A Travellerspoint blog

Ollanta

17 April 2010

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We got up and had breakfast then caught a bus for 1 sole for the two of us to a town called Urumbamba. From there we caught a taxi for 5 soles to Ollantaytambo.

In Ollantaytambo we had lunch at a little hole in the wall – Seth had alpaca with a cheese and Andean herb sauce and Monica had an empanada.
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We walked around the Ollantaytambo ruins, which is a cool fortress that was used as one of the Inca’s last stands against the Spaniards.
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We had over an hour before our train was supposed to leave so we thought we’d get a cup of coffee. We’d heard of a place down by the train station that was supposed to be good so we headed down there. When we walked down to the train station we asked a local tour guide where the Peru Rail pick up was. She emphatically stated that we had missed the final bus and that we needed to quickly go talk to the ticket agents. We were at the wrong station! After some running around we found a taxi and took a speedy, bumpy ride to Piscacucho. We jumped on the train about 5 minutes before it pulled out of the station.

The train ride up was pretty slow. We were thankful we weren’t on the river side of the train as it probably would have made us more nervous as the bank seemed to practically disappear under us at times.
The scenery was beautiful as it changed to much more jungle atmosphere.

Our hotel had a person waiting for us at the station so we walked with him up to the lodging.

We went out for dinner at one of the many tourist trap joints and had a fair pizza and free lemonade. Everything was at list a third more expensive than in other parts of Peru.

We asked a local shop lady about where to get a good desert and she recommended Indio Feliz. We’re not sure what a Happy Indian has to do with a pirate ship theme but the dessert and coffee were some of the best we’ve had in Peru though a bit pricey.

We were pretty tired so and ready for a good nights rest so we headed back to our hotel. Muyurina is located close to the river so we thought the gentle roar would put us to sleep quickly. We got a little concerned when we could hear the owners baby crying for quite some time and her kids were also watching TV in the lobby which our room looked out on. After spending about 15 minutes trying to get hot water, Monica called the front desk who apologized and said she’d call back in 5 minutes. After a half hour Monica went down and informed her that there was still no hot water. – it was now 9:30pm. She again apologized and said that the pilot light had gone out and it would be another 25 minutes. We decided that we were not going to spend another minute there when we could have gotten the same service at a dormitory and spent $15 as opposed to $55.

We grabbed our backpacks (as we’d only brought one change of clothes) and walked about 30 seconds to a nice looking hotel that offered us a huge room for $15 less, had immediate hot shower and aside from a little outside noise was much better.
079.jpgStairs set in terraces

Stairs set in terraces

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Posted by sethnmon 02:37 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

R n R

15 and 16 April 2010

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15th
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Green House

We took a taxi to a small village called Huaran where we are staying at The Green House in the Sacred Valley run by Bryan and Gabriel. This place is at the foot of a gorgeous section of the Andes Mountains. It boasts spacious rooms, peaceful seating area/restaurant and beautiful grounds. All next to a burbling creek.
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After being impressed with the beautiful room we were invited into the candle lit, glass encased dining area that made us feel like we were sitting in a fine dining restaurant. We were doubly impressed with the four star dinner.
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16th

A day of rest.

We pretty much laid around, stopping occasionally to eat.
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We had lunch at a little local restaurant down the road and a few houses to the right from the Green house, it was so yummy. Can't really explain what made it so good but the chicken was very flavorful and we have really fallen in love with the rice here in Peru. We don't know what they do to it but it is plump and soft and sticky but not... it's just really good and you've got to have it if you ever come here.
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This stream was overflowing during the floods and almost took out the house.

This stream was overflowing during the floods and almost took out the house.

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Posted by sethnmon 17:05 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cusco Cavorting

14 and 15 April 2010

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Okay, so maybe we weren't exactly cavorting but it was the only good "C" word we could come up with.

How about Cusco Cight Ceeing ?

Well actually now that we look up the definition we think Seth at least was definitely doing some cavorting (but that's not unusual):

ca·vort
   /kəˈvɔrt/ [kuh-vawrt] –verb (used without object)
1. to prance or caper about.
2. to behave in a high-spirited, festive manner; make merry.

We took a look around Cusco – we went to the Inca museum and Qorikancha a former Inca temple built over by the Spanish.
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We felt the Inca Museum was just as our tour book said – not very impressive and a bit outdated as far as the labels and atmosphere. We did not go but heard that the new MAP or Pre Columbian Art Museum is a better option.
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We said goodbye to Toby and Trisha who were heading off for the Inca Trail in the morning.

We had a late dinner at Granja Heidi a German/Peruvian restaurant that we really enjoyed. The food and desserts were good.

15th

The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco

Before leaving Cusco we went to a textile shop that works with the local communities to keep the arts and skills alive. The textiles are more expensive than what you will find in the markets but you are guaranteed that they are handmade with quality fabrics and that 70% of the proceeds go to the artist. Locals work on location doing the weaving and you can visit their small museum attached to the store.

Pacha Papa

We also ate lunch at the famous Pacha Papa restaurant. We had chicharronnes which are a local speciality of fried pork ribs some more alpaca and a variety of potatoes and veggies. Dessert was some of the best we’ve had (it's been hard finding really good desserts).
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Alfajores

Alfajores are a local favorite cookie that you can find all over Peru. Depending on the region they seem to be slightly different. Generally they are two white cookies stuck together like an oreo with caramel dulce de leche between them. They can be very bland or very sweet. We’ve seen them up to quadruple deckers with thin wafer-like cookies or thick crumbly sugar cookies. They are good with a cappuccino.
Plaza de Armas at Night

Plaza de Armas at Night

Posted by sethnmon 15:49 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Breakfast and Big Boulders

13 April 2010

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Cicciolina
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We found a great place for a healthy breakfast (well at least really yummy). After some time in Peru, you might get tired of the same thing for breakfast all the time. It’s good but the same everywhere: fruit, fruit juice, bread with jam, and possibly scrambled eggs. If you are food snobs like us you might want to have something a little more exciting once in a while. We found Cicciolina a second floor mediteranian eatery had whole wheat French toast, yummy waffles, as well as egg dishes that were quite outside the norm, and some great spiral cinnamon croissant rolls. We also had tapas here one night which were good but not the best we’ve ever had.
French Toast with Saco

French Toast with Saco

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Ruins

The rest of the day we went on a walking tour with our friends. The self guided tour spanned at least 12 kilometers and hit Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Q’enqo, and Saqsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy woman”). We spent the time exchanging great conversation, viewing the ruins and reading tour book explanations of the history and cultures that left them.
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Tambomachay

Tambomachay

0052.jpg4056.jpg058.jpgView from Pukapukara

View from Pukapukara

Trying out the bathroom at Pukapukara

Trying out the bathroom at Pukapukara

This lady was rubbing her pigs belly and scratching his back... I guess it makes for good bacon...

This lady was rubbing her pigs belly and scratching his back... I guess it makes for good bacon...

View of Cuzco

View of Cuzco

077.jpgWhite Christ donated by thankful Palestinian immigrants

White Christ donated by thankful Palestinian immigrants

3083.jpgView of White Christ and Cusco from Sacsayhuaman

View of White Christ and Cusco from Sacsayhuaman

091.jpg5102.jpg2111.jpgField at Sacsayhuaman where the armies were paraded before the Incan king

Field at Sacsayhuaman where the armies were paraded before the Incan king

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Posted by sethnmon 06:43 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

City Trecking

12 April 2010

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We moved to our new hotel, did some perusing through the shops and then set out looking for a ceramics shop called KonoK.
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6003.jpg12 sided rock

12 sided rock


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KonoK

Our initial introduction to this beautiful pottery was in Pizzeria Marengo in Arequipa (pretty good pizza too). All of their dish ware was made by this potter shop. After finding his website we got his address and headed south on foot.

We started having doubts about the location as it was nowhere near any tourist areas and we were certainly the only gringos around.
Address numbers are not chronological on a block they seem to circle around each block, so it took us some time to find it. When we arrived we began to think that there was no store at this address but we did see a teeny tiny Konok signature on the wall next to the large green gate. The same signature that is on the bottom of the pottery. We rang the bell and a young lady told us to come back in an hour. Which we did after lunch.
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Lunch

For lunch we stopped at an Indian restaurant – we’ve missed good Indian food being away from Saudi.
9029.jpg For anyone looking for good vegetarian food this would be the best choice in town – we had eaten dinner the night before with a friend we met on the bus who was vegetarian and the offerings for vegetarians generally seem very bland, blah. Maikhana is run by an Indian couple who take great pride in making chef quality food and we enjoyed the change of flavors. They have hopes of starting a 5 star hotel in the next year or so. If the hotel is as good as the food it will be a success. 1028.jpg
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Back to Konok

We rang again at the green gate to find a pottery studio inside the gate complete with a small gallery. We think that Konok is some of the best we’ve seen and the prices he gave us were more than reasonable. It’s a fairly new studio that was hit hard by the lack of tourism over the last few months due to the flooding but we felt his pottery was well worth seeking out and he had plans to get back up and running producing again next week.
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La Compania de Jesus

La Compania de Jesus

Plaza De Armas Fountain

Plaza De Armas Fountain

Cathedral of Cuzco

Cathedral of Cuzco


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Rendezvous with Toby and Trisha

We were super excited to see our close friends who are also on holiday in Peru. We met up with them for dinner and had a great time catching up.

Posted by sethnmon 05:44 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Bus Tour

11 April 2010

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Inka Express

This was an excellent bus tour from Puno to Cusco. After having ridden on several long bus rides this was wonderful to be able to get off at least every 2 hours to stretch your legs and see the sights, the day and went by quickly – it did not feel like the 9 hours it actually took.
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Our tour guide Hugo (his recommendation for name memory was Hugo Boss) was very knowledgeable and humorous. The sights that we stopped at provided insight into Pre Columbian as well as Inca and Spanish culture.

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Hugo

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Peruvian Transportation Techniques

Technique number
1. Bus slalom: pot hole avoidance – due to the extreme amounts of potholes in Peru we often find ourselves swerving back and forth, to and fro to dodge miniature canyons in the street.
2. Chicken game: because we are avoiding pot holes or passing other vehicles we often find that our bus is on the left side of the road for a much longer stay than what we would consider necessary or normal. Often times we find ourselves heading straight at an oncoming vehicle until at the last second either our bus swerves back into the correct lane or the oncoming vehicle swerves into the dirt “breakdown lane” revealing who the true chicken is. If we saw a bus like this coming… we’d be the chicken too.
3. Bathroom fun: for the men out there trying to hit your mark in the bus bathroom while considering techniques 1 and 2 can be quite an exciting challenge. Add into this that the bathroom light is out (you have to grope the bathroom walls to find the window latch to open it a crack for some light) and the bathroom is about a 2 by 2 foot square. Seth likened this to trying to urinate on a surf board in a wind tunnel.

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Sun Gate

Flood victims

Flood victims

Hotel Lessons Learned:

Not having a hotel to arrive to we hunted for a while for a hotel to stay in.

Lesson 1. For the most part do not take the recommendations of your taxi driver for hotels as he is in alliance with his uncle, sister, cousin or whomever else it may be that runs a decrepit old place. That he can give you a “deal” on for only $25 a night – when the “real” price is $60 – we might have been willing to pay $10 a night for what our taxi driver showed us.
Lesson 2. At least have one night so that when you arrive in town you can go straight to your hotel.
Lesson 3. Only have one night reserved (unless it’s extreme high season of course) then you have the option of finding somewhere nicer and very possibly cheaper for the duration of your stay. – We have found that we can find a nicer and cheaper option within at most an hour of looking around town.
Lesson 4. If you plan on seeing sights in town it is usually wiser to find a spot closer to the main plaza.
Lesson 5. Even though the name of the hotel may sound luxurious such as the “Andean South Hotel” which brought up visions of the Hamptons, it may not be what you think. You may be in the basement of an old Spanish building complete with one foot of space around the bed!
Lesson 6. Don’t accept a room with windows looking out onto a main road, instead try to get your windows overlooking an interior courtyard.
Lesson 7. Be wary of the courtyard if the courtyard doubles as the internet café, breakfast lounge, main seating area and could quite possible have a motion detecting light that comes on and off all night as people come in and out. (We’re not speaking from experience or anything).
Lesson 8. Be sure to see which room they are putting you in before agreeing to it. (We have found that we like bathroom doors that open all the way, we like some space to be able to open up our bags, and we prefer walls that are not paper thin.)

The Mystery of the Shower Puddle

This really isn’t such a mystery, it just seems that everywhere we’ve been has inadequate drainage for their showers. You quickly find yourself standing in an inch or more of water. The knowledge or available materials seems to be lacking for basic plumbing.

Posted by sethnmon 15:28 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Titicaca

8, 9 and 10 April 2010

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8th

The Mystery of No Change

This is going to begin a theme in our blog called “The Mystery Of.” As we find ourselves in the place of detectives searching out the answers to strange questions.

In this case we have begun to see a pattern. Any time we purchase something – whether food at a restaurant, souvenirs in a shop or anything for that matter, merchants don’t have change! We have a few theories:
1. It may be a deceptive way to get tourists to pay more and leave the change.
2. Items are priced at such strange denominations that they never have enough small change to give back.
3. Maybe they are afraid of being robbed.
4. Or, they don’t do very much business so they just don’t have much cash flow.
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9th

Bus to Puno/Lake Titicaca

We headed out of Arequipa to Puno on a Cruz del Sur bus. We had been advised to get front seats on the top level of the double decker bus. This bus was like the BMW of luxury travel buses.

Being on the top being able to see the road and view straight ahead is a real treat. Also, if you have any fear of falling off the edge of the road or if you get motion sickness, we found having a 180 degree view really cut back on the feeling of swaying motion.

The bus ride was uneventful and comfortable.

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View of Puno


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After checking into our hotel we went and ate dinner at Mojsa which means delicious in the Armaya language, we had the Alpaca and trout. The restaurant lives up to its name. If you’re looking to try alpaca meat… this was the best we’ve had.
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10th

Lake Titicaca Boat Tour

We got up at 5:30am, ate breakfast and jumped on a shuttle bus that took us to port. Waiting for us were boats that looked like they belonged to the Skipper from Gilligans Island… unfortunately it was longer than a three hour tour.

We made sure to stay on the Titi side of the lake not the Caca side.

Our first destination was the fascinating floating Uros Islands. The islands as well as the homes and boats are built completely out of the reeds growing in the lake. The people on the islands live there year round.

We would show you pictures but amazingly we didn’t forget just one but both our cameras on one of the biggest events on our trip… touring the highest navigable lake in the world. !!!!!

We did meet a fellow American tourist - Tom, who graciously offered to send us copies of his photos so we may repost this sometime in the future when we get them. Thanks to him for the good company and for taking more photos of us than we would have done ourselves!

Second stop on our tour was the island Taquile.

After docking we took a trail about two thirds up the island to central plaza. Our hearts and lungs felt like we were sprinting but our bodies were moving at about a turtle’s pace. The locals offered us an indigenous mint plant to sniff (it really was only mint) that helped open up our lungs to breathe easier. The coca candy also helped give a little boost.

It just so happened to be the islands 45th anniversary so there was a lot of dancing, horn playing and drum beating to celebrate the occasion. Strangely, the costumes looked like they would be more appropriate for a dragon festival in China as dragons and similar Asian symbols adorned their fluorescent costumes. (?)

Lunch was a delicious quinoa soup accompanied by a large plate of a whole trout, rice, fried potatoes and veggies. During lunch our guide gave us a lecture about the local traditional garb and textiles.

Now it was time for the 528 stone steps back down to the boat. This could be a real killer on the knees and other joints so we took it pretty slow. We don’t really understand some people who seem to think it was a race but we recommend that if you do this you have patience for people around you and take it easy… your on vacation!

The trip back to Puno was 3 hours (total boat travel time was about 6 hours). Even though 6 hours in a boat seems long, you can go up to the top of the boat and sit in the sun and stretch your legs a bit, so it wasn’t that bad.

We decided to walk back to the plaza from port instead of taking the shuttle.

Dinner was at the Coca K’intu which is located on the pedestrian shopping Lima Street. Despite the tour books high ratings we think that Mojsa was a bit better. Although, still good.

Posted by sethnmon 14:35 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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