This past Saturday, Caroline and I went on our first expat-organized day trip with South American Explorers. The trip entailed a hike/visit to the Maras Salt Terraces, a lunch at a trout farm, and finishing up at the Last Saturday party/fundraiser at the Sacred Valley Brewery (arguably the best beer in the greater Cusco area). I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous to devote my Saturday to a day of activity after a long week of teaching, but as Caroline is an avid trout lover, she convinced me that waking up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday was a good idea.
After meeting up with the group, we were happy to discover that there were enough of us that we could hire a private minibus to take us to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. This was already a big change to our previous adventure to the Sacred Valley, as this time everybody had their own spacious seat, I didn’t have a dog on my lap, and there were even seat belts with buckles (!!!), a rarity for vehicles in Peru. After arriving to Urubamba, we started our “light walk” to the salt mines. While the first half of the walk was a nice flat walk along the Río Vilcanota, after we crossed the river, our “light walk” turned into climb up a skinny, slippery, and steep dirt path. After depleting all sources of oxygen in my body, we finally made it to the salt terraces and what a view it was! We were tempted to jump into one of the little salt terraces the whole time because they resembled mini personal hot tubs, and we are both suckers for a good hot tub/bath. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to take a relaxing soak. But we did purchase a big bag of cooking salt for five soles (about USD$1.60–a steal!).
Soon after a much easier descent down the same slippery dirt path, we were on our way to the trout farm! After a 20 minute walk on unstable terrain (a little perturbed after our guide had promised us it would only take five minutes), we were out of breath and ready for our fresh trout. Although it probably took them an hour and a half to catch the fish, gut them, and then cook them, Caroline and I found a pile of puppies to entertain us. They were so cute and round with their eyes barely open! One puppy still getting used to his legs would topple over with each step, but get back up quickly to try again. It was possibly one of the cutest and most endearing things I’ve ever seen.
Our trout was finally ready, served with peeled cucumbers and tomatoes, rice, and a potato (one of Peru’s thousands of varieties). After we were sufficiently satisfied by our delicious trout lunch, our guide alerted us that the guy who was going to give us a ride to the brewery at a reasonable price was back in Cusco with his family, and therefore our guide wouldn’t have time to take us to the brewery. While five members of the group had to get back to Cusco to get to work, the rest of us were disappointed about the possibility of skipping our promised third stop of the day. Caroline and I volunteered to take the reins and bring the rest of the group to the brewery, where we had been there the month before. Even though we were exhausted, the promise of delicious beer gave us the energy to walk back to the Urubamba bus station to catch a colectivo to Pachar, where the brewery is located. One of the highlights of our walk back to Urubamba through the small villages in the hills was our first physical interaction with the famous Peruvian hairless dog.
Fortunately we led our pack with ease to Pachar and had a fantastic time eating burgers and drinking beer together. Caroline even turned it into a networking opportunity and passed out a few business cards! Even though my back hurt, my arms were branded with a wicked sunburn (despite my diligent application of sunblock), and I was more than 100 soles poorer, it was totally worth it and we had an awesome day making friends and exploring the Sacred Valley. Maybe I’ll get up at 7 a.m. again next Saturday, too!