What's for Dinner... Alpaca or Guinea Pig?

After I had spent a month longer than expected in Puerto López, I finally accepted the reality that I wouldn't be going back to the Galápagos Islands for my planned research job. Who knows what went wrong behind the scenes, but the fact was the my visa never arrived, and it wasn't going to.

With that in mind, I had a choice: to remain as a volunteer for Equilibrio Azul for the next month, or to explore somewhere new and spontaneous. It would have been easy to become an official volunteer and hunker down in Turtle House with my friends, but I knew I would always feel a little bitter about missing the Galápagos, so I decided to do something big: I bought a plane ticket to Peru!

I had a couple days to prepare and say goodbye to Puerto López, go birding one last time, take the EcoClubbers on a hike, and complete my first night dive. Then I took a thirteen-hour bus to Quito. Sadly, I propped my backpack at my feet for one hour of the journey, and the opportunistic thief behind me stole all my cash and my camera. Thankfully, he/she left my passport, debit card, and iPhone behind! He/she also left about $2.00 worth of coins which allowed me to buy lunch at a bus stop. There's always that silver lining, right?

I stayed at my favorite hostel in Quito and shared an airport cab the next morning with a couple of Australians. One of them, it turned out, was heading to the same destination as me! Soon enough, my plane was touching down in Cusco, Peru. My taxi friend and I settled into a nice, cheap hostel outside of the main square, Plaza de Armas, and headed out in search of dinner.

For once I was hanging out with a young professional instead of a starving student. We bypassed the $3.00 dinners and made our way to a fancy balcony restaurant with a live Andean pan-flute band in traditional costume. Neither of us could decide between the media cuy (half a guinea pig) and the alpaca en tocino (bacon-wrapped alpaca sirloin), so we ended up splitting both. Good call -- it was the best food I've eaten in my memory!

Photo credit: Joel Cummuskey.