Cusco, Peru
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This was a full day, spent mostly with a great couple (Kurt & Elise) whom I met on a horse.

After getting my hair cut in the morning (communicating with my index finger and the Spanish for “more short” and “less short”) I packed for the day and went for an explore of the outskirts of the city. En route, stumbled upon a band playing in the Central Plaza which was colourful.

Heading up a steep hill, spoke a bit with a guy named Juan. He revealed that he organised trips around the archaelogical sites in the surrounding hills. The local authority has an expensive ‘tourist ticket’ to officially tour them, but going this way sidestepped this issue.

After a little haggle, he gave me a discount. In classic salesman patter he urged me to “No dije nada” (don’t say nothing) as he had made an exception JUST FOR ME(!!!).

As we were talking about languages, he said the Quechua (native tongue) equivalent was “Kumbolt semil” (keep close, your mouth). This naturally led to the question of the similar English phrase.

Keen to remember what I said, when we parted ways, Juan was uttering to himself: “Keep shtum… Keep shtum…”

And this is where we arrive at the horses.

Kurt and Elise are honeymooning around Peru, and for the next two and a bit hours we ascended the winding paths on horseback to inspect some of the impressive, and newly discovered archaeological sites.

Views were great, and exploring the imposing stone structures was like being a child again. These Incan ruins were different to the well-preserved Mayan sites we have seen in Central America, I guess because there was no rainforest to incubate them. They were nonetheless windswept and interesting.

Once we were finished (at around 2.45) we had corn.

First, on the cob, from a woman selling it at the foot of the hill. I took a photo (it’s massive over here right?)

Second, in a pint glass. This took some move navigation. It involved locating a “bar” from the Walking Tour. It was effectively someone’s garden shed – accessed through a paint-peeled door and across the patio.

The corn beer (chicha) was quite tangy, cloudy, and a little fizzy. The story goes that after returning to the corn fields a few weeks after a flood, some guy scooped up and ate the soggy maize and soon started acting silly. He and his mates had such fun that they tried to recreate the experience, and after many many iterations, the modern day chicha was made.

Third, we tracked down a market that K & E had been to earlier. Being at food markets is one of my favourite pasttimes so I gleefully ogled at unknown fruit and observed people bartering back and forth.

The shopping list (obv including corn) became the recipe for later – a stir fry of various peppers (discovered later to be chilli peppers..), onion, garlic, egg on a crater of spicy rice and corn. The cooking was out of my hands, so there will be no repeat of

Instead I was tasked with assembling the pisco sours. Made up a simple sugar syrup, squeezed the juice of several limes, and combined with pisco for a makeshift cocktail.

A quick sidenote about pisco, as I’d only briefly heard about it before, and in relation to the region.

It’s a distilled grape (so type of brandy) which is particular to certain areas of Chile and Peru after being brought over and cultivated in the 17th century. On its on own is pretty medicinal, but as part of an (even poorly assembled) cocktail it becomes v tasty.

Over dinner we were never stuck for conversation, and covered all of the important topics one should when travelling in another country (read: finding oneself). World politics/ philosophy/ culture were debated to a decent level.

I somewhat lowered the tone by rambling on about beer.

Earlier in the day we spoke about the chicha brew, and talking at dinner about local food and drink restarted this chat. K & E were polite enough to listen through a brief synopsis of my dissertation as I got far too animated over the causes of the craft beer revolution in my country and theirs.

With full stomachs, we washed up and said our Goodbyes.

And with that it was back to my hostel, leaving K & E to the rest of their honeymoon.

Inca Ruins: Sacsayhuaman


Corn Type 2: (classic)

Corn Type 3: Dinner

Food. Market.

Dinner + Pisco Sours

Leading a horse to water…

Inca corridor

Archaeological site

Me blocking landscape

Peruvian Band playing in Central Plaza