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A Week in Huancayo

After a week in Huancayo Lila and I have finally found time to sit down and write again. Our week started with a 7 hour bus ride 10,000ft into the Andes, taking us into the central highlands of Peru. Although driving on narrow roads along-side steep cliffs is not my idea of fun, the buses here are excellent with full lunch service, movies, and legroom to make any air traveler envious.

Once we arrived we we were greeted by Lucho, the owner of Incas del Peru, who would be our host for the week at his hotel, La Casa de La Abuela.

We spent the week in classes, taking cooking lessons each morning and Spanish lessons in the evenings. The cooking lessons, taught by Nelli, one of the sweetest women I have ever met and who ran the local chapter of the Red Cross during Peru´s dark days, took us to the local market each morning for ingredients for our days lesson. The Huancayo markets are amazing (and huge). Their Sunday market is the biggest in Peru – you can find everything here from clothing and potatos to chainsaws. During our stay Lila and I learned to make several traditional Peruvian dishes, including papa a la Huancaina, papa rellena, lomo saltado, cuy (that´s guinea pig, and yes it tastes good) and several delicious soups and salsas. The food in Peru is unbelievable!

When not in class, we explored the local area. Huancayo is a small city of 400k people stiing at about 8000ft, surrounded by smaller pueblos each specializing in their unique craftworks…like weaving, gourd carving, and ceramics. Like many Peruvian cities, life revolves around the main plaza(s) – Huancayo has several – where you will usually find people out and enjoying the company of each other at all times of day and night. When not roaming the streets, we hiked to the top of the valley to see Tore Tore, the amazing sandstone spires that must have looked like an ancient city in the hills to the Incas when the first arrived.

At the end of the week we took a day tour to the neighboring town of Chupaca where we attended a giant animal market where the locals buy, sell, and trade cows, sheep, donkeys, and pigs. Life in Peru is very diverse, with the older generation, especially in the mountains, still clinging to tradition as the young people are skyrocketing into the 21st century. After the market, our guide Paula and her Mom, took us to the top of a mountain on the outskirts of town where there were several ancient Inca dwellings built on the hill overlooking a beautiful agricultural valley, not too dissimilar from where Lila and I grew up in Sonoma County.

Tomorrow we take a plane to Cusco for another week in the Andes. This time at 11000ft. Now we are off to buy our Saroche pills (for altitude sickness).

Click here to see more Peru pictures.

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