The food in Peru was a pleasant surprise after a couple months of fried carbs in Colombia. We found that there were way more veggies and great, inexpensive "trucha" (trout) could be found just about everywhere. No, we did not try "cuy" (guinea pig), a Peruivian specialty. Call us unadventurous, but as soon as we saw that a whole guinea pig is served in front of you, we decided that tasting it was unnecessary. Kevin ate alpaca and llama (see below for a picture of one of the poor little guys) quite frequently, and I would have to say that my favourite local dish was "rocoto relleno" (a red pepper stuffed with beef, potatoes, cheese, veggies and lots of spices). Our "go to" budget food was empanadas and, whereas in Colombia they were fried, in Peru they were baked. Also, as the pictures in the past couple posts can attest to, amazing chocolate cake was just about everywhere - how could you not have one a day for around $1 a slice?
We are proud to say that after sampling the local food, both street food and food in the restaurants, we each only had one serious bout of South American tummy troubles. Although this may not seem like a great feat, most of the friends we met on the road have had many more problems. The German couple we became close with in Colombia, and whom we will be travelling with for the next week or so in the Amazon, were even hospitalized after their Santa Cruz trek because of serious stomach issues from the food and water. On that note, it will definitely be an adjustment when we come home and detailed discussions around tummy troubles with people you just meet are somewhat taboo, as it seems to be a source of frequent conversation down here.
Also, a pleasant surprise in Peru was the existence of decent, inexpensive wine. Since we are somewhat "budget travellers", I had to largely avoid wine in Colombia, as it was expensive (well, expensive by South American standards), but much to my delight, since Peru is closer to Chile and they produce some of their own wine, decent red wine was plentiful. Below is a picture of from Peru's largest winery... The surrounding area is so dry, I was quite actually surprised that grapes could even grow there.
Of course, we did not visit every region in Peru and our interaction with the locals was somewhat limited, but I found the people in Peru to be very different than those in Colombia. Firstly, although they were generally very pleasant, I found them to be much more subdued and quiet than their South American neighbors. Some people we spoke with said that this is because of the high altitude in Peru. I am not sure I buy this, but, instead, I think that it is partly due to the fact that Colombians are notorious for being boisterous and full of life and partly due to the fact that Peru is a lot more touristy than Colombia. While Colombia is pretty new on the "gringo trail", Peru has been on such trail for years and seeing and dealing with tourists is not a novelty for, and, frankly, not always very enjoyable for Peruvians.
I also found that people were trying to rip us off left, right and centre in Peru. My first meal in Peru was a delicious pizza in the Lima airport and the 14 year old who sold it to me gave me my change and of course "forgot" to give me 5 soles. These "mistakes" happened all the time, whereas I do not think they happened once in Colombia. Kevin thinks I have become paranoid that people are trying to rip me off, but I was not paranoid before our time in Peru...
Before I really started reading about South America, I must admit, I sort of associated visiting South America with galavanting around in the sun and heat. I now know that is definitely not the case. Granted we were in Peru in their winter (the summer is their rainy season), but it was cold! I do not think we went out one night in Peru without our fleeces, scarves, socks and runners (I am really looking forward to being about to change up the clothing situation once we hit Brazil in about a month). Even on sunny days we were always in pants and long-sleeved tops. In Huaraz, we bought his and hers Alpaca sweaters (I bought a matching one to Kev's, much to his delight) and on our treks would need every single layer we brought, as well as touques and mitts to stay somewhat warm. I am definitely not complaining - I would actually rather it be too cold than too hot - I was just a little surprised. I guess it makes sense, as we were between 3000M and 4000M during most of the month we spent in Peru.
Even though it was fairly chilly, the sun was very strong, which is also because of the high altitude. To further protect himself from the sun, Kevin bought a wide-brimmed goofy hat for the Inca Trail, and I must say, I gave him a hard time, but by the time we reached the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, I was running to the nearest kiosk to buy my own goofy hat. Stay tuned for a post and pictures of us wearing our goofy hats around Lake Titicaca and La Paz once we return from the Amazon (see below for a preview). And wish us luck in the Amazon - Kevin described to me what the death from an anaconcda would consist of yesterday over dinner (and after we booked our Amazon camping trip).
Thanks for reading and I hope all is well! xox