Breakfast in Calca

We were woken up at 4am by the buzzing of our alarms, after an extremely restless night’s sleep. A word of advice, if you wish to have a good night’s sleep during your stay in Cusco, avoid Loki Hostel. However, I must add that in all other respects the hostel was more than satisfactory – the staff were friendly, the rooms immaculately clean, they had a great bar which served fantastic food and drinks, and not to forget, the piping hot showers, which we discovered can be a rarity in this part of the world. On this particular night we wanted to get a good 6-7 hours of sleep, however, there was a party in the bar, which was directly across the courtyard from our room. I think everyone who was staying in the hostel that night was there, except for us of course, and the music was blaring until 3am! By about 2am we’d had enough. We went to the reception and asked if there was another room we could have. From this new room, the noise level from the bar was significantly diminished, but the room faced out towards the street. So rather than music and people yelling at the top of their lung, we listened to the incessantly noise of cars beeping down the street (There is a strange phenomena in Peru and Bolivia, where drivers continuously beep their car horns whilst they’re driving. We were told that because cars are somewhat ‘new’ in the region, people still don’t look when they cross the road, so in order to prevent accidents, drivers beep their horns to warn pedestrians).

Daniel, our Quechua (the native people of the Andean region of Peru) guide met us in the lobby of the hostel at the bright and early time of 4:30am! He looked disturbingly alert for such an early hour, especially in comparison to the two of us, who were still weary-eyed and drowsy from our disruptive night. We walked down the ghostly dark streets and piled in a bus with a bunch of men, women and sleeping children (apparently 4:30am isn’t considered to be particularly early for the Quechua people), who were carrying cages of chickens, sacks of corn, bags of cabbage and all sorts of other paraphernalia. After a two hour bumpy ride through the cobbled streets of Cusco and the unsealed roads of the surrounding countryside, we reach our first stop, Calca, for breakfast.

I was expecting breakfast to be a visit to a local bakery or something, maybe some pastries, or fruit, or I’m not quite sure what. Anyway, Daniel led us through the fresh produce markets of Calca to what seemed to be some sort of cafeteria, with all the stalls selling different types of soups and casseroles, with of course, large urns of coca tea (Coca tea is widely drunken in Andean regions, as it is believed to relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness). We sat down in front of a stall and, with hungry eyes, watched our breakfast being prepared. Two bowls of simple chicken, vegetable and noodle soup were placed in front of us. Despite the wallowing steam, we ate eagerly. I have to say it was one of the best chicken noodle soups I have ever eaten. The spaghetti like noodles were so soft and tasty, and the broth so flavoursome I can still taste it now, months later.

 After our breakfast, we bought a few supplies for the first day of trekking, some fruit, quinoa museli bar and not forgetting our trusty walking sticks which served us well trekking up and down the mountain passes of the Lares Valley. Our final stop before we embarked on the three day trek were the aguas calientes (natural hot sulpha springs) of Lares, where we spent the remainder of the morning relaxing in the therapeutic pools.


Words & Photography by Jade Spadina

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The Women of Peru

During my travels through Peru, I was fascinated by the women of this beautiful country. Their looks, their clothing, their arts and crafts, their day to day lives – be it weaving beautiful textiles or preparing delicious food – I was in awe.

Throughout my two week stay in Peru, women seemed to have a greater presence then men. It was women who usually held the market stalls, women who prepared our food, women who we bartered with, and women who gave us a glimpse into the way of life of both the rural and urban Peruvian people. From the mountains of the Lares Valley to the islands of Lake Titicaca, it is the women of Peru who are most deeply etched into my memory.

One thing which I was particularly intrigued by were the distinct region differences in women’s native clothing. The women of the Lares Valley, also know as The Weaver’s Way (which accurately highlights their talent for weaving beautiful textiles), wore a flat topped hat, usually red or deep orange in colour, which was narrower at the bottom than on top. Their clothes were usually made of brightly coloured woven textiles, primarily of a red/orange hue. In Cusco, the women were usually dressed in more Western styled clothing, with a number of them wearing a white or brown hat, in a similar style to the turn of the century, English gentleman’s top hat. In contrast, the women of Manu National Park in the Amazon Rainforest were plainly dressed in distinctive western clothing. Like the women the the Lares Valley, the women of both Raqchi and the Uros Islands wore very distinctive clothing. The former wearing deep terracotta coloured jackets, with either a large, disc shaped black hat, or a brown ‘top hat’. The latter wore natural straw hats with eye-catching, brightly coloured clothing of fluro oranges, bottle greens, fluro pinks, deep reds, royal blues, lime greens, etc.

Here are a selection of photographs taken in Cusco, The Lares Valley, Manu National Park, Raqchi, La Raya, Sicuani and The Uros Islands.

The Children of the Lares Valley, Peru

November last year I spent one amazing month travelling through parts of South America. One highlight of the trip was a three day trek through the Lares Valley, from Lares hot springs to Ollantaytambo. The trek, also known as ‘The Weaver’s Way’, is named after the weaving communities of Vilcabamba, Huacahuasi and Patachancha which one passes along the way. Although it passes some breathtaking scenery, it isn’t a trip for the faint hearted, as it consist of three days of trekking at high altitudes, with a high mountain pass (The Ipsayjasa Pass) at a height of 4450m. The most memorable aspect of this trek were the children which we passed along the way. Their happy, yet dirty faces, lightened our long days of trekking. At times a few of them joined us for an hour or two as we crossed valleys and rivers, and some came by our campsite to play a few games, to show us their homes and to receive a share of our popcorn and chocolate.