Peru

Elephant No. 1: Peru

Elephant No. 1

The idea of this blog was that I would try and find 80 elephants from around the world. Unfortunately Peru turned out to be not a particularly elephant-rich country and these rather nice stone elephants were the only ones I could find, in one of the souvenir stalls by the Salineras (salt mines) near Cusco. Hopefully I’ll have better luck in the summer!

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Just because people keep asking – we went to the Air France office the next morning and first they said ‘no flights for a week’…sorry, WHAT?

That in the end that turned out to be untrue, and they found us a flight back to Paris together the following day, but with different connecting flights from Paris to London. Apparently we could be in line for €600 compensation for the cock up – I’m rather doubtful if they’d ever pay up, but we can live in hope! (more…)

Flight fun

So…we finish the Inca trail (tough but fun with amazing views), are stunned by Machu Picchu (I take back some of what I said about Incan ruins) and take a 22 hour bus back to Lima (not as bad as it sounds apart from the four violent torture films played back to back). We have one nice day in Lima, go out for a fancy last meal in a beautiful restaurant on a pier jutting into the sea at sunset. We pack our bags – and somehow fit everything inside after weeks of just strapping excess luggage to the outside. We book a taxi and arrive at the airport 3 hours before our flight to Paris leaves. A perfect end to a lovely month in Peru, some might say.

Then we look at the departure boards and find that there is no flight to Paris.

Apparently it had been cancelled a few months ago and passengers transferred onto a flight the day before. Naturally, our dear crappy online travel agent had neglected to tell us this minor detail so it had taken off without us, and the only other flight that night, to Amsterdam, was now full.

They told us to wait until the check in closed in case some passengers didn’t turn up – but of course they all did. So now we are stuck in Lima for the foreseeable future as all the flights on the next few days are fully booked so we just have to go to the airport each day to hope that two passengers decide not to turn up… exciting? A pain? A bit of an adventure? Who knows…

Cuzco

We’ve now spent a week in Cuzco, once the capital of the Incan empire, now tourism capital of Peru. There’s a lot to see and do but we’ve been taking things at a chilled pace after all the rushing around at the start of the trip…

First up, there are an awful lot of Incan ruins to visit in the area around Cuzco, known as the Sacred Valley – it was one of the reasons that we decided on Peru over other South American countries. However, unfortunately these ruins have been for the most part a big disappointment. Compared to ruins in Europe, Incan ruins are frankly just a bit pathetic. I mean, the Incan heyday was in the 1400s and 1500s but their cities and palaces look like something from Archaic Greece (c1000 BC) – they resemble places like Mycenae and Tiryns. Sure, they built big stone walls – but little in comparison to the sort of palaces around in 15th century Britain. They hadn’t even invented iron smelting – let alone literature or drama! The one thing that the Incas do have on the Europeans is landscape – the mountains are higher, the valleys are greener, and in general the views are more spectacular… (more…)

Peruvian Food No. 3

Guinea pig! – tonight we sampled that lovely childhood pet, the guinea pig. All the restaurants around the main square of Cusco serve some variety of guinea pig (cuy in Spanish) but we opted for a roast guinea pig, which they said would serve two. 15 minutes after ordering said roast guinea pig appeared in front of us, cooked whole – you could see its little ears and rather sharp looking teeth. Having had two pet guinea pigs at home myself it was a bizarre experience to tuck in, also because it tasted like nothing I’d ever eaten before. There wasn’t actually an enormous amount of meat on the body, but it had a texture like chicken and a flavour…well…sort of gamey? Hard to compare it to anything else because it was such an unusual flavour. The waiter told us that you could eat everything but I decided to give the brain and cheeks a miss, but Alex tucked into those and said that the cheeks especially were good because they were very tender. So there you have it, roast guinea pig!