Our first Cusco excursion was usually scheduled for Sundays. Since Bill had so many willing participants, he made the arrangements for the 'house clients' to all get in a van and go out on Tuesday. Bill calls this tour 'A Day in the Life' and it was created to give tourists a view of how life works for the average Peruvian. I'm pretty sure you won't get this experience anywhere else.
So ten of us piled into the van. We left Cusco city limits via some crazy roads. I'm not sure how anyone learns their way along through some of these roads and the construction detours. Along the way, Bill filled us in on the process of earning a driver's license. He told us that everyone fails the first time, but always passes the third time. I guess you're lucky if you get your license on the second try. Apparently this just earns more money for some Peruvians at the DMV. Along our route, we stopped for some streetside fried pork rinds. Bill bartered the cost down as he was fully aware of the 'true cost' of the treat. Then he called the lady 'Mommi'. I asked about this as the woman selling the food had called him Poppi as well. He said it was just something they do here. I guess when you really think about it, it sounds kind of creepy.
Our first stop was about an hour after we left. Just along the side of the road there were a few people making mud roofing shingles that are used all over Peru. We got out of the car and visited the couple who were cranking these out. Dirt is delivered to their property, then the main guy knows exactly how much mud to take and adds water to a metal slab that has the shingle dimensions set. The couple worked together in sync and cranked out one shingle after the other. Bill said they work ridiculous hours from like 3 a.m. until about 8 pm. They were happy to show us their work.
Then we drove to a nearby town called Andahuaylillas where Bill and Nicole worked and lived for a few years. It was a lovely town with a church that people come from all over to see and it is no wonder. The Church of San Pedro is known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. It was finished in 1631 and much of the ceiling, walls and alter are covered in gold leaf. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside. I can't seem to manage to embed a link to one picture but you can search for more copywritten pictures or here is one nice image site. http://www.go2peru.com/destinos/large/cuzco_andahuaylillas_wmf2.jpg The church was just refurbished and it looked glorious. Hard to image that this unbelievable church isnin such a remote spot. It was pretty amazing.
Bill took us around the town and showed us some local spots including the town's communal oven. The town residents can come here to drop off meat and have it cooked. We saw some local artisans including a silversmith who proudly displayed a poster of Bill Clinton purchasing some of his work. There was also a small museum boasting Incan skulls and one that was so different looking that National Geographic just came down to do a piece on a theory that it is alien like. The show is to air next month I believe.
The best part of the tour was our trip to Guillermore's house. He and his wife (whose name I sadly cannot recall) have an adobe home in the mountains. We went there to have lunch, see his property and experience how the typical Peruvian lives in this area. This was a very special experience for all of us.
They were very happy to show us everything. Of course Maeve and Liam loved the house and farm animals. They had kittens, a dog, cows, donkeys and of course, guinea pigs. The children ran all over the property exploring. Bill's five year old son is familiar with the area and family. He easily switches between Spanish and English and made a great translator for the kids. Guillermo set up an earth oven in the ground to cook potatoes. While they cooked, we would visit his fields and help even the ground for more efficient irrigation.
The walk to his field took about 10 minutes. The views on this sunny day were astounding. There were only two proper tools for the group, so I don't think we were of much help. We walked around, kicked apart some of the large dry dirt chunks and tried our best to make some areas flatter. It was super hot in the sun. We had to put our other layers on our heads and necks for protection.
We were served large beans (like fava beans) and cheese outside as an appetizer. We knew guinea pig was on the menu for lunch. Guillermo's wife had one dried out in the oven and she freaked out the kids when she pulled it out. We would not be eating the ones running around on the floor as most of them were pregnant. Seems there was only one very busy male.
Our lunch began with a traditional delicious quinoa soup. Then Guillermo's wife served the white and sweet potatoes that were cooked in the ground. They were served on a folded tablecloth and placed on the table. We peeled them with our fingers (very hot though, so it took a while) and ate with our hands. There was a spicy sauce for dipping. I'm not sure exactly what was in it, but it was creamy and had some cilantro. Finally, the guinea pig was served. Fortunately, Bill had let our hosts know in advance that the kids and I were vegetarian so we were not served it (phew). Michael did try some. The Peruvians enjoy it because it is quite lean. I think the most surreal part was watching the others eat guinnea pig while the 20 or so live ones crawled along the floor at your feet. I wanted to say, here's your cousin, run...
After lunch the children, went out to play with the kittens. Guillermo's wife showed the children the donkeys and asked if they wanted to ride them. No surprise they were stereotypically stubborn and didn't want to move much. She returned and the adults had some type of tea and chatted in the kitchen. Bill translated as the curious couple asked questions of each of us. They wanted to know when the single visitors planned to marry and they asked us how long we had been married. Guillermo's wife had a mischievous smile as she grilled Sean (the only single male with us). We discovered that the couple has four adult children all of whom attended university. This is very unusual for a family in this area. The two younger girls visit every weekend and help out around the property.
Guillermo and his wife are justifiably proud people. They are hard-working and good-natured. We were honored that they shared their home and food with us. This was an unforgettable experience for all of us.