Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | August 16, 2018

Peru-ving Myself A Traveler Again: Entry #6

It’s been two days since I wrote because, as previously mentioned, I spent nearly a full day on the bus on the way back to Cusco, and then yesterday I basically needed some decompressing time so didn’t venture very far. The bus ride wasn’t bad – it was a double decker bus and for the first time ever, I was on the top floor. The seats were big and comfy, too, so I basically dozed the entire way back. Considering my cold, more sleep is probably not a bad thing at all.

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I got to eat a lovely Peruvian meal in the centre of that balcony!

I was picked up at the bus station and, thanks to the excellent service of Machu Picchu Latin America tours, was able to fetch my stored bag at the Midori and move to my new hotel, Esplendor. Midori is lovely and I would have stayed longer, but it was booked by the tour company so I had no idea where to stay and used Booking.com to find Esplendor. It’s a lovely hotel, a little bit further from the central area than the Midori but still well within walking distance. I have a lovely king bed and the room is fairly spacious and the courtyard has a fountain. It is also quiet, which I like.  After getting my stuff put away, I asked the nice staff member at the desk for a restaurant recommendation, and she directed me to La Feria, where I had excellent Peruvian food. I was brought a complimentary broth for a starter, then my main course was chicken skewers with potato and salad. All very delicious. I had a beer with dinner, seated in the balcony overlooking the Plaza Des L’Armas, and it was lovely, but the lemonades my neighbours were drinking also looked super tempting.

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A lovely Plaza with a lovely fountain I wanted to dance in.

 

After that it was back to the hotel to crash.  I got up in time to catch the free breakfast, and it was very good, with lots of things to choose from. Then I went back to the room to chill for a bit, before heading out to the square to wander for a few hours.  I had hoped to just find a quiet bench to read and nearly did, but everyone is in business in Cusco, and people keep approaching to show their art or jewelry or weaving. I’m not rude about declining, but it gets exhausting.

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My beautifully-plated bruschetta, which was even more delicious than it looks!

Instead, I found my way to Uchu, a Peruvian steakhouse some of the members of the group I was in for Machu Picchu mentioned. They weren’t open yet, so I got to sit and read in their courtyard before ordering a delicious and beautifully presented lunch. I started with a bruschetta made with mango and peppers and cream cheese and deliciousness. Then I had the alpaca steak with salad and crispy potatoes (you can choose from the kind of meat as well as a few sides). The dish comes on a hot volcanic rock at medium rare, so you can cook your steak to your liking on it. While I normally like medium rare, I found alpaca tastes better closer to well done. And dipped in the excellent sauces that come with it – a garlic one, and two levels of spicy that I could both eat! I definitely enjoyed my meal.

After that, I had to go to the bathroom and didn’t feel like finding the public washrooms, so I walked back to the hotel. I chilled some more in my room before taking advantage of the hot tub in the Esplendor courtyard. Not all the jets work but it still was lovely.

I was supposed to have a Shaman come to give a blessing as part of my tour the next day, but unfortunately he was delayed with other group members. The tour group, Travel and Health, got a hold of me a little late, but they did kindly reschedule though after my trip today.  They also confirmed my ungodly hour pickup (3:50 a.m.) so I called room service, at dinner, and went to bed to try to get as much sleep as possible. The room is comfortable and the king bed is cozy, so that helped.

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Believe it or not, this Canadian had to take off her jacket AND sweater even faced with this climate!

At the scheduled hour, my little tour bus arrived and I bundled myself into all my sweaters and napped, since we had to drive nearly three hours to our breakfast location. Funnily enough, that was about the only time I needed my warm clothes – even in the mountains, since the sun was warm, I actually found it hot.  Breakfast was nice, some fruit and yogurt and a hot soup, plus bread and jam. And coca tea, of course! Then we made our way another hour up to the starting point for going to the Rainbow Mountain.

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My horseman, Sirilo, and my horse Negro. Not pictured: my sore legs!

Now I am fat and no longer in good shape, so I chose to take a horse there and back.  There was no way I could walk several kilometres at 5000 and upward metres. I’d paid in advance, but there was some confusion I think and I had to pay the horseman at the top, but the guide reimbursed me at the end, so it all worked out. I would definitely recommend taking cash just in case – with so many people with different plans, and a horseman in a rush to get more customers, you can’t always guarantee that your guide will be with you when the time comes to pay.

They can’t take you all the way up to the Rainbow Mountain, so I did have some high altitude walking to do. I took it very slowly (and my guides checked in on me a lot and loaned me a walking stick, I think because my cold meant I was raspy and panting and making things sound worse than they actually were). I did have a few moments of dizziness, but I just stopped and took in air and carried on, slowly.

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Rainbow Mountain, in all it’s colourful glory.

The view was totally, totally worth it. Breathtaking in a whole other way. And I even climbed a little higher up the mountain peak opposite (halfway, not to the top, because I know my limits) to get a good photo. It’s spectacular.  Truly amazing.

After that, there was a bit of a walk down then a horse ride back to the point where the tour bus was. I have to admit, I was scared of falling off a lot on the way down, as my legs were already tired from gripping the horse on the way up, and there’s definitely a feeling of less control. But I didn’t fall off the horse (though I did come close once but managed to catch myself until the horseman could steady me) or the mountain, so wins all around.

We had some time at the starting point where I used the bathroom (or the squat toilets, not a huge fan) then picked up the half of the group who went the long way back as part of their package through the red valley (I didn’t know about it, so I can’t tell you anything about it), though it wasn’t too long. We had lunch at the same restaurant as before, a lovely buffet. Then it was another few hours in a warm bus (the A/C was on but not particularly effective) before getting dropped off at the Plaza Des L’Armas to walk back to the hotel because traffic was too crazy to get us to our hotels directly.  I was going to go in the hot tub again, but was too tired! Instead, I chilled until the Quescan Shaman arrived.

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Bonus Rainbow Mountain photo because it is just so gorgeous.

It was a lovely little blessing ceremony, just in the hotel lobby. I was given some fragrant water to run on my hands, then pat on my face and body. Then I was given some coca leaves to press to my heart.  The shaman then said some blessings using a pillow with sacred flowers and other items related to the land inside. It was very lovely, and I am glad I participated. Bringing this Andean blessing ceremony is also good for the community the Shaman (his name was Raoul) comes from, as a way of contributing to their economy. The tour group Travel and Healing that I booked with does this deliberately, as one of their ways to give back.

By the time the blessing was done, it was nearly 8 p.m. I decided on another room service night, since it is inexpensive and also I’m not sure my legs would be willing to carry me as far as a restaurant, let alone back. Tomorrow I’ll venture out a little bit with a couple of goals in mind. One, get one of the inexpensive massages that is on offer (I’ve already checked out the place and it is clean and the massage therapist has a certificate on her wall so not totally sketchy). Two, find another restaurant that was recommended. And three, chocolate. Delicious Peruvian chocolate.

 


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