On January 30, I woke to the sound of a song bird tapping on the bathroom window at around 5.30 am. This was a good thing because David and Tilo were scheduled to arrive at the apartment at 6am after their overnight flight from Canada.
After a coca tea and a nap, David and Tilo were ready to explore Cusco. We visited the cathedral complex in the Plaza de Armas and then headed to a store in the square to book our Machu Picchu train tickets and accommodation. We met up with Lyle -The American, half of the couple we met in Huanchaco who own Gringo Wasi B&B. Lyle spent the afternoon touring us around Cusco. He has excellent local knowledge and provided insight and advice on Cusco that went well beyond what was written in our guide books. Lyle took us to a BBQ chicken restaurant where David avoided the salad and Tilo drank Coca Cola as a stomach prophylactic.
We then went to the market where we ate picarones (donuts made out of squash and sweet potato), bought provisions (local cheese and fruit) and walked very quickly through the meat selection which was like something from a Tarantino film only more graphic. See Cusco Photos if you dare. We also checked out the chocolate factory. Tilo bought an alpaca hat at a place Lyle took us to. Dinner was at a Parilla (BBQ) where we met a chatty British couple from the North West that had travelled all over the world.
After the transition day, it was time to show David and Tilo what Peru was like outside of the historic centre of Cusco. Tilo wanted to see a market in which we would be the only foreigners. Armed with Lyle’s advice and directions, on January 31, we set out for the Izkuchaka Sunday feria (market). Instead of taking a private taxi we opted for a “collectivo” which is basically a shared taxi or mini-van that follows certain fixed routes. The pick up point was a vacant lot in the Santiago district and as we stood in line, we looked on in surprise as 7 passengers piled into a Toyota hatchback (1 in front passenger seat, three in back seat and three in the cargo area). Let’s just say that the word collectivo is used very loosely in Peru.
The collectivos Eliot and I had taken in cities like Cajamarca were mini-vans. So we were as surprised as David and Tilo. Another hatch back arrived and we were beckoned over. David and Tilo looked nervously at us as if to say there is no way we are getting into the cargo area of a hatch back. When it was our turn to get into the collectivo, Tilo was directed to the front seat while the rest of us got the back seat. Three others got into the hatch area. As we breathed a sigh of relief, Eliot explained that seats cost 3 soles ($1.20) and the back costs 2 soles ($.80). Business class had filtered all the way down to the Izkuchacka collectivo. Well this is how we roll:
As we left town, we passed a district that had an open gutter sewer, there was a lot of garbage and also an informal market where people sold their wares on tarps laid out on the ground on the main road. We then climbed up out of Cusco and 30 minutes later were in Izkuchacka. The market had different sections including livestock (sheep), poultry (live and butchered), another Tarantino meat section, vegetables, barber shops, prepared foods, clothing, herbs and a stand for chicha (fermented alcoholic beverage made from Corn and other local ingredients). It was like the beer garden except that the brew was pink and foamy and the customers would pour bit out on the ground before drinking. Lyle later explained they were offering some to Pachimama. Most of the women were in traditional Andean dress while the men wore western clothing. On the way back we flagged a mini-van collectivo and got to enjoy our seats as we returned to Cusco.