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Day 14 – Mission (Colon) Tipon (Or, How To Eat A Hamster)

October 24, 2010

Location: Tipon outside Cusco, Peru

Date: Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Mission: Tipon, a town 30 km outside of Cusco. Home to a terraced set of ruins containing a still working aqueduct system. Also famous to Peruanos for its many guinea pig restaurants.

The Challenge: Find a bus/collectivo/non-taxi to Tipon. Contact with local operatives indicates this should be a relatively simple task. Just wait opposite the post office on Avenida del Sol and ask which minibus goes past Tipon. Complication because asset only has limited ability in local language.

Summary of Operation: Asset stands at bus stop for 45 minutes. Initial 15 minutes spent waiting with kind lady who states she will point out the correct bus when it arrives. Lady, however, departs on a minibus leaving asset to fend for himself. Asset opts to use brute force American tactics and asks every single minibus that comes by, “Vas a Tipon?” Running low on provisions and patience, asset asks an old woman how to get to Tipon. She points down the street and uses, amongst other words, the local word for bus stop.

Asset departs initial drop point and travels one click to suggested waypoint. Asset discovers bus station, but is unable to secure transport because these buses go everywhere but Tipon. Again, using American brute force techniques, the asset questions a series of bus drivers where to catch a bus to Tipon. Each gives conflicting guidance.

Desperate, asset humps to local internet café. Finds this website which indicates that buses to Tipon leave from a station near the stadium, 2.5 clicks east by southeast. Asset also checks e-mail because, “I was there anyway.”

Twenty minutes and 4 soles later, asset is aboard proper transport to Tipon. Thirty minutes into journey, bus attendant waves and yells at gringo asset that they have arrived at Tipon.

Attempts to blend with locals: failure.

Upside to failure: asset did not end up in Bolivia.

After meal in Tipon (see below), asset secures 8 sole transport 4 km up the hill to Tipon ruins. Asset reports ruins are “lovely”, “peaceful”, and “cold and wet.” Asset completes counterclockwise recon circuit. Unfortunately, asset lacks hardy constitution necessary to withstand cold and rain (Asset: “It was frickin’ freezing”). Asset abandons full recon mission 30 minutes before target time. Rides down hill with local Peruanos for 2 soles after observing White woman flee same cab to travel down alone. Joins mass of locals to crowd onto bus for 2 sole, 30 minute ride back to Avenida Cultural station. Resources depleted, asset forgoes wandering hike through city for a 5 sole cab ride back to Cusco base.

Assessment: Mission partial success. Weather conditions hamper full recon of Tipon site, however, recon was completed to command’s satisfaction. Prior to future missions, asset must work on: communication skills; pre-mission intel development; not being a weenie in cold weather.

Recommendation: Asset is prepared for more complicated missions. Asset should consider securing hot, local, Spanish-speaking female asset to increase likelihood of next mission’s success. Alternatively, could secure Spanish dictionary and a warm sweater.

I Put In My Mouth: A Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures

Tipon is well known for its cuy. Coming here without trying it would be like going to Iowa without trying the corn or going to Vegas and not sampling the strippers. Finding a place in Tipon that serves the local delicacy is easy; every restaurant lining the two-lane highway that cuts through town serves the stuff. I picked a place on the far end of the strip that seems full of Peruanos–kids, parents, and locals were chowing down on the little guys.

How does it taste? Cuy tastes quite good, actually. It’s seems to be mostly red meat and it has a bit of a bite to the finish, though that could be from the pack of spices crammed into the roasted body.

It’s served a bit dramatically (roasted whole, laying on its back, legs in the air). I desperately wanted a picture of the whole thing, but the lady came by and asked if I wanted it cut up. Eating whole meat requires a working knowledge of the animal’s anatomy. I have no idea how to attack an uncut cuy, so I accepted her offer. Before I knew it, she’d pulled the herb stuffing out and hacked the thing into quarters. That meant no dramatic, fullbody cuy shot (though you might be thankful for that).

In the end, I only could eat 3/4 of the thing. Way too much food for me. Getting at the meat was a bit of work, but that’s mostly because I didn’t know where the meat was.

In the end, I forewent the advice to, “Eat the head.” Perhaps next time, if I have dinner with a cutey who can show me the ways of cuy. For now, it’s just the way that it is.

GALLERY: Click through to see bonus pictures from today including pictures of Mervyn in front of Tipon, more pictures of fountains, pictures of a military ceremony in Cusco, views down into the valley and NO MORE pictures of cuy. We promise.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 11:16 am

    Wow! I do miss South America….

    We didn’t get to Tipon…but what a fabulous set of terraces and irrigation facilities….we have very little idea about what those folks were up to back then…..impressive.

    You haven’t seen “cuy” (they’re called different things elsewhere – sounded like “kwees” in Bolivia) until you’ve seen them prepared for roasting! Raw, skinned guinea pigs (look like rats) with a stick the diameter of your thumb run up through them, entering the anus and exiting the mouth! All standing up waiting to be placed over the barbecue coals….yum!

    I guess, anyhow – did not then possess the courage to try one. Had skinned too many mice and rats during the previous year, I guess…

    • November 2, 2010 10:31 pm

      Haven’t seen them raw, but the lady that prepped my cuy had a pile of them sitting by the fire. They were half cooked and just about ready to eat. She’d pick the skewered rodents up by the sticks they were impaled on and stuff them into the fire to finish.

      I really wish I’d had a chance to take a picture of the whole cuy, legs up, on the bed of noodles. I suppose I could have tried to take pictures of the cooking fire, but I didn’t have the heart to oogle the lady while she did her work.

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