Cusco With Sean and Flo

Sean and Flo arrived in Cusco and Jen will be joining their Geckos Inca Highlands Tour for the next 2 weeks. With their tour we did a quick walking tour of downtown Cusco.

Plaza de Armas

Santo Domingo Church

San Blas

Spanish Classes & our Family

Our first week of spanish school is over and we only have good things to say about it.  We went to the school that Dominic attended 7 years ago (Excel - and were totally satisfied.  In the first week on top of learning spanish, we managed to do salsa lessons, a Peruvian cook class, and a ceramics/pottery class.  In our spanish classes, our teachers Luis and Nati didn't just teach us a lot of Spanish, they also taught us a lot about the culture of Peru and Cusco.

In the cooking classes the teachers first took us to the local market to buy the ingredients.  We then went to one of the teachers' houses where they taught us how to prepare "Aji de Gallina" and Deliciosa de Maracuya".  The most surprising thing about the class was that we used Clorox bleach to clean the vegetables…. this is allows us to eat the peel of the fruits/vegetables.


In the pottery classes, an attendant from the school took us to a another local school where we could experience what Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze scene in the movie Ghost ;)  We did not keep all the wonderful things we made as they would be a bit awkward to carry around in our backpacks for a year, but the experience was what we were looking for anyways!


Finally the school also paired us with the Covarrubias Flores family. Isabel and German where very kind and helpful. They greeted us with open arms and made us feel at home. Isabel's cooking made us discover dishes like Rocoto Rellano, Arroz Cubano,  Escaveche de Gallina, and Papa Moraya (papa blanca - a potatoes that was dried up and then is rehydrated). They also made us taste a new fruit every morning… mmm Granadilla …. :)

Biking to Maras & Moray

Sunday, we decided to take a bike tour that would take us to another Inca agricultural site (Moray), and a local salt facility (Maras).  The ride was REALLY pretty!!   

If you look at the pictures you will notice that we where dressed up for a downhill racing competition.  Although it was a bit overkill, Jen made good use of it - she bailed on the very last turn of our downhill ride :).

Our first stop was Moray - the Inca agricultural centre.  Here, Incas were even able to grow several types of plants that are not normally capable of growing at this altitude (for example, coca).
If you want to see a 360-degree view of the area, click here: 
(Note: you may have to install Silverlight) 

Our second stop was Maras, a local salt facility for the region.  The most impressive part about this facility is that SALT-WATER streams out from the mountain, even though we are thousands of miles from the coast/sea.

And, the best part of the day was our lunch:  We ate local food that was served out of a wheel barrel... yep that's right... a wheel barrel ;)


After we finished visiting Tipon, we stopped at a local restaurant that served "Cuy al Horno". Cuy is a local delicacy.. and a childhood friend. It taste really good, but it's really hard to eat as there is not a lot of meat.


Saturday, we went on our own to visit Tipon - an Inca agricultural region know for its ingenious irrigation system. It's about a 1 hour hike from the main road to the ruins, which are perched on the top of the mountain.

The Tipon irrigation system involves the water being taken from an underground source and distributed throughout the site using stone canals. We do not know how long the canal system is, but it seems to go quite far up the mountain (beyond the areas we could walk to).

The other nifty thing are the stairs that are used to access all the different levels. They are literally part of the wall and are still used today by the tourists.

The site is really big and there are a lot of nice areas to visit!

We found it interesting that we are still using the same alphabet as the Incas!! …..just kidding.


Papa Helada Recipe

Today in my Spanish class, my teacher showed up with this typical Cusqueño dish called  "papa helada" or "cache chuño" in Quechua (the local language).  We are lucky as these are only available in the local markets in May and June, as the ground need to frost in order for them to make papa helada. With melted cheese on top, these are pretty good. 

Here is the recipe:


1 kg of small to medium potatoes (1.5" in diameter)


Wash your potatoes. In winter, put the potatoes in a pan outside overnight (about 12 hours). If it's not winter, you can put them in the freezer instead (but it's not as good….they say). Let the potatoes thaw and peel them.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add the potatoes and some salt and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Once cooked, drained the water and sprinkle with cheese. Continue cooking for about 1 minute.

Tada!!!!!  Now you have a typical Cusqueño dish :)

Note: When the papa helada lady saw a police officer, she quickly ran away.  It seems you need a permit to sell in the streets.


We have now arrived in Peru where we will spend the next 3 weeks (Dom learning spanish, and Jen learning spanish & touring with Sean and Flo). Our first excursion was to the Sunday market of Pisac, a little village nested at the bottom of an Inca fortress. Here you can buy all your Peruvian souvenirs as well as a lot of organic potatoes ;) Despite shopping for almost 3 hours, we only bought $3-worth of exotic fruits :)

Although this seems like a lazy excursion, it got our adrenaline pumping a few times thanks to the driving in the "colectivo" (a local bus) on the narrow, winding, mountain roads. We did not know it was possible to put so many people into one bus (the pictures do not do it justice at all!!) - despite all of the swerving, stopping, and hills, Jen was even able to stand in the bus without holding on to anything because we were so tightly packed :). Dom was stuck/smashed up against the front windshield and watched nervously as the driver repeatedly checked some weird bucket inside the bus that seemed to be leaking water (to who knows where)... who knows what it was for.. the brakes?? ...the engine coolant???

Pan Pizza…Watch Out

We went to this little bread shop in Cartagena (La Esquina del Pan de Bono) that serves this Pizza that is amazing. It's a cross over between a Pizza, a Croissant and Croc Monsieur….They call it a Pan Pizza. The result is just amazing. Even after you're stuffed, you still want more. It was so good and the prices were so reasonable, that we ate there for all 3 of our lunches in Cartagena.

Cartegena De Indias

Cartagena is a really pretty pre-colombian walled city where the houses are made of painted stucco and have lovely balconies. We only stayed there 2 days and decided to chill out and wander/enjoy the sites.

We also visited the Castillo San Felipe