Jeffrey Berk’s Travelogue from Peru – August 1999

Cuzco, Peru.
August 23, 1999.
Steph and I have had quite an amazing day and would not normally feel the need to go online so soon after our last email but…internet cafes seem to be everywhere in Cusco. We write to you from a little internet cafe around the corner from our hotel. This place is filled with young coffee drinkers, tourists and locals. At a buck for an hour, you can’t beat the price.

This morning we woke up late and still had headaches because of the altitude. Aslan very nicely pointed out that we are less than half the height of Everest. Whatever. At 11,000 feet who cares exactly how high you are. You are high enough.

We still can’t stop telling everyone about this wonderful little hotel.
Ninos provided us with a nice breakfast of muesli and yoghurt this morning. Sitting outside in a lovely courtyard with the sun peaking through.

We finished and hit one of 3 museums of the day. First stop was the Historical Museum which we quickly zipped through. Then to the City Museum and on to Santa Domingo and the Incan Temple of the Sun (Koricancha). Fantastic. The Incan Temple has the original stone foundation which the Spanish conquerors built over. The 2 different styles seem to work. We had a wonderful guide who really helped us understand the period of Spanish conquerors.

We had pizza and spaghetti for lunch which hit our spot nicely. Then off to catch the City Tour. We want to take it easy today so we will travel by tourist bus. First stop was Santo Domingo which we had already seen then the Cathedral which was opulent and huge. Not much to report here. Our guide is a local and Jeff quizzed him on a restaurant suggestion for the evening.

Next stop was Sacsayhuaman, an incredible Incan ruin. Huge stones perfectly fit together without mortar. The UNESCO World Heritage Sight is on the mountain overlooking Cuzco. We hiked the ruins and took plenty of great snapshots. Off next to Quenqo which was a temple where brain surgery was performed and human sacrifices as well.

Puka Pucara was next, a small resting and watering spot for Incan travelers. The fortress was small but almost intact. Last stop was Tambomachay, Temple of Incan Water. The fountain at this sight has been watering for 500 years. It is supposed to represent fertility and youth.

With headphones on, we headed back on the bus to Cuzco. Immediately to a waiting taxi where we took a very long ride to other end of town to Plaza San Sebastian where there was not a tourist in sight (The place had been recommended by our guide).

Off the beaten track is an understatement. We walked in and every head turned our way. No gringos here. The owner asked us if we were lost. Then she suggested that we go into a private room away from the noise and other diners. Very nice of her but we were happy among a huge dinner party. Apparently, someone had just graduated engineering school
and he and 50 of his friends decided to celebrate by getting rip-roaring

Jeff ordered fried guinea pig and Steph got the mixed plate of meat
and chicken and other local dishes. The guinea pig is a local delicacy
called “cuy”. They first told Jeff that they had run out because the dinner party had all ordered it. Jeff was crushed and he ran out to find another restaurant. But several minutes later the server located one of the varmints and ran off after Jeff to tell him. Jeff returned with a big smile on his face. 45 minutes later, the guinea pig arrived, spread-eagle, claws and teeth bared – the entire animal intact.

Needless to say, Steph, with straight face, asked him if he could eat at a neighboring table. Jeff would have no such thing and offered her a taste. Didn’t think so. Of course, Jeff got down to business and devoured what he could. He reports that there was not much meat (and that, indeed, it tasted like chicken). Also, Jeff was pissed because the little varmint cost 8 bucks. A fortune by local standards. Steph was happy with her plate. After a few more beers, Jeff didn’t seem to mind anything.

If you are feeling adventurous and don’t want to see a tourist, head out to this restaurant. It is in Plaza San Sebastian and is called El Juglar.

A cab back to Cuzco and a moonlit walk in the Plaza de Armas under twinkling stars. And the lights from the majestic cathedrals on the square.

Tomorrow we are off to the Sacred Valley. The famous market of Pisac in the morning and then the ruins of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Jeff and Steph truly enjoyed their tour today with SAS but feel the need to explore the area tomorrow on their own. They have made arrangements to go on a 2 day trek on the Inca Trail. Where there will be NO INTERNET CAFES. We think.

That’s it for now. 10pm and we have to be up at 6 to catch the bus to the market of Pisac. We will be back online tomorrow night before we head off down the Inca Trail and Macchu Piccu, so feel free to take hand to keyboard and pen a greeting. It keeps us warm and happy.

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