Sam Floy

Interesting posts about start ups, East Africa and fried chicken

Author: teabp_user (page 3 of 7)

11.1 Ushuaia

Ushuaia, Patagonia, Argentina
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ushuaia is the southernmost city of South America, and is coined the End of the World. From there, the only way is up.

Though first, I went down (see 11.1.1)

The place serves as a port to Antarctica and has quite a thriving economy going on. It feels a lot like a ski town: remote, shops selling warm clothes, chilly breezes, and tourists paying high prices in restaurants.

The politics/ geography of the area is quite interesting.

Being so far south means Chile sort of curves around as its border is roughly the peaks of the Andes.

Argentina “has” the Atlantic, and Chile the Pacific which means the border stretches right across the coast.

As such, heading up from Ushuaia necessitates passing through their neighbour as it has sort of been cornered in.

The government has invested in the electronics industry to attract jobs etc. There is apparently a history of this, with a number of factories (and the naval base) serving as employment on top of tourism.

The weather (being summer down there) meant it was still bright past 10pm, though people were still layering on the fleeces.

After a couple of days it was ready to go. And this time, it was to the north..

End of the world

View out to 11.1.1

Ushuaia Prison Museum

Ushuaia 9.30pm (note the tiny dog)

Getting from 10.2 to 11.1

Ezeiza, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Monday, February 4, 2013

Getting from Bolivia to Ushuaia involved a 15 hour stopover in Buenos Aires which was as exciting as it sounds.

After (eventually) checking out of the hotel, it was to the Santa Cruz airport, which is the biggest in Boliva. The taxi driver was keen showcase his boy-racer subwoofers. And even more so when a Taylor Swift remix came on, which threw me slightly.

After paying the airport tax (this is a South American custom I won’t miss, it’s at all transplant terminals) it was a case of waiting for the plane.

Once in BA, faced with “Exit” or “In Transit” I headed for the latter and begun the wait for the plane for Ushuaia.

Luckily WiFi was available, and there were power points to charge my Kindle etc. (you’d never have read that sentence a few years ago).

Time was spent getting a few things sorted, and also trying to get comfy on the airport chairs. The second was deceptively difficult though so I attempted a nap on the floor at one point.

My flight was at 0710 and around 0530 I had a chat with the lady at the desk because the screen wasn’t displaying my flight anymore.

It turned out I had needed to go through the Exit to immigration all those hours ago and wait in a separate terminal on the other side of the site.

Because it was early morning, the immigration line was moving slowly making it that much more tense whether I would make my plane, a ridiculous notion 12 hours prior.

And of course, me disobeying the system meant I should’ve picked up my bag 12 hours earlier, and it was now nowhere to be seen.

The different descriptions I received of where it might be lead to a self-guided tour of the airport in double quick time.

Eventually got intel it was being sent to Ushuaia, so got to the Boarding Gate, through the checks and onto the plane in the nick of time.

And I didn’t have the altitude as an excuse to be out of breath.

Once on the plane, it was 3 and a bit hours to El Carafate where most of the passengers got off, and a few minutes later, some more came on to head further south.

The demographic on the plane were broadly one of two people:

1. “Happy Snappers” of an elder generation (yolo has a sense of pending urgency it seems)

2. “Serious Adventurer” a more rugged persona (you can tell they’re serious as the outfits don’t have llamas on them)

Once in Ushuaia it became clear that my rucksack had also made the early exit in El Carafate.

With nothing left I could do after explaining why I didn’t have a bag checked onto the plane, I gave them the name of my hostel and got a taxi into town.

Needing to get out of the airport ecosystem, and with no bags to unpack, I was soon embarking on 11.1.1.

Santa Cruz airport: 11am

BA (wrong) terminal: 3am

BA (right) terminal: 7am

Ushuaia airport: 12.30pm

10.2 Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Sunday, February 3, 2013

The main event in Santa Cruz was a biblical-esque thunderstorm on the first night.

This cut out the electricity in the hotel I was at and, along with lack of time/ absence of tourist maps, meant exploration of the place wasn’t really an option.

The hotel was opposite the bus terminal and so my main impression of Boliva’s biggest city was its two main transport hubs.

Taking the bus from La Paz was largely unproblematic.

The lady I was sat next to stocked up on sugary snacks for the 17 hour haul and proceeded to dispense with the wrappers and bottles out of the window and onto the highway.

Litter, it seems, is a First World Problem…

Once checked in (to a slightly dodgy hotel) it was a case of grabbing some food.

The heat/ humidity was probably the most intense I’d encountered on the trip so far. Even the most menial of tasks (fork-to-food-to-mouth) caused me to get a bead on.

To onlookers, it must’ve looked like I was combating a vindaloo.

In reality it was steak and chips for £1.20.

The rest of the time in SC was spent hydrating and trying to create a dialogue with the somewhat stroppy receptionist.

Once she understood that I was after a taxi for the final morning, it was off to the airport to fly down south.

Waiting for the bus

Santa Cruz #1

Santa Cruz #2

10.1 La Paz

La Paz, Bolivia
Thursday, January 31, 2013

La Paz is the highest capital city in the world, and took roughly 8 hours to reach from Puno.

The border crossing was almost infinitely easier than 9.1, and after changing buses 8km into the country, we crossed Lake Titicaca and headed straight for the Capital.

After finding a hostel, I wandered over to city’s football stadium.

The game that evening was Bolivar vs Sao Paulo in the Copa Liberadores (equivalent of Champions League in Europe).

The hustle and bustle outside was like all matches: merchandise, sponsors, food stands. And though I couldn’t discern what they were saying, I guess the shifty looking characters were ticket touts.

Taking my seat near the halfway line, I’d just got comfy and Sao Paulo were 3-0 up. The Bolivarians were not best pleaaed.

One of the players endured an injury and was ‘stretchered’ off on a golf buggy.

At halftime, the teams split off to their dugouts and the officials too made their way to their underground changing rooms.

The Police guards had the job of protecting them from an onslaught of missiles (despite, to my knowledge having done no wrong) and it was interesting to see the Fuzz undertake a Roman Army formation with their shields.

The break rejuvenated the home side, and with roughly 15 minutes to go, the score was 3-3.

Then a penalty was awarded causing great excitement.

The Bolivian striker coolly slotted home sparking a chorus of chants throughout the stadium.

With both sides squandering late chances, the score ended: Bolivar 4 – 3 Sao Paulo

This was the first football game I’d seen on this trip, and it was refreshing to see such fluid (liquid) football. The ball never went long from a Goal Kick.

The other highlight (of sorts) from the city was looking for lunch.

I’d wandered near the Central Plaza and quickly became inundated with offers of food.

The lunch market was particularly interesting.

There are rows upon rows of small shacks/ cafes that all share common characteristics: named after the owner, roughly 3×4 metres in size, seat approx 12 people.

The meals were similar to Cusco (see 9.3), only minus the sweet tea.

The cost was 70p.

After filling up, and with money burning a hole in my pocket, I took self-guided tour around the other establishments and boosted my 5-a-day count with a fruit salad, and then a smoothie.

The more I walked, the more I saw these shacks, each a pretty much carbon copy of the next.

Once out of the lunchtime labyrinth I was able to wander some more, and took in (or rather took photos of) a couple of the more colourful buildings.

It was then a long walk back to the hostel, passing an incredibly high number of policemen/women that were just out on the beat.

In the afternoon, a bus ticket to Santa Cruz was bought, and I then killed time until my arrival the following day.

La Paz street

Rows of cafes #1

Rows of cafes #2

Fruit store

Football match

Final score

Bolivian immigration

Typical LP shop

9.5.1 Lake Titicaca

Amantani Island, Peru
Monday, January 28, 2013

Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world, so I was surprised someone had brought a paintball gun with them.

At least that’s what it felt like on top of Amantani before I realised it was hail stones pelting down from the sky. The sun was still setting (allowing some picturesque snaps) so it was all the more confusing.

Once our group came out from shelter (some old stone structures) we made the 40 minute walk back to the town’s Central Plaza to meet up again with our host families.

The day began taking a 2 hour boat ride from the Puno port to a floating island in the middle of the Lake. Still a bit unsure what Lake Titicaca was all about, our guide, Lucho, gave us a breakdown of things we should know.

I’ll translate into LT Fun Facts:

LT Fun Fact #1: The Lake sits at over 4,000 metres above sea level and is the highest in the world

LT Fun Fact #2: Its diameter stretches over 150km and there are many inhabited islands on it

LT Fun Fact #3: 60% is Peruvian, 40% is Bolivian

LT Fun Fact #4: It is thought of as “the cradle of Peru” as people have been living on it for millennia

LT Fun Fact #5: ‘True’ locals have very dark blood (high altitude, more haemoglobin). It is/was thought to give them superhuman strength

LT Fun Fact #6: Some families live on floating islands made of reeds, named Uros

LT Fun Fact #7: There used to be more, but the introduction of rainbow trout to the Lake in the 1940s destroyed ecosystem, moving people to land

LT Fun Fact #8: The reeds are used for animal feed with mainlanders, in exchange for the bright clothing

LT Fun Fact #9: The bigger, main islands have no police. Instead people live by Inca Commandments (be nice, don’t steal, don’t be a fool)

After taking a tour of the floating islands, myself and another guy hopped on one of the handmade reed boats and were guided around it.

The Lake was only 8 metres deep there (it can reach up to 200), so our gondola experience was all the more Venicion – being propelled by a long stick.

From here we continued our journey (this time by motor) to Amantani where we were introduced to our host families for the night.

Along with two Peruvian ladies (the only non-English speakers on the tour), I walked with Laudia (our ‘mama’) back to her house on the hillside.

Amantani is 10km squared, has 10 villages and around 4,000 inhabitants. Many, like Laudia, were born on the island.

Lunch was quinoa soup, and potatoes with cheese, eaten in one of the outhouses.

I then dropped my bags in another before we set off to reconvene in the central plaza (town square), a ten minute walk away.

After some more information about the island and the beliefs on solar movements (a common theme amongst the pre-Spanish civilisations) we began a hike to the highest point of Amantani for sunset.

It really was beautiful.

There were peninsulas, snow capped mountains, and islands rearing their heads out of the blue tranquility.

Despite being pretty inaccessible, almost every inch up there was used for crops.

Fields were divided by stacked up rocks, and there were some more robust structures (old temples, we were told).

The scene was set: culturally significant location, idyllic sunset, a few photos for the DPP ‘Maybe’ pile; this was surely a perfect time to Find Myself…

And then the paintballing began.

Any profound/ world-changing views I may have been formulating were quickly extinguished (or rather popped) by the high-velocity stones hailing from above.

Taking cover lasted about half an hour, by which time the sky had turned into an array of blue which made the descent that much more pleasant.

Dinner was had back at the ranch, and we then returned to the central plaza for a spot of “Peruvian dancing” with an “authentic Peruvian band”

In reality it was the hokey-kokey in ponchos to one man playing the guitar and a boy with a drum and a stick.

Nevertheless it was fun enough, and on the pouring walk home I learnt just how surprisingly waterproof the heavy ponchos could be.

In the morning we said our Goodbyes to the families and hopped on the boat to a second ‘proper’ island, Taquile

This used to be a type of Alcatraz in the time of the Spanish settlement, and today the community is still very old fashioned.

Husband and wife are never seen walking together (she is always a number of steps behind), and weaving is a primary skill taught young – UNESCO recognised it as an important part of the cultural heritage that needed to be protected.

To prove himself to a woman, a Taquilean man will weave a hat, and if it holds water for a couple of minutes (i.e. well knit) he has the necessary qualities. He has displayed his ‘boyfriend material’, so to speak…

After this it was another walk through the terraced farms (and pop up stores selling Gatorade and Mars Bars) to the boat on the other side of the island.

Here I took up the opportunity to go for a swim in the “refreshing” waters (the mountain rivers run into the Lake). #yolo

A three hour boat ride later and we were back on mainland.

The community life brought back memories of Belize (see 6.3.1 & 6.3.2), however the setting and talk of islands reminded me more of ‘Lost’.

The Lake is yet another example of new ideas compromising age-old traditions in local cultures.

Of course the natural response is that the way of life should be preserved and protected against Western influence. However with that comes women as second-class citizens and an apathy to new ideas.

So I have yet to form my conclusion on the matter.

What could have been if it didn’t start hailing…

On top of Amantani

Sunset #1

Sunset #2

In paintball crossfire

Arriving on Uros

Being told Fun Facts

Peruvian reed gondola

Powered by solar and tourism

Lunch

Back garden

My outhouse

Walk to Central Plaza

Central Plaza

More views

The hail

Peruvian band

Agriculture

Post-swim

9.5 Puno

Puno, Peru
Sunday, January 27, 2013

The trip out to Lake Titicaca was bookended by a couple of top meals in Puno.

There was not much else I saw of the town apart from Hostel room, bus station and two restaurants. However in the grand scheme of things, I’m not overly fussed.

Dinner on the first night was with Stuart from the Inca Trail. On top of the traditional Peruvian dishes, we opted for the national “delicacy” – Guinea Pig.

It tastes as good as it looks…

We were able to compare stories from back home, and in the process thought some more about: England, London lunches, and Patagonia. We also left open the possibility of meeting up in La Paz.

The final evening in Puno was spent with some guys from the Lake Titicaca trip, and a couple of others.

On the recommendation from their hostel we located a small, local restaurant and spent the evening chatting about all sorts of topics: language derivations, the future of agriculture, and local drinking games. They loved the concept of Deal or No Deal.

In our posse was: an American, a German, an Indian, and four Danish girls.

All had colourful tales to tell, and it’s always interesting to get perspectives from different cultures. I also picked up some tips for when I go to to the South of the continent.

A cultural difference that amused the four guys was the Danes’ aversion to jelly.

All of them were flummoxed by its colour, taste, and consistenty, and I’m pretty sure one of them shed a tear in all the confusion.

Having doubled up on dessert it was time to depart our separate ways and leave for Bolivia in the morning.

Roast Guinea Pig

Bus out of Puno

Bit of Puno culture

9.4.1 Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Friday, January 25, 2013

The city is one of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World, so along with Chitchen Itza, ended up ticking off two in the month of January.

Our day began taking the bus up from Aguas Calientes and being taken for a tour around the city by Jose. The weather was glorious, despite being wet season, so we took up opportunities to take shelter in the shade when the time allowed.

As has become custom, here are the Fun Facts:

MP Fun Fact #1: it was built during the 15th Century

MP Fun Fact #2: Nobody knows its real name, “Machu Picchu” means Old Mountain in Quechua

MP Fun Fact #3: There are many theories for its purpose including Training Camp and Holiday Resort

MP Fun Fact #4: The city was deserted when the Spanish came to Peru, but the Spaniards never found it

MP Fun Fact #5: It was discovered by Hawaiian, Hiram Bingham in 1911. He came back a few years after with a photographer from the National Geographic society

MP Fun Fact #6: The first tour guide was a 10 year old boy who was living nearby

MP Fun Fact #7: A train that runs through the Sacred Valley was initially for transporting fruit. After a mudslide, a private enterprise reopened the railway to transport tourists to the site

MP Fun Fact #8: Like the Mayans, the Incas used the solstices to mark the dates in the year. They also believed in 3 worlds (Snake, Puma and Condor (big bird))

MP Fun Fact #9: Incan society was not based on money, but cooperation and exchange of time and skills

MP Fun Fact #10: The only entrance to MP is through the Sun Gate, the only exit is via the Inca Bridge (see photo)

MP Fun Fact #11: The population (calculated by possible water consumption in the area) is estimated to have been around 500

Our tour took us around some interesting monuments, structures, and buildings which in some ways only highlighted how little archaeologists actually know about the place. A lot seemed to be based on conjecture, made all the more difficult as the Incans didn’t write anything down…

It was then free time to rack up some potential DPPs, and explore the city some more. About a twenty minute walk up the valley, and we reached the precarious Inca Bridge.

Along the way there were some stunning views of the mountains, and it was reassuring to see that the passage was cordened off, to save any foolish tourists stumbling across it.

Then it was then one last stop to get some pictures (after a three day journey, we decided it was OK to) and back on the bus to wind down in the town.

The train to Ollantaytambo was actually pretty impressive, and once on the minibus, there were several attempts to get some shut-eye.

Back in Cusco, it was a case of dumping bags, getting a shower, going for dinner (a 3 Soles beauty) and then meeting up for some drinks and hitting the town.

“The” PP. Perhaps…

Inca Bridge out of MP

MP

Jose explaining equinoxes

Outtake

9.4 Inca Trail

Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Monday, January 21, 2013

At the foot of “50 steps of hell” to the ‘Sun Gate’, and with 40ish kilometres behind us, our Tour Group was promised that our opportunity for a Decent Profile Picture was within reach.

We were coming to the end of the Inca Trail, a route discovered in the mid-1910s after American Hiram Bingham ´found´Machu Picchu a few years earlier (see 9.4.1) The total distance was around 25 miles and is usually done over 4 days, with 3 nights camping.

Due to it being wet season, we powered the first couple of days to arrive on the third afternoon. Not quite as impressive as the Porter who once did it in under 4 hours..

As the Trail has strict regulations on who can go, it has to be done through a tour operator. Mine was booked months in advance, and has given the whole trip structure.

On top of ‘just’ doing the hike, we saw some sites around Cusco, and visited a local village where they specialise in local crafts. Presenting a few photo opps, we could feed some llamas, learn about how the local ladies dyed and weaved the wool, and generally appreciate how they lived.

On the road, we stopped for a view over the Sacred Valley that we would be trekking through and afterwards went up to an important archaeological site in the hills. Then it was lunch, checking in to a hotel, and a visit to another site.

I don’t have too much too report on this however, as my time was spent drinking Powerade and napping after a bout of food poisoning from the night before.

Come morning time, I was feeling a bit better, and by 9am we had reached the base of the Trail and began mounting up our bags.

Our guides (Jose and Groto) were on hand to take photos of us with all the cameras at the entrance. This trend continued throughout the course, and provided a welcome excuse to take a break from walking, often by a particularly stunning spot.

Nonetheless, if there had been a nominated photographer for our group, who knows how much quicker we’d have covered the ground.

The river was particularly angry at this time of year, and once over the bridge, we began the trek in earnest.

The first day was spent at a gentle incline before reaching the normal campsite and deciding to make inroads into Day Two’s hike.

This was our first introduction to the work of the Porters, who rushed passed us to set up tents and cook up lunch. The food was incredible given the remoteness of our location and the feat became only more impressive as the days went by.

Time was passed breaking a mental sweat too, with a number of riddles going back and forth:

What is the only English word to have the letters “a, e, i, o, u, y” in that order?

What is the only country that ends in an “h”?

Which five countries have only one syllable?

Answers on a postcard please..

We also began discussing the somewhat perplexing tastes of Willy the Whale. It took some longer than others to work out his preferences, but announcing to the group what Willy liked, and didn’t like, did serve as entertainment throughout.

Willy the Whale likes ‘press ups’ but doesn’t like ‘push ups’

There were also interjections of First World Problems, and Famous Last Words where appropriate.

After a pleasant evening meal at the end of Day One, we retired to our two-man tents. Morning was met with porridge and coca tea (a staple drink to counter altitude) and we left to make the hour ascent to the highest point of the course.

Tents and some of our luggage were gathered up by the Porters, who soon enough overtook us plodding up the steep steps.

At the top, we waited for a “family photo” and so had some time to kill to look around and take some pictures. Being quite exposed, and at 4,000ish metres, it did call for some llama apparel to come out.

Once the snaps had been taken it was a bumpy descent down to lunch. Here the riddles and suppositions took a more musical turn, and over our staple of quinua soup (great food) and omelette we fueled up for another climb.

There was a stop at an Incan lookout building where we learned a bit more about the communication methods.

Inca Fun Fact #2: as Quechua has no written form, messages were sent and spoke via runners who would cross the Empire and rest in these houses

At the top of the next peak, we were able to get a good lookout before being joined by cloud; a common occurrence for the rest of the day. Again, it was a lovely pass through the green mountains to our next stop, as always, marvelling at how all of the stones had been laid there so many years previous.

At the campsite for Day Two, we sat above the clouds. With legs beginning to ache, it was an early one after another cracking dinner, and coca tea for a digestif.

At dawn of Day Three, we had breakfast of pancakes and were more formally introduced to our Porters, learning how many were in their fifties. This job is a good form of income for them, in addition to their farmwork, and supports their children through education.

The hikers then set off (only to be overtaken again) and we were rejoined at lunch. As it was the final day, we took our time and basked in the scenery. There were naturally a few photo opps along the way.

Because Night Three was to be spent in “civilisation” the Porters and chefs left us after lunch. There was time for them to bring out a well-decorated cake (quite an effort) and for us to relay our gratitude financially.

I’ve yet to mention our group member, “Ian” Lee.

In one of his many highlights of the trip, Ian took it upon himself to photograph each of the Porters in turn as Jose, our guide, tried to instruct us of our final part of the trip.

In fact, I think Ian warrants a Top 5 of his own:

1. “Ian, were you listening? What did I just say?” “English”
2. Being introduced to the Porters as Bruce Lee
3. Having other group members have a photo with a picture of his girlfriend
4. Reading everyone’s palms
5. “The” dancemove

Number 5 literally had me in tears on Night Three. Ian’s from Korea; it could go viral like Gangnam Style…

Once we’d had our cake and eaten it, it was a winding road down to some steps.

And this was the moment we reached earlier … close to the Sun Gate.

This was our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. More information on the city is detailed in 9.4.1, but for now, everyone’s main priority was to maximise the first real opportunity for a DPP.

The night was spent in the nearest town, Aguas Calientes (Hot Water), however the hotel showers must have missed the memo. We had some food, and a couple of drinks in a nearby bar and deliberated against a 5am start to see the sunrise. The clouds would have made it worthless.

After 9.4.1 it was back to Cusco (via train and bus) for a night out with everyone from the adventure.

The final day was spent beginning to catch up again with the real world, and generally not exerting too much energy. After failing with a new mp3 player, it was drinks in a Monastery (which is now a hotel) and then a walk back to my hostel before a bus in the morning

Finally reaching Machu Picchu

Highest point of Trail

Porters

Through the Sacred Valley

It’s Machu Picchu

Feeding llama at village

Final day breakfast

Ancient Incan pylon

Ian snapping the porters

Jose/ Groto: official photographers

Angry River Urubamba

Day One camp

Outtake

Resting at Highest Point

9.3.2 Bike riding

Maras, Cusco, Peru
Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gasping for air like an asthmatic in a smokers’ room (after only about 30 seconds of ‘climbing’ a gently-sloped hill), I was beginning to wonder whether bike riding was such a good idea.

The altitude on the route between Maras and Moray (two ancient towns in the hills mountains near the Sacred Valley (see 9.4)) meant even minimal excursion lead to lead legs.

A few bananas and a some water later, I decided this was all a bit ridiculous and forced myself to get moving.

The views around the area were majestic, and a teaser before the Inca Trail. What I found as enjoyable though was the interactions with local people. But we’ll get to that soon.

The day began putting on waterproofs. As it’s the season, most mornings have begun this way.

I met up with Eduardo, who would be my guide for the day, in Cusco’s central square, and we then biked down to the bus station. He thought there were meant to be others coming, but for whatever reason it was just the two of us.

The bus felt sort of similar to those in Punta Gorda, Belize (see 6.3.1/ 6.3.2) in that it was rickety and heading out into the rural heartland. The mountain bikes were strapped to the roof, Eduardo grabbed us a packed lunch and we clambered on as it was departing.

Many towns later, we alighted, straightened out the bikes and begun our way towards the archaeological site of Moray.

Pretty soon after passing about the third flock of sheep being shepherded along the dirt track/ road we were now on, Eduardo’s chain snapped. Even the novice cyclists among you can appreciate how this makes riding a bike problematic.

When we passed a couple on the side of the road, Eduardo enquired where the nearest place he could get it repaired was. The conversation was like talking to Dolly Parton: “Go find Jolene” “Jolene?” “Jolene..” “Joleeene”.

In Maras we found the shop belonging to “Yoelin” to be closed. A few enquiries later, we tracked her down and Eduardo began to fix the chain.

The whole episode felt very quaint. If you replaced bike chain with horseshoe, and Jolene/ Yoelin with village blacksmith, it could’ve been a Dickens novel.

With the bikes back in order we left the roads of Maras, and hit up the dirt tracks to Moray. This began with the very slight ascent from earlier, and my lungs entering phone-a-friend mode.

The weather meant we couldn’t venture too much off-road (the ride was already postponed a day), but this wasn’t an issue at all, as we stopped and chatted with a number of the locals along the way. Once I had caught my breath of course.

One such group was some farmers planting “aba”, one of the many types of corn in Peru. They were ploughing away in the same way as their Incan ancestors – i.e. no machinery. Another was some kids leading a donkey along the road, ladened with supplies from the town (Eduardo guessed near our bus stop).

Two and a half hours after taking the bikes off the bus route, we reached the Moray site and stopped for lunch. Here we chatted some more about languages (he’d forgotten the English for “mud”), our backgrounds and how we both had a black dog.

At that moment, a little friend joined us, clearly interested in the conversation (and perhaps our sandwiches)

On the route back we had a timely pit stop by our farmers again and rekindled earlier conversations. I tried my Quechua phrase from the other day (see 9.3.1) on Eduardo and he more or less understood. He tried to teach me some more expressions, however I almost instantly forget them. He said linguistically, Quechua is most similar to Japanese, which I guess helps explain why.

The ground that took an hour to ascend was covered in a little under ten minutes as we whizzed through the fields on the way back to Maras, adding a thick layer of mud to our clothing. The mountains served as a picturesque backdrop, though with speed and debris, it was often necessary to squint.

With all the talk of corn earlier on, Eduardo asked if I fancied grabbing a chicha? From 9.3.1, I knew he was talking about the beer, and took him up on the offer. The market for chicha is a particularly interesting one, and I hadn’t fully appreciated its complexities (or rather simplicities) from before.

Beer and economics again; I was very pleased.

To make chicha is a simple enough process from what I could gather. Corn is dried out in the sun, ground up, combined with water and left to ferment before being filtered. Fermentation is only for a day, hence why it is only ~2% ABV (sugars not converted to alcohol).

Many households make chicha and have a stock of it which they sell to others in the town/ passing cyclists. If a house can vend, they have a bamboo stick by the front door, to act as a signal to those who are thirsty. This is a universal sign across Peru.

The lady who served us was mid-way through washing clothes when we came a-knockin’. She popped inside, came out with a couple of big glasses, left us to it and returned to her scrubbing.

Eduardo said that the recipe is exactly the same at all the chicha houses, apart from a special harvest in November when a sweeter, red corn is used.

To me, the market appears to almost be at a state of ‘perfect competiton’. This was indicative in the price: less than 15p a pint. I’ll repeat: less than 15p a pint. Crazy, right?

Once I’d picked up the tab we were on our way back to the main road to catch the bus back to Cusco. The winding route took us back through the same towns, but we could see them this time as the rain/ condensation had subsided.

As I have often found the case, these journeys welcome you to all sorts of interesting characters.

There was a man asleep on a bag of potatoes. At the back: a teenage girl blasting out Lady Gaga from her phone. At the front: a four year old boy singing along. And an old woman cradling kitten.

Back in Cusco, we rode the bikes back to their owner, and walked back to the centre via a particularly pungent meat market.

Near the central square I said my Goodbyes to Eduardo and headed back to the hostel, with my eyes peeled for the nearest laundrette.

#scenic

Catching my breath

Repairing bike at “Joleeene’s”

Eduardo enjoying a chicha

Samwell enjoying a chicha

Moras street, other Chicha houses

Farmers planting aba

Farmers planting aba: close-up

Farmers returning from fields

Bikes off the bus

Moray sign

Bus Stop

Visitor for Lunch

9.3.1 Horse riding

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 6.3.2.1.

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

Outtake

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

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