"Aquisito," Doris Rodriguez de Platt told me, motioning in the air as we climbed upward. "In Peru we are always saying 'aquisito,' which is a sweet way of saying 'Just over here, just a little bit farther,' even though what we're talking about is never really that close." We'd hiked for nearly four hours that morning and we were, at least in theory, approaching the highest point of our five-day trek through the Andes15,250 feet above sea leveland well on our way to the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu.
Doris, co-owner of the restaurant Andina in Portland, Oregon, was accompanying Emmanuel Piqueras, Andina's talented young chef, on this journey to Machu Picchuthe sacred stone city built by the Incas sometime between the late 14th and early 15th centuriesand rediscovered by Yale archeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911. Emmanuel was there to find inspiration for his novoandinanew Andeancuisine. For me, the trip was a chance to learn about Peruvian food from one of its passionate ambassadors, and to test my physical endurance as we hiked six to eight hours a day in the thin air.
Most people who trek to Machu Picchu take the Inca Trail, but we chose a more adventurous and less crowded option: the Ancascocha Trail, named for a beautiful Andean lake. Walking along this route, which goes over high mountain passes and descends into green canyons, hikers encounter only a scattering of thatched-roof, mud-brick houses and see virtually no other touristsonly condors circling way up in the sky.