twelve. Now, after being featured on BBC, it has already gained international acclaim.

“The idea is to make these children into Padawan,” said Berrueta, who will work with the young apprentices for a period of three months, teaching them yoga, self-defense and meditation. “In this period they will learn relaxation techniques, so they can concentrate and improve flexibility and mobility, so that they understand their bodies better.” Students of the Quilpué Jedi school will train dressed as Jedi fighters and practice with shatter-resistant lightsabers designed by William Berrueta himself. During exhibitions, they will use special sabers, imported from the US, for about $250 each.

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Takanakuy – The Fighting Festival of Peru

For most of us, Christmas day is a time of celebration and togetherness, but for the people of the Chumbivilcas community, near Cuzco, it’s the perfect opportunity to get into a fight.

Takanakuy, which means “when the blood is boiling” in Quechua, one of the oldest spoken dialects of Peru, is an annual celebration that gives people the chance to solve personal differences with members of their community the old fashioned way, through violence. The yearly festival, which takes place every December 25th, is an indigenous tradition that has a lot to do with family honor, reputation and distrust in the judiciary system. Takanakuy is viewed by many as the only way to put problems behind them, before New Year’s.

On the day of the festival, participants (men, women and children alike) gather in the local bullring, where they engage in a bare knuckle fight, supervised by local authorities who act as referees. Men mostly stick to punching, but in women’s matches kicking is very popular and while contenders don’t seem to be holding back much, injuries are rarely reported. Fighters are not allowed to hit their opponents while they’re down, and they risk getting whipped if they forget about this important rule.

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The Mysterious Scissors Dancers of Peru

Performed in the central and southern highlands of Peru, the Scissors Dance is a traditional event that tests the physical and spiritual strength of the participants.

Westerners usually regard “La Danza de las Tijeras” as a physical test where two men have to prove their dexterity and resistance to pain, but to the people of the Andes, this dance is a sacred ritual. The dancers, called danzaq, perform difficult stunts and leaps, called atipanakuy, accompanied by the music of a violin, a harp and the sound of the scissors they each hold in their hands. So much about not playing with scissors, right?

The origin of the danzaq and their Scissors Dance is shrouded in mystery, but some anthropologists believe they appeared in 1524, during the rebellion against Spanish colonial rule. According to old Spanish chronicles, Huancas (pre-Hispanic deities) possessed the bodies of indigenous young men, allowing them to perform an impossible-looking dance signaling the return of the Old Gods to vanquish the Christian God of the Spanish. As we all know, that didn’t happen, but the tradition of the Scissors Dance was kept alive by the Andean people.

It’s almost impossible to believe someone can accomplish this kind of acrobatic moves, while handling a pair of scissors made out of two individual sheets of metal, 25 cm each, but the danzaq do much more. To show spiritual superiority, they go through a series of challenges that include sticking sharp objects through their bodies, eating glass or walking on fire. The Scissors Dance is sometimes performed continuously for hours, until one of the competitors proves his superiority.

The best Scissors Dances can be witnessed in Ayacucho, Apurimac, Arequipa, Huancavelica and Lima.

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Qeswachaka – A Handwoven Bridge Made of Grass

The Qeswachaka hanging bridge, of Cuzco, Peru, is handwoven every year, from a local grass called Qoya.

Located approximately 100 km from Cuzco, Qeswachaka bridge was once part of a network of bridges, built in the time of the Inca empire, but is now the only one of its kind, in the world. Spanning 120 feet over the Apurimac river, at around 13,000 feet above water, Qeswachaka (also spelled Q’eswachaka or Keswachaka) is built using the ancient Qhapaq nan technique, used by the Inca people.

Qhapaq nan bridges were built from grass, and were wide enough for only one person to pass, at a time. In ancient times these bridges were constantly under surveillance and everyone crossing them was monitored. When Pizzaro began his march for Cuzco, Qeswachaka was destroyed, to slow his advance, but was reconstructed, many years later.

Made from a local herb, known as Qoya, the fibers of Qeswachaka bridge deteriorate rapidly, and local communities have to reconstruct the bridge every year. Around 1,000 men and women, from various Andean communities gather at Qeswachaka bridge, every second week of June, for the rebuilding ceremony. Long blade of Qoya grass are woven into six long cables, which are bound and secured by eucalyptus trunks, buried at each end of the bridge.

It’s not that building a more modern bridge would be impossible, but this is a way for the Andean people to celebrate and honor their Inca ancestors, and keep their centuries old traditions alive.

Photos by REUTERS via Daylife

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Bolivia’s Day of the Skulls

Dia de los Natitas (Day of the Skulls) is an ancient Bolivian ritual where skulls are decorated with flowers and pampered with cigarettes, coca leaves and other treats.

Every November 9, the central cemetery, in La Paz, Bolivia, becomes the scene of a bizarre pre-Columbian tradition, known as Dia de los Natitas.  Women carrying skulls, in decorated wooden or cardboard boxes, fancy glass cases and even in plastic bags, gather outside the cemetery to show off their skulls. They are usually decorated with flower petals (hydrangeas and roses) and covered with knitted colorful caps.

Some Bolivians believe a person has seven souls, and one of them remains in the skeleton, after they’ve been buried. Once the other souls have left for heaven, the remains are dug up and the skull taken home and cared for. If they’re not respected, skulls can bring bad luck to a household, ruin the harvest and even break up a family. But if they’re properly taken care of, you can ask the skull for favors.

A big part of caring for the skull is represented by the Dia de Las Natitas celebration. Skulls are offered cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol and are even serenaded by street musicians. Read More »

Cano Cristales – The Rainbow River

Known as ‘The River of Five Colors” or “The Rainbow River”, Cano Cristales is one of the most amazing rivers of our world.

For the most part of a year, Cano Cristales river, in Colombia, is just an ordinary as any other flowing waters you might have seen. But for a brief period of time, it becomes the scene of a natural festival of colors. The special algae living on the river’s bed of rocks is behind this incredible natural phenomenon.

The river’s flow of water regulates the amount of sunlight reaching the algae, and during the rainy season, it keeps the sun’s rays from reaching the bottom. During the dry season, the water is too shallow to sustain river life, but between these two seasons, conditions are just right for the colors of Cano Cristales to come to life.

Cano-Cristales

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World’s largest swimming pool

I have to say that after seeing these pics, I’ve decided I’d love to visit this place as much as I’d love to visit Devil’s Pool, at Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe. It’s just one of those sights that simply takes your breath away.

This man-made wonder is 1013 meters long covers 80 acres, its deepest end reaches 115ft and it holds 66 million gallons of water. If you want to take a dip in the world’s largest swimming pool you’ll have to travel to San Alfonso del Mar in Algarrobo, Chile, where a computer-controlled suction and filtration system continuously pumps water from the ocean, keeping crystal clear.

Although it wasn’t cheap, costing around $2 billion to build and another $4 million/year for maintenance, the pool seems to be worth it as it has been attracting huge crowds of curious tourists, since it opened in December.

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