Because when you have matching llama ponchos, you can’t not take them to Machu Picchu.
Peruvian food is gaining worldwide recognition. In London, restaurants Lima, Ceviche and Andina are plating up typical Peruvian dishes and incorporating ingrediants such as quinoa and chia seeds which are found in abundance in the Peruvian markets. While many dishes are distinctly Andean, a heavy base of potatoes is ubiquitous, there is also an obvious influence from Asian cuisine. While in Peru, I was determined to discover a few of the traditional plates, and ideally learn to cook them for myself. I searched high and low for a cooking class with a varied menu which would allow me to try my hand at more than one traditional dish. Eventually I found Cusco Culinary, a small establishment which offered the opportunity to cook ceviche, lomo saltado, and aji de gallina – all dishes that I had tasted and loved in restaurants. The terrifying cuy (fried guinea pig) would have to wait for a braver day. I can’t wait to get home and practice these dishes for myself, but in the meantime, I would like to share the recipies with all of you. Each dish is quick, easy and uses ingrediants found in every supermarket. My cooking style is however of the ‘throw it in’ rather than the ‘measure it out’ variety, so apologies for the lack of specificity with regards to the quantities.
Screaming, shouting, whooping… The clamour was deafening as we were thrown out of our seats, shoulders straining against the seatbelts. We smacked back down to the ground and simultaneously veered around a dune, banking treacherously to the left. I couldn’t hear myself, but I knew I was adding my voice to the noise. Terrified or exhilirated, I couldn’t tell.
I was in the back of a dune buggy, clutching my camera tightly with one hand and trying desperately to keep my goggles on with the other. I had signed up for a two hour evening sandboarding tour in Huacachina, a one street town built around a desert oasis in Peru. Volcano boarding in Nicaragua had been such an adrenaline rush, I couldn’t wait to try sandboarding which promised to rival its lunacy. As the buggy came to a halt and we jumped down from its monster truck tyres, we were so distracted by the view that we didn’t notice that steep bank behind us where our driver was setting up the boards. Snapping away, we were still incredulous that a desert of this size and beauty existed in Peru. Although I’ve been here a week, it is still a country that I associate exclusively with the Andean mountains, not deserts. As the sun filters through the clouds, bathing the undulating dunes in a golden glow, it’s hard to remain heaven-sceptic.
“Safety checks complete. Ready for take-off.”, the co-pilot’s voice crackled in my headset. He turned around and gave us the thumbs up. Grinning, we returned the signal. A-ok. Clutching our maps, cameras poised, we bumped along the runway in our tiny six-seater plane, ready to fly over the famous Nazca lines.
I recently read an article on BBC News about fashion photographer Mario Testino’s return to his cultural ancestry in Peru. For anyone wishing to see the article, there is a link to it here. As fashion and photography are both subjects that I have studied and practiced, I was already familiar with some of his famous photographs of Kate Moss, Madonna and Princess Diana. This collection was different. Named Alta Moda, or High Fashion, the photographs document the incredible traditional dress of the indigenous populations surrounding Cusco, high in the Andean mountains. Indigenous dress is something that we have seen a lot of while in South America, from the Guatemalan Mayan population, to the Kuna in the San Blas and the many varieties of Peruvian and Ecuadorian dress. It is colourful, individual and of course highly practical. While traditional clothing is often mimicked, or serves as inspiration for fashion designers and high street stores (not that this is a bad thing, I own many mock Aztec print dresses and my backpack is currently bulging with textile prints and accessories inspired by traditional designs), I think it is fantastic that Mario Testino has photographed from the source – indigenous Peruvians wearing their own traditional dress. There is pride, honesty, beauty in every one of his photographs.
Since the Galápagos Islands’ arrival into the ranks of tourist must-sees and eco-destinations in the 1960s, a number of “poor man’s” alternatives have sprung up. Ecuador, Peru and Chile all boast a budget version of the famous isles, each in turn offering a number of different animals to photograph, depending on your wildlife leanings. We of course wanted to see them all: blue-footed boobies, penguins, sea lions, turtles… Being the third of June, we were officially three days into Ecuador’s whale season. We just hoped they’d received the memo.