On Saturday the sixth of August 2011, I began a trip 25 years in the waiting. It is a journey that I have dreamed of doing since I was a child. I'm off to South America, specifically Peru & Bolivia with a relax at the end in Buenos Aires. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.

This journey began for me in 1985 when I lived in Port Lincoln. It was a beautiful summers day, the sun a rich golden warmth that eradicated the edge that lingers in people after Christmas and New Years. Children were everywhere frolicking along the foreshore and through the waters, jumping from the Jetty and enjoying all that could be from the day. The morning drew to afternoon and my sister and her friends started to wander further than my mother wanted them to. She sent me to bring them back closer to her view.

I stepped into the blue water lapping the shore, took a few steps into the pitiful surf, and fell. Electricity shot through my body, screamed into my skull, nerves became alive like never before. I yelled, but not understanding the pain, thinking it was probably just a stubbed toe, I reached into the water and pulled my foot free and into the air. My mind went white, my voice pierced the golden joy of summer, the water darkened, staining with the rich blood pouring forth from my foot, opened like a baguette.

During my stay at the hospital where they repaired my foot as best they can, I received a gift from my Grandmother. It was a calendar with pictures of places around the world. In the calendar I found two that I had to see – The Pyramids of Giza and Macchu Pichu. I have carried a picture of Macchu Pichu with me since then, and finally on the 21st of August 2011, I will be there after having hiked through the Andes for the previous three days.

Below are the entries for the Peruvian leg of this trip.

Peruvian Food

PeruFood-fish1In Australia, we are pretty spoiled when it comes to food. Being a nation founded on immigration, each group of people that has come to our shores has brought their fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs, and their recipes. It means that on any given day you can go to the markets and pick up all the ingredients required to make almost any meal. 

PeruFood-main2One of the things I love about visiting a new country is trying all the food. Just because we have such variety at home doesn't mean we have it all. In fact, if you go to restaurant you'll often get an Australianised version of a traditional dish, so the only way to get the real thing is to eat it in country. I've never seen a Peruvian restaurant in Adelaide, so I was really interested to see what I could find.

Peru is home to some really interesting tastes, but in order to appreciate it, you need a little background information first.

 PeruFood-main4Peru is the home of the potato, that remarkable staple of the global diet. There are 200 native varieties of potato and with domestication and experimentation there are now of 3000 varieties available to the world. Corn is also a staple, having been introduced centuries ago, and available in varieties I didn't even know existed. Here golden corn, that ever so lovely an juicy cob favoured in Australia is animal feed. The Peruvians prefer to eat the white corn which grows to massive proportions with kernals as big as 1-2cms. The flavour is a little different to the golden corn, not quite as sweet. They also brew a drink with the black corn which is very tasty. 

As for meat, the Peruvians are and agrarian society so they don't waste anything. Every muscle and organ is used, sometimes rather inventively. The primary animals for meat is: Cows, Bulls, Sheep, Alpaca, Lamb, Chicken, Pig, and Guinea Pig.


For grains, they have Quinoa (an excellent protein), Amaranth, Wheat, Oats, etcetera, then a range of nuts, and all the herbs you could ask for although the popular ones seem to be peppers, basil, oregano, mint, and salt. And a range of tropical fruits that are as varied in range as they are in taste.

Oh, and one more thing, Peruvians like their food hot. Every restaurant table has pot of hot sauce which varies in flavour and heat depending on the restaurant. 

PeruFood-main3The traditional diet (as told to me by my guide here in Peru) is:

Breakfast – Bread and Milk

Lunch – Soup followed by a dish of meat, vegetables and rice

Dinner – Small meal of vegetables and rice, usually leftovers 

So now that you've had your brief introduction, how about I tell you about some of the amazing, exceptional and strange flavours I have encountered in my travels?


PeruFood-finalentreePeruFood-main5Alpaca, is a gamey meat, not dissimilar to goat but drier on the palate. In Peru, Alpaca is widely available and in a variety of dishes. I have tried is as a straight fried fillet, in a range of marinades, and on pizza. For the most part it is a beautiful tasting meat, so long as it not overcooked, which unfortunately is something the Peruvians like to do. It's very hard to get a rare-medium cooked meat. It's all medium well to well done.



Ceviche, is Peru's national dish and it is raw fish. Well, they say it's raw fish, but it's not really. It is cured fish. The best fish is white and from the ocean. I tried this in Nazca prior to a night bus across the country, so if something went wrong after this dish I would have been pretty uncomfortable. As it is, nothing went wrong, and the dish was delicious. The ceviche came served with a mushrooms, shredded roast chicken, lettuce, with a lemon juice and chilli dressing. The flavour was tart but delicate and had my mouth salivating. There is a reason hat this is the national dish, when done right, it is exquisite. My advice, only have it when in a town near the ocean, that way the fish is freshest.

Chicha, is fermented corn and is quite possibly one of the cheapest alcohols I've ever come across. 1 pint cost me 0.50 Sols which equates to around AU0.20. The alcohol content varies from place to place the same as the quality. Why would this not be standardised? Well, it's all backyard still. You walk around towns such as Ollantaytambo you look out for a red flag on a pole hanging over a backdoor and you find the bar. Traditionally, before your first sip, you splash some onto the earth as an offering to Pacha Mamma. I've had four Chichas now, and each has been diferent. One tasted like Gruppa, another like Vodka, one was sweet and the last was sour. It is well worth the experience of trying it, but on't jut go wandering into a persons home, use a local guide to get you in as you don't want to offend and I'm sure the guides Quechua will be better than yours.

Chicha Morada, is the juice of the purple or black corn. It is found in restaurants and is an alternative to juice or sot drink. It is a refreshing beverage with a rich flavour and is quite filling.

Chicha Frutilad, is another chicha drink bu this time mixed with strawberry. It's not as refreshing as Morada but is very satisfying and filling. The chcicha is subtle against the fruit, adding a spicey tone, complemented by a sprinkling of cinnamon. A half litre cost me 1.50 Sols.


Ubre Apanada, is apparently a local delicacy in Cuzco. It is a deep fried Cow Udder served with roast potatoes, rice, and sliced tomato. It has a texture like pork fat, and looks like crackling. It even tastes like fat. To eat this dish, you need to add the spicy sauce. The one on offer with this dish was a pesto style sauce – basil, peanuts, chilli, parsley, all blended and kept very thin opposed to the thick pestos of home.

PeruFood-finalmain2PeruFood-finalmain1Cuy (Guinea Pig), is dry and tasty. The taste is very similar to that of rabbit, and it is quite lean. The skin cooks up like crackling. It is quite small and very fiddly similar to eating quail, and you must use your hands to eat it. The knife and fork is considered an insult with this dish. Sometimes when it is served, it is a whole Guinea Pig, other times it is quartered and served without the head, or with the head. If you receive the head on your plate, you must eat the flesh, eyes and brain which can be quite off-putting to your dining guests. There are many ways to prepare Cuy, but the way I had it on my last night in Peru was the best – Roasted.


Other Peru Articles:

August 26 to 27 2011 - The Lukina community

We are greeted at the jetty by some of the local families:

Camasurak (Hello)


We walked with the locals to the school, while they played music (bass drum, snare drum, flutes). At the school we are introduced to the family member who will take us to their home. My host is Wilbur, and as I was the odd one out, I'd be staying with his family by myself. The men here dress in black and wear broad brimmed hats (similar the Heffes from earlier except here it doesn't imply seniority) and the women wear bowler hats.

At the school we play soccer in dying light of day. For twenty minutes we (Ali, Nathan, Mads, Paul, and myself) play against the locals while we wait for another group to arrive so we can play them for the right to play the locals (This is Peru, the logic is different). Well, it would come as no surprise that the locals kicked our arses. 8-0 in twenty minutes.

The new group arrived, substantially bigger than ours, and predominately European. We set about our game and it was quite fun for a while, until the Germans on the other side started to be a little serious and play rough. I'll never understand why people take a friendly match and turn it into something else. Maybe it's something the Germans have against the English or Danes that were on our side, or maybe these guys were just jerks. Anyhow our group won and as a few of us were bored playing after the other side took the fun out of it, we offered to share the game and have all the foreigners who wanted to play able to. Victory is good, and being a gracious victor is even better.

So against a setting sun, on Lake Titicaca, locals and foreigners met on the field and played a friendly game of soccer.

After the game I went with my host to his family's home. At the house I was shown my room, separate from the main house and quite large. It had two single beds and a small bathroom. There was a toilet and shower, although the plumbing wasn't finished yet so there was no flowing water. For the toilet however there was a 50 litre bucket of water for flushing. The beds had quite a few heavy blankets which I saw myself using as there was no heating or insulation. It was a very comfortable if spartan place to stay the night.

Wilbur came and tried to speak to me for a while. His Aymara and Spanish versus my Spanglish. The language barrier is incredibly strong here. The rudimentary Spanish I have learnt and picked up is not nearly enough. This will be very tough to get through. I have an Aymara cheat sheet and a Spanish phrase book, and I know that won't be enough. Even adding in physical gesturing probably won't get me through with any ease.

Wilbur leaves and tells me dinner is at 7. So, at 7 I present myself at the kitchen door and am welcomed in. Wilbur isn't here, rather this is his uncle and aunt's home: Delphin and Nurita.

The kitchen is a single room, connected with the rest of the house only by shared walls. It is simple neat and clean. Nurita works at a small gas stove and I assume she is sitting on a stool. Delphin sits on a chair next to the stove talking with his wife. There is a table with three chairs around it. Behind Nurita is a small cupboard with plates and utensils and a few ceramic pots. I approach her and offer a bag of food I have purchased for a gift (Pasta, polenta, egg noodles, and rice). I introduce myself and they to me, Delphin offers me a seat at the table.

The people of Lukina are vegetarians and as such the meal will be soup and a stew. I wonder what it must feel like for the families here to be invaded by gringos, having to cook for people who understand very little of their way of life, and unable to speak their language. I feel awkward attempting to speak with them in my broken spanglish, trying to structure a sentence from cheat sheets and phrase books.

Do they feel like a museum display?

I'm not their first gringo. This tour is frequent and has been going on for years and they wouldn't just get English speakers either. My hosts are pleasant with regard to my poor communication but I feel as though I am imposing on them in my attempt to learn an alien culture.

I am going to learn more of the language for the next culture I visit.

I listen to the couple speak and wonder what they're talking of. Aymara is tricky language to place. At times it sounds influenced by the Asian languages but then it also has intonations and words similar to Arabic. Linguistically this is fascinating, and it is a shame that I can't tell them why I'm smiling. I wonder if in a bilingual society they combine the two languages for clarity of communication?

Nurita serves up the soup: Potato, Carrot, Quinoa, Peas. Next comes the stew and rice. The stew has the exact same vegetables but the flavours and consistency is different. We finish the dinner with Coca tea. The food is excellent, simple, tasty and very filling. My plate is only half the size of Delphin's, but I am full and satisfied. My hosts sit low to the table carefully spooning the food, not spilling a drop. The Coca tea aids in digestion at this altitude, more the hot water than the coca, but the coca provides other things missing in their diets.

After dinner, I am dressed in a poncho, a bag, a hat and some pom poms on my wrist. It is time for fiesta – They have one every time a group comes to stay. I feel like Marty McFly in Back to the Future 3 and apparently look like a cowboy except that the poncho is pink. We walk through the night back to the school. All the groups arrive with their families. The band is back and they start to play. The music is discordant, chaotic, there is rhythm but it is so far from what I'm used to it feels unnatural.

The locals show us how to dance. It is a simple dance, facing in, turning out, facing in, turning out, moving forward and around the room, swinging the pom poms.

Next we the tourists attempt to recreate the dance, and it is harder than it looks, but then again most simple things are. We have fun and dance with our families for a while then head back to the home. I stay up a while after everyone has gone to bed. The silence is incredible, broken only by a few bleats and snores of animals. The stars are bright and the sky is thick with them. It is easy to feel at peace in a place like this.

The next morning I wake early and sit outside to watch the sun crest the Andes. It is a beautiful thing to sit in near silence with the sky opening up as the sun envelopes the world. Around 7:30 Nurita comes and gets me for breakfast – an egg, some Toq Tos and coca tea.

After breakfast Nurita walks me to the jetty to where my group will travel to Isla Floentes. A few hours from the Chuquito peninsula we made our approach to the Uros people on their floating islands.

Other Peru Articles:

August 26 2011 – Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the 5th largest lake in the world, and highest navigable lake in the world (), crossing the border between Peru and Bolivia, and was the primary route for trade between the two nations before good highways and roads were constructed and the railways and heavy water transit was rendered obsolete. More importantly though are the people that populate the coastal regions and its many islands.

My trip here over today and tomorrow will take me to the island of Taquille where I will meet some of their people and learn of their customs, then Lukina community on the Chuquito peninsula where I will spend the night with a family, then on to visit the Isla Flotante de Los Uros (The Floating Islands).

The lake is where it gets linguistically complicated, there are three languages at work here: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara.

First off, how to pronounce the name : ti-ti-kha-ka. The kha sound is almost like clearing your throat. The name is made of two parts:

Titi – Puma

Caca – Stone

Apparently, long ago, the islands were full of Puma.

Once upon a time the lake was filled with hundreds of sails and large floating behemoths tearing across its still waters. Now, there is only the occasional sail, and the giant transports are replaced by small ones carrying tourists to the islands or contraband between countries.

Our transport cuts through the calm waters, creating a small wake, with nary a lilt or a dip. We pass through a channel of Totora reeds that grow in the shallows (2 ½ metres maximum depth) which are use for a range of local constructions. Hundreds of metres from shore and the water is so clear,a light blue/green, I can see the bottom scattered with a small forest of weeds.

It takes a few hours to travel to Taquille, our first stop. The island rises steeply off to our side, the hill sides stepped and tiered according to the old ways. We pull into the dock, a small rock jetty jutting from the rocky shore, and disembark. We walk to the Heffe and show our documents, then off up the steep rock walkway to the village. The Heffe, here wears all black and a fedora, this is the imagery of power here. Power also doesn't bring money, it's a job of prestige not income. The culture on this island is a bit different from any of the others I have encountered so far.

The society is quite balanced in regard to duties at home and in society. The males must all know how to sew and knit (it provides them with status, and is the only way they will ever be wed). They are responsible for the production of hats, shoals, and skirts. If the man is married, then he is responsible for clothing his daughters. The women make belts, adornments and special gifts for weddings.

Single women hide their faces with a shoal/headdress, signifying their status. It is hard to meet a partner here as single people aren't allowed to go to the celebrations, as only married people have status in this society. The Aymara people of this island love to celebrate and they will drink the chicha until quite intoxicated. When the married people return home to sleep off their imbibing, the single people will go out into the night with a flash-light and meet each other. They use the light and small stones to get the attention of a potential mate, then nature takes its course. This goes on until the single person finds someone and they get married.

For the wedding, the woman makes a man-bag for her husband, which he will wear for the rest of his life and use to store his coca leaves. The groom will sew his wife's hair into his belt and wear it also for the rest of his life.

The town operates as a collective, with a central store to sell their wares opposite the town hall in the square. The view here is incredible, looking out over the lake into the green blue beyond. You can see the coastline and other islands amongst the still waters.

Lunch on the island is at a home/restaurant. We walk a meandering path out of the square past small shops selling chocolates, drinks and souvenirs, and other home/restaurants. There are a vast number of these shops and apparently the island doesn't require the income generated by these shops, it just provides extra. With the choice of home/restaurant it comes down to who you get as a guide, each guide has a relationship with a restaurant owner and thus it is balanced out. This island receives a great many boats such as ours each week and thus tourism provides a great deal extra for the island.

Our lunch today included: Toq To's – a traditional bread that is lightly fried similar to a doughnut, quinoa soup, and trout from the lake served with chips, rice and salsa, finished with coca tea. It's a tasty and filling lunch. The trout was fried on a wood stove and tasted excellent. There is a satisfaction that comes from eating simple 'peasant' food, after all it is the reason it persists to be the most widely consumed style of food in the face of all the cooking shows, 'peasant' food is pretty much the best in the world.

After our lunch we walk across the island down to where our boat is moored. From here we will travel to the Lukina Community, where we will spend the night with a local family. The Lukina community is on the Chuquito peninsula.

Other Peru Articles:

Joomla! Debug Console


Profile Information

Memory Usage

Database Queries