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  • Writer's pictureDIVE ARMY Expeditions

Ascending into Cusco 🇵🇪

My darling husband, Chris Adams, organized this trip for us with the help of Andean Adventures Peru. This is a really fantastic feeling because 95% of the trip has already been paid for including most of our transport and meals. We had been in contact with the agency and given our arrival information for Cuzco since they were providing our shuttle to the hotel. But if you read my last blog, you already understand that things rarely go exactly as planned…

As we arrived at our gate, our departure time suddenly changed. It was only a forty minute delay but considering we would have our ride waiting for us we decided to jump on the free airport wifi and send them a message with our updated time. Only…the delay stretched out much longer than anticipated. Over two hours in total and unfortunately that free airport wifi had a 30 minute timer…by the time we took off we were uncertain if we still had transport but we were stuck winging it. Upon landing we easily exited the plane and began to look for our driver. After a few minute search inside we still had not located anyone so we started to struggle to gain access to the wifi. NOPE. Instead we decided to look outside although we were starting to believe we had lost our “free” ride and were going to have to grab a taxi ourselves. Luckily, we finally saw the sign that said “Sarah Sisco” (if that doesn't just make you feel special I don't know what does). There, we met our travel operations specialist (a fancy title has to go with that fancy sign), Fredy who kindly welcomed us and quickly brought the car around.

While we cruised to our hotel, Fredy was kind enough to tell us about some of the local landmarks we passed on the way. When we arrived it was obvious he had called ahead because our hostel host was at the gate to bring us in right away. After climbing a measly 10 steps, Chris and I both felt winded. Now if you follow DIVE ARMY you KNOW we aren't that out of shape, having recently completed a 10 mile hike up the Appalachian Trail to McAfees Knob in Jefferson National Forest, Virginia. So, allow me to introduce surprise number two! Altitude sickness. That. Stuff. Is. Real. It's not like we were vomiting or anything but there is a distinct weakness that overcomes you with the slightest exertion. Luckily, Chris being the mega planner he is, already knew about this and even knew the remedy was cocoa tea. Even better, as we stepped through the door we were immediately offered some! :) As we dropped our bags and drank our tea, Fredy carefully went through each item on the itinerary explaining each item, where to be, giving us tickets, etc. and gave us the printed schedule to add to our papers folder.

We are staying at another hostel, the Villa Betty Hostel B&B where we have our own private room and bathroom. Again, for the price and location you simply cannot beat it. There is a beautiful comfortable lobby with chairs, couches, tea and water at the ready. The transition to the rooms is a beautiful, outdoor but enclosed garden, again with more comfy seats to just be outside and enjoy. Spiral staircases ascend elegantly and bring us to our landing. While there are multiple rooms on this floor, they are quaintly transitioned by small sitting rooms so we only have one direct neighbor. So after our previous restless night, we decided to take a break in our cozy room. It wasn't long however before we realized we were starving as we had not eaten since 7 am! We still hadn't figured out the wifi so we decided to simply pick a direction and walk. We had only walked 5 blocks before we saw a pizzeria. We were not interested in pizza though as we were attempting to experience the local cuisine. No sooner had we made this decision than we looked next door and saw in small font “cevicheria”. As this was one of items we wanted to try while in Peru we eagerly walked in.

We took our seats and began perusing the menu which, of course, was in Spanish. Our waiter was eager to please and began rapidly listing specials of the day…in Spanish. After a broken conversation, we could tell he was determined to help us although, even asking for water was a struggle (apparently the phrase to use is agua normal)! After realizing we understood very little of the menu we simply asked for his recommendation. Now. There is something you need to understand. I (Sarah) have been one of the pickiest eaters for most of my life. I am 25 and will still order chicken strips when eating out because I know it is damn near impossible to screw up. I have expanded my palate exponentially in the past 2-3 years (thanks Chris Adams) but this was a HUGE leap of faith for me, ESPECIALLY when seafood is my weakest spot (many tried, tons failed). But heck, we are on vacation. I knew there was some form of ceviche coming along with a rice of some kind. But other than that I had no idea what I was in store for.

The food was INCREDIBLE! There was not a single disappointment or even a sub par dish brought to our table. We had ordered the trio punto mar which consisted of mouth watering ceviche, savory arroz con mariscos (rice with shellfish) and chicharron (combo of fried fish and potatoes). Being Americans we assumed one dish was not enough so we also ordered chupe al estilo punto mar con pescado y marisco (basically a huge bowl of soup with crayfish, fish, egg, tofo, etc. SILLY GRINGOS! Their dishes are meant to shared and we had now purchased dinner with our lunch. While we “mmmm’ed” and “oh yeah’d” and “oh my gawd’ed” we were frequently checked in on and simply talked to (as best we could) by the staff. They were genuinely interested in showing us a good time. At one point even, our server (of which we realistically had 4) brought us…what I can't help but call purple drank…on the house just so we could try it. The proper name is chicha morada. As we awed and wondered about the purple color he stepped away to return a minute later with a purple ear of corn that is used to make the drink!! They were even so thoughtful as to give us an ear as a souvenir :) The head chef came to our table and told us about the acquisition and cultural significance of each of these dishes. Since each item was incredibly fresh, the whole dining experience took about two hours so if you are rushing this place is not for you. This meal was so personal and wonderful…and it turns out economical! For our entire feast of fresh seafood and drinks and good company….$31.42 US dollars…we have spent the same on an IHOP breakfast (perspective y’all). El cevicheria Punto Mar, we cannot thank you enough for all of your time, PATIENCE, and quality food. This was an incredible experience.

Obviously, the only thing you want to do after consuming large amounts of food is take a nap! So we took the short walk and our doggy bag back to our room for some r&r. After a short recovery, we realized we needed to purchase some water so we went on another expedition. We found several small stores in the vicinity but were disappointed to find they only took sol and not US dollars or credit which is of course is what we had. We chose not to exchange before because many previous visitors said they typically take either currency but we learned and will exchange a small sum tomorrow. We did not have to walk much further before we found the shop we needed and trounced back to the room. As we returned we realized we had accidentally missed a mandatory briefing for our expedition into the cloud forest of manu. We texted them on WhatsApp and within the hour had set up a make up meeting for tomorrow.

Realistically we did not do much today, but we are grateful for the time to rest, acclimate, and simply enjoy what is in our area. Most of us tend to take that for granted so this is your reminder to stop and smell the roses! Even when your time is limited :)

Check back later for more!

Sarah Sisco

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