Hola Vecinos!

We planned on settling in Cusco, an idea that filled us with both relief and anxiety. After almost two months of back-packing we were looking forward to having a place to call home but were afraid that one city wouldn’t hold our interest for an entire month.

We spent our first night in Loki hostel, an ancient complex with massive courtyards and tiny doorways. John and I enjoyed their billiard table which was less crooked than the ones we’d encountered elsewhere. Trivia night at the bar was also a blast, but made me miss my friends from Oakville who are all (self-proclaimed) trivia gurus.

The next day, we met Priya in the San Blas plaza. Jill had contacted him about renting rooms. Priya, a Reike and holistic healer, turned out to be an interesting character. We chatted in his kitchen while drinking a fermented-mushroom drink that is supposedly very healthy. He told us about his very unique philosophies and then took us on a tour of the San Blas neighbourhood. We quickly fell in love with this barrio of Cusco, which is densely populated with nomadic artisan types, great food and funky bars. John and Jill rented the room on the second floor of Priya’s home and Calina and I rented from his friends down the road, Nicki and Alvaro.

Nicki is American, one of the many travellers who have come to Cusco and found it impossible to leave–a phenomenon we empathized with. Nicki now teaches yoga and Reike in San Blas. Her boyfriend, Alvaro, is a professional guitar player whose day job is teaching rock to Catholic school children, a job that sounds like it was pulled from the movie “School of Rock”. By night, Nicki and Alvaro’s band “The Clusterfonks”, play in clubs around town. If you are passing through Cusco, you must go hear their renditions of classic disco, funk, rock and latin tunes. I will always remember the show at Periwana Hostel which erupted into a massive dance party when they played the Pulp Fiction theme song.

Settling into our room took no time at all. We had our own bed, a bean bag chair, a space for all our clothes and a kitchen to ourselves. We hung the tapestry from the floating islands–the room instantly felt like home.

Adventures in the Kitchen

Calina and I were ecstatic to have access to our own kitchen for an entire month. We hosted a vegan potluck with Nicki, Alvaro, John, Jill, Clare (another friend from yoga who is in Cusco becoming a trained doula) and Chaitanya (our yoga teacher). Everything was absolutely delicious, to read more about our potluck check out Jill’s post on Vegan Backpacker. Calina and I learned how to make flour tortillas and our vegan burritos were a hit!

Later that week we decided to try our hand at lentil burgers with surprising success. They were gooey and moist, and actually stuck together pretty well. Spiced with curry and paprika, and squeezed between two slabs of crusty bread, they gave the Patty Boland lentil burgers in Ottawa a run for their money.

I also tried making a dish I’ve been dying to try for years. Since I left Costa Rica, I have missed the Gallo Pinto breakfast that Francis, my Costa Rican host mom, used to prepare. I looked up a recipe and, with a few personal liberties, came up with my own version of this rice-and-bean dish. I made mine Caribbean-style by frying the rice in coconut cream that I found at Gato’s market in Plaza De Armas.

Calina has begun an experiment with vegetarianism this month, a venture which has more to do with her finishing Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals”, than my influence (Toni and Greg, I swear I had nothing to do with it!).