South America – Making Chocolate in Peru

Chocolate. At least 1.5% of the world’s chocolate comes from Peru. In fact, the average Canadian consumes approximately sixty-five, 100g chocolate bars per year! (Fifty-five bars in USA).

Naturally, Kim and I had to investigate this further at the ChocoMuseo in Lima.

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Cacao beans start like this! They must be kept shaded and beans only grow on the tree trunk.

 

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Time to roast the beans. Constant stirring required, or they burn.

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Husking and crushing the beans.

 

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Result: cacao powder!

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Kim the bean crusher.

 

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Small interlude to make a spicy version of hot chocolate.

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Through the magic of television … or something … we are now pouring milk chocolate into molds to make our custom chocolate.

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Selecting our ingredients carefully.

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Final result! Who knew there would be a pregnant lady mold. Only in Peru!

 

South America – Sand Boarding in Huacachina

Huacachina: by definition, a fun stop in Peru outside of the regular Cusco – Arequipa – Lima route. This little oasis in the middle of the desert is perfect for adventure-loving folks.

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We got more adventure than we expected on our sand boarding/dune-buggy tour, though, when we chose to latch onto the Peru Hop crew‘s tour, and take off toward the sand dunes.

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Our driver took off on the roads of little Huacachina, zipping and swerving through the paved streets. We cut a few people off in an intersection, but kept on (as you do, in South America), when suddenly in the distance we could hear the faint whistle of a police siren …

Of course, we ignored it.

Carrying on squealing with excitement, we made our way through a rural neighbourhood with the giant sand dunes now visible in the distance                     … the siren got louder.

Next thing we know, a transit police officer on a motor bike is next to our buggy, signaling for us to pull-over.

Of course, we keep going.

The transit police driver speeds up, and pulls a quick manoeuvre in front of our buggy to “encourage” us to slow down and stop. But I suppose the transit police driver neither expected his back wheel to give out, nor his entire bike to topple over on top of him.

Awwkward.

Now with something to prove, the policeman stood up, wiped himself off, and marched angrily toward our buggy.

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We all sat there quietly while the drivers negotiated with the man and after about 15 minutes, we were off again! But only to a police checkpoint … where we were greeted by federal police officers (equivalent to the FBI).

Surrounded by at least 20 officers and 8 police vehicles, we had no choice but to wait until the commotion was resolved.

 

 

 

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Watching the sunset over the dunes … from our police checkpoint.

 

Side note: when you pile 12 touristas together in a vehicle, surround them by authorities, and don’t tell them what is going on, they come up with their own notions. We were ready for the zombie apocalypse, all having chosen our weapons (samurai sword, for me) and the actors that would play our characters should we perish (Morgan Freeman has such range, he could have played any of us).

Eventually, the owner of the company came to rectify the situation, and without a word (in Spanish or English) our driver took off again on what was one of the craziest rides of my life.

In the end, we still enjoyed the sunset and slid face-first down enormous piles of sand. I even took a small (invisible) jump, and nearly bruised my pelvic bone (but that’s another story, for another time!).

 

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I’ll have to throw my shoes away now. But how fun was that?!

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South America – Those Clever Incas

Did you know that Cusco is shaped liked a puma? In fact, most of the Inca cities are shaped like some sort of an Inca-worshipped animal.

Of course the present-day urban sprawl isn't pictured, but those Inca's were quite clever!

Of course the present-day urban sprawl isn’t pictured.

Those Inca’s. They were quite a clever bunch!

Cusco has several beautiful squares, one of which is the starting point for a free walking tour. The tour mostly covers a history of Cusco, highlighting stories of each of the Inca kings.

I could not tell you what that giant, white, official looking building is on the main drag … however, I can tell you how the Inca empire came to an end because the heir to the throne died in the jungle and the other heirs couldn’t get along enough to continue the Inca reign.

(Add some greedy, 1500s catholic Spaniards to the mix and the Inca empire ended as quickly as it began).

Pachacuti, the best Inca king who stopped all sacrifices.

Pachacuti, the best Inca king who stopped all sacrifices.

 

Sure they killed people as sacrifices … but they were smart and fascinating. Those Incas:

  • Had universities, clay roofs, and food storage houses on mountain tops to act as giant refrigerators.
  • Built roads to all their locations, but unfortunately this was the way the Spaniards were able to find and loot all their cities. However, one of the Inca kings ordered the destruction of the road to Machu Picchu before the Spaniards arrived, which preserved it!
  • Knew that they had to build their temples to withstand earthquakes, so placed spacer rocks between large stones to absorb shocks. What!
  • Built things in twos
  • Worshipped pumas, condors, and snakes
  • Believe in reincarnation
  • Aligned all their buildings with the equinox periods, so that on June 21 when the sun was just right, you could see a line of sunshine in all the temples.

Considering they hadn’t invented the wheel (apparently), I think they did pretty well.