Slideshow

Exploring Lands That Time Forgot


Hola everyone,

Welcome back to those of you who have traveled with us before! And welcome aboard to those of you who haven't. Our blog enables you to travel to wacky, wild, exotic and/or just plain fascinating parts of the world . Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to read along-- no shots, airline hassles, luggage fees, sea-sickness, Montezuma's revenge, or altitude sickness.  If you're not interested, you can "unsubscribe" in a flash.

And speaking of sea-sickness and altitude sickness, with a heavy dose of exotic flora and fauna and Ancient Incan history, this trip takes us to Ecuador (with a side trip to Quito) including The Galápagos Islands and then to Cusco, Peru and Machu Picchu--ending in Lima.  The blog will read noticeably differently this time as Wendy is your traveler; Wayne opted out of this trip. So, you'll get lots of attitude and photos and extensive food reports-- but the level of historic and nature-oriented detail won't be quite the same.

Here's the map. I arrive in Quito on Tuesday evening the 26th and return to the States on March 12th. In between, there will be periods of wireless blackout--so reports won't be as timely as with past trips.

map_eg2011
With that, I bid you ¡Hasta luego until next week. I'm looking forward to traveling with you!
Talk to you soon,
wendy


QUITO--QUAINT, QUIXOTIC, AND QUIRKY

Hola!

My travel mates for this portion of the journey are the Quintessential Maureen and the
Quick-witted Monica.  They would suggest I am Queen Wendy. 

We  arrived in Quito, Ecuador Tuesday night at their spanking-new airport. Apparently, the old airport was one of the 10 most dangerous for landing in the world (the city is situated in a valley between two volcanoes). Whew! First close call of the trip.

Quito is the second-highest capital city after La Paz in the world; and was the original UNESCO World Heritage city. We are staying in the cobble-stoned Old Town at the Casa Gangotena-- a repurposed 1929s mansion that is exquisite and situated on Plaza San Francisco-- the pigeons remind me of St Mark's in Venice without the canals. The Plaza and the entire area are quaint-- brightly painted buildings, beautiful churches, just lovely. Indeed, I stepped out the front door to this view:
Our first day of touring (fortified by coca tea to counter any possible altitude issues) had two parts-- we visited the Old Town and went north 20 km to the equator. That's where Quito gets quirky--keep reading.

Starting with Old Quito, our guide told us that 75% of Quintenos are observant Catholics--I can't imagine their excitement if the next Pope is Latino.  Our first stop of note was the amazingly magnificent Church of the Compagnia de Jesus (construction began in 1605 and was completed 160 years later!).  The Jesuits, by the way, assumed so much power in Ecuador that, at some point, the Spaniards threw them out. The church was built in the baroque style with Moorish touches. Most remarkable, though, is that the altar, door, and many other areas are gold. It is presumably one of the most magnificent churches in the Americas. Astounding, though some (I'm not naming any names) might say it's "over the top."

A quick aside about Ecuador, the Spaniards, and ancient ruins. The Spanish destroyed and built over any ancient ruins they stumbled upon which is why ancient ruins are not in the tourism circuit here.

We moved on to check out the rest of the Old Town, including -- but not limited to --Independence Square. Our next stop was the Equator. But, apparently, there is a wrong equator and a right equator.  In 1736, the French explorer Charles-Marie de Condanine discovered what was thought to be the equator here in the Americas, and a beautiful monument and museum mark the spot. 
Lo and behold, 270 years later, along came GPS and the right equator was identified as celebrated by the whimsically interactive Intinan Solar Museum.  The museum not only provides a clear demarcation where wacky Americans can pose ...


...it also profiles the history of some of the local Andean indigenous peoples (many still around today and, if you thought Ann Padgett's captivating book ,The State of Wonder, is pure fiction, think again). The indigenous peoples' exhibits include an up close and personal display of the shrunken head process (don't ask), along with showcased Amazon creatures--one of which is particularly lethal to men who swim au naturel (this is a PG blog, so I won't say more). The other exhibits included an equatorial clock, demos of centrifugal force (including an egg balancing exercise) and some cute guinea pigs in an original residential structure. I think this spot is a "must not miss" for anyone going to Quito--campy, quirky , kitschy, educational and fun. As an aside, you may wonder... Why all the fuss about the equator here and not elsewhere? Well, apparently, there is a modicum of fuss elsewhere but the first extensive documentation (albeit for the wrong equator) happened here!

Lunch (ok foodie fans) was next. We had a traditional Ecuadorian meal-- they eat heavy at lunch--presumably light later, but that has not been our pattern so far. The food was fine -- nothing to rhapsodize over. Here was our menu: guanabana blackberry juice, crunchy snacks of grilled corn kernels, plantain chips, and beans with a spicy cream salsa, potato soup, frittata quitena-- fried pork on hominy with fried plantains and a salad (this is popular here but it was not popular with us). We finished up with patines en alimar-- tree tomatoes in syrup. The setting was truly lovely and the food was an adventure. Let's leave it at that.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We ventured out to Zazu-- a hip place that came highly recommended.  Zazu was inconsistent, not amazing.  Language was a huge problem here – if you don't speak Spanish here and you're off the beaten path, you're sunk.  My Stone crab ceviche was fantastic as was Maureen's prawn bouillon soup and Monica's plantain crusted salmon – but the rest of the meal was not note-worthy.

Day two of touring took us two hours north of Quito to the marketplace in Otavalo  where the indigenous people sell all matter of crafts.  Along the way, we stopped first in Calderon, where they create masapa– bread dough-based figurines and ornaments (the same concept as the lacquered breadbaskets circa 1970). We continued to Imbabum province -- known for its scenery and indigenous peoples.  We stopped at a spectacular setting--Lago de San Paolo, surrounded by several active volcanoes.
Next stop, the market. Our guide had told us that the proper etiquette before snapping a photo of the Otavalo people (known by their dress and their long flowing black hair – regardless of gender) was to buy something. There were many such photo ops, so I am now the proud owner of several Octavalo tchotchkes and great people pictures-- grand total spent $10, reflecting extensive negotiating.  Yes, they use US money here; after their currency tanked, they underwent a dollarization. A word about the market itself-- it featured a wide range of silver jewelry, alpaca knit attire, blankets, tapestries, hats, paintings, and more. The culture was better than the cache. 

 
By this point, it was time for lunch. So, we headed to Le Mirage in Cotacatchi--one of Money Magazine's top destinations for American retirees. It's a small, secluded town where the weather is perfect, the costs are low, and you don't have to watch MSNBC all the time or worry about Cubs' results.  Actually, we ate at an award- winning small hotel where we had a lovely three-course lunch with some touches of Ecuadorian cuisine such as a delicate amuse-bouche quinoa roll served in a music box, plantain soup, and tropical fruit sorbet.

After a two and a half hour ride home and a little over an hour to gather our wits (and work on our appetites), it was time for another meal! We went to Theatro-- close by and absolutely wonderful--truly blog-worthy, our best meal so far. We're talking 5 courses here and that was not the tasting menu. We started with an amuse bouche of one bite each-- a cheese ball and a ball of fried risotto (sounds strange but it worked-- and doesn't everyone eat two amuses-boucher in one day-- ouch!). My next course was grilled Ecuadorian prawns lovingly nested in avocado foam with tomato garnish; Monica had the curried cream pumpkin soup with a crab cake. This course was followed by a palate cleanser of frozen strawberry Popsicle in celery juice. My main was roasted sea bass with fried peppers on a bed of crunchy quinoa. It was outstanding. Maureen had tenderloin with garlic potatoes and perfectly sauteed vegetables and Monica had chicken. Dessert, which I had to force on my dining partners, was baby Ecuadorian bananas in filo dough garnished with chocolate soup and three favors of sorbet -- vanilla, banana, and coconut. Did I mention this meal was great? It is now definite that I did not pack enough elastic waistband pants.



We leave Quito in the morning; here are some closing thoughts...

What was quaint:  The charming old city, the bustling market, the adorable children, the fact that sweets counteract altitude sickness along with the coca tea, the notion that sellers in the market can actually be nice and not aggressive, the guinea pigs (maybe I should call them qu-ute, not quaint)

What was quixotic:  The notion that the massive rebuilding underway to revitalize the city and the steep streets (most torn up) in the Old Town will actually be done anytime soon. The fact that the indigenous people actually build impressive looking homes yet live in quite modest abodes alongside them

What was quirky: Eight varieties of corn, 3000 of potatoes (in Bolivia ,Peru and Ecuador), 27 different nationalities in a country the size of Colorado. When you stand on the equator, you weigh 2.2 pounds less!  Two seasons – dry and rainy, yet four seasons in one day.  Guinea pigs are sacred for the indigenous people. They can sense people's energy levels – If the guinea pigs make cuy noises when you enter the room, that's a bad sign. Run for the Andes! Note: Cuy (pronounced coy) is how you spell guinea pig in Spanish and it is the actual squeaking sound they make.

Tomorrow we're off to Guayaquil-- then we'll be the galavanting Galapagos gals-- where we'll add Betsy, Irene, and Marita to the mix. Not sure about connectivity there so it will be a few days before you hear from me again.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this leg of the trip as much as we did.

Adios for now with hugs, wendy


GALAPAGOS-- GRAND, GORGEOUS AND GOOFY--PART I

There's just so much to report (and no wi-fi for instantaeously doing so) here in the Galapago Islands that I thought I'd segment this part of our journey.

The goddess Maureen, the good-natured Monica, and got-it-together Wendy arrived on Saturday and were joined by gutsy Marita, gracious Irene, and the good-sport Betsy on Sunday afternoon after an ("you had to be there to believe it") adventure involving about 36 hours of sleepless flight re-arranging and including -- but not limited to -- a one hour speed boat ride through the Galapagos National Park to meet up with our yacht, the Eclipse, 24 hours into our voyage. Needless to say, they were a sight for sore eyes!
The cruise has been outstanding.  The food is superb -- more details on Ecuadorian cuisine in a future post -- but here are some tasty treats from the ship's buffet.
(seviche)

(al fresco lunch)

The cabins are decent and well-equipped. The yacht itself is nice (accommodates approximately 75 with staff and guests). The staff is super accommodating and the four naturalists are incredible and bend over backwards to ensure we have the photos we want, the right gear, and all the right moves (whether it be in snorkeling, negotiating a disembarkment from the " panga" (the Zodiac dinghies we use to get from the yacht to the islands) or engaging in pleasant conversation.
 
SUNDAY
We arrived at the Baltra airport ( a remote military base) mid-day Sunday and were greeted by several of the Eclipse naturalists. After a short bus ride to a small dock, we suited up in life-vests (always) and sped away in our motorized raft (panga). We were welcomed on the yacht by the cruise director and staff, got settled in our cabins, had a brief orientation and safety drill, then a huge lunch. After lunch... our first excursion to the mangroves and Black Turtle Cove. Twelve of us filled up a panga with our Galapagos resident naturalist Sandie and our driver and away we went-- floppy hats, insect repellant, sunscreen and all. This is all about the amazing sights, so I am including lots of pictures with very little text.

The mangroves were fascinating (though we got stuck once or twice )....
... and finally we made it to the Cove. Very peaceful; before we knew it, a grand and magical sea creature display materialized before our eyes-- green sea turtles mating, pelicans, frigates, flying fish, a school of stingrays, and Galapagos sharks. The turtles, in particular were fascinating and tenacious.

We returned to the yacht about 7, heard an overview of the next day's activities, ate dinner, and called it a night.
 
MONDAY
After an early breakfast, we prepared for our first wet landing at Rabida--a small island with red volcanic rocks encircling a red, sandy beach with plenty of opportunities for sea lion, pelicans, land iguana, Galapagos hawk, and flora sighting.  The hike was hot (we're at the equator) but really interesting-- our guide Wilson assured us it would be so.




After the hike, it was snorkeling time. There were beautiful fish and even sea lions swimming by.

Back for a lovely Italian lunch on deck, a siesta, then off for excursion two of the day to Puerto Egas on Santiago where we hiked to tidal pools featuring dozens of fur sea lions. This is not like a zoo-- the sea lions were right there for easy picture taking. As long as you back off when / if the males get aggressive, you can get incredible photos;  not just the sea lions, but iguanas too. We will have seen thousands by the time the trip is over!





After two hours of hiking....

...back to the boat for a preview of Monday, dinner, and bed.   The sea air, hiking, animals, and sun, combined, were wearing us out. Plus no "Words With Friends" temptations as there's no wireless. (Too pre-occupied to miss it.).

I'll blog separately about Monday,  Tuesday, and Wednesday. In the meantime, in regards to Galapagos...

What's grand:  cruising in the middle of the Pacific toward absolutely primeval islands. Who could imagine the wonders that are here.

What's gorgeous: each island, in its own way, is more gorgeous than the next.

What's goofy:  seeing our 3 friends speed up to our yacht (literally In the middle of  nowhere) was implausible and somewhat goofy .  So were the turtles rolling around in the cove.


Hasta la vista with hugs,

wendy

Galapagos: Grand, Gorgeous, and Goofy - Part II


Hola everyone,

As you read this, I'm comfortably settled in Guayaquil after almost 5 days without a connection. The time flew by. The galavanting Galapagos Gals continued to live it up on Monday and Tuesday of this week. We visited the Darwin Center early Wednesday morning to see the giant tortoises.

The islands and their inhabitants continue to baffle and amaze us. And there's been plenty of additional goofiness to boot.

MONDAY
We had a choice of early morning activities on Monday-- kayaking or strenuous hike. The hike was in Tagus Cove off Isabela Island--kicked off by a dry landing requiring a medium level of rock climbing skills. The hike was beautiful-- culminating in a vista overlooking the ocean.

On the walk back, we passed Darwin Lake, a salt lake that is significantly saltier than the Dead Sea, and we also saw a land iguana -- relatively rare for this area.  We returned to the Eclipse for breakfast and then left again at 10:00 for deep water snorkeling. Everyone had been assigned a wetsuit but, even so, the water was relatively comfortable. Javier, our guide, made sure everyone was all set and then he proceeded to lead us closer to the cove where we saw (either on the rocks or underwater: the incomparable blue-footed boobies (they're dive bombers with great precision),

sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, beautiful fish and more). Then, we returned to the Eclipse for a traditional Ecuadorian lunch, followed by live dolphin entertainment. There must have been at least two dozen of them swimming alongside the boat. WOW!!

After siesta time, we ventured out on the pangas again -- this time for a dry landing at Fernandina Island, home to several huge colonies of marine iguanas and sea lions by the hundreds. According to our guidebook, the island is "one of the most pristine and dynamic ecosystems in the world. La Cumbre Volcano last erupted in April 2009". We made our way across multiple lava fields to some unbelievable sights.

First off, marine iguanas in huge colonies. Indeed, not 20 steps from our landing. We were greeted by what seemed like thousands of marine iguanas piled on top of one another. We had to tiptoe around them because as one of our guides had said: "You step on or kill one of these creatures, you eat it!?!"  Think it tastes like chicken!?!
 
We wandered across the lava fields ( catching sight of several other large iguana colonies) and then got to several sea lion colonies. For the most part, they were friendly and indulged us with photo ops but at one point one in our group stepped too close to a male sea lion who indicated his displeasure with a loud bark / roar. We won't do that again.
 
We hiked  back to the panga, sped back to the yacht, got ready for dinner and called it a day.

 
TUESDAY
On Tuesday morning, we headed to Western Isabela at the foot of Alcedo volcano. This was a strenuous hike with some rock climbing and scrambling  and several land iguana and land turtle sightings.

After a serious rock scramble, we had the opportunity for a swim; it was wonderful. We returned to the yacht for departure information and a fresh tuna ceviche demonstration and tasting. Excellent.  A short siesta (as we had a 14 hour journey to get to Santa Cruz Island and the Charles Darwin Research Station), then out on the panga again -- this time in search of the small Galápagos penguins and blue-footed boobies. The ride did not disappoint!

We also saw some masked boobies, sea turtles and the ubiquitous sea lion.

Back to the yacht in time for another dolphin show, then we were beckoned to the Bridge for the ceremonial crossing of the Equator. It was a legitimate crossing (per the captains' multiple controls--including a countdown on the GPS to latitude of 0), but the crew added a large dose of shtick, including a "to the minute" display of an Ecuadorian banner to simulate crossing the line (no line in the ocean anywhere in sight!). 
 
To celebrate the actual crossing, the captain invited us to a reception afterwards with tasty sushi rolls, teriyaki chicken, and champagne. Why I bothered to eat dinner afterwards is a question for the ages.  
 

WEDNESDAY
Those departing the yacht had an early wake-up call, followed by a combination of various sea and road vehicles to get us to the Charles Darwin Research Center to view the giant tortoises and learn about the incubation experiments underway there. Lonesome George, the last of his species, died last June, but there were MANY other giant tortoises. It was worth the trip. 

In closing the Galapagos portion of our trip ...

GRAND: scenery, landscapes, the regal giant tortoises, the outcroppings of rocks where the blue-footed boobies hung out

GORGEOUS: the golden land iguanas-- they were really beautiful, the flight patterns of the blue footed boobies, the stately male sea lions, the volcanic landscapes, the flying dolphins right off the deck, the snorkeling sights

GOOFY: the whole " crossing the equator" shtick, the thousands of iguanas when we entered Fernandina Island, our guides' sense of humor-- they were so knowledgeable but some times they resorted to slapstick

 
Back to Guayaquil-- then Lima to Cusco tomorrow-- Machu Piccchu bright and early Friday morning-- so stay tuned.

Hasta la vista with hugs ,

wendy

EATING IN ECUADOR

Hola,
In the spirit of wrapping up our 10 days in Ecuador, I thought I'd pull together a brief recap of the food scene here.

On our pick-up from the Quito airport, our guide informed us that the fruit and fruit juices are plentiful and delicious and that we should partake whenever possible. She was right; the fruit is out if this world (though we never did take a liking to the tree tomatoes). Oftentimes they even combine the juices (mixto) for a delicious beverage.
Bananas are an important export.

I wrote earlier about the different types of corn and potatoes. Both are an important part of every meal.  I am not a corn fan but the little cornmeal rolls are a ubiquitous part of every breakfast buffet.
Corn meal also makes an appearance fairly regularly with the corn empanadas. Quite tasty.
Another important export (and popular food) is seafood-- whether that be shellfish or fish. Our send-off dinner for Marita and Irene (they are not joining us in Machu Picchu) was at La Nuestro where we had a wonderfully authentic Ecuadorian seafood dinner. Three of us had the Ecuadorian prawns (gigantic and very sweet) and the other three had the sea bass. 

Speaking of fish, another popular Ecuadorian dish is ceviche-- basically made with anything that swims! We had some on the yacht (complete with preparation presentation - see prior post), and at La Nuestro (that dish was a mixed ceviche platter with shrimp, octopus, bass, and black clams). Succulent and superb. For those readers not familiar with ceviche--it is prepared with VERY fresh raw fish which is cured with lime juice.
Soups are another important component of an Ecuadorian meal and we've had all flavors-- plantain, shrimp, tomato, onion, and potato. ..
...and some other tasty lunch foods!
Last, but not least, the Ecuadorians like their sweets (you may recall that our Quito guide told us they counteract altitude sickness). We had wonderful ice cream on the yacht and the pastries are everywhere. Here is a photo from a breakfast buffet.
So, lots of good eating here and we are looking forward to more in Peru. We have also been hoping that the Galapagos hiking has counteracted all of the eating! We shall see.  At least we know that a trip back to the Equator will cause us to lose 2.2 pounds!

Adios 'til Peru

Hugs,
wendy

PERU--POWERFUL, PUZZLING, POIGNANT


The four of us -- Monica, Wendy, Betsy, and Maureen -- arrived in Cusco, Peru, on Wednesday and traveled to Machu Picchu on Thursday.  We toured in Cusco on Wednesday, Machu Picchu on Friday and Saturday, the Sacred Valley on Sunday, and we will do Lima (and our flight home) on Monday.  My wrap up, including Lima and Eating in Peru, will be sent to you once I'm stateside.

A bit of context first. When we visited Quito, our guide told us that the Incas were in power for a relatively short period of time-- certainly fewer than 100 years. Indeed, there are no Incan ruins to speak of in Ecuador because when the Spaniards arrived, they decimated any indication of Incan civilization by building right over it. This stands in stark contrast to the Incan presence in Peru, where the Incas were in power for several centuries. Indeed, part of the magic of Machu Picchu is that it appears it was never discovered (and, certainly never destroyed) by the Spaniards.  To this day, the Incan influence is strongly felt everywhere.


Cusco

We arrived in Cusco and proceeded to the Monasterio Hotel, a very special property actually converted from a monastery and situated in a lovely square. We were greeted with coca tea (altitude here is higher than Quito) and then off we went on a walking tour with our guide. First stop was the baroque Catedral. This cathedral is every bit as glorious as the cathedral in Quito, but quite different, primarily due to to the Incan influence.  Specifically, in the artwork, oftentimes figures' attire had Incan components (such as feathers). One of the altars had unguilded wood; another was pure silver and yet another was gold. In terms of theology, our guide shared how Catholicism had adapted here to accommodate Incan beliefs. For instance, the spirit of the Virgin Mary became one with the spirit of a tree. (Spoiler alert, this reminded me of the adaptations the Mormon missionaries made to the Book of Mormon  [in the musical of the same name] to be in a better position to proselytize their new Ugandan neighbors-- though I interpreted that as a farce in the play.  Guess truth really is stranger than fiction.)  Another definite highlight in the Catedral was a painting of The Last Supper--looked very realistic except Jesus was feasting on roast guinea pig!  After visiting the rest of the Plaza de Armas, we strolled over to San Blas -- the artsy, bohemian part of town-- I particularly liked the store completely dedicated to coca leaves.  Next stop, dinner (to be described in my next blog -- another spoiler alert-- this meal involved the eating of guinea pig confit), then back to the hotel for a short night.



Machu Picchu

We left the Monasterio at 5:50 A.M. Thursday morning and after a spectacular 1-1/2 hour van ride through the misty Andes and the Sacred Valley, we arrived in Poroy where we boarded an Orient Express train for a scenic, full service ride to Machu Picchu station. After arriving there, we met our guide and porters from the hotel and we boarded a bus for the final 30 minutes of our journey.  We checked into the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge--the only hotel in the national park and well worth the extravagance. The food in the dining room was excellent but more on that later.

Magical. Mysterious. Mystical. Majestic. Magnificent. Mountainous. Munificent. Marvelous. We have been to Machu Picchu and it conveys every one of those attributes and more.  You've  probably seen plenty of pictures of this 16th century Incan mountain hide-away. But when it actually appears before you, it defies description. I've had the feeling before-- when I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time ... and Lake Louise...  and when the Taj Mahal rose before me, it took my breath away. But Machu Picchu was different.  More powerful and puzzling.  Built by hand out of natural stone in an extraordinarily awesome setting and only rediscovered by Hiram Bingham, a Yale University misunderstood professor (and, some say, the model for Indiana Jones), in 1911... it evoked a sense of wonder I hadn't expected. Why did the Incas choose to build here? And did they leave or stay? And where did they get the inspiration to integrate the spectacular  backdrop into the community?  While archaeologists have unearthed some answers, many remain and that is part of  the magic here. So, we hiked for about 3 hours the first day and more than 4 hours the second day, with the kind, gentle, and expert Abraham guiding the way. He pointed out the different sectors of the community (religious, agricultural, residential, industrial), the landmark mountains (Machu Picchu / "old mountain" and Huanyu Picchu / "new mountain"), the astronomical observatory, the llamas and a chinchilla, and various gorgeous orchids and other flora along the way. On Saturday morning, we took the 3 hour hike to the Sun Gate, the primary entrance from the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The hike was amazing with eye-popping panoramas every time we increased altitude (every two minutes). Needless to say, the photo ops were countless (good thing I have an extra memory card).  Here's an infinitesimal sample ...




Sacred Valley

We spent Sunday touring the outskirts of Cusco including parts of the Sacred Valley, an area the Incas considered paradise for its fertile earth. The Sacred Valley is cut by the muddy Rio Urubamba which runs to Machu Pichu and includes the archaeological rich towns of Pisac and Ollaytaytambo. Many tours spend several days here (and I wish we had); we only had time for an overview. We started the day with a stop at a lookout point...
...with great views of the entire city. In the background was the fascinating White Christ (6 meters high and strongly lit up at night), a statue given to Cusco by Palestinians living here during WWII.

Not as large as the one at Cocovado in Rio, but impressive nonetheless.
After several more beautiful lookout stops...
...we visited Awanacancha Center where we not only met several adorable llamas and alpacas, but were also treated to a weaving and dying demonstration. Next up, my favorite stop of the day -- the town of Pisac and its terrific Sunday market.  The fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs were beautiful and so were the people selling them.


This last picture reminded me of the colorful dyes we saw in the local market in India.

One of the treats (if you can call it that) during our market tour was a visit to a shop that fire-roasted guinea pigs (cuy). We had the "privilege" of seeing the pigs as they were prepared for  the roaster and then once they exited (all nice and crispy). We weren't interested in eating them. Afterwards, our guide, Boris, (who referred to our group as "Charlie and his Angels")....
...was generous enough to take us to a town where the women stand over a charcoal fire and barbecue guinea pigs on a stick each Sunday. Boris went a step further and actually got out of the car to take pictures.  One of the women informed him that the pigs were served with potatoes or spaghetti.
Ready for roasting....


Ready to eat...

An alternative way to cook them....

After the guinea pig adventure, we stopped for lunch at a beautiful hacienda, Hacienda Huayoccari, with a huge collection of antiques; some going back to pre-Incan days. The ride back to Cusco included a great drive by Sacsayhuam -- Incan terraces and structures (some say it was a fortress) from the 15th century (or even earlier). 



On Monday, we fly to Lima which I'll describe in my final blog (also with an eating review and wrap-up) after I return home.

Until then, with hugs,

wendy