Monday, October 31, 2011

Machu Picchu and other adventures with my wonderful parents!

The last month has been wonderful – visiting awe inspiring Inca ruins around Cusco – including of course Machu Picchu as well, hiking down and up the Colca Canyon - the deepest in the world, indulging in awesome Peruvian food in Lima and Arequipa  and hiking through lush green to dry high altitude terrains  … and all with my pretty fantastic parents! My hats go off to them for the hiking at altitude, sense of adventure of even coming to South America and then continuing on their own through Bolivia sans guided tour.

They arrived 2 October… I love surprising people at airports, especially in a new city/country, so instead of the planned idea of meeting in Cusco on the 14th, I zoomed up the desolate southern Peruvian coast in a luxurious overnight bus from Arequipa to Lima and was waiting eagerly at the arrivals lounge of Lima Airport to glimpse them before they emerged through the sliding doors.

With my bike safely stored in Arequipa I was really looking forward to travelling for a while without it… not always having to look for hostels with parking or keeping a look out for spare parts and mechanics and instead using my own two legs to get me places… and it´s been a nice break! Another big change travelling with my parents is the speed... I´ve got too slow! Even though they enjoy spending a week or so in each town, they are on a shorter 2 month holiday so are more focused on seeing places and being more touristic. So gone were my days of whiling away hours in coffee shops with wifi (I know, despicable that I´m burying my head when travelling in such a fantastic place…) and instead I found myself enjoying monasteries, museums, ruins and exploring around town.

There´s copious memories and photos from the month together, and of course Machu Picchu was a big highlight but some of the moments I will remember fondly are…
  • Being overly excited about nuts, fresh cheeses, imported products and general produce in some of the bigger, higher end supermarkets in Lima. Sad but true. Coming out of Bolivia a fully stocked store, neigh supermarket was pretty special!
  • Within a week of arriving (and 3 weeks after my mother had her appendix out…), hiking through the Colca Canyon… memorably the 1200m continuous climb at 6am in the morning from the Sangalle de Oasis (2100m) to Cabanconde (3290m). My parents although active have not done a lot of hiking, so it was special to share what I knew about walking and teach them some tricks to stay vertical!

  • Meeting Sonia and her 5 y/o son Ken at Coshinura on the Colca hike. Sonia ran the hostal we stayed at…a 30y/o widow who had inherited her parents hostal. Her husband died when her son was 3 months old… same age as me but with such a different life. Her son Ken was a beautiful open hearted boy who got me colouring in his homework and kicking around a soccer ball within 10mins of arriving. He then took us to visit his pigs, showed us where his school was and then played hide and seek in the setting sun.

  • Introducing my parents to the gorgeous Peruvian seafood dishes at El Tio Dario in Arequipa – ceviche, takuyaki (rice and bean pancake with seafood on top) Peruvian food is AMAZING… (I think ranked 3rd in the world)

  • Hiking in comfort (with a cook, mules and guide) from Lares to Ollantaytambo over 2 days learning a lot about local plants from our guide Antonio, and passing little communities busy with planting and turning the earth in quite lush green valleys.

Freshly plouged fields ready for planting of 1 of 3000 varieties of potatoes
  • The wonderful colours of the local clothing in the towns in Lares Valley… Huacahuasi, Patacancha. The designs and colours of the ponchos worn by the young boys, dresses of the girls and for both, wonderful intricate hats – all just vibrantly characterise these small communities and make you really realize you´re somewhere with a strong cultural identity. Each community modifies the general mode of dress.. either by colour or design.

  • The train ride to Machu Pichu from Ollantaytambo was a wonderful surprise for me. Towering granite mountains covered in mossy lush green, a gushing Rio Urubamba, rock formations and fog lifting in parts with a lowering sun. 

  • Arriving in Machu Picchu in the misty morning.. and being delighted when the fog lifted at times and we were rewarded by different vistas of the ruins. Yes, I got over excited and took many, many photos....

  • Climbing Huayna Picchu with mum and dad… again another  500m climb but when we made it to the top, the clouds magically lifted and we were rewarded by  beautiful views of Machu Picchu.
This is Huayna Picchu...

Mum and dad are now on their way through Bolivia…. And Philipe and I were getting ready to hike around Ausangate… one of the top 10 hikes in the world! Pity that the weather forecast is now for snow and rain for the next week…. Oh well… plans may have to change but meanwhile Cusco and its coffee shops (of course with wifi) awaits! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Comida de Bolivia (food of Bolivia)

It's been a while since I posted on food - and as I've now left Bolivia never to return until I get a new passport - here's a taste of my 3 months there...

Bolivia being poorer than its surrounding neighbours has less finessed food - but also much more authentic, natural, unprocessed and yes fried goodness. People eat very basically - mostly rice, a bit of salad, perhaps some meat if they can afford it. Main meals are eaten at lunchtime and sometimes only consists of a meat based soup. Lots of corn is also eaten, as well as tofu as a substitute for meat.

I've split up the piccies according to the type - some of the best meals I had were Sopa de Mani (peanut soup) from markets, oh yes, salchipapas (potato chips and sausage) from street vendors and when I got to lago titicaca, some fish finally!

Snackfood and drinks

I think my favourite snack food:) Salchipapas - potato and sausage. And for 3 bol (about 50c)

Coconut for drinking - that I smashed open then started eating.

Refresco - with durazno Peach the bottom. Usually served with lunch.

Ground peanut used for making Chicha - fermented drink found all across South America and drunk from  pre Inca times
Serving up Chicha at the market - see you have Chicha de Quinoa as well 


Altiplano papas / potatoes

Wonderful lady at the market in Potosi -this is the supermarket

Local food - often at markets

Rice and cheese (disgusting...), potatoes and meatballs (yum)


Saiz - rice and minced meat and potatoes with refresco (also had soup to start) About 7 Bol / $1

Oh yes. a half a chicken with mountains of rice, fideo(pasta) and chips

The most tasty and creamy Sopa de Mani I had (peanut soup) First course of lunch for 10Bol / $2

Food at home

Yuka - eaten all across South America. Grows in a tall tree and you eat the roots

Often you mash it up to make masako - adding in a bit of meat or cheese and pan frying the patties

Chicken plucked and ready to skin

The kitchen of an average family in Bolivia - cooking over coals, dirt floor and water carried in buckets

Protein packed breakfast - only for paying customers. Potato, egg, steak

More typical breakfast/lunch - rice, salad just season with salt but very tasty, plantain (banana)

Posh food

Ceviche in the front with a salad buffet (35Bol / $5)

Massive vege pancake with fresh seeded bread at the organic farm La Vispera in Samaipata

Baked trout in red wine with vegetables, fresh bread on Isla Del Sol (40Bol / $7 )

Bolivan take on Argentinean Parilla - for 2 ppl to share 60 Bol / $9

Steak....mmmmm.... 40Bol / $6