Saturday, April 19, 2008

Machu Picchu Pictures

This is actually the view of Wayna Picchu from Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu means "old mountain", and Wayna Picchu means "young mountain." There is a trail from Machu Picchu that takes you up to the ruins close to the top of Wayna Picchu. They are supposed to be the guard post area. This day was very socked in, rainy and it looked like that trail had been closed to tourists.
Here is our entrance into the site. As you can see, it was very wet! But, not a Houston type of downpour. More like a soft, gentle rain. At intervals of about 20 minutes it would stop. The terrain is extremely steep. This section is the agricultural terraces, with the buildings ahead of us.
This is looking down to the area our guide said the Inca resided when visiting Machu Picchu. We learned rather quick to take anything he said with a huge chunk of salt. Often, during any of our tours, it was necessary to discern that sometimes what was given as fact was opinion, and what was given as the thought of the Inca was simply the thought of the guide. That said, do your own research first, and unless you think you can't do it on your own, do!
If you can ever go to Machu Picchu, do! But do yourself a huge favor and join the South American Adventurers, first. Wish we had, to have avoided some of the less than pleasant parts of our visit. We do know what to do the next time, and definitely plan to return to explore this area again!

Central Square in Cusco

Here we are only slightly cold, taking a short walk around Cusco. Our hotel was within 1 block of this central square, where the Cathedral is located. On our way back from this walk Peter felt the effects of altitude. Coupled with the fact that we had not eaten, and he had not kept up his water intake we had a few scary moments. Later when we were on tour through the Cathedral, he had to have an oxygen mask. Going from our home in Lima, elevation about 400' to Cusco, over 12,000' definitely slowed all of us down.
The greeting at our hotel began with an invitation to have some coca tea. This, we were assured, was not addictive, yet we declined. The next morning we had some, but honestly, didn't notice that it helped. As for addictive, it might not be physically addictive, but it did appear to create a habit, much as my own love hate relationship with my morning coffee.

Flight from Lima to Cusco

Here are just a series of pictures taken on the plane from Lima to Cusco. We flew AeroCondor, and though the plane was obviously old, and rattled a bit, the flight was pleasant. The only mishap was on landing. A small piece of trim by the overhead luggage compartments jiggled loose and hit me (Yvonne) on the shoulder. It didn't hurt, but sure surprised me! On our return flight, seated on the opposite side of the plane we knew it was the same one because that piece was still missing! That aside, the flight went well, and the airline is one we would definitely use again.

The first picture is after we reached altitude, and you can see the snow caped Andes in the distance. Then as we were actually flying over them, you can see the much closer view of the snow and glaciers. The cloudy shot is what was covering Cusco as we prepared to land. Cusco is over 12,000 ft in elevation. More on that experience in the next post.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Finding Good Eats in Miraflores

A funny thing happened recently to one of the geologist who work with Tom. To simplify things, lets give our friend the name "Mike." He splits his time between northern Peru at the project site and here in Lima.

Mike enjoys a lot of physical activity, and walks to work. He is also single, and like most single folk enjoys the relative ease of eating out. On his daily walk to and from the office, he noticed that one particular restaurant was always packed with patrons, no matter what time of day. Universally a promising sign. The asmosphere was very upscale, and inviting as well.

One night Mike was on his way home, having come from the project only the day before, feeling both hungry and tired and knowing there was no food at the apartment he decided to give this place a try. There were only a few folks eating inside so Mike had no problem getting a seat. The food was served cafeteria style, which suited the his hunger level.

After dishing up his plate, Mike dug in only to realize it was terrible. He tried another item. It, too, was horrible. In fact, Mike told us later that it was absolutely the worst food he had ever eaten. Given he has lived in some remote areas around the world, that is saying a lot!

It turns out that what Mike thought was a restaurant was actually the cafeteria for a little hospital, tucked around the corner from both his apartment and the restaurant. He voluntarily ate hospital food! As you can imagine, the restaurant was always packed because they had a captive audience!

I apologize if this did not come out as funny as when Mike told it. He has a very good way with expressions, and I can only hope you smiled a bit. Everytime I think about his tale, I feel better about our lack of Spanish skills. You see, Mike is fluent in Spanish, and even he was caught by surprise! Bon appetit!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Short Visit to Cusco and Machu Picchu

The next few posts will be about our very short, and quick visit to the Sacred Valley near Cusco, and then our train and bus trip to hike Machu Picchu. We took a lot of pictures, and our hope is that you enjoy sharing this adventure with us.

We left dark early on Tuesday morning, April 8 and arrived at the Cusco airport at about 7:30 am. The travel agency we arranged our visit through had people waiting to greet us, and drive us to our hotel near the tourist center of Cusco.

Even before we set our luggage down in the lobby of the hotel, we were being offered coca tea to help us with altitude adjustment. Cusco is approximately 12000 ft above sea level, and the local population swears by the effectiveness of drinking coca leaf tea.

As with most of our other adventures in living in Lima, the folks in Cusco were no different. If they can produce a piece of paper for you to fill out they will. And then will stand expectantly over your shoulder while you try to get it filled out. Practically the entire time we were on this trip we were told to have travel documents ready, and only once we were actually asked to produce them. At least it made for a series of checks to ensure our documents were not lifted out of a pocket.

Our travels concluded early on Thursday morning with an uneventful flight back to Lima.

Passion Sunday in Lima

Here is a picture of the palms we purchased in Lima for Passion Sunday. These are rather typical, but we saw simpler versions, as well as more elaborate ones. I say purchase because this is another way that the poor make money.

Before we even had our car in park, we had three small kids and their mom clamoring for our attention. These each cost a sole, the same that another fellow was charged for just a frond. There were several groups outside the church selling their palms.

Mass began outside the chapel, with the sprinkling and blessing of the palms. We didn't have musicians that day, so we processed back in silently. Our celebrant was a visiting priest, a lovely older man, who celebrated the Passion Sunday Mass with reverence and a very apparent love of God! It was very joyful, though quiet.

Our First Earthquake

Saturday morning, March 29, three of us were slowly waking up with our first cups of coffee when we first felt, then heard our first earthquake. Tom, Peter and I were sitting at our game table in the front of the house, while Meghan and Mary were still in bed. Tom immediately yelled to get out of the house. The guys ran out the front door, and I ran down the hall the get the girls. Meghan said she literally dragged a sleepy Mary out of bed, and when she came into the hall, we all ran for the front door.

We stood outside on our driveway, well away from any walls, and just waited. The intensity was enough to get our hearts racing, and lasted only about 30 to 40 seconds, but certainly felt much longer. It sounded, and felt like the world's largest jack hammer pounding the street. Early that morning both girls has been woken by a less intense tremor when the bathroom window popped open, and the sliding doors in Meghan's room shook.

Tom and I were totally unaware of the early one, as was Peter. The girls didn't realize they were earthquakes, but now do, and will get us up the next time with their own, "Get of the house, now!"

When we checked later the early morning quake was centered north of Lima, intensity measured at about 4.4. Our 7:30 morning quake was centered south of Lima, close to the August "terra motto" and measured 5.5.

Compared with the August 8.0, Tom said it was a baby one. Still, all in all, it was a "gentle" introduction to the Pacific ring of fire earthquakes. The only casualty was me spilling hot coffee down my front getting to the girls down the hall. I didn't even realize I was still holding onto the cup until after we were able to come back indoors.

Just about 1 1/2 hours later we were at our weekly Bio Feria (organic farmer's market) and everything was normal.

As a funny side note, because of the nighttime heat, and lack of air conditioning, sleeping often involves as few covers as possible. All I can say is I'm sure glad it hadn't happened about 2 hours earlier! Trying to grab a robe, get out the door, and the kids to safety could have raised more than a few eyebrows! ;-)