Cusco: Peruvian Food, Petting Llamas, & Quechua Living
June 6, 2019
by Jordan Moses
Every traveler planning their Peruvian itinerary has heard of Cusco and what to do but rarely does the name Pomacanchi come up. This little district is nestled just two hours away from the big city. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to live in this cozy Andean village for five months and can tell you first hand how you can go beyond the tourist traps and live life with the locals.
The Cusco Tours You Know About
Now, of course, I couldn’t mention the Pomacanchi district without pointing out that it’s surrounded by glittering tourist attractions. As soon as you begin to walk the cobblestone streets of downtown Cusco, you will have pamphlets pushed at you from every direction advertising Rainbow Mountain, the Four Lakes Circuit, and Qeswachaka Bridge just to name a few. They are all fantastic tours that you can easily arrange with one of the countless tourist agencies in the city. But if you’re looking for local adventure in a small Andean community, Pomacanchi is the place to be.
Pro-Tip: Ruty Salas is a tour guide with CrossoverPeru Tours and her family lives in Pomacanchi. She would be a great resource if you’re looking at trekking off the travel-worn path. She’s the perfect fit speaking Quechua, Spanish and English. You can reach out to her at +51 953 250 671.
5 Quechua Experiences
Getting to Pomacanchi is easy enough. You just catch a taxi in Cusco to the bus station on avenue Huayruropata. If you take Los Rapidos to Sicuani and tell them to drop you at Puente Chuquicahuana, the bus ticket is only 10 soles. Once you arrive, simply catch a taxi on the bridge to Pomacanchi (this is usually 5 soles). Quechua culture isn’t big on planning, so the best way to find a hostel is simply to show up and ask around. There are several safe options and most of them don’t require reservations. What’s more, the hostel owners can answer any of your questions about things to do in the area. Once you’re settled in, here are five Quechua experiences you can’t miss!
Pro-Tip: If you ask around for Norma Luna, she owns a cozy hostel that is very close to the main plaza and is super affordable.
Fishing in Pomacanchi Lake
One of the locals’ favorite dishes is “trucha frita” or fried trout. It’s caught fresh out of Pomacanchi Lake and usually served with rice and french fries. Although eating the traditional dish is definitely an experience to be had, making your own fishing pole from a branch with a nylon line and hook attached will prove to be quite the adventure. Anyone you come across would be happy to show you how to make your fishing pole and where the best places are to get bites. Even if you come back empty-handed, you can enjoy the local cuisine on the second floor of the market in the main plaza.
Hiking the Andes
One of my favorite things about Pomacanchi is that it’s nestled into a little nook surrounded by mountains. You could spend hours hiking the surrounding mountains, the best part being that you can choose which route based on how strenuous of a hike you’re looking for. There’s everything from a 15-minute climb to a two-hour vertical ascent. Regardless of which trek you choose, the views are breathtaking. Be sure to pack a picnic, jacket, and sunscreen!
Pro-Tip: The Cusco region is known for its altitude with Pomacanchi residing at just over 12,000 feet above sea level. It would be best to spend your first day taking it easy by drinking plenty of liquids, resting, and enjoy coca tea with honey. It’s the best natural remedy for altitude sickness. Don’t worry, the locals will be stocked with coca leaves!
A Week of Festivities
If you plan it right, on the last week of July, Pomacanchi hosts a huge event that draws people in from all over the Cusco region. Festivities include “Carrera de Vochos,” basically a huge Volkswagen race, “Expo Feria Regional,” an agricultural fair featuring local produce from around the region including over 200 types of potatoes and beauty pageants for llamas and alpacas, and finally “Corrida de Toros,” an event where men dress up, jump in the bull ring, and attempt to escape the fate of deadly horns. This is a great opportunity to try Peruvian food from “la sierra,” experience the culture, and even pet a llama!
Another yearly event you may want to plan around is El Chaco. Vicunas are smaller, more camel-looking llamas. They are as fast as deer and according to Peruvian law, they are illegal for individuals to own. Instead, communities, like the one in Pomacanchi, own the vicunas collectively as their wool is the most expensive in the world. Once a year, they get together, take transportation to the highest mountain, and form a huge circle of people to corral all of the vicunas into a central pen. The animals are then shorn for their wool and given necessary shots by veterinarians before being released again. It’s a thrilling experience being part of a human circle keeping the fuzzy creatures at bay. At the end of the day, the Quechua community puts on a reenactment of traditional Inca dances even dressing up like the Incan Emperor.
Trying Homemade Cheese
“Queso fresco” is another claim to fame for Pomacanchi. Their cheese is sold for top prices in Cusco and in the surrounding region. Fortunately, I had the pleasure of staying in the house of a “quesero.” He showed me the process of making fresh cheese. Basically, they use cow milk and boil it in a huge basin adding natural rennet to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are then used to make delicious white cheese that comes in large blocks. Simply cut a slice off and enjoy! One rectangular block was sold for 15 soles.
By the end of the week, you will not only have had once in a lifetime experience, but you will have made lifelong friends and hopefully, picked up a few phrases in Quechua!
Leave a Comment...
June 7, 2019
You are such a special person....we love ya sooo much.Keep up your special work.Miss and love yall
June 14, 2019
Really enjoyed the read. All your adventures are so interesting. Your life is exciting and interesting. So glad God has blessed you so.
June 14, 2019
Very interesting article. Another place I\'ll have to visit some day.