Fries with that Guinea Pig?
Traveling through Peru has been an amazing journey in just trying to get to the start of the Inca Trail. We have arrived in Ollantaytambo this morning after driving through the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo is a small and very quaint Peruvian town put on the map basically as the iconic start to the Inca Trail and the famed kilometer marker 82 of the trail that will lead hikers through the Sun Gate, the Urubamba Valley, over high mountain passes and into the gates of Machu Picchu and for those less adventurous, the train to Aqua Calientes leaves from here too.
Ollantaytambo holds an important part of the Inca Empire as several large Inca ruins are found in the town. Today, we climbed through the ruins and really got our first taste of the “steps” to come. The steps built by the Inca’s were apparently built with giants in minds as these steps were a matter of mind games on how best to scramble up them rather than just step up. So here is your trip advise, if you are planning on traveling to Peru to hike the Inca Trail, the steps were not built with short people in mind, and don’t forget your at a higher altitude so when you were mastering that stair master at home, you can hang that towel up here when you factor in altitude for all of us sea level residents.
After successfully climbing to the top and gasping for more air, you can see across the town from the main ruins and as you look across the valley there are several smaller ruins that were built for what some believe to have been storage for grains, foods and such, others believe the ruins played a part of the equinox, others, of course, have different thoughts to why these other buildings exists, but nonetheless, they exist and therefore that means exploring them must be in order.
After climbing to the location of the smaller ruins across town, we sat quietly and watched the sun set behind the Andes. There are times when you travel that it seems, as if all of time for a moment, all the bustle of life stands still. As you sit quietly on the mountainside amidst some of the greatest architecturally designed buildings on earth built centuries ago, you can’t help but wonder in amazement of just what a glimpse of life was like when these structures were built. Then as you sit their overlooking the town you just listen to life unfold below you with the sounds of roosters crowing, the echoes of life rolling through the valley and the sun as it slowly begins to fade behind the mountains. Extraordinary, no other words can explain standing on a mountainside in a foreign land thousands of miles from home and experiencing this part of life.
As the last light of the day fades, we make our way back into town and as all great journeys go, you have to maintain the grassroots experiences of traveling. Therefore, it’s time to eat. Now, in Peru, there is a small furry animal that has been served up as the main dish dating back to the Inca civilization and is still served today as a local dish. In the US, we call these small furry creatures a pet, in Peru, they call them dinner. Hence, the search for Cuy begins, or best translated from Quechan to English, the Guinea Pig.
We go to Panaka, a small restaurant at the corner of the same narrow cobblestone street our hostel is on and there on the chalk board lists Guinea Pig as a menu selection. Now of course no adventure is complete without sampling the local cuisine. The street vender Cuy would have come prepared on a stick, head and all but since it was dinner and we were at a restaurant that Lonely Planet (the backpackers bible) listed as a restaurant of choice to sample this fine cuisine, then of course our Cuy came to us a bit more of a modern day style on a plate, minus the head and without the stick. Much to our disappointment, we really wanted a guinea pig on a stick but then again, modern day did mean a bit more potentially FDA prepared and a lot less cipro needed for us to say, yes we ate a Guinea Pig. And of course, all main dishes come with a side order, so yes; I will have fries with that Guinea Pig please. Bon Appetite!
Have a great evening all. Signing off tonight from Ollantaytambo, Peru – South America