Pucusana, Pizza, and Picarones

I’ve been loving our little weekend adventures! For the last few Saturdays, we’ve been sleeping in, taking some free time in the morning, and then going somewhere and doing something together in the afternoon/evening. It’s the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure so you don’t feel like the whole day was wasted.

Yesterday morning was especially good for me because I finally put my foot down and forced myself to finish the planning for my trip to Machu Picchu. I had been mulling over the train times and other options for days at that point and just needed to decide. My biggest choice was whether I wanted to do an organized trek with a company or just go on my own, and I ultimately decided that it would be better on my own because I’ll be able to go at my pace and do all of the things I want without worrying about a group. After I decided that, I had to pick train times, and that’s complicated because you have to get to the train station in a town that’s about an hour away from Cuzco. I was originally thinking that I would hike Machu Picchu and take a train back that same night, but then I was worried about having to figure out transport back to Cuzco in the dark and by myself. All that worrying finally led me to the conclusion that I should just stay over two nights in the town by Machu Picchu because if the thought of doing it in a day was stressing me out that much, it probably wasn’t right.

In summary, I got my train tickets and Machu Picchu tickets and hostel booking all finished, and I feel a million times more relaxed as a result. Why didn’t I just do it earlier? That’s always the question after you procrastinate something, and somehow, I still haven’t learned my lesson. The answer is, yeah, I probably should have. Now it’s finished though, so we can put that behind us!

See the streetlights? See the street?

Our afternoon adventure was a trip to Pucusana, the same fishing village that we went to when the team was here. The car was being used, so we took public transportation there instead. There is a very similar system here to what they have in Ghana with tro tros. Here they’re called combis (cohm-bee) and the fare collector is a cobrador, rather than a “mate” like in Ghana. Conceptually though, they’re completely the same. Super packed and super cheap. We got a ride to Pucusana for 1 sol (1 USD = about 3.25 soles). It’s usually maybe a 10-15 minute ride, but we hit some traffic because there was a “huaico” (mudslide) last week, and the street is still underwater.

Yeah, there’s a street somewhere under there…

This is the second time in the last few weeks that there’s been a huaico there, and we learned that the problem started because of some bad decisions. There’s a river bed that had been dry “for a while” (I know no specifics), so recently, the land there was developed. Good idea, right? Except there’s been more rain than usual in the highlands this year, and all of that water needs to go somewhere. Instead of just flowing down the river as it would have in the past, it’s been flooding the new developments and overflowing because there’s no path for it to follow anymore. Who knows what is going to be done about it, but it seems clear that something has to change. It’s all politics though, so it could take forever.

Looking towards Pucusana from the top of the hill

Anyway, we eventually made it into town and hiked up a hill to watch the sunset over the ocean. I love the mountains here… the sunset made the sky glow orange in all directions, and the mountains behind Pucusana looked like something from another planet. It was surreal.

Sunset!

Mars mountains

We stuck around for dinner and got a pizza at an Italian restaurant nearby. Weekends are a wonderful break from the rice, rice, and rice that we eat every day during the week. Out of the nine meals that we have prepared for us each week, I’d say at least 7-8 involve rice. I love carbs, and that’s a lot even for me. So yeah, the pizza was a nice change of pace! For dessert, we got picarones (pee-cah-ROH-nays), Peruvian doughnuts made from sweet potato and squash and coated in a syrup that Debbie and Julie said was made with figs (figs are a big deal around here), but who knows. I was definitely a fan of the picarones (it was like eating fried air… yes, I know that doesn’t make sense), but I could have done without the sauce. Maple syrup probably would have been really good on them, or just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Either way, I would do it again.

My picarones

It was a short adventure but more than worth the trip. We took a combi back to the highway and then went the rest of the way on a moto. The motos are like if you chopped the back wheel off of a motorcycle, connected the front part to a carriage, and stuck a tarp over it. You end up with three-wheeled “taxis” with space for a driver on the motorcycle part and about three full-sized passengers on the bench seat behind them (though three is just the maximum number for a comfortable ride… it seems like ‘as many as you can cram inside’ is the maximum number allowed).

This isn’t a great picture, but you can see some motos on the street

Today was the usual church, grocery shopping, cleaning, and working on my to-do list. Big changes are ahead tomorrow! School starts and with it come the afterschool and overnight programs. Goodbye quiet, kid-less nights. See you next weekend.

Pucusana

Secret beach! El Boquerón. I love the view of the buildings in the background.

Despite losing a Sunday of personal time because of the team’s arrival, today was a great day! Since the team is here, there’s a whole plan of things to do and see to give them a picture of Peru and its culture. They’re all things that I haven’t done yet either, so I’m totally fine with being responsible for a couple more things over the next few days if that means I get to do all of this stuff with them!

Here’s a view looking towards the direction of the ocean. You can’t see through the tunnel from this angle, but it’s a little bit out of frame to the right.


My responsibilities over the next week include making breakfast each day (putting out cereal and milk, making coffee, cutting bread, and scrambling an incredible number of eggs), so I headed to the kitchen around 8:15 to get it ready for 9AM. I can now say that I have scrambled 35 eggs at once! Life skills, right? After breakfast, we had a little community worship where Jim and Tony talked about how they ended up here and Jim gave a mini-sermon. Then, Debbie walked everyone around the property and explained what the ministry does (which yes, I know I still have to write a post about more of the details of that… I’ll do it soon! It’s good that I waited though because I’m still learning more and more about how things work every day).
The coolest part of the day was going into Pucusana for lunch! Pucusana is a fishing village that’s only about a 10 minute drive (if that) from where we live. We had lunch at a restaurant right next to this place where there’s a tunnel through a hill that lets ocean water pass into a little beach area. I liked watching the waves come out of the tunnel, wash over the rocks, and fill the pool that creates what feels like a secret beach (besides the fact that it’s clearly not a secret, but that’s a minor detail).

The cancha (to the left) and lomo saltado (to the right)


For lunch, I had lomo saltado. It’s another typical Peruvian dish and is a beef stir fry served with rice and french fries. The stir fry included beef, onions, tomatoes, and maybe some kind of pepper? I’m not the best at identifying foods, but I think that’s right. They also put out cancha as an appetizer. It’s a popular snack food here and is supposedly similar to corn nuts, but I can’t confirm because I don’t think I’ve ever had corn nuts. It’s definitely not exactly the same though because the corn here is different from the corn at home. It’s called “maiz chulpe” and has massive kernels… like nickel sized probably. The texture of cancha is baffling to me (my mouth can’t figure it out), but I think Debbie nailed it today when she said it’s like inside out popcorn. For the seasoning, I think it usually just is cooked in oil and has salt on it.

Debbie, me, and Julie pre-boat ride

Our post-lunch activity was a boat ride around Pucusana Island. There’s not much happening on the island, people-wise, but there are a bunch of animals hanging out there. We saw sea lions, penguins (!!!), starfish, some birds that I should remember but don’t, and a few other things. We also saw a lot of yachts and rich person vacation houses. There was one that had part of the house next to the bottom of a cliff, another part at the top of the cliff, and an elevator connecting the two. There are also a few beaches which were completely packed. I’m really glad that I got to go on the boat ride. It was interesting getting to see everything from the water!

Sea lions napping in the sun

How cool!!!

On the right side, you can see the house I was talking about with the elevator!

More houses in the hills.

This person has some serious landscaping… A speck of green in a sea of brown, brown, brown. It looks like it got plucked out of somewhere else and plopped down here.

Boat gas station!

When we got back, I spent some time attempting to build a practice robot for our class (let’s just say it’s still a work in progress) before Julie and I had to get dinner ready. We made pasta salad for the team, and I was totally lost. “Pasta salad” isn’t even in my vocabulary. Why would you take the perfection that is pasta and sully its reputation by associating it with something like salad?? Sorry, side rant. Anyway, like I said, pasta salad = not really my thing, but I think it turned out fine (thanks to Julie and her exceptional dicing skills). At least all I have to make for the rest of the week is more scrambled eggs! That’s something I can handle.