The Spud Diaries – Entry 11 – Let’s Go Cusco

The Spud Diaries – Entry 11 – Let’s Go Cusco

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WELCOME: One of the many statues and brickwork as seen from the back window of a taxi upon arrival in Cusco, Peru.

WELCOME: One of the many statues and brickwork as seen from the back window of a taxi upon arrival in Cusco, Peru.

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Going from under the "belly of the donkey" to the cold and sunshine of Cusco is part of any Peruvian experience.

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PERU'S capital had been eye-opening and fascinating but it was time to move onto the next part of this trip - off to Cusco.

This involves a plane ride and going through the busy Lima airport.

It was here I was first confronted with the sign pictured to the right. What does one do when presented with such information?

It makes the mind reel over the options. This is a highbrow blog though, so to answer the situation without going into unnecessary details, please see the elements of the next photo down a bit and join the dots.

It seems this is common practice in motels and public places. The cleaning staff must quickly get an idea of who is a "scruncher" and who is a "folder".  

A vigilant journalist makes the most of any downtime such as night time flights. I, on the other hand, decide to watch a movie - the futuristic space film starring Matt Damon, The Martian. (Or as I like to call it, "Jason Bourne Goes to Mars".)

Now before Fairfax Media managers start to question my commitment to this trip, there is a method in my entertainment choice.

You see, in the film, Damon's character, a botanist, manages to grow potatoes on Mars. On the back of this, the International Potato Centre (CIP) created a project based on the premise of would it be possible to grow potatoes on Mars.

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It escalated to the point that NASA got involved and an actual growing project where potatoes were grown on barren ground in Pampas de la Joya – a hyper-arid section of Peru’s coastal desert - which was regarded as similar to the conditions of Mars.

Sure enough, it's possible. The whole thing generated immense global media interest and showed the adaptability of spuds.

Perhaps one day the World Potato Congress will be held on the Red Planet.

Cusco welcomes me with clear blue skies, something I haven't seen for the past three days due to Lima being under the "belly of the donkey" as it's known.

The Spud Diaries - Video 7 - Let's Go Cusco

Cusco also provides narrow, cobblestone streets where it's cold in the shadows and hot in the sun. 

Architecturally, it's an amazing place. Cathedrals and hand carved stone walls, mixed with thousands of cafes, restaurants and souvenir stores, all with the backdrop of the imposing mountain ranges.

I've been warned about altitude sickness going up to an elevation of about 3400m above sea level where the air is thinner.

I'm not too concerned about this, being a finely tuned athlete and all (that bit's a lie - I can barely jog), so it comes as a surprise when being shown to my room that I feel somewhat light-headed at the top of the stairs.

EAT UP: A lovely alpaca steak with a side of finely mashed potato, of course.

EAT UP: A lovely alpaca steak with a side of finely mashed potato, of course.

I don't black our or vomit or anything but it's a bit of weird feeling.

Tea is very Peruvian; an Alpaca steak (at least, that's what I ordered) with creamy mashed potatoes.  It's real good, eh.

Chalk up another potato format right there. 

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  • Ashley Walmsley travelled to Peru with assistance from the Crawford Fund and with financial support from DFAT Council on Australia Latin America Relations.​ 
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