By Mikey Beats
San Diego DJ Mikey Beats, and his nurse wife Jenny, decided to take a vacation to Machu Pichu, Peru. For the next few days San Diego Free Press will publish their daily adventures. Read parts I & II and part III.
As I awoke to the sounds of droplets coming from the roof onto the street outside my first reaction was, “I thought this was the dry season.”
Eric from “Adventures by Eric” had agreed to send someone to meet me at 8am in the reception area to give the down payment on our ATV Adventure Tour that would last 4 hours. Jenny and I had done one of these in the Yucatan for a tour of the cenotes a few years prior and we had a blast. Today would be no different with the rainy wetness, but there in Cuzco, it was about 30 degrees colder.
Eric sent Eddie to meet up with me and he was there at exactly 8am. Eric had been on point with e-mail correspondence and his people’s punctuality was quite impressive.
Eddie walked past me to the reception desk and asked for me by name. I over heard the inquiry so I identified myself. After a quick negotiation in Spanglish, I decided it would be best to pay cash when they showed up to take us on the tour.
It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him personally. It was that I never trust anyone when traveling, especially with a cash deposit in hopes that they show up. Fools get jacked for less cash and the trusting handshake ends up with a slap in the face. We did end on a handshake though and a promise of cash payment upon their arrival at 9:20am to take us on our adventure.
I got back to our room and reported my findings to Jenny and we got ready to go to breakfast. Once again we indulged in a South American continental breakfast that was healthy and light, yet filling.
We went back to our room to dress for the tour when there was a knock on our door. It was the bellman telling us our tour guide had arrived, so we collected ourselves and headed out the door.
After a brief introduction between Jenny and Eddie, we were led to a mini bus around the corner where we had more introductions to our tour mates. As chance would have it, they were from Orange County.
Eddie led us out of Cuzco and in to Huasao, a little town 20 minutes away from the big city. The town is known for their brujería (or witchcraft) where they tell fortunes from coca leaves. People from all over Cuzco travel there to hear their future and when their time is up with the bruja, they go diving into their pockets for more soles to hear more.
Huasao is also known for their delicious chicharrónes, or fried pork rinds. As we drove through the town, every little pig I saw made me hungry.
The roads of that town were the stereotypical Latin American dirt roads with potholes and stray dogs barking at us. The houses were mainly brick or mud brick, some old and dilapidated. Others were so new, they weren’t finished yet, or they stopped mid-construction. Eddie let us know that we had arrived at his place when we approached a bridge that looked similar to the houses we passed, like they had stopped building it mid-construction. Having arrived on the other side, safely, we stepped out of the mini bus and into a two story courtyard with a tomatillo bush, or as they call it alguymanto, in the center of it. This building had many rooms and seemed like an old hotel, although it was made in 1850 probably to house Spanish military. After signing our life away, paying for the tour, securing our incidentals and selecting our helmets, we got on our ATVs and we were off.
We passed through the center of Huasao, out onto a long straight road that split down Sur Valley. Both sides had mountain ranges that seemed to touch the sky, green and lush with grass and bushes.
Eddie gave us the ok to open up and I reached fifth gear flying past cows, farms and farmers, only slowing down when I would approach old Quechua ladies herding cows or carrying large satchels of vegetables.
These women were about five feet tall wearing what looked like a rounded cowboy hat with two long dark brown braids running down their backs. Their button up motley colored sweaters seemed to be weathered by direct sunlight and their skirts dropped down below the knees only revealing the leggings around their ankles and shins. Their faces all seemed aged by lives of hard work and decades of sun exposure. These were the direct descendants of the Inca.
Eddie lead the pack to a road that ran up the hillside to where our tour of the Tipón gardens would be. Once we parked, we paid our toll to enter the park and began a walk up steps following a small flowing canal. We got to a certain point, and the terraces became visible, stacking all the way up the hillside. Each terrace was as big as a football field, some two football fields wide but all the same length.
All of Tipón was an agricultural laboratory where different types of vegetables were crossbred by the Inca. Each terrace had it’s own climate control and it was believed that the Inca royalty used one terrace as a colco which was like a refrigerator to preserve food.
We went up about 10 terraces to the top of Tipón where there were ruins that we could walk through. Again I was terribly upset that the Spaniards destroyed these great structures to rip out the gold to take back to Spain.
Eddie mentioned that they had broken the irrigation centuries ago but it had been repaired and was again functional. We asked him if the people of Cuzco held a grudge against visitors from Spain and he said absolutely not.
On the way back I sat in the front seat and talked with Eddie the whole way in Spanglish. He told me his people have three beliefs: don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t be lazy. He also said that Peruvians were very kind to one another without discrimination and had access to free education through college. I told him, “Gente educados y unidos son gente muy fuerte.” He agreed.
Jenny and I felt very safe walking through the streets of Cuzco. It wasn’t just because I was a foot taller than ever one and at least 100 pounds heavier, there were cops everywhere we looked.
The people were also genuinely nice. After Jenny and I got back to our hotel, we walked through the Plaza De Armas and I guess a ticket fell out of my pocket and a teenager chased me down to give it back. Even though every 10 feet we were asked to buy something, the people of Cuzco were so nice.
For lunch we decided to go low budget and eat at a random spot that served the menu of the day for 7 soles, or about $3.50 US. The meal included the traditional quinoa soup loaded with potatoes, a main dish with gigantic lima beans, boiled beef in a tomatillo sauce, corn, rice, a salad with onions and tomatoes, a warm glass of grape juice and a dessert of rice pudding.
A funny moment was when the table next to us instructed Jenny not to eat the outside of the gigantic lima beans, but to pop out the beans and discard the outer part. I would have made the same mistake, had I not dove into my steak first.
After we gladly paid the cheap tab, we walked over to the mercado so I could indulge in more stuffed churros. I spotted some avocados and asked a lady what they were called and she said they were paltas. Interesting how names of food can change depending on where you are geographically. It was the same with the alguymantos or as we call them, tomatillos.
I sampled a few more street treats and we decided to head to El Museo del Pisco so Jenny could sample some booze. She got a super sweet pisco sour and a small glass of peach infused pisco. She said she was happy, so we headed back to the hotel for a siesta.
Post siesta I got to sorting my things for the trip to Machu Pichu early the following morning. Jenny decided to turn in and I went out for a quick bite. Again I went the cheap route and sat down in a rotisserie chicken place. I got a half chicken, fries and salad for 26 Soles or for $10 US. The cheap food in Cuzco is still very tasty as they truly take pride in all their cuisine at all price points.
Next stop, Machu Pichu.
[Not quite, as it turns out… as Mikey later posted the following.]
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS UNFILTERED AND DESCRIPTIVE GASTRO-INTESTINAL LEAKAGE.
At 2am, 6 hours before the train to Machu Pichu leaves the station, I woke up to the sound of my stomach talking to me:
*Translated from Spanish* “You should not have eaten that.”
I had this intense nausea overcome my body. This feeling of a piece of cilantro holding back Niagra Falls alarmed me and I jumped out of bed, climbed down the stairs, made it into the bathroom and took a seat.
BOOM, lift off.
I was a sacrificial lamb to the porcelain God. Every drop of moisture in my body took an exit out the back. I thought the handle on the toilet was going to break because I kept hitting that thing like a piñata.
My wits eventually came back to me and I finished the dirty job. Back up the stairs I went and I landed on the bed like a tree cut down in a forest.
My mouth was dryer than an alpaca half way up the Inca trail whose porter forgot his canteen. I checked my water bottle, empty. I checked Jenny’s, empty. There was a fresh water source all the way in the lobby of the hotel that was safe for gringos. I had to make the trek.
I climbed back down the stairs, suited up for the 30 degree weather outside and made it down to the lobby. The nausea hit me again. I capped the water bottle, hiked back up the stairs to my room, tore my warm clothes off and there it came up the other end.
My hair was a mess and I quickly tied it back in a ponytail. I got a reminder text from my stomach. It read:
*Translated from Spanish* “You’re about to make a mess.”
I suddenly felt like a college freshman female dodging her ponytail in between heaves. The chicken, I was reminded of how good it tasted, not so good at that moment, but it wasn’t too bad. I got a knock from my back door, then it said:
*Not translated from spanish* “¡Miguel, ciudado! ¡Vamos!”
I sat down again. BOOM!
There was a broken record on repeat and the song playing over and over again was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing!” None of this mattered to me, I was going to Machu Pichu in a few hours and a little bit of discomfort wasn’t going to stop me.
I finished my hard time and stood up, my legs had fallen asleep. I picked myself off the ground and brushed my teeth. I went back up the stairs and laid in bed, with a smile. I was going to Machu Pichu in a few hours.
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.