Thursday, July 31, 2014

Peru 2: Lunch with a View

When I signed up for the Cordillera Blanca trek, I knew that there would be support in the form of a  mountain guide and a horse for carrying our stuff. It turns out, the complete team consisted not only the mountain guide and horse, but five additional donkeys and a mule to carry our things, a donkey driver to manage the animals, and a COOK! Those of you who know me well know that I am always excited about eating, and more so if the food is unique and tasty. Eating native Peruvian cuisine made from organic market-fresh ingredients and prepared by a professional cook... Ummm... Yes, please! Who am I to argue with that?! Of course, it gets better. Check out the million dollar views of several of these fine lunches. Pinch me please, because I think I may have been dreaming...

Lunch on one of our warm-up hikes outside Huaraz overlooked a ruin of a village. 
Menu: Chinese stir fry made with quinoa instead of rice. The fusion of Peruvian + Chinese is called Chifa.

On the road to trekking campsite #1, it was too cold to get off the bus, so we ate our veggie-stuffed yucca pocket in the bus overlooking this old construction storage site. It is over run with lupine and other wild flowers. So beautiful in spite of the blustery day.

The horse, Canelito ("Little Cinnamon"). Also affectionately called "Taxi," since he was our emergency ride out in case we needed it, he carried items needed for lunch. You will be amazed...

Commence amazement. That is our cook setting up a table WITH a tablecloth, dishes, hot tea, etc., in full cook's regalia, of course. He passed us on the trail about two hours prior. The mountain guide (who is also a trained cook) is watching!  Haha!

File this under "ARE YOU KIDDING ME???!!!" Freshly grilled trout, boiled quail eggs, and sweet yam smothered in fried onions. The first course was an amazing noodle soup with greens, carrots, herbs and an egg beaten in. (There were always two courses for lunch!) Divine!

Oh wait, there was more: a 360* panorama view which included this.

Is this losing its appeal? No, I'm still engaged in eating and panorama views.  Seconds, please!

This spot was windy (and I wasn't feeling well), and somebody HAD to hold the tablecloth down, right? Still can't beat the view. And maybe I wasn't dreaming after all!

Last lunch while trekking. We are looking into the barren hills of the Black Range on the other side of the Santa Rio valley the divides the Black and White ranges, a sad sign that we were nearing the end.

Canelito was always taking a nap when we arrived for lunch. He would look at us disdainfully and then slowly shut his eyes again. Near the end of lunch he livened up and started snacking on grass, only to be interrupted by the cook loading the lunch items and getting him moving again. His halter is a simple rope and he is tethered to some rock usually. Simple, cheap solutions. I'm sure the Tractor Supply Store would not approve!

Back in civilization, we stop for our final outdoor lunch a ways off the main road. The tablecloth was pretty dirty and not used here! Our view is Mt. Huascaran, one of the tallest mountains in South America, the tallest in Peru. This year's "dry season" was a little off, as noted by the layers of clouds on top. There has been a record amount of rain recorded in Ancash province, and many technical climbers were not able to summit their goal peaks. That's one reason to hike instead...

Finally, the answer to yesterday's bonus question was indeed the viscacha, a member of the chinchilla family, and neither truly rabbit nor squirrel. I also forgot to share the picture and story of my souvenir yarn. There are still many pictures and topics to cover, so hang tight. We have to finish talking about eating tomorrow, first and foremost. It concerns one of the best meals I have eaten and how it is made. In the mean time, I am ready for a snack, preferably in the middle of beautiful scenery...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Peru 1: Fiber Animals

My recent trip to Peru was a life highlight, and I plan on sharing several posts worth of pictures and experiences throughout the next few days. Since this is "usually" a knitting blog, my first post is dedicated to all the wooly creatures whose fibers I adore knitting with. Most pictures will be of the 10-day trek through the Cordillera Blanca in the Ancash province of northern Peru.

 Our first camelid sighting was on our way to the Chavin Ruins . This guy was simply tethered to a rope  wrapped around his hind leg at the edge of a beautiful glacier-fed lake. When we drove past again in the late afternoon, he had been moved to a new patch of grass. Many animals we encountered were tethered in this simple manner to keep them from running away.

Lots of sheep inhabit the valleys in the high Peruvian Andes as well. These sheep had a shepherd and a few horses to keep them company, but there were times when we saw herds without a shepherd as well.

I have done my share of spinning using a drop spindle (and made all sorts of lumpy yarns), but NEVER while hiking, or even walking. This elderly lady had some perfectly smooth yarn on that spindle and was walking very fast while spinning. Just about the most amazing thing I have seen! Check out her outfit too: the layered skirts, the carrying cloth, the hat. Most people we saw in villages and on the trail dressed like this. The men were immaculate in heavy duty dress slacks, button-down shirt, nice sweater. And these people make most of their livings farming something or other. I especially loved the variety in the hats. Each village or area had a different style, and the colored cloth or ribbon tied around it has different meanings. Very neat custom.

Here was a lone alpaca amidst a flock of sheep and some donkeys. 

Until our campground at Huilca, we just saw a smattering of alpacas. Huilca was also a micro village / farm collective that raised massive amounts of alpacas and sheep. Here are a few alpacas wandering through our camp site.

Peru is currently in the middle of its dry season, and I was amazed that this barren land could support so many animals. 

 You can see the sheep sprinkled in with the alpacas. Note that most of the alpacas are white or a very light fawn color. Let's just say that the dark ones get sold to restaurants... The white ones are prized fiber animals. (White alpacas have finer fiber, their fiber goes faster, and their hairs are usually closer together on their skin. Additionally, dying white fiber would be a lot easier than a darker color. At Shady Grove Alpacas, the Farmer and I raise mostly dark animals so that we can have a variety of natural colors that do not require dying. Do not expect an alpaca dinner at our house....)


While raising alpacas in the flat lands of the USA is a fun hobby, nothing quite beats seeing alpacas in their high-altitude home in the Andes mountains...

Near the end of our trek, we got passed (and nearly run over) by this giant herd of sheep and goats. They just careened down the hill to the stream and flatter valley area. 

Bonus question: Is this animal below a squirrel or a rabbit? Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow!