Hola World! We arrived on a Wednesday last week to this sweet little farmhouse in the Sacred Valley and have been enjoying nothing but sunny skies since getting over that first initial hump of rain/altitude adjustment. Life is good, here! The pace has slowed way, way down, so much so that I did a double-take when I realized today was Monday. This means we’ve officially been gone a month. Crazy!
This blog entry will be all over the map and then some. Hard to have structure in one’s blog when there is very little structure in one’s mind these days. Our typical day begins with a satisfying cup of instant coffee with heated milk outside on the balcony. I can’t begin to explain how incredible the instant coffee is down here. It almost tastes like chocolate. Alvi and I are usually up earlier than the kids and have a few hours to hang on our own. Even first thing in the morning, the direct sun is extremely hot ~ ambient temperature is not necessarily all that high, but given there is less atmosphere for the sun to burn through, you can really feel the heat on your skin when basking in it. Sometime around 9:30 or 10:00 the kids will meander down from their room upstairs and we are greeted with the age-old “what’s for breakfast, Dad?!” To their good fortune, Alvi has really gotten into utilizing this teeny kitchen and has whipped up some fabulous breakfasts. Piper has been having daily smoothies with strawberries from the farm lady down the road, and both she and Saffy have had French Toast and/or Pancakes nearly every day. #spoiledmuch?
By the time everyone is up, fed, washed, dressed and sun-screened (this is ALWAYS a battle here…. but I’m like a drill sergeant with it!), it’s usually hovering around 12:30 or 1:00 pm. No joke. Slower. Pace. Of life. Almost to the point of feeling guilt. Like, where’s the to do list?
So how do we fill our time here?? A lot of walking, exploring, and undertaking of new mini-adventures. Everything seems like an adventure to us since we have no clue what we are doing. Even taking a bus to the nearby towns of Urubamba or Calca has been an experience. Today, for instance, we decided to head to Calca since we hadn’t yet been, and on the way back found ourselves not in one of the little mini-van buses, but rather a larger, almost city-like bus. I literally didn’t know if it would stop for us when we said “Baja” or if we had inadvertently found ourselves on a bus destined for Urubamba with no chance of stopping in between. (Our little village of Sillacancha is directly in the middle of these two towns and thankfully, the bus driver just pulled over where I pointed ~ so random, and so powerful! I love the lack of order here!!!)
While in Calca today we were on the hunt for a few things to satisfy some cravings we’ve been having. For the most part, we gave up on the specifics and decided to improvise. It does not seem as though Peru has heard of nacho chips. With the size of their avocados, I was dying for some guacamole and chips to dip (aka “Sam Style”)! Instead, we bought some tortilla bread and will make our own chips in the mini oven we have. The girls wanted to buy chocolate so we could try and fashion some “SMORES” if ever we could get a fire lit outside. They didn’t appear to have graham crackers so again, we improvised. Bought something that looked like a cookie and at the till I asked the guy “Dulce?” and he smiled at me knowingly, like “says it on the package, lady!!!”
Other random items…. saw a little black lamb today following around some people in the streets. It was pretty much the most adorable thing any of us had ever seen. She appeared to belong to them, as they helped her over a fairly high curb and when they would stop, she stopped. We found ourselves reciting out loud “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb….” It was so cool to just take in the local people of this small town. Some neighbourhood boys ~ maybe ages 3 – 9 ~ were playing a game of soccer with a plastic water bottle. At one point it actually flew up and hit Alvi in the face as he walked by! The Peruvians seem so genuine, hard-working, and open to strangers. I swear we were the only tourists around and nearly everyone said “Hola!” or “Buenos Tardes” with a smile and a nod.
The other day whilst in the opposite town, Urubamba, we had the most delicious meal to date at a little place whose name completely escapes me. We must have stuck out like sore thumbs as we wandered around peering at various menus in the main centre square, when a lady who spoke English came out of her shop and asked us if we were looking for a place to eat. She was over the top effusive about this little place a few blocks down, so we decided to go and look for it. DEFINITELY did not disappoint. The chef had just graduated from the Cordon Bleu school in Lima and his meals were out of this world. I had a Quinoa Soup I would walk over glass to eat again. Saffy had spaghetti lol. We will most certainly head back there before we leave.
Piper and I have been contemplating doing some day hikes in and around the area of the Sacred Valley in preparation for our upcoming Machu Picchu trek. The mountains surrounding us look completely “doable”, but I’m hesitant to attempt any of them without a guide or some proper intel. There are pumas here! Apparently, we can hire this guy who goes by “Washington” for $70U.S. and he’ll pick us up, trek up to the top with us and lead us safely back down. He only speaks Spanish so I’m almost tempted to hire him just to find out the skinny on his name… like why “Washington” lol? So this outting is a potential for us in the next few days. There is also horse-back riding. I’ve been keeping this one at bay for awhile now since it seems expensive when compared to what we did in Ecuador. (In Vilcabamba, it was $30U.S. for 5 hours of horse-riding per person; here is $50 for 1.5 hours per person). I know I’ll cave, though. I’ve walked by the horses we would ride nearly every day and they seem to send me telepathic messages, “Lady. You’re only in Peru once! Get off your duff and book us for your kids!!! And while yer at it, git yourself on one of us too!!!”
Speaking of money…. yeah. About that. It’s been fairly frustrating since half of our cards are no longer working here. Yes, the bank knows we are travelling. Nonetheless, we are doing our best to improvise though it’s not quite how I envisioned it all working. We’ve officially bit the bullet and hired Alpaca Expeditions for the purpose of knocking Machu Picchu off our collective bucket lists. Doing it all on our own was going to be an exercise in complete frustration; and I’ve rationalized it by telling myself this is a once in a lifetime thing. There are MANY companies that offer the treks to Machu Picchu and in typical Sam form, it seems I’ve chosen one of the more expensive ones. However, they won me over almost exclusively based on how they treat their porters. I’ve heard horror stories online with some of the cheaper outfits that basically abuse these people, piling more weight on them than is allowable by law and short-changing their wages. You do get what you pay for in life, and it seemed as though their focus on working with the porters, their families, and also their environmental footprint ~ or lack thereof ~ justified the cost.
So for $595U.S. x 2, Piper and I will be doing the Salkantay Trek, which is a 5D/4N, 55 KM journey to Machu Picchu. We leave on July 19th from Cusco. Saffy and Alvi will hang out in Cusco at an apartment we have rented and then they will meet us in Aguas Calientes on the 22nd. This is a tiny town at the base of Machu Picchu. They will have taken the train there (remember Saffy’s Chimborazo proclamation, “You know I’ve never been a walker!”) and at this point are committing to walking the 2-hour hike up to the Sun Gate to meet us inside.
Other random tidbits: the owners of this house are Alex and Liz. Liz is Peruvian and Alex hails from the U.K. They have two young daughters as I’ve mentioned before. I’m completely enamoured with the life they’ve created. He does a bit of web design, is also a DJ, and has started an exporting business of alpaca linens/blankets online. Their life is beautiful and simple and they are able to live so cheaply down here. He does not have his permanent residency as of yet and will need to leave Peru at some point soon in order to return for another 3-6 months. They’ve spent time significant time living in Guatemala as a family and also Bolivia. Though he admits to missing his family back in the U.K., he relishes in a life with very little stress. I envy him on so many levels.
That’s about it for this entry’s musings. Trying to convince the kids to dust off their blogging abilities and get back at it!