Mas Comida

May 31st, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

This was called “Ensalada Complicada” at La Pizza Carlo in Cuzco

Everyone has pizza on the menu; this is the “Caprichosa” at La Pizza Carlo in Cuzco

Beetroot Ravioli at Cicciolina in Cuzco

Tagliolini with Prawns at Cicciolina in Cuzco

Everyone also has guacamole on the menu; this is from Puka Rumi in Ollantaytambo

Potato Salad at Puka Rumi in Ollantaytambo

Chicken Skewers at Puka Rumi in Ollantaytambo

Ménu Typical / Chicken Casserole at Hearts Cafe in Ollantaytambo

El Valle Sagrado

May 31st, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

We’re spending about 5 days in El Valle Sagrado, the Sacred Valley – in Ollantaytambo (where we are now) and Pisac. The Sacred Valley is so named for the Río Urumbaba that flows through it; water was sacred and worshipped by the Incas.

The villages here are much the same as they were in Inca times; Ollantay (the local nickname for Ollantaytambo) is a place of stone: streets, buildings, city walls… everything but the tile rooftops. The streets are narrow and have a channel right down the center where water flows from the river. And there are ruins all around here; this one is right down the way from our hotel and our view from bed (the stone terraces on the mountain behind the buildings)!



We gave ourselves a day of rest yesterday because we were really very very sore from the Inca Trail and were walking like crippled elderly people after any period of inactivity, like sitting down to eat – cold muscles didn’t want to work. Today I can still feel the 27 miles we hiked, but it’s totally manageable. For instance, I no longer have to spread my arms out like a chicken when using stairs (going down).

Today we went to Las Salinas de Maras, a short ride from Ollantay by bus + taxi. Las Salinas de Maras is a terraced salt mine that’s nestled in a valley and fed by a salt water spring.






We Survived the Inca Trail

May 30th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Here we are in Ollantaytambo, the next destination in our trip, with very sore legs and for me, a swollen knee. We arrived here last night after completing the trail, spending a few hours at Machu Picchu, then another few hours in a town called Aguas Calientes, and finally an extremely slow train ride here to Ollantay. It was a long day (we were up at 3 am to begin day 4) and I don’t want to see another step or hill for a long time, but this area is full of them, so there is no escape!

The 4-day Inca Trail was the most challenging physical and mental thing I’ve ever done. There were a few times I didn’t think I could make it to camp, but also knew there were hours of trail ahead of me: that’s where the mental challenge is — willing yourself to forge onward… Wondering what happens when your muscles and body just don’t have any more to give, like a dry gas tank… Working through pain and sore body parts… Working through managing a mind that is “sick of it” (upon seeing what appears to be a never ending hill or stairs). The trail is a very individual experience in this regard.

The physical challenge is obvious — we were climbing and descending giant and steep mountains in the Andes! The high altitude makes it hard to breathe, and the descents in steep and rocky terrain were hard on the knees. So were the stairs. I for sure would have been better off in better physical shape, I did not get as fit prior to the hike as I should have or wanted to. But I still made it!

All that said, it was amazing and the finishing point of Machu Picchu was like the best written climax in any great quest story. Machu Picchu is a special place, made so all the more with our effort to get there, and really getting a sense of place by walking and sleeping with “Pachamama” (how the Incas called Mother Earth). Though, many times I wanted to give Pachamama the finger!

It was jarring to join the throngs of tourists who arrived by bus and train. I’d developed this sort of mental cacoon on the trail, which was free from all the junk that comes with crowds of people with agendas and to-do lists. It was a shock to the system and the only down side to the entire hike experience.

There’s a lot more to say or show in pictures, but I’m not quite ready to share the entire experience; I want to savor it on my own for just a while longer…


Hike Starts Tomorrow!

May 25th, 2012 § Comments Off on Hike Starts Tomorrow! § permalink

Our adventure begins at 4 am with a 3-hour bus ride to the trail head. We are stocked with plenty of coca leaves, cliff bars brought from home, and rain gear—the weather is weird and occasionally rainy now even though the wet season is over (Yesterday it hailed! Residents of Cuzco got their cameras out).

Tonight we pack our trail bags (and in my case, most likely, pack and repack) and get to sleep early.

I’ll be back online on Wed, totally of the grid for next 4 days.

Here’s my pre-hike meal…carefully chosen to give me something of a symbolic visual to make the exertion have meaning when I’m feeling spent. “This 1000 feet is for that bacon, and the next will be for the onion rings, etc…”

Today I…

May 24th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Bought a belt from this lady in the San Blas neighborhood (she put it on me, pulling it through my belt loops; I felt like a little girl getting dressed by her mother):


Climbed up the hills surrounding town and got a view of Cuzco like this:


Meandered along narrow alleys such as this:


And sipped a cappuccino from a balcony along the main square, Plaza de Armas, looking out to La Catredal de Cuzco:


I also went to Enigma Tour and picked up this map and some info while paying our balance:

Here’s how the hike breaks down:

Hike 15 km (9.3 miles) – probably around 9 hrs
Starting altitude is 2,600 m (8,528 ft)
We camp at Llulluchapampa, at 3,750 m (12,303 ft)
Elevation gain: 3,775 ft (I have never done this in one day)
Looks like most of that gain is at the end of the day, too.

DAY TWO (the HARD day they say):
Hike 13 km (8 miles) – probably around 9 hrs
We hike over 2 mountain passes
First pass is named, “Dead Woman’s Pass” at 4,200 m (13,779 ft)
Second pass is at 3,950 m (12,956 ft)
We camp at Chaquicocha, at 3,500 m (11,483 ft)
Elevation is up and down this day, but there are 2 pushes up those passes that equal 2,621 ft of uphill exertion

It actually sounds better to me than Day One, but that extra elevation and corellating lack of oxygen will make it tougher **at the highest altitude this day, we’re only getting 40% of the oxygen we’re accustomed to

Hike 9 km (6 miles) – probably around 6 hrs
We hike over our 3rd mountain pass at 3,670 m (12,037 ft)
We camp at Winay Waya at 2,700 m (8,858 ft)
Elevation gain for the mountain pass is 554 ft, then it’s downhill

We hike to Machu Picchu!!!!!
It will take about 3 hours (4 km / 2.5 miles)
No real elevation gain, but lots of downhill at the end, and very steep

We Ate!

May 24th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

After 36 hours of abstinence from food—except for a few nibbles of dry toast, crackers, and brothy soup—we rebounded from our food poisoning incident with full enthusiasm.

It might have been a little foolhardy to not pace ourselves with small amounts of bland and boring food…our stomachs are still in trial, but so far I only have a little heartburn.

I thought I’d show you our damage.
**none of my photos are color corrected (they’re shot RAW and I have no computer), so the food won’t look as it should


A typical Peruvian dish: the simple spit-roasted chicken, called Pollo a la Brasa. A quarter chicken plus mountain of papas fritas looks like this:



Antipasto with cured alpaca meat, local cheese, quinoa croquettes, zucchini, and eggplant:


Tacu Tacu, an African dish brought to Peru by Spanish slaves that’s like a fried mash of beans and rice, with a breaded slice of beef (Cheryn’s entree; tasted better than it looks):


Alpaca tenderloin served over a quinoa risotto the restaurant dubbed “quinotto”:


I recommend both restaurants.

Los Toldos ($)

Incanto ($$$)


May 23rd, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

I woke up today under weighty layers of thick blankets (it’s cold here at night and there’s no heat in this old building) and the noise of busses and trucks that by their sound make Cuzco seem like a very busy, industrial place. But it’s neither. It’s lively for certain, but not busy.

The city is wrapped by steep grassy hills studded with houses the colors of brown and terra cotta. Wandering through the cobbled, narrow alleyways of the historic center, we found plenty of squares and churches to stop and take a break and people watch.

There are lots of “perma-travelers” here, just like in Asia… I’m talking about the post-apocalyptic looking travelers who have a ragged, Mad Max chic. We’ve made up a place of origin for these people; it’s called “Dürtopia,” a land where combs are banned and clothing must be faded or torn to be worn in public. Dreadlocks and funny beards and ill-fitting sandals are highly revered.

There’s another strata to this traveler set we see here in Cuzco, though, and these may be the fashionistas of Dürtopia. Benjamin described them quite aptly as looking like models for a travel line by Urban Outfitters that I would call (if I were them), “Lost and Found,” because it seemed like the girls pulled items from a variety of sources (some items having been thrown out) and found a way to make them work.

Better people watching was the Peruvian ladies in full native costume holding adorable baby lambs. I know that lambs are babies, and saying that was redundant, but I wanted to drive home the ADORABLE point. I make a rule not to pay for set up photos like this, but I had to this one and only time.

So far no problems with altitude, and our appetites are back, so all is well in Cuzco!





We Should Have Feared the Sandwich

May 22nd, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

We are both sick, a new record for our travels. Getting this sick so early on is almost comical–if not for my sore abdominal muscles from barfing all night, I might laugh.

I think it was the sandwiches we shared at lunch yesterday. By 7 pm the slow dawning of dread related to illness while traveling crept into the bed with me and by 8 pm, it was on. Benjamin followed by an hour or 2. I feel bad for the horrible noises our neighbors had to endure.

I’m feeling pretty weak today and can’t really eat anything but dry toast… We have until Thursday morning to feel normal or cancel the hike. That’s when they require full payment (2 days prior). And we were so careful not to twist an ankle or anything up until this point, only to have the adventure potentially squashed by a few bugs.

Today we’re off to the airport and Cuzco and its taking everything we have to just be upright.


If They Can Do It, So Can We

May 21st, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

We met three ladies at breakfast who had just come from Cuzco and had hiked to Machu Picchu on a different trail than we will be. They are in their 50s and don’t hike at home; one had never slept in a tent before. They said it was hard, like everyone else has, but they didn’t say it was impossible!

Their biggest advice was to not bring anything extra, particularly clothes and specifically extra underwear. Apparently, we will not be bothered to change it. I have been camping before, I know the drill…but underwear is pretty light weight.


I’m sure we’ll be hearing lots more stories in Cuzco, we’re going there tomorrow. It all makes me think of our 2-day stair climb up Emei Shan in China. People at the bottom of the mountain hang out in cafes and worry about the impending torment of going up while people who have just come down are too tired to talk about it.

At the bottom of Emei Shan, the cafe walls where we did our fretting were covered with the scrawls of travelers and pilgrims, penned in all shades of blue and black; there were warnings and statements of triumph–not one message said, “it’s not so bad…” (which is, of course, the message I was always looking for).

Room at the Inn

May 20th, 2012 § Comments Off on Room at the Inn § permalink

I would never plan to arrive in a foreign country in the wee hours after midnight, find a cab to drive around dark, quiet streets (somewhat lost) for an hour to a hotel that was not expecting arrivals at 2:00 a.m., and for which we did not have a reservation. But that’s exactly what we did!

I wasn’t thinking everything through when I reserved our room in Lima, and just entered our arrival date into the online form for the hotel. So, our reservation technically started on the right day, but we were way too early for it; I should have reserved the room for our SF departure date, even though we wouldn’t be checking in until after midnight.

Oh well. We’re lucky there was an empty room! And it’s a good thing we’re not hot headed people and were relatively calm when told, “I don’t have a reservation for you.” At 2:00 a.m. In a foreign place.

It’s a very cool artist’s mansion, or “casona,” in the bohemian Barranco neighborhood; the guesthouse is full of art and there’s a sculpture garden that wraps around the building. Our room overlooks the ocean from our position on a cliff.

The sky is Lima’s winter white layer of fog and atmospheric in a melancholic sort of way. The fog is called “garúa” and Herman Melville commented on it in Moby Dick as, “the strangest, saddest city thou can’st see.”