Blog » Guinea Pig tonight…yum!!

entrytitleGuinea Pig tonight…yum!!entrytitle

This was written in mid June 2004
Evening all and a big hello from Peru,
Peru is totally different to Brazil in every conceivable way. My first impressions were the mountains, the fact that virtually everything was brown, how small the people were and how damned cold it was!! Within my first 24 hours I had already bought a jumper and a hat! The skies are very clear blue skies here, and there are stunning views to the mountains. When the sun is out it is warm…however, in the evening the temperature drops to nearly freezing. Coming from the 30 degree heat in Brazil, and particularly having spent the weekend before on Ipanema beach in Rio it was a huge environmental and culture shock arriving here!
Cusco is all low rise buildings and cobbled streets, there is some colour but it is more muted than Brazil. Most of the houses look the same brown shade as the mountains, this is because the bricks are made out of mud, llama hair and cactus juice (no, I am not joking). The Peruvians really do look like the stereotype you imagine – they wear the ponchos and carry their babies on their backs in multicoloured swathes of cloth.

Michelle and I both survived the Inca Trail! There were moments along they way where we both thought we were about to either faint from the climbing and the altitude or freeze from the cold… still, after nursing our aching muscles and blistered feet I don’t think either of us would have had it any other way. Anyone who casually describes the trail to me as a walk will definitely incur my wrath; the thing is very definitely a hike! We walked 40km over 4 days, the largest continuous ascent being 1,200m. During the day the temperature was around 25-30 degrees and at night at its worst it was minus 2…and we were camping on the side of a mountain!
Not sure we would have got through it without the coca leaves. They are everywhere here – a natural tonic for the altitude. The locals seem to be totally addicted to them (hmmm, maybe that is because they are the leaves of the cocaine plant?!), and they have provided us both much relief from the affects of the altitude, which, as I have found, can be quite harsh. In the last two weeks, and especially during the trek, we have been drinking coca tea and also chewing the leaves then holding them in our mouths to get the benefit. They really give you such a shot of energy, a bit like Red Bull. I wanted to bring some home (obviously for medicinal purposes…) but you are not allowed to take them out of the country!!
Anyway, back to the serious stuff… needless to say, the views during the trek were just awesome. Peru is beautiful and seeing it whilst trekking make you feel all the more part of the environment. At night the stars were breathtaking, I saw so many new constellations and couldn’t get over the number of shooting stars – I was like a child, wondering at them in silence! The quiet, both whilst walking and also the dead of night, gave an amazing sense of peace. During the day we walked over high mountain passes and through jungle. We saw plenty of ruins and finished it off watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu…it was a beautiful and spiritual as I imagined it to be.
This week Michelle and I have been down to Puno. This is the town on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. The altitude of the lake is on a par to the highest mountains in Europe, and we were on a boat at that height! The lake is huge, 8500 square kms, split between Peru and Bolivia, and home to thousands of Aymara, Inca and Spanish. We visited the floating islands, where communities live on islands that literally float, they undulate on the waves, are made of reeds and feel spongy to walk on.
We got back into Cusco last night and headed straight out into the town to find some food. It is unbelievably cheap here, last night I had three courses and a coca tea (of course) for 6 soles. There are 6.6 soles to the pound, so I had as much as I could eat for less that a pound!! Our mouths are already watering contemplating the feast we can have tonight, although Michelle almost put me off by saying that she wanted to try the local delicacy: Guinea Pig. She is determined to have it tonight, and give me a couple of glasses of Picso Sour (the local drink based on a regional brandy) and I am sure she will convince me to try some! I don’t feel quite so guilty as I never had a guinea pig as a child (that’s my excuse)!
Every meal seems to be accompanied by an Andean pipe band, they play for you in the restaurants and then try and sell you their CDs afterwards. They range from awful Beatles pipe covers (they are absolutely mad for Beatles piped covers here….and I thought it was just Co-op on a Saturday morning) to some actually very good playing. The other type of music here seems to be the most random brass bands I have ever heard in my life – a few drums, various trombones and tubas. The men stagger down the streets together playing. Although there is a melody there never quite seems to be a discernable tune….it is really amusing to listen to. You can imagine some conductor crying in the corner pulling his hair out! Having said that, it is the festival of Corpus Christi here today, there are thousands of people on the streets and some of the bands are actually quite good – I have heard them playing quite a mix, from Aida’s Grand March to the theme from Star Wars!
We are flying to Lima tomorrow (can someone please correlate the story I have heard that they have not had rain in Lima since 1978?!), and have one night there. Then Saturday I start a pretty nasty journey to New Zealand. Due to the time difference I leave Lima Saturday morning and arrive in Christchurch Monday afternoon…and you think weekends go quickly in England!
Hope everyone is well, I expect I’ll catch up with you somewhere in Australia.


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