Hostel Frankenstein(No Stars)

18 08 2008

Posted by: Chris and Laura

Travel dates: 5.17.08 – 5.29.08

Laura: My uncle Brister emailed me when we were in Buenos Aires to let me know that he was going to be in Cuzco, Peru at the same time we were.  Since Andrew spent Christmas with us, I was getting to see a second family member while we were on the road.  (The Louis family might need to step it up and come visit us). After our three day delay at the Chilean border while we waited for the Peruvian strikes to end, we were worried we would miss him. But after revising our itinerary and getting a few overnight buses, we arrived in Cuzco for his last night.  We met him at his hotel and got to hear about his week’s activities over a few beers.

We had quite a busy social life for the first 24 hours of Cuzco. One of my students and runners, Nick Chapman, graduated a few years back and was now living and working in Cuzco.  After I figured out how to dial a cell phone number from a landline, Nick told me that he was hanging out in the plazza next to our hostel.  Over the next few days, Nick and his girlfriend, Fraya, gave us a great tour of the city.  They showed us where the best markets were. We all ate ceviche at the best ceviche restaurant, which we never would have found on our own.

Chris: Peruvian cuisine garners quite a bit of respect, with  ceviche(raw fish soaked in lemon and other vegetables like tomatoes and onions) being the national dish.  We found a restaurant named Yanapay willing to give us a general cooking class, a few dishes over the course of an hour.  Over 3 hours later, 10 dishes, and bloated bellies we simply couldn’t fit any more food.  While I prefer the Mexican ceviche with its spice, there were several dishes we will be bringing back down South.  The cook knew virtually no English, but we had a translator explaining stuff to us.  They also gave us recipe sheets for all the dishes though I pretty much scratched everything out, frantically taking notes as the cook prepared the food differently.  Laura couldn’t get enough of the Arroz con Leche(rice and milk dessert) and I really dug the creamy pepper based sauces(there are several) which tasted great with their local potatoes. Peruvians warn about the spiciness of their food as if they use Cajun hot sauce, but we found most of the food in Cuzco and the rest of Peru to be quite mellow(  though it could just be that New Orleans has warped my sense of favour).  The cost was comical: all we paid for was the price of each dish, $20/person for the class, and a hell of a tip.

Nick and Fraya showed us a fantastic market outside the center of town with the quality stuff at better prices than places closer to the main square.  Jewelry, carvings, and clothes were much cooler here than in neighboring countries(in our opinion) but the real eye catcher was the Alpaca wool.  Alpacas, besides being goofy looking camel-like creatures, are also the bearers of incredibly soft wool that is woven into clothes, blankets, rugs, pillows, even couch covers.  Not cheap stuff mind you, but sooooofffffttt.  We bought a couple rugs and presents.  Adult Alpaca is nice, but it’s the baby Alpaca wool that really stands out.  The longer we walked around town the more we noticed how much baby Alpaca was being sold.  I finally asked a seller how one goes about making these wondrous rugs?  Turns out they actually skin the animal instead of just shaving it.  He turned a rug over and proudly pointed out how the different parts were stitched together.  He then claimed all the baby Alpacas died “of the cold,” naturally.  Right…

We had a great place just around the corner from the main square called “Hostel Frankenstein” run by German ex-pat who decided that with all the places to stay in town he should have a theme to stick out.  Old movie memorabilia hung on windowless walls, adding to the cavern-like atmosphere.  Quirky without a doubt, but also immaculately clean and orderly (we stay at German run places for a reason). Many hotels display their three stars (which is often debatable after seeing the place).  Hostel Frankestein proudly displays no stars on an unofficial looking sign painted on the wall next to the entrance.   The owner, Ludwig, knew every possible sliver of info on the city and local ruins that he rendered our Footprint guidebook utterly useless.  Great guy and hostel for anyone heading that way, he even had a log book where other travelers wrote down their tour company experiences to Machu Picchu and the price they paid.  Many companies rip travelers off so that kind of info is gold.

Considering the multiple days of 20+ hour bus rides and border crossings, we felt it was time for a few drinks.  One hung-over day turned into a slightly hung-over night, surprising considering I felt I hadn’t drank all that much.  By about 3am my body started twitching uncontrollably and continued to do so for the next 7 hours.  My body also partook in regular confessionals with the public restroom serving as sanctuary; an experience so cathartic that contamination levels exceeded several US health regulations.  Laura observed me with quiet horror as I assured her it would “go away on it’s own.” Around 9:30am I finally agreed to let Ludwig call a doctor who conveniently makes house calls(the agreement that I didn’t physically have to move helped convince me–that and the hope he might either stop the violently involuntary flailing of the limbs or bring some rope to tie me down).  Ludwig also offered us an upgrade to a room with private bathroom at no extra cost, even refusing our attempt to pay extra.  For the benefit of the entire hostel, I gladly accepted.  The doctor checked me out and revealed to me that I had both Salmonella and Giardia, a travelers jackpot of sorts.  Looks like Willy has extended his stay a little too long.  



2 responses

25 08 2008
Did Smurfs Create Machu Picchu? « Chris & Laura RTW Trip

[…] and say, “Well, it was ok I guess.” Instead we took the train to Aguas Calientes (or as Ludwig would say in his heavy German accent: “Machu Picchu TOOOOOOWWWWWWWNN!”) and then bused […]

14 09 2008

Ms. Young and Chris:
This blog is pretty awesome. I didn’t read all of it, but it sounds like the both of you are having a good time. It was nice to see you in Argentina. Have fun on the rest of your adventures!!! I hope you come back to California for a visit sometime soon after your trip.
P.S. I love the picture of the llama!!!

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