Moving on from Salta, our next stop was Cafayate, a small wine town about 189 kilometres southish of Salta. It’s not that far away distance-wise, but the drive took a good 9-10 hours, partly because we took a roundabout route through a small town called Cachi, made lots of stops (lots of amazing scenery!), and 80% of the road from Cachi to Cafayate was unpaved.
Now if you’re anything like me, the words “interactive dinner” are a bit off putting (and weird and maybe scary – hey I just want to be served dinner, I don’t want to have to work for it) but! the evening was a lot of fun and *exactly* what we needed to take our minds off the fact that – 8 hours before we were due to fly to Ushuaia – the flights website we’d used *still* hadn’t confirmed that the Ushuaia leg was indeed cancelled (and therefore didn’t affect our flight back to Australia if we didn’t show up). No stress indeed.
Part 2 from the Galapagos Islands – see part 1 for lots of animal photos. We spent four days (not long enough – definitely, definitely need more time in the Galapagos!) on board a smallish boat – the Yate Darwin. There’s room for 16 guests and I think about 5-6 crew, so it was pretty small. However, each cabin (though tiny) had its own itty bitty toilet and shower, so that was fine.
Astrid and Gaston was the only restaurant I booked before we left for our trip, reserving a table for our last night in Peru before we headed to Ecuador. If you take any notice of those “Best Restaurants in the World” lists, it’s on one of them at number 35.
Astrid and Gaston is owned by Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio (you may remember that we also visited another of his restaurants in Cusco – Chicha).
I had researched how long it would take for us to get there from our hotel – about 15 minutes by car – but despite leaving early, terrible Lima traffic got the better of us. What should’ve taken 15 minutes stretched out to 40 minutes, and I had to quickly call from the taxi to apologise for running late. Fortunately they seemed totally fine about it – perhaps being used to people running on Latin time?
Astrid and Gaston is located in Miraflores, an upmarket suburb in Lima that’s also a major tourist spot. The restaurant was on a quiet street with a discreet entrance guarded by a doorman. Inside, the restaurant is spread over several rooms and we were seated in one of the back rooms, surrounded by racks of wine.
The Amazon was one of the highlights of our trip. We flew from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, a small town in the Peruvian Amazon. It felt like a different country from Cusco. While the air in Cusco was cool (though extremely hot in the sun), Puerto Maldonado was hot and humid.
After landing, we were transferred by bus to the river and then boarded a boat which took us to our lodge, about three hours upriver.
I felt a bit sad when we left Cusco. We had a flight to the Amazon next – which was of course, very exciting – but somehow because it was a flight, it felt more final than if we had left by bus.
Because we’d had a couple of quiet days in Cusco, I had gotten used to pottering around the town, walking the roads from our hotel to the main square, learning to cross the roads like a local (just going for it, basically), finding nice places for Alastair and I to eat, declining offers of massages and Machu Picchu trips from touts, and generally having a very relaxed time.
After the Inca Trail, Alastair and I were both completely Wrecked. With a capital W. Remember the 3.30am start? We didn’t get back to Cusco until 11pm that night. Longest day ever.
We had another day in Cusco after the Trail, and while we probably should’ve used the opportunity to visit the Sacred Valley, the thought of doing stuff and seeing more Inca ruins didn’t exactly fill me with excitement. It’s like the ABC syndrome you get in Europe (Another Bloody Cathedral) – in Peru, it’s the NAIR problem – Not Another Inca Ruin! Oh so sad.
To assuage my slight guilt (trust me, it was only slight), I told myself we’d seen the best Inca ruin in the world, so I called it done. (more…)