Astrid y Gaston - Fantastic way to end the trip. Now too full for the in flight meal!
Astrid y Gaston - 16 course tasting menu.
26 August 2017
Last night in Cusco - ran into a native fair. Music, dance and artisan wares.
25 August 2017
On the train ride back to our town we met a Chinese-Peruvian Canadian to talk to. She was born in Lima when it was a tough city and her stories made me so grateful to live in my unassuming little non-aggressive Country. Anyway she gladly filled me in on how many of those buses pitch themselves off that mountain road every year. This is information I am so glad I didn't have before our ride, because no doubt, Coco and I would've been hauling ass up there the old fashioned way.
Anyway, we are heading back to Cusco now and then back to Lima and then home. Ripping off the band-aid slowly retracing our steps before we have to leave.
That archaeological site is truly amazing. It was a real pleasure to spend time in that space and be amazed and awed by how ingenious the Incan actually were. That was a special day. I have been looking at pictures of that place for about 35 years, starting with staring into my brothers viewmaster until I had square impressions around my eyes. I would see all these amazing places and wonder, as a girl, how I was going to get there. If you get a chance to catch a National Geographic special on Machu Picchu, you should watch definitely watch it.
The bus ride up there was nothing short of terrifying. I think Cedar Point should come take a look at these mountain roads for roller coaster ideas. The bus clings onto narrow ledges and criss-crosses back and forth up switch-backs. The road is so narrow that you can look out your windows and see thousands of feet straight down. That's scary enough, but then sure enough, another bus comes in a different direction and you have to make room and now you're really staring down thousands of feet praying that gravity works differently here. I think it was 22 switch-backs it completed before it spit us out at the top.
Found our train easily enough and off we went. It was a beautiful ride with glass ceilings to see the soaring peaks. And we chugged along a rushing river with intermittent ruins and waterfalls. It ended in a town called Agua Calientes where you catch a bus that takes you up to the cloud city. Otherwise it's a two hour hike of nothing but up. The line for the buses was about 9 blocks long and the crowds from Cusco hadn't even arrived yet. It took about an hour to snake your way up to the front and the line never seemed to shorten. That's what happens when the world comes to see a landmark. And on top of it all, it was raining. But that blessed moisture felt so good on the sinuses. My nose finally stopped bleeding for about 9 hours. So delightful. I have seriously entertained the idea of waterboarding myself in the shower, but the shower "stalls" here are postage stamp size. You can barely maneuver to get your nooks and crannies clean, so I haven't figured out a way to make that happen
Chris woke up at 3:00 am to a constant, throbbing, buzzing hum and realized it was me, vibrating in the corner. I'd been up since midnight, too excited to sleep because it's Macch Picchu Day! The family at the hostel had been kind enough to pack us a lunch, so we were all set to go catch our 5:00 am train. I was under the impression that the train station was about 10km out of town so we had to walk to the square to catch a tuk-tuk. For those of you who read the Southeast Asia journal you know I have a deeply crafted, well-honed visceral hate for tuk-tuk drivers. If you asked me to chose between tea with Hitler, lunch with the Khmer Rouge or a ride in a tuk-tuk with those thieves and cut-throats, I would be hard-pressed to answer. Anyway, we managed to catch one and of course he over charged us (only by 30 cents, but that's not the point, I'm speaking to their nature here), and he drove us about 12 blocks to the other train station I didn't know about. Cosmic karma wins here.
24 August 2017
Sacred Valley - Moray and Salt terraces of Maras
23 August 2017
19 August 2017
We woke up the next morning with rigor mortise. We walked about 1/5th the way back up and waited for the bus back to our village. I thought for sure if I had to walk back up I would die from the asthma. Turns out there were whole other things to worry about instead! The bus was "clinging" onto this dirt road with thousands of feet to drop if he miscalculated at all. This is where you begin to hope the driver loves his life, has done this a million times, isn't daydreaming and has such a focus going on. Yikes!!! Just when we drove onto a "regular" road and there was a collective exhale, a rock rolls down the hill and somehow misses our window and crashes instead onto the roof of the bus! Are you kidding me. Well, against the odds we made it back up to Cabanaconde and we celebrated with a wood fire pizza and a bottle of red wine. We promised ourselves this on the hike down so Cheers!
18 August 2017
We did a couple short day hikes from our village Cabanaconde to test our legs and lungs. We are at 3200m so the air is pretty thin but we managed. We hiked to a couple lookout spots and if the altitude didn't take your breath away, the scenery sure did. It is just so beautiful here. It's so vast and striking and massive on a scale I've never seen before. The Colca canyon is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. Anyway, it gave us the confidence to do our hike, or maybe we just wanted to see more of this place. We set off early in the morning with as little gear as we could take. We were hiking to Llahuar a small rustic village 10.5km away on the floor of the canyon. "This is the hardest hike I've ever done" I said to Chris before it even got really hard! This is no place for asthmatics. The down was hard on your legs, and to be fair most of it as down but the up crippled me. I had to give Coco my pack and I was still pretty sure I might die.
17 August 2017
The ride into the Colca canyon was a bit of mess. There is only one road and it was being blocked by protesters (teachers apparently). We lost about 45 minutes to that but I was glad we didn't bust through the line. People were getting out of their buses to try and barge through them but eventually the police took over and escorted them off the road so the hundreds of buses could get through. We did still get to see the condors using the thermals to soar through the ravines and it was spectacular. The warmer it got, the higher they flew. One even flew right over us. They are huge, and I know everyone knows that, but it's not until one of those ptydactyls flies over you and some primordial DNA is activated that their sheer size concerns you. I wonder what they eat? I felt a bit like bacon perched out there on that ledge
16 August 2017
So whatever I had yesterday, Chris seems to have today. Really bad timing. The bus topped the 5000 meters mark and poor Coco was a trembling, sweating, gasping, whimpering bag of skin. It must have really hurt him. Luckily I fell asleep and then must have slipped into coma due to the thinness of the air because it never troubled me a bit. I know that if Chris and I don't get our shit together (and I mean literally), hiking is going to be really challenging. Him regaling me with "eat, Karen, eat" yesterday probably isn't so funny for him today.
15 August 2017
Highlight of the day was my first hot shower!!! Blessedly, deliciously, awesomely hot. Luxury. We discovered the water is solar heated, so we beat it back to the room around 5:00 after the sun warmed it all day but had not set yet. Brilliant. Bad news is we discovered that there is an all-night disco right across the street. The first night we thought it was part of the celebrations for Arequipa Day. But it went on all night long the second night too. Ear plugs do absolutely nothing for the pounding resonance through your body of the reverberating base. Needless to say we were up for our 3:00 am bus ride.
Day 2 in Arequipa was a bit of an ass-kicker for me. Am nursing a wicked sinus infection, am suffering from the altitude and I apparently ate something that has decided to take up residence in my intestines and wreck absolute havoc. Not good. I only brought two pairs of underwear. Made it to a scenic lookout, managed to stock up for our hike which starts at 3:00 am this morning and visit one museum of a wealthy mayor. Oh and various bathrooms along the way. Super day.
14 August 2017
Ended the night with a huge parade, some Indian food and fireworks. We inadvertently got caught up in a Peruvian mosh pit going into the square for a free concert. You were being crushed and stepped on from the front and the back while trying to keep your feet under you so you don't fall. No free music was going to be worth that so we begged off as soon as we possibly could and grabbed a bottle of Chilean carmenere and to wash down some Peruvian chocolate. There is a nice rooftop lounge area which we could watch the fireworks and cheers our adventure so far.
Arrived in Arequipa pretty routinely enough. Found our hostel. Had a quick shower (no hot water here either) and proceeded to discover this city on foot. It's been my favorite so far. Chris found his cooking school and I think he really enjoyed asking the chef if he could sharpen his knives. I ended up touring a huge monastery with an Austrian girl and then went to pick up Chris from his school. I got invited in to taste their courses and got a tour of the kitchen while Chris cooked up the last course. I kind of felt embarrassed for his class mates because he already seemed to know what to do. And of course the meat whisperer cooked his elpaca perfectly.
12 August 2017
Off to Nazca the next day. It was only a three hour bus ride and turned out to be a little less wild west. Our flight was scheduled for 7:00 am the following day over the Nazca lines. It turned into 8:00 and then mysteriously into 9:00. We finally flew at about 10:20 and it was pretty amazing to see these incredible geoglyphs etch
ed in the desert floor. Maybe part of the appeal of the symbols is that so little is known about their history. They are remarkable and yet there's not much to say about them. It was a bit of a queasy ride between the turbulence and the banking of the plane. We flew in a small 6 seater and the pilot would bank sharply to one side for half the plane to see the etchings and then circle back and bank sharply to the other side so everyone could get a good look. Very considerate overall but I had determined if I was going to urp, I wasn't using the small bags provided, but aiming for the pilot. Needless to say no breakfast that day. Or lunch for that matter.
11 August 2017
We also got to try some sand boarding. It was a bit alarming speeding down the slopes face first with no brakes and wondering how much of a friend gravity actually is. Had to climb back to the top just in time to see the sunset. From there we went into town to try some street food. Had some version of a corn and cheese snack and then some potato adventure. Next we moved on to cow heart on a stick with some hot sauce. Followed up by some pretty good cakes and overdone pork.
The drivers here rival Beijing for the most aggressive, most impatient I think. They love their horns and decided not to let those mysterious lines on the road keep them contained. There were numerous dogs running around not necessarily aggressive but they do make their presence known. And the cherry on top was the mountains of garbage absolutely everywhere. Apparently they haven't really developed an infrastructure yet. So we explored a bit and then took some quads out to the desert to ride on the dunes. Chris became 11 years old again. The dunes were so amazing. When you crest the top of one you have absolutely no idea what's on the other side. It could easily be a flat expanse or a demon drop hundreds of feet high. When you are racing down them it's like being on a sand roller coaster without any of those pesky safety checks.
Took an early morning bus to Ica and arrived in the wild west. Seems like a frontier town that Al Swearingen would have a tavern in. We had tried to get off the bus at a hotel stop where a driver had asked we meet him. The attendant on the bus wouldn't let us get off. She kept saying "Ica" and we kept trying to tell her we needed to get off there. Flashbacks to Vietnam for sure. We asked her to ask the driver to turn around. Not possible. We asked to be let out anywhere and we could just hike back. Not possible. Shit, we have no way to reach this guy so we pleaded with her to call our hostel and tell them we were going to be at the bus station instead. This she was kind enough to do for us. Of course the minute we get off the bus they are trying to shepherd us into a cab so we can pay to go back to our rendezvous spot. Nice scam.
10 August 2017
Central Restaurant, Lima, Peru
Our trip to Lima started out regularly enough. We flew spirit and they didn't manage to lose our luggage, keep us unreasonably delayed or plunge our bodies back into the earth at a ridiculous speed. Our driver was waiting for us at the airport after clearing customs smoothly enough and he actually delivered us unscathed to our hostel. We settled into sweet dreams of gourmet food and sugar plum fairies because the next day we were scheduled for our dinner at Central.
We woke up in the morning after slightly disturbing dreams of being gauche and eating the garnish, or spilling wine onto the pristine white tablecloth, but we rallied. As we started to get ready for the day we discovered that there was absolutely no water in the hostel. There was a freezing trickle coming out of the shower the night we arrived but I only had the courage to dangle certain bits and pieces under it for nanoseconds at a time. How does one prepare for the fourth best restaurant in the world without water!!
To boot, I had discovered that I packed a summer "backpack" dress with flipflops and it is the middle of winter here. It seems like some kind of cosmic karma to me. Backpackers staying in a hostel shouldn't maybe try to eat at a 2 Michelin star restaurant. It's like trying to straddle two space-time parallels simultaneously. Or the disaster of crossing the streams after being warned continuously. Too ambitious I think.
So I donned regular backpack clothes and rolled my dress and wool wrap up and shoved them into a small bag. Michelin star in a bag. We strolled around Miraflores for the morning chewing up some time before we really got chewing on the 17 courses at Central. It would almost be impossible to describe the complexity of the meal. It was overwhelmingly incredible. And delicious. The chef was very nice and the sommelier gave us a book to commemorate our experience. We couldn't have been more pleased. Strolled back to the hostel to discover most of Lima without power.