Walking in Cusco..or..the day I lost my iPhone

I’ve spent a lot of time planning this mini-travel within Peru, to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Initially, Souvik was only supposed to join me for Machu Picchu, but when he decided to make it a work trip, I added Puno to the list. After tons of research on http://www.tripadvisor.com, and some panic buttons pressed, in the nick of time I managed to book Pension Alemana in Cusco, a darling little B&B in a nice part of town. One of my reasons for picking this place? The gorgeous views from the hotel:

Rooftop view of Cusco

Rooftop view of Cusco

After an invigorating cup of mate de coca (my latest morning ritual – coca tea) to help acclimatise to the high altitude, I was ready for Cusco.

Walking down to the Plaza de Armas, I had my first sight of the iconic Andean ladies with their llamas – they are ever willing to pose for photos for a little money.

Sights in Cusco

Sights in Cusco

Sights in Cusco

The walking lanes are no less picturesque. And steep.

When I spotted these ladies, lined up, selling stuff along the steps, I HAD to buy something, just to have a picture. Goodness knows what I ended up drinking! Probably chicha.

Sights in CuscoSights in Cusco

A few steps on, Plaza de Armas was a sight to behold. My photos do no justice to the scale and the magnificence of the site. This is the centre of the historic town of Cusco or Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca empire.

You may enter any of the cathedrals, for a fee, but I’d rather enjoy the feel of the sun on my face, after a week in grey-skies Lima. The local souvenir sellers didn’t bother me much because, apparently, I look quite Peruvian, until the camera came out. Then there was an endless stream of llama keyrings, and Inca pendants, and whatnot.

Looking up my Lonely Planet, I thought of doing their walking tour, which was meant to take me back to the area of my hotel at the end. Starting from the Plaza, I walked to the Mercado de San Pedro, but not before a quick stop at the Choco Museum for a quick snack of …ahem… chocolate.

Plaza de Armas

The Inca flag has all the colours of the rainbow. Those are to be found in most of the local garments and handicrafts.

The market of San Pedro was as fun as a market ought to be! Some of the ladies offered their bread to taste, and I was a willing sampler.

Getting out of the market, loaded with a snack pack of dried fruits and nuts, I went about my merry way on that walking tour towards the Palace of Justice, stopping, as usual for photographs.

Sights in Cusco Sights in Cusco

The sights were so interesting that I kept putting my phone (with the directions) away, to bring out the camera, and also munch on those nuts. That’s it. In the space of 2 minutes (the interval between peeking at the phone), my iPhone was gone. I have a strong feeling somebody may have followed me and stolen it, or just observed my inattention and taken the opportunity. Whatever it was, the phone was gone. Thankfully I had a 2nd phone with the local number, and called Souvik who was about 10 minutes away. We couldn’t call the iPhone because of some international dialling issues, so I rushed back to the hotel to access the iPad and lock down the phone remotely. In the grief of losing the phone (it’s like losing an arm, the amount of dependence I had on that), I was probably not thinking clearly. I should have changed all my apple and gmail passwords, which I didn’t. Within a couple of hours, the thieves had disabled the Find My iPhone feature, and all hope was lost. I simply couldn’t focus on anything after that, and hung about the hotel room, moping, cursing my own stupidity.

Souvik did his best to drag me out after that, but my heart simply wasn’t in it. We sat in the plaza for a while, watching the kids play and dance, and after a comforting meal at Inkazuela, called it a day.

Photo Walk: Pasar Ikan

It takes a special kind of madness to wake up at an unearthly hour, and make your way to one of the potentially stinkiest areas of the city all for the sake of a good experience. We’ve got it in spades.

One Friday, we targeted Pasar Ikan, the fish market at dawn. We were late already, because the auction is done much before that. Still, we got the tail end of the action. After the first step into the ickiness, there was no looking back. And no smell to bother us either. If you’re planning to visit, I strongly recommend your least precious rubber shoes, or even gumboots if you have a pair. 

As the market wound up and we had our fill of the golden light from the sunrise, we moved to the docks for some more action.

We had a taxi going to the market but were too conscious of our body odour on the way back, so we opted for bajaj (auto rickshaw), becak (cycle rickshaw), ojek (motorcycle taxi) and transjakarta (bus) rides instead. Mia the cat was not at all impressed by my efforts to be more appealing to her!


Photowalk in Glodok: Not for the faint-hearted!

Our Friday Photo Club went out to Chinatown last week, for obvious reasons. Chinese markets anywhere in the world are exciting places to walk about, and Glodok in Jakarta is no different. We went without a map, without a guide, just following the crowds into the narrow lanes that were ablaze in red for new year festivities. Spoiler: In case you like eating all the stuff that moves, but are grossed out by how they land on your plate, you might want to skip these photos. I was trying to conquer my fear by getting up close, and cheated with the zoom lens a bit! So here are some of the exciting goods on offer:

And some of the innocuous ones:

Plenty of interesting faces:

And hey, it’s the Chinese New Year, so let there be light, and lots of colour!!!

Photo walk - Glodok

Photo walk - GlodokPhoto walk - Glodok Photo walk - GlodokPhoto walk - Glodok

Photo walk - Glodok

Photo walk - Glodok

Gong Xi Fa Cai!



A gem of a tour

Last week I found myself on a visit to the gemstone market at Rawa Bening in Jakarta, wondering WTH I was gonna do there. There were just two other ladies on the tour, one of whom had thought she was going on another tour and ended up on this one. The tour guide, a German, had more gems on him than all the women put together. Moreover, this was only his part time job; his regular occupation is sailing, and we got to hear some very interesting sailing stories from his life.

This gemstone market has been around for ages, apparently, and recently renovated, in keeping with the latest (non) trends in mall architecture – all primary and secondary colors on the exterior, and chaos inside. It can get overwhelming or even disappointing, if you don’t know what to look for. Much of it looks fake, or plastic, or just tacky. Our experience was not that bad, really, because we had our guide to point us in the direction of the genuine sellers of precious and semi-precious stones. The opals and rubies were alright, but I loved the purple of the amethyst stones, and the colors in the lapis lazuli blew me away. So did the turquoise. After the first tentative purchase, the next few stones were bought quickly, drilled and prettied up for wearing immediately. Most shops were more interesting in the photo opportunities they presented. And amazingly, there were far more shops dedicated to men’s rings (for ‘power’ and strength and what-not) than women’s jewelry. So anyone who says diamonds are a girl’s best friend must investigate the relationship between a man and his opal 😉

The ring with the hole

Lapis Lazuli

That's a stone polisher

Some of my loot


A change from the usual

Day 7
We decided NOT to go anywhere near the city centre. Headed to the Mercato Centrale instead. It is the market for produce, and nice to see the stall people engaging with the locals, sharingnews, recipes, whatnot. Even a non-shopper like Souvik was impressed with the artistic presentations of vegetables, meats, cheeses, pasta and flowers.

Next stop: Profurmo Farmaceutico, the ancient pharmacy that sells remedies for hysteria and other exotic ailments, as well as beauty stuff for dogs and cats. Adorable!
Living in the city centre means that we can beat the afternoon heat by staying indoors; we take full advantage .
Then a bus ride out of the central area to Piazzale Michelangelo for fabulous views of Florence. This seems to be the prime spot for bride & groom pictures, coz we saw at least half a dozen of those pretty brides in their gorgeous dresses.

And I bought myself a typical hand-painted ceramic platter (for adding a touch of elegance to my desserts). Happy happy 🙂