Grey sky, cold, rain, covid and threat of a new strict confinement … here is the situation of this month of January 2021 in Cusco. Not really cheerfull you will say … and we will not desagree with you ! While a certain moroseness seizes the daily life of the inhabitants of the ancient capital of the Inca empire, and that a need of escape is more and more present, a good news arrives in our Whatsapp mailbox : our friend Lionel invites us to come to spend a weekend in Palili house, his new project on the heights of Quillabamba. Travel, adventure, spring temperatures, coffee, fruits, nature, … in less than 5 minutes the decision is taken: we’re off!
The explanations of Lionel are simple, we must first join the city of Quillabamba located at 5h of Cusco, then we will have to take the road in direction of Potrero and the reserve of Tunkimayo, during 20mn to arrive at Palili, country house. This one is exactly between Cacao Pampa and Esmeralda.
Our week finished and all the information registered, we leave at dawn on this Saturday morning in order to fully enjoy our weekend. To save time, we go to Ollantaytambo through Anta and then through the village of Huarocondo, a faster route than the classic Chinchero – Urubamba – Ollantaytambo.
2 hours of driving passed when we cross Ollantaytambo and arrive at the village of Phiry. Impatient and excited, we left without breakfast and our stomachs are starting to remind us. While we are at the foot of the Abra Malaga we decide to take a break to stretch our legs and regain strength. On the menu in Phiry, the unavoidable chicken broth known in Peru as the “caldo de gallina”! Readers and travelers, if you haven’t yet tasted this classic also known as the “raises the dead” of party people, know that there is no better way to start a day of travel and discovery than this one !
With a full belly and a smile on our faces we begin the ascent of the Malaga pass. As the road rises, the climate changes, giving way to rain and thick fog as we approach the 4200m marking the highest point of our route.
The view being totally blocked on our arrival at the pass, we don’t linger and immediately begin the descent towards our final objective. The first kilometers are also made in the mist then suddenly the horizon is cleared … then appears a dense and tropical vegetation to which none of us is used in Cusco.
Robert Louis Stevenson said “The important thing is not the destination but the journey”, … this road towards Quillabamba make us understand partly his vision of the things.
As we continue our descent of the pass, we see signs indicating the presence of historical and natural sites: Inkatambo, Waman Marca, Catarata de Mandor, … Time is running out and unfortunately we can’t stop if we want to fully enjoy the Palili and its surroundings. One thing is sure, this stay will surely not be the last one considering the number of sites and attractions that we discover on the road.
After a little more than 5 hours of road, we arrive at the end of the morning in Quillabamba. As many of us do not know the city, we decide not to go up at once to the Palili and opt for a visit of the city known as the place of the eternal summer. Main Square, Sambaray park or Amazonian Museum, our visits are short but our feeling is unanimous: Quillabamba is a small paradise deserving much more than 2 days! We have just arrived and all agree already to find new dates to come back to explore more extensively this amazing Cuzquenian province of La Convencion.
Before leaving the city, we decide to try the “quillabambino chicken” … an absolutely I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E experience! We were talking earlier about the “caldo de gallina” to start the day, please note that for lunch or dinner you will not find anything better than the “pollo quillabambino” in the convenciana capital.
It is difficult to sum up our culinary discovery in a few words. We could obviously tell you that it’s much better than a simple roast chicken, that it’s a real gastronomic orgasm or that you will never see a chicken in the same way again after that …. but to understand we’ll rather bet on the comparison. The quillabambino chicken, to put it simply, is like a hot shower after a rainy walk, a good brunch on Sunday morning, a favorite song on the radio or a cold beer in summer … extremely simple things but offering a happiness and emotions totally incomparable.
Note for grumpy people : You don’t like hot showers, brunch, music or beer? Stop reading this article right now, it is then just a sum up of nice and pleasant things in life!
As we leave the restaurant, we find Lionel who kindly came to meet and guide us more easily to the country house. The road to reach the Palili is lined with lush vegetation and offers amazing panoramas. On the way, our host takes us to visit the old Hacienda Potrero where we discover the machinery used to produce the most famous Peruvian “cañazos” (a sugar cane liqueur) as well as the stables that once kept the best Brown Swiss bulls of the region.
Arriving at the Palili in the early afternoon, we discover a true haven of peace, lost in the middle of coffee plantations and hundreds of fruit trees. The setting is splendid and seems to be a real Eden Garden to which are added the singing of birds and the soft sound of the Chuyapi river passing a little further down to create a unique and restful atmosphere.
Lionel shows us our rooms and then invites us to go out for a walk with him through the land to enjoy the diversity of the local fauna and flora.
We first go to the heart of the coffee fields where we learn a little more about the production process of this product so appreciated worlwide and about which we know very few things ! Our host then introduces us to a superb collection of orchids and then takes us to discover its fruit trees and the different species of plants present in the field.
Avocado, lemon, lima, banana, papaya, trumpet of judgment, bougainvillea, heliconias … the garden is so rich that we don’t even know where to start!
As we get closer to the river, Lionel tells us that a surprise awaits us at the water’s edge. We continue a few meters and then discover a superb platform mounted on an imposing rock above the water. Our eyes are amazed as we cross the small footbridge leading us to the belvedere overlooking the Rio Chuyapi and we remain speechless in front of this magnificent and unexpected scenery. While we sit down on the benches on the stage to relax and fully enjoy this magical moment, Lionel surprises us once again by offering to toast our journey by taking out several beers from his backpack. What a paradise this Palili!
We spend a long time contemplating the exceptional panorama and the ballet of dozens of butterflies that joined us, then the fading daylight invites us to go back up to the house.
Back in our rooms, we enjoy a good hot shower and a break before we all meet in the common room of the establishment. While we were resting, Lionel and his family prepared the “lonche”: bread, cheese, jam and various local products to share for dinner. Regarding all these delicate attentions, we asked our guests if it would be possible to buy them a bottle of wine to share it all together. On Lionel’s advice, we choose a Malbec – Vittoria to complement our meal and our long and pleasant discussion with our new host family. The evening finally ends with storytelling and games and we meet the next morning early enough to discover other attractions of the Cuenca del Chuyapi.
After a good night’s sleep, we meet at dawn for breakfast. We enjoy the fruits of the garden and an excellent coffee from the region then we take the road for our adventure of the day: the Tunkimayo Reserve!
Located 25 minutes from Palili, Tunkimayo is a small private natural paradise belonging to Don Pio, a nature lover who bought, many years ago, a hundred hectares of primary forest in order to protect it from Man. The place has been so well preserved that today we find there a great quantity of “Gallitos de las Rocas”, emblematic birds of Peru. Lucky us ! During our walk around the house of Don Pio we can indeed observe several roosters of the rocks (translation in English of the name). Unique moment where time seems to stop in the middle of a luxuriant and enchanting nature.
On the advice of our host, we then continue our walk through the immense forest of Tunkimayo. We then discover all kinds of plants and trees that have never been subject to human intervention but also several waterfalls along the trail. After several hours of hiking and facing the vastness of Don Pio’s land, we decide to turn back to return to our bus. Before leaving Tunkimayo we share a coffee with the owner of the place to learn a little more about its incredible history and to congratulate him for this unique project allowing us to enjoy today a rare element: an untouched and virgin nature!
Back to the Palili in the middle of the day, we ask Lionel what are the options before leaving again on Cusco. He explains us that every Sunday it is possible to order a local dish for the lunch. “Lechon”, “asado de pato”, “trucha al horno”, “pepian de cuy”, “chinese fondue”, … the options are numerous and change every week!
Our adventures in Tunkimayo made us hungry so we decide to enjoy a tradicional dish as well as a relaxing afternoon by the pool before heading back on the road. After an improvised volleyball game and a last swim, it is already time for us to pack our bags and leave for Cusco.
Our green adventure in the grayness of January will have lasted only 2 days but the disconnection is such that we have the feeling to leave a place where we have lived for months. While we take place in the car and greet Lionel and his family by the window, we all have the same feeling : we will meet again really soon …
For more informations :
Palili – Casa de Campo