A few Peru photos

25 10 2007

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Cuzco, Peru.. Plaza de Armas (Main Square)

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Jim & Cathy at Machu Picchu… Incan Ruins

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Jo Ann at Macchu Picchu

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On our way home from Peru, we went to Ecuador

25 10 2007

It started in Puno, Peru, after we returned from our day on the lake. In an all-too-familiar theme, we learned that our flight from Juliaca to Lima (Juliaca is 45 minutes from Puno), was probably not leaving at 2:40-ish, but two hours later. Hmm. Good to know. So the next morning, we woke up, packed our bags, stored them in the hostel’s luggage room, and confirmed our flight to Lima.

We walked around the “plaza de armas” of Puno, took photos of people in the square, then of the cathedral. This cathedral facade was one of my favorites. The intricate details, the perfect sky in the background, the three Peruvian women sitting on the cathedral step sewing and trying to sell their goods. The facade had so many details that I’d love to know about. One was a large cat on both sides of the cathedral door. So I asked the three women if that was supposed to be a puma. (Pumas hold significance for Peruvians, and especially in Puno…and unfortunately I have forgotten what it is right now.) They weren’t sure, then decided that yes, it must be a puma.

The inside of the cathedral was also interesting, though I preferred the facade, so I went back outside, and took several photos. I wanted a good view of the sky and the cathedral facade, so laid down on the ground to take my photo. I sat up and saw the three ladies were laughing at me, smiling, curious about what I was doing. So I showed them the photos I had taken and they were impressed. “Ooh..” … “Aah…”… “some souvenirs to take home as remembrances” they said. I wish I had taken their photo and address, to send them some photos.

We eventually found the shuttle office, reserved three spots, and continued wandering around Puno until it was time to get ready. In a strange South American moment, the shuttle arrived 15 minutes early! Our new friend Tommy, whom we met on the shuttle, informed us that he had been picked up 45 minutes before that, and was being chauffered around Puno, not sure what was going on. This continued until the shuttle was full… and we made our way to Juliaca.

Our flight from Juliaca to Lima (via Arequipa) was fairly uneventful, except the gorgeous scenery outside the window, and the incredibly rude flight attendants.. but once in Lima, we couldn’t find Continental Airlines. Oh, someone told us, they open at 7:30. It was now around 6:45 or so, I think. We waited around, with Tommy, whose Air Canada line was not supposed to open until 9-ish. Finally, there was some life at the booth where we were told Continental would open. We waited in line until a representative informed us that our Lima–Houston flight would be two hours late. Oh joy. That meant we’d be missing our Houston–Chicago connection. Which meant less probability of Jim and Cathy making our church meeting on Tuesday night in Madison! But our Continental Agent, Franz, booked our new connections, so we felt ok that at least we had a new flight.

After we checked our bags, we went to the food court, where Jim had his Big Mac.. and I ate a McNifica. Jim likes to try McDonald’s in different countries, and I was happy just to have some food. I went to the internet center to let Madison know that we might not make our meeting…Jim and Jo Ann went through security and waited for me. And we waited, and waited and waited… Finally, we boarded our plane, and I was asleep even before we left the gate, I think. Our flight left around 1:20 am, Tuesday morning.

A while later, around 2 am, I woke up to the word “heart attack”. What?! A flight attendant was explaining to Jo Ann that someone in first class was having a heart attack, and we would be landing in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a medical emergency. The pilot announced the emergency landing, but only said that there was a medical condition… and later we found out that the first class passenger was having panic attacks and irregular heartbeats, enough to lead to a heart attack. But they had to remove her by force off the plane in Ecuador, because they couldn’t risk that possibility, even though she wanted to get home.

We landed in Ecuador around 2:15 ish… and left Ecuador around 3:30-ish.. Because we were full of fuel, we had to be maintenance-checked to ensure that nothing was damaged in the landing, then refuel a bit more for the take-off…

We finally made it to Houston, having now missed our second Houston-Chicago connection. But amazingly, in Houston, Continental had a counter all set up by baggage, with all our newly-arranged-connecting flights already on boarding passes for us. Thank you, Continental!

It was a strange, surreal night… fortunately the passenger with the medical conditions was ok, we found out, and so we are able to laugh about the incident. We missed our Madison meeting… Jo Ann, who had been quite sick on the last day and a half in Peru, was feeling slightly better, while I was feeling pretty sick… on the drive home from Chicago to Madison I slept in the back seat the whole way, waking only when we arrived home.

It’s not everyday that we get to go to Peru. It’s not everyday that we stop in Ecuador on our way home from a trip. It’s not everyday that we have such crazy stories to tell. But now it is everyday that I think about Peru, about our trip, about the people we met, and wish.. that I could do it all over again. Or, at least most of it. Perhaps not all.





Lake Titicaca & the islands

23 10 2007

Lake Titicaca, pronounced by some as “Lake Titijaja” (kind of) was honestly not the spot I was most looking forward to. I had read, heard, and thought, that the lake and its islands were giant tourist traps. A little tacky, I had read, a little too much. I expected to like the boat ride, because I almost always like boat rides. But I was surprised to have liked the lake, and especially the Uros Islands.

We embarked on a crowded boat (seating around 30-40 people?), sat at the front, with a view of the captain, and our new friend Sandra, from Australia. We were allowed to go to the top of the boat as well, but it was too chilly at least on the outgoing part of the trip. After about 45 minutes of slow boat travel, we were nearing the reed islands–the Uros, and other reed islands. These islands are literally made from the tortora reeds surrounding the area. Thus, the slow-going boat ride at the beginning of the trip. The reeds provide the island, the building supplies for homes, the souvenirs, and are even edible. Not that tasty, but not bad taste either, really. The islands were originally created so the Uros people could escape Inkan invaders coming into the area. Clever. As the reeds disintegrate, they add more reeds to the top of the islands.

As we sat on a reed “bench”, listening to the history of the islands, I snapped photos around, in front of, and behind me. There was some funny bird making all kinds of squawking noise from the door of its reed bird-house. Other tourists and island natives climbed the reed towers. Some got on the reed boats, others walked around, and several of the Uros people set up their “tiendas”, where they sat and waited for the tourists to be done listening to the talk, so we could buy.

One lady was winking at me, while sitting at her spot, embroidering. I smiled at her, and waved. She was smart. Pretty soon she came and sat next to Jo Ann, and non-verbally engaged both Jo Ann and me (I was sitting to Jo Ann’s left) in her work. Later we found out her name is Celia. When we were free to explore, Jim went to climb up one of the reed towers, while Jo Ann and I went to look at Celia’s handiwork. We talked with her, asking her about her work, and finally each of us bought a pillowcase. I had a hard time choosing between an embroidered picture of a lady cooking fish, or an embroidered picture of the interesting birds and the reeds. I asked her if the lady in the first one was her, and she said yes. Then I asked her which pillowcase she liked better, the one of her cooking, or the one of the bird and reeds. She said the first one, so that’s the one I bought.

Jo Ann and I climbed the reed tower, for a view of the island. Jim and New Zealand were trying to find guinea pigs. Then we also got our turn on a reed boat, and Jim and I got to help row. It was a tourist trap… even the boat ride. Three kids accompanied us on the boat, with their father. Two of them rowed until we helped them, then they let the tourists do most of it. But then the older kid broke out into song, singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Cute. Several of us began singing with them. Then the kids sang in their native language, and afterwards, asked for money for the singing. Yes, a tourist trap. And yet, somehow I wasn’t highly offended. We laughed about it. But perhaps I wasn’t so offended because in the short time that I had been on that island, I wanted to know more.. more of the people, more about Celia, I wanted to watch her work, I wanted to hear stories and find out how it is to live on that reed island for years. And I wouldn’t mind learning how to make one of those reed boats either.

After the reed islands, we got back on our boat and motored out to Taquile Island, about two or more hours from Puno. Taquile has beauty, no doubt. Architecture, culture, animals, a hike up the hill to the top of the island, a weaving cultural center, and even a restaurant or two. Good food. On the way back down the island to the boat, we walked down 500 + steps to the harbor. Along the way, along the whole island, we were faced with more vendors asking us to buy little things. And more smiles. And more sheep, cows, but no llamas. (Sadly. Although two little boys did tell me that there are llamas on the island.) Now that I’m writing about Taquile, I am realizing how much I did like Taquile as well, though Uros was clearly my favorite.

Again, beyond seeing new sites, and having new experiences in a different country, one of the joys of that day was getting to know other travelers. Sandra, New Zealand couples, the couple who lives in Nicaragua, the Californians, the captain of our boat, Sandra’s Peruvian guide…

Have I mentioned that I love traveling?





Another Adventure

15 10 2007

On Saturday we took the Inka Express bus from Cuzco to Puno (where Lake Titicaca, the highest navegable lake in the world, is). We had a fright, though, in the morning. We left our “home” in Cuzco, Hostel Belvedere, and took a taxi to the Inka Express bus station. Our driver helped us unload bags, then pointed to two smaller buses than appeared on the Inka Express website. “Here is your bus to Puno” he said, after walking arond the corner to see the bus. “Are you sure?” I asked… “It doesn´t look like anybody´s here, yet they told us to be here an hour early.” We paid our driver, dragged our bags a few steps, and immediately saw that the bus said “Machu Picchu Tours” on it. Oops. Been there, done that. I ran to the taxi driver who was still there…”This is a bus to Machu Picchu, not Puno” I said. “Oh..”  “So what do we do?” I asked him. Another man standing nearby told us that the Inka Express was farther down the street, just a ways, and gave us the address. We could walk there. So our driver took off, and we walked down the street to the address.

Nobody there. Doors locked, with a padlock. I looked in the window, and it looked completely empty.  A man standing there said to me, “Nobody´s there.” “What do you mean?” I asked.. ” where are they?”   “I don´t know. They´ve moved to another site.”  What!? now what?

Just then a man wearing a fleece jacket that said “Peru Rail” (the train we took back and forth to Machu Picchu” walked by and told us where they had moved to. He gave me directions, which I didn´t completely follow, because it was turn here, walk there, look for that, and this, and it was very direct, really, and we could do it in 15 minutes. I asked him about a taxi, and a teeny weeny taxi came by. He hailed it, but said, looking at our bags, “This is too small for you. You need a bigger taxi.” But the driver said he could fit us in, us and our bags. So one bag was set on top (not fastened), and we squeezed in, and it´s a good thing we didn´t walk. It would have taken us at least 30 minutes. And it was definately not direct, or easy, to find.

But we made it! We were early, and we made it. Thank God for the guy pointing us down the street, for the guy who told us that Inka Express had moved, for the Peru Rail guy, and the taxi driver.

Despite that harrowing start to our day, the bus ride was quite good. The bus itself was quite nice, the guide fairly good, though a bit repetitive and too talkative. We had many stops in small villages along the way, passed llama and alpaca herds… tons of them.. So cool. I think I already wrote that. And I hugged and alpaca. Even better.

Each town we stopped in had a “Plaza de Armas” or Central Square, with a church, mini-park, benches, vendors at tiendas (selling me alpaca wool socks so I could stay warm on the bus.) The churches were fascinating. We couldn´t take photos inside, but such beauty, and strange similiarities in ceiling painting, similiar to rosemaling (sp?) from Sweden. One church we visited is called the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes”.

We have met so many travelers along the way, including two fun couples from New Zealand. At one of the stops, we got off the bus, and one of the NZ men said, “Another plaza… another church….” Very funny, and very true. But good, for us ordained people.

Our hostel in Puno is a slightly not-so-great. Though I appreciate their concern for the environment in having a solar system schedule of hot water, we only each had one shower there during our two night stay, and Jo Ann had an ice cold shower, Jim had lukewarm, and I had a lukewarm turning ice cold shower. But the family that owns this hostel is very nice. The breakfasts are fantastic, the father of the family  is adorable and sweet, the blankets were warm, and two nights there did really do us any harm. I´m just not the “roughing it” type anymore.

Another hostel, another cold shower, another plaza, another church, another ride to another new city, another adventure, another day of protection from worse things happening…. and another day of beautiful people, scenery, llamas and alpacas.





Wayna Picchu & More Llamas

13 10 2007

First, apologies to those who cannot view the photos I posted the other day.. some could view them in normal size, some couldn^t. At home I know how to diminish photo size, but not on these computers and in Spanish. Also, the apostrophe on this computer does not work… oh well.

I^m exhausted, so this is hopefully going to make sense. Here goes.

Machu Picchu-an incredible view of Incan intelligence at work, planning, orchestrating, changing when times necessitated (or as one of the theories goes, leaving when the final time necessitated… though it^s unknown where..or if that theory is even correct). Machu Picchu-a place to meet tons of interesting international travelers.

Yesterday we woke up early and got in the Machu Picchu line at 5:20 or so. First bus left at 5:30. We were on bus 2…. leaving a few minutes afterwards. Gates opened at 6, but Wayna Picchu (that mountain I forgot how to spell) gate didn^t open until 7, so we were in line for an hour. Sat on rocks, talked to others, Cathy took more llama photos (I^ll show them all to you, Will K.), gate opened, and we were climbers 16, 17 and 18 into Wayna Picchu. Only 400 allowed in a day. Hike takes about an hour, it^s said. An hour and 8 minutes for us. Which included lots of stops, sometimes to sit and catch breath (high altitude), sometimes to give burning legs a rest, sometimes to let others pass us).

Incans were not short. We found out later that the last king of the Incans, Pachacutec, is believed to be 7 feet tall… a-ha. That^s why my legs still burn today. All the stairs going up Wayna Picchu (and it^s mostly stairs) are uneven, but also high…higher than the average stair. Especially for the vertically-challenged. Oof. Tiring.

The top? so worth all that pain. Beautiful views of Machu Picchu, great conversations with other travelers. Great to hang out and eat our Caribou Coffee Granola Bars, dried fruit mix, cheez-its, and drink water.

Apparently, Wayna Picchu was built (not the mountain, but the stairways all the way up and buildings on top) in case of attack from intruders. The important Incans could retreat to Wayna Picchu, and perhaps even destroy the trail on the way up. It was a good retreat place. Not many intruders would make it up, with no trail. For one thing, their legs would burn too much.

The way down from WP was pretty harsh, but done in 35 minutes. Whew. From there we visited the Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu, photographed and pet more llamas (are you sensing a theme here?), and left the park.

Back in Aguas Calientes we ate lunch, saw Peruvian friends whom we had met in our Cuzco hotel on the street, wandered through the market, drank coffee and Coca Tea, and picked up our bags for our train ride back to Cuzco, back to our “home”, Hotel Belvidere in the San Blas neighborhood, “our” neighborhood.

This morning in a strange moment of the trip, I woke up at 4:15, when our alarms were set for 5:15…. not sure why. I thought my alarm went off. So I got up and showered, and realized that I was up an hour early. UGH! When I returned to the room I looked at my watch and sure enough, I was up early.  So I told Jim and Jo Ann to go back to sleep…I put a towel in my hair, and slept until Jim^s alarm went off at 5:15!

Today we took the Inka Express Bus to Puno…. tomorrow we^re taking a boat on Lake Titicaca… tonight I^m exhausted..and going to bed soon. Very soon.

Hope you^re all well, and next time I blog, I^ll fill in about today^s bus ride. Suffice it to say, lots of llamas and alpacas…. life is good, sometimes!





Machu Picchu

11 10 2007

We´re in Aguas Calientes, the ¨Machu Picchu Town¨as it is also known. A small town where tourists probably wouldn´t come, except for their visit to Machu Picchu. In fact, it has become more of a town because of MP. I actually like it. But then again, I also like Panajachel, Guatemala, a touristy town. I like seeing the hippies, the Guatemalans, or in this case Peruvians, selling their work… I like seeing what´s being built (apparently a lot now that Machu Picchu is one of the new 7 wonders of the world). It´s quite the scene. Tonight we ate a typical Peruvian cuisine, including appetizer/soup, entree/and juice/tea, coca tea. For appetizer I ate Stuffed Avocado… incredible. Stuffed with tomatoes, cut green beans, cheese, mayonnaise, and some good-but-unidentifiable other stuff. Then for entree I had ¨Lomo Saltado¨: beef strips, bell pepper strips, onions, a good sauce.. hmm.. Very good. Jo Ann ate a potato dish and a fileted (sp?) breaded chicken. Jim had Quinua Soup and, get ready to gasp, Grilled Alpaca. He said it was good. But I´m sure you didn´t want to read about our food intake today.

So, Machu Picchu… and the train ride to Machu Picchu… oh, wow. The train did some weird stuff starting out, such as the switchback… three times, the train went forward a ways, then backwards. The first time it happened I honestly thought we were going back to pick someone else up, or to fix something wrong. Turns out that no, it´s just easier on shorter trains to do the switchback instead of turning corners quickly. The terrain/vegetation was strange.. we went through farmland, desert, and what appeared to be jungle yet with Dr. Seuss-like evergreens, orchids, tropical plants, then ferns, impatiens, geraniums… it just did not make sense, but was very pretty.

Once we got into our hotel (Wiracocha, and our roon number is ¨9¨, but our wooden key has ¨6¨on it. As long as they keep it straight), we bought our bus tickets for MP. The park, Machu Picchu is fabulous and phenomenal, and there were far too many tourists for my comfort level.. Plus that meant that most of our photos have tourists in them. Tourists besides us, I mean. Oh well. Anyhow, it was gorgeous, immense, incredible, awe-inspiring, crazy, intriguing, exhausting (the hiking up and down stairways). The highlight for me? Petting llamas. No, they did not really want to be pet. One, in escaping my pets, ran and almost ran into another tourist, but got scared, and jumped-spread eagle-over a rock. Unfortunately none of us got that on camera. But it really happened. Anyhow, the llamas were fantastic, even though they didn´t really want to be around people. We got lots of photos, which I can´t upload now because these computers are quite slow.

And on that note, I must go now. Computers are slow. We´re tired, and leaving on the first bus tomorrow (5:30 am) to return to MP… to climb a peak. And I can´t remember how to spell it now. Later. Then tomorrow evening we return to Cuzco on the train, and head to Puno (Lake Titicaca) the following morning… also quite early.

So, adios for now.





A few pictures

10 10 2007

 We have to get up quite early tomorrow to catch our train to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu. But it´s been a good day of exploring Cuzco, walking a lot, eating a lot, talking to people, taking photos, taking a nap, drinking lots of water, some really good coffee in a cafe… good day.

 Here are a few pictures. I think they will appear huge at first, then wait and they should diminish in size. I think… I hope..

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