Peru has been in the plans for me for two years now; and despite the altitude risk; enormous distance and hours of air travel—I was determined to go up to Machu Picchu before end of February. And boy, was it worth it. Long trip from Las Vegas to Lima and on to Cuzco where 3400 meters altitude hit you like a rock. I spent sometime in modern Peru, doing the museums, seaside and the famous food of Lima. On to Cuzco, the capital of the Incas for hundreds of years and the main point where roads in south America met.
Very rich blend of cultures was accentuated by my choice of place to stay. I stayed at Hotel Monasteria, a previous Monastery built and run by Spanish monks, turned into a high end boutique hotel. I could spend my photo daily ration just taking the pictures of the amazing hotel but I also managed to hit the delightful covered bazaar of Cuzco and mingled with the potato sellers, breadmakers and artisans. Next day I went on to Sacred Valley and visited the archeological ruins of Incas, followed on by a trek among the Andes to the magical hidden kingdom of the Incas, Machu Picchu. The train ride follows the Urubamba river, an arm of Amazon, following very steep Andes mountains and the green of the jungle follows. Moment I got to Machu Picchu after the eternal bus ride up to top of the mountain; it wasn’t like anything I thought it would be. There it was, an alice in wonderland town, so small yet so sophisticated hidden between thousands of meters of mountains where nothing but jungle ensued. It was breathtaking, shiny, almost as a cartoon of a town on top of the world where nothing existed. The varied green on the mountains I couldn’t help compare to Himalayas; and the local people so distinct and colourful and rich. I was hit by a wall of rain back at the base of Machu Picchu; completely soaked shivering on the train back to Ollantaytambo; being entertained by wonderful attendants on the train with an alpaca fashion show and a local shaman show.
Amazing food scene
Lima is full of very innovative, exciting sophisticated restaurants, list is pretty long to choose from. I chose to eat in two up and coming places; ‘Panchita’ run by world reknown chef Gaston, one of his various places in the city and Amaz, in Miraflores, right near the brand new Hilton Miraflores. Both places included traditional meat dishes and various appetizers borrowed from local creoli tradition, abundant use of potato kinds combined with unthinkable portions. AT Amaz, much higher end hip end of spectrum; I tasted true innovative seafood of Pacific with sweet and sour tastes; garnishes of tropical variety from northern Peru jungle accompanies by a coconut drink and really spectacular Argentinian Malbec from Catania cellars. In Cuzco, food goes more traditional; Pancha Papa was the favourite place where I chose to dine two nights in a row; amazing appetizers with potatoe/fish combination; potato cream combination garnished with organic local greens followed with local meat served with traditional rice and beans food tacu-tacu. For a Turkish person, tacu-tacu goes a long way, although I must admit having pizza for lunches in plaza mayor which sounded the easiest alternative.