The days in between

Trip Start Sep 25, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2014

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Flag of Peru  , Cuzco,
Monday, November 4, 2013

“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

I have been neglectful of my blogging due to my settling into an ease of life in San Blas, Cuzco. For the interim, I have been throwing out tidbits on Facebook, for quick updating purposes. Spanish school, exploring more ruins, meeting new friends who share my love of dance, yoga, morning chats over coffee with hostel mates, and eating my way around town, have all been filling my days in a really lovely way.

San Blas has shown me how quickly one can feel part of a neighborhood. How, if you open yourself up to the experiences and people around you, a place and its people can soon become familiar and comfortable. Before you know it, you have found a favorite store, coffee shop, or route through town. Unexpectedly, a routine settles in to your day and soon the gal at the coffee shop notices if you didn't come in for your regular huevos and latte as you had the mornings past, and maybe another amigo expects to pass you on your route to school. Soon, they learn your name and are happy to see you-and you, them. Slowly, a place can begin to settle into your heart and feel a bit like a home. San Blas was this for me.

My brief stint at Spanish school only added to the fun! Visiting local parks for festival music and food (Oh, the veggie tamales and papas rellenos!!), touring the local cemetery and observing Day of the Dead preparations, walking through the museo of medicinal plants and having a chat with a fellow about psychoactive plant experiences, and visiting the local mercados. I have became quite attached to my practical teacher, Mari, and we shared a lot of laughs over my incorrect usage of Spamish terms or phrases, such as when I accidentally said, "mucho hombre"(man) instead of "mucho hambre"(hungry). This busted her up for days! She would say, "No mucho hombres, Gretchen!" -and laugh! I'm not sure how much better I can limp my way through a spanish phrase, but I sure as hell had a wonderful time!

I took off one weekend for a night in a town called Pisaq, located at the starting point to the Sacred Valley. Known for its incredible market (some say its the best in all of Peru), empanadas, an amazing Incan citadel a steep hike from town, and for being a stopover for new-agers looking for a gateway to spiritual enlightenment. I found after I arrived, that the sacred 500 year old tree in the main plaza had collapsed the night before, worrying the local people that they had upset the Apus. It was sad to see the tree dismembered by the local men, and I found myself wishing I could have seen the mighty tree before it had fallen. I spent the days in Pisaq exploring the small town, taking pictures, browsing the market, hiking up to the local ruins, eating the local dish, Lomo Saltado (beef, potatoes,and veggies), and enjoying a pisco sour (or two!) from the deck overlooking the plaza of Mullu-a local hotspot. From this vantage point, you can look upon the bustling plaza market and sneak pictures of the local activity-the juicy interactions among the farmers and local families. The Sunday market brings vendors from all over the valley and the plaza overflows with a sea of tents filled with meat carnage, textiles, trout, jewelry, fruit and vegetables, and local foods. It is a feast for the eyes, the taste buds, and the pocket book.

During my stay, an evening windstorm blew through town causing the power to go out. I hadn't eaten dinner, and as all the eateries shut down, I thankfully remembered that empanadas are baked in fire ovens-perfect! No electricity needed. So, I enjoyed a dinner of fresh baked empanadas in the light of a stone oven and candlelight-the local cuy(guinea pig) murmuring quietly in the dark from their fancy, cuy hotel built into the wall. I then later stumbled upon a candlelight acoustic guitar performance going on at Prasada. Quite magical, really.

I was getting a bit too comfortable in San Blas, and it soon came time for me to move on and weave my way to a small town in the Sacred Valley called, Ollantaytambo-or Ollanta-as the locals call it. Flanked by massive ruins, I had heard much about this beautiful, colonial town that hosted a river running alongside the cobbled streets, and a peaceful way of life (except for the giant buses full of tourists on their way to Machu Picchu!). Here, I have settled in to the perfect little place called Casa de Wow. Handmade beds, a home-like feel, dream catchers hanging in every room, mountain and ruin views out my window, and the babble of the river and irrigation channels to lull me to sleep. The owners, Winn(from the states) and Wow(local artist) are wonderful hosts and have been very helpful in aligning me with a local guide, Weeder. I had expressed interest in exploring the Lares Valley and also in trying the ancient healing and shamanic medicinal cactus called, San Pedro. It turns out that, Weeder, was just the guy to show me the way...

More on my date with a cactus in my next post...
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