After sleeping in some, still exhausted from the Inca Trail, we used the morning to confirm the majority of our Bolivia excursions. Our Rurrenabaque trip to the rainforest would need to start one day later because flights were now sold out and we needed to book our Uyuni flight separately to save some on airfare.
Doug had found a free walking tour that would start at 12:20 in Plaza Regocijo so that was the only certain thing on the days agenda. We had some time to kill beforehand so we picked up some water and very dark chocolate from a nearby grocery, visited a textile workshop and store, and popped in the Choco Museum shop intrigued by a chocolate-making class later that day.
At 12:10 we noticed our walking tour guide appear in the plaza along with a competing walking tour and were somewhat amused when they appeared to be competing for the attendance of 4 Dutch people (only an assumption since they were all very, very tall) on their respective tours.
We met our guide, Elvis, who would take us on today’s tour, learning later that he is quite well traveled from having worked on cruise ships for some years. We started in Plaza Regocijo and slowly worked our way to Plaza San Francisco. Elvis gave us some more background on the Incan versus Spanish architecture. Whereas the Spanish walls and foundations were perfectly vertical, you could spot the Incan walls by their inclination inwards. He also gave us some background on a parade and gathering that was happening in Plaza San Francisco. Apparently, the group was protesting the approval to mine the area around Sinakara Valley where Andeans hold Quyllur Rit’i, the Star Snow Festival, held each year amongst thousands of pilgrims. Elvis could see both sides. On one hand it is a sacred place to these pilgrims. On the other hand, mining makes up a significant portion of the country’s GDP and if they don’t have mining, they don’t have much to fall back on.
We continued on into San Pedro Market where we had been a few days before. Here we learned that we should not eat the ceviche, drink the milk, or taste the cheese. All could end poorly (Noted.). Instead he let us know that we should visit the juice stalls and rather than bargain down the price of the drink, request a “yappa,” i.e. just a little bit more for free when we had finished our juice. He also gave some background on a few of the statues and masks we had been seeing around town. First there was a mask with a large nose resembling male anatomy. This is used in festivals celebrating fertility along with a common statue along the same vein. There was also a mask that consisted of a very large nose, pink cheeks, and curly mustache. This was also used in festivals to mimic the Spaniards since most native Peruvians do not possess these features.
We continued on past a few more sites before stopping at a small courtyard with both alpacas and llamas. It was here that Elvis would give us the ability to distinguish between the two, because we certainly couldn’t up until this point. We had just been calling everything llamas. Well, we learned that llamas are taller, less fluffy, and their ears point forwards. Alpacas are smaller, more woolly (sometimes looking like Rastafarians), and their ears point backwards. Llamas are used for transporting goods (but not riding, they aren’t that strong), while alpacas are used for their fur and meat. So much knowledge! We ended the tour by visiting a small textiles shop where we learned how to tell real alpaca from fake alpaca sweaters. Just check the weight. If it feels heavy, it is real. If it feels light, it could be a blend or not alpaca at all. And lastly, ended up at a bar for a sample of Peru’s national drink, a Pisco Sour (much better than the others Doug had had).
Throughout the tour we continued to debate whether or not to do the chocolate making class and settled on “yes, why the heck not!” so we returned to the Choco Museum to sign up for the 4 p.m. class before setting out to find some lunch. Neither of us were too hungry and we had a limited amount of time so we returned to Plaza San Francisco where the demonstration was continuing, but next door were tents set up for a food festival. We did a quick tour, not particularly interested in offerings, but upon leaving noticed a number of women set up with giant pans of rice and fried eggs, feeding their customers on plastic stools. We chose one stall and put in an order for 2 saltados con huevo, growing more and more amused by their selling tactics that consisted of yelling over and over again “Saltados con huevo! Tres soles! Tres soles!” This exact same phrase (including price) would then be echoed amongst all the other ladies selling their rice on a loop.
Thoroughly amused and full up on rice and egg, we made our way back through the Choco Museum for a brief mini-tour/tasting before starting our class. It seems we would be the only ones in the afternoon class which worked out just fine since we got the full attention of our instructor. She started by giving us some background on the cocoa industry in Peru and about the harvesting and drying process, and then we began the real fun. It continued with roasting the dry beans in a clay pot, waiting for them to pop so that we could easily separate the shell from the internal nibs. From the shells, she added hot water to make cocoa tea (delicious!). Using the internal nibs, we had a contest to see who could grind the nibs into a smooth paste the fastest using a mortar and pestle. Doug won even though he was able to stop and take a few photos in the middle (Damn him.) which gave him a bag of cocoa shells to take home for future tea making. The mortar and pestle process were used to show us how the Mayans originally ground cocoa, but neither of ours were really that smooth in the end so we ran it through a hand-cranked grinder for an even finer result to get a sense of what is done nowadays. Using half of the paste, she added hot water, chili, and honey (in place of the traditional people blood) to create the traditional Mayan drink – this was less good. The other half of the paste was mixed with hot milk, cinnamon, cloves, and brown sugar to make a delicious hot chocolate. We didn’t have many expectations for the class, but this initial part certainly exceeded them. The later half of the class was spent making delicious dark chocolates (because dark chocolate >>>> milk chocolate) paired with various toppings of our choosing (nuts, sprinkles, salt, coconut, clove, chili, etc.) and cooled using molds in the refrigerator.
We would need to wait an hour for our chocolates to cool, so we used the time to return to the textile shop from our tour to purchase some items in preparation for Bolivia. You see, we are heading to the Salt Flats, and from what we’ve been reading it is very, very cold at night. So, in hopes of easing the transition, we decided to procure some supplies. After much debating, Doug walked away with a very handsome tan alpaca sweater while Lynn purchased a hat and gloves. Hopefully these things will be enough to get us through the 3 days.
We returned to pick up our very handsome chocolates before sitting down to some Peruvian chicken and potatoes for dinner. While tasty, we both agree that Mexican charcoal chicken is way better (mostly due to the increased level of spice). Satiated, we returned to the hostel for our last night in Peru.
Daily Walking Mileage: 7.8
- The Spanish came to Peru with 170+ conquistadors whereas the Incans were on the order of millions. How were they able to gain control of the empire? There just so happened to be a civil war between two brothers in the Incan empire that divided the subjects. This combined with the initial belief that the Spaniards were gods led to the Incans letting their guards down .
- Some of the Incan walls were joined with metal. When the Spanish arrived and were in search of gold, they tore down a number of these walls with the belief that they had been joined with gold.
- Cocoa pods turn a variety of colors when they are ripe from pink to purple to orange. You know that they are not ripe when they are green.