Peru

Peru was Part One of a four-leg trip to South America. We went with Globus Journeys to see Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and a special add-on trip up the Amazon River.

Thursday, September 17

After getting in at midnight last night, we took the opportunity to sleep in this morning, then we met our group at noon in lobby. Our tour director’s name is Victor Hugo. No joke.

Our first outing was to take a bus to downtown Lima for sightseeing at a monestary where we were not allowed to take pictures inside. What a shame! There was THE MOST FANTASTIC library with the best lighting. Afterward, we walked to the city square and then to a history museum. Fascinating.

A little tired from all the walking, we got back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before dinner, which was at the hotel.

Friday, September 18

We woke up to a call at 5:00am. Ouch. We had to be packed and our luggage needed to be outside for porters. We went down for a speedy 15 minute breakfast before heading to the airport. Today we fly to Cusco. The plane ride was smooth and only took an hour, but there was a delay getting off the ground that impacted the timing of the rest of the day’s events. We were told that it would take 24 hours to go by bus to Cusco because of the Andes mountains.

Cusco is sits at a little over 10,000 feet elevation. When we first got off the plane I felt a little light-headed. I found out later that Alan did too. So we made sure to drink plenty of tea and/or soda – caffeine is helpful with altitude issues, and Victor cautioned us to eat lightly because digestion tends to slow down at elevation.

We packed onto a new bus with a new driver and headed away from Cusco to a llama farm in Awanakancha to see a wide variety of llamas and their kin. They are pretty animals with one thing on their brain; food. The others in our group fed them some grass handed out at the beginning while I snapped pictures. Alan used his camera and enjoyed the shots he got. I’m proud of him, he’s doing a nice job of it.

Back on the bus and on to a market in the town of Pisac. Here we learned how to tell the difference between real Llama wool products and fake. We also learned how to spot 90/80 silver vs. the cheaper 90/50 or less.

We were given some time to shop for souvenirs and trinkets. I got a “Mother Earth” pendent for 75 Soles (24 US dollars), and Alan helped me pick out a nice handcrafted piece of native art for our collection. It is a carved gourd with list of Peruvian animals featured.

We were headed back on the bus to head for lunch at Muna – it is a buffet and Alan and I tried a dish made with Llama. Llama has a similar texture to chicken but tastes a bit like gamey beef. It was pretty good.

After lunch we were back once more on the bus to Ollantaytambo where we visit a home there and were told about how the Incan people lived hundreds of years ago. We also saw first hand how they keep guinea pigs as a food source.

Back on the bus once more for a short ride to an old ruins that some is us climbed in the rain. 200+ steps up at 9,000 feet. I was exhausted by the time I got back down. The view was spectacular though.

Last trip of the day on the bus to our hotel where we had to climb more stairs to get to our rooms. By this time my legs were beyond wobbly. We ate a late dinner at a nearby restaurant.

After dinner, back at the hotel in Pachar, we had to pack an overnight bag for our trip to Machu Picchu, our luggage will be sent on to Cusco. Alan crashed before 10:00. I followed suit not long after. It was a long, long day.

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Saturday, September 19

I woke up early to write in my journal. An hour later I heard a donkey braying and dog barking somewhere in the distance. Breakfast was buffet style and good since I was very, very hungry. My legs also feel a little wobbly and sore from yesterday’s hikes. I tried to keep breakfast light because I know we will be hiking quite a bit later on.

We boarded a bus for a short ride to the train station. The train was very comfortable and we were fed a light snack on the one-and-one-half hour trip to our hotel near the base of Machu Picchu.

Before our ride to Machu Picchu we walked up many steps on the town to reach a restaurant for an early lunch. Again, I keep it light in anticipation of some strenuous hiking.

We took a tightly packed local bus on the very narrow zigzag road up the mountain. Several times I shut my eyes because the view and driving seemed so dangerous. We ascend to nearly 8,000 feet from the base to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is stunning. It is huge. And it is difficult to fathom how a people from hundreds of years ago were able to create such a marvel. It is believed that there were 600 people living here at one time in its history. There have also been 54 other ancient sites which have been located around Machu Picchu.

Walking around the ruins, if you weren’t stepping up you were stepping down. There are few areas to explore which required a flat piece of terrace to arrive at. My legs are sore and a tiny bit weak from the day before, but I managed to keep up with the group.

There are Llamas here – they seem tame yet also wild. They made good subjects for photos.

The trails are at times sketchy with drop offs to the canyon below only a few inches away and no guard rails to keep you from falling. It makes getting around very interesting.

Our guide, Ruben, is very knowledgeable and leads us around stuffing our heads full of fascinating facts.

When the tour was over we all agreed to head back to the hotel for some rest before dinner. Dinner was at a nearby restaurant and we ate our fill after all the good exercise on the mountain.

About the food. Alan and I attempt to eat dishes we think reflect the native cuisine as much as possible when we travel. We end up eating diverse and often delicious meals – but sometimes quite odd items.

Sleep eludes us this night. The room is warm and we cannot find a way to cool it down. We turned the lights off at 9:45 but they came back on at 2:30am. No rest for the weary.

Sunday, September 20

We ate an early breakfast at the hotel and I tried some warm banana coated in quinoa. Delicious!

The bus took us up the mountain once again to Machu Picchu where Victor led us up to the Guard House and also the beginning of the Sun Gate trail. Alan and I make a dash to the Guard House so I could get those iconic photos of the Machu Picchu ruins with Yuanu Picchu in the background.

We returned to the Sun Gate trailhead and hoofed the steep incline along a very narrow trail to try and catch up with Victor and the others. By the time we reach them at the half-way point Victor had continued on with just two others. We are far too tired to go the rest of the way so we head back down with the other three.

From here we split up and went our own ways. Alan and I tried to find something more to drink but gave up after awhile and boarded a bus back to town.

In town we shopped for some candy bars as I was famished, something to drink, water bottle carriers, and I also got a Peru flag hat on for our collection along with a ball cap for Machu Picchu and Peru. When we were done shopping we walked back to the hotel to meet up with the group and prepare to go to lunch. At lunch I shared photography info, especially post-processing info with two of our fellow travelers, Diana and Jim.

Lunch was delicious and filling at IndioFeliz. I’d love to go back there!

Sometime during lunch it began to rain and we were all caught up in it when we left. As we headed to the train for our ride back to Allania it began to rain in earnest. Fortune smiled on us though as we don’t have too terribly far to go.

The train was packed on the ride back to Cusco, and Alan and I were assigned seats that separate us. I sat with Greta, Carol and our tour guide, Victor.

I find I really like the coca tea. It provides some energy, which has helped in the high mountain hikes.

On the train we are treated to a fashion show, with goods that can be purchased afterward. We all declined.

Monday, September 21

This morning, after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we trotted out toward Cusco’s central square. Along the way we visited Santa Domingo, a monastery where I had to be careful not to photograph any of the artwork – everything else was fair game.

After the monastery we saw Santa Catherine’s Church and Basilica de la Cathedral, none of which I was permitted to photograph. Sad too, because this Catholic building was decorated excessively with ornate gold leaf carvings and silver embellishments throughout.

Much of the artwork was created by the native populations and one of the more amusing pieces of art was their version of The Last Supper in which was included locals, the centerpiece of which was a roasted Guinea pig.

After the visits to the religious buildings we hopped on the bus and rode out to three separate locations where Rubin once again demonstrated his vast knowledge of the Inca people’s history. We visited three separate ruin; Saqsayhuaman, Pukapukara, and then the Qenqo ruins. At this point we were at an elevation of approximately 13,500 feet and I could feel it. I was tired and could not easily walk and talk at the same time.

The Saqsayhuaman ruins had huge stone walls that were built using a zigzag pattern in order to make it self-supporting. There were indentations in some of the larger upper stones which is hypothesized to have been used for bracing the stones into position.

We learned a lot from Rubin including the fact the Cusco was the seat of the Incan Empire. Their basic tools for cutting stones was hematite which is a mostly iron-based rock. There are three eras to the history; Incan from 1100-1632, Colonial from 1632-1850, and the current era. We were told that the cobblestones in the streets and other locations were used to help move large stones – sliding them along using water as a buffer. They would then get upper stones into place using ramps.

After a good morning’s walk about we all agreed to go to lunch at Inca Grill where I ordered the Cuy (translation: Guinea pig). Alan had the Alpaca. To my happy surprise the Cuy was quite tasty if not very filling.

After lunch we all were in agreement to go to a chocolate factory a few blocks away. Here we learned about the sustainable and natural farming and harvesting of cacao. We learned that the fruit – yes, cacao is a fruit – grows on the trunk and heavier limbs on the Cacao tree, not like most fruit we know. We were treated to samplings of cacao tea (delicious!), different chocolates and the crushed cacao bean carmelized (a bit too bitter to me). I ended up purchasing some of the lose cacao tea, some chocolate covered Inca nuts and a Quinoa and cacao energy bar.

From here the group split with Alan and I going off on a photo walk. A half-mile later we were back in our hotel room.

Dinner was slow and relaxed at Incando Restaurant in the city. I had ravioli.

Our wake up call on Tuesday will be 5:00am.