San Pedro de Atacama may seem like a tourist trap to some with it’s higher prices and ample restaurants, but after ten days in the Salar and Sur Lipez Province, George and I needed a few days of hot showers, restaurant meals and internet. While I dined on massive pieces of salmon, George toured his way through the town’s parrillas (grills). We managed to work in a few sightseeing activities including visits to Valle de la Luna (famous for the sunsets) and an observatory. Seeing planets and stars in more detail along with an astronomy lesson was unexpected and surprisingly satisfying. Funny enough, from the 12 telescopes that were set on different stars, planets and moons both George and I most enjoyed the closeup view of the moon. There is something special about seeing the character of the circle of light ever present in our day-to-day lives.
We’ve become pretty accustomed to long drives on the trip, but the week long dash through northern Peru to Lima tested us. To spur us on, we had a friend flying into Lima for a two week visit.
When we picked up George from the airport the following day, I was outnumbered 2 Bulgarian Georges to 1 Canadian Teresa. I took the back seat and let the boys happily gab away in Bulgarian. George arrived with a suitcase of goodies in tow: car parts for George and kitchen toys for me. It is a well excepted practice to laden any visitors with whatever you might need from the North. My wonderful mother can attest to this after I forced her to jam packs of our favorite coffee in their limited luggage.
Lima is perched above the pacific ocean and boasts a good swell and paragliding over the beach. We settled into a hostel in the heart of the safe and trendy Miraflora neighborhood which borders the beach.
Lima is chock-full of high quality museums. Forced to cherry pick, we decided on Museo Larco, private and impeccably run. Although the Georges claimed they were interested in the historical artifacts, I call bullshit. I believe they were drawn to the pre-Colombian erotica exhibit.
Sundays in Peru do not appear to be the day of rest they are in Canada and the US. To stumble on some Sunday festival is as easy as stepping outside and moving your feet. Our feet lead us through one of the central squares past yet another catholic procession to a food festival. The area was set up perfectly for street performers, there were tens of small circular performing areas for the crowds to be drawn into.
Typically, we try to avoid tourists attractions like Lima’s new Circuito Magico del Agua (Magic Water Circuit). George I. however is a little bit obsessive about water fountains, so it seemed like the perfect activity. I have to say, the 13 fountain circuit is delightful and best visited in the evening so you can take in the lights and pyrotechnics.
On our way out of Lima heading toward a desert oasis, we made time to snap a few pics of the city.
My anxiety had been growing for several weeks every time I got in the truck with George. We have an ever expanding laundry list of to-dos on the truck which we were not coping with very well. The laundry list was manifesting as an angry Bulgarian driver.
Many backpackers hike between the towns on the Quilotoa loop. Since we have Vida, we opted to head straight to the mid point. The drive to Chugchilán on the loop started well with a chance encounter of a local celebration just outside of Latacunga. We were quickly offered a shot of the local liquor by some friendly face-painted gentleman. I squelched my usual internal warning alarm and embraced local custom by drinking out of the communal cup.
After enjoying the festivities for a little while, we got on our way. As the road degraded, so did George’s mood. He heard a new noise that could be the transmission. His tone implied – why had you brought us down this shitty road Teresa? I asked him to stop yelling at me. George replies that he is not yelling at me, just yelling. Hmm, right then.
Lucky for me, Hostal Cloud Forest where we were staying provided two meals a day. With some pork and beer for dinner and a good nights sleep, the laundry list of fix-it items once again seemed attainable and our transmission had not blown up. We enjoyed the beautiful views and lush setting of the hostal the next day before heading to Quilotoa crater lake.
It is my personally opinion that hikes that end with the harder part, in this case hiking out of the crater, are no good. I’ll admit that my favorite part of hiking is the feeling I get when I start walking back down. The lake draws you in quickly though. You’ve committed before you realize how f$%king dusty it is, how annoying donkeys running on a trail can be, and how heart pounding the climb back up will be.
Ok, I’m beging dramatic. It’s a quick 30 minute walk down (~400 meters). Thankfully, the sand is actually kind on your knees and the donkeys are only a minor annoyance. The lake is stunning, you have a snack, and then you climb back out in about 1 hour 15 minutes.
After reaching the top, G was drawn in by the aroma of grilled meat. We swung by a local food stand where G ordered papas con pollo (potatoes with chicken). The potatoes come first in the Andes. We not only got a bowl of good food but some good conversation with a local family.
I pulled this recipe of some Boy Scout recipe site (I was getting desperate for inspiration, don’t judge). Most Bannock recipes you come across use solid fats (lard or shortening) which I’m neither interested in using or would ever in a million years carry with us. So I hunted a recipe down with regular old vegetable oil.
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup water
Mix ingredients and add water in slowly until you have a doughy consistency. It may seem like you don’t have enough water, but you probably do. Just start needing.
Knead for approximately 10 minutes (or if you’re lazy like me, 2 minutes of high intensity kneading).
Grease and heat a frying pan.
Form and press the dough into cakes. I would say the cakes should be the diameter of a hockey puck and maybe 1/2 an in thick. You can also just divide the dough into 12 – 16 cakes and take the mental math out of equation.
Lay the bannock in the frying pan.
As the bannock cooks, move the cakes around so they don’t stick.
When the bottom crust has formed and is browned, flip the cakes over.
Cooking takes about 12 minutes. This is really so dependent on your cooking setup and altitude. Don’t time them, watch them.
Makes 12-16 bannock cakes.