Mountains, Mummies, Mokas and Machu

So I’ve been a bit busy–climbing and exploring shit–so I apologize for the absence. Where to start?

Machu Picchu

You take this picturesque train with windows in the roof on a twisting track through the Andes that hugs the Urubamba River. You end up in this very recently a shanty-town-turned-tourist trap called Aguas Calientes. Yavuz and I checked into a hostel ate a mediocre Peruvian pizza and ascended the rest of a mountain to Machu Picchu.

Luckily we took a diesel, tourist bus up this road as it was steep and considerable. Once you arrive at the entrance, you still have to walk a half mile to get to the expansive ruins. On Day 1 some Italians tricked us into thinking the trek to the Sun Temple would pay off in scenic spades. We walked for over an hour on some very uneven, rocky and at times a slippery path oly to see the same view (albeit lovely) that we had the whole marathon hike. Grrrrrrrr. Our knees, backs, hips and dogs were barking.

Day 2, although sore and fatigued we climbed Huayna Picchu (a ticket that had to be purchased months in advance). Although a smaller mountain, it was steep, slippery and at times seemed insurmountable. But the view and ruins on top were so breathtaking that “breathtaking” falls short of the description. Above the clouds. Sun gleaming on our pallid mugs, a handful of lizards and humming birds, and a few dozen fellow Trekkers were our only company. If there was such thing as heaven, this might’ve been it.

Alpaca Hats, Silver Bobbles and Paper Machete Masks

Pisac Market is about a 40 minute ride from Cusco. One can take a private taxi for $45 or take a shared mini bus for less than $2 pp. If you know anything about my travel style you’ll know I chose the latter. The van was chock-a-block with European backpackers and locals commuting for work.

The hawkers peddling their wares at the expansive tarp-covered bazaar are every bit as aggressive as those at the Thai Pat Pong market or Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar. When we became too overwhelmed by guilt and selection, we took a smoothie break. Delicious tropical fruits blended for pennies. These elixirs both hydrated us and somehow gave us the courage to get back our mad negotiating skills we’ve levied in Bangkok, Turkey and otherworldly places. Maybe we had been potassium-deficient.

At any rate, we left the market with a leopard stone, leather choker ($4), authentic Peruvian paper machete mask, wart and all ($23), gorgeous sterling silver earrings with natural stones in an Incan design ($30) and 4 high quality alpaca hats, with the obligatory woolen, braided dangles ($22 in total). We got all those treasures for less than a round trip private taxi ride to the aforementioned market. Muy bien!!!

This morning we’re off to explore Cusco. Tomorrow we head to Machu Picchu.

There’s an Achiness in My Puno

We missed the first thirty six hours in Puno trying to recover from major sleep deprivation (me) and über jet lag (Yavuz). And in spite of dosing with heavy duty anti-altitude sickness RX, we’re experiencing fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and intermittent headaches. Mountain sickness happens to 70% of the populace. It occurs when you rapidly ascent from 0 to over 8500 feet. We went from sea level to 12, 600 feet. So you can imagine. We’re sluggish today but making do. We will tour all the beautiful castles that were resurrected when the Jesuit Spanish destroyed the country, ruined the temples, slayed the elders and forced Catholicism down the throats of the survivors. Those churches. Those are the ones we will tour.

More later.

Bickering Sisters

It never gets easier. Airline staffers seem little concerned with the customer experience. It’s increasingly difficult to get sister airlines to coordinate appropriately. You fly one leg on one carrier and the next leg on a partner. Neither prints a boarding pass for the second flight and each blame the other. This time my spontaneous crying jag resulted in the carrier letting me on a flight that was supposedly “closed”. Even if I could produce disingenuous crocodile tears I wouldn’t have thought to use them here as the German airline was unmoved by my heart-breaking loss of flight. Who’d have guessed that a breathless, sobbing travel-weary tourist would be the Ecuadorean airline’s cryptonite? How many speeding tickets could I have avoided had I been able to harvest this tearful super power? But all the good my meltdown did me, my travel partner is three hours delayed. I rushed to wait. Oh well. It wasn’t all bad, not one, but two business class upgrades and lots of free booze. Which come to think of it, must have been the impetus for the major waterworks. I always was an emotional drinker. We’ll get three hours of sleep tonight and then right back at the airport to fly to Lake Titicaca. The double entendres will be aplenty tomorrow.

Sweet Home Istanbul

Great to be back in my Ev away from Ev. Today we’ll visit my pistachio guy at the Spice Bazaar to score some of King Faisal’s nuts and sone turmeric-based Turkish mix of spices. Then I’ll get a cookbook for my brother and some blown glass for others. We’ll finish the day with Kahve Dunyası mochas.

Hoping to take Yavi to see the new Bond film. Since it was filmed here, it could be fun to say “hey, we just saw that on the way in”. It’s going to be in the 70’s today, so my new wool pea coat will have to make her Turkish debut another day.

Turkey – where all delicious lamb dishes come with a side order of lamb

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