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Wed in Cusco

Wed
Had breakfast with Juber and we had a fun hour or so chatting till the guide picked me up.
Tika is my guide today for the city tour and he also wants to take us to the local market as an added bonus if the other three we will be picking up. Really luxurious seats in this van today. Yippee!!
Cusco is a beautiful city with a very impressive and elaborate church along with some interesting Inca sites which are being preserved. We walked quite a bit and also traversed quite a few steps up and down but well worth the pain.
Our guide was very knowledgable about the ruins but also art history as his Dad is an artist.
The same three Aussies were on the tour with me and the guy (I was going to refer to him as gentleman but couldn’t ) was more of a jerk today than the day before. He asked Tika questions that only an Inca who had lived during that time would know and then was put out that he didn’t have an answer. His wife was his cheerleader so it kept going on. Tics finally said, “Sir, I will do my best if you let me give you my information and if you have any questions please let me know.” I gave Tica a big smile to say thank you. Mr Jerk settled down after that but I know he will give him a bad review to the company so I will also write a review on Mr Jerk.
Got back to the plaza and I quickly hustled off and found a restaurant overlooking a small plaza across from the Choco Museo where I will take my chocolate making class.
At 4:00 I went to my chocolate making class and since there were just two if us Josie gave us really special attention. Anyone interested in chocolate contact me and we will talk.
Leaving at 5:00am for Aguas Callenties in the morning and then meeting Wayne and the group early Fri morn.

This entry was posted on October 24, 2014. 1 Comment

Tues 10/22

Tues 10/22.

Tues
Got Wayne, Lannah, Francis and Pauline off on their hike of The Inca Trail.
Our van was to pick is up at 10:00am and since we had a little bit of time we went to the Inca ruins just down the street from our hotel. The construction precision and then the movement of these huge stones seems impossible but they did it. Also the elaborate water system bringing the water out of the mountains and to the precious crops in the fields via cut stone duct ways was pure architectural genius. I found this site so relaxing and meditatively peaceful with the sight and sound of lots of cascading water but at the same time I felt a sense of powerful energy all around. Peru has done a great job with restoration and Juber filled me in with lots of information about how the Incas used this site. Since Ollantaytambo is a popular starting place for the Inca Trail there are so many vendors of handicrafts everywhere and regular tienda type Latin America stores but these also sold every type of hiking equipment you could imagine right down to feather weight down jackets.

Our van picked us up and a bit down the road Juber and I were joined in our van by two other tour group “non Inca Trail hikers” so there were 4 tourists, three guides, one local guide and our driver.

Our local guide who was called Abuelo, which means Grandfather in Spanish, was a delightful character who always had a smile on his face. Raised in the area he had been an Inca Trail guide till he had knee surgery in Feb.
we first stopped at a natural salt field and the water, a salt content twice that of the ocean, flows from an unknown source thru a small crevice in the side of the mountain.
Onward we went to Moray a very impressive Inca site. When leaving the site our driver informed us we had a flat tire. It took about an hour to figure how to extract the spare and then just a few minutes to change the tire. The two Aussie ladies and I sat and had a great time talking but the most impressive part was the stunning backdrop of multiple mountains and a stunning blue sky dappled with puffs of fluffy clouds. Stunning.
The trip to Cusco was uneventful and I asked Juber if he minded eating a late lunch at Jacks where my BLT was callings name.
I did a bit of exploring and them went to my room for an early to bed night.
City tour at 9:00 am tomorrow.

Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo

Monday
We took off for a tour of The Sacred Valley. Along the way we stopped at a “Planetaria Cooperative” which is supported by G Adventures, our tour company. Here the money has allowed the women to have weaving looms and they produce beautiful textiles and also knit scarves, hats, gloves etc. the men of the village are employed by G Adventures as the porters and cooks for the Inca Trail. The village is flourishing. We were given a tour and each of us ladies took our turn weaving with the help of our tutors. These women are amazing as they weave intricate designs with no pattern. We then were shown how they processed the fiber and made the natural dyes from plants. The fiber (llama, alpaca or sheep) is boiled in these dyes for about 45 minutes. We had our own local little lady that assisted with the demonstration and she then quickly took us to her table of wares. I bought some leg warmers as I already had an alpaca hat, gloves and socks.

It’s getting quite cold today and has been raining off and on all day. The local guide said that it will probably rain on the big hike. The group is on a one hour hike right now and I opted to hang on the bus and jot down thoughts while still fresh. It really is great how they get in a hike or two almost every day in preparation.

The topic all day has been snacks on the trail and Lanah, (23, very slim and is our best eater) is the most concerned as she pretty much is a non stop eater and they have to carry all their snacks. When we were leaving Puno I spotted Snicker bars and bought 2 for Wayne (his fav candy) and gave him one on the bus for a treat and this morning I gave him the other for the trail.

Lunch was a gastronomical delight.

We had lunch at a G Adventure sponsored village project and I could not adequately describe the gourmet presentation of each course at this meal. I somehow left my phone on the bus so Wayne graciously agreed to take photos (as I knocked his fork out of his hand till he took a photo) and I will share with you foodies later. Creatively beautiful stunning presentation is all I can say!!

We arrived in Ollantaytambo where our Trekkers will blast off to The Inca Trail tomorrow.

Sunday

We arrived in Cusco around 3:30pm on Sun and Juber took us to a great little, always jam packed, restaurant. I spotted the BLT on the menu and knew this was going to be good. The description listed homemade bread and mayo with pesto. Well let’s just say if that restaurant was in McMinnville I would have a hard time deciding if I wanted Ricardo’s pork belly tacos or that BLT. Yes it was that good. Juber and Wayne had a stew in a wine sauce that was accompanied by delicious mashed potatoes. All you potato fans would love eating here as there are over 1,500 varieties and the flavors are so different but so far each have been very tasty. They very often serve multiple varieties in the same dish.

Juber then took us on a walking tour of the main city but everyone was anxious to attend the 7:00pm informational meeting about the upcoming hike. The presentation was really in detail and our presenter went over each day and details of the terrains for each day and what to expect along the way. Very interesting but I don’t think that even if I were in tip top shape I would attempt. Each hiker was given a duffle bag and after the (rented) sleeping bag and air mattress each hiker could add 2 1/2 kilos of personal items and this is the bag the porters carry for you along with the tents, food and cooking utensils. You then must carry anything yourself that is over the 2 1/2 kilos in a daypack. Lots of questions were answered and we were to pack for an overnight stay along with all the hiking essentials and be ready by 7:30am take off Mon morning. Our luggage will be stored at the hotel.

Monday morning dawns……

Breakfast was at the hotel and it is pretty much the same everywhere. Rolls, butter, jam, unidentifiable cereal, milk, thin yogurt, juice, instant coffee, tea and cocoa leaves for tea. Some hotels will cook eggs and charge extra but this one it was included and the coffee was perked. Ahh, the precious little things. 😊. Also sometimes there is cheese and ham and this one did. Pretty bare bones except for Lima where breakfast was a buffet feast. Not as good as our China trek breakfasts but really good.

The hikers were all pretty nervous and anxious this morning about what they packed or didn’t pack as they will not have another opportunity to add any items before the hike. I think Wayne re packed about three times last night and then again this morning.

Off to The Sacred Valley.

Friday

I somehow lost the Friday post so will try and recreate it today (Sun) on our 7 hour bus trek to Cusco. This trip just keeps getting better and better.
We left our hotel at 7:45 am via bicycle driven rick shaw type vehicles thru the heavily congested early morning streets of Puno. Miraculously we arrived at the dock of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigatable fresh water lake in the world at an altitude of 3,800 meters and covering 925 square kilometers.
We were transported on a 35 ft water taxi holding about 35 passengers with an outside up top viewing area to sit. Our trek to Uros, the man made floating island took about 30 minutes and although you could say it was a bit commercialized still gave me the feel of experiencing a radically different culture. The natives take the root of the reeds after harvest to create big blocks which are the base of each island and then cover the root base with layers of the reed creating a floating island. They use the reed to construct their homes, boats (which are quite elaborate)
And many items to sell to the tourists. We took a boat ride from one part of the island across to the capital area where Wayne had his passport stamped with the official Uros seal.
Off we went on the 3 hour trek to Amantani island where we are doing our overnight home stay. We got off the boat and our Mamas were waiting to take us home. There were 22 on the boat and our precious Lanah (23) met a gal from Sweden and they just hit it off and decided to room together on the island. The four of us along with a couple from Switzerland, a mother and daughter from Japan and Jose, a delightful young Peruvian man from a town above Cusco, were in the same. Our tiny little Mama, Inis, was an absolute delight. The challenging part for me was walking halfway uphill to her home. It was a bitch for me!!
We were given our rooms and Mama prepared us a lunch of quinoa vegetable soup which was very delicious and the next course was a plate of three different colored potatoes, some sweet potatoes and cucumbers and tomato. This was followed by a cup of herbal tea to help digestion and it was actually a great final finish. These Amantani people only eat natural foods and live on an average of 90 to 100 years or more. We had free time to wander and enjoy the beauty of the island. Mama had a donkey, an adorable little dog and a beautiful garden with the corn and potatoes popping up just enough to be easily identified and lots of flowers.
The young couple from Switzerland were on an endless trek abroad until their money runs out and Lauren only spoke French while Silvie spoke French, Spanish and English. They had been in Peru a while and having done the Machu Picchu hike Brazil was their next stop. The Japanese mother and daughter were at the end of their journey and would be heading back home. Jose an absolute delughtful young man was just on holiday and also off to Brazil next.
After a rest the group took off on a hike to the main plaza and then after meeting the rest of the people doing home stays they all hiked up to the top of the village to a sacred site where they did a ceramony which involved cocoa leaves to Pachi Mama (Mother Earth) and each person was able to make a wish to her with their offering of cocoa leaves. I could not do the hike as just getting to our home was a super challenge. Everyone else in our group had been having symptoms of altitude sickness but mine hit today with just slight nausea, aches and loss of appetite so I opted for a nap. Wayne, man in excellent condition, said the hike was quite challenging. Did I mention the bed was really comfortable!
Dinner that night started with a big bowl of creamy, I’m sure from a potato base, quinoa soup with carrots which was so satisfying. Then came a big plate of rice with veges and a mixture of multi colored pasta and different types of potatoes. Talk about carb overload but oh so yummy. Our handouts before going to Amantani had suggested bringing our Mamas a little present and Wayne and I had purchased multi colored pasta, rice and a big bottle of oil. Oh were we ever spot on. The next morning at breakfast those that brought presents gave them to her and when she opened our bolsa she had a big smile and gave us hugs and kisses. Again the final finish was the herbal tea, which was perfect. After dinner we all sat around and had a fun multi cultural exchange.
That evening was an optional Disco event and Juan, Lauren and Silvie attended. Mama dressed Silvie in traditional clothes and the event was the kids playing instruments and everyone dancing. Not quite a John Travilta moment but fun they said. The rest of us opted for bed. We had a candle as there was no electricity in our room although the dining room had a hanging light bulb from solar panels. There was a toilet room in the courtyard but my sweet man got a chamber pot from Mama so we did not have to negotiate the steps down to the courtyard in the middle of the night. 😊. The days are really hot and the nights are very cold and I opted for two extra heavy alpaca blankets which were snuggly perfect and I put my fleece jacket over my pillow and wore my newly acquired alpaca hat and socks. Ahh, a great nights sleep!
Breakfast was delicious!!! Mama made a pancake type crepe that was a tich on the sweet side but yummy perfect with the tea. After breakfast we gave gifts, did group photos and then spent quite a bit of time saying good bye to Mama and Papa. I think I got three hugs and kisses from Mama. What a precious little and I mean little doll! I counted my blessings that the trek was “down” to the boat!!
This beautiful Dat morning was perfect for our boat ride to the last island of Taquile which had a very high up plaza over looking the lake where we were to have lunch. I contemplated weather or not I should attempt the hike and at the last minute decided to go as I couldn’t miss lunch. Dear readers I won’t bore you with the gruesome details of my trials and tribulations of negotiating this mountain but my sweet man was oh so encouraging and patient. I’ll just mention here we were the last to reach the plaza and our restaurant. I was not concerned about the 564 steps down as steps along with Wayne’s shoulder and my trekking stick are a breeze. Yippee, I had made it. Lunch started with a talk about local clothes and how to tell who is married and who is not. No one ever divorces on this island and once a young couple gets engaged they live together for two years before marriage. They have a plant here that they grind into a paste and add to water which makes a shampoo. Not only does it bubble and foam but it also keeps the hair really dark and no one has white hair on the island. They then took some unprocessed sheep wool and washed it in the shampoo and it came out a brilliant white. Unfortunately they don’t sell it to outsiders.
Lunch was out of this world. Started with a bowl of thisk creamy quinoa soup and then a plate of thick potato bread and a bowl of salsa which is the first time we have seen this. Just the perfect touch of picante. Next came a fish shaped platter with a filled fried trout, side of rice with veges and beets. You all know I am not a huge fish fan but this guy was delicious. Since I was still suffering a loss of appetite Wayne thought he died and went to heaven eating this lunch.
Back down to the boat via the 564 steps and I was momentarily a happy camper. Where in the hell were the building inspectors during the Inca times when they were building these steps which could be more adaquetly described as a series of ledges. How these little tiny Incas, not to mention the poor children ever could use these ledges to descend the mountain is beyond me! Once again my amazing man was so patient letting me use his shoulder along with my pole to descend. Again I will not describe the gain outs details but I did get an ovation when I reached the boat. Three hours and we were back in Puno to our same hotel room.
Juber met us in our lobby at 7:00 to take us to a special dinner at a really nice restaurant just a few doors from our restaurant which was appreciated as a thunder shower started about an hour before and the sky was pouring our first rain of our trip.
Ahhh, dinner! Francis and Pauline had run into our two Japanese friends and invited them to join us and Lanah opted to do dinner with her new friend. The menu had a photo and description of each course so it was easy to choose. Wayne opted for sliced chicken breast with a sauce made with crunchy duck, bacon, berries that Wayne lived. It was accompanied with a bowl of seasoned cubed fried potatoes and a side of sautéed vegetables. The sauce, not to mention the presentation made the meal. I opted for the vegetarian personal pizza cooked extra crispy with lots of onions and it was divine. It was seasoned perfectly. Everyone raved over their meals and each one was a sight to behold. Apologies that I still have not master inserting photos doing this blog on my phone.
Then came the treat of the floor show and we, thank you Juber, had primo seating. The group consisted of a large drum, guitar, the little 8 string chungare (sp) and a pan flute player. They were accompanied by 6 dancers who did elaborate costume changes between every dance while the group continued to play. Such stamina but so appreciated by the audience. We were delighted to be able to purchase a CD for a beautiful requerdo of our Peru trip. Fantastic meal and entertainment.
We are now on our way to Cusco.
More later.

This entry was posted on October 20, 2014. 1 Comment

Thurs

Awoke to a beautiful final morning in Colca, a village that go us was the gateway to our spetacular Colca Canyon visit and three Condor sightings.

Yesterday afternoon Freddie and Juber took us to the natural hot springs for a relaxing and rejuvenating soak and relaxation that was especially appreciated by the canyon hikers.

The final finish was dinner in the square at an Irish Pub. They even had Guinness on the beer menu but it was a bit expensive at $30.00 solales which is about $10.50 US.

Up at 5:15am this morning as we will be on the road at 6:30 for a 5 hour or so (depending on traffic) trek higher into he Andes.

Since leaving Lima we have been staying in small little family owned hotels which are pretty much bare bones accommodations but the beds have been snuggly and oh so warm. The water has been hot hot hot so life is good.

We just passed over our highest point of 5,000 meters which translates to about 15,000 plus feet. Knock on wood so far we are all doing well. All the hikers have been drinking cocoa tea on a regular basis and sucking on cocoa candy which is highly recommended to help with the altitude. When we were leaving Aeriquipa Freddie gave us cocoa leaves chewing lesson and I tell you the stuff does not taste pleasant on my palate at all.  We had tried it in the Argentina when we were in Andes and I had the same (couldn’t spit it out quick enough) reaction.

The mountains are very arrid but we are treated to sights of herds of alpaca grazing and we even had to stop while a small herd crossed the road as they are protected and always have the right of way.

Just stopped to view some Andian Flamingos, Andian Geese (that are huge) and Andian Seagulls. They were pretty far away but with Wayne’s binoculars we all got a great look.  Along the way at every view point or bathroom stop ( 1 soles which is 34cents) there are lots of Andian vendors selling beautiful hand made wares at extremely low prices.   We just came around another turn and looked down upon many flamingos and birds close up. Took our breath away. Juber assures us when we get to Lake Titicaca we will have a nice up and personal experience.

As you can tell I am doing this in the van along the way so a bit challenging and I really have to keep my eye on auto correct. 😊

This entry was posted on October 17, 2014. 1 Comment

Wednesday

In different areas we have the addition of local guides and Freddie joined Juber and us for the trip to Colca, high in the Andes. Juan was our driver and we had a van type bus with a capacity of twenty so the 5 of us plus Juber in the back all had comfortable seating.

Our trip up into the Andes yesterday was fascinating and we each have had moments of adjusting to the altitude. We arrived in Colca at lunch time and were taken to a Peruvian buffet which had a large selection of delicious food. I will elaborate a bit more later on the food.

After checking into our family owned hotel Wayne and I took off on a walk thru the market just down the street from our hotel and across from the main plaza.   At 4:00pm the group met in the lobby for a hike and I went as far as the edge of town  with them and then meandered back to the plaza where I walked a bit, people watched a bit and then walked back to our hotel and did laundry. Once again Wayne and I agreed that we packed way too much as we have stayed on top of laundry at each stop.

After the return of the hikers we all went to have dinner at a restaurant across from the plaza. After the ginormous buffet at lunch neither Wayne nor I were very hungry so I had another version of the cream quinoa soup which has become my new fave. Wayne also had the soup and a plate of pasta. Lanah and Francis also had the soup,and they loved it while Juber and Freddie did the big meat etc (llama or alpaca) dinner platter. Pauline was feeling the effects of being at 3,600 meters and opted for bed. Wayne awoke with a headache but a couple if Alieve and lots of water did the trick this morning. Pauline also had recovered.

After breakfast at the hotel of juice, liquid yogurt , which was actually quite tasty, rolls with butter and jam and a selection of teas and instant coffee we headed out at 6:30am for Colca Canyon (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) to view Condors. Along the way,at viewpoints, we stopped for photos and also a bit of shopping from the elaborately dressed local Andean ladies. Upon arriving at the main view point we spotted our first condor soaring over head as we exited the van. We saw two more before leaving and Wayne had some hopefully good photo opts. I stayed with Jose and we had a lively time discussing his California Hairless Terriers, which are his dear pets, and then every subject from environment to politics. He was so patient with my spanish and spoke slow enough for me to understand almost all he was saying. When I didn’t understand I just asked questions and he re explained till I got it. What a blast we had while the group took another hike down and up the canyon.

After the spectacular morning in one of the most beautiful canyons in the world we headed back to Colca and after talking with the group everyone decided that the Peruvian Buffet would be perfect. Now he is where I wish I could pop a few pictures into this post as I have one food visual you all need to see. I will finish up here, post this one and try a new post with pictures. I’ve had luck with one picture so that may be what I will need to do.

Just to pre empt you before the photo, here we all are having lunch and Juber who was sitting across from me, was eating what looked like extremely well done deep fried chicken. Wayne had a piece on his plate and asked Juber how to eat it as he could not detect any meat. At that moment Lana, who was on the other side of Wayne looked over at his piece of fried food and audibly gasped with a horrified look on her face. I could not understand from my vantage point till Wayne turned the plate in my direction. I also gasped!!!  Hope the picture posts!!!

This entry was posted on October 15, 2014. 1 Comment

Aeriquipa (Mon)

We arrived in Aeriquipa mon morning after a 10 hour bus ride overnight.  This is the second largest city in Peru after Lima with about one million people. Juber took us on a walking tour of the town and we had lunch at a huge monastery.  Afternoon was spent exploring the city with Lanah while Pauline and Francis spent more time at the monastery taking pictures. We met Juber at 7pm and he took us to a delightful restaurant with live Peruvian entertainment. Wayne had an llama steak and I had my first quinoa which was a creamy dish with cubes of cheese. Never tasted anything like it before and I wish I had the recipe. We chatted with the owner and he has a son living in San Jose Ca   Oh such a small world.

Leaving in the morning by bus once again and venturing towards the condors. Can’t wait to see them!