South America – Summer 2008 – Part Two

4 01 2009

June 14, 2008

We have been in Buenos Aires since late Wednesday night.  We just made our connection in Santiago (yes, we ran) and arrived in Buenos Aires around midnight.  We had arranged for a driver to pick us up and take us to our hotel and we managed to find him without too much trouble.  After the 30 minute or so drive from the airport we arrived at the Hotel Costa Rica in the Palermo neighborhood.  The hotel is growing on us, although the room is tiny (Chris’s first observation was that it was “like a jail cell”) and the shared bathroom doors (outside across the cold terrace) do not close all the way.  It is very cute…a little hip and trendy in its minimal style.  The neighborhood is great, and the owner (originally from Paris) and staff are extremely helpful and very friendly.  

This is the bar in the lobby.

hotel costa rica lobby

This is just outside the door of our first room (top floor).


We spent Thursday morning walking around.  We started out at the Plaza de Mayo.

plaza de mayo 1

signs in plaza de mayo

…walked around the Casa Rosada…

casa rosada

…the Basilica de San Francisco…


…and the Cabildo.


We took a cab over to la Boca (a neighborhood in the south eastern part of town and the home of the Boca Juniors) and had lunch at El Obrero.  This is my first meal in Buenos Aires so, of course, I have a steak and papas fritas.  Chris had pasta with tomato sauce.  We had a bottle of Malbec (the first of many this trip).  Photographs of Diego Meradona and Boca players cover almost every inch of the walls.  The old men that bring us our food and wine are great — in fact, I only described generally what Chris was thinking he’d like to eat and he assured me he’s bring something delicious. 

After lunch we walk around the Puerto Madero.  This is a very different looking part of town — it is new and modern — very urban — right along the Rio de la Plata.  This is a photo of the Puente de la Mujer (“Woman’s Bridge”) connecting the east and west docks of the Puerto Madero.

puerto madero

boat in puerto madero

boats in puerto madero 

For dinner Thursday night, we head to La Cabrera in the Palermo.  This place was wonderful.  Although the wait was long and cold (about 1.5 hours outside) they gave us champagne and soup while we waited, chatting, on a bench, watching people stroll by.  Once we were seated, the madness began.  We started with the chorizo criollo and chimichurri– two links of delicious grilled sausage served with a fabulous, tangy chimichurri.  Chris ordered the ojo de bife(also the first of many on this trip).  It was huge.  It had to be at least 36 ounces…it was two inches thick and as big as your face, cooked medium rare.  It was so extremely good…and served with about 25 little bowls of sides (which Chris barely touched he was so full, yet bent on eating as much of the steak as possible).  The steak was actually served on its own side table.  I ordered raviolis stuffed with ham and cheese in a tomato sauce.  And, of course, we shared a bottle of Malbec.  Neither of us could really remember ever being so full.  We strolled very slowly home through the cold.

This is the meat on its little table.

ojo de bife


And some of the sides with a glimpse at my raviolis…


This was just the beginning of our meat, pasta, and Malbec journey…

On Friday we tried to go to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, but there were no seats on Buquebus — the ferry that takes you across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay — any time this whole week.  So, we finally found Colonia Express, the “other” carrier (after walking all over the port area at least twice before realizing that was not where it was, then all over downtown looking for the “office”) and are going on Monday.  We had empanadas for lunch and then retired for a nap (yay!).  That night, we ate pizza with cheese and anchovies in the San Telmo neighborhood and saw a tango show at El Viejo Almacen.  I was very impressed with the dancing, even though it was touristy.  This night it was filled with mostly Portuguese travelers.  We shared a small table right off the stage with an old man from Costa Rica who was traveling by himself…and I felt so bad for him when he kept trying to take photos but his camera wouldn’t work…just kept making that film-rewinding sound.  

Here are my artsy shots of the dancers.

tango 1

tango 2

tango 3

tango 4


Today (Saturday) we walked all over the Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Gardens, the grounds surrounding the zoo, the Parque Tres de Febrero, and more.  The Jardin Botanico may be my favorite — it is filled with cats.  I am, of course, obliged to shoot a few of them.  This is what cats look like in Argentina.

cats 1

cats 2

cats 3

They are very friendly.

cats 4

Just a couple of shots from the gardens…

gardens 1

gardens 2

June 15, 2008

Yesterday we wandered through the Recoleta Cemetery.  It’s like a neighborhood of tombs for families made from marble, granite, stone…inside some you could see coffins sitting on shelves.  In others you could see stairways leading deep underground.  Many of them had fresh flowers and treasured items inside, along with chairs for family visits.  Really very beautiful…and a little on the creepy side.

outside the recoleta

recoleta 1

recoleta 2

recoleta 3

The cats in the cemetery are a little scruffier and dirtier than those in the garden…fitting for a cemetery cat, don’t you think?

recoleta cat 2

And then I HAD to photograph this one…it was really cold and windy but this guy found a nice patch of sun.

recoleta cat 1

After wandering about the Recoleta Cemetery for a while, we walked through the arts and crafts market nearby.  It was really cool, but Chris has learned yet again that I am just not a shopper, at least not when it comes to haggling.  Haggling is not my forte.

After perusing the stalls for a while, we then walked around the Teatro Colon which was closed due to renovations.  The building is beautiful, though, and we read that it is one of the world’s best opera houses.  After snacking on a few empanadas and a Cerveza Quilmes, we headed back to the hotel for…that’s right…a nap before dinner.

That evening we walked around the Palermo before dinner, then headed over to the Puerto Madero to try out a restaurant on the recommendation of a friend.  There was a massive demonstration taking place in the Plaza de Mayo related to new taxes imposed on farmers and ranchers – and the farmers imposed another strike, though this time they agreed to continue shipments of milk and perishable foods.  A national day of protest is also in the works.  Things seemed a bit chaotic as we tried to make our way in a cab across town, and the taxi driver had the radio turned up loud listening to the news…he kept saying something to me about la situacion del pais (though at the time I was not exactly clear on just what was the situation of the country!).  At this point, we are starting to understand why throughout the day we kept seeing people emerging from buildings banging on pots, pans, anything that could make noise, really…and how cars seemed to be honking a lot more than normal.

Though we did not eat at the recommended restaurant (it was really expensive, and the thing we loved most about eating in Buenos Aires was the ability to eat a huge, fantastic meal and spend very little) we found a nearby spot that was fine, and had a lovely view across the port.  We found another place afterwards for coffee and dessert (and every TV had live coverage of the Plaza de Mayo, the president’s husband, or farmers) and made it back to our hotel with no problems.  Wednesday, however (the national day of protest) we are to fly back to Buenos Aires from Puerto Iguazu.  What might that mean?

Today we walked around the antiques and arts and crafts market in the San Telmo.

san telmo 1

san telmo 2

San Telmo is a very lively neighborhood…lots of people walking around.  Of course, I hardly bought anything.  This evening we’re going to try to watch a big futbol match — Argentina v. Ecuador.

June 18, 2008

Today is Wednesday.

On Sunday we found a great spot to watch the Argentina v. Ecuador match — we found a restaurant near the Recoleta cemetery (Cafe Monaco or something like that) and they didn’t mind if we sat there all day for all of the big matches, and they had a big screen set up right in the dining room.  First, we saw Brasil lose to Paraguay (a couple of girls at the table next to us were from Paraguay and they were so excited at the big win) and then we watched Argentina v. Ecuador, which ended in a 1-1 draw (Argentina scored the tying goal very late in the game…within the last 5 minutes, I think).  It was very fun.  And we ate a lot.  We first ordered a huge salad, then empanadas, then a big plate with various meats and cheeses, enjoyed a bottle of Malbec, then two caipirinhas, and cafes con leche y alfajores to end the evening. 

The next day – Monday – we took the Colonia Express ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.  We had to get up really early (really early meaning we were walking around looking for coffee at 7am — and we couldn’t find any).  We even decided we’d break down and walk over to the McCafe, but it was not even open yet!  We finally found a cafe with a gruff old proprietor, had a quick cup, then set off to find a taxi to take us to the port.

The boat ride took about an hour and several people got sick — the attendants starting handing out little bags to sick people.  I managed to hold it together with a lot of concentration and staring out at the sky.  Colonia was very cute with its colorful buildings and cobblestone streets.

colonia 1

colonia 2

The historic section of Colonia del Sacramento is a World Heritage Site, built by the Portuguese in the 17th century.

colonia 3

colonia 4

However, this day it was also extremely cold and extremely windy. 

colonia 5

We walked all over and felt as if we’d seen the “sights” (at least according to our guidebook) and that took about an hour.  At this point it was about 9 or 10 in the morning.  Restaurants are not yet open and we did not see any coffee shops.  So, we just kept walking around trying to avoid the two dogs that kept following us and barking loudly (it got old), trying to keep warm.  Chris learned a trick from Bear Grylls about keeping keeping warm.

colonia 6

The little museums in the town just did not really sound that interesting to us.  A musem of documents?  A museum of tile?  I actually wanted to go to the museum of tile thinking I’d see tiled walls or pieces of walls…but I peeked inside and saw a few individual tiles in glass cases.  Okay, if I were a tile nut this might be interesting to me.  Or if it were free maybe I’d go in to get a warm.  Not so much.

So, we kept wandering until the restaurants opened for lunch.  We managed to spend about two hours at la Pulperia de los Faroles.  Chris had a big warm rice bowl with seafood and saffron.  I had a creamy tomato soup followed by raviolis with pesto.  We shared a bottle of red from Uruguay then coffees.  After lunch, we still had a few hours to kill before the ferry would take us back to Buenos Aires, so we walked further into the town to see what that was all about.  We found an internet cafe and decided to stop in.  This is where we learned that Tim Russert had died.  I’m still so very sad about that.

We got back to Buenos Aires around 6, cleaned up, then tried to find a place for dinner — the restaurant we were looking for was no longer there (we were somewhere in the Palermo) but the place in its stead – Miranda – was pretty good.  Chris loved it.  We got a huge salad with grilled vegetables, a plate of cintas (homemade fettuccine) with cream and mushrooms, and another ojo de bife.  And Malbec.

Yesterday (June 17th) we got up even earlier than the day before to catch a flight on Aerolineas Argentinas to Puerto Iguazu.  We sat on the plane on the runway for an hour before taking off.  As usual, Chris slept while I just sat there getting annoyed at the man sitting next to me who kep shifting in his seat and sighing loudly.  We finally took off and the flight was fine.  Once we got to Puerto Iguazu, we met our driver who took us the 13 or so km to the hotel — Posada la Sorgente.

We dropped our stuff off in the hotel and headed straight to the bus station to catch the local bus to Iguazu National Park.  Though the bus station was very confusing for some reason, I finally secured us two bus tickets for about 8 pesos round trip per person. 

Once in the park, we took the train to the trailheads.  We had to wait a few minutes for the train…

iguazu 1

We did the lower circuit first.  Really, all I can say about the falls is that they are truly awesome.  It is an overused word, but it’s the right one.

iguazu 2

iguazu 3

You could take one of the catwalks over to the bottom of some of the falls.  It was amazing — the roar of the falls was deafening and you got soaked from all the spray.  It was almost like being in a downpour.  And no, I’m not trying to pose with this guy.  I have no idea who he is or why I chose to stand by him.

iguazu 4

Chris and a woman next to him seem to get pushed forward by the force of the falls.

iguazu 5

This is us after getting soaked by the falls.

iguazu 6

My one wildlife siting in the park — a coati


From the upper circuit we could take in the views from on top of the falls.  After the upper circuit, we took another little train to La Garganta — the biggest falls in the park.  These falls are breathtaking.  We take the catwalk from the trailhead to get to the top of the falls…

iguazu 7

…along the way I spot my favorite sign of the trip…

iguazu 7

…almost there…

iguazu 8

…and then we’re at the falls.  The mist rising from the crashing falls rises up to 500 feet and we are getting completely soaked.  It is actually difficult to see through all the spray.  Truly breathtaking.

iguazu 9

iguazu 10

We caught a very, very crowded local bus back to town, napped (of course), then went to dinner at El Quincho del Tio Amorado.  We ordered a bottle of Malbec, and I had a piece of morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, and a hunk of rib meat with a chunky and vinegar-y chimichurri, fries, and flan with coffee.  Chris had surubi fried in a butter and caper sauce and an apple pancake that tasted like candy, withcoffee.  The meat was the highlight of this meal.  The restaurant had a sort of courtyard in front you had to walk through to go inside, and you passed right by the enormous parilla covered with all sorts of cuts of meat.  Yum.  There was even entertainment at the restaurant — a singer with a pretty decent voice.  Chris clapped loudly for him after each song…which I guess led him to believe we’d be up for buying one of his CDs.  He came by during one of his breaks and talked with us for a while.  We did not buy a CD but we did enjoy talking with him and we told him how great his singing was.  At one point he asked me if I learned to speak Spanish by studying in Buenos AiresAwww….

Back at the hotel we were excited to be able to climb into bed with full bellies and catch Game 6 of the NBA finals.  We both fell asleep at halftime, but awoke in time to see the Celtics celebrating their victory over the Lakers.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel, packed up, and laid around reading until we had to check out, then walked around the town.  No doubt, it seemed like a pretty crappy town.  But we did have a pretty decent lunch.  I had a chicken soup with corn dumplings and a tarta; Chris had something that reminded me of a Spanish tortilla with a fried root (yucca?) on top.  We both had fresh juice.  Afterwards, we headed back to the airport to find our flight cancelled (Aerolineas Argentinas strikes again!) but they moved us to a LAN flight that left five minutes later and was right on time.  I love LAN — they give you alfajores on the flight….  Once back, we caught a taxi at the airport (after I got into it with a shadow cab driver for telling us he’d take us to the hotel for 30 pesos…I don’t think so).  Our Radio taxi driver was great (and it cost 14 pesos)…he loved the NBA and we talked about the game last night.  He cracked us up when he started shaking his head in mock disappointment saying “pobre Kobe Bryant….” (he he he…indeed).  He also said “Kevin Garnett tiene manos calientes!!”  I had to agree.

Now we are back at the Hotel Costa Rica, in a “fancy” room with a real king bed (not two twins pushed together) and a bathroom in the room!  It’s one of those shower right there next to the toilet, everything gets wet, types, but it is so nice not to have to go outside…especially since the weather is turning colder, wetter, and windier.  Actually, we have really grown to love this hotel.  It feels like home now.  We’re going to try to catch the big Argentina v. Brasil futbol match tonight.  I keep seeing signs at restaurants saying they’ll have the game on…it’s kind of exciting!

June 20, 2008 — my last entry

We watched the Argentina v. Brasil match at this great little parilla in the Palermo called Minga.  We passed by it earlier in the evening and I went inside and reserved a table with a great view of the huge screen.  We had empanadas de carne and grilled sweetbreads with chimichurri and a mojito to start.  We had another ojo de bife, a broiled spinach and cheese dish, and a bottle of Malbec.  For dessert, we ordered the volcan de chocolate with a glass of a different Malbec our waiter said is his favorite to drink with chocolate.  The manager also sent us over the chocolate torta to enjoy as well.  Delicious.

The next day, Chris started coming down with a cold…I’m pretty sure he had a fever all day, but we still went ahead with the empanada quest we had planned the day before.  The rainy and cold weather were a bit of a pain, but we still had a good day.  We had dinner in the neighborhood (see what I mean about the Hotel Costa Rica feeling like home?) at Till.  We had passed by it at least twice every day but never stopped in until now.  It was great — I had fresh pasta and a fishbowl-sized glass of wine (this would normally be a good thing, but I am a slow drinker and Chris, who was still not feeling well, was in no mood to lounge over dinner unfortunately).

Friday, June 20th, is our last day in Buenos Aires.  Luckily, Chris is feeling much better.  We woke up and packed up and headed for breakfast at a cafe near the subte for Scalabrini Ortiz.  Very enjoyable, until parts of the ceiling started crumbling and falling all over our table and into our food due to the workers above (who just earlier were causing fire to shoot off the roof onto the heads of passers-by…which we found mildly amusing).  We moved to a different table and they just turned the chairs onto the table…I love South America.

After breakfast we walked to the Malba – contemporary (mostly) Latin American art…some of it very odd and mildly disturbing.  Lots of art that incorporated sounds, TVs, machines…all in a very cool building.  Then we went to the design museum in an old French revival-style mansion (name escapes me at the moment).  We got there a little too early and had to wait outside but we had company.

bs as

We ate lunch at a place in the Recoleta called Juana M.  It was great.  The entrance was located down some steps through a very nondescript door, but once inside, you find yourself in a huge (long), modern, industrial space with very cool decor.  It had a fantastic salad bar (this may have been our first salad in Buenos Aires) with too many great options to remember.  We shared another ojo de bife (how many does this make??) and the noquis con salsa rosa, red wine, and chocolate ice cream.  This was a great find, and the people were incredibly friendly.

After lunch, we walked back to the Hotel Costa Rica for the last time, gathered our stuff, and waited for the taxi to pick us up and take us to the airport…

waiting to leave

The taxi arrives, and I promptly leave my wrap in the hotel lobby…  Oh well.  The way I see it, I’ve left a piece of myself in Argentina.  And the black gloves…I left those in a taxi….

It’s total chaos at the airport.  Our flight is delayed, so we watched The Life Aquatic on Chris’s PSP in the gate area.  What a great movie…  After we finished the movie an airport security guy came over to us and told us to line up for a security check (even though we had already gone through security).  We’re are even a little dubious (is this guy official??).  However, he comes back and tells us again to line up, so we start walking in the direction he was pointing and find a huge line of people.  We join the line.  Then, our gate changed, so we all had to move to a different gate and line up yet again.  Once we make it to the front of the line, we have our bags searched and they ask us a bunch of questions…and then we’re held in a roped-off area (basically, they took a rope and strung it around a bunch of seats and told us to stay inside).  There’s a coke machine inside the roped-off area and I’m really thirsty, but when I go to buy a soda, this guy yells at me — NO!

I think our plane is set to take off in about 50 minutes…it’s after 11:30 at night, and we’re about to have to say goodbye to South America…for the time being.

South America – Summer 2008 – Part One

23 12 2008

In June of 2008, Chris and I set off on a much-anticipated journey.  The plan was to fly from Houston to Lima, Peru, where we would spend the night in the airport, then catch an early morning flight to Cuzco, Peru.  We would spend that day and night in Cuzco, then set out for Machu Picchu on the Vistadome train, spend that day and night and most of the next day in Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes, then return to Cuzco for a night.  After that, we would set out for Buenos Aires, Argentina for several days, take a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay somewhere in there, fly up to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina for a day and night to see Iguazu Falls, then return to Buenos Aires for a few more days.  In a word, the trip was – amazing.  The food was – delicious.  The experience – unforgettable.  I kept a journal as we traveled, and what follows is our trip, in a combination of real-time and reflection.

June 7, 2008 – 2:30 pm

Chris and I are waiting in the International terminal of Houston Intercontinental Airport, gate E9, for our flight to Lima.  We are way too early but that suits me fine.  Chris has just put on his ridiculously huge headphones (which I’m sure I’ll have to carry around) and is reading about Cuzco.

the headphones


June 8, 2008 – 12:08 am

We are camped out on the floor of the Lima airport.  The gateway into national departures was supposed to open at midnight.  Now they are saying 12:30.  Or maybe 1 am.  We discovered that our original flight to Cuzco was cancelled and we are now set to leave a little later.  Luckily, I was mentally prepared for delays and cancellations thanks to tips from friends who have travelled throughout South America, so this does not really phase me (in fact, it makes me feel like I really am on this trip…our first cancellation, woo hoo!).  My biggest concern, however, is that we make it to the train station in Cuzco on Sunday before it closes at noon to secure our tickets to Aguas Calientes.

12:30 am – gateway still not open and floor is getting a little uncomfortable

1:00 am — still not open, floor is most uncomfortable and cold

We were able to sleep (Chris) or rest (me) on the floor until the floor cleaners kicked us out.  At 1:46 am they finally let us in the gate area.  At least now we can sleep on chairs!

The short flight from Lima to Cuzco was beautiful.  It was clear when we crossed the Andes and the view of snowy mountaintops was amazing.  Cuzco is very high — over 11,000 feet.  When we arrive at the Cuzco airport, the driver from our hotel met us and two other travellers from London (who currently live in Venezuela).  I told our driver about needing to get the train tickets, hoping we could stop by on our way to the hotel since I had read the train station was only open for a few hours on Sundays.  Not only was this okay, but he managed to contact a buddy who was able to help us out by switching our return trip from only part of the way back (to Ollantaytambo) to all of the way back to Cuzco (this after the train people had e-mailed me that the train was fully booked), get our tickets into Machu Picchu, plus bus tickets for the ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (and I later checked, we paid the right price).  Things are going quite well and everyone we have met has been friendly and helpful. 

Our tickets secured, the driver then took us to our hotel.  Not the hotel we had booked which was mysteriously closed or overbooked due to “sickness” (never got the full story there) but on of their sister hotels — the Mallqui.  The room was cute!  It had a little window that opened into the courtyard.  No heat, but plenty of heavy blankets on the bed.

room at Mallqui

It was small, quaint, and cheap…perfect.  Chris and I dropped off our stuff, freshened up, and headed out.

June 8, 2008 – 9:11 am

We are in Cafe Varayoc in Cuzco awaiting crepes, empanadas, and cappuccinos.


The food here is just so-so, but it is filling, and the place is cozy.  After eating, we walked around the Plaza de Armas.

Plaza de Armas

As we approach the square, we start noticing there are people everywhere, lining up, filling the streets, marching in place…


For all we know, this is normal for a Sunday morning.  We start realizing, however, that something special is going on…people are in uniforms, like school uniforms…there are also groups with banners showing their “year,” so maybe this is a school anniversary celebration of some sort?



Each group marched around the square while a military-style band played.  The band included a group of little girls who worked a great tambourine routine, tossing it up into the air, shaking it down to a slap on the leg, back up and around…never missing a beat.



Each group marched in front of what looked like a group of dignitaries and other special attendees.  We have no idea who these people are but they look important.


After watching the parade for a while, we started walking around.  We walked up many steep hills, narrow roads, and passageways to some incredible views of the town.  This is when we really start feeling the altitude.





Incidentally, there are a lot of dogs in Cuzco, and I felt the need to photograph several of them.





We walked around for an hour or two before stopping on the plaza outside Iglesia San Cristobal (one of the highest points in town).  On the plaza, we alternated between taking in the view and watching a group of guys play soccer.  Their main challenge seemed to be the religious statue situated in the middle of the plaza…they had to incorporate the monument and the people sitting on its steps into their game.

Now we are at The Real McCoy — apparently an ex-pat hangout for Brits judging from most of the accents around us — watching Germany v. Poland in the Euro 2008.  Half-time score is Germany 1-0.  Cuzqueña beer tastes so good right now.

June 9, 2008

Last night in Cuzco we ate dinner at Pacha Papa.  We sat in the chilly but cute courtyard near the huge wood-fire oven.  We had ceviche made with a white fish, lemon, purple onion, chopped red pepper, and sweet potato, served with hominy and fried corn kernels (similar to corn nuts…but bigger).  Delicious.  For dinner we shared the alpaca brochette — very tasty.  I was very excited to discover a new meat!  It’s different from any I’ve had before…maybe reminds me of a cross between potatoes and pork?  The alpaca was served with various kinds and styles of potatoes (mostly fried), a tamal, and a stuffed pepper.  After dinner we walked back to the hotel and went to sleep around 7 pm — we were exhausted from not sleeping in over 36 hours and from walking all over town (did I mention it’s high here?).  Plus, we had to get up really early the next day to catch the train to Machu Picchu.

The four hour train ride from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes (the Vistadome) was great.  It was really cold on the train, but they gave us heavy blankets, and that added to the fun for me.  We also got breakfast and coffee — a nice surprise.  The train left at 6:05 am, zigzagging up and out of Cuzco, passing through tiny towns and beautiful countryside, and arrived at 9:52 am. 

When we arrived in Aguas Calientes, someone from the hotel met us outside the train station and walked with us up (and up and up) to the hotel — the Rupa Wasi.  The hotel was great.  It felt like a treehouse.  Our room was huge…it had a full size bed and two twin beds (perhaps a napping bed and a sleeping bed?  Chris was actually concerned for a bit that we would be sharing the room…but it was all ours).  I mentioned to the hotel staff that we were heading out to Machu Picchu shortly and we’d love a couple of box lunches, and in five minutes they gave us two heavy bags full of food.  So, we set off for the ruins.

The bus ride was SCARY.  It’s a steep one lane road with extremely tight switchbacks and cliffs.  We met a bus coming down head on more than once and the bus driver would slam the breaks and throw the bus into reverse and back up until he could find a slightly wider sport of road that would enable the other bus to pass.  Aye yay yay.  I had a hard time looking out the windows.  Once I caught my first glimpse of the ruins, however, it didn’t matter anymore.  Machu Picchu is even more breathtaking than I expected.

We had to sneak the lunches in and that was a challenge since they were so huge.  Our lunch consisted of a roasted vegetable and cheese sandwich on a hearty bread, the best banana I’ve ever had (seriously, what is it with the bananas down here?), a fruit similar to a tangerine but in a green rind (I must look this up), a little cake or muffin, cereal bar, hard-boiled egg, and pineapple juice.

We walked all over Machu Picchu…








This is the view from where the Inca Trail enters the grounds.  I will hike this some day.


We walked all over…until my legs were wobbly with every step.  Instead of taking the bus back down to Aguas Calientes, we walked back down the windy trail that cuts across the roads (and spotted what may or may not have been a capybara — this is the subject of a heated debate), making it back after about a half hour or so. 

This is the footbridge that crosses the Urubamba River heading back to Aguas Calientes.


And this is us on the bridge, happy to be almost home.


Back at the Rupa Wasi (once we found it…all of the passageways look alike) I sneak in a quick nap before dinner.  I would grow quite accustomed to the pre-dinner nap on this trip…why do we not do this more in the US?

June 10, 2008

Not the day I expected.  But first, I’ll start with the night before.  We had a wonderful dinner at the restaurant there at the Rupa Wasi.  The space was great.  It was small and cozy…open air but with a fire going in the fireplace and fantastic music.  It was very intimate and the staff was great — it felt as if our friends were working there.  We started with a trout ceviche in a soft cornmeal-like cake.  Chris had beef tenderloin and potatoes for his entree and I had alpaca wrapped in bacon with a papaya chimichurri and sweet potato puree.  We enjoyed a great Peruvian read wine with the meal — Tacama, I believe.

Now, sometime in the middle of the night I was hit with “stomach problems.”  It was bad.  Very bad.  I blame the hard-boiled egg I ate the day before (Chris did not eat his when I noted mine tasted funky…why I ate mine after making this observation remains a mystery).  Needless to say, I was in bad shape.  I dragged myself onto the early bus up to Machu Picchu but spent about three hours lying on the ground (literally) outside the gates while Chris went directly in to climb Waynapicchu.

This is Waynapicchu.


I was crushed to miss it, but I would never have made it.  I am still upset about this.  So, I waited outside the gates until about 9 am then slowly dragged myself to the pre-determined meeting spot in the ruins where I proceeded to lie down until Chris found me.  At this point I at least felt confident enough to leave the only area with restrooms (and at 1 sol per visit it was adding up!).

When Chris found me, he told me all about the hike.  He said it was amazing — the best hike he has ever done in his life.  I sadly had to decline his invitation to wander around some more, so while Chris went off I reclined in a shadier spot.  Finally, around 12:30 or so we took the bus back down.  We found a little cafe in Aguas Calientes where we enjoyed a coke (me) and a cappuccino (Chris).  We also spent time chatting with Edgar, the waiter (I taught him some English…he said I spoke very good Spanish).  Then, we checked out and headed for the train back to Cuzco.

The train back to Cuzco…what can I say?  It was the craziest train I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on lots of trains.  First off, I still felt like crap and my back was now killing me form all of the sitting/lying on the ground.  So — it was a very uncomfortable four hour ride.  But, after a while, Cucu arrived.  Cucu was in a traditional Peruvian costume with a freaky sock-mask and a hat like a platform with ribbons hanging from it.  He was holding a stuffed (fake) baby alpaca and dancing around all over the train car.  After I gave him a few soles, he leaned into Chris and made his baby alpaca give Chris a kiss on the shoulder.  Only later did we realize Cucu was the porter.  It was a little awkward later.

This is Cucu.


Next came the fashion show — loud clubby music played as the two other train-car employees walked up and down modeling all sorts of hand-made alpaca wool sweaters and ponchos.  There was lots of cheering and applause.  Of course, all of the sweaters were available for purchase.

The next night we checked into the Amaru 1 (our originally-booked place) and it was perfect.  Chris got to watch soccer on TV while I took a shower — he was so excited.  We had dinner at Nuna Raymi on the recommendation of the woman at the front desk — and it was great.  I had spaghetti with Andean cheese cubes, tomatoes, and basil (needed something simple for the still not-too-happy tummy).  Chris got alpaca on skewers (he said it was even better than the first night’s alpaca) and papas huanacanas.  We both got pisco sours but I gave mine to Chris.

This is the beautiful Plaza de Armas at night.



The next morning after a good breakfast at the hotel (and after finally figuring out how coffee works here…it’s strong cold coffee and you pour the hot water INTO it…ohh!) we experience another CRAZY cab ride through the narrow Cuzco streets, and now we are in Lima waiting for our flight to Santiago.  In Chile we have a 20 minute layover to make our connection to Buenos Aires.  I’m mentally preparing to run.