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Posts tagged ‘pisco sour’

machu picchu three ways…

I had been dreaming of Machu Picchu for most of my adult life so wanted to make sure I spent enough time to not feel like I rushed it.  I gather that almost everyone goes to Peru on a group tour so I confused a lot of people trying to explain what I was doing and attempting to confirm details since I was doing most of it solo.

It did sound a little nuts!  But I really saw Machu Picchu!  And left feeling satiated and relaxed about my experience.  My recommendation would be to spend a day less than I did but I do have lots of great shots – and most of them look like I wasn’t surrounded by other tourists.  So there were payoffs 🙂

And it is a really gorgeous, incredible place so you can spend some time there without getting bored. So, on to the story…

My g adventures tour included a visit to Machu Picchu.  In the end, I got to spend quite a few hours there and it was a great way to end the tour.  Because I thought I would only get a couple of hours and I had read about the Sanctuary Lodge when it opened, I decided to book it so that I could spend some more time after the tour.  It is ridiculously expensive so it was a big debate whether to book for one night or two… but I decided to go for the longer visit so that I wouldn’t feel like I’d rushed Machu Picchu.  I think one night is enough – but it provided a chance to do Machu Picchu in a third way!

aquas calientes - great setting

aquas calientes – great setting

My first experience of Machu Picchu was the most typical.  I took the basic PeruRail train from Ollantaytambo station in the Sacred Valley to Aquas Calientes, the holding pen for Machu Picchu tourists.  The hotel in Aquas Calientes was the highlight of the g adventures tour and I would highly recommend it (Andina Luxury).

it was a great view!

it was a great view!

What I would not recommend though is going out on the balcony to take a photo of the Urubamba River!  Well, you can, but prop the door open!  I’ve now been to some interesting locations solo – and I do have people get excited about the risks I am taking.  But I am one of those weirdos who is constantly doing a decision tree in their head and likely have a more sophisticated understanding of risk management than some hedge fund managers…

a shot from the balcony

a shot from the balcony

So I never really have any adventures.  Nothing that would feature in the screenplay of a thriller anyway.  My travel generally lends itself to great plot points for a rom-com…

So it was a surprise to find myself hobbling around Machu Picchu for three days!  Due to my own stupidity, it ended up being fortuitous that I had the third day.  Life works out 🙂

There isn’t much to Aquas Calientes.  It exists to service tourists bound for Machu Picchu.  But I am always interested in what makes places tick so it was fun just wandering around.  And it is in this spectacular setting surrounded by mountains with the Urubamba bubbling beneath them.

It was all fine when I was snapping photos through the hotel room window.  But that never yields the best quality photo.  All of a sudden I realized I had a tiny balcony that was positioned directly over the river with the mountains as a backdrop.

It was all wonderful as I was crouching and laying on the balcony floor to try out different shots.  But it was a small space so there were only so many options… it was time to go and check out the pisco sour I had seen advertised next to the hotel and work on my blog…

But that was when I realized I was LOCKED on the tiny balcony over the river.  I watch lots of cop shows – but I never get myself into situations like that… normally I check the door to make sure it isn’t locked before I go onto a balcony… but I had become reckless in my confidence in my ability to travel in emerging economies.

Of course this had to be the best hotel of the lot, with lots of heavy wood, including the door.  But not fancy enough there was likely turndown service. I was supposed to meet my Machu Picchu guide at 7pm so that meant there was a chance someone would come looking for me in three hours… but that’s a long time to be trapped on a tiny balcony – and it was going to get colder when the sun set…

I figured making noise might help.  I started yelling “help”.. and regretting I had glossed over that word in my Spanish guidebook thinking it was unlikely I would need it… I had no idea if anyone could hear me through all the wood.

No one was coming… so I thought maybe I should kick at the door as that might be noisier.  If I sounded like a crazy rock band and someone came because I was causing a disturbance, that was OK… if only I was on the noisy side facing the train station…

There was no traffic on the river.  The tranquility of nature has its downside…  Luckily checkout was about 9am because everyone was headed for Machu Picchu so at least someone would likely eventually find me and I was unlikely to die of hypothermia – but I would be cold.

So I started checking my surroundings, seeing if there was some way I could alert someone to my dilemma.  I could actually look into the next room if I performed some ballerina type positions on the balcony.  And there were two ladies sitting on the bed in the next room!  At first they just thought I was being friendly and waved at me.  I kept trying hand gestures to get one of them to come to their balcony.

It worked!  But of course I didn’t speak Spanish so was just hoping I could make enough hand gestures to explain that I was locked on my balcony and see if they could get someone to come from reception to release me.

It took some time… time moves really slowly when you are trapped on a tiny balcony… but she eventually arrived.  And then she closed the door with the two of us on the balcony to confirm it was now unlocked!  NOT how I would have done it… but at least she was likely carrying a mobile phone…

That pisco sour tasted so great!  Especially because I was checking out the Urubamba from a large restaurant filled with other people, not frozen in the middle of the night while trying to sleep sitting up on my tiny balcony…

spanish lessons

How exciting!  I actually managed to find functioning internet before I leave Peru… the rest will follow… as usual I will keep living my travels long after I have left the foreign locale 😉

as usual we are living in the past so just go with the tenses – they were correct when I wrote the first draft 🙂

I wrote the first draft of this on miércoles.  I learned that the night before at the Pitahaya Bar in Lisbon.  From my new friend Juan.

Yes, I am in Peru!  When I first dreamed of trekking to Machu Picchu, the Shining Path was putting Peru on the government advisory “do not go” lists.  As usual I have been too busy doing things to have enough time to write about what I have been doing.  But I have been trying to remember exactly when I was inspired to travel to Peru.

It was sometime in the mid 80s.  It may have been the Peru pavilion at Expo 86.  I know I acquired a book about the treasures of the Incas from an exhibit of some of them around that time.  I forgot to leaf through it before I left home.  But I have carried it over three continents and unpacked it in countless apartments so I know it’s there somewhere…  I remember the great jewelry and rich colours.  My souvenirs won’t be nearly so impressive but I am dazzled by the colours in the markets.  It is hard to not buy everything you see 🙂

Unfortunately in the 1980s Peru was dangerous – so I stayed away… but Machu Picchu stayed in my imagination.  And Peru is now the kind of place where you have to search a little to avoid a dual language tourist menu.

But my first step in a new city is to get a map from reception (just in case 🙂 and then start aimlessly wandering the streets in daylight so I’ll know my way home in the dark!

I’m still packing the map but I’ve actually looked at it only a couple of times and Miraflores is already starting to feel like home.  Lima is no Latin seductress.  The weather is as dreary as predicted.  I think the sun shines more in Vancouver 😉

And the Pacific Ocean looks like an angry stepsister with haunted beaches.  But moody can be interesting… so I had a delicious pizetta overlooking the Pacific as part of my exploration of the Larcomar – a modern mall that is so shiny it glints without the sun even shining 🙂

It’s part of the shiny side of Lima – where I will be staying on my return.  Locating my next Lima hotel created a great aimless wander through the streets of Miraflores.  As I suspected yesterday, I am living on the wrong side of the tracks.  But I think I prefer my older Miraflores with the slight decay that tropical climates induce rather than the tarted up sanitized Miraflores that seems more like a tourist zone.

Peru is definitely an emerging economy and it’s exciting to see it in action.  I would love to come back in 10 years and see what has changed.

One thing I hope won’t change is the friendly, warm character of the people.  I am writing this in a cool, modern bar with a touch of traditional Peruvian

pitahaya behind the park

pitahaya behind the park

decoration – and charming Latin men behind the bar.  The soundtrack is an incredible mix of some of the best alternative rock from the late 80s – Blind Melon, Cindy Lauper, Tom Cochrane, the dudes who sing Runaway Train… sometimes I just knew the music, couldn’t remember the band… the 80s were a long time ago!

juanSo I was absorbing the music and letting Juan make me drinks.  His goal is to work on a cruise ship so he wanted me to help him with his English.  In return, he taught me some Spanish.

And made me a beautiful Pisco Sour – my first.  You always remember your first time 😉  And Juan did a magnificent job!  Pisco Sours are pretty ubiquitous in Peru so I’ve had a few now but Juan’s is still the best!  And he gave me the whole history of the drink for bonus points.

Everyone in the bar is very friendly – and works very efficiently.  The menu is in Spanish so I knew I was in an authentic place.  I had avoided the tourist ghetto!

Decaying villas seem charming.  And I saw some appealing houses on my random walk that speak to another era.  It would be sad to lose all the history and local architecture around the world for shiny new concrete malls.

But we also need to welcome progress – and the emergence of new shiny places in unexpected countries.

I love discovering places like Pitahaya – and young men like Juan.  It’s great to see a modern place with a sense of history and locale.  And the enthusiasm and professionalism I encounter so often in these new economies.  I think I am experiencing the future… Machu Picchu is just bonus points 😉

pitahaya decor

pitahaya decor

p.s. apparently Pitahaya is a bar but it was possibly the best food I have had in Peru!  The first night I ordered what I thought was a simple shrimp cocktail but it had some unexpected twists to it that were delicious.  And the next night I ordered something called Tiradito Achebichado because I trusted Juan 😉  As he promised, it was a bit like ceviche but I had just written mystery fish in my blog notes so he had to get the correct information for me.  It was tilapia – and outstanding.  The cocktails are also delicious.  And the staff are delightful.


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