10 January 2010

Cu[zs]co, formerly pronounced /kOsko/

One way to get to Cusco is by tour bus that makes five or six stops along the way. This is the way that we got to Cusco. In total there were seven passengers, our guide Marcos, and our driver aboard a full-sized bus. Besides the four of us, there were three women from Bahia. By the end of the trip I found this out and was speaking with one of them, Solange, a fair bit in Portanhol. It was during this trip that I realized I had a lot more practicing to do before getting comfortable spouting out what I thought to be Portuguese sentences.

Along our journey we made stops at Pukara (Red Fort), perhaps the town most associated with the creation of twin toritos that peopel put on their roofs to guard their houses. In Pukara I also learned about the chacana, or cruz andina / andean cross, and Hatunyaca, or the Great Decapitator. Importantly, it was here that I first learned about the condor, puma, and snake, and their respective associations with the world above, this world, and the world below.

We also stopped for a photo op at the highest point along our route from Puno to Cusco: La Raya.

David and CamelidContinuing on, we stopped to check out exemplars of suri alpacas (short hair), huacayo alpacas (long hair), and llamas (longer hair & look much more like horses in facial features). This tourist stop did not have any vicuñas living there. These animals are much more rare and have very expensive wool. As M, J, S, and I are standing around posing with alpacas and llama and eventually guinea pigs (cuy) in the “Andean Kitchen”, I noticed that the llama seemed a bit more agitated or agitatable than the alpacas. Before long, I’m either petting it or feeding it grass and it tries to start eating my shirt. Note to self: tuck shirt in next time around a llama.

flute bandAt lunchtime we stopped in Sicuani for a tasty and filling touristic buffet. There was an Andean band whose music I bought on CD if only because it was inexpensive and may serve as background for a slide show one day. Really they were no better or worse than any of the ones we see at malls or on street corners around the US (and the world, for that matter). Maybe I’ll try to blend in as an Andean musician as a filler job when I get back to the US.

RaqchiAt Raqchi we had a brief stroll around a fairly in tact Inca citadel. Our stop in Andahuaylillas gave us an opportunity to see The Sistene Chapel of the Americas, rightly known as the church of St. Peter the Apostle, and old Jesuit church that still has a functioning pipe organ from the 1700s. Inside this beautiful church, one is not supposed to take pictures or videos. However, Matt sneakily filmed darkness as someone seemed to be warming up or tuning the agèd organ. I haven’t checked yet to see if the sound came out, but it was pretty cool to hear the old instrument wheeze into action.

Of linguistic interest, our Peruvian guide Marcos on the bus used vuestros/vuestras several times. My cuiosity was piqued regarding the use of this form in South America. Maybe it’s common and I’m just too long out of Spanish Linguistics classes to remember.

Upon arriving at Hotel San Blas in Cusco in the afternoon, we discussed the plans for the next few days with Cecilia, our travel/tour agent, and got recommendations for dinner, drinks, etc. She mentioned her friend Barbi owns a restaurant/bar called Bullfrog’s, which she pointed out to us en route to the hotel. M, S, and J went on a reconnaissance mission to make plans for the night, etc. They met Barbi and decided we’d go there for dinner, so we did.

Our waiter made excuses every time he came to the table about why things were - i.e. he was - slow. His friend works there, he’s just filling in for her and has never waited tables before, etc. Eventually we got our drinks. I decided it would be caipirinha night, as I have on several occasions, purposefully foreshadowing the Brazilian leg of this journey.

Once our order for food had finally been taken and our lengthy wait (with interim drink) was over, I found before me one of the most curious and scrumptious meals to date in Peru: steamed trout wrapped around black quinoa with parmesan and spinach (I believe) served over a bed of ginger sweet potatoes.

Dinner was followed by a greeting from Barbi and discussion of a potential return to Bullfrog’s later. We went to Fallen Angel, a nicely decorated but quiet (that night) bar/restaurant. Instead of continuing to drink, I went for a refreshing blended honeydew beverage and was quite happy with my choice, especially given the topic that came up shortly after our drinks were brought to us. Jason and I spoke at length about things religious, as did the others until they got bored or turned off by the subject. Maybe the name of the place had a role in inspiring our topic. Carlos, one of the couple who owns Fallen Angel, was talking mostly with Matt & Shawn. Shortly after 6am the next morning, J & I woke up and looked across the long quad-bed room, over two empty beds, at each other. M & S were still out.

cathedralJ & I went for a morning stroll rather than waiting around for our recently returned roommates to awake. Just after leaving a note for Jessica & Lisa, two friends from LUC, we ran into them coming back from breakfast. They gave us a recommendation for a spot called Aldea Yanapay, a restaurant whose proceeds benefit an orphanage and school run by the proprietor (Yuri). After another hour or two M & S met us in the square by the cathedral and we headed to Aldea Yanapay for brunch a while later. Although the food was a tad unimpressive - and this was a function of the section of the menu whence the food was ordered - the colorful setting and presence of lots of toys and games made up for any minor lacunes. How often does one play Jenga at a restaurant, anyway?

colorpackageWe left Matt to recuperate from his night out and two weeks of hanging out with constant company and went on a city tour of Cusco in the afternoon to the cathedral, Koricancha, and Sexywoman (Sacsaywaman / Sacsayhuaman). During the tour we were conversing a bit with three Australians (Troy, Ruby, Faren) and ended up inviting them to meet up with us for dinner with Lisa and Jessica at a place called Brava. Jess, suffering from altitude sickness, didn’t make it out. The meat was good, but the rosemary potatoes prompted me to ask the manager, when he said that was their normal taste, “you generally serve burnt food to people?” Of course not. Now that was an offensively silly question, David. I must have been drinking to come off that rude with the manager, but oh well. Good thing we were done eating and ready to walk out the door. Pity he didn't take the burnt potatoes off the bill.

ollantaytamboThe Urubamba River flows through what is called the Sacred Valley. The city of Pisac and magnificent site of Ollantaytambo are found here. The archaeological and historical interest of this area is enormous. After spending the day marveling at Inca technology and craftsmanship and perambulating the market in Pisac, we made our way by train to Aguas Calientes, where we thought we had a room reserved. Eventually resolving the fiasco of a missing reservation, we got to bed early and prepared for Machu Picchu.



  1. I wish I knew half of the words written in this post; however, it sounds like a great experience! I love the colorful pics. I know you are having a spectacular time touring the world.

  2. David, great stories! It sounds like you are having a fabulous time eating and drinking your way around the world. So you made it to Machu Picchu before the flooding... We were lucky to have seen Machu Picchu and then leave A.C. just the day before the train tracks were flooded out, so we did not have to be airlifted. But it would have made a good story...
    It was great talking with you on Hector's phone last month. See you some day in Seattle! Jain