Big Brother

August 30th, 2013

When you haven’t seen a close family member for two years, how will a two week visit pan out? Emotions building to a crescendo as we approached Cusco, I was experiencing anticipation, fear, dread, excitement and nerves at the prospect of my brother’s arrival in Cusco. What would we talk about, how would we entertain him, had he changed, had we changed?

It turned out that I had nothing to worry about and the sibling bond hadn’t evaporated – shared appreciations of food, drink, music and cycling meant that there were very few silent moments during his ten-day stay. With James and I having travelled in our own little bubble for so long, it was refreshing to talk to someone else about their adventures and plans. A lot has happened in Dave’s life over the last two years too and so it was great to catch up on his news and experiences, and lay off our repetitive subjects of parasites, route planning and bike maintenance for a little while.

We hired bikes, visited ruins, ate in shabby restuarants and engaged in typical sibling banter and aggravation. Mild mortification swept over James and I whenever we removed our shoes in our shared bedroom during Dave’s visit; we may have adjusted to the foul smell of each other’s worn out kit but to Dave it was gag-inducing.

He wasn’t only subjected to our malodorous company; a Peruvian stomach bug hit him during his stay too and so we weren’t able to cycle for as much as we had planned. But the explosions from the bathroom when Dave was in there at least redressed the balance of shame when it came to embarrassing body odours. Thankfully, he overcame the worst of it for the highlight of the trip, an unforgettable visit to the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu.

It was great to see you bro, thanks for visiting…and for bringing a mountain of new kit for us too!


(We’ve adjusted the photo settings on the blog so you can see larger versions of any of our photos. From now on just click on the image to enlarge it.)

Sarah and Dave drinking beer in Cusco, Peru

The best way to catch up on news and family gossip after two years? Over burgers and beer of course!

Dave and James riding in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru

Respect to Dave – we hire him a pretty awful bike and with no panniers, he carries everything in a 70l rucksack on his back and doesn’t complain once.

Procession of a staute of the Virgin Mary on the feast of the assumption at Calca, Peru

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we time our arrival in the Sacred Valley just right. The feast of the Assumption is being celebrated in Calca and the whole town is out for the event…

Men carrying statue of virgin Mary in Calca, Peru

…there are those honoured to carry the statue which looks like it weighs at least a tonne…

Man in a mask at the Assumption parade in Calca, Peru

…and those performing in the parade that follows…

Girls holding masks at the Assumption parade in Calca, Peru

…preparing to take to their place in line…

Street dancers at the Assumption parade in Calca, Peru

…a blur of colours and masks…

Close up of a pair of boots at the Assumption parade in Calca, Peru

…with details we can only wonder about.

James with a bowl of chicken soup in Calca, Peru

It feels right to follow a traditional lengthy parade with some traditional Peruvian chicken. Every other doorway in Peru seems to be home to a polleria – a chicken restaurant. Before the main delight comes a bowl of soup usually with pasta, vegetables and sometimes various unidentifiable pieces of meat…James gets lucky with this one, which comes complete with a chicken foot – perfect for scratching that itchy nose.

Sarah and Dave cycling to Pumamarca ruins near Ollantaytambo, Peru

Arrival in Ollantaytambo by lunchtime means we have time for an afternoon ride up to the ruins of Pumamarca…

Sarah and Dave overlooking the valley on the cycle ride to Pumamarca ruins near Ollantaytambo, Peru

…a rough 7km climb has us stopping every little while to catch our breath and admire the view…

View of the valley near Pumamarca ruins near Ollantaytambo, Peru

…which is quite frankly spectacular.

Circular terraces at Moray ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru

We continue the ruins trail with a visit to the circular terraces at Moray…

Woman and dog on the alitplano near Maras, Peru

…walking the Inca trails…

Doorway in Maras, Sacred Valley, Peru

…past colonial doorways…

View of the walk between Moray and Maras, Sacred Valley, Peru

…with timeless backdrops…

Salineras de Maras, Sacred Valley, Peru

…down to the gravity-fed salt pools at Salineras de Maras.

Closer view of the salt pools at Salineras de Maras, Sacred Valley, Peru

These pools collect water from a naturally salinated stream which was supposedly diverted by the Incas to harvest an abundant supply of salt for their royalty.

Lady carrying a bag of salt on her back, Salineras de Maras, Sacred Valley, Peru

Now the salt pools are owned and worked by families around Maras. They still harvest the salt by hand and then haul it out in enormous sacks on their backs.

Dave walking along the train tracks towards Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, Peru

From Ollantaytambo, we choose the “cheapie” option to visit the ruins at Machu Picchu. The final section of the journey is a two hour walk to the town at the base of the ruins. Along train tracks through a lush green valley, it’s not an unpleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

Train heading towards Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, Peru

This is as close we get to the train, which at its cheapest, costs five times the price of our bus/taxi/walk option.

Sun rising over the mountains surrounding the ruins at Machu Picchu, Peru

Then after surviving the hideous tourist trap that is Aguas Calientes, it’s a lung-busting one hour steep hike to the ruins themselves very early the following morning. We arrive as the sun peeks through the clouds… 

Machu Picchu under the clouds, Peru

…providing an atmospheric first glance of this Incan city hidden in the mountains. The Spanish conquistadores could never locate it and it wasn’t rediscovered until 1911.

Machu Picchu in sunshine and early morning light, Peru

Early on we pretty much have the place to ourselves… 

Brocken spectre at Machu Picchu, Peru

…to witness natural wonders – each of us could see our own shadow in the middle of this rainbow, a beautiful phenomenon which our photographer friend Skip identified as a Brocken Spectre.

James, Sarah and Dave in front of Machu Picchu, Peru

We pause to pull silly faces – this one’s for you Mum…

A crowd of people on the ruins at Machu Picchu, Peru

…before the hoardes arrive and you can’t take a picture without at least another fifty or so people being a part of it (I wonder how many times we appeared in other people’s photos?).

Dave, Sarah and James sitting in wall niches at Machu Picchu, Peru

We do find quiet corners though, to imagine what a possible album cover could look like… 

Dave and a llama at Machu Picchu, Peru

…and for Dave’s Dr Doolittle moves to terrify the resident llamas before we head back to Cusco.

Sarah and a bottle of wine, Cusco, Peru

A visiting relative is always a good excuse to blow the budget and order wine…

Sarah and Dave pulling faces at each other in Cusco, Peru

…they are also a good excuse to indulge in childish behaviour and face pulling. 

Dave, Sarah and James drinking Pisco Sours in Cusco, Peru

Then it’s time to finally try a classic Peruvian Pisco Sour… 

James and Dave trying to swallow a nasty Pisco Sour in Cusco, Peru

…grape liquor, egg white, water, sugar and lime – when badly made can be very hard to drink…

James playing darts at the Norton Rats pub in Cusco, Peru

…but we persevere and are rewarded. Bizarrely, the best Pisco Sours we find in Cusco are in a British pub! Chance to indulge in some good old-fashioned British pub games then…darts anyone? 

Dave and Stephen in front of the dartboard at Norton Rats pub in Cusco, Peru

Dave recruits Canadian Stephen to his team to pit himself in a battle of ’501 down’ against the resident cyclists. In what can only be described as a shifty move, the visitors emerge victorious. Rematch required.

James and Dave in a hotel room in Cusco, Peru

And so the fortnight ends at it began, chatting in a budget shared hotel room with the socks and shoes hanging out of the window…look forward to the “Boulangerie Reunion Tour” in France next summer Dave!


4 Responses to “Big Brother”

  1. Lars Henning Says:

    Sounds like a fun filled visit. We can definitely relate to the tendency to grow accustomed to horrible smells!

    I enjoyed the photos and captions. You captured some great shots of that parade and some really unique shots of Machu Picchu.


  2. Jorge Iván Says:

    S&J, observando el viaje y su alegría, llego a la conclusión de que quiero viajar en bici. ¿Cuándo? Cuánto antes ¿Por qué? Quiero conocer y vivir alegre.

    Saludes con el mejor de los ánimo y la mejor buena vibra.



  3. Edmundo Says:

    Are you try to tell me that ‘Dos Estomagos’ left a burger uneaten on the table to take a photo??! Yeah right. Either you’ve buried Butcher in the Peruvian wilderness and hidden his replacement behind a dodgy looking beard or you guys ordered another round of burgers for the photo op. If it’s the former you’re right on time because I think it’s time we recycled Bromey and Hormone too…

    PS That said, just over 2 years in and at last you’ve snapped a photo to get jealous about. You get any avocado in those bad boys?


  4. Mario Kausel Says:

    Meeting with a close family member after such a long period of time is surely very comforting and energizing.Well done Dave!!Sara and James surely needed this type of refreshment! Machu Pichu is just spectacular,keeps you breathless!

    Keep your good vibes and keep healthy!


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