Buenos Aires – 25 May 2009

Hola chicos,

Excuse typing errors – very worn out keyboard…We are back in Buenos Aires and I must say, this could be the undisputed capital of empanadas.  Today we went to a place called Ña Serapia, Las Heras, Av. 3357, and the empanadas were fragrant, delicate and so very delicious.

http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/detail.php?ID=917

As well as the empanadas we had Locra which I can only describe as a soup or stew with heaps of corn and beans and other yummy things.  And just because it looked so good, we also had by far the best tamale I have ever had, anywhere.  This is definitely one to experiment with when we get home. We only have 24 hours left in BA and we are considering going back tomorrow before our flight…

So a bit of a recap since the transport strike.  We did manage to get to Machu Picchu and it was quite a journey.  Once in the town of Aguas Calientes one must locate the office to buy the entry pass and pay a rather large sum of money.  I think it equaled about 60 Aussie dollars.  Then you locate the place where you buy the tickets for the bus, and fork over another 15 or so bucks for a 20 minute all uphill, hair-raising, nail-biting bus ride.  Once inside the grounds you go up about a thousand steps to get the vantage point for the postcard photo of the actual Inca Ruins and the huge hill, Waynu Picchu!  Unbelievable.  After seeing it in so many documentaries and photos it is hard to believe you are actually standing there.  The depth and scale of it all is overwhelming!  I am so glad we got there.

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We spent about 5 hours walking around and I think Andrew took over 100 photos.  It seemed we walked forever.

Back in town that evening we made good use of the hot springs that give the town it’s name and soaked our aching muscles.

Machu Picchu was the pinnacle for sure, but we also visited many other Inca ruins (Sacsayhuamán, Pisac, Ollantaytambo to name a few) and walked up and down numerous sets of stairs and terraced agricultural sites! The combination of altitude and stairs has been tough!

We got back to Cusco and enjoyed a few more meals at a favourite traveller’s haunt called Jacks where we had warming soups and herbal teas.

It has been an amazing adventure, not without a few hitches. Our flight from Cusco to Lima went fine then we sat in Lima airport for 5 hours waiting to get back to BA.  We finally arrived at our accommodation at 2am.

The B&B we are staying at in Recoleta is friendly and very comfy so we are resting up for the big flight back home.

What do we miss?  Our own bed and decent pillows! And Andrew’s Prawn and Pernot Risotto which he’ll make soon after we get back.

Would we do it again?  YES!  We are already starting sentences with “next time we come to South America…”.  There is so much more to see.  We would like to focus on Southern Argentina and Chile (and La Cumbre to see Tuti!).  But that’s another email.  We’ll let you all know when we get home safely and will post pictures on our Flickr site, eventually…

Ollantaytambo, Peru – 21 May 2009

Hola Amigos!

Due to a transport strike we are stuck in Ollantaytambo Peru…but we can think of worse places to be stuck.  The scenery here is stunning and there are Inca Ruins.  And we are in a comfortable hotel with good food!  Not an empanada in sight though, sadly.

We made a mad dash via various forms of public transport (2 local buses, a collectivo – a 12 seater van with 21 people and one chicken in it – then a motorcycle taxi) to Ollantaytambo a few nights ago so that we are here when the strike ends.  We have booked tickets on the train to Machu Picchu on Thursday morning from here.

Going back to our last bulk email I think we were in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.  Since then we did an overnight bus to coastal Arica, got a good night´s sleep, then crossed the border into Peru.  Caught a bus up to Arequipa, a beautiful city in the foothills of the Andes at about 2400 meters.  There are multiple volcanoes surrounding the town.  We did an overnight trip into the Colca Canyon, second deepest in the world and deeper than the Grand Canyon.  Saw majectic Condors gliding over the canyon scavenging for food.

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On way from Arequipa to Colca Canyon – eating cactus fruit on the side of the road
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Colca Canyon, Peru
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Flight of the condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
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Road sign

After 5 days in that area we moved on to Lake Titicaca where we went out to the Uros Islands (islas flotantes – floating islands) which are build upon staggered layers of totara reeds and large clumps of totara root masses. We also went out to Tacile Island which is UNESCO heritage listed.  The way of life appears not to have changed for a very long time…

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On Lake Titicaca

Made our way to Cusco, a grand city with winding, narrow cobbled streets where the views get better the higher you climb. Happened upon a University Graduation Parade in Plaza de Armas which involved a great display of national costumes and dancing in the streets!

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Dancing in the streets
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Streets of Cusco -literally breathtaking

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Cusco is pretty high up, over 3000 meters but we are well acclimatised to the altitude now and ready for some more hiking at Machu Picchu once we finally get there tomorrow!  On our way from Cusco to Ollantaytambo we stopped in Pisac, where we had planned to spend the night, we visited our first Inca ruins…the engineering know how has really blown us away and everyone says Macchu Picchu is even more incredible.  Can´t wait!

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Pisac terraces
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Pisac terraces – see town below

As for empanadas, we did have some wood fired oven ones in Pisac.  We were looking forward to a second round but had to dash to Ollantaytambo ahead of the strike!

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Some of the best empanadas we ate were in Pisac, Sacred Valley of Peru

We will be on our way home in a week but still have some more days in Cusco then BA to go.

Cheers for now.

Lou & Roo