For the first time since we arrived more than a week ago we could sleep as long as we wanted. 7.00am. Yep, we made it until 7.00am and then had to have breakfast. The train arrived back from Machu Picchu too late for dinner last night so we were pretty hungry. The train service served sandwiches, muffins and coca tea but having coeliac disease meant I couldn’t have the food. At least Zoë was able to snack.
We also had a fashion show on board the train. The train staff modeled baby alpaca clothing. It was aimed at getting us to buy something but everyone on the train was in a good mood and it turned into fun entertainment after a long day.
Anyway, this morning after breakfast we took advantage of the laundry service around the corner and put our clothes in for washing. Four kilos of clothes washed, dried and folded for $5. A bargain. And it should keep us going until we get home. Photos below were taken outside and inside the gardens at the Hotel Monastario San Pedro. (The hotel is the white building next to the church. Not the church. The church, oddly enough, is called the Church of San Pedro.)
Zoë had a nap. I wrote a blog post. We checked out of the hotel at 11.30am and wandered around Cusco. I needed a SIM card recharge which we were able to do easily. We needed a replacement iphone charge cord but we couldn’t find one. We went to an electronics store but they only sold tvs, computers and household appliances. We were told that Apple products aren’t sold here except on the black market, so in the end we gave up. We went to the bank and got cash for our trek that starts tomorrow. Basically we ran errands. It felt almost like we were home.
Except we definitely aren’t at home.
Errands finished, we stopped at the Incan ruins at the Saint Dominic Priory, also known as Qorikancha. It was a beautiful blend of Incan ruins and Catholic Church if you are into lots of gold. For us, the best bit was the garden of the church and museum. The ruins and church are located near an area of Cusco called San Blas, a bohemian area full of art and funky restaurants.
For lunch I decided I wanted pizza. According to TripAdvisor, the best gluten free pizza in Peru is in San Blas. So we hiked up the hill to the restaurant (stopping a few times for me to catch my breath) only to get there and find it was closed. Oddly enough, that was the best thing that could have happened.
Around the corner we found a family run, organic restaurant that served not only the most delicious food we’ve had since arriving in Peru, but the most beautiful too (all the flower garnishes were edible too). Zoë has already requested that we eat there again when we get back to Cusco in a few days time. The meals weren’t all vegetarian either, there was your usual alpaca, chicken and trout on the menu. The family own an organic garden in Urubamba, at the base of the Andes and all of their produce goes to service the restaurant. They knew what gluten free was and even had gluten free items marked on the menu. A first for this trip!
Back home, a number of people wondered where I would eat and what I would eat while I was here. Even my dad and brother both asked when I spoke to them on the phone a couple of days ago. If I get ‘poisoned’ or have gluten, my symptoms are similar to gastroenteritis and come on within 20 minutes and then last for days. My joints usually seize up too and I can’t move. Not exactly what you want to have happen when you are carrying all your possessions around on your back at altitude.
I’m more than happy to report (touch wood) that I’ve found the most amazing food here. Like most places I travel to, I try to eat local (although I couldn’t help craving a pizza today for lunch). So I’ve eaten alpaca, lots of quinoa, rice, quite a bit of mountain trout caught in the Urubamba River and vegetable soups. If I’ve doubted whether something would make me sick, I’ve erred on the side of caution and not eaten. I have a huge supply of rice cakes and a jar of peanut butter, my go-to snack when I travel.
After the delicious, home cooked meal at the restaurant, we picked up our laundry and headed back to our hotel. At 3pm a taxi arrived to take us to Urubamba, about an hour and 20 minute drive from Cusco, toward the mountains.
Tonight we stay in Urubamba at the Villa Urubamba which is a retreat centre. It is stunning. I feel like I’m in heaven and would love to run a retreat here. It is just at the base of the Andes, has it’s own meditation room which could easily be used for the retreat sessions I run, as well as for meditation and yoga and has stunning gardens for reflection and writing. That’s where I’m sitting as I write this. There are fruit trees as well as many medicinal plants found in traditional medicines.
We leave in the morning for two and a half days of trekking through the Lares Valley. We’re both looking forward to it, although we’re feeling slightly nervous about whether we are fit enough, especially with the altitude. We are camping near Quechua textile and llama herding communities for two nights. Tomorrow night we will be at 4100m.
Zoë and I are the only members of our trekking group here at the moment. The rest took an optional tour of the Sacred Valley today, but we couldn’t face getting up at 5am again. We’ve needed our day to catch up. It’s the only rest day we’ve got on this trip. The rest are action packed. I know we made the right choice for us. Plus, our fellow trekkers, who we will meet soon, will probably appreciate that we have clean laundry. I know I would, if I were them.