Saturday, August 1, 2015

My adventures in Peru, Gluten-Free

My adventures in Peru, Gluten-Free

What an incredible trip. The experiences were wonderful!! And yes, I did eat guinea pig...and alpaca...and we had Pisco Sours to drink...oh my!!  I have to admit I was a bit nervous about being Gluten-Free in a strange country where I didn't understand the language. I made copies of my Spanish Triumph Dining Card…what a lifesaver!! I used it everywhere…and everyone was more than helpful.  I would hand my Gluten-Free Triumph Dining Card (written in Spanish) to the waiter, they took a moment to read it carefully, and then proceeded to point to the menu and tell me exactly what was safe for me to eat. Such a wonderful pleasure!! My meals were just incredible. I enjoyed some truly unique flavors!! 

My friends got a little adventurous and we all tried both the Alpaca and the Cuy (guinea pig) and were not disappointed. We were grateful to find the Cuy properly cut up and beautifully plated and not just displayed as a dead animal on the plate like you always see on the travel sites. We always finished off our meal with a round of Café con Leche, and even ordered some delicious desserts to go so that we could enjoy them later in the evening. It was amazing some of the wonderful things that I got to enjoy. Really fresh, gourmet dishes prepared especially for me! What an experience!!

It was a real struggle getting used to the high altitude...but the coca leaves are a true lifesaver. We stayed in Cusco for a few days just to get used to the altitude.  We drank the tea whenever we could get it...and chewed the leaves during our walking and shopping. Its great stuff...but truly only works best at very high altitudes. The weather was just incredible...nice and cool during the day and chilly at night. No BUGS!! Oh my goodness!! No BUGS! I only saw one really tired looking fly...sitting on the window sill gasping for breath!!
We spent two weeks in Peru from Lima, to Cusco, to Aqua Caliente, to Puerto Maldonado, and back to Lima. Everywhere we went it was the toilet restaurants, in market places, in stores, even in the eco lodges, everywhere except our hotels. While it’s probably not the case in some places…it was certainly a rarity to see toilet seats in much of the Peru that we visited. From Cusco, to Aqua Caliente, to Puerto Maldonado; it didn’t matter the quality of the establishment – we were taking our chances when visiting the restrooms. They were easy enough to find, no matter where we traveled, but cleanliness didn’t seem to be a priority. Our Hotels were the only exception since we stayed in some exceptional places. In the public markets and such 50 Centavos buys you 10 squares of Toilet Paper. Then you need to decide if you want to line the bowl with it to protect your backside...or just tough it out and use it for its intended purpose!! Toilet Paper...never leave home without it!! We all carried those travel sized packages of tissue paper along with pocket sized anti-bacterial wipes; since sinks with soap and water were also rare. We never let any of this slow us down, or spoil our enjoyment of such an incredible country. The opportunity to explore Peru was worth the minor discomforts of a dirty restroom.
One morning at 5:30am we left on the Peru Rail to go to Aquas Caliente and our visit to Machu Picchu. It's a tiny little town built clinging to the side of a steep mountain. Rail is the ONLY way to get there. They have NO streets and NO cars at all!! But they do have hundreds and hundreds of stairs!!  Oh My!! All supplies are moved by wheelbarrow and ramps up the side of the mountain...and those poor men huff n puff all the way to the top.  

Little kids were out and about on their tricycles or big wheel bikes…and always, always the bikes were connected to an adult by a thick, strong rope.  Our Hostel was was situated halfway up the side. We had the best room in the place...two walls of just windows overlooking the Square and the Mountain View...just incredible!! Our beds were comfy and warm...and the bathroom was clean :-) with a seat...hehehe. We had all the modern was very strange to find out that there were women in the cellar hand-washing all our linens and things in huge tubs!! On scrub boards!!

Machu Pichu was such an incredible bus up another mountainside.  They had to truck all the buses up by rail...and create the only road in the area just for the buses. The mountainside is sooooo steep that they have to use 'switchbacks' to go up and down...zigzagging back and forth about 10 times just to make the steep climb. And that's all the buses do all day long...about 12 of them. Up and down, up and down.

This is a picture of me standing on the edge of the world...only one step away from the afterlife!! And yes, that is absolute terrified fear on my face! But I did it!! And I think I look pretty cute in my little blue hat!! More later!!

Sonqongi Apukuna Wak'aychasunkiku
(Quechoa - May the Heart of the Mountain bless you)

Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771

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