More to Come

•February 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hi! I just got back from Peru. Sorry for the delay in updates, I didn’t really have wifi, and my wordpress app was acting wonky when I did.

I’ve already written posts detailing the rest of my trip through the Inca Trail, but I would like to add pictures to them before posting them. They should go up in the next few days. I hope you enjoy!

Touring through Inca villages, ruins, and the Sacred Valley

•January 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday I met up with my G Adventures tour group. The 16 of us are a fun friendly bunch, composed of Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Irish, and a Fin. I’m the lone Yank of the bunch, which is fine by me, I’m enough of a rude ignorant imperialist asshole for everyone!

After we met and did a walking tour of Cusco, most of the day was spent preparing for our journey. We were given a duffel that the porters will carry for us to each night’s camp site. We’re limited to 6 kg, although half of that is taken by sleeping bag and pad. Anything past that goes in your day pack, so we all had some tough decisions to make. I’m generally good at packing light (everything for this trip went in my carry on), but I also tend to over think what I might need.

This morning I was up at 6am, a rather ungodly hour, to get going on our tour. Luckily today is a fairly relaxed day, pretty much bus touring, and we get one more night in a hotel before we start the hike tomorrow.

Our first stop was a small Quechua village where we got to feed alpacas and watch the local women craft wares from the alpaca wool. I bought a rather nice alpaca scarf; as a New Yorker, I can never have too many scarves.

Next we got our first taste of Incan ruins, as we walked around a small site overlooking the Sacred Valley and a bunch of beautiful mountains. The scenery everywhere around here is very intense.

Our next stop was a bar, where we got to see how they make the Incan corn beer, and sample some of it. It’s not bad, more sour than what we’re used to. They also make a variety which includes strawberries to make it sweeter.

Finally we checked into our hotel in Ollantaytambo, a small town famous for being the site of the Incas’ only major victory over the Spanish. It was a fairly short-lived one though, and soon they had to retreat into the jungle to Vilcabamba.

After we checked in we went for a short trek around the ruins of the Incan city. It was built on a series of massive terraces, forcing the Spanish to fight an uphill battle. The Incan architecture is unbelievable. Instead of using mortar, they shaped the massive stones to fit perfectly together like puzzle pieces.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow the real journey begins!

Swedish massages, Irish pubs, and Australia Day

•January 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I think it’s interesting that no matter where in the world you are, you can pretty much always get a Swedish massage. And generally, the price and the quality of the massage are totally unrelated. Case in point, here in Cusco I was able to get an hour long full body massage for the equivalent of $20, and it was better than some very expensive massages I’ve had.

So that was how I spent my early evening. When I got out, I was nice and relaxed, and I was tempted to call it an early evening. However, I hadn’t eaten yet, and I was still desperate to meet some people who weren’t trying to sell me anything.

So that’s how I ended up at Paddy’s Pub, the self-described highest Irish pub in the world, at 1156 feet. Apparently the secret to meeting people when traveling alone is to find the nearest Irish pub and drink up! I immediately started chatting with Patrick, the bar tender, Ernesto, a local tour guide, and a pair of British gals on holiday. I filled my belly with cheeseburger and local beer, as we traded stories.

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However, Paddy’s was not to be our final destination. Apparently it was Australia Day, and a nearby Aussie hostel with a bar was having a party. I’m still not really sure what Australia Day is, except that it definitely involves drinking, face paint, funny costumes, and dancing on the bar to dance remixes of Queen and Nirvana songs.

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So that was my night. I definitely paid for it with my hangover this morning, but it was worth it. Today I finally meet the rest of my tour group, and tomorrow I leave Cusco for the Sacred Valley. Not sure what the wifi situation will be like for the rest of the week, so posts may not be as forthcoming. Adios!

Another day alone in Cusco

•January 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

As I’ve mentioned, this is my first time traveling alone. I’ve never been terribly good at being alone; if you know me, you know I talk a mile a minute, and I am very much a social creature. However, I’ve never been good at introducing myself to strangers. Actually I’m terrible at it. It’s one reason I don’t generally go out to clubs, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone at such a place.

Anyway, I had hoped this trip would force me out of this bad habit. Apparently not. I’ve now gone two days without having a real conversation with anyone, and I may be starting to go mad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a good time, but I’m also fiending to speak to someone who’s not a shop keeper, in something other than broken Spanish. Tomorrow night I join my G Adventures tour group, so it shouldn’t be too much longer.

So far today the weather has been great, warm and sunny. There are always ominous clouds on the horizon, and it will probably rain at some point, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. I walked around the city some more, eventually ending up at the Museo Inca. It is an archeological museum that covers everything from the oldest settlements until the Incas were pretty much entirely wiped out or assimilated by the Spanish. No photography was allowed, so you’ll just have to imagine the clay pottery, woven tapestries, and bronze spear heads for yourself.

3 hours of walking around builds quite an appetite, so it’s time to find some more food fuel. You also can’t walk half a block here without someone giving you a leaflet for a massage parlor, which vary in price from $6-$20 for an hour. I may have to check one out later.

Alpaca: cuddly and delicious

•January 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

After waiting out the hail storm by taking a very solid nap, I went out in search of some kind of moderately authentic meal. My previous walkabout had shown me that for every restaurant in Cusco serving local fare, there are 10 serving pizza, pasta, burgers, and every other kind of international food. So before I went out, I loaded up the trusty TripAdvisor app. Very quickly I had zeroed in on a restaurant, and a 20 minute walk got me there. It was closed. Luckily a nearby square had WiFi, so I found another option, only 5 minutes away. It was also closed. At this point my stomach was on the verge off revolt, so I began to quickly scan the menus of nearby restaurants. Finally I found Kushka Fe. Alpaca steak? Check. Clientele speaking Spanish? Check. Sold!

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I ordered the house special Alpaca, served with a creamy mushroom sauce and a side of mashed potatoes. It was tasty, sort of like a thin beef steak, a bit more gamey.

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Next I stopped for a beer at 7 Angelitos, a hole in the wall that advertised that it was classic rock tribute night. Unfortunately I was too early for that, and I lacked the patience and fortitude to drink it out alone until then. So I decided to call it an early night, and give myself the evening to read, and to research some museums to check out tomorrow.

Wandering around Cusco

•January 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Let me start off by saying I’ve never traveled alone before, so this is all new to me. Starting Saturday my agenda will be set for me by the tour group, and a good thing too, because I have a tendency to become paralyzed with indecisiveness. But I’m trying to overcome that, so I spent the afternoon wandering the streets of Cusco, with no particular agenda.

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The day started out beautiful, warm, and sunny. I walked to the central area around the Plaza de Armas, which is a gorgeous park surrounded by incredible Spanish churches and less incredible tourist restaurants.

Eventually hunger got the best of me, and after considering the menus of far too many places, I stopped at a simple cafe for a chorizo sandwich and a cappuccino.

Having sustained myself, I ventured back out into the city. The skies promptly opened up. First a drizzle, then a downpour, then a full on hail storm. I don’t really mind rain when it’s warm out, but I was not dressed appropriately, so I scurried back to the hotel to change my clothes and drink a beer.

One does not go to Peru in the rainy season without expecting rain, so it’s fine, just gotta figure out what (indoor) activities to partake in next!

Settling down in Cusco

•January 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

After a short flight from Lima, I made it to Cusco. Despite being nestled deep in the mountains, it is quite bustling, and I probably could have walked here faster than the taxi could get through the traffic.

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My initial observations on the locals:
-Quechua children are adorable
-Despite it being 80s, sunny, and humid, nobody wears short sleeves
-I may have the only beard in the country. Even the homeless guys are clean shaven.

The Hotel Prisma is fairly basic, but clean, and with friendly staff. Immediately upon arrival I was provided a cup of the traditional coca tea, which is supposed to ward off altitude sickness. Of course I’m also taking the non-traditional diamox pills, so hopefully I’ll be fine.

Anyway, time for me to shower and go explore the city.

 
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