We were sad to leave Aruba but excited to explore Peru with Shirley. The flight back to Lima was good, and we arrived early in the evening. Shirley arranged for Walter, our driver in Lima, to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel. We decided to get something to eat at a restaurant nearby called alfresco. It was a fantastic restaurant, and we had Corvina (Sea Bass) ceviche, which was delicious. The following day we decided to visit the old Square in lima, the blank church, which is beautiful and contains catacombs underneath, holding over 30,000 skeletal remains. I had already had the opportunity to tour the empty church on my first trip to Peru, but Shirley had never had the chance. We spent the remainder of the day in old lima capital before returning to Miraflores for dinner and decided to go to a local bar to watch Peru play Chile in soccer. South America takes its soccer very seriously and even make Pittsburgh Steelers fans seem tame. The game was fascinating, and thankfully, Peru won. Shirley and I walked around Kennedy Square for a while longer before heading back to our hotel to get ready for our flight to Cusco the next morning.
Shirley had arranged for Walter to pick us up at our hotel early in the morning to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to catch our flight to Cusco. Unfortunately, LATAM had different plans because the flight was delayed for two hours and the gates changed multiple times. Still, we eventually made it to Cusco, where Shirley had to arrange for our driver Victor to pick us up. Victor was the same gentleman that we had as a driver the first time I was in Peru and met Shirley.
Once we got out of the airport, Victor was waiting for us, and he took us to our hotel that Tara Vista, in the outer section of Cusco, where the roads are very narrow and all cobblestone. We thanked Victor for the ride and checked into our hotel, unloaded our bags, and headed out to grab something to eat and explore Cusco. It was almost like déjà vu being in Cusco with Shirley again, and we were so grateful to have more time to explore the city together. That evening we ate at a nice restaurant called Limbus, which sits atop a hill that overlooks the city of Cusco and is quite breathtaking in the evening. We enjoyed our dinner and a few drinks before walking around Cuzco and visiting the main square. We decided to walk back to the hotel to get some much-needed rest.
The next morning we woke up and had an excellent breakfast at the hotel. Shirley had organized transportation for us to Abancay, which is about a 4 Hour Drive, and would require changing transportation multiple times. The drive was long and windy; thankfully, I was used to the twists and turns coming from West Virginia but certainly not the altitude. The varying scenes of the mountains on the drive were breathtaking, and thinking about the Inca’s history and pre-Inca people traveling by foot through these regions entered my mind. It is no wonder that carbohydrates, especially quinoa and potatoes, make up a large part of the diet today and far back in history. These are represented by the many Inca ruins that were specifically for food storage, which helped preserve. We stopped in Curahuasi to change vehicle because there are not direct rides to Abancay unless on a chartered bus or van, which did not make sense for two people. We jumped in our next car and headed out for another few hours drive through the beautiful countryside.
After arriving in Abancay, we made our way to Shirley’s Aunt Iza and Uncle Omar, who were gracious enough to let us stay with them. They had many things planned for us and could not have been more hospitable and genuine in their affection. After settling in, we walked to the market to get food for the week. The markets in Peru are full of fresh produce and livestock. Peru’s markets always have an amazing selection of locally grown food. We walked around Abancay for a while before returning to the house to eat and get some rest. Various members of Shirley’s family visited that night and were all so kind and welcoming to me. After socializing late into the night, I went to bed for some much-needed rest.
The next morning, I woke up and walked to the kitchen, where Eza prepared a lovely breakfast for everyone. Today we had a lot planned, and I was excited. After Breakfast, Shirley and I walked around Abancay, and at the town square, fathers protested the misappropriation of funds for the schools. It was great to see that the spirit of protest was still alive in the world. We had a great day, which included celebrating Shirley’s Uncle Mario’s birthday. Bebe, Shirley’s cousin, made the most delicious soup I have ever had in my life, thankfully requested by her uncle. They went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and at home. Although I am not fluent in Spanish nor they in English, it did not matter. We had no problem understanding each other through smiles and gestures. We celebrated late that night watching Peru vs. the US in soccer, which thankfully ended in a tie, before returning to Omar and Ezas.
With the help of Omar, we had planned a trip to Villa Los Loros to see Choquequirao. And the Apurimac region. Our driver, Omar’s friend, picked us up and headed out into the Andes mountains. It was about a three-hour drive through incredible mountains and crazy roads before reaching Villa Los Loros that evening. Our host was Partina, who owned Villa Los Loros but settled in Peru from Italy. She went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, and her enthusiasm for life was comforting. She had the chef cook us a late-night meal that included trout from her stream and fresh vegetables from her garden. After dinner, conversation, and a bottle of wine, we went to our cottage to rest. Tomorrow we had plans to visit the local community and see Choquequirao.