By Mikey Beats
San Diego DJ Mikey Beats, and his nurse wife Jenny, decided to take a vacation to Machu Picchu, Peru. For the next few days San Diego Free Press will publish their daily adventures. Read parts I & II, part III, parts IV & IV.5, part V, part VI and part VII.
Sunday 6/9/13 Day 8
I awoke and rolled over to find Jenny not there and I about fell in between the two beds we had pushed together. She heard the racket and called up to me to get me up for breakfast and I obliged.
We had our usual continental breakfast of yogurt, granola, quinoa and fresh fruit with a couple cups of Peruvian coffee. We decided that we wanted to go explore more of Cuzco, so shortly after our breakfast we were off.
Our first stop was the Museo de Arte Precolombino which was a history lesson of Peru before the Inca. There were the Nasca, Mochica, Huari and the Chimú, all running the land of Peru before the Inca showed up and built their vast empire.
Most of the artifacts in the museum dated all the way back from 1 AD to 1300 AD. What was really exciting was to see artifacts from the Formative Period dating all the way back to 1250 BC.
We left the Museum and walked over to Plaza de Armas. As we were walking down the narrow cobblestone streets to the plaza, we heard the bass of loud drums as if a parade was going on, and there was one.
I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I don’t think the Peruvians of Cuzco needed any reason to have a parade and have a good time. There were various groups parading, mostly young and old women dressed up in traditional Quechua garb throwing candy into the crowd as scores of little kids went bonkers diving after it. All like Mexicans under a piñata. We stopped and watched for a while and then turned our backs to the parade to walk up to one of the churches in the plaza.
La Basilica de la Catedral was a massive church rising about 600 feet. We walked in the doors to buy our tickets for a tour of the church. They gave head sets for the tour and it was kind of funny because they only had one audio player for the two of us and they used a splitter to allow both of us to use separate headsets.
We were basically tied together in a church, walking around pulling each other along. Siamese twin jokes aside, the church was intricately decorated with awe inspiring wood and stone work, paintings and gold mantels from top to bottom. It was a nice gesture that the church adapted their stories to include local symbolism so that the Andean people could understand and relate to this alien fairy tale forced upon them. A nice gesture from a church that was built on top of a sacred temple that the Inca worshipped and a burial ground after committing genocide on its people. We did leave fulfilled and educated though on a history of Cuzco post Inca rule.
We journeyed towards the mercado to buy souvenirs for our families when we entered another plaza where they were celebrating something else. There were dozens of 10’x10’ food booths with hundreds of people chowing down. Jenny said we were hungry and I agreed, so we did a lap to see what all the fuss was about and commenced the salivating.
They had dessert booths, juice booths, fish booths and even guinea pig booths, all at local prices and ready to be consumed. I took a particular interest in the pescado frito (fried fish) booth, but it wasn’t my call and the Mrs. decided on the chicken booth. I was in it to win it, so we grabbed a couple plastic stools that seemed to be for kids and we ordered our meals.
The chicken soup Jenny got was the standard Andean soup broth with chicken, potatoes and white rice. I ordered the chicken with spiced yellow rice, beets, potatoes and a finger nail. There wasn’t really a finger nail in my food but I did watch the woman prepare the food bare handed. This was one of those, not in America moments. But the rice was fantastic and I had already dealt with the worst Cuzco could throw at me. We wrapped up our lunch and were immediately drawn to the dessert booths where Jenny ordered a tres leches de vanilla cake and I got the mango cheesecake.
The second that spoonful of deliciousness hit my tongue, a pang of joy was sent to my salivary glands and a tingle was sent to my ears. Jenny’s eyes lit up and we both moaned in unison and out of delight. Cuzco had a love of cuisine and fine desserts on display, we were just lucky to walk up on it and smart enough to bite into it. Feeling a little heavier and walking a little slower, we made our way over to the mercado and went on a shopping spree. Half the vendors weren’t there because it was Sunday and that day is a huge family day for the people of Cuzco. But we did buy some fine locally made products and took a seat at one of the many juice bars in the mercado.
The mercado is separated into different areas with different products on sale like meats, vegetables, soups, juices, handmade goods and more. The juice aisle had two long rows of juice stands that looked like lemonade stands with about 10 on each side. They all seemed to have the same vegetables and fruits, the only difference was who was selling it. They would get your attention by waving their laminated menus at you. When we walked by, there were about 10 ladies waving menus at us and I wasn’t too sure whom to pick, so I choose the biggest lady there. It made sense to me, but Jenny played no part in that type of decision making. We sat down and I immediately ordered a carrot and orange juice. Jenny didn’t order anything claiming that she was too full.
I watched the jolly lady cut the carrots in her hand with a rather unnecessarily large knife and then stuffed them into the juicer. I wondered how she didn’t cut one of those sausage like fingers from the knife or the juicer, but all thoughts went away when she handed me a full glass of juice and it hit my lips. I would call that drink an orange delight and if I could, I would fill a keg with it, call all my friends and have a keg party.
She mentioned she was in the parade earlier at Plaza de Armas and she showed us her dress she was wearing, which was exactly the dress worn by the women I had seen earlier. It all made sense to me at that moment. I had seen the women holding a sign that said “Seccíon de Verduras” so the parade was for the Mercado del San Pedro. Random, but hey, if you wanna have a good time and throw some candy, I’ll support it. Forward we marched, back to our hotel for a siesta when we walked into the same plaza we ate at. There was another parade with hundreds of people in it. I was shocked because an hour earlier there was no sign of this parade or all these people, except at the food booths. Once again, the people of Cuzco love to parade. I deducted that this parade was for Corpus Christi due to the fact that many people held signs and carried alters dedicated to various saints. Some of the marching groups were absolutely insane, to me, in dress and dance. One group had knitted V from “V for Vendetta” masks on with bright colored outfits, stuffed baby alpaca all over themselves while herding a live alpaca down the street. We had reached our quota of parades for the day and followed the path to a siesta.
After awaking from my nap, I e-mailed the couple we hiked Huayna Picchu with and a couple we met on the train back from Machu Picchu to see what they were doing and if they wanted to hang. After many back and forth e-mails, we realized we were all staying blocks within each other so we decided to meet at the Cuzco JW Marriott where Grant and Olina, the couple from the train, were staying.
Jenny and I got ready to leave the hotel when I found some glow sticks in my bag that I had packed in case we did a night trek, so I put a couple in my pocket and left.
As Jenny and I walked down the stairs of our hotel, I tripped, rolled my ankle and had to sit there for a minute feeling stupid. I had trekked for miles and miles across ruins with uneven rocks all along the way and I didn’t slip or trip once. I had lightly pranced down the hill from The Sun Gate to the Guard House at Machu Picchu with uneven rocks all along the way and I didn’t slip or trip once. I walk down a stupidly simple set of stairs at my hotel and I rolled my ankle. I was beside myself. Luckily I didn’t break or tear anything and I got up and carried on.
When we got into one of the plazas between our hotel and theirs, we saw some kids playing. I popped a couple glow sticks, shook them and have them to the kids. They went nuts and started playing Star Wars. We snapped a pic and walked on.
We arrived at the lobby bar of this massive hotel to Grant and Olina eating dinner with another woman, Margarita, who worked for the Marriott. Margarita lived in Lima and verified that some of the spots we were planning on eating would be great and gave us some other suggestions.
Olina also worked with the Marriott and traveled all over South America consulting for the hotel. Grant worked for a company like Carfax, but for boats, and he was a distant relative of Ulysses S. Grant, the president on the American $50 bill.
Adam and Maria, the newlyweds, showed up and the seven of us chatted it up for a few more hours and many more drinks. Margarita took us on a tour of the hotel which had Inca ruins under it. The ruins were on display in the basement and we were all thoroughly impressed. With the old age of Cuzco, you could pretty much dig anywhere in the city and find relics of something old.
Jenny, Adam, Maria and I parted ways from Margarita, Grant and Olina and we went to the Libertador hotel, where the newlyweds were staying, which had stone walls hundreds of years old. We grabbed drinks at the bar, made plans to meet in Lima the next day and we parted ways to hit the pillows.
Mikey Beats Beltran is a native San Diegan and veteran of the local music scene. He started off as a teenager working at Soma Live in Bay Park and he’s currently the co-owner and Vice President of Sleeping Giant Music. He has over ten years of DJing experience that has taken him all over the US. He lives in Pacific Beach, with his wife Jenny, where he was recently elected to the PB Planning Group. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeyBeats.