Monday, November 14, 2011

Travelling in Peru, orchid exhibition, third novel taking shape in my head… more than enough for one blog

Hello, friends. It’s been aaaages. The longer I live, the more I do, the less I seem to have to say. But there’s stuff I did with my friend Haze who got the old cat (me) out from behind that warm oven. We laced up our walking boots and ‘did’ Arequipa (especially the Santa Catalina Monastery – a must-visit gem), the Colca Canyon (did see the Condors – what emotion!) and nearly died of hot-hot-hot eating rocoto relleno (filled rocoto) in the place where it was invented (Arequipa). Rocoto is - wow… the only vegetable a dragon will eat. It’s a bit like a round chili pepper.

From our old friend Wikipedia:
Capsicum pubescens is a species of the genus Capsicum (pepper), which is found primarily in Central and South America. The name component pubescens means hairy, which refers to the hairy leaves of this pepper. The plants, but especially the fruits, are often referred to as rocoto (Quechua: ruqutu) and locoto (Aymara: luqutu). […] sometimes the familiar name is tree chili. A very notable feature of this species is its ability to withstand cooler temperatures than other pepper plants.

We dived into the delicious chowder which also originates in Arequipa: chupe de camerones (shrimp chowder). In Peru one becomes a glutton. Ask Hazel. You had the recipe in the last edition.

Thus over-nourished we climbed into the ‘monospace’ picking us up outside the hotel. A pee stop at 5,000m is not something that happens to me every day, and I actually wondered whether, in this rarefied atmosphere, things fall faster. Never mind. Don’t explain it. Keep me wondering.

The journey to Colca Canyon took about five hours – with photo stops, spot the alpaca stops, Peruvian geese environment stops, and ‘now you can sell something to the tourists’ stops (and why not… we left a little money behind wherever we could). The road is not very wide and there is oncoming traffic. It’s the only road to get to Chivay, the little town at the heart of Colca.  Some huge yellow speciality trucks delivering themselves to one of the mining companies didn’t help progress. We were stuck for at least half-an-hour, but then so were the others. 

I’d like to wax lyrical about everything: the food (again), the condors, the snow-capped Andes mountain, the huge and rugged canyon which apparently gets to a depth of 4000m about an hour further along but I’ll abstain. Let the photos tell the story. Interestingly though, when we were there - and until about three weeks ago - they were looking in that very canyon for a lost student. Just found his body not too far from where we stood looking (mostly up at the condors who circled majestically entirely for our benefit). When I saw the search efforts on TV I knew, of course, exactly where these guys were searching and could imagine the dangers of the terrain. Foul play is suspected. 

After Arequipa I went back to Lima and Hazel continued on her own to Cuzco and to Puno (and Lago Titicaca  - how we giggled at school about that name). You'll find this hard to believe, but on the Bolivian side (those names come from Quechua and/or Aymara, of course) you’ve got a Lago Poopó

Hazel returned from her travels and we roamed Lima for a week or so, especially the Indian Market. At one point I thought she’d move in there. I do understand. It’s an amazing place, especially when you see it for the first time. She stocked up with alpaca and baby alpaca for the European winter. For the odd beautiful necklace she had absolutely no excuse.

Then we ‘did’ the North: Trujillo and Chiclayo. Trujillo is worth visiting for its beautifully preserved inner colonial city space. Trujillo is more or less what I, romantically, expected to see when I arrived in Lima, theoretically knowing better, even though we still do have the odd  colonial house here and there, some preserved by law, some by their owners. Our Plaza de Armas is quite spectacular and, from what I hear, the Municipality want to improve on what they have done so far trying to slowly recover the inner city for people instead of just tourists, pickpockets, banks or government offices as well as some companies. But the centre of Trujillo could be straight from a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marques.

We stopped off in Huanchaco (Trujillo), a northern little sea-side/fishing town/village and a surfers' paradise. They still do their fishing with reed boats (caballitos de totora), one-man canoe types, works a little like a surf board. Hard to believe that one fisherman can bring in (with a net, of course) up to 50 kg of fish.

Still, what we came to see where the huacas, the temples, with burial sites included, of those that came before the Inca: the Mocha people and the Chimú. After archaeologists with hubris decided that in Peru there had been nothing happening before the Inca who brought civilization, they had to eat their words in a big way. They’ve been digging for a while now and the finds are exceptional. Those temple cities stretch over many miles. God only knows what's still hidden under the dry earth and sand. While we were there, taking it all in (or trying to), archaeological teams were busy digging further, restoring - where possible and very gently - the ‘pictoglyphics’ as some guides called them (as far as I know the Mocha and Chimú did not have a written language, so the pictures supposedly tell the story and have to be deciphered. This may be wrong information, of course). 

We learned some interesting facts, and two stood out in my mind:

  1. The locals knew about those temples and burial sites and some huaqueros had been looting them for many years before they were officially discovered, and had sold artefacts of immense value (archaeological/historical, not to mention objects made of solid gold, especially jewellery) to collectors, in Peru and outside. Even the FBI has helped recover some of those items and return them to the relatively recently created (excellent) museums.
  2. The locals worship(ped) those places in secret and when the (mostly foreign at that point) archaeologists appeared and began digging, they objected, thinking that the foreigners would make off with more stuff and/or destroy their sacred places. So a very intelligent solution was found: make the local population your allies. Many (men and women) were trained in some basic archaeological skills and employed gainfully to help out on the digs. In this way they started to understand that the archeologists, instead of looting and destroying, were, in fact, helping to preserve. 

Spoken for
Since then I have been busy with drawing again, writing other things, planning my new book (THE TELLING is out – as though you didn’t know, have trumpeted the fact all over the place), I am helping to administer and make known a new website for writers: Writer Central ( and I am honing my skills as a poet. Have a whole new collection ready to be published (cross your fingers) and three poems are going to be published in US poetry magazines in the very near future. I’ll be sending you the links, never fear. Nothing like a bit of auto marketing. I am learning. Friends, this is the silliest thing of all: here I am, a marketing professional, and I can’t sell my own. My third book is taking shape in my head. For those who've read THE TELLING, Oliver will go to Peru.

For the rest:
  • Our new president, Ollanta Humala, has been in office his first 100 days and done rather well. However, the opposition uses whatever they can to make his life a misery. Apparently Omar Chehade, Humala’s second VP, has been stupid at best, a little corrupt at worst (can you be a little pregnant?) but nobody knows for sure. He is under investigation. Still, the opposition together with the mostly right-wing media are yapping at his heels having a field day. Of course corruption should be nosed down and punished wherever it’s found. Just that those with the biggest mouths have even more to hide. That’s really the only thing that upsets me. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
  • Our new Mayoress (Lima’s) is also doing some fine things (at least as far as some of us are concerned), she’s just no media hyper and therefore very few people know about it, and the media prefer not to mention the good stuff.
  • Every year we have a Casa Cor (something like House Deco), and every year they choose an old house and restore it. This time they chose a building in Callao and Lima’s interior designers exhibited their latest in every room. Was not impressed.
  • Barbara and I went to see the yearly orchid exhibition which was small but luscious. The pics (towards the end of the 'gallery' below) speak for themselves.
  • For some people the date 11/11/11 is linked to prophesies and new energies, for others it’s nothing more than a palindrome. Whatever you think, around the world events were organized in celebration. In Peru, they took place in Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.
  • A young Dutch couple is traveling the world in their Land Rover. They set off from the Netherlands about five-hundred-and-fifty days ago and are now in Peru on almost the last of their round-the-world trip. Three more countries to do.
  • Richard Gere wos’ere (tourist)
  • Mick Jagger wos’ere (tourist)
  • They are going to build twenty new malls by 2013. Mostly in the provinces. Just what the country needed, don’t you agree? Bring wealth to a third-world country? Bring on the malls!
  • Now that we are getting precious malls, you can come over and invest. Peru is growing (economically too) and Lima has by no means exhausted the seaside plots. Still plenty to buy and wait for the land to increase in value. Should do so relatively quickly.
  • Entrepreneurs, put Peru on your maps. It’s a growing economy and even huge international investment funds are beginning take a closer look at the place. Ergo, companies who want to be among the first to move into this promising market can get some cash to get going.
  • Don’t forget, you can do business over the most delicious lunches and dinners.  

Recipe rocoto relleno
(got this from

(stuffed - hot!!! - peppers)

1/2 cup raisins                          1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped                      3/4 cup beef broth
1 clove garlic, minced                2 hard-boiled egg, chopped                                                     
3 tablespoons olive oil                4 red bell peppers
1 teaspoon cumin                      1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon paprika
1 chili pepper (better still, get a rocoto), seeds and veins removed


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them plump in the water for 10 minutes.
  2. Sauté the chopped onions, garlic, and chili pepper in the olive oil until soft and fragrant.  Add the cumin and paprika and cook 2 minutes more, stirring. Add the ground beef and cook until browned.
  3. Drain the raisins and add them to the ground beef. Add the beef broth and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until most of the liquid is gone.
  4. Stir in the hard boiled eggs. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Remove beef mixture from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup grated mozzarella.
  5. While the beef is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Slice the tops off of the peppers and reserve. Clean the inside of the peppers, removing the seeds and veins.  Cook the peppers in the boiling water until bright red and just tender, about 8 – 10 minutes. Drain peppers and blot dry with paper towels.
  6. Fill each pepper with some of seasoned ground beef mixture. Top with remaining cheese.  Place the peppers on a baking sheet, with the tops alongside them (but not covering the filling). Bake the peppers for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the filling is heated through.

With this wonderful recipe I say goodbye for today and this time with another joke – English tricky language is:

Actual Classified Ads:
  • Our experienced Mom will care for your child. Fenced yard, meals, and smacks included.
  • Stock up and save. Limit: one.
  • 3 year old teacher needed for pre-school. Experience preferred.
  • Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating.
  • Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting off head illusion. Blue Cross and salary.
  • Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00
  • For sale: antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.
  • Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.
  • We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.
  • For sale. Three canaries of undermined sex.
  • Great Dames for sale.
  • Have several very old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition.
  • Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, you'll never go anywhere again.

Until my next blog - whenever that may be. Think of me, my summer is beginning. I'll be just a little envious of anyone who'll have snow at Christmas! Enjoy the photos. I wish I could attach them all. There so many more.

Rosmarie (Rose, Rosie, Rose Mary, Romy... whatever - friend) x

    Hazel most content in Arequipa
    Entering Santa Catalina Monastery

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa. The laundry area.

    Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

    She's making our desert, chicharrones

    Somewhere in Arequipa

    Another outstanding watering hole in Arequipa
    Flying over the Andes

    More and mysterious Andes from the air

    What can I write - local colour

    At a pee-and-buy stop at 5000m

    Watching her 'flock'

    Those stone 'people' are an Inca affair

    There must be a 'bush telephone somewhere'. They know when to come out.

    A small restaurant in Chivay serving the most delicious food

    She was going to sell me her hat for about 35$. I should have.

    Chan Chan is in danger from possible rains - it's all adobe

    Chan Chan

    Chiclayo. But this could be anywhere - Chiang Mai comes to mind



    She got a 'tip' for modelling

    Colca Canyon

    On the way back to Chivay from Colca Canyon

    On the way back from Colca Canyon

    Huaca del Brujo

    Huaca del Brujo

    Huaca del Brujo

    Huaca del Brujo

    Huaca del Brujo

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

    Huaca del Sol y la Luna

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