We meet up with our guide and he shows us the tea plantation, lovely grounds, hummingbirds and orchids. We finally arrive at the bear enclosure. There are 3 bears here, all rescued. 2 of which are being looked until they can fend for themselves, the older one is too old now and will end his days being looked after. He is very friendly and we are allowed into his cage (yes) to film him. I mutter to Sam and Chris ‘anything goes…………” We all laugh. That night we eat in the main restaurant, its good and very busy. My fish cakes are okay, but not special. I feel like a number here. Back to the room and to bed early. We had to be up at 5 to get a good position in the queue to get the bus up the mountain to Machu Picchu.
My phone goes off at 4.30am. I get up, feel good after sleeping well. Stumble about a bit and pack my rucksack. I meet the bleary-eyed boys and Janice in reception. Its just light and we sip tea. Our guide Rueben turns up and we all say hello. He’s quiet and rather shy. We head off out of the hotel and across the railway tracks and head into town. It’s not long before we see the long queue to get the small bus to the top of the mountain.
Chris befriends a rather rough looking dog in the queue. He’s nice to start with, but then turns slightly more aggressive. I stand clear, he then turns his attention to an American lad, and we gently tease him. The queue moves on and after 35-40 minutes. We get on and make the 30minute trip to the lost city. I’m quite excited and as we get higher the sun starts to creep over the top of the surrounding mountains. We spend a few minutes going over the licence to film, eventually we are allowed in and make the 10-minute walk to one of the most spectacular views in the world. There it is in all its early morning splendor, the Inca lost city of Machu Picchu it takes my breath away. The light is perfect and we all stand slightly quiet for a good few minutes.
However we are here to work and we have to kick on as the place will be heaving in a couple of hours. We film on the terraces, and in the main part of the city. Rueben then takes on the Inca trail over the mountain to see the Inca bridge, built to keep out any unwanted marauders and is part of the Inca trail. Rueben runs off and walks across the flimsy bits of wood and quickly whistled at to get off by another guide as its unsafe (see pictures) not sure why he did it?? It was clearly fenced off to the public. We then return to the terraces set to one side of the mountain and film a few more pieces. By now it’s filling up and the sun is high in the sky, it’s a hot one today.
In a quiet moment Rueben explains to me that the Incas were here for the best part of 200 years. They were very skilled farmers cultivating more than 3000 varieties of potatoes and 50 types of corn. They also domesticated Alpacas and Guinea pigs, as we have touched on, still eaten today. They brought us Quinine and Cocaine. When the Spanish invaded and went to Cusco, they killed all the Incas. News soon spread to Machu Piccu and the city was abandoned. It was left largely undiscovered until American explorer Hiram Bingham brought it to the world’s attention with his groundbreaking expeditions in 1911 and 1912. I have just started reading The lost City Of The Incas by Hiram Bingham, it’s a fascinating book and suggest anybody who plans on going or having been should read, its very interesting. The only downside is the fact that on his returning trips Bingham is said to have removed some 42,000 artefacts and taken them all back to America. Strangely enough no gold or silver was taken back, something that clearly upsets Peruvians and especially Rueben.
After a long morning we leave the site and have some lunch, my stomach is still playing up, but I’m famished…. After a nice lunch including some lovely ham /pork we line up to get the bus back down to Aguas Calientes. We chat to some young American lads who got up at 3am to trek to the summit, very impressive. I use the excuse of having all the kit etc. etc.
We say goodbye to Rueben and think he’s a bit pissed off with the tip we give him, oh well.
Back at the hotel and have a drink and a bite to eat. We entertain ourselves with my novel footage of trains leaving the station (for my dad, he’s a train fan) the boys have massages, Sam not sure, feeling his body has been invaded. Chris was more worried about his smelly feet after a long day in the mountains. They return smelling like a Boot’s counter. Janice and I gently tease them.
Our train back to Ollantaytambo, is at 7pm so we have to check in at 6.30. So with a couple of hours to kill we set off for a bit souvenir shopping for family and friends.
Our bags are delivered to the station and its getting dark. The station is packed, but over the melee we spot Camile looking immaculate. He see’s us and all is well. We then spot Armando and are quickly taken through a side entrance to get back onto the President’s carriage. It’s a breath of fresh air, cool, chilled towels and a welcoming drink, fantastic!!
Armando is not very happy, as a rival rail company has delayed us due to breakdown of an earlier train. But he is quick to add another carriage and scoop up the stranded passengers. He wryly smiles and rubs his hands.
Looking out of the window, I’m quite sad to leave, but what a trip and film. Within a couple of minutes we are told we are going to have a Pisco tasting, complete with judging sheet and taste panel. Not really what we wanted, but after a few minutes we are all in the spirit of things, literally!!! Armando clearly is in the spirit and we taste a few varieties of this Peruvian favourite.
Dinner is also served, starting with delicious, hot, salty roasted ears of corn.
All too quickly we arrive in Ollantaytambo and our bus is waiting. Camille is really helpful and we say our goodbyes.
Now we only have the 2 hour 30 minute trip back to Cusco, its 9.30pm, and we are all slightly worse for ware.
I fall asleep and wake up dropping back into Cusco. Its cold probably 2C outside. We get back to the hotel and check in. Straight to bed, as we have to be up at 5am to get a flight back to Lima, getting ready to go home.
We all wake up, Janice is slightly late and shouts at me when I ring to see if she’s okay. Meanwhile we pack all the stuff onto the bus again. Its just getting light and is very cold. Cusco is eerily quiet, but the tiny airport is packed.
Here every bag is checked by hand there are no x-ray machines. Not quite sure of the point of the exercise. The chap is clearly not really interested and by the time he’s gone through the 3rd Peli case he just waves us through.
We line up to get onto the plane bump into the two American lads we saw at Machu Piccu. They are still on good form and clearly happy to be getting back to California.
We josh with the check in lad as he sets up his own PA system, looks like a home Karaoke system. He then checks his hair in the departure doors, we all laugh.
Finally we get on the plane and settle down, the snack they serve is not very good, and the coffee is too strong. Yes I fall asleep again, we all do. Before we know it we are landing back in Lima, and its grey and overcast. Daniel is waiting to whisk us into downtown Lima to the Atton Hotel. We drive through the outskirts and it’s like any large city. We chat with Daniel about Peru’s most famous footballer export to Newcastle some years ago, Nobby Solano.
It seems weird to be back in a large city, I sort of feel like Crocodile Dundee, when he first goes to America. But soon comeback to reality with a very acceptable Cappuccino.
We have a couple of hours to catch up on the Olympics, the first chance I have had and have a shower and shave.
We are picked up at 12 and driven off to film a demonstration of how to make ceviche at a top local seafood restaurant. We drive to the coast, and I am impressed with the surfing beaches. There is some confusion on where we are exactly going. Security seems everywhere, a bit like Capetown.
We arrive at Sonia Pescados De La Isla, and knock on the door. We are sort of welcomed in, but it’s all a bit frosty.
Sam goes in the kitchen and moves a table or two and sets up the light. Camera ready to go and Sonia starts to prepare. Sam stops here, as he is not ready. She is not happy and rolls here eyes, oh dear...in the end it’s all over in a flash, and she looks a little smug.
We set up in the restaurant for the finished dish and a piece to camera. This gives her a few moments to check out who I am on the Internet. Things change after that, not over the top, but more smiley and helpful. We leave after she relieves us of 300 quid, not impressed.
Oh well, we move onto Malabar a restaurant that specialises in local ingredients. The chef here is consultant to Nacho’s, Sol Y Luna, in the sacred valley, so I’m expecting good things. I was not disappointed.
The Sous chef Jose Ragazzi is going to cook for us and we start with a thin sliver of foie gras and dried apple slices. Next, scallops with ginger, coriander, caigua (green vegetable) very good.
Dark crisp potato skins filled with fish, onions, tomatoes and local herbs. Shrimps with 3 types of Yuca, straw potatoes, tapioca and squid ink in butter sauce is exceptional.
Next course, not too sure about sous vide egg, crisp potatoes with a meat reduction and crisp fried Alpaca strips. I’m stuffed now but a load more to go.
Giant water snails with Chorizo and blacktail fish with pork knuckle are also top drawer.
We call a halt to the food after the first dessert course of chocolate torte a sort of Marjolaine a famous French dessert. Coupled with bitter chocolate ice and crunchy nut wafer.
We all wobbled out and got back into the bus, and officially that was a wrap, all done and dusted. Back at the hotel we chat about the evening and what we were to do. The lads want to go drinking and clubbing, I’m happy to write and stay in.
We compromise on dinner, I wanted a steak and a big one at that.
We all meet at the bar, Sam is pissed off because he’s being ignored. Chris, laughs and Janice gently teases, again.
We get a cab and go downtown, we arrive at the Argentinian Steak house. Unlike me but forgot my note pad, also can’t remember the name, plus I can’t find it on the Internet. However it’s a cool place and has valet parking.
The menu is only meat, and there is no white wine, just red. We walk over to the fridges and look at the superb meat on offer. It has all the cuts plus testicles and chitterlings.
So, I order testicles and a large rib eye. It’s delicious and hearty. We all have a great time, but struggled to do the meal justice after such a big lunch.
Giving puds the red light we set off back to the hotel. Yes early start back to Madrid in the morning, so its up at 5am again.
We pick Daniel up on the way and he helps us check in, nice and easy. We say goodbye to our driver and Daniel and go through security and have a coffee.
After a bit of shopping it was on the plane, only 12 hours to Madrid. Day flight but arriving in Madrid at 5am in the morning, then back to Gatwick at 9am, getting in at 9am, all very confusing, and too long to explain.
What a time we had, and apart from reading this, it’s too much to explain to people, including the family. So, I’m not going to try. But I am getting ready for my next ‘Cook on the wild side’ adventure. Off to Norway next week, Tromso here we come, cooking the biggest crab I have ever seen, keep an eye on the site for the next instalment.