A Pan-American Adventure; Part 1.0 – Cusco, Peru

The past 5 years has seen me embark upon an educational journey. One for which I had previously fought and struggled, but which eventually led to me losing my convictions prior to its completion. Though complete it I did, and recently ended up with my doctorate.

During the summer just gone, I handed in my thesis and was examined successfully and as a post-hand-in/viva celebration, my other half and I took to the wind, spending the best part of 2 months visiting Peru, Seattle, Vancouver and Reykjavik. In this post I shall be referencing and depicting our first few days in Peru, where we spent time in Cusco. Though first, let’s get some technical talk out of the way.

Space and weight constraints meant that I could only take one camera and that WAS going to be a film camera! So I decided, due to it’s robustness and apparent versatility and durability, to take the Pentacon Six with my Zeiss Biometar 80 mm f2.8 attached. I also took 12 rolls of Kodak Portra 400 and all shots in these posts will have been taken using this set-up and generally exposed at ISO 200. As usual, all films were processed, printed and scanned by Ag-Photographic’s Photolab service.

So…

The journey to Peru was one of the longest and somewhat disconcerting journeys I have had the pleasure of making! Travelling from Heathrow, we changed in Bogota and Lima, before making the final leg to Cusco also by plane. Over-zealous airport security and the inevitably tight airline seating space were highlights. Plus anyone who has flown into Bogota may well know the insane level of turbulence you will experience when landing there.

Anyhow, in one piece and with all baggage intact we arrived in Cusco somewhat bedraggled. For our first few days we had booked into a room in someone’s house via AirBnB and we so relayed our directions to the driver of one of the ‘official’ cabs which can be acquired at the airport. The journey wasn’t too far thankfully, and one of our hosts was waiting to greet us.

Our room was basic but lovely, with a great mountain view. We were also furnished with coca leaves and a thermos of hot water, which was to become a staple of our Peruvian component. Come evening we were, as one might say, knackered! We thus hit the sack quite early and took up our adventure the next day.

I’m not going to take you through a day-by-day account, but suffice to say that we spent our time exploring on foot and also took advice from our hosts on certain things to see or where to buy groceries – this gave us the chance to see places that one might not ordinarily visit.

The weather was bright and sunny for the vast majority of both our initial stay in Cusco, and our return after the trek we had booked, but more on the latter in a later post! The environment was very dry and the city, at ca. 3400 m, is extremely hilly and also densely packed; thus Cusco is riddled with many alley- and stair-ways. We did eat out at times, but mainly bought ingredients from one of two local markets and made our own meals.

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Our AirBnB hosts – Ingrid and Washy – ran a cafe and artspace/shop called L’Atelier by Grid. This became our first haven, of which we found several over the course of our trip, a place where we could relax and refrain from the heat and altitude.

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Peru is becoming increasingly well known for it’s cuisine, and with around 7 craft breweries existing around the country, there is substantial availability of decent experimental beer. Our favourite restaurant became Greens Organic, (though La Bodega had the best range of beers and also did excellent wood-fired pizza). Greens was not cheap by Peruvian standards but this is offset by the fact that they employ ambitious local people and create the most delicious, simple meals from local’ish ingredients sourced from the Sacred Valley. This place was so good, probably the nicest food we ate on our whole trip and maybe even better than anything I’ve eaten over here. I would highly recommend heading there if you find yourself in Cusco.

Our first stint in Cusco lasted around 5 days. We had arrived so as to spend several days acclimatising to the altitude, as the main component of our holiday was a 9-day trek around the Ausangate mountain which we had booked with Keswick-based KE Adventure. We now move on to Part 2 of ‘A Pan-American Adventure’ which will will focus on their itinerary.

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