Category Archives: Peru

Cuy chactao – What’s for dinner?

Cuy chactao una especialidad de la cocina Peruana

Que hay de comer? Pues si quieren algo diferente sugiero que prueben el Cuy. El conejillo de Indias o Cuy (Cavia porcellus) es una especie de mamífero roedor originaria de la región andina de América del Sur. En Puerto Rico los llamábamos Güimo pero eran mascotas y no para comer. En Bolivia, Ecuador, y el Perú se crían para comer y gastrónomos famosos lo consideran un manjar. La carne posee un alto valor nutritivo con poca grasa y mucha proteína. El Cuy chactao es un plato típico de la cocina peruana, especialmente de la región de Arequipa. Se trata de un Cuy frito en abundante aceite. Es un plato bien condimentado y te lo presentan con el animal completo con las patitas y sonriendo. Es un plato muy apreciado en las zonas andinas donde muchas familias pobres los crian en casa. Nunca olvidaré cuando me trajeron un plato de Cuy chactao en Arequipa. No teman, no les demuestro esa foto. Era la segunda noche en Perú y era la especialidad de la casa. Les recomiendo el restaurante Ary Quepay en la avenida Jerusalén.
La foto que ven fue tomada en el Valle Sagrado de los Incas en las afueras de Cusco. Específicamente en el pueblo de Pisac. Caminaba por el Mercado y el aroma de comida asada me atrajo. Me encontré con esta escena donde los animales esperan ansiosos su inevitable fortuna al lado de un asador. Pueden escoger su Cuy y se lo preparan rapidamente.

cuy in pisac peru in the sacred valley valle sagrado inca

Cuy being raised in a pen in Pisac, Peru.


A specialty of the Arequipa region in the south of Peru

What’s for dinner? If you want to try something different I would suggest that you try some Cuy. the Guinea Pig or Cuy (Cavia Porcellus) is a mamiferous rodent originating from the Andean region in South America. In Puerto Rico they are called Güimos. They are raised for food in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru and gastronomic experts consider them a delicacy. The lean meat is very nutritious and is very low in fat and high in protein content. Cuy chactao is a typical dish of the peruvian cuisine, specially from the southern region of Arequipa. The whole animal is deep fried and served with potatoes and corn. The animal arrives at you table smiling. Many poor families raise them at home and it serves to supplement their diet. i will never forget when they brought me a plate of Cuy chactao in Arequipa. Don’t worry, I will not show you that photo. I would recommend the Ary Quepay restaurant on Avenida Jerusalén.
The photo seen here was captured in the Inca Sacred Valley near Cusco. More specifically, in the town of Pisac. I was wandering around on market day and the aroma of food attracted me to this corner. The animals were kept next to the asador or grill. You can select your Cuy and it will be prepared quickly.

Cusco and Machu Picchu – the Imperial Center of the Incas

Cusco, Cuzco, Qosqo

Cusco is the gateway city for those visiting Machu Picchu. The city is the most important tourist destination in Peru. Cusco is located in southeastern Peru at an elevation of around 3400 meters. It is reached by a short flight from Lima. Cusco was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The new settlers destroyed many Inca buildings, temples and palaces and used the remaining walls and stones as bases for the construction of the new city. This historic city has a spiritual aura about itself and is worth exploring for a couple of full days.

It is important to take it easy at first when you arrive here. You must give your body time to acclimate to the altitude and the lack of oxygen. It is advised to drink lots of water, avoid alcoholic drinks and heavy meals. Hotels and restaurants will offer you some Coca tea. It is good for you and will help you fight any Soroche (altitude sickness). Raw Coca leaves, chewed or consumed as tea, are rich in nutritional properties and have many traditional medical uses in the Andes. Coca also plays a vital role in the religious vision of the Andean peoples. Chewing the leaves or drinking Coca tea does not produce the same effects that people experience with cocaine. I took a flight to Cusco from Arequipa where I had a chance to acclimate for several days at a lower elevation of about 2,335 meters. In addition to visiting Machu Picchu, I would recommend signing up for a day tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. That day trip will take you to some other towns suchs as Pisac and Ollantaytambo. It will give you a well rounded perspective of life in the Andes.

cusco plaza center inca universe

The center of the Inca universe – the Plaza in Cusco

Sacsahuayman – Inca engineering at its finest

The Sacsahuayman ruins sit on a hill above the city of Cusco at an altitude of 3701 meters. The complex is believed to have played a religious as well as a military role. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. The interlocking stones and the way the walls lean inward, have helped the ruins survive earthquakes in Cusco. The Spanish settlers used Sacsayhuaman as a source of stones for building the new city. The site was destroyed block-by-block to build new government and religious buildings in the city. Only the largest stones that were too difficult to move remain. Pope John Paul II visited the site in 1985. Today, Cusqueños celebrate Inti Raymi, the annual Inca festival of the winter solstice in the month of June.

sacsahuayman ruins cusco inca stonework

Sacsahuayman ruins – represent some of the finest stone work by the Incas

Machu Picchu – the Lost City of the Incas

The Perurail Vistadome train is the most convenient way to reach Machu Picchu. The train cars have large glass panoramic windows which offer amazing scenic views. The train ride crosses the Sacred Valley and sometimes runs parallel to the Urubamba river. You will be able to see the Nevado de Salkantay which is one of the highest peaks in the region with elevation of 6,271 meters. You will need to make the train reservations online and pick up the tickets in person in Cusco. You can find more information here PeruRail.

machu picchu huayna picchu peru industrial complex

View of Machu Picchu late in the day

Machu Picchu sits on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru. The ruins are located 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco. The purpose of the complex has been researched extensively. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor around the year 1450. Machu Picchu was unknown to the outside world before being announced in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. The ruins were known locally before then and many others have come forward claiming to have discovered the city first. In 2007 Machu Picchu was designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The site suffers from the pressures of too many tourists. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage in Danger.

machu picchu huayna picchu peru

Machu Picchu sitting on top of the Andes with a view of Huayna Picchu

Pleasant surprise in Cusco

jose figueroa yabar museo de arte precolombino cusco

Jose Figueroa Yabar next to his portrait at the Museo de Arte Precolombino in Cusco


Jose Figueroa Yabar was a famous movie director in Peru

If you are like me, you may plan day by day all activities and logistics for a trip. Sometimes I plan too much. Don’t forget to always leave some free time for last minute activities or schedule changes.

Such was the case when arriving in Cusco a few years ago. With so many activities outside of town, I did not plan too much time in the city. The next day would be spent exploring the Sacred Valley. Then the following day we were to catch the train to Machu Picchu. However, as many travelers to this city  have found out, there is some kind of spiritual connection with the place that makes you linger. We could not explain it but all our pain and discomfort from hiking and altitude sickness simply disappeared. The Incas believed Cusco was the center of the Earth and it certainly felt that way.

We decided to slow down and spend the next day just exploring the streets of this historic City. After dinner that first evening, my wife and I were not sure what to do but I remembered reading about the Museo de Arte Precolombino. Not sure about the address, we decided to take a short taxi ride to the MAP.

Much to our surprise there was an opening exhibition for a photographic project named “La Vuelta a Cusco en 24 Horas”. Local Photographers were given 24 hours to capture the daily life of people in and around the city. The opening exhibition was attended by the Major, the Bishop of Cusco, and other local officials and celebrities. After a couple of short opening speeches we got to mingle with some local people. They were even serving hors d’oeuvres and Pico Sours which we may have had too many. The photos were sharp and colorful and depicted life in the Andes around Cusco – it was a great exhibition.

While admiring one of the photos that caught our attention, we realized that a man standing nearby was the subject of the photo. We start a conversation with him and learn that he is Jose Figueroa Yabar – a famous movie director in Peru. He was so proud of his movies and work. He even handed us a sheet listing his movies and suggested where we could get them. The man was indeed overflowing with humanity and love for his Andino culture. It was a very pleasant experience – never to be forgotten. Ever since, I make sure that some free time is set aside for unplanned activities.

As I am writing this, I am saddened as I learn that Jose Figueroa Yabar passed away last year. We were lucky to have met him.


Jose Figueroa Yabar en el Museo de Arte Precolombino

Si ustedes son como yo, a la hora de viajar planifican todas las actividades día por día. A veces planifico demasiado. No se olviden de dejar algún tiempo libre para una actividad inesperada. Así fue el caso cuando lleguaba a Cuzco hace unos años. Con tanto que explorar en las afueras de la ciudad, no le iba a dedicar el tiempo que la ciudad se merecía. El día siguiente era para descubrir el Valle Sagrado. El proximo día el destino era Machu Picchu. Pero esta ciudad te engancha, existe un aura espiritual que te atrapa y te hace reflexionar. No les puedo explicar como me sentía. Todos los achaques por haber caminado mucho los días anteriores y cualquier manifestación de soroche simplemente desaparecieron. Para los Incas el Cuzco era el centro del Universo. Si se sientan en un banquillo de la Plaza, ciertamente sentiran eso.

Al último minuto hubo un cambio de planes. El próximo día sería Cusco y nada más. Exploraríamos las calles de esta ciudad tan histórica. Esa noche, luego de la cena, me acordé haber leido acerca del Museo de Arte Precolombino. No sabía donde quedaba asi que tomamos un taxi de 3 soles. Al lleguar nos sorprendió que inaguraban una exhibición de un proyecto fotográfico llamado “La Vuelta a Cusco en 24 Horas”. Fotógrafos locales tuvieron 24 horas para capturar la vida cotidiana alrededor el Cuzco. La inaguración contaba con la visita del Alcalde, el Obispo, y otros personajes. Luego de una breve convocatoria, pudimos charlar con alguna gente mientras servían Pisco Sours. La fotografia es lo mío y siempre que viajo busco exhibiciones. Las fotos demostraban la vida no solo en la ciudad pero en los Andes. Realmente era una exhibición fantástica en un ambiente muy especial.

Mientras admirabamos una de las fotos, nos dimos cuenta que el hombre parado cerca era la persona retratada en la foto. El hombre se llamaba José Figueroa Yabar y era un famoso director de cine del Perú. El cinematógrafo estaba muy orgulloso de sus obras. Hasta nos ofreció una lista de sus películas. Era una persona muy agradable y su fervor por la cultura Andina se notaba. Esta experiencia será inolvidable. Fué en ese momento que aprendí a tomar las cosas más despacio y dejar algun tiempo libre al viajar.

Al escribir esta entrada, me entristeció mucho haber leido que Jose Figueroa Yabar murió el año pasado. Fuimos muy afortunados en conocerle.