Tag Archive: Pisco Sour


Sunday Travel Tales

Chapter 9 – Sillustani & Puno

 

The flight from Arequipa was short and we were soon landing in Juliaca. Leaving the airport was uncomplicated. We were met at the arrivals gate by a representative of the receiving travel agency, welcomed to Juliaca, and  soon on the main road towards Puno.

 

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Looking down on some of the older tombs – image: AV

The driver explained that he would first take me to Sillustani where I would meet the rest of my group for the trip to famous Lake Titicaca. Sillustani is one of the most famous sites of the Inca, it is a peninsula where the Inca buried their important, probably royal, dead.

 

As we neared the place, I could see the massive tombs rising from the ground. As we got nearer, the immensity of the stone crypts became apparent. Great markers of peoples past. We arrived at the site at the same a time as a small bus, these were to be my companions for the next stage of the trip. It was here I met Edgar, a slight man with an affable manner. He spoke quietly and gave us the history of the site before we started our climb up to the “chullpas” as they were called. Here at the top we found two distinctive types, one shorter and more primitive from a period earlier than the giants that could be seen from a way off. The actual burial place was small compared with the giant edifices, a small cavity facing the rising sun where the deceased was placed in a feotal position. The Inca believed you came into this world in a feotal position, so you should leave it. The rest of the monument was solid, simply a marker of the person’s passing.

 

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The large “Largata” tomb – image: AV

We were herded like sheep to one of the “chullpas”, here it was explained that some years earlier lightning had struck, and demolished half of the structure. We could see here, the construction. This was known as the “Largata” because of the lizard symbol on the side. No one knows why, or who was buried here, only those who passed, and they’re not telling. Photos were taken and we were lead to other aspects of the ceremonial site, temple of the sun and the smaller ring of stones, temple of the moon. Then even more primitive “chullpas”, white, an even earlier epoch of the Inca. Three ages of the empire were represented here, an indication of the importance these once great people placed on the area.

 

An interesting facet was pointed out, some of the stones involved were enormous. How did the Inca, who had no knowledge of the wheel, managed to transport, carve and manipulate the massive rocks into position? A question that until today remains unanswered.

 

After wandering the site and taking many photos, it was time to go. We retraced our steps back to the small bus. My van had gone, but I was relieved to see they had the goodness to put my baggage on the bus. Yes, on the bus, for it was roped, I observed thankfully, securely on top.

 

We didn’t immediately board the bus, but surrounded by the local kids selling everything from hats to Inka Kola and souvenirs we went to a small restaurant come museum. Here we drank coca tea, and wandered among the informal exhibits scattered about on trestle tables. Morbidly grinning skulls, bones, rocks that had obviously become and been tools in a past age, pottery and remnants of ancient fabrics that had withstood the test of time.

 

The bus at Sillustani - image: AV

The bus at Sillustani – image: AV

Coca tea finished, we faced the throng of kids again, some of us bargained for the offered goods and after winning small concessions from the expert negotiators we boarded the bus and were soon bouncing along the dirt track back to the potholed tar-seal. Eventually we came to the main road and turned right to Puno.

 

Our first sight of Puno was reaching the top of a hill and the road veered to the right and began its descent giving us a panoramic view of Puno, the bay, and the fabled Lake Titicaca as a backdrop. It was quite spectacular and several of took advantage when the van driver stopped. We piled out and took some photos.

 

Puno is an unremarkable city, plain, nothing to consume the interest of the visitor. Its popularity lay directly with it being the gateway to the famous lake. In fact Puno is a major hub for tourism in Peru; whether you came from Bolivia travelling to Cusco, you passed through Puno, or, if you came from Arequipa by plane, bus, or train, you passed through Puno, or, if you were doing the reverse, you passed through Puno. And, of course, while you were in Puno, there was the famous Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and it’s equally famous islands, the Uros floating islands and Taquile. Taquile is not the only attraction, fast gaining popularity is another of the Titicaca communities, the island of Amantani. Also, surrounding Puno, there were things to see and do like Sillustani, where we had just come from, and Chucuito, which was on our itinerary.

 

The railway station in front of our hotel - image: AV

The railway station in front of our hotel – image: AV

We arrived at an unremarkable hotel, totally non-descript, called the Railway Hotel, and as one would have guessed, it was in front of the railway station, which was slightly more picturesque.

 

Collectively we looked warily at our lodgings, and once we were settled in our quarters, decided that the hotel restaurant didn’t endear us to the festive mood that was around, for we had arrived during carnival. In the failing light we wandered as a troop to the tourist street. Jirón Lima had been turned into a pedestrian-only street and was home to the many travel agencies, banks and restaurants that catered to the needs and tours of the visitors. We found Edgar’s agency and were directed to a suitable restaurant, A London Pub, right here in Peru.

 

The Lake Pub, Puno - image: AV

The Lake Pub, Puno – image: AV

Once inside “The Lakeside Pub,” we were welcomed with, yes, if you guessed a complementary Pisco Sour? You’d be right. We drank them and ordered beers, not British, but certainly acceptable and well chilled. Even though the air outside was already chilling. Puno is 3,800m a.s.l. so at night, with no intense sunlight, the air chilled considerably. We were surprised we could get fish ‘n’ chips and enormous American style open hamburgers, even cottage pie was on the menu. Some of us opted for recognisable dishes, others experimented with lake trout and more ceviche.

 

Dancing in the streets - image: AV

Dancing in the streets – image: AV

After our meal, we discovered that the festive climate was heating up outside, so we went to explore. The streets, including Jirón Lima were crowded, gaily costumed dancers wriggled their bottoms in a quaint Peruvian fashion and we stopped to watch them. I don’t know the name of the dance, nor did I recognise it, although there were overtones of the “twist” from the early Beatles years, although there was more swivel than the “twist.”

 

We wended our way amongst the revellers and found our way back through the market to the austerity of our hotel. We were pretty shagged, but we did stop in the hotel restaurant for a whisky nightcap and an early bed.

 

The market near our hotel - image: AV

The market near our hotel – image: AV

In the morning we were awakened by our wake up calls. We had been given a list of things that we would need for our trip to the islands. So it was off to the market to search for such things as torches and batteries, because Taquile Island had no power; sunscreen was a must as well to combat the intense sunlight to which we would be exposed during our five hour boat ride on Lake Titcaca; and also some basic necessities such as the humble toilet roll, which wasn’t supplied in our next accommodations. Despite the early hour, the market was alive with throngs of people already going about their daily business. We joined the throngs and searched for our treasures. We found stall selling hot sweet fruit juice mixed with porridge, but not like the porridge that we know. Apple and porridge, heavily tinged with cinnamon in the crisp morning air, made a change from bread rolls and strawberry jam.

 

Back to the hotel, packed our bags for the trip. We were leaving most of our baggage at the hotel, only taking the travelling necessities for two nights and assembled in the “lobby” which was actually the wide corridor between reception and the restaurant, to await our transport.

Sunday Travel Tales

Back to our Peruvian story this week.

Chapter 8 – Colca Canyon

 

Breakfast in the garden, as we had come to expect, bread rolls, strawberry jam and coffee, once again with white cheese and fruit juice, we also had the choice of tea and coca tea liberally served to the tourists as Arequipa was situated at 2,200m a.s.l. and we were fast approaching higher altitudes where people suffered from sorochi, altitude sickness. The group had formed the previous day, most of the same people we had been travelling with. Twelve people in all, after breakfast, bags downstairs and we were ushered into a microbus. Our guide was Freddy, he was young and gay. He was a perfect tour guide, great sense of humour and knowledgeable. He conducted the tour in English and Spanish.

 

Our first stop was a roadside restaurant, where Freddy advised drinking coca tea because we were ascending slowly from Arequipa and would soon be passing a plateau of 4,500m a.s.l. We dunked our coca leaves in the steaming enamel mugs and were joined by a nosy alpaca who had entered the place like he owned it. The amicable beast visited each table in turn looking for friendship in the form of tidbits. Photos were taken as the animal wandered among the tables.

 

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Herds of vicuña on the high plateau – image: AV

Again, on our way, we passed vast expanses of plateau, herds of guanco and vicuña were pointed out guanaco are a smaller version of alpaca, and the vicuña smaller still and the bearer of the finest wool of any animal, making it very expensive and very sought after, this fact had consequently placed the animal on the endangered species list. The vicuña was now protected, but still subject to poachers.

 

Some of our number began to feel woozy. Headaches and nausea, the first signs of altitude sickness. We all felt the need to gasp for air in this rarified air. The oxygen bottle was assembled and distributed amongst those who needed it, the mood was very quiet in the bus as those who did not suffer could sense the obvious discomfort of those suffering.

 

At last, we came across the sight of Chivay, way down in the green valley, and the bus started its long windy descent. Into Chivay, it appeared a sleepy hollow as we stopped in the main square, surrounded by trees and neat little paths.. We were herded into a small restaurant where we were told we could sample alpaca steak. I did, I wasn’t impressed despite being told it was a local delicacy. The meat was as tough as old boots, so tough as to be unpalatable.

 

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Our hostel in Cabanaconde – image: AV

We didn’t stay in Chivay, but continued along the Colca Valley stopping at a small town for refreshments. We arrived at Cabanaconde, several degrees more primitive than Chivay. Streets were not paved, no power after 8pm, extremely simple lodgings with friendly people. “Mate de coca” was freely available and our sufferers began to feel better now that we were at 3,600m a.s.l. With no light other than candles, we were in bed early.

 

Woken in the morning to a mountain fresh day, a walk before breakfast. Yes, our bread rolls and strawberry jam were waiting with hot steaming mugs of coca tea.

 

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Cruz del Condor – image: AV

Now for the return journey to Chivay. Our first stop was “Cruz del Condor”, a high point above the canyon where the Colca River flowed 1,200 metres below us. Here, if we were lucky, we would see the giant condors flying from their nests in the canyon walls to soar gracefully on the updraughts out of the canyon.

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Condors soared gracefully out of the canyon

We were lucky and the condors did appear as graceful and magnificent as we had been promised. Some groups are not so lucky due to the fickle condors deciding to spend a morning indoors. Several of the great birds soared out of the canyon so they sported themselves above us on massive 3.5m wingspans. Camera action was immediate and frantic.

 

Around the area several women and children dressed in traditional garb sold wares, souvenirs and “tuna” (no, not the fish) tuna is the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. The women and girls peeled the fruit in various stages of maturity, green, yellow and red. Each with its unique flavour. The rock hard seeds were hard on the teeth, but the flesh quite tasty.

 

 

The hanging tombs - image: AV

The hanging tombs – image: AV

After the condors we travelled on down the canyon, Inca agricultural planning was shown to us, as were the hanging tombs on a cliff face, long since raided for their textile riches. We stopped at Achoa, a small dairy shop. Here we tried natural yoghurt and local cheeses. The yoghurt was fabulous, quite unlike anything you’d find in a home supermarket and much superior to the taste. The 90 day cheese was quite tangy, seemed like a good idea, so I bought a wheel that weighed about a kilo.

 

Rumillacta (Stone Village) our hotel - image: AV

Rumillacta (Stone Village) our hotel – image: AV

By then it was already after lunch and we continued on into Chivay where we stayed at Rumillacta (Stone Village), a three star hotel. Billeted in stone chalets. Lunch was served and the rest of the day free. Most of us went to sample the local hot pools, hot natural spring water, the smell of sulphur and a luxurious scolding in the pools soothed our travel wary bodies.

 

The evening was taken by a small band who played local music with zamphir of varying size. Complimentary Pisco Sours, dancing and dinner were the finale. The group also sold several CD’s of their music which was hauntingly beautiful.

 

Bed and a cool night under massive covers. The temperature here dropped to below freezing during the night.

 

A walk in the crisp morning air removed all vestiges of sleep as we circled the square and returned for, yes, bread rolls, strawberry jam and “mate de coca.”

 

After breakfast, back into our microbus for the return to Arequipa. I was travelling on by plane to Juliaca, most of the others were going to Cusco by bus or south to Chile. I collected my left luggage from the hotel and taken straight to the airport by the travel agency for my flight to Juliaca.

Sunday Travel Tales

I must right a wrong. I haven’t checked, but I have a vague idea that I neglected to tell you the name of this story. “Strawberry Jam, Bread Rolls and Pisco Sours”. If you have been following this story from the beginning, you’ll have noticed that breakfast is always strawberry jam and bread rolls, and everywhere we went we got complimentary pisco sours.

Wrong, righted…

Chapter 6 – Ica and Nazca

Amid bread rolls and coffee, I made my farewells to my new travelling companions at the cafe in the square. After, I was put into a motor taxi, stuffed in next to my bags and taken to the streetside bus station for my trip to Ica. I was surprised that some of my travelling companions were also on the same bus. We talked about our travels, watched the scenery, which was much the same as we had seen before. So the trip was uneventful.

Reastaurant at Huacachina Lagoon - image: AV

Restaurant at Huacachina Lagoon – image: AV

On arrival at Ica, we were met by a local guide and taken to the lagoon at Huacachina where the braver of us (not me) were to experience sandboarding down the highest sand dunes in the world.

Sandboarding, I discovered was rather like surfing without the benefit of waves, but rather like surfing on a steep beach.

See the foolhardy way up there? Image: AV

See the foolhardy way up there? Image: AV

I chose to walk around the lagoon, which was a true oasis in the desert, picturesque, palm trees and cool green water, then sat on the terrace of the one and only restaurant to watch the braver, or more foolhardy, slide, fall and tumble their way down the towering sand dunes that surrounded us.

Carlos, the smile that won the hearts of the ladies - Image: AV

Carlos, the smile that won the hearts of the ladies – Image: AV

While waiting on the others to rejoin me for lunch I had my shoes unnecessarily cleaned by an irascible tyke with a cheeky grin. He did a good job and in return got an invitation to lunch as well as payment for his labours. Lunch was soon underway, Carlos, my irascible tyke, made an unprecedented hit with the girls, and he was only nine.

I chose cerviche, I had developed a taste for this tongue tingling dish, others had more recognisable fare, hamburgers and plates of baked and fried fish. Beer was the order of the day and Carlos chose the national drink which to this day, reminds me of horse pee.

Lunch over, bruises nursed and abrasions bandaged, we were returned to Ica for our trip to Nazca.

Now, somewhat naïvely, we chose to travel by “collectivo” because it was well more than an hour quicker than the bus. What we didn’t know was what a “collectivo” entailed. We found out, there were fourteen of us, enough to fill two and were off.

A “collectivo” is a miracle to behold. They are late 1950’s early 1960’s American cars. A mixture of Dodges, Chryslers, Buicks and Fords. To actually call them cars was a euphemism, they were relics, actually relics is also a euphemism for wrecks. The one that I was in, the driver had to hold up the boot while we deposited our bags, he had to hold it because one hinge had rusted off. He changed gear with a large engineer’s screwdriver stuck in a hole in the floor and after smoking two cigarettes in the front seat, I discovered that the fuel tank was the large plastic bottle at my feet. The trip was as mercifully quick as it was breezy, for none of the windows wound up and wayward springs in the seats didn’t afford too much comfort either.

Much of the road to Nazca is straight, so we flew at a comfortable 150-160kms/hour for a lot of the time until we reached the zig-zags and zig zagged down into the first of the green fertile valleys.

Maria Reich Observation Tower at the beginning of the Nazca Plain. Some of the desert designs can be seen from here. Image: VirtualTourist

Maria Reich Observation Tower at the beginning of the Nazca Plain. Some of the desert designs can be seen from here. Image: VirtualTourist

We stopped at the observation tower at the beginning of the Nazca plain, scrambled up for a look and photos, then finished the trip to Nazca.

The driver took us all to our hotel called “Majoro.” Majoro was a lovely sprawling homestead, swimming pool and delightful surroundings and a poolside bar. Settled, changed and into the pool for a refreshing swim.

Dripping we sat at the bar and were given the traditional complimentary Pisco Sour. And that is where we stayed until dinner.

kidspoolin barNazca

Kids playing pool in the bar – Image: AV

Some of the local farm kids wandered in and played pool and a game with heavy brass discs that you have to throw into holes on a special box. The ultimate throw is to get the disc into the mouth of a large brass frog in the centre. The kids were quite good at it, and made the frog swallow several of the brass discs.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was a simple affair, trout, chicken and beef were the offerings with rice and salad and then it was back to the bar. None of us wanted to explore Nazca which was some 15 minutes away by car. We wanted to rest, for in the morning we were to fly over the mysterious Nazca lines.

Breakfast, yes, you guessed, bread rolls, strawberry jam and coffee. We breakfasted lightly in anticipation of the morning’s flight. It was to be only a half hour flight, but we had been warned, the aerobatics involved so that we could all see and take pictures often led to subsequent manifestations of air-sickness.

Cessna, ready to take us over the Nazca Lines - Image: AV

Cessna, ready to take us over the Nazca Lines – Image: AV

Collected at the hotel for the drive to the main road, for the airport was almost across the highway from the entrance road to the hotel. We were divided into groups of three and ushered to some small planes, Cessna’s, all pre-flighted and ready to go. Some were apprehensive about the flight, 747’s were okay, 737’s were okay, but this was a small one.

The astronaut, one of the petroglyphs at Nazca - Image: AV

The astronaut, one of the geoglyphs at Nazca – Image: AV

We were soon weaving our way acrobatically amongst the geoglyphs on the desert floor. We had a good look and our guide explained all there was to see. We also saw the wreck of two Cessna’s that had collided in mid air a year earlier and left a stain on the desert below. Unsettling for some, especially when we discovered that there is no form of air traffic control in the Nazca region. Hmmmm….

Safely back on the ground, two of our number had to clean up the floor of the plane, the rest of us escaped, a little green around the gills, but managed to forgo the embarrassment of actually being sick.

Back to the hotel and lunch.

In the process of being restored, one of the open graves at Chauchilla - Image: Peru Tours

In the process of being restored, one of the open graves at Chauchilla – Image: Peru Tours

After lunch were were collected once again for an afternoon tour to the Chauchilla cemetery where we were treated to the spectacle of open graves and mummies exposed to the dry desert air. In past years the graves had been ramsacked by treasure hunters and were in the process of being restored. Haunting grins on grisly skulls from past civilisations. Somehow it seemed different to the sanitised exhibits behind glass in a museum. It was real.

On the return we were treated to another of nature’s phenomena, whirlwinds travelling across the desert floor. One even chased us and rocked the van quite severely making the girls scream as it chose to cross the same piece of road where we happened to be.

Back to the hotel, shaken but not stirred, bar and pool, not in the same order for everyone. The girls wanted to go shopping, so a taxi took them to Nazca. Why is it that wherever girls go, they have to shop?

Sapo, the brass frog table - Image: nicholasspyer.com

Sapo, the brass frog table – Image: nicholasspyer.com

Dinner, then rest, bar or pool again and more of the brass frog game. Some of us had a go and discovered it’s not easy; the kids ran rings around us.

We had a bus to catch at 11pm that would take us overnight to Arequipa.

There is no bus from Nazca to Arequipa, so 10pm found us on the main road through Nazca. There is no bus station in Nazca either, you just wait outside the place that sold you the ticket and the bus stops to pick you up when it arrives from Lima.

el_misti

First view of El Misti, one of the three volcano surrounding Arequipa – Image: trekearth

Our bus did eventually arrive, about 11:20pm. Finding our numbered seats was another problem, they were already occupied by heavily bundled sleeping ladies or disinterested men. The biggest obstacle was stepping over sleeping children, sprawled haphazardly in the aisle, in the near dark. Eventually we found unoccupied seats and settled down as the bus left Nazca and headed for the coastal road, the continuation of the Panamerica Sur that would take us to Arequipa.

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Recipe for Pisco Sours…

For the brave

santiago-uceda-pisco-sour-recipe

Recipe image: Illustrated Cocktails

For God’s sake don’t use LIMES; use lemons.

This is an age old mistake perpetrated by Americans. In South America, lemons are green, as soon as Americans see green, they say lime! They are NOT limes, they are green lemons.

Enjoy your pisco sour.

Sunday Travel Tales

This week is a continuation of last week, which left me standing in the Ormeño bus terminal in Pisco.

Read on…

Chapter 3 – Pisco and Happy Hour

Again I was standing in a bus terminal with that forlorn but hopeful feeling. I searched among the faces of the waiting crowd, hoping for recognition. My hope was rewarded. A smile and a shout inquiring if I was AV. Relax, there is a God after all. Juan was there as promised to meet me as arranged, he came forward took my bags and lead me out of the throng into the street through the plaza until I spotted the sign, “Posada Hispana – English, French and Catalan spoken here.”

After a hearty welcome, another Pisco Sour, I was able to relax and shower before being summoned to reception where I was introduced to a friendly mountain with a beaming smile. This was Luis “but call me Lucho.” This was the man responsible for my safe conduct to the Ballestas Islands next morning. A slap on the back that would have dislocated the shoulder of a lesser mortal, a bear hug and my hand was wrung until dry. The necessary negotiation, my pocket ten dollars lighter and assurances that I would be met in the morning by Gary and taken to the point of departure which was still a mystery.

Lucho sidled through the door, his frame too wide to breast the opening normally and Juan suggested I join a group heading off to the Hotel Paracas for Happy Hour at sunset. Sounded like fun, so we were soon on our way down a heavily pot-holed road along the coast. Past a World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber on a plinth announcing the presence of an air force base.

asanandresboys

Boys and fishing boats at San Andres – image AV

On past San Andreas fisherman’s wharf complete with pelicans hovering overhead on the unpredictable droughts, boys diving from moored fishing boats and the Pacific Ocean lapping these Peruvian shores. The crowds of the late afternoon fish market were dispersing, I made a mental note to return and explore this turmoil.

Onward until a familiar smell assaulted my nostrils. Fish meal, an odour unique on this planet. An odour that one doesn’t easily forget. Recalled instantly from my early childhood when my father, who owned a market garden, took me to buy fertiliser.

One by one my fellow passengers were gagging on the malevolent smell and silently I thanked my deceased father for preparing his off-spring for this less than pleasant experience.

I was glad once the last of the fish-meal factories had slid to our stern and the road divided and the potholes deepened amid assurances from our guide that our destination was near.

Playa El Chaco was pointed out as our departure for tomorrow’s adventure. We vaulted on, the small bus protesting at the game of hopscotch over the potholes until we halted in front of the huge iron grilled gates of the Hotel Paracas.

We tumbled from the bus, much like clothing from a tumble drier, after our tortuous journey. Our backsides were thankful for the rest, through an arch and we were in the inner sanctum of the hotel courtyard whose primary feature was a large rusting sculpture of a condor. We stumbled through the heavy revolving door. I have never had much faith in these archaic monstrosities, but nevertheless managed this one with limbs intact.

Trooping across the vast expanse of the dining room to the poolside like invaders, we plopped ourselves wearily into bamboo chairs and marveled at the scene. Definitely an upmarket establishment, quite beyond our normal means. Beyond the crystalline pool, chalets for the bathers and bars for drinkers a pier stretched out into the Paracas Bay. Tall palms trees, mowed lawns and deserted play areas were framed by the picturesque backdrop of the Paracas Peninsula.

Ahhh! The waiter. To a man (well, to a woman as well) each of echoed “Pisco Sour” as though playing an audible game of Chinese Whispers. We all grinned knowing that we had come to participate in Happy Hour where this legendary concoction (never heard of before I was in Peru) was served in bulbous stemmed glasses the size of a small bucket for the princely sum of six soles, half the normal price.

PEELC198033

Sunset from Paracas Hotel – image AV

Awaiting this palette-tingling indulgence we watched the sun set toward the cloud strewn horizon, many grabbed cameras before drinks arrived scattering around the grounds for our personal best spot.

The sky blushed, as though caught with its knickers down, glowing gold, shades of pink then bright orange before the fiery red of sunset. I managed an arty photo through heavy palm fronds silhouetted against the gold sky.

Satisfied with my effort I rejoined the Pisco Sour platoon just as drinks arrived. We supped our liquid fare with varying oooh’s and aaah’s expressing approval while discussing our hoped for photographic success and tomorrow’s adventure as the barometers of our second Pisco Sours told us it was time to return to Pisco and dine at a more affordable location now that Peru’s national drink had returned to its twelve-sole-status.

Huddled in our micro bus we found each pothole again, the malodorous fragrances enhanced by our now sensitised nostrils, past the air force base and finally the uneven, unpaved streets of Pisco, our micro bumped along before disgorging us noisily at a local restaurant.

No sooner than we were shown to a table big enough to accommodate us all menus were strewn amongst us. We pondered over the Spanish that was eventually to lead to our evening fare. The waiters busily distributed more complimentary Pisco Sours, thankfully much more modest than the hotel version. Some eyes brightened, others wilted at the sight. Stalwarts raised their glasses with a Spanish sounding “salud,” others left theirs discreetly alone.

aPisco-Sour

Pisco Sour

Our bravado bolstered by the traditional fortification of Ica’s clear grape brandy and fluffy egg white cocktail, we ordered, stumbling over foreign words. The waiter’s patience was amazing and our guide very busy fielding questions like a Mastermind contestant.

Eventually the menus gone, conversations resumed, Pisco Sours consumed, our appetites whetted by one of Peru’s cultural aspects, we steeled ourselves for another; Cerviche, that fish dish served cold. Peru’s version of sushi; seafood marinated in lemon juice and lots and lots of “aji” (chili). Halibut, bass, squid, octopus, scallops; it was all there.

Cerviche

Forks stabbed at the fleshy white cubes, tentatively raised, found immediate approval. We soon learned the art of passing the morsels directly into the mouth avoiding all contact with lips that were well alight by the chili. Extra beer to quench the flames, and our piles of fish and sweet potatoes diminished amid murmurs of appreciation.

The meal progressed, appetites sated. We wandered as a group from the restaurant to our refuge, dreams already simmering.

Crossing a side street we were confronted by a delinquent soccer ball as an errant goalie let one slip through to the jeering of his ragged friends. One of our group applied a boot and sent the ball back to the players. The scruffy barefoot boys chanting an invitation to join their midnight game. Several did, I watched from the safety of the footpath as the belly-heavy warriors pitted their skills against the fleet-footed urchins; only to succumb to the skills of youth. The men staggered around the street as best they could, the boys shouting encouragement. They were clearly the masters.

Our brave warriors limped away, trounced on that dirty Pisco street corner.

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