Purple Corn, Inca Potatoes, and Fresh Chicken Washed Down with an Inca Royale

Diplomonkey finally took a day off, at least partially, and went with wifie to the Musa market just outside of La Molina.  This sort of outing is what makes foreign service life so fascinating.

Musa Market Shoppers.

Musa Market 1

Musa Market Shoppers.

Going to Musa, or another similar local wet market, is always a worthwhile experience for gringos to experience while in Peru.  It puts you in touch with what food looks like outside of the sanitized confines of modern supermarkets.  Sorry little Dorothy, chicken does not naturally come quartered and wrapped in cellophane on a Styrofoam tray.

Musa Market, La Molina Chickens.

Musa Market, La Molina Chickens. Sorry Little Dorothy!

So if you get a chance while visiting Lima, head out to La Molina’s Musa market.  It’s relatively safe, especially if you go in a group and way less expensive than any supermarket.  We paid less than 30 Soles ($10) for a pineapple, a pomegranate, four maracuyas, a cocoa pod, a bunch of baby bananas, a papaya, and a two-pound bag of cocktail potatoes.

Musa Market Fruit Seller.

Musa Market Fruit Seller. 

Musa Market Purple Corn and Inca Potatoes.

Musa Market Purple Corn and Inca Potatoes.

Such a fun outing on hot, late summer day is to be followed by what I call an Inca Royale – it’s really a mimosa made with Peruvian chicha in lieu of orange juice!

Musa Market Flower Lady and Daughter.

Musa Market Flower Lady and Daughter.

Cheers!

The Road to Antioquia, Peru

Okay it’s late and I’m tired, but I need to mention the hidden little gem of Antioquia which is just outside of Lima; bug bites and all.  Or better still, let me tell you about the road you take to get up there.  Foreign Service life is about exploring new places anyhow.

Curving Roadway

Curving Roadway

Antioquia is a quaint little village located 64 kilometers east of Lima in the Lurin river valley.  Like most little towns in Peru it counts with a tiny church, a plaza de armas (i.e., a main square), bodegas, and the occasional B&B.  Unlike other towns Diplomonkey has so far visited, Antioquia’s buildings are decorated with whimsical painted motifs and biblical passages.  The town is set along the Lurin river, where there is enough water to permit agriculture despite the desiccated surroundings – ah so many quinces, apples, peppers, and a plethora of mangos that just make the month water.

Putin River Valley

Upper Lurin River Valley

But for today let’s not focus on the destination but on the road to Antioquia.  I guess this post is really about a case of the means to an end sort of scenario.  Diplomonkey, true to form, again is losing focus; bad monkey, focus!

Church at Sisicaya

Church at Sisicaya, Halfway Mark

Right!  So the drive up into the Andes takes a leisurely two hours each way, which reminds me that I need to get new tires for the Jeep.  Focus Diplomonkey, focus!

Antioquia Road 2

Truck parked on the Cliff

Okay so we leave La Molina and head east towards Cieneguilla and beyond. The kilometers slowly click by as we traverse badly eroded roads along cliff sides.  Huge boulders, precariously balanced on smaller slabs of rock give way eventually to a series rickety bridges and packs of wild dogs.  Begone ye beasties, away from my Nikon D2.  From my FCS buddy, I know that most of these bridges might be American made ones; the Chinese ones on the other hand tend to fall into the crevasses. Oh what fun!

Bridge on the road to Antioquia

Bridge on the road to Antioquia

Anyhow, tonight I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Once the weather improves, I will head out again and get some pictures of the town.  And surely next time  I will take some industrial strength bug spray; off to the MED Unit tomorrow for antihistamines.

Home for Christmas

JackJack this year asked Santa for a trip home for Christmas.  With the request in hand, the senior simian drafts his official decision memo, attaching a notional schedule of course, and moves forward the packet of documents in bureaucratically efficient and expeditious manner.

With the R&R travel request approved, Captain Jack and the rest of the intrepid diplomatic simian crew hop onboard LAN Peru’s (Boeing 767) Lima-Miami flight (American Airlines code-share) for a stateside break – U.S. Embassy Lima’s Santa delivered, we are so grateful.

Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima

Waiting for Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima.

Beach outings along with seaside discussions about shadows and the wonders of Portuguese man o’ wars follow spectacular breakfasts not just at Starbucks, but also at Another Broken Egg Cafe – great Bloody Mary’s and crab cake stacks, if I dare to say so myself.

Bare Foot Diplomat

The Barefoot Diplomat and Son.

Portuguese man o'war: looks like an empanada, stings like a million bees.

Portuguese man o’war: looks like an empanada, but stings like a million bees.

Nothing says Florida like a shared sunrise with its true natives, even if in suburban Palm Beach County.

Sunrise in Wakodahatchee

Sunrise in the Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wally Gator

Wakodahatchee Wetland’s “Wally the Gator”

For the record, for me home is Florida despite the years spent in Virginia and my ties to the Commonwealth.  Life is good in Florida, go Gators.

Cheers!

An Afternoon at the Car Museum

One of Lima’s hidden treasures, one a bit off the beaten track is the Asociación Museo del Automóvil – Colección Nicolini in La Molina.  This classic car collection is just spectacular – Jay Leno would be jealous.

Diplomonkey found it by happens chance driving out to countryside one day, making a mental note to go back there with the little dudes.  Off to the museum head the dynamic trio one grey Lima afternoon.

Car Museum Tickets

Car museum tickets, kid and adult entrance fees.

As soon as we enter the first showroom we see an incredible collection of classic cars spanning automotive history.  Dreams of racing cars and deep desert rallies become tangible to Diplomonkey in an instant.  As evidenced by the cars’ showroom appearance, all are fully restored and drivable.  A whiff of gasoline here, a smudge of oil there, are evidence of recent use.

Car Museum 3c

The shop is itself worthy of a lengthy visit.  Cars drawn from the four corners of Peru – coastal deserts, mountain highlands, jungle lowlands – are lovingly restored here; with parts fabricated on site when originals can no longer be sourced.

Definitively Diplomonkey must return to get higher resolution, more diverse pictures with the Nikon.  Until then, here is another teaser.

Car Museum 2c

Cheers, Diplomonkey!

Thanksgiving in Lima, Gringo-style

Diplomonkey’s first Thanksgiving Day in Lima sees the return of Pandora’s box. No foolish mortals, we are not discussing mythology today but rather talking about grilling Gringo-style.

Old Diplomonkey is giddy as a schoolboy; having received for his birthday, and just in time for Thanksgiving, a brand new, shiny black Weber kettle grill. You can almost see him jumping up and down for joy.

Weber Grill: Bits and Pieces

Weber Black Kettle Grill: The Parts

Inspired by the grill’s arrival, Diplomonkey volunteers to cook a full turkey just like in Virginia. The arrival of the Weber spares Diplomonkey however the need to jury-rig his Hibachi for the festive task. Wifie is, let’s say, so very happy.

The Samster, the helpful little dude that he is, gets into the spirit of the holiday, assisting Diplomonkey assemble the instrument of American culinary might. Weber proudly made in Palatine, Illinois without a doubt produces one of the best charcoal grills out there. Diplomonkey has used one to make whole leg of lamb and lamb kabobs, steak, beef ribs, and even beer-can chicken. Heck, even paella in a cast iron pan was cooked to the wonder and delight of friends and neighbors.

Weber Grill Technitian

Weber Grill Assembly Technician

Turkey 5

The Weber Kettle Grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s cut to the chase. Into the Weber go two bags of Kingsford’s finest mesquite charcoal. Once fully lit, Diplomonkey arranges coals his coals in a circle of fire. Tomasito (i.e., Tommy), our Peruvian gobbler makes his appearance and on the grill he goes – sorry, no presidential pardon for our 20-pounder Tomasito.

Tomasito, before...

Tomasito, before…

Tomasito, after!

…and Tomasito after!

After three hours of crackling and sizzling, the Weber’s lid comes off followed by the sweet smell of grilled, succulent turkey. Enjoying a turkey drumstick on your behalf,

Cheers from Peru.

Arequipa: Quinoa, Cochineal, and Alpaca Pizza along with a Russian Hind Helicopter

Diplomonkey is on the move again this week heading out to Arequipa, a thousand kilometers south of Lima and a world apart. There is nothing like a 4:00 a.m. pickup for a 6:45 a.m. flight, fortunately there is always Starbucks coffee at Lima’s airport to brighten Diplomonkey’s morning. Yippy!

The early morning flight on LAN airways is not bad, nice plane (even for an Airbus) and a friendly crew, which is always a plus even on short flights. More interesting however is the view from 36,000 feet. The terrain from the air is wildly tortured; punctuated by mountains that seem to grow on top of each other only to be separated by unbelievably deep gorges. Peru is a truly a land ripped asunder by the ancient Titans.

Arequipa 6

Approach to Arequipa

 Dry, sunny Arequipa is a welcoming city set at respectable 2,328 meters (7,638 feet) above sea level.  It is a charming city full of interesting sights and sounds.

Arequipa 7

Arequipa Street Scene – Arequipa Women

Arequipa Fire Truck

Arequipa Street Scene – Yellow Fire Truck

A city since the days of King Charles I of Spain, Arequipa retains much of its colonial legacy intact (some 332 hectares). Work, alas demands that Diplomonkey leave exploration of the city for later in evening.

There is however time for a quick Starbucks mocha coffee stop on the way out-of-town. A treat made all that sweeter by affording Diplomonkey a glimpse of a condor basking in the sun on a neighboring water tower.

Outside of Arequipa, Diplomonkey hits the Pan American Highway. His drive south takes him along the Cerro Verde mine’s side roads; roadways populated with heavy trucks, tunnel construction, and even llama crossings.

Arequipa 9

Beware, Llama Crossing

Off the sierra and on the coastal plain, Diplomonkey visits quinoa plantations and a cactus farm where cacti pads are purposefully infected with cochineals (a sessile parasite) that produces the crimson-colored natural dye carmine (both used as a food coloring and in cosmetics such as lipstick). For those inclined to know more, here is the Wikipedia cochineal link.

Cactus infected with cochineal

Cochineal-infested Cacti

Cochineal buggies, before...

Cochineal buggies, before…

Cochineal buggies, ...and after.

…and after.

In a day just full of treats, Diplomonkey even gets buzzed by one of Peru’s Russian-made Mil Mi-25d Hind helicopters operating out of La Joya. Oh what a treat, so much fun.

Peruvian Air Force Hind  Helicopter

Peruvian Air Force Hind Helicopter

Harvesting Quinoa by Hand

Harvesting Quinoa by Hand

Women Threshing Quinoa by Hand

Threshing Quinoa by Hand

Arequipa 13

Road back to Arequipa – Chachani and Surrounding Peaks

With work done and the sun quickly setting, Diplomonkey starts back up the mountain. Two hours later, Diplomonkey checks into his Arequipa hotel. A quick call to wifie to see how she, the Samster, and JackJack are doing is followed by exploration of Arequipa’s historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Wrapping up the evening is a late night dinner of alpaca Carpaccio pizza and a Pisco Chilcano with extra ginger root at one of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants.

Arequipa Cathedral

Arequipa Street Scene – Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary

Diplomonkey’s stay in Arequipa, only a day and a half, is too short. He plans to return with the family in tow next time.   As he boards his return flight to Lima, Diplomonkey makes a mental note to recommend to any would be Peru explorer to add Arequipa to their visit to do list.

Cheers.