Category Archives: food

Inca Life: The Sacred Valley Peru

We had already gone over our ‘time budget’ for Peru, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the Sacred Valley, framed by it’s magnificent snow capped peaks.

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It would be impossible to take a bad photo of the Salineras de Maras, as we wandered through in the fading light of the day. Salt has been farmed here since pre Incan times, and it all starts with a salty water spring nearby. The water flows through narrow channels down into hundreds of handmade drying ponds. The colour of the salt varies once it has been collected. Apparently it takes more time and skill to get the pure white salt. Despite this, I thought that the salt stained pink by the red dirt from the valley was the prettiest.

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And if this place wasn’t already cool enough, they also let us camp in the carpark without batting an eyelid. “Si, es normal“. They just locked the bathroom, telling us it was fine to water the garden.

Sacred Valley 08Sacred Valley 09Mornings with THIS guy, and THAT hair.

Another visual delight in the Sacred Valley is the agricultural ruins of Moray. These massive circular depressions are thought to be the site of agricultural experimentation during Incan times. The different levels would have provided different growing conditions. Walking around, it definitely felt hotter down the bottom, which was also much more sheltered from the wind.

So pretty much, it was a big Incan veggie garden. Although it looked stunning covered in grass, we couldn’t help but wish that it was still packed with fruit and veggies.

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If it isn’t already blatantly obvious, we have loved the food in Peru. This lady, with her delicious road side treats, made our morning. Street food hasn’t been this good since Mexico, and unlike Mexico, we haven’t been sick once.

Sacred Valley 15Sacred Valley 16Rocoto Relleno and our favourite…aji salsa. Aji might be the best flavoured chilli pepper of all time.

On the recommendation of my mum and dad, i.e. “if you go there we’ll shout you something”, we visited one of the weaving cooperatives in Chinchero. It was so much nicer than going to the markets, which are amazing, but are a complete sensory overload. We were able to see the ancient process the ladies still use to naturally dye the wool, and chat to them about their amazing work. They have a judging system, where they grade each others finished products before sale.

Sacred Valley 17 Sacred Valley 18 Sacred Valley 19 Sacred Valley 20 Sacred Valley 21The lady on Mark’s right made this one. Judged to be first class work.

It was time to finally leave Peru. What an amazing time we have had here. They really have it all. Amazing desert landscapes, magnificent mountain ranges and mystical cloud forests. Old and new exist together here, creating a rich and interesting culture. Most importantly though, the food has been a revelation. From the fancy restaurants to roadside stands, Peru has delighted our tastebuds every step of the way.

Posted from La Paz, Bolivia.

Feeding Frenzy : Cusco Peru

Ever since we left the hiking trail we have been concerned with two things only.

One: get to Cusco.

Two: eat as much food as possible.

We have been taking this second one pretty seriously and wasted no time getting started. We both lost a lot of weight on our 10 day trek, my pants were falling down and I had to add another hole on my belt. As soon as we left the trail we started looking for a restaurant and found a lady in the village who agreed to cook dinner and breakfast for us for a few soles. The food was simple, but oh so good.

Cusco 01Cusco 02 Breakfast soup at Simeona’s house

To make things easy on us, the four-day drive to Cusco has been packed with great roadside treats, all fresh and natural. We have been stopping at almost every fruit, milk, yogurt, honey and cheese stand that we see and have not been disappointed.  We haven’t visited a supermarket for weeks.

Cusco 04Cusco 05Cusco 03Sunday beer’s at the gas station. We weren’t allowed to fill up until we had a few birthday beers with the owner. 

We also passed through Ica, Peru’s wine region. Although we were too late in the day to visit the two major wineries, we still jumped at the chance to test out a few home made wines and piscos. We ended up buying a bottle and camping in the wine store carpark. A little further on we came upon a town and noticed red flags outside a few houses. This means “The Chicha is ready! Come in for a taste. Stay a while and chat.” Chicha is the fermented corn beer that has been brewed in Peru since Inca times. Of course we stopped for a taste and a chat before merrily hitting the road again.

The really serious eating didn’t start until we got to Cusco, which has been a culinary playground. We found ourselves having lunch twice a day, and still wishing that we could fit more in. Not only were the restaurants and street food vendors amazing, but the San Pedro market is also incredible. We stocked up with plenty of fresh goodies for a home cooked meal.

There was more to Cusco than the food though. The whole place has a vibe and character unmatched by most other cities we have visited. Every day there seemed to be a festival or parade with brass bands and ornate costumed dancers to celebrate one thing or another. It is also steeped in history, both pre- and post-Colombian. The city is built on top of the old Incan city, the incredible Inca stone foundations are still visible all over the place. And while it’s a real shame that the old Incan city was destroyed to build anew, the Spanish sure put up some nice buildings.

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Somehow we found some time between meals to visit the Machu Picchu museum, to prepare our minds for that excursion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1911 Yale Expedition. Well dressed. 

There is a great campsite way up the hill outside of town where we stayed for a few nights. We used the bikes to get around town, bumping over cobblestones and dodging parades.  After dinner and drinks each night, the ride home was gruelling, and it didn’t really help much toward achieving my weight gain goals.

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The campsite was a great spot to relax and meet up with some other road trippers.  Joost and Liliana are heading the other way in their kombi, so we had lots of stories and information to share with each other. It was really great to hang out with some like minded travellers for a few days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADinner at Pachamama (Thanks Sal & Shauno)

We really had no idea how charming Cusco would be and were really impressed, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Posted from La Paz, Bolivia.

From Ponchos to Playa : Northern Ecuador

“ECUADOOOOR”… for some reason we started yelling this as we crossed the border and snaked our way through the mountains of Ecuador. I guess we are pretty excited to be here. My feelings haven’t changed since, and I still have the urge to yell this regularly.

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Our friend Dayna (from the San Blas trip) was going to be in Otavalo on Saturday for the market. This was the push we needed to get out of Colombia. It was great to see Dayna again, and to spend all of our pocket money on blankets and ponchos. We regret not buying more goodies in Mexico, and vowed not to make the same mistake again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Best food ever $2 a plate from the cutest lady. Might have been fried blood and potatoes, ignorance is blissss!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA How much is too much?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe brown bus just got browner.

Loaded up with ponchos and blankets, it made no sense to head to the heat of the coast, but that is what we did. We wanted to get back in the water, and I had read that Mompiche has some good waves for learning. Mompiche itself is a little fishing/surf town, with an end of the road vibe. To me it is the perfect beach town, quiet and dusty with a little bit of style thrown in the mix. Bamboo seems to be the wood of choice, and it has been used to fashion a handful of beautiful houses and hostels which line the sandy streets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoor to the beach

The heat was a novelty again. We shed our excess layers of clothes and set up camp for a few days in the car park of a hostal.

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The surf was best at the point at low-tide, but it was breaking somewhere all day. Mark was out there at all tides, but in the heat of the day I hid in the shade and snapped some photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Waiting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Paddling with pelicans

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALIttle mid-tide beach break

On the second day, the swell had dropped off so we walked around the point at mid-tide. I love seeing such dramatic changes in the water level, from high to low tide the waters edge must have retreated about 100m. After our surf that day we were both pretty tired, and happy to watch the sunset with a cold beer from the shore. 

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And so begins our zig zag through Ecuador. Time to head back to the mountains again.

Posted from: Playas, Ecuador.