Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A DETOUR: Peru Travelogue (Part 4)

April 10, 2015 (Friday)

The next morning (at a reasonable hour, thank goodness!) our group was off to the boat.  As we pushed off the dock I realized I’d left my camera in the hotel.  The other Brian was kind enough to let me use his smaller camera, and he would send me the pictures after his return to AZ.  His was the same make as mine but with a much higher resolution.  At our first stop we received a simple demonstration on how the floating islands were constructed using cut reeds and mud, followed by a reenactment of how the locals barter with the mainlanders over needed supplies.  The toddler daughter of one of these bartering women joined in the process to the consternation of her mother but to the delight of the tourists.  Needless to say many photos of the cranky child were taken during our stay.  Most of the island inhabitants' spending money comes from tourist purchases of goods made on the island, so the second half of our visit was spent shopping.

Our group then took a local boat (as opposed to our tour boat) -- designed, built and operated by islanders -- to our lunch spot.  As we departed the women sang to us in thanks and farewell.  The local boat took us to another island where we had lunch of trout and vegetables served at a restaurant which could just barely fit our number at the table.  On the trip back to the mainland most of us sat up top on the boat until Betty chased us down at the arrival of the Peruvian equivalent of the Coast Guard.  Apparently we were supposed to be wearing life vests when riding on top of the boat.

For our last night in Puno (and in Peru) the group once again scheduled a dinner, and once again John and Joy (with my assistance) were put in charge of finding a place.  We settled on Colors, because it had an upstairs area that would seat a group of 13 comfortably.  Also it was only a couple of blocks from either hotel.  John texted Arelys to see if she’d care to join us (we had seen her in another tour bus on the road to Puno), but she was doing a family stay on Islas Uros that night.  Once reservations were secured, we were left to our own devices until dinner.  I bought some Inca Kola.  It was sweet for my taste, like Mountain Dew in color and flavor.  But when in Peru.  I stopped at a lovely little artisan shop where I picked up a gift then spent a relaxing hour sipping a café latte at a nearby coffee shop while waiting for a rain shower to pass.  At some point a small group of American tourists arrived and raised a fuss with the staff when they received a bill in soles yet paid in US dollars.  They had failed to grasp the concept of an exchange rate.  This went on for a time, and I debated stepping into the fray, when two local girls who spoke English intervened and helped sort everything out.  These Americans weren’t ugly per se, but they were sadly ignorant, or (if I were to be more generous) woefully unprepared for their trip at a fundamental level.

Dinner was delightful and went smoothly considering the size of our party.  The trout (yes, again!) was good but was blackened, which I didn’t care for compared to the previous trout preparations.  Rain chased us back to our respective hotels.  The next morning we were to check out by 10:00 a.m., so I hoped to get up early enough for breakfast and perhaps a jaunt to one of the nearby lookouts for a vista of the city before leaving for the airport.


According to Lonely Planet, Puno has a worse crime problem than the other places we’d visited.  Certain areas should be avoided in the evening and walking places alone was discouraged.

Another curious Peru fact was their monetary fastidiousness.  You should never accept torn soles, because a proprietor may not accept it.  Banks and currency exchange places wouldn’t accept $US dollars with even minor blemishes and tears.  They refused anything obviously flawed and, even at the bank, each bill was meticulously inspected.  Someone should remind them that in the U.S. we use bills more than once.


April 11, 2015 (Saturday)

At breakfast the next morning I had my usual yogurt and cereal, when John pointed out that the hotel was offering eggs any style.  I had scrambled.  John ordered an omelet.  Breakfast ran long, and my stomach was jumpy, so I didn’t get out to any scenic views.  John had told the Asian contingent to be ready at 9:45 a.m. for our bus ride to the airport.  I thought he was being clever.  The day before the contingent had been late, because they failed to wear warm enough clothes and had to go back to their rooms and change.  As it turns out, he wasn’t.  I was putting the finishing touches on my packing about 9:45 a.m. when I started getting calls from the front desk.  Apparently Betty the guide had already arrived and was anxious to pick the upgrade group up.  She even sent the porter up to knock on my door.  I ignored the knock because I was using the facilities as a final precaution before departure.  As I left the room, the porter grabbed my suitcase, and my telephone started ringing again.  I just shut the door and left.

The bus ride to Juliaca was uneventful.  The roads were in decent shape despite the downpour the night before.  Betty dropped us off for our flight.  In Lima we would have an 11-hour layover until the plane to LAX departed at 2:00 a.m.

John, Joy and I took a cab into Central Lima.  Our driver, Lincoln, agreed to pick us up in front of the La Catedral de Lima at 10:00 p.m. and return us to the airport.  The plan was to catch as many sites as we could before most of them closed around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., then grab a bite to eat, stroll around the area, maybe get souvenirs, and wait for our pick up.  Some mucky muck was getting married at the cathedral when we arrived.  There was significant security presence in the area.

Our first stop was the Monasterio de San Francisco to tour the catacombs below.  An English speaking tour started in 10 minutes.  Our timing was perfect.  The guide was very enthusiastic, and the crypts were amazing.  The smell of death permeated, and it felt genuinely claustrophobic.  The tour lasted longer than expected, so we couldn’t see any other sites that evening.  We meandered down to the Plaza San Marco where a Latina songstress had drawn a huge crowd.  We jostled our way to a bakery called Pasteleria San Martin and tried the turron de Dona Pepa, an incredibly sweet dessert.  I should have grabbed an espresso as well.  Yikes, sweet was an understatement.   Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, so the proprietor boxed up the leftovers.

By then it was time for real food, so we walked back toward the Plaza de Armas and found a quaint local eatery called El Cordano.  John ordered the goat but was disappointed.  I had a pesto pasta dish, which was filling but quite good.  We split a couple of large beers for the table.  We still had about 90 minutes to kill, so we did some souvenir shopping.

The Lonely Planet guide was always warning of pickpockets.  Unfortunately we encountered a team on a crowded street corner, with a policeman only a few feet away.  I saw a youngish man approaching, carrying a large box over his head.  I stepped out of the way to give him room to pass, but he nevertheless clocked Joy on the back of the head with the box.  Joy responded with understandable profanity.  A moment later a woman pointed out that Joy’s backpack zipper was open.  Sure enough, while the guy with the box created a diversion, his unseen partner opened the zipper and nicked Joy’s phone and sunglasses.  Joy was distraught, and John was furious.  We spent the next 45 minutes contacting their cell carrier to report the phone stolen and get it turned off.  We agreed not to speak of this to the others, so as to not to end the trip on a sour note.  Lincoln was a little late picking us up due to traffic (that I believe; Lima drivers are insane) and took us back to the airport.

Linda, Debbie and Dan were flying out on an earlier fight to Miami, and Linda was stressed due to the sudden onset of Atahualpa’s Revenge.  She took an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicine, which, I found out later, worked well.  The rest of us were flying to LA, and that flight had now been delayed to 3:00 a.m.  Aside from the delay, and the fact that you could not bring bottled water onto the plane (even bottles you had purchased in the airport), the flight was painless.  Apparently I was so dehydrated that the 2/3 bottle of water I guzzled before boarding the plane didn’t make its way through me.  I slept most of the flight.  I had bought a neck pillow, which really was a lifesaver on this trip.  We said our goodbyes at the baggage claim.  I hope to see John and Joy and Brian and Nikki when next I’m in Arizona.  It took a while for me to find my Super Shuttle check in; but, once that was done, it was smooth sailing.

After unpacking (which I like to do immediately) I went to Rae’s diner to meet friends John Mark, Kurt and Rachel for brunch.  I loved my Peru adventure, but it was good to be home again.

A DETOUR: Peru Travelogue (Part 3)

April 8, 2015 (Wednesday)

Our last day in Cuzco was a free day for John, Joy and me since we opted out of the additional tour.  After a leisurely breakfast I intended to go back to my room to plan my day, but I had accidentally requested maid service.  So instead I wandered up to the local market to research possible souvenirs and pick up some more bottles of water while they cleaned my room.


It makes sense to mention at this point that upon arrival in Cuzco the tour company gave each of us a handcrafted doll and a small handcrafted carrying bag (or as Joy aptly put it, a man purse) with our name, our guide’s name, and an emergency tour contact (Diego) pinned to it.  I used the man bag when I went to Machu Picchu, so I could leave my backpack on the bus.  It came in very handy throughout the trip, so much so that I had gotten into the habit of carrying it with me (slung over my shoulder) whenever I wandered about.  In it I carried a bottle of water, a rain poncho (which came with the bag, but I didn’t need thanks to my newly purchased rain jacket), my tube of sunscreen, and some portable toilet paper purchase in the U.S.


Armed with my trusty man bag, my rain jacket and wide-brimmed hat I set off for Qorikancha, some Incan ruins which (according to Lonely Planet) form the base of the colonial (read: Spanish) church and convent of Santo Domingo.  The ruins were about halfway between my hotel and the Plaza de Armas, where I planned to have lunch either at Jack’s Café (which the Lonely Planet reviewer claimed was the only place she was willing to stand in line for) or at Granja Heidi just up the street from Jack’s.  Qorikancha is an architectural marvel.  Its walls had once been lined with gold until Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors looted the temple and melted down their booty.  What remains is still fascinating, and there are lovely grounds upon which you can walk.  When I arrived at Qorikancha, the streets had filled with demonstrators and the streets were lined with the Peruvian equivalent of our National Guard and the local police.  They were not overtly threatening, but the guns and shields were disconcerting.  While I wandered the ruins I stumbled across an exhibit of Salvador Dali’s series of paintings depicting the various circles of Hell, a subject right up his surrealist alley.

Next up was lunch at the Granja Heidi.  Jack’s Café’s line was long (as predicted), but, unlike the Lonely Planet reviewer, I was unwilling to stand in line when a less crowded and just as appealing option waited just up the street.  In addition to offering a la carte many restaurants also offer a fixed price menu.  Granja Heidi had a fixed price lunch that included soup, vegetarian option for an appetizer and for the main course, and cheesecake for dessert – all for just under the equivalent of US$10.  Worth a try, I thought.  I went upstairs and was escorted to a table.  There were a handful of patrons.  It felt more like a coffee shop than restaurant.  I ordered a cold ginger milk drink and the fixed price lunch.  My waiter (who I believe was the owner, because he would sit and chat with other customers like old friends, then get up when more patrons arrived) pointed out that the lunch came with a drink and did I still want the milk drink.  I asked to think about it, and he was amenable.  He teased me good-naturedly when I used the word “chica” (girl) when I should have said “chicha” (a type of drink).  I liked the place already.  The soup was a very simple broth with vegetables and grains, the drink was refreshing and had little chunks of apple in it, the appetizer and main course (they came together, so I can’t be certain which was which) had vegetables, quinoa, tofu and other things I have forgotten, but all were delicious.  Only the cheesecake was less than inspiring, but, for the price, perfectly acceptable.  I declined the other drink, because I was stuffed to the proverbial gills.  I headed back to my hotel to gird myself for the market and a little souvenir shopping.

Upon my arrival at the hotel, which was a leisurely 30-minute walk from the Granja Heidi, I realized I had left my man bag slung over my chair in the restaurant.  So I hoofed it back, trusting in the goodness of man.  As I walked it began to rain steadily.  My trusty new rain jacket is the best travel purchase I made.  (At this time our compatriots who had taken the optional tour were wet and cold on the grounds of the Sacsaywaman ruins.)  I arrived at the Granja Heidi to the smiling proprietor who promptly returned by man bag.  I thanked him profusely and called myself a stupid tourist in broken Spanish.  He pointed out I was not so stupid since my bag still had the emergency contact information pinned to it.  I found out later when Diego called my hotel room that the proprietor had called to let him (Diego) know I’d left the bag.  At that moment I realized I loved the city of Cuzco and its people.

Our tour group of lucky number 13 agreed to meet for a dinner on our last night in Cuzco.  John and Joy handled the arrangements.  The 7 at our hotel met the 6 at the other hotel and commenced the long march to the restaurant Chicha, just west of the Plaza de Armas.  The older Asian women struggled on the journey (it was uphill and longer than anticipated).  Matters were not helped by Linda barreling ahead and expressing frustration at the pace of the 70+-year-old women (whom I thought were doing rather well).  Did I mention that Linda was a headstrong, somewhat selfish Southern belle?  Despite Linda’s annoying complaints we arrived for our reservation early.  That’s not to say the Asian women don’t create frustrations of their own – a sometimes grating combination of language barrier and cultural pushiness.  The 3 older Asian women gave our barely legal (and very patient) waiter no end of misery when placing their order.  I hid behind my menu in embarrassment.  The youngest of their group, Nancy (who, I was beginning to suspect, had a crush on me based on the amount of attention she paid to me) was more flexible in her culinary tastes and ordered what Bonnie ordered.  She got a little drunk by evening’s end.  I ordered a drink with pisco and lime in it and was initially distressed when it arrived pink.  I was reminded by Debbie that Campari (another ingredient in my drink) gave it that color.  It was quite delicious.  I ordered the trout, which was spectacular, and saved room for dessert – a chocolate soufflé that took 18 minutes to prepare.  It was worth the wait.  Served with a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream, it was sin in a bowl.  I persuaded a handful of our group to try some, but most was left for me to eat.  And eat it I did.  It would have been a sin to waste it.  The 3 older Asian women and John and Joy had left before dessert arrived, so the rest of us stumbled downhill, tipsy and sated, to our respective hotels.  However, that meant that once the upgraded group dropped off it was Nancy and I alone for the rest of the walk.  Again, I got a vibe that Nancy might have an interest in me.

April 9, 2015 (Thursday)

Today we were to take a 10-hour bus tour to Puno.  There were several stops along the way, but it was going to be a long haul nonetheless.  We had to be checked out by 6:20 a.m., which meant a 4:30 a.m. wake up call in order to make breakfast by 5:15 a.m. and to finish packing.  I arrived in the dining area, and only the 4 Asian women were there.  I knew Joy thought 5:30 a.m. too early for breakfast and would not be there, but I felt certain John would make it up eventually.  The restaurant was at the top of the hotel and offered a spectacular view of the city and surrounding mountains.  I had finished most of my breakfast and was relaxing with a final cup of coffee.  The 3 older Asian women got up and left, and Nancy walked over to my table bearing a cup of coffee with milk (just how I drink it).  She asked to sit and of course I said yes, then she offered me the coffee she had brought over.  I said it was early and she would probably need the coffee, to which she replied that she doesn’t drink coffee, only tea.  Suspicions confirmed.  Unfortunately the interest was not reciprocal.  Nancy dressed young for her age and behaved somewhat immaturely.  I had already been down that road and wanted to simply enjoy my vacation.  Luckily John arrived at that moment, saving me from an awkward exchange.

Our comfortable group of 13 grew much larger as we merged into a larger tour bus with about 25 additional tourists for the drive to Puno.  Our group was in the front of the bus – a plus – however, because I travelled alone I sat next to a very nice, quiet elderly gentleman with a cane who spoke no English.  Having minimal human interaction during the drive eventually led to my lethargy.  Our first stop was the church of San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas.  We were given a set amount of free time after the guided portion of the tour, and they were militant about it.  Just to move stragglers along, the driver would start driving away at the appointed time, then wait as you rushed to the vehicle.  It was unnerving but kept us on a tight schedule.  Our next stop was a church in (I believe) Huaro, which had two striking paintings of the damned being devoured by serpents.

Next were the ruins at Raqchi.  We were left to wander through the maze-like stonework after the guide finished his spiel.  How apt that as I reached the far side of the ruins, the onset of Atahualpa’s Revenge made itself known.  I walked quickly but carefully back to the plaza area (jostling seemed ill-advised) and was confronted by a brusque woman demanding 1 sole for admittance to the toilet.  I absolutely forked it over (and even have a receipt to prove it).  Crisis averted.  Our next stop was the buffet lunch, which was not nearly as impressive as the one a couple days ago at Tunupa.  Or maybe, thanks to gastric issues, I wasn’t all that receptive to eating.  Anyway the next stop was La Raya Pass at an elevation of 4,338 meters or 14,232 feet.  Between snapping pictures of the snow-capped peaks, several tour members took the opportunity to purchase wool sweaters and hats from the merchants at the pass.

Pukara was our next stop.  There were several fascinating skull exhibits; however, I was soon preoccupied by the reemergence of Atahualpa’s Revenge and ducked into the nearest bathroom.  To my (further) distress there was no toilet paper.  But (thank you, Lonely Planet!) I was prepared with some of my own.  Mission accomplished.

On the last leg of the trip we drove through Juliaca, which is over an hour outside of Puno, and the streets were flooded from the recent rains.  It was slow going.  Juliaca has nothing to recommend it but the airport we would be flying to Lima from in a couple of days.  It’s like Fresno but without the personality.  I hope the roads aren’t as treacherous on Saturday.

After checking in at the Qelqatani Hotel in Puno, John, Joy and I walked to Mojsa for dinner.  The place was packed (a good sign) but they were able to seat us in the bar upstairs where a sweet, overwhelmed young bartender suddenly found himself serving food to lots of diners.  By the time we left, the bar was full of dinner overflow.  I had a pisco sour (natch!) and a delicious vegetable lasagna.  John had the alpaca, which he said was the best he’d had on the trip.  Back at the hotel I recharged my camera battery in anticipation of our boat tour of Islas Uros tomorrow on Lake Titicaca (pronounced properly as “Lake Titty-HaHa”).

Monday, May 11, 2015

A DETOUR: Peru Travelogue (Part 2)

April 7, 2015 (Tuesday)

Breakfast started at 5:00 a.m.  I arrived about 5:05 a.m., and there was already a line of German and French tourists.


When our group was checking in to the Agustos Valle I made an offhand joke to the group and happened to make eye contact with a woman not in our group waiting to check in.  I smiled at her, thinking I was including her in on the joke, but I wrongly assumed she spoke English (this habitual misperception is, I hope, the worst trait I share with the stereotypical ugly American).  She thought I was speaking to her, and she asked me to repeat myself.  Her accent suggested she spoke German, so I repeated myself and apologized in German.  She was good-natured about my assumption, commenting that I had been talking to myself (which, as it turns out, I had been).


Upon seeing the long line I was initially alarmed that breakfast would drag out longer than planned (and was secretly grateful for my 4:30 a.m. alarm call), but the line moved quickly.  As it happened, the German and French tour groups had an earlier train to Aguas Calientes than we did.  More alarming, perhaps, was a note in the information packet sent by the travel bureau which mentioned offhandedly that if the representative didn’t meet us at the hotel in a timely fashion to simply take a taxi to the train station.  Our train tickets were for a specific train and specific seats, so any delay in our arrival at the station would have the potential to cause an unfortunate chain reaction.  After breakfast, while waiting for the arrival of the bus to the train station, John and I speculated as to how long we should wait before calling a cab.  The consensus was that if the bus didn’t show, we were screwed.

To our relief the bus arrived around 6:10 a.m.  It had picked up the rest of our group (the upgraders) first.  The Machu Picchu adventure had officially begun.  Diego was on board the bus, which came all the way from Cuzco by the looks of it – quite the schlep.  He would guide us to the train station.  Raquel would meet us at the bus to Machu Picchu.  Diego handed John and me the good-sized box lunches we ordered.  So I wouldn’t have to lug the box over the ruins, I spent the early part of the train ride secreting the components of my lunch into the various pockets of my raincoat – much to the amusement of fellow tour groupies, Brian and his wife, Nikki, who sat across from me.  They are part of the upgraded group, so I’ve seen little of them (until now) outside of the tour bus.  The two of them placed bets on which way I would list once I stood up from the train seat.  Brian and Nikki have lived in Phoenix since 1982 but are U.K. ex-patriots.  Brian also carries around a very expensive and professional-looking camera, which he snaps with enthusiasm.

A nice young Latin fellow was sitting with Brian, Nikki and me.  Because a total stranger didn’t want to face backward (and sit next to me) the nice Latin fellow separated himself from his wife across the aisle.  So his wife and I switched places (I sat next to the non-backward-facing grump of a woman).  It all worked out because the new seat had a great view as the train followed the Urubamba river, wending its way to Machu Picchu.

In Aguas Calientes we disembarked and met Raquel, who would guide us through the ruins.  The final leg to Machu Picchu was by bus as it wound its way like a drunken snake up into the mountains.


Here our group was joined by a young woman from New Jersey by way of Puerto Rico named Arelys.  She was a solo traveler whose agency would drop her into a tour group temporarily.  She was spending the night in Aguas Calientes so she could hike Wayna Picchu first thing the next morning.  She had to reserve a space over 3 months in advance because, like the Inca Trail, only 400 people are allowed on Wayna Picchu a day.  To give you a sense of the geography, there are the ruins of Machu Picchu bookended by Machu Picchu, the taller, older mountain, and Wayna Picchu, the shorter, younger mountain.  If you are in decent shape it takes about 1 hour to hike up Wayna Picchu and another hour to hike down.  You don’t need a reservation to climb Machu Picchu, because fewer people are inclined to do it.  That hike takes about 2 hours up and 2 hours back (if you’re in decent shape).  The postcard shot of Machu Picchu (the ruins) you’ve frequently seen was taken atop Machu Picchu (the mountain).


We arrived at Machu Picchu and, in true tourist fashion, had our passports stamped by an amenable Raquel.  We then climbed up a steep switchback to get to the ruins’ entrance.  The trail was slick from overnight and early morning rain.  At the entrance Raquel gave a history of Hiram Bingham’s “discovery” of the ruins.  Most of the information I’d read recently.  I felt restless.  I wasn’t the only one.  John and Joy moved on ahead.  I probably should have, too, but it felt rude.  Silly, Midwestern me.  Dan (of Dan and Debbie from Chicago, who I haven’t mentioned previously because he was part of the upgraders) went off on his own (as he did before at Ollantaytambo).  Linda from Alabama (also an upgrader) followed after him.  The rest of us stayed for the spiel.


For our return trip we had a specific train to catch back to Urubamba, so we had to determine the absolute latest bus we could take to have ample time to make our train.  If forced to choose I would say Linda is the most notorious of our group for vanishing in a market.  We had to wait for her at Pisac.  My point for this digression is this:  Diego thought catching a 3:00 p.m. bus to Aguas Calientes would give us ample time to catch the train, which he relayed to the group at the train station in Urubamba.  However, during the tour Raquel, perhaps erring on the side of caution, suggested that, due to crowds, 2:00 or 2:30 p.m. (latest) would be better.  When Linda took off after Dan, she still thought 3:00 p.m. was the optimum time to depart for the train.


Machu Picchu cannot be adequately described, either in words or pictures, so I won’t even try.  You simply must see it for yourself.  It is awe-inspiring.

We broke for lunch at the end of the tour.  I had missed a fair amount of Raquel’s observations because I was taking pictures of Nancy or Sally or Doreen or Angie (the Asian contingent).  In fairness the favor was being returned.  I just would have been (and was) more selective.  Dan rejoined the group, but there was no sign of Linda.  Dan had passed her on the trail coming back, but, beyond that, nothing.  Dan spoke of seeing the Inca Bridge, so John, Joy, Brian, Nikki and I headed in that direction, knowing we wouldn’t make it that far but wanted to see what there was to see in the remaining time allotted.  Raquel had said her goodbyes.

The five of us made our way to where the Inca Trail comes out of the jungle.  John, Joy and I only hiked a short distance up the trail, as we would need to start back for the bus to Aguas Calientes soon.  Brian and Nikki decided against the trail (Nikki had a migraine) and headed back toward the entrance.  Once on the trail it felt a bit like being in the jungle, with more insects and dampness.  At the first break in the foliage there was another view, not as spectacular as Machu Picchu but nothing to sneeze at, and a small ranger station where Inca Trail hikers could sign their name and date of arrival.  After a brief rest we made our way back to the bus.  No sign of Linda, and there was some concern that she may not catch a bus until 3:00 p.m. and possibly miss the train.  So down the winding road to Aguas Calientes we went.  There we found Linda, and she, Dan, Debbie, Bonnie (the only member of our group I’ve failed to mention until now), Brian, Nikki, John, Joy and I stopped for a drink and snack while waiting for the train.  (It appears Raquel was over-cautious in her prediction of the line for the bus.)  Many opted for booze.  I stuck with coffee and dessert, because I wanted a drink for dinner.  The Asian contingent were off who knows where.  The restaurant was out of the dessert I wanted, so Linda and I went to the dessert table to choose another option.  I thought I had chosen a variety of mousse, but what I received was a cocoanut flan of some sort.  It was fine, and I ate it; but I’m still not sure what it was.

The train ride back was anti-climactic, but I was a little flattered when a stranger sitting next to me (across from me were Brian and Nikki) asked me if I spoke Spanish after I had requested coca tea fluently.  The woman spoke little English, was of Latin descent but lived in Germany near Dusseldorf.  Therefore, she spoke fluent Spanish and German, and our conversation with her, needless to say, was limited.  Our tour bus met us at the Urubamba train station, and there followed a 2-hour bus ride back to the hotel.  Getting my bag at the Polo Cuzco took a little longer than necessary (the porter seemed surly, but I tipped him nevertheless).  Once settled I wandered back up toward the Plaza de Armas to find a place for dinner.

I arrived at Aldea Yanapay a little after 9:00 p.m. for some late dining.  The restaurant is sustainable (according to Lonely Planet) and all their profits go to helping abandoned children.  As I walked up the steps to the entrance, I heard music being broadcast along with announcements in Spanish and English.  I hesitated because I feared they may be closed for a private party.  Hungry and curious I walked in anyway and was ushered to a table.  The décor was child-friendly, with stuffed animals all over (a large one was removed from my chair so I could sit) and board games lined a shelf along one wall.  The rest of the décor looked as if it had been chosen by an 8-year-old.  I had arrived Tuesday night, their regular charity game night, and they were in the midst of a game of bingo.  The announcer spoke both Spanish and English and had enlisted two tow-headed Anglo boys to announce each number.  You won a free drink for a completed row.  For a full black out, a free dinner was on offer.  There was a large table of Anglos and Latinos who were competing with good-natured enthusiasm.  The overall feeling was of a raucous family gathering (and, in a way, perhaps, it was).  I had a pisco sour (my new favorite drink) and a plate with curried tofu and chopped cashews and lentils covered with sautéed vegetables.  Everything was excellent.  Before I left they began a new game, a quiz of 25 questions played by 3 or 4 teams.  Since I was by myself, I opted not to join (though I was tempted).  Also, I was tired from the long day and needed to get back to the hotel before it got too late.  I am sorry I could not stay longer, and sorry that I would not be able to return here this trip.  But my next visit to Cusco will definitely include a return to Aldea Yanapay.