It’s another glorious day, waking up to this marvelous view of Lima’s cost from my bedroom terrace! Today Javier and I are going for a 3 day excursion to Cusco, Urubamba and Machu Picchu; I am beyond exited and so ready to experience one of the seven wonders of the world: Machu Picchu. I’ve heard so many tails about people’s spiritual reaction to this sacred place over the years, so I’m eager to see what kind of effect, if any, it will have on Mr. Kass. The morning starts with my usual coffee and ….. carrot cake on the terrace, after which it’s time to pack for the Andes. Instead of doing my usual research that I do every time I visit exotic places, I rely on dear old Javier who tells me that all I need is good walking shoes, jeans and t-shirts…oh and yes, of course, an oxygen tank! Yes dear possums, we are going to an altitude of 15,000 ft. and there is practically NO oxygen in the air. People get altitude sickness and pass out…something to look forward to! So I pack my overnight Pradas with the bare minimum (no fashion statement required in the Andes) and off to the chaotic airport of Lima on a Uber ride…yes, Uber is also in Lima!
The first thing that a foreigner finds out when buying an airfare in Lima, is that Peruvians pay a certain amount and foreigners pay more than double for the same fair…now that’s good PR. So after throwing a tantrum at the LAN airline counter for unfairly being charged so much more than Javier, we make our way to the VIP lounge for an afternoon glass of wine…as one does. While Javier drinks his beer and reads Pinocchio books for toddlers, I do a little goggling on our destination. It’s a quick hour and a half to Cusco, and all I can think about during the flight, is arriving and passing out in the luggage hall for lack of oxygen! I work myself up so much that I am actually in a panic now. Once we arrive and get off the plane, I immediately feel the thin air but surprisingly, I’m ok with it; the only thing that immediately shocks my senses, is how damn cold it is!!! Considering I only packed t-shirts and plaid shorts, I have a feeling it’s going to be a bitch of a 3 days…Alpaca sweater here I come! The other immediate reaction is the constant yarning, which is your body’s natural reaction to a lack of oxygen.
Our driver is waiting to drive us to Javier’s family brand new house in the mountains of Urubamaba, about one hour away from Cusco. Urubamba is a small town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, located near the Urubamba River under the snow-capped mountain Ch’iqun. It’s now about 7PM and we are starving; according to our driver, there is only one good restaurant in the area: Eltluacatay (www.elhuacatay.com). This surprising gourmet restaurant is very popular with both wealthy Peruvians and “gringos”. It’s an old home built around a garden set back from a nondescript Urubamba street, and it’s the perfect place for a lovely dinner in the warm, intimate dining room (which has only five tables). The owner is a lovely Italian lady with whom I start rambling in Italian about how cute the place is and how bloody freezing it is! She seats us in front of the fireplace just next to the house cat, who obviously knows where to place to be is. The menu is definitely eclectic and full of Andean specialties, such as quinoa soup, alpaca lasagna, and coca-infused (but street-legal!) gnocchi. We order up a storm and eventually make our way to Javier’s beautiful new retreat.
My “Room with a view”
Two espressos and …….’s homemade carrot cake and we are on our way!
Prada carry-ons and oxygen tank…as one does!
Javier having a beer and reading Pinocchio (He’s still growing up..)
El Huacatay Restaurant
The very homie and charming kitchen at El Huacatay
The super charming 5 table dining room
The house cat sleeping in the best spot in the house
Lovely setting complete with local olives and fresh flowers
Asian crispy shrimp
Potato croquettes with saffron sorbet
Braised lamb with cous cous
Steak with blue cheese and truffled spaghetti
Javier building a fire in the beautiful living room at his home in Urubamba
Now the temperature has gone down to 28 Fahrenheit and I am shivering like a leaf in my “Sky Utah” T-shirt. Javier jumps to the rescue and starts a fire in the living room just before I fall unconscious from frostbite, the temperature finally rises and all is good…for now! Oh…did I mention there is no heating in the house besides the one stove in the living room? The next part is even better; I collect every duvet I can find in the 5 bedrooms and retire to my bed fully dressed and with 3 comforters on top of me. To add to the madness, another lovely side effect of high altitude is INSOMNIA!!! Yes, you can’t fall asleep in high altitude…it’s gong to be a long, freezing night! Brrrrrrr