Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Food and Cusco

Dogs on guard

Nasca gets 4 hours of rain a year. Makes for one dry river..

Not sure if I have explained how food works here?

Peruvians have two main meals, breakfast and lunch. To them, dinner is a light snack, similar to lunch in England - a sandwich of some sort. In Nasca people all seem to bake cakes and sit in front of their house selling slices or just eating it themselves, a delightful throwback to the afternoon tea concept.

Anyway, I think breakfast is similar to what we'd recognise - toast, cereal, muesli. Lunch is a multi-course affair, usually involving some nibbles, perhaps corn or a sweet potato, then a substantial soup, with noodles, and fish or a large chunk of meat in it, then rice with meat or fish.

If you order this at a local restaurant, it's called a menu completo, and general costs between 3 and 5 soles. That's 30-80p. That includes a drink too, and sometimes a small jelly of purple corn for pudding. It's pretty spectacularly cheap. The English chap who runs Chill Heaven in Huaraz says they don't bother opening at lunch as it's not worth their while trying to compete.

So that's the menu completo. Then there are an entirely separate set of restaurants which cater to gringos. These tend to have nicer decor, menus in English, but most significantly the more usual starter/main choice combinations, with mains tending to cost 15-20 soles (£2.50). I must confess, for the most part I stick to these restaurants. Firstly you have more confidence in the hygiene standards, as they know what foreigners are looking for. Furthermore, they tend to have the best coffee!

So I'm now in Cusco. It's much bigger than Huaraz (about 3x as big, to my surprise). I've got a train ticket to Macchu Picchu for tomorrow morning at 6am, and a bus at 9am the day after to Puno, the last Peruvian town before Bolivia, just across Lake Titicaca. I'm staying in a place called Hospitaje Inka, which is reasonably priced, but a very good walk up one of the hills, meaning it has a great view, but my knees did nearly give way walking up with full pack!

Room with a view..

Walking about, it's a quite nice city, has a mediterranean feel to it, with the whitewashed walls and faded orange roof tiles. The downside is that their are touts everywhere. How annoying that you can't walk anywhere in the city without someone yelling "hey, amigo, you want a tour?". , I am not your friend! You wonder whether they haven't twigged that the hard-sell has the reverse effect, or does it? Do people fall for it? If so, they're not helping the situation!

Back to a decent-sized city..

Spot the well-disguised rugby posts!

Incidentally, regarding milking tourists, the train journey up to Macchu Picchu has three prices, depending on which class of train one takes. Foreigners aren't allowed to take the reasonably-priced train that locals take. So we have three choices - "Backpackers", at $68, "Vistadome", with a few extra frills, at $105, and the Henry Bingham (the chap who discovered MP in the 20s) special, at, wait for it... $480!!!! For a 2-3 hour train journey! Puts the English and Swiss to shame!! Once you're there, you need to take a bus up, which is another $6 each way, then pay the entry fee, 77 soles, approx. £13. Oh, and you're not allowed to take food and drink in, you have to buy it in there, though I'm sure that they will not take advantage! I of course have every intention of trying to smuggle food and drink in!!

Anyway, lots of bars and restaurants here. I'm currently sitting in a pub called the Cross Keys, owned by a Mancunian, watching Manchester United play Benfica with a pint of Ruddles (the Abbott and IPA taps are off at the moment). They have a good range of bar snacks too!

Sight for sore eyes..

Reaches parts Inca cola doesn't even try for.. :)

I retired here to escape the touts, but also there seems to be a siesta for most shops most afternoons, from about 1pm till 4pm. I trawled round a huge market earlier looking for in-the-ear headphones - my Sonys have died on me, presumably because of all the insults levelled at their camera here! Anyway, Sony EX1 headphones in the market? Err, no chance! They appear to have just got on to those colourful caps that hook around your ears. My last hope is a shop that opens at 4pm, otherwise I'll have to buy some nasty old-stylee ones. Yucks!

I haven't mentioned the bus journey here. Was okay. Not amazingly comfortable seats, but managed to get a good amount of sleep with my BA First Eye Pads!! Only blow was mp3 player headphones packing up! Sound in right ear only for 11 hours!

Another benefit of being in a bigger city - culture. Have visited the Museum of Comtemporary Art, and Museum of Popular Art. Didn't need to pay for either, though they both asked whether I'd bought the culture "pass" which gives you access to them. No I hadn't. Oh, free entry then! Well, it's really worth buying that pass, isn't it! Both places were small but interesting.

The Contemporary place had a load of rubbish around their courtyard, but a temporary exhibition of Anibal Ortizpozo's work, which was good. They also seem to be big into sculpting small figures, but that's not really my cup of tea.

Dinner at Kintano, Japanese place. Trout sashimi and miso soup. They're out of natto. I'll live. Tomorrow have a train at something horrible, like 6am. Suffering just to see a load of now strewen-about rocks that were allegedly related to some dictatorial blokes years ago called the Incas. Am I getting cynical?!


Anonymous said...

bet you don't get far with the Japanese girl on the trip! You've lost it crawleyman. Too little ale and too much exercise.

No wonder EJ is not coming to visit you. Nobody likes a skinny Crawleyman.

Anonymous said...

how much for an abbott in S.America then? it is £2.30 in my local 25 meters away. Fresh too!