Overbooked, but I saw it all!
2.16.06 0 °F
P #4 - Excursions after the PPA to Cusco, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Chiclayo and Trujillo
Bright and early on Saturday, Jan 21, Jean and I left for the airport to fly to Cusco. Before that I left my main bag at my next hostel, Hostel Buena Vista, as I did not want to lug all my gear for the next two weeks. The nice man had been woken from his sleep, but somehow managed to understand that I would be coming back on Feb 3rd to stay.
Flight was uneventful and we were picked up by Josephina who shuttled us to our hotel, Hotel Villandre. We were about 10 blocks away from the main square, but on a safe road and got a room at the back of the hotel.
We were instructed to take it easy and were offered coca tea. Not bad, but I am not sure what all the shouting is about. As Cusco is at 13,000 feet, both Jean and I had been taking our high altitude pills, but drank the tea and settled down for a quick nap before the city tour at 1pm.
We boarded the bus with guide, Guiermo, and first went to the cathedral which was amazing and showed us that Jesus had actually eaten guinea pig for the last supper, not lamb as we had all been lead to believe. Imagine all this time, thinking it was lamb. I have post card that shows it so it must be true. Out the door and surrounded by people taking pictures of us and trying to sell us postcards.
What I have found is that almost none of the museums or sites that we visit have interpretive information in print. Probably so you have to hire a guide to understand what is going on because few of the museums have signs in both Spanish and English. Even the books that you can buy in the area are all in Spanish so no help there.
On the bus, we next went to Corichanca which was a monastery built over an Inca temple. It was wonderful to see the stones up close and too see how they fit without mortar. At every Inca site, they tell us that during all the earthquakes, the Inca buildings are the safest. All the additions made by the Spanish and later people are always destroyed, which is how they found this site after the 1950 earthquake. It had all be plastered over, but the plaster shattered and revealed this building. It originally was a walled compound with only one entrance and a square of temples to the sun, moon, thunder, rainbows and I can’t remember the other three. I have a picture of the smallest stone, no bigger than a fingernail. The reason why the walls are so strong is that they are built wider at the base than at the top and large stones are cut so that they go around the corners. The buildings were almost never over one story and the roofs were thatched that had to be replaced annually. The Inca always used local stone so sometimes it is basalt and sometimes it is limestone. Still very impressive when you see the size of some of these stones.
Next, on the bus and up the hill above Cusco to Susqueyama (or Sexy Woman as mangled by the English Language). It is a huge fort and look out and was very impressive. It forms the head of the Puma that Cusco was built around. Other landmarks down in Cusco form the spine, tail and legs of the giant cat. We were beginning to feel the altitude and walked slowly. There were lots of people at the bus to sell us things, dressed in local clothing, with spinning demonstrations and llamas on display for photos. Most of the areas where tourists go, you can take pictures, but the people expect a tip for the photo.
Next, up the hill a little more to ???????? which was mainly a site for prayer and sacrifice. At this point, Jean was suffering for both altitude and the Peruvian Panic, so Guiermo, gave her alcohol to rub on her hands and inhale and to rub on her throat. Helpful but not entirely, as she finally ended up on a flat rock with Jim, a Dr. from Atlanta, holding her feet up and me taking her pulse. Back in the bus for two additional stops before we went back into Cusco.
+++++, the red fort was a small Inca site with reddish stones and more local people for photos. Our final stop was ????? which was a 15-minute hike up the hill to a site that was a retreat for the Inca gentry. It had been threatening rain the whole time, but as we got to the bottom of the hill, we had a lovely break in the clouds and the sun on the mountains.
We got Jean back to our room and set her up with an extra pillow, remote for the TV, space heater and 10 minutes of oxygen out of a tank. She was set for the evening so I ventured out, with a map of Cusco and a business card from the hotel, to find Barb at her hotel and Bob who came up on a later flight. Some of the best advice the guidebooks give was to always travel with a business card from your hotel so that you can show it to a taxi and they can get you home.
Barb had just finished 4 days of hiking the Inca trail ending at Machu Picchu. She said she had never been so tired in her entire life. She had four days of hiking broken up into 8 hours, 8 hours, 5 hours and then 3.5 hours. Tourists were allowed to carry no more than 15 pounds and the guides and barrers carried the rest. She said the tourists struggled over the terrain, even the 23 year olds from Denmark, but that the barrers ran up the hills with tents, luggage and food. She said the worse part was the pit toilets, not because of the smell, but because your legs were so tired at the end of the day that as you go to squat, they would shake. It sounded like she enjoyed it but not sure if she would do it again.
Sunday, Jean and I were going on a bus tour of the sacred valley. It would cover many Inca sites and towns including the famous market at Pisac. My seatmate was Tina from Denmark who will be completing her tour around the world in April with Easter Island, and Jean sat next to a man from Germany who was taking 6 months away from work to travel.
We stopped at one market and then our bus descended into the valley that was very green and full of crops. It is in sharp contrast to the area around Lima. While the people are still poor, they are at least able to raise food for themselves and to sell. The dogs look a lot healthier here and most wear collars and even play with each other and chase balls.
In Pisac at the market we had two choices. Our stop would only be for 30 minutes and then we would be on the bus up on another site. If we chose to stay in the market, then the bus would return at 12:30. Jean indicated that she would be back on the bus, but was not to be seen at the first deadline. We went up the mountain without her and one other person to the Pisac ruins.
The Pisac Ruins involved quite a hike on a narrow ledge up to a summit. Half way up I decided to rest, save my strength for MPicchu the next day and then returned to the bus. There was one portion of the trail that I had to navigate and I called it the Devils Staircase. It was steep, uneven steps that clung to the side of the hill. In addition, there were lots of tourists so someone had to be on the outside. I took my time and kept letting pods of tourists go past me. As you will see from most of the photos I took in this area, the standard piece of clothing for tourists is a lovely, brightly colored plastic poncho. I have a shot of the Devils Staircase with a herd of colorful plastic coated tourists descending the stairs. They either look like garden gnomes or hobbits. My poncho is deep purple.
At 12:30, the bus was not ready to return to Pisac and I hoped Jean would be okay with the wait. She had become aware that time was a fluid thing. Once we got back to Pisac, there was no sign of Jean. The guide and I did a quick look through the market and still no Jean. He said she probably got a ride to our next stop, Calca for lunch. I did not feel that had happened as she had left her purse on the bus that had most of her money, her documents and her ticket showing what was next. I went on the bus to Calca, but still no Jean. I borrowed money from some Australians for a phone call to our hotel in Cusco and still no Jean. I told them to tell her if she calls that I am in Pisac looking for her.
The guide helps me find a local bus back to Pisac. No Jean. I speak to a shopkeeper I bought from and told her my story. She agrees to keep an eye out for her. At the head of the market is a police car, so I look through the market for men in uniform. I find them and tell them about Jean and show them her passport. I explain that she has no money, may be sick, speaks no Spanish and is lost. They are regional police and they very kindly take me to the local police station that is right where the bus left me off from Calca. When I begin my story again, one of the policemen says, yes, he has seen her and they had put her on a bus back to Cusco one hour ago. (She probably got on the bus that I got off). So, I get on to another local bus for an hours ride back to Cusco. Luckily, a very nice man gave me his seat, as the road was incredibly hilly and uneven.
I arrived back in Cusco at the regional bus terminal (dirt lot) and the bus driver helped me find a taxi back to the hotel. I arrive and Jean was in the room. Luckily, she had some money in her pocket and the business card from the hotel so she got back without mishap. She felt so bad that I had missed the rest of the trip, but I was just glad she was safe. I learned lots about myself this day and will carry it with me for the rest of my trip.
Monday, Jan 23
Up at the crack of dawn to catch the train to Aqua Calientes, the stopping point for Machu Picchu. It will take us four hours in the train but it is 30 minutes before we have even left Cusco proper. In order for the train to gain altitude, it has to go through a series of about 5 switchbacks. As we are going back and forth during the switchbacks, I notice on the top of the roofs are little shrines that usually include a cross, some flowers and two figures of bulls. Hmmmmm? Haven’t found anyone to ask about this yet.
We find that our tickets are mixed up in that the one with my name says I am returning tonight to Cusco and Jean’s says she is staying two days in ACalientes. Our guide says that I will have to be Jean for the train ride but it should be okay. During out ride ACalientes, I strike up a conversation with Jamie and Jason, students from Adelaide Australia and I hope to see them when I am in Oz in July.
When you get to ACalientes, you have to leave your bags with porters from the hotel and then get on the bus for MPicchu because the guide only has us for two hours and many of the group is only day-trippers. My hostel was called Machu Picchu and it was included on the sign with two other Hostels. Before you boarded the bus, we had to pass through yet another market and then cross the raging river with a footbridge.
The scenery was wonderful and we do many switchbacks to get up to the entrance. At the entrance, we are split into another group with Guide Darwin who speaks English and off we go. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL! Machu Picchu does not disappoint.
We climbed all over the site in two hours and at times it is hot but by the end we are soaked. (I didn’t have my poncho yet, but I will before tomorrow). Jean and I had lunch and then it is time for her to go back down the mountain to catch the train back to Cusco. A long day for her, but at least she got to see it.
It continued to pour during lunch and I told myself that I would give it one more hour and if it was still pouring, I would go back down and return tomorrow. In 15 minutes it has stopped so I went back in. I ended the day totally soaked, but I got to walk to highest point in the main site where the famous pictures are taken. It is worth the wet, beside, I needed to wash the sweater I had on anyway.
One of the highlights of the day, which Barb had warned us about, was a young entrepreneur I call Mr. ADIOS GOOD BYE. This young man, 8-12 years of age, dressed in local garments, met the returning busses at every switchback saying a long plaintive wail ADIOS GOOOOOOODDDDDDDD BYYYYYYYYE. As you crossed the river, he ran ahead of the bus. On the other side the bus stopped and let him board. He cried his signature chant and then proceeded down the aisle collecting contributions. I had spied him at one of the first switchbacks where he had 6-8 apprentices with him. I wonder if he gets a kick back for the buses that he does not get to ride?
I found an Internet café that night and checked in with the mail and went to bed very happy in a room that over looked the roaring river. Even with the doors and windows closed, because it was cold, it sounded like I had an air conditioner on high fan all night. HEAVEN!
Tuesday, Jan 24
With my lovely purple poncho at the ready, I board the bus to MPicchu for day two. I had intended to get up very early and get up to MPicchu on the first bus, but did not make it. I was finally there at about 8:30 and found Bob, who had been on the first bus. It was very overcast, but I knew it would burn off around 10:30 and was prepared to wait.
It was a lovely morning with drizzle on and off and the purple poncho was a big help. I found a place to sit very high and watched for over an hour and the clouds came and went and the mountains appeared and then disappeared behind them. There were also llama races going on during the morning. It appeared that one lucky female llama had 5 suitors and you could hear them calling and clattering over the paved walks. During one time of overcast, a fearsome battle was waged and then the clouds parted, she was down one suitor. I don’t think there was a death involved, but the looser decided to make himself scarce. There were only 1/3 the number of tourists as yesterday, so on my high perch, there were several times when I heard no one but the llamas of course.
When the sun finally broke, it was just when the main set of tourists who come up for the day arrived. As I knew that they would be busy in the lower section, I chose to go higher and find the Inca Bridge, which was a 20-minute hike from the top. Again, not many people on the trail with me and I let them pass me as I took my time and stopped for photos. I saw many lovely flowers and even wild strawberries just ready to be picked, humming birds, mini-orchids and the bridge. On the way back, a group ahead of me found a large centipede having a munch. He was very handsome in his black coat and lots of red legs. Photo taken, I moved on.
I ambled around all the places I had not visited yesterday, retook photos that now were devoid of tourists and end up leaving the park around 4pm. I spoke to a lovely couple from Ouray and Ridgeway Colorado who loved it as much as I did. You may remember, I kept running into Coloradoans in France. I wonder if they were be everywhere I travel this year?
I met Bob for dinner to help celebrate his birthday. We found a great restaurant that was Peruvian/French and the food was wonderful. Papaya and avocado salad to die for!
Wednesday, Jan 25
This morning was filled with picking up my laundry and doing computer work to try and keep my blog chugging along. Then as soon as I find a wifi, I can download it. The train back was uneventful and I had the seat for two to myself that was nice. We were treated to a fashion show in our coach with two of the ladies modeling lovely alpaca items and two of the men dressed in native costumes.
Back to the hotel Villandre and bed.
Thursday, Jan 26
On this day in Cusco, I tried to see as many of the sites included in my tourist ticket. The Inca Museum was the best I have seen and had many displays in English as well as Spanish. It is incredibly detailed and a must see when in Cusco. I happened to see Tina for the Pisac trip and filled her in that Jean was fine and back in the US. She said that the rest of the tour was not that good, so I did not miss much. For the same price, I entered the church next to the cathedral and it was a huge disappointment. I did get a view of the square I couldn’t achieve anywhere else, but otherwise, it was a miss in my book.
My guidebook has steered me to two different eateries, one called Café Padre’s whose proceeds go to a home for teenage girls. The food was great and I came upon Kim, a Kiwi who has lived in England for years and teaches school. She is on sabbatical and traveling around the world and will work with the street kids in Cusco. She was lovely to talk to as we shared lunch. The other place was just down the street and boasted a lovely book exchange, so I traded two in and took two. What a great system. I plan to keep track of the books I read from the exchanges for the year. It should be an eclectic bunch.
Friday, Jan 27
Morning of running around saying goodbye to Cusco and then the plane from Cusco to Arequipa, the colonial city. Only 9000 feet so no need for the pills anymore. Road to my hotel with Alan and Sandy from Canada. He is doing a PhD in Anthropology, but not the digging kind. My hotel is nice, has Internet and is close to the square. I walked around it in the afternoon and sat in the balcony for dinner with a local dish of hot red pepper filled with meat and cheese. Yummy. Located what I think will be my first wife opportunity which is exciting.
Saturday, Jan 28,
I take it easy as I have been running for about 16 days without much of a break. I decide to buy sandals as mine are in my luggage in Miraflores and I don’t want to wear my boots every day for the next week. Within a day, they have given me blisters so they will not be continuing with me for long.
Sunday, Jan 29
Still taking it easy, decided not to try and cram in a one-day trip to see Colca Canyon and the condors and vicunas. That will have to happen on my next trip, as there will be one, as I did not get to see the Amazon on this one. I did go to the Monastery of St. Catalina, which is really a convent. It is amazing and all the kitchens in each of the little nocks fascinate me. Went to the wifi site and never achieved connection, so I wrote blog entries and drank coffee.
I am finding it a little lonely and I don’t feel adventurous right now. I realized that I am looking forward to the community at the dance camp and being on more a schedule. I must remember these times when I am so scheduled that I wish for flexibility. Just one of the phases I will find during this trip. I think another thing that is eating at me is my limited Spanish and having to go ahead by myself. All within my power to change for the better.
Mon, Jan 30
I leave Arequipa at 8:55 pm and find I have a layover in the Lima airport until 5pm when I leave for Chichlayo. So, books in hand, lunch to be had and time with computer in the Internet center at the terminal. Not a bad day and I got all my expenses transcribed into my new notebook so I can keep track of my budget. (Way over it at this point, which I expected. The first three months will end up being the most expensive as the placements are far apart and lots of travel in between to get to them.)
Tuesday, Jan 31
Chiclayo and one of the tours I was most looking forward to, the Senor of Sipan. This is the archeological site of a Moche ruler (dynasty before the Incas) and it was fascinating. We had an excellent guide and it was me, a couple from Germany, a couple from Switzerland, two ladies from Peru and Costa Rica and Arturo, the guide. We ended up as Sican (another Moche site) Tucume (again Moche with some Chimu culture) and finally Sipan. Fascinating and the Sipan museum is wonderful. You need guide as none of it is in English. Amazing to see the amount of detail work the Peruvians were doing between 800-1400 AD with copper, silver and gold. The pottery is also amazing and the rituals and social structure. Most of these sites looked like sand mounds, until you started to dig and found that they were actually pyramid, like the Maya or Aztecs made of adobe bricks. Most of the sites been disturbed by Huachayeros (Huacha = holy site, robbers) Some of the destruction had been done over 400 years ago, but some of it was quite new and in fact, lead the archeologists to really find the SIPAN tomb.
I didn’t realize that until I got to Peru, the Inca was simply the last culture and the one found by the Spanish. There had been 12-15 distinct cultures before the Inca and most with incredibly buildings and aqueducts to bring water to the dessert. The best thing about them is that when they overtook a culture, they didn’t automatically destroy all their buildings. The rule might be captured and brought to the conquerors city but so were artisan and crafts people. They would take the best of before and incorporate it. HUMMMMM?
Wed, Feb 1
Today I am in for an adventure, I am taking the bus between Chiclayo and Trujillo, three hours south along the coast.
The bus was large and the seats were comfortable and a tv in front showing a movie in Spanish. I had an aisle seat, luckily, because the young woman in front of me had her seat totally reclined. Not sure why hers needed to be reclined because she spent most of trip lounged against her patient and very long-suffering boyfriend. I think the movie was Blackhawk Down, but couldn’t be sure.
I spent half my time looking out the window as the dessert and dust. It is so hard to believe the disparate climates and terrain of this land. Also amazing is how successful the early culture was to capture the available water and use it efficiently to grow crops. Over 200 kinds of potatoes, and over 1000 kids of corn. Today the same region grows cotton, sugar cane, and rice. In Peru, the yellow corn that we eat all the time is only fed to chickens. One of their main corns is a pale yellow, has kernels as large as a man’s thumbnail and makes popcorn the size of marshmallows. Plus the purple corn, I have mentioned before is an amazing drink, Chicha!
Thurs, Feb 2
Today, was my visit to the Chumi cultures archeological site of Chan Chan. The tour was split into two halves, the am to the Huaca de la Luna and de la Sol in a small bus. These pyramids are south of the city and had an amazing freezes in them, some with the original painting on them.
Very hot in the sun, and I burned on my neck even with 30 sun block on. We were back in Trujillo for a lunch on our own and then back into a larger and much nicer bus for the Chan Chan portion.
Chan Chan is a huge complex with 9 major palaces, each with three main sections. We saw the Tschudi Palace, one of the smallest. This complex had massive looting so most of the artifacts are gone. That does not stop it from being an amazing complex of gigantic proportions. The freezes are amazing and they have done a wonderful job of restoring most of the walls to give us a feel for the scale. One of the best things about this afternoon is that it was overcast and cool, which made it very pleasant. In the bright sun, Chan Chan would be a furnace. The universe always provides, all I have to do it ask.
Fri, Feb 3
I flew back to Lima today and I was looking forward to returning to an area where I felt comfortable and under control. I had a lot of small things to accomplish like hotels and deposits to pay, phone calls to make, laundry to do and finding Fedex to send stuff back to the US. I am planning to do that at the end of the every country to send back paperwork and books I won’t need for the rest of the trip and any souvenirs from the area. I am finding that my luggage weight more than when I left. It think it is the humidity, but it could also be I am getting a little tired and am not anxious to lug everything around.
I am contemplating mailing the laptop home. If I do not locate and become comfortable with WIFI, the machine may become a heavy luxury that adds weight to my bags as well as a source of concern for its security. The jury is still out, but we are contemplating it. On one hand, the computer is a great source of entertainment as I can type and process things as they happen. If I do send it home, I will need to buy more journals and do a better job of writing every day while the information is recent and I can remember all the names. You may have noticed that there are certain areas with ?? for names that I cannot remember, as I have already sent my Peru book back home.
This ends the excursion portion of Peru because tomorrow, I am off to the dance camp.