Thursday, April 17, 2014


Our trip to Peru started off with a slight hiccup. Upon arrival to the Santiago Airport, Luke was informed that he was not allowed to leave the country due to a visa renewal expiration stamp thing. Luckily he is a cool-headed dude and quickly decided he’d meet us the following day after sorting things out at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Maca, Mike, and I had an otherwise smooth trip and a fun time navigating Cuzco and the Spanish language without our trusty translator. It was really great to see Luke again 24 hours later, however. We were surprised at the size of the city (I was imagining something along the lines of Kuzcotopia from the Emperor’s New Groove); with about 500,000 inhabitants, it’s positively bustling. In the historical district there’re multiple beautiful plazas and Spanish churches built on top of Inca ruins. The streets are narrow and paved with stones. There is a moderate presence of indigenous culture, but the most conspicuous parts are clearly put on for the tourists. Brightly dressed women drag llamas around, and little children hold lambs and offer photos for un sol. About 60% of Peruvians speak Quechua, the original language of the Incas.

The main Plaza de Armas
Mike hangin' out with the first of many llamas and alpacas to come!
Our Sacsayhuaman Inca ruins adventure sin Lookas
No one has had altitude sickness. We all had minor headaches upon arrival, but the 11,000 feet mainly manifested itself in hilarious huffing and puffing after walking up even short flights of stairs or steep streets (which Cusco is filled with). We’ve all been good about avoiding the water, though we've YOLO-ed the street food a couple of times. So far, so good. The weather is the same every day: sunny and ~65. In the sun it feels hotter; in the shade, colder. It’s incredibly easy to get sun burned. Oh, except a couple times it hailed. That was cool.

A classic steep Cusco street. The woman on the right has the traditional campesino garb on (unlike the more ornate outfits they put on for tourists).  The sacks they wear on their backs are for babies or the goods that they're selling in the markets.
Coca leaves! I've been wanting to try these ever since doing a project on the coca plantations in Bolivia at Middlebury. Apparently they are supposed to help with the altitude. They more just tasted like grass. 
Cuzco is cheap, especially when you venture a block or two away from the main plaza. Three course set menu lunches go for s/9, and a nice room for two is around s/50. Peruvian cuisine is spicy and flavorful. We’ve tried alpaca, many new fruits, Peruvian Pisco Sours (YUM) and a few of the 3800 types of potato grown here (that’s an actual number. Seriously). We stayed in a bustling social hostel for a few nights and then switched to a quaint little hospedaje in the barrio San Blas, which is up on a hill overlooking the city. There’s been a great balance of lazy mornings (much to the dismay of Miguel) and afternoon Inca ruin explorations.
Tambomachay. A very impressive ruin centered around water fountains about 9 km from Cusco. In order to get there, Mike and I went off-road and wandered through sheep fields and a small village. 
Sacsayhuaman. The walls have huge stones that were hauled from as far away as 30 km. The zig-zag is supposed to represent the teeth of a puma. We watched those groups of school children scatter as two mad llamas chased each other around the field, screaming WAAAA WAAAA WAAAA.
I like this picture because it gives you a sense of the landscape surrounding the ruins. You might be able to see old terracing lines on the hill to the left?
We're super excited about our new alpaca sweaters
Mike petting a burrito. So much cuter than Chipotle.
One major highlight was an approximately 5 hour Peruvian Cooking Class. First we went to the market and bought our ingredients. In the more local part of the market, women sitting on the ground surrounded by piles of fruits and vegetables lined the streets for about three blocks. There were live frogs, dead chickens with their heads and feet still attached, naked little guinea pigs lined up on sheet pans, wheelbarrows of tomatoes, etc etc etc. Back at the kitchen we cooked all of our dishes and were subsequently served the positively elegant meal.
The market
Freddi, our instructor!
The peppers were so spicy that we had to wear gloves to cut them!
Stuffed rocoto peppers, boiled yuca, and fried potatoes
Enjoying our feast! The juice is chicha morada, which is a sweet drink made from black corn.
On our last day together, Mike and Luke bro-ed out on ATVs while Maca and I got massages. Pretty awesome all around. We're going to miss them!
Check out that 'stache!
We spent a total of about 5 days/6 nights in Cuzco. Two additional days were spent getting to and visiting the spectacular Machu Picchu (which will be covered in the next post). Woohoo!

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