But lately I've been finding myself fading away at certain times, just "wool gathering". I'll be doing a post....you really can't call what I do writing or composing....it's really just "doing". And my mind just sort of wanders. Maybe off to the cobblestone streets of Cusco. Perhaps I've just been working too hard. But I'm starting to get that feeling again. I think we need to head off, to where, I'm not quite sure yet....
It's a funny thing, some of the nicest, most memorable meals we've had on trips, have ended up on the "PWTSDS" ("putdz" - Places Where the Sun Don't Shine) list. That would be the mmm-yoso photo scrap heap. And yet, these were meals we really enjoyed. So without further ado, I think maybe it's time for those "ugly duckling" photos to shine.....so if you'd just put up with me!
Anticuchos in Cusco (Peru):
I believe this was right after our dinner at the Chicharroneria. We were walking down Avenida del Sol, when we spied a crowd on the corner of Avenida del Sol and Ayacucho. A woman was making Anticuchos, and if the crowd was any indication, it was very good Anticuchos indeed!
Seeing the crowd, and breathing in the scent of grilling meat restimulated our appetites, and suddenly we just had to have some Anticuchos. But how to deal with the mass of humanity? Just as in all of our travels, whether in a confused state in a train station in Hanoi, or getting Anticuchos, we met our Guardian Angel. This time, an older gentleman saw the Missus trying to edge Her way forward. He immediately took control of the situation, and waved the Missus next to him. He quickly yelled out for some Anticuchos for the Missus, and even looked them over.....just to make sure.
The Missus said these were the best Anticuchos She ever tasted, and at Un Sol (about 33 cents), it was more than a bargain.
I'm sure the kindness of the Gentleman made them taste even better!
Pardo's - Miraflores (Peru):
As we noted, we stayed at the huge Marriott in Miraflores before returning home. Right across the street is a mall, Larcomar, which is built into the cliffs overlooking the ocean. And in the mall is a location of Pardo's Chicken, the largest Pollo a la Brasa (rotisserie chicken) chain in Peru. There seemed to be a Pollo a la Brasa shop on every street corner in Lima. People here are crazy about it.
We were headed home the next day, and were bushed, and Pardo's seemed to fit the bill. As good as the chicken was....
It was the Papas Fritas (French Fries) which we enjoyed the best. The potatoes were a nice yellow in color (Papas Amarillas - like Yukon Gold), which tasted like the soul of a potato. I can still taste them.......
And with a dip in the Aji Sauce...sort of like an Aji Aioli....man was this good. There's something to be said for having just the right food, at the right time.
Which takes us to Siem Reap and...
Maharajah Royal Indian Cuisine (Siem Reap):
After a day of hiking among ruins, and tired of Fish Amok, we wanted something different. An acquaintance of mine had mentioned that the Indian Food in Siem Reap is not half bad. And we just stumbled into Maharajah.
Gotta love the "spicy scale" provided on the menu....
The unfortunate thing about the restaurant was the lighting, it was a horrible "bug killer green", which made everything look pretty unappetizing.
The Missus enjoyed Her Special Vegetarian Thali (meal set - $3/US), which was an absolute bargain!
I got the most expensive item on the menu; the Mutton Thali ($6/US). And yes, it was indeed mutton, very gamy, and pretty tough. But the Dal was very good.
It was just the right meal at the right time. In fact, the Missus wanted Indian the following night as well.
It's funny how these meals stuck in our mind. Just the right thing, at the right time. Our memories of these places are quite varied as well. For all of the photos of Inca Treasures....
And the magnificent temples of Angkor.....
It's the photos of things like this dog "scratching an itch" in the fresh grass in Calca,
or the children learning traditional dances at school in Cusco,
And the children in Siem Reap.....
With smiles that are priceless..... that we remember the most.
Funny thing, it's the people, and our experiences with those people that the Missus and I discuss the most. The kindnesses of strangers, the stories of the folks we encounter, the understanding that we are all more alike than different.
Yes, I think soon it'll be time to get on a plane and go somewhere....not quite sure where yet, but we'll be sure to let you know. And hopefully I'll finish all those Cambodia posts before I head off on another vacation.
You know, my week has suddenly gotten better. I hope you have a great one! If you've hang around till the end I thank you.
The morning after our wonderful dinner, we were scheduled to leave Cusco for Lima. Our flight was at noon on a Star Peru "Boing" 737. Since we still had time before Oscar was scheduled to pick us up, we decided to walk on over to the Mercado de Wanchaq. During the previous afternoon we were searching for flowers to bring to dinner. The really helpful Bellhop recommended a stop at the local Mercado right down the street.(Thanks Erick!) We rushed in, and managed to get a decent bouquet....we really didn't notice until we were walking out of market, how much we stood out! Even though we saw a few other tourists at Mercado Central, this vibrant and busy Mercado seemed totally local.
Though smaller than Mercado Central, this market had a real community feel to it. We had arrived just as business was starting to pick up, by the time we left, the isles were buzzing.....
Along with the vast amount of produce, there were 2 barber shops, a few lower stands, a section for fresh seafood:
Meat and Poultry
I found this stand with prepared sauces and marinades to be interesting....
The hardware section! I was surprised at the comprehensive selection. Everything from chain link and rope, to drills, to toilet plungers at this little stand. Home Depot ain't got nothin' on this place.
And of course the food stalls.
As with Mercado Central, the food stands were organized in sections, the saltados(stir fries) in one section, sopas(soups) in another. The fragrances were quite tempting.
But the Missus was after something a bit different. Unfortunately, Her craving for Choclo(Corn on the cob) was left unfulfilled as all the vendors were just getting the water started, and the corn wouldn't be ready for a few hours.
Well, at least we have a reason to return to Cusco! The Missus than turned Her attention to these:
These are called Pepino (cucumber melon), and large stacks of them were featured at every produce stand in the market. The vendor helped the Missus pick one out, and we walked it back to the hotel. This was breakfast for the Missus.
So while everyone was having croissants and muffins, the Missus had Her Pepino. I thought the flavor to be much like honeydew melon, maybe a bit milder. The texture was like very ripe cantaloupe, not too crisp, but with a little "give". I also thought the melon had a weird aftertaste that I really didn't enjoy, but the Missus loved it.
After breakfast we finished packing and checked out at the hotel. Soon enough Oscar picked us up and drove us to the airport. Oscar even brought his wife along to meet us! It was a wonderful little drive to the airport, full of anecdotes and laughter. We realized something, Cusco had grown on us, and the proud, generous, and warm hearted people had as well. Usually, when on vacation, after the third day or so, the Missus and I are ready to leave and move on, but for the very first time, we wanted more time in a city. We told Oscar that we'd probably be returning in 2009....I had an added incentive as well. Oscar promised me a list of the best local restaurants, and what they specialize in, on my next visit, so you know I have to come back!
El Puma Hotel:
We spent our last night in Cusco at the El Puma Hotel. This was a pretty modern, and new hotel, and was a big change from the quaint Hotel Rumi Punku. El Puma was also located in a busy area, just one block from Avenida del Sol, Cusco's main drag.
The rooms looked modern, though with the same type of "central heating". A couple of funny things associated with El Puma occurred as well. As you can see, the entrance of El Puma has very modern looking "sliding doors".....well, I guess in my Americanized mind, sliding doors are "automatic doors", that slide open when you approach. These are literally sliding doors, that you slide open.....which I walked into as I tried to enter hotel!
I also mentioned that the El Puma was fairly new....in fact we found that most taxi drivers had no idea where El Puma was! Luckily, the Missus had the foresight to grab one of the hotel pens(see, I told you it was modern!) with the address on it - Garcilaso 320. We soon found out that there are two streets named Garcilaso in Cusco. In fact, our driver on the return trip from Mercado Central, insisted that we had arrived at our destination, Garcilaso 320.......only thing was, this Garcilaso 320 was a Auto Parts store! Even though the pen we showed him said EL PUMA HOTEL, I guess we must have looked like we were staying at an auto parts store.......
After leaving the Mercado Central, and an interesting cab ride back to the hotel, we arrived to find our room ready. We freshened up a bit, I went to pick up some bottled water (sin gas), and we took a walk down Avenida del Sol, Cusco's busy main drag. Most of the government buildings, banks, and other businesses are located on this street. Even though there weren't many eateries on del Sol, there were a few fruit vendors:
We also dropped by a "Lavanderia"(laundry service). We had only taken carry on luggage to Peru, and though we needed to bring clothes for 2 dinners, we managed by using a couple of compression bags, and one visit to a good lavanderia. The Lavanderia's charge by the kilo, and if I recall our bill came out to s/12 ($4 US)....to us, a great deal.
We managed a visit to Museo Inka (admission $3 US). Oscar told us that this was the best museum in Cusco when it came to Inca history. Though there is a lack of English signs, we could figure out what most of the displays were about. Of course I enjoyed the ancient and traditional foods display, with items such a Tarwi, and there is a fascinating collection of skulls that display the use of trepanning(the oldest surgery known to man). I'm sorry to say that photos aren't allowed in the museum, but I found some photos here. The Missus also added to Her Alpaca scarf selection, by purchasing a scarf from one of the artisans in the courtyard. We were told that half the proceeds goes to the museum, and half to the artisan, which was good enough for us.
After the museum we were getting hungry, so we headed off to a Picanteria recommended by the Server at Pachapapa. The name of the place is La Chomba, and is located on a street called Tullumayo. We had asked Oscar about La Chomba, and he told us the food there is good, and was quite impressed that we wanted to eat there. He drove by on the way to the hotel, and showed us where La Chomba was located. We were surprised at how close La Chomba was.....the street we had been staying on, Choquechaca, becomes Tullumayo at Cuesta San Blas, so it was basically 5 blocks away from us!
La Chomba is not much to look at from the street, all you see is a door front.
Walk through the doors, and you enter a dusty courtyard. There are children and dogs running around, laundry is hanging to dry, you realize that there are people living here!
In the back corner of the courtyard is a doorway that says "La Chomba Ajha Whasi", and there was a group of musicians hanging out outside. We walked down the hallway.......and into a pretty busy bar/restaurant!
The place was rocking, and the kitchen was running full blast, we saw plates of fried and roasted meats flying past us! The wonderful frangrances floated in there, they smelled so amazing that I wished I could take a bite. Every few minutes a dog would run into the place and make "rounds".... Da' Boyz should be so lucky!
A bowl of Aji Salsa was placed on the table, along with a pad and pencil.....
The Missus gave me a look that said, "ok, now what?" But it was just a matter of what the Missus wanted to eat...I just went down the menu, and could pretty much tell Her what everything was. And yes, those prices are in soles. What made things complicated was that the Missus wanted everything that came out of the kitchen..."wow, that looks good, I want that....no...wait, that is what I want, no, no....pardon Senor, como se llama esto?"(To the Guy running the food to the tables) By then I had written down our order......and the band had started playing.
The Frutillada, the strawberry flavored Chicha de Jora served in pitchers filled from a huge plastic trash cans were flowing! The Missus didn't care for the taste of the fruit flavored Chicha, so we stuck with our standard...Inca Cola. And soon our food arrived!
I ordered the Chicharron:
Oscar had recommended the Lechon (Suckling pig), but it wasn't on the menu....I shoulda asked, because later on I saw it coming out of the kitchen! But this was just fine by me...seasoned and deep fried pork, you gotta love it. We had noticed that much of the meat in Peru is quite lean...except for the pork, goat, and lamb! There were four large chunks of pork, coming from different parts of the pig.....the best was the pieces of rib which were, slightly sweet, salty, and very rich! Along with some marinated onions, mint, and Aji, this was pretty good! It came with the standard corn, a favorite of the Missus, and Papas Amarilla...the flavorful yellow potatoes.
But as good as the Chicharron was, it couldn't hold a candle to the Cabrito al Horno(roasted kid), that I ordered for the Missus, a certified Goat/Lamb/Mutton lover:
That photo doesn't do the cabrito justice....oh man, was this good! The meat was tender, and the rib pieces were tender enough to pull off the bone....but not mushy. The meat was seasoned with a simple, but flavorful rub, just enough to let the wonderful wildness of the cabrito come through! I had a taste, and the Missus asked me what I thought....."I loooove Cusco!"
Now this may be pub-grub...but I'll take this over almost anything! So what about the price? All together, including a "grande" Inca Cola, this was s/22....22 soles, a tad over 7 bucks! Funny thing, normally I could finish everything myself......but here we had leftovers, better for El Mayor I guess. So let's review the magic words....they are Cebicheria, Chicheria, Chicharroneria, and Picanteria. That's all you have to know.
I was curious about what a Picanteria was.....and most references said something like, "a Peruvian eatery serving traditional foods." I'll take that anytime!
La Chomba 339 Tullumayo Cusco
A funny thing happened while we were eating. The two nice women in front of us, were a bit curious about who we were. They asked the Missus a few questions...and the Missus answered. After answering She told them "no habla Español". They cracked up, and one lady said to the other something along the lines of "she's telling me she doesn't speak Spanish, but she's talking to me in Spanish!"
You won't believe this, but it got even better from here, so stay tuned!
On the day following our Machu Picchu tour, Oscar transferred us to the Hotel we'd be staying at for our last night in Cusco, The El Puma Hotel. The El Puma looked very modern, and we were told that the El Puma was a relatively new Hotel(this little tidbit was apparent later on). We had a cup of Mate de Coca(Coca Tea), checked our luggage, and started on our way. We were glad that we had an extra day in Cusco, now we could explore and "hit" some of the destinations I had on my list. First on the agenda, Mercado Centro, near the San Pedro Train Station. I hailed a cab, and the Missus did the bargaining.....what we found was, even though several people told us that the standard cab fare was s/2, the going "tourist rate" was s/3, which wasn't much of an issue with us. 3 soles is about $1 US.
The Mercado Central is a large sprawling warehouse like building...
As you wander through the bustling aisles, you can get overwhelmed by the varieties of produce, meats, seafood, and even potatoes!
I've heard the "over three thousand varieties of potatoes" in Peru phrase several times, and after a visit to the Mercado Central, I believe it! One of the more interesting potato products is called ChuÃ±o, which are potatoes that are preserved through a natural freeze drying process. ChuÃ±o can be softened and rehydrated or ground into a flour for use.
The Missus really enjoyed the variety of fruits.
In order to respect people's space, I only took close-ups under one circumstance....if we purchased something from a vendor, I asked permission, and was given the go ahead every time. Well there was one exception, which I'll go into later.
The Missus was especially taken by the Granadilla, a variety of passion fruit.
In what has to go down as one of the oddest cases of bargaining, after some discussion, the Missus's final offer was 3 for 2 soles, at which time the vendor said, she wanted 2 for 1 soles? Sold! I think the vendor got a bit confused.
The Missus adored the Granadilla...
The interior is full of edible seeds, with sweet, gooey flesh. The Missus bought several more before we left.
Here's the "bread aisle":
Full of fresh baked pan.
The more I looked around me, the more I felt like I'd been "beamed down" into the most amazing supermarket in world.......
About that time, the Missus woke me from my euphoric state with a "oh my god..." What got Her attention this time?
And no market worth its salt would not have an outstanding "meat department"!
There was every possible part and cut of meat, tongue, ears, stomach, heart (anticuchos!!!), you name it.
The most beautiful of them all was this cordero(lamb). Man did it look good! In fact when we were leaving, there was only 1 leg left. Everything else, head, gonads, were gone.....
About this time, hunger pangs set in, so we started looking around for something to eat...which isn't very hard in Mercado Central. Large sections are divided up by type of food or drink served. One section is for the fruit juice vendors:
One section just did breads and sandwiches (pan francais with blood sausage looked mighty fine). Another did cebiches, and a large section specialized in Saltados (stir fries). Check out the price of a Saltado and Soup at this stand:
Yep, 2 soles! The pans of papas fritas, onions, and the like was really hard to turn down. And of course the "cleaning crew" looked like they ate well too! The dogs in the market were obviously well fed:
I wanted something a bit more comforting. So we headed to the Sopas (soups), as I turned the corner I was caught in the net cast by the Sopa de Pollo...chicken soup, and there was no escape. And even though there were at least 20 vendors, each of them showing their "wares"...the mark of a Sopa de Pollo stand, the pan of simmered pollo and aromatics:
There was only one stand, the one in the corner, that was doing "blue light special in the Sopa de Pollo department" business. The crowd was seated three deep.
As we tentatively walked around the stand, the woman behind the stand put up 3 fingers...."3 soles a bowl"($1 US). In a display typical of what we encountered in Cusco, three people in the front row stood up, moved, and waved us to the front bench. And so we had a terrific bowl of Chicken soup, in a large sprawling marketplace, in a land far away, in a city 11,000 feet above sea level...
In the soup's warm embrace, touched by the kindness and generosity of these folks, many of whom don't have much in the way of material things, all I could mumble was "life is good". To which the Missus said, "you're dripping soup all over the place" and proceeded to hand me some facial/toilet tissue to wipe my face. To which She added, "hey, did you notice that they didn't take any chances with you, and gave you the pieces of white meat?" So I looked down at the German Shephard mix sitting right under the bench, sopping up my mess, and whispered; "life is good, ain't it?"
Later on the trip, we were relaxing in our room in Lima, and on one of the channels they were having a No Reservations marathon. And one of the shows was the Peru episode, which we hadn't seen before. It was eerie watching Bourdain walking through the Mercado Central...where we had just been a day or two before! It was even more eerie when they showed the episode with Food Blogger Extraordinaire Eat, Drink, & Be Merry, which turned to laughter because it was dubbed. I later told EDBM about the dubbed episode in a comment, to which he replied:
"Please tell me that the voice was deep, not a pip-squeak or tranny."
Don't worry.....though it was sorta your Sancho Panza to Bourdain's Don Quixote.....
When Oscar picked us up on our return trip from Machu Picchu, he had some great news for us. The Missus was enchanted by Cusco, and we needed to stay an extra day, in order to spend some free time, and we also had a very special dinner planned. From the very beginning Oscar told us not to worry, he'd take care of everything. And, as always he came through for us. We knew that Rumi Punku was booked solid, but Oscar had made arrangements for us in another hotel, and also changed our flight out of Cusco. The Missus was thrilled. It was pretty late by the time we arrived at Plaza de Armas....we made Oscar drop us off there, he had already spent so much time.... Instead of wandering around, we decided to grab dinner at a restaurant we noticed on Triunfo....
We had passed by this little restaurant at least five or six times, and I had some reservations about it. I tried to think of the Cebiche de Trucha, Trout Cebiche, a classic Andean preparation, rather than the "Hamburguesa con Papas Fritas"(burger and fries). Still, we didn't quite know what to expect, as we walked down the hallway....
We walked into a bright and clean Mom and Pop restaurant, and was seated next to the one other couple in the place. The couple, or at least the young man was very ummmm, "interesting". First off, he chain smoked his way through dinner, secondly, he, how should I put this, was rather flatulent, he cut a few pretty loud ones during the time he was there. Yes.......poison air from two ends! Well at least the 放屁were more of the "Sound and the Fury", rather than the "Silent but Deadly" type. We wondered what his dining companion thought. I'm guessing she was used to this, since she remained totally oblivious. Luckily, they were almost done with their main course, and we just had to deal with dessert! And they were gone by the time our food arrived.
The menu at Qori Chaska is pretty large, and varied, and there were also 3 course meals for s/12(4 bucks US) available as well. We placed our orders and some Pan(bread) arrived.
As with most of the bread we had in Cusco, this was on the dry side. There was a slight sweetness to this version though.
The Missus started with a bowl of Sopa de Quinoa (s/8 - about $2.65):
The Missus adored the rich chicken stock combined with the earthy-nutty flavor of Quinoa. The fava beans and potatoes was the "cherry on the top" for Her. She enjoyed this so much, that we've made this 4 times since we returned from Peru.
The Cebiche de Trucha(s/10 - approx $3.35 US)
When we ordered this, the nice portly Gentleman made sure to tell us "picante?", to which we replied, "si, picante por favor..." This version of cebiche was on the "dry" side with regards to the Leche de Tigre (cebiche marinade). The flavor was a bit more fishy and milky than I enjoy, and though on the chewy side, the Missus thought it to be pretty good.
I ordered the 3 course dinner (s/12 - $4 US). For me this was a two course dinner, dessert consisted of tinned fruit so we told them to forget about that part.
For the first course I ordered the Aji de Tarwi:
Tarwi is an ancient legume, that has a flavor mildly reminiscent of soy bean. In this case it is pureed and mixed with cheese sauce, much in the same manner as Aji de Gallina. I expected this to be on the cheesy-salty side, but is was not. The texture was thick and hearty and the flavor was mildly milky, but very mild.
For my main, I ordered the Trucha a la Chorrillana:
I've had different versions of this dish, with fish that is usually sauteed or fried, and topped with a nice mix of sauteed onions, peppers, and tomato. In this case, this nicely fried and seasoned trout(trucha) was served with the sauteed condiments on the side. That onion mixture was really tasty...the Missus kept picking at it! I don't know if it was an altitude thing, but the rice was hard here as well. Still this meal was well worth 12 soles. We had a nice night of sleep with thoughts of another full day in front of us.
Triunfa St, Cusco.
We really didn't have much "free time" our first few days in Cusco, but when we weren't watching "El Mayor" and the other denizens of Cusco, we spent time in a few different areas. We would visit this little shop on Saphi Plateros (aka Gringo Alley), where you will run into armies of people trying to sell you stuff.
This little shop made terrible coffee, but our favorite Lucuma Ice Cream (s/2):
This version wasn't too "eggy" or "custardy" in flavor for the Missus. I enjoyed it because it wasn't overly sweet.
The Missus would take Her (our) ice cream, and walk down the street to this intersection:
Have a seat, and wait for an accident to happen! You see all the streets are a bit offset, and one of the streets is coming down from a hill, and all those crazy drivers!
Luckily, we saw no accidents, but once a car stalled...and suddenly 3 Police Officers appeared from nowhere and helped push the car to the side of the road!
We also spent a few free moments around Plaza de Armas, Cusco's bustling central plaza.
You never know what's going to happen..... There we were minding our own business, when we heard music and chanting. And wouldn't you know it:
It was a political "demonstration"......
Usually we'd be a bit "concerned" when something like this would happen. But here in Cusco, it somehow seemed quaint, a bit exciting, and somehow normal. Check out the "band".
Being used to the press "mob" in the US, with huge cameras and microphones, the Missus found the press corps "cute". I'm guessing that the camcorders are the "network press", and the tape recorders are the "print press".
I love this photo of a Police Officer helping out a couple by taking photos of them on Plaza de Armas.
She worked really hard trying to get the perfect angle.
Read the Fine Print!:
Bottled water is an absolute necessity in Peru, whether to drink, or to brush your teeth. We went through tons of bottled water, and I had an early lesson on "reading the fine print". We went to a mercado and bought an 8 pack of bottled water. The cashier asked us a question in Spanish, and at that time the Missus didn't understand what she said(by the end of the trip the Missus would've understood, she has a knack for learning languages), so we just went "Si...si" paid for our water and left. Here's what the bottle said:
Con Gas means "with gas" (sparkling water), and they are not kidding....it is "muy con gas"! I non-chalantly popped the cap off one of these bottles...and had a free bath of "agua con gas". Believe me when I say, I checked every bottle of water I bought from then on!
On day 4 we woke at 430am, and Oscar delivered us to the San Pedro Train Station for our 615 Vistadome train.
The train ride to Aguas Calientes takes about 4 hours, and the Vistadome has large windows, and good leg room, which allows for a pretty comfortable ride. Here's the route as defined on a place mat:
This mat was home to a Jamon con Queso Sandwich (your basic ham and cheese), and some Mat de Coca(coca tea) for a short time during our trip:
The ride out of Cusco was very enlightening, we rode past tenements, where people live in squalor by US standards.
Some of the shanties had corrugated iron roofs, held down by stones, old tires, you name it....
As we moved out of Cusco the scenery became more pastoral.....
So are these boys chasing the train?
Nope, they were actually late for school......some things are universal!
I really didn't take many more photos, I was too busy checking out the scenery....
We arrived at Aguas Calientes, named after the natural hot springs at a bit after 10 am. Aguas Caliente is the jumping off point for all tours to Machu Picchu. We were rushed off the train, found our tour group (they are color coded) and quickly herded through the gauntlet of market stalls surrounding the train station, and on to buses. The 20 minute bus trip to Machu Picchu is interesting, the buses are very modern and comfortable, and they also haul up the mountain, through about 7 or 8 switchbacks on roads that look like they can barely contain the buses....never mind that you actually pass buses coming down the mountain as you ascend!
We arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu, and the somewhat chaotic mass of individuals looking for their guides.....we found our guide a fantastic, somewhat radical, very knowledgeable individual named Darwin Camacho Paredes, who has written several books on Machu Picchu. Walking through this mass of humanity, thoughts of an anti-climatic let down went through my head, but those thoughts were soon displaced........as soon as we turned the corner and saw this:
Here's a better look at it....
Walking through Machu Picchu, there are moments of awe....where the phrase "lost world of the Incas" immediately come to mind.
Darwin proved to be an extremely knowledgeable guide....he made the best of the allotted 2 1/2 hours, and managed to show us some of the more important features of Machu Picchu. From the ruin called the Temple of the Three Windows by the person credited with "rediscovering" Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham.
Do you know what the Hawaii connection to Machu Picchu is? Well, Hiram Bingham, actually Hiram Bingham III was born in Honolulu, and was the Grandson of....well, Hiram Bingham I of course, one of the first group of Missionaries who brought Christianity to Hawaii. Hiram Bingham graduated from Punahou, before attending Yale, UC Berkeley, and Harvard.
One of the many interesting buildings is the Temple of the Sun:
In addition to the amazing stone work, and the unique shape, in the interior of the Temple of the Sun is a unique stone sculpture. Here's a look from above:
"Inti" was the Sun God, and it is believed that this temple was built to honor Inti. Here is Darwin with a photo from the Summer Solstice:
Not all Inca stone work is created equal. Compare the stone work on each side of this "street".
The "finer" stonework is used for important buildings and structures, while the "rougher" stonework is used for residences, kitchens, and other similar structures. We were told that this type of stonework was covered in mud and plaster.
This is called the Sacred Rock....looks just like a randomly placed rock you say.....
If you closely, and at a better angle, you'll notice that the rock mimics Huayna Picchu.....the peak visible in all those photos of Machu Picchu.
Known as the "Hitching post of the sun", the Intiwatana, according to Darwin, is a astronomic observatory, the four angles of the central stone points to the 4 cardinal directions(north, south, east, west):
Some other locations covered on the tour includes the Royal Tomb, located right below of the Temple of the Sun:
It is thought that this could be the tomb of Pachcutec, the ninth Emperor of the Inca Empire. Darwin explained that the location, in the middle of the city, the unique architecture, and the orientation of the entrance (perfectly East), would support that theory.
You can see the Condor Temple in the middle of this photo:
A large and unique structure in the shape of a Condor(you can see the outstretched wings of the condor), which contains an altar in the shape of a condor.
As you can tell, there is a lot here.....one could create a blog with daily entries about features of Machu Picchu and have content daily.
So much to see.
The tour ended at about 130pm, we were let loose, to either return back to Aguas Calientes for a buffet lunch, or we could spend more time at Machu Picchu, so long that we made our 340pm train back to Cusco. Guess which we chose????
We took a ton more photos, a few from the Watchman's Tower....you know, the one that everyone takes at Machu Picchu. Even though Machu Picchu closes daily, there are a few "residents". We managed to take photos of a few of them:
And of course....the llamas:
We finally caught the bus and made it back to Aguas Calientes. With not too much time on our hands, we decided to find a quick bite. Getting a bit turned around, we ended up in a small Mercado.
The Missus noticed everyone was eating the same good looking stew. So with typical aplomb, and asked where we could get some of the stew in Her survival Spanish. The lady walked us upstairs from the Mercado to this little restaurant.
It turns out that the stew the Missus was ogling was the special of the day; Matasquita. The restaurant also specializes in 3 course lunches for s/12(4 bucks), so I ordered a 3 course lunch for myself! Once our food was ready (para lleva - to go), we hurried over to the train station and had a hearty lunch.
For my soup, I chose Sopa de Pollo(chicken soup).
I never had a shot at this....the Missus cleaned it up in no time. She loved the rich flavor of the broth.
I also got some Pan al Ajo(garlic bread):
A simple preparation....pan (bread) sliced and stuffed with garlic butter and oregano. I really enjoyed this...well, I rarely have anything with lots of garlic that I don't enjoy.
My main was Lomo Saltado, the classic Peruvian stir fry of strips of beef, onions, tomatoes, and papas fritas (basically french fries):
As we found with many dishes in Peru, the meat was quite lean, and on the tough side. The flavor of the tomatoes and onions was good, though the beef did not taste well marinated. Still, it was hot and fresh, and filled me up.
Here's the Missus's Matasquita s/8(can you say about $2.60 US?)
Very thick, rich, and hearty. The Missus told me She loved the flavor, but like the lomo, the pork in this dish was very tough, so She skipped on it. She did a good job of cleaning up on everything else.
From the files of how thoughtful people are......I guess the restaurant didn't have any plastic spoons, so when we opened up our bolsa de plastico (plastic bag), we found that the nice lady had included one of their spoons.
We kept it......maybe one day we'll be able to return it!
As we walked across the bridge to the train station, I stopped to take a photo of the little restaurant. To this point, I didn't even know the name of the place. When I saw the restaurant sign, I just had to laugh:
Yes, we had come all the way to Machu Picchu....and had lunch at El Pollo Loco! Though the food wasn't like any El Pollo Loco I know of!
The train trip back to Poroy(Oscar chose the Poroy station because it saves an hour on the return trip) was uneventful, though the staff on the train kept us entertained, with, among other things an Alpaca clothing "fashion show". Oscar met us at the Poroy station with some good news........
We'll take a short break from Peru for a few days, and have a few SoCal posts!
Did I ever mention that the Missus believes She was an Inca Princess in a former life? I'm serious......She really believes that. How this woman raised under the Communist regime in PR China, who has spent over 15 years in SoCal could come up with this I'll never know....... The Missus will often choose the most inopportune times to mention this. Like when we were having dinner at Latin Chef with a Peruvian friend of Hers from work. She'll mention, "You know, I used to be an Inca Princess in a former life".....Peruvian friend nods okay, thinking She's kidding.....until He realizes, She's serious! Time to hide my head in my hands, and let out a deep sigh....... Imagined or otherwise, the Missus sure seemed to have a "bond" with the people we met in Cusco and the surrounding environs......Never was this more apparent than on the third day of our trip to Peru, when we toured the Sacred Valley on the Incas.
The view from Pisac:
C is for Chicha, or stopping for a drink in a Calca speakeasy:
Chicha de Jora that is......the beer like fermented corn drink, that is made in many homes in the Andes. The Missus and I immediately took to this yeasty-sour-frothy drink served at room temperature. We had just finished touring Pisac, and the bus pulled over in Calca for a lunch stop. The lunch was a buffet style offering that didn't look too promising. We had made a promise not to waste our time and appetites with tourist designed food. So we decided not to partake. We were told that there were no other options to eat for several miles, but we decided to take a walk down the road anyway. We found a small mercado(market) and had some Inca Cola, and decided that Inca Cola, and Coca leaves would probably hold us till dinner.
Walking back to the bus we noticed several houses with red plastic on a stick, standing like flags near various doorways:
The Missus was wondering what this was all about. After looking at the roof ornaments...in the place of the bulls for fertility, and other symbols, there was this:
I started saying, "hey, I think this place makes....", but the Missus was long gone through the doorway. In the little adobe shack, was a little old lady sitting on a stool, manning a bucket of water, and two barrels of "hootch". The Missus using Her ever improving "survival Spanish" had verified that Chicha de Jora was served here, and ordered a cup at 30 centavos (about 10 cents US).
Apparently we were VIPs, since we got a glass cup instead of the plastic cups being used by the really nice lady, and the older gentleman(you always need a lounge lizard)who seemed to have gotten an early start.... The glass had a quick dip in the yellow bucket(I'm guessing it was water)to rinse off, and she started pouring Chicha......
Here the Missus is telling the woman that we don't want a full cup since we still had a half day of hiking in front of us. Meanwhile the older gentleman told us "tener por favor un asiento y una bebida"...something like "please have a seat and drink".........
We found this tasty and frothy room-temperature beverage, that almost smells like sourdough starter to be quite refreshing. Oh, before you take a sip, there's one more thing you need to know about how Chicha is made. In order to start the fermentation process, the maize is moistened in the maker's mouth.....the digestive enzymes in saliva helps to break down the starches and start the fermentation process. In fact, it is thought that the modern name for this drink is based on the Spanish word "chichal", which means "to spit". There's no better way to understand the locals, than to "share spit" with them....or something like that!
We suffered no ill effects, and Chicha is pretty low in alcohol. While we were having our drink, the Lady polished off 2 whole glasses of the stuff....I hope she didn't drink up all of her profits!
So remember, "Red Means Go" get yourself some Chicha!
We spent the afternoon fueled on Coca leaves, Chicha, and Inca Cola........
C is for Chincero, where the Missus couldn't help but get into the act:
The city of Chinchero was the last stop for the day. At 12,350 feet Chinchero is 1300 feet higher than Cusco, and climbing up the steep stairs I could feel every foot......
Chinchero is known for their weavers and textiles, and we were treated to a demonstration....and some buying opportunities.
We were taken through the entire process from cleaning:
To the weaving....
One of the most interesting parts of the presentation was the portion on dyes, and how the Inca were able to extract such vibrant colors from items like the Cochineal insect.
Which produces a bright red color....and is also used as lip coloring!
The Missus was a bit distracted.......She had some other ideas floating through Her head.....
For some unknown reason, she was quite curious about the way these women carried their little ones. And ended up asking if She could carry this adorable little boy. At first, the young lady thought the Missus wanted to take a photo with her and the little one. Once the Missus explained Herself, you could practically read the puzzled look on her face...."why the heck does this stranger want to hold my baby?" But as we found throughout this region, the people really don't know how to say "no"...so they humored the Missus........who almost fell on Her face! She only took a few seconds to "cry uncle...."
Everyone, including the little one(the Missus must be more fun than a carnival ride...), had a good laugh...the Missus is still picking the little pieces of potato this boy was eating out of Her hair! He was not as light as he looked......
Next, the Missus wanted to try Her hand at weaving.......
The young lady patiently tied the Missus down and gave Her a personal lesson. After over 10 minutes the Missus got one strand done.
Which led me to say, "lucky thing you're an Inca Princess and not a weaver....your life's work would be a wash cloth!"
I'm pretty sure that the Ham's Missus's antics have been preserved on perhaps 20 different cameras, as the others on the tour couldn't stop laughing.
C is for Chicharroneria:
This turned out to be a pretty long day. We were delayed on our return because the road to Cusco was closed, due to a "rally"......
We arrived in Cusco famished. During the previous day, while in the midst of picking up other members of our tour, I recall seeing, or was that smelling, a street full of Chicharronerias, places that specialize in deep fried pork and chicken. These shops fried up the meat right in the front doorway as a way of tempting you....I think it's pretty effective!
Dropped off at Plaza de Armas, we walked over to Avenida del Sol, but no Chicharroneria was to be found. The solution? Find a Police Officer. We found the police officers to be very helpful in Cusco. And the Missus asked one very nice officer about Chicharrones...at first he didn't quite understand. But wouldn't you know it, a couple of other guys gathered around, and after a short conference, the officer pointed up a side street, and made a left turn gesture, and if to emphasize the locations of the Chicharronerias, creating invisible "tick marks" he said, "chicharron, chicharron, chicharron.....chicharron, chicharron, chicharron." We got the point immediately, and headed up the side street, took a turn on a street called Pampas de Castillo, and wouldn't you know it, there it was, ""chicharron, chicharron, chicharron". Several Chicharronerias all lined up in a row. Unfortunately, most were closed.....but we found one open!
The Missus was in charge of conversation, but I was in charge of directions and food! I knew that the Missus would enjoy Caldo de Gallina estilo Cusco (Cusco style Hen soup):
Such a rich and hearty soup, the essence of chicken! There was some yucca, rice, and some Chunos(freeze dried potatoes) which had a grainy texture the Missus didn't care for. The Missus has also been indoctrinated to American Chicken. I had to explain to Her that the chicken in this soup was Hen......and after trying to explain to Her for weeks what the difference between Pollo and Gallina was, She understood. The chicken was chewy, but had some really good flavor. The Missus found the chicken much too tough for Her liking, but She loved the broth. It was the perfect remedy for a long day.
Of course, I got the Chicharrones:
I did realize that this was lunch's Chicharrones, refried....Chicharronerias are a lunchtime thing. Still, though a bit on the dry side, these chunks of deep fried pork had great flavor. I believe the meat was seasoned with salt, cumin, and lime. These went real well with the supplied Aji Salsa(verde)! The Missus enjoyed the Chancha...and fried potatoes were very tasty, nice and crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside.
This was, by far the best meal we had in a restaurant in Cusco so far. And along with a "grande" Inca Cola, the meal topped out at s/22, or a tad over $7 American! Sure beats a sandwich from Subway! One thing we did notice, was that our appetites were not as large, whether it was the coca or the altitude we weren't quite sure. El Mayor sure did benefit from our leftovers!
The Ruins at Pisac:
The ruins and wonderful terraces at Pisac were a sight to behold. I did find myself sucking wind like a lifetime 10 pack a day smoker climbing up and down the stairs. In fact, the Missus has a whole set of photos She calls, "my husband nearly having a heart attack in the Sacred Valley."
Though Diamox prevented me from the effects of altitude sickness, it didn't prevent me from getting out of breath quickly........
The ruins of the fortress at Ollantaytambo located above some steep terraces is also quite a sight. The city of Ollantaytambo has been occupied since the 13th century, which makes it the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the Americas.
Those were some major steep terraces....I felt like I needed one of those T-shirts that said, "I survived the terraces at Ollantaytambo, and all I got was this shirt!"
One more thing, it is pretty windy here....I was told that it is always blustery at Ollantaytambo.
Tomorrow we'll do Aguas Caliente and Macchu Picchu, than return to SoCal for a couple of days, so you don't get too bored....ok?
In the afternoon Oscar came by at exactly 2pm to pick us up and drop us at his little office on Triunfo Street. Apparently, Choquechaca is too small for tour vans and buses. Soon enough, we were picked up and on our way to Qorikancha (aka Golden Palace).
The Convent of Santo Domingo (actually a monastary) is built upon the ruins of the Golden Palace and Temple of the Sun. According to our guide, when the Spanish conquered Peru, many Inca sites were either buried, destroyed, or like Qoricancha, churches were built upon the ruins to convert the population to Catholicism. The gold lined temple walls were sacked and treasures were absconded. The Inca stone work was so good, built without cement or mortar, you can't even stick a credit card between blocks! Our guide told us that the trapezoidal architecture used by the Inca was also earthquake proof. As fate would have it during 2 major earthquakes much of the church was destroyed...leaving the Inca "foundation" standing strong, the irony cannot be lost. This is a definite must see if visiting Cusco.
Here's a view of Avenida del Sol from Qoricancha , Cusco's "main drag", the business district:
We also visited the ruins of Sacsayhuaman(we were told....say "Sexy Woman" and you'd be pretty close) above the city of Cusco.
These ruins contain some of the largest and impressive stone blocks, and was an important military and religious site. Some of the longest and bloodiest battles between the Spanish and Inca took place here. Now the site is reverently silent, except of the occasional whistles from security when someone does something against the rules.
In the same area is an interesting amphitheater of sorts called Q'enqo. This rock is of religious importance during the summer solstice, we were shown a photo of the outline of a puma created on the monolith by shadows and light.
There is also a labyrinth of tunnels zig zagging throughout. One of them includes this altar:
This tunnel was uncommonly cold......much better to keep things "fresh" I suppose......
We were told that Cusco was designed to resemble a Puma, and Sacsaywaman is the head of the Puma. On a later visit to the Museo De Nacion I found this chart:
We also visited the Cathedral of Cusco(no photos allowed). The item that really caught our attention was the mural of the Last Supper, with Andean touches. On the table you notice that Cuy(Guines Pig) was being served, and along with Chicha Morada! The last stop was Tambomachay, where two Inca fountains, still sprouting water today, high lite the enduring quality of Inca architecture.
By this point, I had worked through our ration of Coca Leaves....luckily, our tour was over. We returned to Cusco, and made it back to our room for some rest.
At 730 Oscar picked us up, for a scheduled dinner(included with the tour) and show at a restaurant called El Truco. And though we enjoyed the entertainment, I could only equate dinner to be the equivalent of the "tourist Luau" back home. The restaurant itself, is large and cavernous, and quite nicely attired.
Rather than be really negative...I'll keep my comments to a minimum:
The Anitcuchos had decent flavor, no aftertaste, but was ice cold. The potatoes were tasteless.
The Rocoto Relleno (stuffed rocoto pepper) had no flavor, and was cold.
The Missus ordered Chicharron de Pollo (deep fried chicken), was cold and soggy, and frankly, had very little flavor.
I ordered the Alpaca Steak, which was hard as rock, and the gravy was cold. The Papas Fritas (fried potatoes)? Sigh.........
Needless to say, we hardly ate anything, and left before dessert. To be fair, the service was very efficient and nice. But all the food was obviously cooked in advance, and kept standing......sort of the buffet without the buffet line. As noted in my previous post we took a walk up to Pachapapa, and didn't have much success either. At this point, we decided to not waste our time eating at scheduled stops, nor recommendations from various "guides"...instead we would search out places that caught our interest. With this strategy in hand, we had much more success during the rest of our time in Cusco.
El Truco Plaza Regocijo 261
On our way back to our room, we could smell "meat cooking", and suddenly our luck had changed. Right down the street from our Hotel, there was a street vendor grilling up some really tasty Alpaca Anticuchos (marinated grilled Alpaca heart). Man was it good! Sorry for the bad photo, the lighting was terrible, but the Anticuchos were not! Full of flavor(cumin coming on strong), hot, tender(much more tender than beef heart), with no sour aftertaste(and no tough "nasty bits"). Indeed, we had turned the corner food wise, no more tourist food for us.
Un Perros de Cusco (The Dogs of Cusco):
The human inhabitants of Cusco were not the only ones that kept us entertained and enchanted. We were amazed at all the dogs in Cusco. It seemed that they lived on the street, but many of them looked like they had been groomed, appeared well fed, and were quite clean! There was a kind of harmony that existed between the four legged and two legged residents of Cusco. The canine inhabitants seem to follow certain rules, they knew how to cross streets, left humans alone, handled their business with discretion, and had good manners. In turn, they were treated like citizens of Cusco.
There were several Dogs we saw on a regular basis, we ended up naming three of them, but one of them really captured our heart. Meet "El Mayor de Choquechaca":
This little one had so much personality, he ran Choquchaca, the little street we stayed on. We never saw him on any other street. He would walk up and down, busily checking things out, making sure all was well. The Missus was so taken with him, that whenever he was around (which was almost all the time), a slice of Anticucho would suddenly fall to the ground...or the Bolsa de Plastico(plastic bag) of leftover Chicharron would suddenly break, and pork would fall to the ground(how convenient). I named him after an incident which confirmed what I had thought....he was the Alpha male of the street....A new dog, a large shepherd mix cruised on up Choquechaca, and came upon El Mayor. Being a stranger, he came chest to chest with El Mayor, presenting a challenge, walking in a circle....before you could blink, several other dogs, El Mayor's henchmen, surrounded the stranger.....which ended up with a peaceful bout of "butt sniffing"..... leave it to El Mayor! To this day, the Missus will look wistfully at me and ask, "I wonder what El Mayor is up to?"
Meet the other regular of Choquechaca, we called this one La P0licia(the police):
Always marching up and down Choquechaca.......patrolling it would seem!
Meet Senor Under bite:
Some were "busy", no time to talk, places to be, butts to sniff....
Some just wanted a nap......."You got a problem wit dat?"
Our day started with a very early morning flight...we woke at 3am, our arranged driver picked us up at 330am, and made the drive through the eerily quiet streets of Lima, quite a contrast to the previous day's chaotic commute. We made our 550am flight on Star Peru.... one thing I started noticing about Peru, was that everything seemed to run on time. Check out the model of aircraft listed on the Safety Card:
I really don't want to be flying in an aircraft called a "boing"..........sounds like you'd be bouncing to your destination!
The flight to Cusco was short, but beautiful. You could see the snow capped peaks of the Andes rising above the billowy clouds. We arrived in the former Capital of the Inca Empire at 7am. We had made most of our Cusco arrangements using the travel agency of a friend of a friend of the Missus. The name of the company is Skomundo. I'm not one to provide "plugs" for businesses, but I can't say enough good things about Oscar, the Owner and Operator of Skomundo. He is dependable, on time, very helpful, and by the end of our trip had become a friend. Oscar made arrangements for our tours, and the flights to and from Cusco. I made the Hotel arrangements. I had tried getting a suite at the highly recommended Casa San Blas, but they were booked solid for months. My second choice was Rumi Punku, located several blocks away from the ultra busy Plaza de Armas. Oscar picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel.....he ensured that things started off well for us, with a nice cup of Coca Tea:
By the time we left Cusco, the Missus had gotten into the habit of drinking 4-5 cups of Mate de Coca(Coca Tea) daily, along with chewing Coca leaves. Oscar got us settled, and told us to get some rest. Of course being so excited, we didn't listen. We immediately set off to do some exploring, and grab something to eat. The Hostel Rumi Punku was located on a little cobblestone street called Choquechaca. The street dead ends a block later, where a school is located. Every morning, we'd be walking down Choquechaca, and would be greeted with a warm "Buenos Dias" or "hola" from the kids and their parents walking to school. We came to love this little street with a large personality.
The doorway of Hostel Rumi Punku is an honest to goodness Inca Doorway, and considered a historic site by the City of Cusco:
As we walked down Choquechaca, in search of the historic Iglesia de San Blas, we had one of what would turn out to be many, memorable encounters with people in Cusco. The Missus, using Her "survival Spanish", asked a very neat, and sharp looking young lady(maybe 8 years old) wearing a school uniform, for directions to San Blas. The young lady, pointed us in the right direction, and headed off...only to stop a few yards down the street. The young lady had waited for us, to make sure that we were headed off in the right direction!
The directions included a climb up these stairs:
Which even at sea level, would be enough to get me puffing along.....at an altitude of 11,500 feet......
We finally made it.......and had a short visit at the Church of San Blas(admission s/9), and the famous wood carved pulpit.
I had an ulterior motive for walking up to San Blas:
Pachapapa is a restaurant highly recommended by both the Lonely Planet and Footprints guides. We would soon find out that the food, tastes, and restaurant recommendations made by these guides were a really mixed bag.
We arrived right when the restaurant opened at 1130am, and decided to take a seat in the pleasant outdoor courtyard, where we had a nice view of the oven.
It seems that the pizzas here are really popular........
We started with a few drinks.....a Chicha de Jora:
Chicha de Jora is basically a fermented maize beer. We really enjoyed this, the flavor is a bit sour, and yeasty, but very refreshing. It felt like the alcohol content was pretty low. I believe we ordered another one of these. There will also be a more interesting, and tasty version of Chicha de Jora in a future post.
Of course we tried a Pisco Sour:
Not too good.
This version of the popular purple maize-fruit-sugar drink didn't taste as "kool aid" sweet as other versions I've had, but was also a bit on the "watery side" when it came to overall flavor.
Give me the Chicha de Jora..........
The Missus looked over the menu and ordered the Olluquito con Carne y Charqui de Alpaca (Olluco and potatoes stewed with Alpaca meat and Jerky - s/20):
The stew had a very earthy flavor, and the slices of Olluco Tuber had a crunchy texture. The Missus enjoyed Her stew, and the plantains. We found that the rice was really hard, and dried out.
Olluco is tuber that is grown in the Andes. It looks like a potato, but has a very crunchy texture.
I had the Adobo de Chancho (Pork stewed with Chicha de Jora - s/22):
The chicha flavored, and achiote colored broth was wonderful...a nice combination of spice and saltiness, with a slight hint of sweetness. The pork was a bit on the dry side. The Missus got the sweet potatoes (of course). Again the rice was dried out and hard.
Overall, not a bad meal. In fact, after having an awful dinner that we couldn't bear to finish that same evening, we really couldn't think of somewhere to eat, so we returned to Pachapapa.
The Missus ordered the Cuy Frito(s/25):
If this was the only Cuy(Guinea Pig) we had in Cusco, we would have returned thinking that Cuy tasted horrible. First off, the skin was extremely tough....like rubber, you couldn't even cut it with a knife. The meat was quite dry, and had a fishy taste. We later learned, that much of the Cuy sold in restaurants are raised using various feed to make them larger, and fatten them up quickly, instead of alfalfa, which is what Cut is traditionally fed.
I ordered the Chicharron (s/18):
These pieces of deep fried pork had the unfortunate destiny of being bland, dry, and greasy at the same time. Maybe we should have gone for the pizza......
Pachapapa Plazoleta San Blas 120 Right across from the Iglesias San Blas
But like most experiences in Peru, this one had a silver...make that gold lining. During dinner, we had a nice conversation with our Server...who shall remain nameless, since he pretty much filled us in on what is what in Cusco. His take was this, "if you want to eat local, you need to get away from Plaza de Armas, and as a matter of fact San Blas as well. Though the Novo Andina cuisine around here is good, it is pretty tame." He also could not, for the life of him, explain why so many people love pizzas in Cusco. He also told us that the Chicha de Jora at Pachapapa is made with Chicha with the addition of Black Beer and sugar to smooth out and sweeten the flavor. The really nice young man(who got a nice tip from us), also gave us some suggestions as to where to get some good local grinds, and though we weren't able to make it to all the places, we managed to make it to a few.
More on on our hotel.....we really enjoyed Rumi Punku, though the rooms are small, they are very cozy and very clean. The staff is very friendly and helpful. There is a free breakfast (we never partook) that starts at 5am, for those going on an early trip to Aguas Calientes and Macchu Picchu. There's always Coca Tea available, though the Internet connection can be flaky....I couldn't access this blog at all from here.
The courtyard and surroundings are very peaceful and relaxing.
Like I mentioned, the rooms are small, but very cozy, and the beds comfortable...for $60(US) a night.
A couple of items to note....the water system is flaky, so if someone next door flushes the toilet....you get the picture. We also found that what is considered "Central Heating", is this:
Which worked just as well as other more advanced "central heating" systems we've encountered in US hotels. We returned to take a short rest...believe it or not, we still had entire half day of touring in front of us.....