Hi there! I'm Cat. I was born in Louisiana and grew up in Taiwan. I currently work as a marketing manager in the fabulous city of San Francisco, where just about everyone I know has a cool side project going on. Not wanting to be left behind, I started dedicating my nights and weekends to exploring, crafting, experimenting, and eating A LOT. This is where I'll be posting about my newest projects and discoveries. Welcome and enjoy!
My heart pounded with anticipation as I tiptoed around the hotel room at the crack of dawn and hastily prepared myself for my solo adventure. Slipping out the door with my camera hanging low around my neck, I ventured out into the darkness that is Cusco. My travel buddies, still exhausted from the hike to Machu Picchu, were fast asleep. It was 4:30AM, and I was determined to see the “real” Cusco before our flight to Tumbez at noon.
Exploring a foreign city alone without the aide of any sort of navigational technology is both an anxiety-ridden and exhilarating experience. It took a good 30 minutes for me to relax and stop worrying about getting lost or being kidnapped. Once the jitters left me, I felt completely liberated from the trappings of following orders from Google Maps and the compromises that come with having a companion.
I found beauty in everything as I wandered aimlessly throughout the local street markets of Cusco - from the butcher’s calico cat lazily “guarding” slabs of meat to the souvenir shop owner sneaking in a quick nap in front of his stall before the busy hours of the day ahead.
Some photographs taken during my exploration of the San Pedro Market Building and the sprawling street markets in its vicinity:
Some photographs taken near the Main Square the night before I left for the Inca Trail hike:
So, if you’ve read my last post you know that I survived hiking the Inca Trail for 4 days. If you’re too lazy to read it, here’s a quick recap: Other than climbing a lot of stairs while chewing on leaves used to make crack cocaine, there was a lot of planking involved.
While we’re on the topic of death and survival, I also wanted to say that much to the chagrin of my lovely friends, who were too hypochondriac to even drink anything in Peru that was served with ice cubes, I ate a number of questionable items during this trip without having to ride the porcelain bus more than usual or having to be airlifted to the nearest hospital.
My number one goal before even setting foot in Peru was to try cuy, otherwise known to us Americans as guinea pig. Their role in Peru as pet or food seemed easily interchangeable. Given how plump and cherubic they looked alive, I was taken aback by how little of it was edible and how rat-like it looked on a plate. And yes, it tastes like chicken, a very skinny chicken. 60 Soles / $24 USD for one whole guinea pig, guts included.
Moving on to less morbid subject matters! Italian food! Apparently Peruvians love extra cheesy pastas and pizzas. Italian joints can be found peppered throughout Cusco. At some point during my hike to Machu Picchu, someone tells me about the infamous Peruvian frog juice, also known as jugo de rana. It’s a mixture of…well…blended frog and fruits. After returning to Cusco from Machu Picchu, I set off to find frog juice but was derailed by my lack of Spanish speaking skills. Instead, I settled for a bottle of Inca Cola and some mysterious black tea (2 Soles / $0.80 USD). I should probably count myself lucky, as even the locals wrinkled their noses at the thought of this strange concoction when I tried to ask them where I could buy myself a swig. A breakfast sandwich purchased on the street just outside of San Pedro Market. (2 Soles / $0.80 USD) Lamb and mashed potatoes for just 10 Soles / $3.90 USD at the stall called El Sabrosito inside San Pedro Market. The mashed potato and the sauce were heavenly. We had a very fancy meal at a restaurant called Uchu in Cusco. Everything I ordered there was amazing except for what I thought would be the crown jewel: alpaca meat. It was too chewy and gamey for my liking, and this is coming from someone who craves duck liver pate on a regular basis. Welcome to your worst bread nightmare, the Tanta Wawa! The locals tell me that it’s Peruvian tradition for little girls to receive a bread baby on All Saints Day (November 1st). For some reason, little boys receive a decidedly less creepy looking horse-shaped bread as gifts to celebrate the day. Ironically, this was the only food I bought that I just couldn’t bring myself to eat. I guess doll heads are creepier than guinea pig heads to me. (6 Soles / $2.30 USD)
Last but not least, my favorite Peruvian fast food: Pardo’s Chicken!!! Freshly grilled chicken on a spit over a fire. If only all fast food tasted this good! I had it every single time we passed through Lima airport, which was very very many times.
Hello, I am crazy. I hiked the Inca Trail for 4 days to get to Machu Picchu. Alongside were 2 tour guides, 19 porters, and 13 strangers who are quite possibly even crazier than me. I’ll spare you the details about how I ended up roughing it in Peru with a bunch of people I’ve never met before. Long story short, there was a mix-up with my Inca Trail permit so I ended up being placed into a separate group from my friends. Needless to say, I did make it to Machu Picchu alive, albeit smelling a bit stinky and looking a bit greasy, but let’s try to focus on the being alive part. I even made some new friends along the way.
Here are 10 things I learned hiking the Inca Trail:
3. Tourists are weaklings. After seeing our porters each carry 50 pounds on their back, I felt like one of those obese amorphous human blobs in Wall-e. Some weren’t even wearing proper hiking shoes. Apparently a porter once completed the 30 mile trek in 3 hours and 45 minutes.
4. Chewing coca leaves with a ball of banana and quinoa ashes is supposed to help with altitude sickness and boost your energy level. It gave my tongue and cheeks a numb and tingling sensation. Don’t bring these home with you to the U.S. or else you’ll get arrested. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
5. Agua de Florida: A mysterious bottle of Peruvian liquid that smells like a mixture of mint & lemons with floral undertones. Pour generously on hands, rub, and inhale to clear up sinuses. Our tour guide calls it “condor piss,” it supposedly helps with indigestion, diarrhea, altitude sickness, and a whole scrumptious load of other aches, pains, and illnesses. I am not sure that I am a believer.
6. A cake complete with frosting can somehow be baked in the wilderness. We were also served 3 course meals throughout the hike. I don’t know how those porters did it, I’m just happy I wasn’t depending solely on Clif Bars and Beef Jerky for sustenance.
7. Kiwis (New Zealanders) are a funny breed. I met three on this trip. They like to wear matching outfits, and they like to say things like “Gee Whiz.” When we asked them what their favorite place in California was while they were road-tripping along the West Coast, their consensus was Safeway: “It’s SO BIG.”
9. Posing creatively with llamas can be a real challenge, but rocking a hat made out of llama fur poses zero challenges. 10. If they ask you if you want to climb Wayna Picchu at the end of your 4-day hike, say no. The view is perfectly fine without hauling your butt up another crazy mountain. I’m just going to lay here now thank you very much.
4. Hipster Disney is a thing now.
5. Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas aren’t the only holidays that make me think, “GAWD, I REALLY NEED A BOYFRIEND.” Halloween just did it to me too. Yeah, it took zombies chasing after me with chainsaws in a haunted maze for me to come to this realization yet again. If you ever need any clothing stretched out, bring a girl to the Swank Farms corn maze and mystery ranch in Hollister, CA next Halloween. I’m pretty sure my friend Eric’s jacket was a size bigger after all my nervous tugging and yanking throughout the night. Sadly, I didn’t get any good pictures of the really scary guys roaming the farm because I was too busy screaming and scurrying around in circles like a dog chasing it’s tail.