After we finished our week in Pampachiri, and amid many tears of goodbye and countless photos and promises to keep in touch, we all headed back as a group to Andahuaylas. Their flight was leaving early the next morning, so I only had that afternoon and evening in the city with them. But my flight, which I had bought long before I ever thought about coming to Pampachiri, didn’t leave for another 4 days. So I got spend a beautiful, precious three days with Ingrid and the 2 Carloses, who had also come back to Andahuaylas (Ingrid and Carlos own a restaurant there). I had almost all of my meals with them at their restaurant, but they were obviously pretty busy during the day, so I spent a lot of the time during the day either on my own or with Carlos II and extended family.
Carlos II took me all over the city and its outskirts in the 3 days that I was there. There was a little festival of sorts in the main plaza while we were there – that’s one of the things that I love about Latin American countries. Every city always has its main plaza, and there is always something going on in it. This time it was some sort of artistic exhibition – there were kids painting, and more sophisticated paintings and sculptures on display, and even groups of chefs or chefs in training or something like that who were making food art. It was quite fascinating – I sat there for a long time just watching them ply their craft.
I also went to a big market with Carlos II one day; we made a game of finding as many unusual fruits and vegetables and various other things for sale that we could. I was losing until I realized that he was serious, and then I started looking in earnest. We found spiky fruit, and vegetables that looked like little monsters – none of which I remember the names of – and alpaca meat and blocks of salt bigger than me and all sorts of fascinating things. I particularly liked the emoliente, a hot herbal tea often sold by street vendors that is believed to have powerful medicinal properties. It’s no wonder, too, as emoliente almost always has toasted barley, flax seed,alfalfa juice, honey or pollen, and lime juice, and sometimes plantains, aloe vera, cat’s claw and even horsetail , depending on the recipe. I’m glad I found that out after I tried it, because if I had known that I was drinking horsetail I would have been far less inclined to try it. But I’m glad I did – it was delicious!! Another favorite “unusual” thing that I found – and tried – was hidromiel, or mead. If you had asked me what mead was before I came to Peru, I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea. But now I’ll never forget – the Spanish name is much more descriptive. It is translated literally as “honey water,” and that’s exactly what mead is – an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water. I had hidromiel be naranja, or orange flavored mead, and it was truly quite good. I was surprised at how much I liked it. And of course, if I’m talking about strange new foods I encountered in Peru, I can’t leave out the chirimoya. Chirimoya is a tropical fruit native to the Andean region, and if you’ve never tried it, it’s almost certainly unlike anything you’ve ever had before. The white fleshy fruit fruit is soft and sweet, with an almost sherbert-like texture. This is where its secondary name, custard apple, originated from. I could have eaten a chirimoya every day I was there – I wish I’d discovered it earlier! Why can’t we have exciting fruits like that in the States??
Carlos II took me to quite a few places in and around town, which various amalgamations of the extended family in tow, depending on who was able to come along. My favorite would have to be a tie between the rocks of Campanayo, and Pacucha Lagoon. Campanayo was pretty, but I really liked it because of its novelty factor. There are huge rocks scattered all over the ground there. But when you hit on them with other rocks, they ring as if you were hitting metal, not stone. Apparently they are famous all over Peru. But if I hadn’t gone there with a Peruvian, I never would have heard of them – that’s why I always prefer traveling with a local! 🙂 It was truly a fascinating and surreal place. I’ve never seen anything like that.
But the other place, Pacucha Lagoon, was absolutely gorgeous. Actually, I take back my previous comment. It wasn’t a tie between the two. Campanayo was unique, but it couldn’t hold a candle to Pacucha in terms of beauty or tranquility or happiness. Pacucha Lagoon is largely considered one of the most beautiful lagoons in all of South America, and it certainly lives up to its reputation. Vast stretches of pristine, multicolored water under brilliant blue skies, framed by gorgeous tropical foliage and punctuated either by a calm tranquility, or the peaceful chirping of birds or friendly chatter of neighbors shooting the breeze. I went with Carlos II and a few other extended family members, and it was such a lovely and relaxing day. They took me to a nice restaurant right on the water, and were just so kind and accepting of me. I am sooooo grateful that I got to spend that time with them.
And just like that, my time in Andahuaylas was over. Carlos II took me to the airport – my flight to Lima left too early in the morning, he wasn’t comfortable with me taking a cab. He bought me emoliente to warm me up (it gets COLD in southern Peru!!), and then once we got to the airport we bought a quinoa tortilla for breakfast and manjar blanco (a sort of dulce de leche spread; very very tasty) for the road. And then I was gone. I actually ended up sitting on the flight next to another Peruvian who had also been on the mission trip. So we chatted almost the entire way back; it was nice to reminisce for a little while longer about the incredible week that I had just had. But I was definitely cognizant that it was almost time to get back to the “real world.” This is yet another world that I am going to have to return to someday. Hopefully much sooner rather than later.