Prior to the last post on the Mediterranean Diet, this website had been silent for quite some time. Life and adulting, as they often do, got in the way of working on this passion project of mine. Unfortunately, una was a casualty. But... it never is really too late to start over or pick up where you left off. That’s the beauty of a new year. We all have a clean slate. Before we turned the calendars to January 1st, many of us were inundated with reviews of 2018. I didn’t need Facebook or Google to remind me of what my highlights were from last year, though, beyond the everyday blessings and adventures, of course.
This past August, I, along with my cousin Katrina, embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Peru. Visiting Machu Picchu had been on my bucket list for some time, but I never thought about how I would get there. One day, my work mama gifted me a bag of snacks, an exotic fruit and nut mix called...Machu Picchu . If that wasn’t a sign...
It was no coincidence that a bag of snacks was the final push I needed to bring myself to Peru. A major selling point to book this trip was the food! Peru had been named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination in 2018, having won that title every year since 2012. I was able to see and taste why! Throughout my trip, no matter how isolated, how high in altitude, how deep in the Peruvian Amazon or city of Lima, the food was amazing
After spending a few days in Lima and its surrounding areas, we flew into Cusco, and immediately, I felt happiness and excitement in being there. The sights, the sounds, the food- Cusco was the physical manifestation of what I envisioned Peru to be. And so much more. As much as I enjoyed our time in Lima, it was not until we reached Cusco, I felt I was in another land.
Nothing could prepare me for what we experienced on the Lares Trek. We decided to embark on this journey with Alpaca Expeditions, a tour company created by a former porter and guide who grew up in the surrounding area. Led by our trusty guide, Carlos, alongside our chef, porter, and horsemen, Katrina and I splurged on a private tour (not that much of a splurge, as it was still very affordable) to take us on a 4-day trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu. There was something about walking for days, in the vastness of the Andes, that opens your eyes to how big this world really is, and just how small you are compared to it. Each day, I pushed myself to my physical limits, taking in as many sights and as much air as I could. On day two, the mountain won, forcing me to take a horse for my first time ever, up the steepest part, so we could reach camp before the other group to get the best campsite. But at the end of the day, we celebrated that day’s journey with high-fives and smiles of relief.
Throughout the trekking portion of our trip, we were amazed at the quality of food that this crew prepared for us. They would travel so much faster, with all their cooking gear and ingredients, to arrive at the site ahead of us to set up camp. By the time we’d arrive, it wouldn’t be long before it was time for tea and snacks, followed soon thereafter by traditional Peruvian dishes. We dined on so many different types of potatoes, not surprising as over 4000 varieties can be found in Peru. Hearty soups helped warm us up. Lomo saltado reflected the influence of the Chinese in Peru with the chifa cuisine. The morning of day 3, we feasted on a cake, amazingly prepared for us high in the mountains. Each meal, we were wowed with what our crew could make, and especially how they made it up in the mountains.
Day 4 found us waking up early to explore Machu Picchu. My asthmatic lungs made breathing even harder in the high altitude, and with three days of trekking behind us, I was exhausted after wandering around the ruins and decided to opt out of the extra hike to Waynapicchu. Katrina, on the other hand, was a boss and made it to the top and back.
In typical fashion, I had to fit as much into this trip as I possibly could. So after Katrina flew back home, I went into the Amazon to Posadas Amazonas along the Tambopata River with Rainforest Expeditions. My body went into a bit of shock entering into the humidity, not because it was completely foreign to me (I am Filipino by blood!), but after several nights of wearing every piece of clothing up in the Andes to keep me warm at night , I almost forgot what warm weather felt like.
So much of that portion of the trip was memorable, like waking up to the sounds of the jungle and the Night Walk, looking for the critters that are more active in the dark. Visiting a local farm was definitely a highlight. As we walked around, my guide pointed out the trees growing cacao pods and star fruits, pineapple plants, making out way to a grove of banana trees. At times, I felt like I was back in the provinces of the Philippines, reminding me of how more similar than different much of the world is.
Soon, it was time to return to the coastal town of Lima, where I took full advantage of the great food scene there, although I wanted to learn how to make delicious Peruvian food myself. Through Exquisito Peru, I booked the Market Tour and Cooking Class with Pia, where Pia took me through the San Felipe Market, reminiscent of the markets I’ve frequented on my trips to the Philippines. A bus ride later, we found ourselves in her home kitchen, where she gave me a hands-on lesson on how to make causa, Lomo Saltado, Pisco Sour, and my favorite Peruvian dish- leche de tigre. Leaving her flat to go back to my hotel, I was stuffed, but not enough to say no to sushi with Peruvian flavors with Pia and her husband later that night! Between Exquisito Peru’s Street Food Night Tour and checking out Pia’s recommendations for local restaurant, the rest of my trip in Peru was spent indulging and making up for all those calories lost trekking in the mountains and the jungle!
I had not realized how biodiverse Peru was until this trip, traveling between the coast to the mountains to the jungle back to the big city. I got to experience many once-in-a lifetime moments, while other times, I came across flashes of familiarity in a land I’ve never been to. It was a testament to that although the world is a big place, connecting with the land and people can make it feel much closer.