Monday, May 14, 2012

Peru, revisited

I want to write a post about my awesome weekend, but first I want to get started on a little project I've been wanting to do for awhile.

Maybe it's because I tend to get wanderlust every spring, or maybe it's because I haven't been out of North America in a long time (I know, wah wah) but I've been thinking back fondly on Will's and my travels when we were in our early-mid 20's and the foods we had in different countries.  Then I got to thinking if I can't easily travel internationally right now, I can still at least travel around the world for dinner and make some of the dishes we enjoyed while abroad.  And since I didn't blog super-often back then and DEFINITELY not the way I blog now, I thought it might be fun to write a bit about each of my trips and share the meal I make from a different country we've been to each night, thereby re-living my trips which is the next best thing to ACTUALLY traveling.

First up, Peru!

Back at the end of 2005, our friend Brad (who you have probably seen on here before) declared that he wanted to quit his job and go live in Peru for awhile.  Will and I, if I recall correctly, said something like "Huh?  Ok.  Well if you really do end up doing that, we'll come visit you", then we went back to working and hanging out with friends and showering often...whatever it is we used to fill all our time with before we had kids.

Then 2006 started, and damned if Brad didn't quit his job and go live in Peru for awhile.  So being the good friends we are we made good on our promise and headed down to meet up with him in April.

We ignored all the warnings that you should spend some time in Lima (close to sea level), then gradually move towards Cusco so that you could acclimate to the altitude.  We were young and short on time, so we flew straight into Cusco (about 11,000 ft) and took off walking all day, periodically stopping to gasp like fish out of water.

Gringo creepers be creepin'

We also ignored the warnings that alcohol makes "soroche" (altitude sickness) worse and consumed many of  what is still my favorite mixed drink.  The Pisco sour.

Stinkin' candle consuming all our oxygen

We balanced them out with lots of cups of coca tea, which is steeped coca leaves.  Later on we resorted to chewing the leaves straight out of the bag.  Too bad this stuff is illegal in America.

On our second day we drove over the mountains into the Sacred Valley, which is if not THE most beautiful place I've ever been, at least in the top 3.

That's Will and Brad over there
I didn't realize there were so many of these statues in South America

 We went through Ollantaytambo and caught the train to Aguas Caillentes, which is the town where you stay while visiting Macchu Picchu.  That's where I finally got to eat "cuy", which is a guinea pig.  Strangely enough, at 30 soles (about $10) it was the most expensive but least filling meal I had in Peru.

After crossing Macchu Picchu off the bucket list we headed back to Cusco, where we caught a 9-ish hour bus to Puno, which is on the shore of lake Titicaca (and sits at a lofty 12,500 ft).

By the morning, soroche (and we suspect a bad mango) was/were starting to get the best of Will, but he powered through and came along on our all-day tour of the lake.  We saw Las Islas Flotantes (the floating islands) where everything including the islands themselves are made out of the ubiquitous reeds that grow in the lake.

After that, we headed to the little island of Taquile, which is where Will pretty much died.  It was also where, unfortunately, we were expected to hike about 1.5 miles around the island to the lunch location and back to the port.  That's not a lot, but with the shape Will was in (i.e. literally staggering and leaning against me for support) and the steepness factor it was quite a ways.  

When we got to our lunch location, I deposited Will on a stone bench and enjoyed a lovely soup lunch in the town square.  

Then Brad and I practically carried Will back down to the boat, stopping occasionally to try and revive him when he slumped over.  Since we didn't have smelling salts I resorted to waving alcohol wipes from my first aid kit under his nose to try to perk him up.

We boated him back to Puno...

My "My husband is deathly ill in a 3rd world country where I don't speak the language" smile

And after about 15 hours sleep, he was much better :-)

His extended sleep meant that I had to go out alone to a travel agency and figure out how to get us from Puno back to Lima to catch our flight home.  Brad was continuing on to Bolivia and we had considered going with him, but with Will feeling so bad we wanted to head straight back so we could be close to the airport.  I would consider myself about 5% fluent in Spanish right now, and I was probably around 1% then, so it was highly stressful as I argued about "mañana" vs. "the day after mañana" (why didn't they understand that?) and cursed every moment I had wasted learning French.  I managed to book us onto a grueling 24 hour long bus ride mañana though.

They videotape you getting on so that if you're kidnapped en route they have a record of what you look like
24 hours on a bus is a LOOOONG time but we got to see a lot of Peru.  You know, the middle part where there really isn't anything to look at.
When we finally arrived in Lima in one piece, we did something painfully American.  We hopped in a cab and told the driver to take us to Hotel Bolivar, the most expensive hotel I could find in Lima.  After weeks in hostels and sleeping overnight on a bus I was ready for some luxury on our last night.  The taxi driver kept trying to take us to his brother's hostel, telling us how cheap it was and we kept telling him to buzz off and take us where we wanted to go.  He even followed us into the hotel and hovered over us as we checked in, hoping we'd get sticker shock and decide to go with him to the cheaper place.  The cost of $120 a night was nothing compared to comparable hotels in America, and we even considered upgrading to the presidential penthouse suite for $160 but held ourselves back and he finally slumped away and left us alone.

Hotel for spoiled Americans
Awww yeah

We didn't wander far, but Lima was impressive.  All the buildings reminded me of Wedgewood china with their bright colors and white trim.


The meals that remind me most of Peru are cuy and alpaca, which we found out are delicious.  However since both guinea pigs and alpacas enjoy pet status in America they weren't really options for my Peru dinner tonight :-)  We also ordered "trucha" (trout) fairly often when we were near the lake, and it tasted like tilapia which is easy to find.  I had to remake the Taquile soup because Will was too sick to eat it at the time but would've loved it so I made a point to remember what was in it.  I also had a rather delicious salad several times in Peru that was basically chicken mixed with cole slaw (but somehow better than cole slaw) served in half an avocado.  So those are the dishes I chose to healthy up a bit and serve tonight to represent our trip to Peru.

Broiled tilapia with salt and pepper, 1/4 avocado topped with greek yogurt + seasonings and cole slaw mix

Onions, garlic, chicken broth, quinoa, zucchini, caraway seeds, chopped cilantro
Dessert was mango of course!

It was even bona fide.

Let's hope it doesn't make Will sick this time.  I'm not as strong as I used to be and I STILL don't have any smelling salts.

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