top of page
Search

I went to Peru and didn't do Machu Picchu..

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Let's get the obvious over with, I had an opportunity to see one of the seven wonders of the world and I didn't do it. Do I regret it, probably, but here is the thing - after my initial stops in Colombia (4 days) and Peru (5 days) I planned to do a 15 day tour of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina which was going to involve a lot of long travel days, lots of fluctuation in elevation between cities/countries, and off roading through the Bolivian/Chile dessert. So I decided to make Colombia and Peru a bit more relaxed, which unfortunately meant saying no to Machu Picchu and the Inca trail (would have taken 3-4 days to do properly). Ironically, a majority of the tour group I met up with in Bolivia had just got done doing Machu Picchu and after I saw the pictures I admittedly regretted my decision a lot more. I have got to get you through Peru first, but there is so much content to share from my tour group in the upcoming blogs that I think it warrants a sentence or ten.


For those of you who have been following my blog for a bit you know how much passion and appreciation I have for traveling (if you are new you can read about it here) and no matter how many times I take on a new journey, I somehow always walk away more humbled and inspired. This blog was meant to only be about Peru but I have so many thoughts/emotions after my tour that I have to get out a few things. Traveling is so dynamic, personal, and experiential that it is hard to properly put into words what it is like to travel with 18 complete strangers from all over the world through 8 cities and 3 countries, but let's just say it is an undeniably enlightening experience. I met a couple from Cologne, Germany who at the end of their multi-month sabbatical were going to have seen 3 of the 7 wonders of the world. I met two women (one Canadian and one English) who individually have been to 60+ countries (almost a 1/3 of the world). I met a handful of people who weren't as well traveled, but were determined to change that notion post-pandemic. I met a 20 year old Swiss electrician who had the maturity and intelligence of someone double his age. I met two Australians both from the broader Melbourne area, one trying his hand at the taxing occupation of being a chef and the other on her first proper holiday in 6 years as a working adult. I met a handful of guys from the UK that could easily be some of my best friends if it weren't for the Atlantic Ocean. Bottom line - life is grand, complex, unpredictable, intimidating, and I think there is no better neutralizer than the perspective traveling provides.



Let's not get ahead of ourselves though, it is September 6th and it is time to take on Lima. One of my best friends, Persia, has been my public library for the better part of a year and her book suggestions have inspired me to take on a more author based approach to my writing - here is my attempt at an opening chapter describing Lima with a bit of inspiration from the oceanside view of my hotel:


Grey and gloomy clouds hover over a tranquil coastline. Cool winds selectively flutter making the need for a jacket a slightly difficult last minute decision. The beach is calm with black and rocky sand covering the majority of the high tide area. A couple deep breaths and a curious gaze down the mildly white ocean peaks transport you to the Miraflores coastline of Lima, Peru. An unsuspecting beach town with peculiar weather, located in the southwestern part of Peru, is actually home to one of the worlds most culinarily diverse dishes. An amalgamation of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine does its best to represent decades of diplomacy and immigration between two countries sitting on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean. It might be easy to assume the seafood forward Peruvian cuisine is solely inspired by the east coast of the Pacific Ocean but when you drill into the techniques, ingredients, and flavor profiles you would be remiss to not feel the Japanese influence.




On the surface, Lima seems to be your typical gloomy, cloudy, unassuming coastal town; however, if you travel 3km (30min by foot) southeast from Miraflores you will find the artsy, colorful, and vibrant Barranco District. A stark contrast to the gloomy coastline, the Barranco District boasts inspirational street art, classic Peruvian cuisine, and a proper dose of culture/history. National dishes like Ceviche and Lomo Saltado dominate the menu accompanied by the local cocktail known as a Pisco Sour. Unlike Colombia or Ecuador, Peru is a South American country that won't be seen bragging about its coffee, but it is at the front of the line for fruit and cacao.














Food:

Ceviche in its simplest form is a mixture of fresh seafood, acid, and vegetables typically served with a textural vessel like crackers, tostadas, chips, or in Peru, yuca and plantains. The beauty and complexity of food are its regional undertones, and something as simple as seafood, acid, vegetables, and texture takes on a whole new interpretation depending on the part of the world you are in. Peruvian cuisine is famous for its "combinados", which is traditionally a combination plate full of different flavors, textures, and ingredients, and their Ceviche is no exception.


Appearance wise, the traditional Peruvian ceviche contains chunky slices of white fish (sea bass, bonito, or drum) that are 2-3 inches in thickness, finely julienned red onions, lots of Peruvian Lime juice (unique for their sweetness and acidity), and at least 1 or 2 different representations of corn (boiled and fried), chiles, sweet potato, and iceberg lettuce. From here, you can start to see many other ingredients make their way into this ingredient heavy dish depending on regional and cultural influences. If you are scanning the ceviche section of a Peruvian menu you may see an ingredient called "Leche de Tigre" or Tigers Milk. Leche de Tigre is a word of regional connotation to the Peruvians as a reference to the lime, salt, and various flavorings they input into their Ceviche.



The Japanese influence of seafood, acid, and veggies is straightforward in ceviche but what about in Lomo Saltado? Lomo Saltado is a stir fry based dishes that combines onions, tomatoes, pieces of beef tenderloin, fries, rice, and many other ingredients. Yes, fries and rice. If there is one thing I learned it is that Peruvians love their starch and that always means at least two forms in their main dishes. It is a much simpler dish in presentation and style compared to ceviche, but one that I found myself enjoying and ordering multiple times.




Overall the Peruvian cuisine experience was unique and diverse, but the majority of time I found myself a bit underwhelmed. This could be an unpopular opinion, keep in mind I didn't eat at any Michelin star or fine dinning restaurants, but I don't think amazing local dishes should only exist in those places.






Drinks:

It will probably take you all but a couple minutes to be in Peru before you see menus, bottles, and advertisements for their national liquor known as "Pisco". Pisco is strong, aromatic, and when combined with simple syrup, lime juice, and egg whites it gives off a margarita-like vibe. I found the Pisco Sour to be a bit of a divisive cocktail, you either really enjoyed it or you didn't. My impressions - well, I tended to stick to the two local beers of Pilsen and Cusquena. Both are light and crisp lagers, which were full of flavor and easy to drink. Unfortunately, Peru isn't winning any awards for their wine, so it was mostly a rotation of Pilsen, Cusquena, and Gin and Tonics for me.






Doesn't mean I didn't find a South American Wine Bar though!





Fruit/Cacao:

Walking, bike, and food tours are always how I like to tackle a new country and the food tour I did in Peru was one of the highlights. We started off with more of an educational stop to learn all about the varieties of fruit, cacao, potatoes, chiles, and corn that is grown all over the country. With the benefit of high elevation and diverse climates all throughout the country, Peru is able to grow an inordinate amount of produce variations. This includes things like purple corn, 1000+ varieties of potatoes, 100+ varieties of fruits, and a ton of chocolate based on the seeds from the Cacao plant.





5 days in Lima and I felt like vacation was in full effect. Food, drinks, art, history, and culture were filling up my days and I was really starting to feel a sense of relaxation with an eagerness to see what Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina had in store for me. 2 countries and 9 days down, with 3 countries and 19 more days to go. I am currently finishing this blog at the airport in Buenos Aires getting ready to head back home and I am in a reflective and emotional state of mind because my vacation is coming to an end - but if I close my eyes and think back to Lima I will remember it for its unassuming beauty, dynamic cuisine, and fulfilling art and culture.


I need a couple days to clear my head and reflect on how grateful I am to have taken this trip, appreciate the things I saw and the people I met, but you are going to want to hang around to hear about Bolivia. Don't take my word for it, take this view instead...




66 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page