South of the Equator to Peru

Why Paddington left this magical country I will never know? Join my adventures through small Inka villages and big Peruvian cities towards the treasure that is Machu Picchu !


Cusco


Kitsch and Cocktails

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 6, 2009

Just by looking at the website you will realize this is not a typical Peruvian eatery
http://www.fallenangelincusco.com

In fact this restaurant/lounge would be far better suited to South beach than Cusco but it was fantastic food and a fun little place to check out so I included it here for you to see

The Fallen Angel did not look much from outside but as soon as we ventured through the doors it was quite a surprise.

Colours and Kitsch were abound. I barely had time to adjust to the visual assault when we were greeted by a beautiful Peruvian waitor and escorted to our table in the "red light district room"

We were seated at a small corner table nearby a do playing trance music (yay- no flutes for a change)

The table adjacent our had two sets of couples (gay men) seated at a bathtub table (with a glass top) which we couldn’t help peeking in and indeed it was full of fish swimming around.

The décor varied all around the restaurant. Ours (to theme) had sex scenes and fallen angels in all state of undress
Other rooms had pink flying pigs and shiny disco balls.

The colours were all rich reds, golds and leopard print
This was the most expensive place we ate during our time in peru but it was fantastic food all presented by cheery beautiful men (did I mention its very gay friendly)

The Fallen Angel is known for its steak so Karl tried to Peruvian tenderloin and was not disappointed (45 sole) whilst I had a trout seared on a bed of pasta (35 soles)
The cocktails were about 15 soles and very potent.

Everything about this restaurant was crazy and glam and not at all like being in Peru yet it worked. The waiters were flirtatious and charming and the Kitsch design kept us talking all night

On going to the toilets I laughed that there wasn’t a male or female room bit a heaven and hell. Of course I chose heaven and the toilet was designed with metal sculpted flowers climbing up
Fallen Angel
Plazoleta Nazarenas 221
Cusco, Peru
+51 (84) 258184

Eating with the Locals

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 6, 2009

Good luck finding La Chomba is you don’t like asking for directions !

Ask around…All the locals know La Chomba yet its hidden away in a courtyard so even if you were looking in the right place (as we were) its still likely you will miss it (as we did)

As you walk down the street its just a doorway in a wall. The doorway leads to a courtyard that has normal Peruvian courtyard activities like chickens fighting and kids playing (or is it the other way round) And there is the entrance to La Chomba

Wooden benches (just seat yourself and don’t worry if its next to others. It will mostly be locals here and there is no Menu just foods written on the walls. Picks something that sounds interesting or point to someone’s plate nearby and hope for the best
Don’t forget the Chicha Beer
La Chomba makes the traditional corn beer….CHICHA
Don’t think too much about the fermenting process (chewed and spat out corn) Just enjoy trying something you wouldn’t normally try

During our stay random musicians wandered in and set up and played for the diners
This place is cheaper than most other places in Cusco because it is a local eatery and dishes are piled up (you can easily split one)
You can eat well (big in fact) for well under $10 for two people

Guinea Pig Anyone?

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 6, 2009

Whenever we take a trip we try and make it the case that we never eat at the same place twice but we made the exception here because we stopped by for lunch and was told the Coy (guinea pig) had to be ordered fresh and we couldn’t get it until the following day…so we ate Lunch and returned the next day for dinner

This restaurant was recommended by the Lonely Planet which is always my bible.
I did happen to have one dish (Aji Gallini) which I had also eaten else where so I was able to say whilst the taste was equal between the two restaurants the Aji gallina at the previous place (Yaku mama) had been significantly cheaper (15 soles at first place…24 soles here)

However the ambiance at PachaPapa was wonderful.
Staff were friendly and there was a bustling courtyard with heat lamps for evening and a roaring fire/pizza oven. Live music was being played and it was busy (which so far had been unusual in this off season)
And…Most Importantly Karl got to sample the Coy.
Guinea pigs in Peru are rodents and not pets and often served up whole (laying on its back…feet in the air)
I have to say it was cooked and presented well but it wasn’t enjoyed. I think just the fact that Guinea pigs are pets here threw him off from the beginning as the food at PachaPapa was certainly good.
On the previous trip he had sampled (and enjoyed I should add) the Lamb stew (23 soles)

If you want to try the Coy be sure to stop by and order in advance.

I can’t say I really recommend it; but at the same time it is an experience to say you have tried the Coy and isn’t that what travel is all about
Pacha Papa
Plaza San Blas 120
Cusco, Peru
+51 (84) 241318

Cheap Eats

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 6, 2009

Yaku Mamas grill was one of those restaurants that we found by accident. As we were walking through the main square in Cusco (Plaza De Armes) we were accosted by various menu touts trying to get us into their restaurant for lunch.
Whats can I say …We were hungry and easily led which is how come we ended up sitting on a balcony with a wonderful view of the square and all the people down below.

We were the only ones eating here so I was doubtful of the food, but it was lovely and cheaper than some of the other places we had eaten of late. The Décor was basic, but our table faced the balcony our scenery was the locals and tourists.

I tried a local dish called Aji al Gallina which is basically a chicken stew in a yellow "curry" sauce. It was not very spicy so I use the term curry lightly. There were chunks of cheese on top as well as boiled egg….and it was delicious (15 soles-$5)
Karl had a similar dish (at least it was the same yellow colour) but his was a slightly different flavour and had potatoes and cheese sauce for also 15 soles
Yaku Mama Grill
Plaza de Armas
Cusco, Peru

Rumi Punku-Stone Entrance

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 6, 2009

The Rumi Punku Hotel is a fabulous little gem just up (everywhere in Cusco is up !!) the street from the Plaza de Armes. From here you can walk all around the old town and museums with ease.
There are plenty of shops and restaurants within the old town to keep you busy for days.

Prices vary depending on the time of year. Overall this hotel is a little pricey by Peru standards but it’s a beautiful building with awesome location

Check out the seasons prices and more about the hotel at www.rumipunku.com

We paid $90 for a lovely room (with a TV even !) on the second floor with a radiator and private bathroom (hot water iffy)

The floor above us had a private room which was available for rent ($10 for 2 hours) and had work out equipment, a sauna and huge Jacuzzi with city views.

The hotel courtyard was Spanish style; Stucco with water features and green plants all around. Breakfast was included in the price and had both hot and cold foods (meats, cheese, cereals, eggs, bacon, juices, teas)
The breakfast room also had a seating area and free internet with 2 computers available as well as Wi fi

The only negative about this hotel was the next door construction. From about 9am-4pm it was constant banging and sawing. It did not effect us as we were out and about during those times but the noise was extreme and had we been trying to rest at the end of our trip its would not have been pleasant.

The staff here spoke perfect English (which had been unusual in smaller towns) and were friendly and helpful at pointing us in the right direction for sights and foods
Hostal Rumi Punku
Choquechaca No.339
Cusco, Peru
+51 (84) 221102


Aguas Caliente/Machu Picchu


Peruvian Food

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 6, 2009

Aguas caliente has no shortage of restaurants to satiate the weary tourist. You won’t find cheap prices but despite the ramshackle nature of this town there are so good restaurant choices.

Inka Wasi was located just off the main square.
www.inkawasirestaurant.com/

It’s a big restaurant and yet managed to maintain a cozy fee with a huge pizza oven and fire pit in the center, local decorations on the walls and live music
Inka Wasi was pretty quiet when we went in (we were off season) but later a couple of big tour groups arrived…. Our service never wavered and remained attentive and friendly.

On arrival they brought out free garlic bread which was a nice touch. As with many places in peru the air was fragrant with pizza cooking but we chose to get other menu food just because in Ollanta we had had bad pizza experience (think cheese…cheese and more cheese)
I ordered a Spanish Style trout (30 soles/$10) whilst Karl had steak (alpaca) for same price. Whilst the food was more expenive than other parts of Peru it was presented well and tasted great.

All washed down with local beer and Pisco sours.
Inka Wasi
Av. Imperio de los Inkas
Machu Picchu, Peru

Pure Inca Gold

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 6, 2009


For most people seeing Machu Picchu is the cherry on their Peruvian cake.
Indeed the ancient Inca site is perhaps one of the most stunning in the world.

I had read the blogs, scoured photos and memorized the history of Machu Picchu before I even set foot in Peru and yet on arrival to Machu Picchu I was still blown away.
You cannot help but be impressed

Here is a site which will help you with practicalities
http://www.machu-picchu.info/

There a re a couple of ways to see M.P
The most adventurous way is to take one of the many treks.

The assortment on offer can be confusing but one name that kept coming up in my reading was www.llamapath.com.

It seems they had many alternative tours that take the adventurer off the well beaten Inca trail as well as stating they care for their porters welfare
These treks vary from 4-12 days and involve hiking and camping (usually with the porters carrying your equipment) and vary greatly in price so do shop around but also realize the trek is tough and in high altitude so don’t scrimp too much…you do get what you pay for so look for companies with good recommendations

For those with less time to spare there are other options
There is short trek available (2 days/I night) However on this trek it is no longer possible to camp by Machu Picchu overnight so the trekkers have to return down to Aguas Caliente for the evening.

The easiest alternative is to take the train from Cuzco (or Ollantaytambo) to Aguas Calinte and from A.G its possible to walk (very steep and not terribly exciting) up or take the $14 shuttle

I understand its very enticing to want to hike up but if you cannot spare the 4 days for the full hike I highly recommend taking the shuttle bus up and saving your energies for hikes within the site

Tickets to enter Machu Picchu are bought in Aquas Calinte from the main square and at the time I wrote this were 124 soles (about $42) Its not cheap !!!
If you return multiple days be aware that you must buy the tickets again.

On entering Machu Picchu they tell you no bottles (water) or food. They are trying so very hard to protect the environment yet at the same time the hiking within Machu Picchu can be strenuous too so I suggest sneaking in a bottle of water and snack bar but please don’t little.
There are no rubbish bins in Machu Picchu and no vendors…It makes it more special this way so help keep it clean

Depending how you arrive in Machu Picchu will determine your first view. Treks arrive via the Sungate and avoid tourist entry point. Their view (from the Sungate) is quiter and more atmospheric for sure
If you arrive via bus (or the walk uphill) you will enter with the majority of the tourists. On entry there will be the option to walk up (long route) or down (short route)

The Long route is not too difficult and takes you to the best viewing platform in the whole park. Vista Panormic where most people capture the typical shots you see of Machu Picchu with the building in the foreground and the towering peak of Wayne Picchu (old peak) behind,

We were there out of season and other than a few tour groups coming and going it was not too crazy at all.

Because we stayed in Aguas Caliente and did not come as part of a tour we were able to arrive and leave when we wanted.
There were times we felt almost alone amongst the Inca sites and that is when it felt really special
Look out for the wandering llama around Machu Picchu. They will add a fun dimension to your holiday snaps

If you haven’t hiked here there are a couple of great hikes within the park.
Waynu Picchu is the "young" peak which you see in the background of most M.P photographs. Only 400 people are allowed to hike this peak per day so get there early if you want to be one of them.

Its roughly 1 hour each way; although of course it is much tougher going up than down. The climb is steep and I often needed to use my hands on the uneven stairs. At one point there was even a narrow cave to climb through.
The view from the top however is so very worth it.

Another internal hike is to the Sungate which is where the trekkers enter. Again the hike to the Sungate is about an hour each way. Its not as steep as Waynu Picchu but don’t think its easy either.

This hike will test your energy levels and at the same time give you a taste for what the trekkers see on their own arrival
Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site
Above The Urubamba Valley
Cusco Region, Peru

Gringo's Are Us

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 2, 2009

You can find more information and booking on their website at www.gringobills.com


Despite the address being Machu Picchu realize that this hotel is not in (or particularly near Machu Picchu) However its about as near as you get unless you are willing to shell out thousands for a night at the one hotel that is up at M.P

Gringo bills is in the tourist town of Aquas Caliente-which is for most the last stop before Machu Picchu.
We arrived via train (there are NO roads into town) and were met at the train station and followed the bloke through the tourist markets, across the square and up the dingy ally to Gringo Bills.
They seemed a little confused at our reservations (done online….it DOES get confusing) but after a few minutes of checking email for proof we were rewarded with a Delux Suite upgrade on the top floor of the hotel.

The room was HUGE with three beds a big bathroom with giant Jacuzzi tub overlooking the town of Aquas Caliente. French windows were running the length of the room opening to a balcony. It was a lovely upgrade as I think normally that room goes for about $130
The prices vary here and can range from $50-$130 depending on the time of year and type of room.

Everyone was very friendly and helpful. The whole town has a run down feel and this hotel looks out over it all though not for much longer as they continue to build up in front of Gringo Bills (there was immense construction whilst we were there)
There was free (nice) breakfast which starts early for the Machu Picchu crowd and also free use of a compute which was in the communal area but that had no connection when I tried.

Even nicer there was a media room of sorts where you could sit in cinema style seats and borrow movies (we didn’t do this but it seemed a good idea)
As with most Aquas Caliente hotels, Gringo Bills is located right in the midst of everything. Overlooking the square. Steps away from where you buy M.P tickets and also from where you catch the bus there.

The only negatives I have to say were that the hot water was very eratic and the pool/hot tub in the hotel courtyard were drained. this didn't effect us as I didn't even bring a swimsuit but may dismay others (it could have been because it was out season too)
Gringo Bill's Hotel
Colla Raymi 104
Cusco, Peru
00 51 84 211046


Ollentaytambo


Inca Pride

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 2, 2009

You cannot miss the Ruins here in Ollenta. They dominate the town with their impressive terraces.
Here was where the Incas ran after the Spanish made them retreat from Cusco and it was from the Ollantaytambo Fortress that the Inca met the Spanish troops for battle.
After the initial defensive strike it was the incas who used the aqueducts to flood the valley below, making it hard for the Spanish to attack
The Spanish did indeed retreat, and Ollantaytambo became the (only) place where the Inca were able to resist attacks from the Spanish.
Its a tough climb (especially with the high altitude) up the 200 steps to the top of the Ollantaytambo Fortress to see the inca architeture as well as a slendid view down onto the town.
The Ollantaytambo Fortress is one of the greatest examples of advanced Inca architecture. Here...you can also find the Temple of Ten Niches. A particularly interesting relic is the Temple of the Sun, which bears some faint Inca carvings. You might also check out the Baños de la Ñusta (Princess Baths), at the bottom of the ruins, where you can observe the carved Inca face on one of the surrounding cliffs.
The Ruins are open early (7 30am) until around 5 pm and if you get there early you will beat the bulk of the tour groups.
It should be mentioned that to enter the site you need to purchase the full boleto turistico (which can be gotten at the site entrance) This tickets allows entrance to multiple sites throughout the Sacred Valley as well as museums so if you plan on seeing more you will certainly get better value for money.

Strange Name. Wonderful Town

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 2, 2009

Ollantaytambo was our first stop on arriving in Peru.

It’s a small traditional town nestled in the Sacred Valley with the Andres mountains looming all around. Ollanta was built on the foundations of the original Inca ruins and so you can easily look back in time and see evidence of Inca town planning.

Plenty of tourist see Ollanta as part of a whistle stop day trip of the Sacred valley so by day there are people arriving on tour buses to see the ruins and walk the cobbled streets but as dusk arrives and the thundering buses depart it can feel like you have the little gem to yourselves and I highly recommend staying at least one night
From a more practical standpoint it’s a great base to start your Peruvian adventure being slightly lower altitude (2,800m) than Cusco.

If you arrive in Cusco tired and altitudes weary the easiest way to get to Ollanta is by taxi/car. ($30-2 ½ hours)) Most Ollanta hotels will arrange this for you but I’m not exactly difficult to exit Cusco Airport and find one
The Cheapest way to Ollanta is via bus but this isn’t direct (Cusco-Urubamba (3 soles) and then Urubamba-Ollanta (2 soles))
The final option is the train which (if you are not hiking the Inca trail to MachuPicchu) you will probably be using at some point. The train however is expensive and you have to be sure the times coincide with your arrival.

Ollanta is the an attractive town of cobbled streets and tradition people. In fact if you arrive in Peru with good Spanish knowledge don’t assume you will be able to communicate with the older generation here as they mainly speak the older languages of Aymara and Quechua.
People here are friendly but shy. Don’t mistake the shyness for aloofness.
You can walk all of Ollanta easily even though there are tuktuk type transports for if the altitude throws you off your game. During the day huge tour buses will rumble through the down spoiling the peace but as dusk falls these will quickly vacate leaving a very peaceful town for your exploration.

Its safe here and you can walk anywhere in the town without worries. The narrow stone streets are particularly fun to explore,as you will see traditionally dressed locals at every turn. Be sure to look for the red (bag) flags above the doorways if you want to sample the local Chica beer. Just realize that the beer is created by people chewing corn then spitting it out and allowing the mixture to ferment !!! Enjoy !!

There is a museum in town (5 soles) too called El Museo Catcco which depicted Inca life in that area. It contained information about architecture as well as textiles samples. There are English translations but finding the museum seemed very hit or miss despite what the guide book told us.
Even when we did find the door opended the male caretaker seemed surprised to see visitors at all


My favourite sensory memory of Ollanta is at night, as the temperature drops, each home and restaurant burns their wood fires for comfort of food and the air all over the town smells like a cozy campfire.
Almost every restaurant "specializes" in pizza fresh from the pizza ovens. We tried one just because the town smells so wonderful with them cooking but I wasn’t impressed.
It was pretty much cheese on top of more cheese with a bit of cheese sprinkled for good measure. Its possible we had a bad pizza experience but unless you want to be blocked up for a week I don’t recommend it
Ollantaytambo
93 kilómetros al NE
Cusco, Peru
N/A

Gormet Peruvian Style

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 2, 2009

I have to be honest and say we had a few hit and miss meals this trip. I wish MayaPuta had not been our first meal as it set the bar so high for the rest of our time in Peru.

The Restaurant was in view of our hotel (Hostel Sauce) which isn’t saying much as Ollantaytmbo is small
.
Its actually just across the river as if you were walking from the town square towards the ruins. Mayaputa is big and spacious but in low season it was alarmingly empty. I try not to eat in sparsely populated restaurants for numerous reasons (atmosphere as well as food freshness) but in low season in town that most people visit by day than stay overnight it was hard to find people in any restaurant and so we took out chances.
It turned out to be the best meal of the holiday

There was a big, roaring fire at the far end which we headed straight towards. Those Andean nights can get a little chilly.
The service was polite and professional…but it was neither the décor nor the waitors that held our attention once the food came out.
For 10 Nuevo Soles ($3) we ordered a "chupe" Quinoa (soup made with Quinoa grain and mixed vegetables. It turned out on this trip that Quinoa would become our new best friend. it’s a grain crop and the edible seeds are used in cooking all around here. So delicious because if done well they just soak up the cooking flavours like a sponge. The Incas held this crop sacred and I can see why…yummy !!! (oh yes…and very healthy too with high protein)
Sorry-I digress in my own Quinoa worship.

Next I had a trout wrapped around sweet Potato (a lot of rivers here…a lot of trout was eaten) and the presentation of this dish rivaled any Michelin star establishment (for 28 soles-$9)
Karl had Alpaca steak (awwwww….L) with again Quinoa Risotto. Back to my love affair with the worshipped grain; I have to say the Risotto was the very best I have ever had (35 soles-$12)
All washed down with my first introduction to the Pisco sour drink. I don’t want to think about the egg is this drink because I liked it too much

Room with a View

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by britgirl7 on April 2, 2009

It had been a very long day of travels (wait… Two days) before we landed in Cusco to begin the first leg of our Peruvian adventure. I was more nervous that usual starting this trip.
My online research and subsequent booking of hotels had proven sporadic and confusing and whilst I thought I had reservations in order it was going to be a lovely surprise that the hotels actually knew about them also

I had communicated plenty with Hostel Sauce in the way that only two people struggling with another’s native tongue can.
Therefore it was a relief on arrival to Cusco airport that there was a taxi waiting for us to drive the couple of hours through the Sacred Valley to the hotel.
The scenery was amazing. Green Fertile Valleys between the high Andes peaks and Hostel Sauce was a welcomed pot of gold at the end of our Inca trail.

We were welcomed by the couple running it (and their cute dog) and shown to our room. As requested the room was one with a view out onto the Ollentaytambo ruins. We paid a little more for the ruin view ($69) but it was so worth it.
Giant French windows overlooked the cobbled streets and out onto the Terraced Inca ruins. The bed (matrimonial) was big and ceilings vaulted with dark wooden beams making the room seem bigger than it was.
There was a bottle of water waiting for us and we both decided we could lay there all day and just look at the ruins (we didn’t of course)
The bathroom was decent sized and (shock) good plumbing. We never ran out of hot water which was always an issue in Central America
There wasn’t a TV in the bedroom (who needs one with that view) but there was a tiny downstairs in the communal living room along with an open wood fire, cozy décor, books and the ever present attention-seeking pup.

There was Cocoa tea available (free) on demand which comes in handy with the altitude difference. (expect in the least mild headaches and shortness breath.

Ollenta is small so no hotel here would be a bad location but with its position round the corner from the square and the vista of the Ruins I would say Hostel Sauce would be hard to beat
In the morning they provided a hot cooked breakfast (ham/eggs) and a selection of cereals and fruits. Of course more Cocoa tea (I didn’t even need it but it sure was a nice pick-me-up)

During the day whilst we were sightseeing the front door would be locked (bizarrely with a rope and bells) so we would have to ring the bell and it seems often wake the staff (it was LOW season)
The language barrier was tough but between my limited Spanish and their limited English I think we did ok.
The price for the room seemed a great deal once you get over the pact that Peru prices are way higher than Central America

For more information and to access the confusing booking system check out their website at http://www.hostalsauce.com.pe/
Hostel Sauce
Calle Ventiderio 248
Ollantaytambo
+51 084-204044

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