2017 Peru

Thursday June 29, 2017

June 29
Our first travel date was fairly uneventful. Bus ride into NYC was slowed by an occasional accident, construction or toll gate. We didn't worry became we had left plenty of time to get to the airport. Everyone is showing that they are super travelers by walking quickly through terminals, staying in groups and having a go-with-the-flow attitude as our second flight was delayed by a thunder storm in Atlanta. We have seen many different groups toting the EFtours "O" backpack. There are several groups from various states on our flight including a few from PA, Oregon , as well as Montana. We have yet to see our sister groups from Washington state and Wyoming but I am certain we will meet them soon enough. We landed in Lima around 12:30 local time. We moved through customs very easily, got our wet suitcases, and met Jorge our guide for the week. Jorge is from Cusco and already has proved to be efficient, knowledgeable and fun. We are exhausted as we crawl into bed. Tomorrow a walking tour of Lima.


June 30

We finally had a chance to see what Lima looked like in the morning light. The skies are overcast. We heard from our city guide, Cindy, that this is typical winter weather, where the sun doesn't shine for months. But in the summer (November- March) the weather is beautiful. But I am ahead of my story. 

Last night after my post, I had a chance to do bed check where I heard from everyone that our wet suitcases had leaked. So before going to sleep we had to unpack everything and lay the damp and sometimes very wet clothing around our rooms. The clothes did not dry out much during the day either - due too the overcast dreary humid atmosphere. Obviously Delta left our luggage out in the deluge in Atlanta. At 7:30 AM we went for a quick walk to the neighborhood grocery store (very nice) and bough some snack (aka Peruvian chocolate) so we could break our larger bills. Not everyone was successful because the cashiers did not have full drawers of money yet. Breakfast was delicious with fried hotdogs, scrabbled eggs, fresh fruits and juices and yogurt-milk. We then loaded the bus and got to meet the other students and adults from Oregon and Wyoming. The other groups are super nice and I look forward to having a great trip with them. 

Our first stop was the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera. The Museum is a collection of artifacts from the pre-Inca period civilizations. As it turns out, the Incas were only the last of a long series of people that farmed, fished and raised livestock here in Peru. The museum had an astounding number of pottery, metals, carvings and tapestries that were thousands of years old. The gardens at the museum were equally impressive with flowers and hummingbirds.

From there we boarded the buses and headed to the colonial part of town where we passed through many types of architecture inspired by French, Spanish and Moorish cultures. We also passed archeological digs of massive temple pyramids, statues and town squares. We ventured into the Fransisco Monastery where we saw catacombs with thousand of human remains sorted by femurs and skulls. The monastery courtyards were lovely gardens. We also met our first vendors who Jorge warned us to avoid. He told us there is better shopping in Cuzco. 

From the Monastery we walked through the pedestrian street to the Presidential place square. The street vendors followed us the whole way. We watched the changing of the guard and listened to the military band. Unfortunately while standing in the crowd we had our first pick-pocket event. While devastating, we were thankful that all that was lost were phones. Money and passports were not lost. 

We reloaded the bus and got off at a seafront mall that overlooks the beach. We ate a delicious chicken lunch with lemonade and special sauces for dipping the fries. Afterwards we walked down many flights of stairs to the ocean. We all touched the Pacific and collected beautiful stones that were rounded by the surf. Peru lies in a place were plate tectonics is evident. The ocean plate is undercutting the continental plate creating a deep trench in the ocean and the Andes mountains on the continent and various volcanoes farther inland. Minor earthquakes happen about 200 times per year. 

After our afternoon hike we returned to the hotel and relaxed. Dinner was on our own so each group of students will have their own story to tell. I took a few students up the street to a park that is filled with feral cats. Very cool. We have an early day tomorrow. Look forward to our flight to Cuzco and learning about llamas and alpacas. The students are awesome and making new friends with students from Oregon and Wyoming. I think we are going to have a great week.

July 1

Today we arose early to fly out of Lima to Cuzco, up into the Andes. Our flight left at 10 AM and we were off the plane and onto our bus by noon. We immediately drove up into the mountain to a restaurant that specialized in alpaca meat. While at lunch we were served a red corn beverage, Chicha morada, Peruvian corn and beans, cheese as well as alpaca and ice-cream. We were treated to Peruvian music and art work while eating. 

From the restaurant we drove to the temple ruins of Sacsayhuaman. There we heard about the building and destruction of the the temple. Many of the stones in the temple are now used in the churches down in the city. We had a chance to walk around the whole ruins and see many amazing views. We were at over 11,000 ft, but everyone seems to doing well with the altitude. We learned about the native trees and how they are trying to plant more to help protect a species of finch. On the way out, some student had their picture taken with baby alpaca. So cute!!

We left the ruins and stopped at an alpaca shop were we saw how to tell about the different types of alpaca sweater quality. As Jorge says, "the cure for altitude sickness is shopping". Many students purchased lovely sweaters and scarves. We then took a long 2-hour drive through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to the town of Ollanteytambo. In route we stopped to take pictures at an overlook, saw a wide variety of farm animals, stunning mountain vistas and many many dogs. Our driver was fantastic as we had some treacherous narrow roads to navigate. Tomorrow we ride the train to Machu Picchu. We ate dinner at the hotel after picking up some snacks for our hikes at Machu Picchu. The hotel is like a lodge with various buildings. Can't wait to see what the area looks like in the morning as the sun sets around 6:30 pm. Tonight the students are playing "password" together. From down the hall I can hear them laughing. So nice to see them making new friends from across the states.

July 2

I feel as if the words I am about to use will not adequately describe our journey and adventure today. We traveled by train bus and foot to one of the seven new wonders of the world. Words will not be enough.

We awoke early, 6:30, to finally see what our hotel looked like. I had a sense that we were in a valley, but I had no idea how high the mountains were around us. Each way we looked we had to crane our necks to see the top of the mountains. After a nice breakfast of eggs, cereal, fresh fruits and yogurt, we walked 2 blocks to the train station. There with hundred of other travelers we loaded a train to take us to the base of Machu Picchu. The scenery along the way was worth the ticket price as we moved from a semiarid mountain area into a cloud forest on the cusp of the Amazon. The water that runs through the town eventually will end up in the Atlantic Ocean via the Amazon river. Our train ride took us along the Inca trail, through farmland with cows, pigs, chickens, and ducks into mountain area with snow peaks. Every way we looked there was interesting scenery and indescribable beauty. At one point we stopped to let some hikers off. One of the hikers slipped off the trail and Tate jumped out to give him a hand. All were OK. 

After a two hour ride we finally pulled into the base town where we walked over the stream and loaded a bus that would take us to the gate of Machu Picchu. As we entered Machu Picchu area, we climbed and climbed up a cobble stone pathway. We were entering the Inca trail. We spent one hour climbing at least 800 ft to the Sun Gate, the gateway to the city. The sun would rise through the gateway at the solstice. The whole way up we were walking in the clouds and could barely see down the valley. We were hot and sweaty by the time we reached the gateway. While we sat and enjoyed our packed snacks, the sun came out and way below we could see the magnificent city of Machu Picchu! We hiked back to the city limits where we met our guide. She took us through the ruins, explaining the history and culture of the Incas and how the Spanish never found the city. She pointed out the hotel, the school, the fields, and the tribute to the condor. There was also a sundial and stone that pointed to the north. The place was magical. Reluctantly we left the mountain top and headed back to the base by the same zigzagged road that we went up. The skill of the drivers to negotiate the turns in commendable. 

Once we were down in the base town, we walked to a nice restaurant and ate a delicious meal of trout. The food on this trip is fabulous. Every meal is delightful. We had time to shop for an hour and then reloaded the train to head back to Ollantaytampo. What an amazing day. On the train ride everyone was enjoying conversations with new and old friends. What a great group!

July 4

Today was an early day. We leave Cusco and drive all day to Puna. Our hotel in Cusco was wonderful. Some students got the top floor where they had a magical view of the city. However there is no central heating at the hotel, so those rooms were also chilly. 

Leaving Cusco was tricky as there was a teacher strike. The teachers were blocking the routes in and out of Cusco. As we traveled through the city we saw many police to help with the situations. Traffic was stopped just before we left the city limits. We sat for a many minutes before we finally took the bus on a dirt road next to railroad tracks to get around the blockade. We left Cusco behind us and headed into the Andes highlands. We had an 8 hour ride ahead of us, but we had many interesting stops. 

The first place we stopped was Inca trading post, Raqchi. While there we saw the ruins of Temple for Wiraqocha, weaving factory, and 50 circular storage units. To avoid teachers that were straight at the entrance of the ruins, we had to walk a different way out Raqchi to get to our bus.

Our next stop was a restaurant in the highway was also a small grocery store and shop. We could also by Peruvian coffee and chocolates. 

We crossed over Beinvendios, a highlands pass of over 14000 feet (4335 meters) where we could see snowcapped mountains over 15000 ft. At the pass were the people of that region selling their weaving and other products from alpacas. There were also small children dressed in traditional clothes carrying a lamb that you could have your picture taken with (for a donation.) obviously the air was very thin, so it was nice to get back in the bus down to 12000 ft. 

In route to Puna we passed through Juliaca, a town that can only described as outlaw town. Apparently the money that goes through the town is from the black market, with products passing through from Bolivia. The streets are unfinished, the trash is everywhere, and houses were incomplete. Jorge said the town was a disaster. We stopped in the square, which was very nice, long enough to use the ATMs. Then through more highlands where we saw more herds of brown Swiss cattle, Chilean flamingos, traditionally dressed women, stone corrals and wide open ranges of yellow grasses. 

We entered Puna close to sunset where we had our first glimpse of Lake Titicaca and arrived at our very nice hotel on the other side of the bay. The lake looks really large from here, but it turns out we are in Bay area, the whole lake is 10 times larger. Jorge told us that Titi means Puma and Kaka means great or gold. If you look at a map, one can see the puma shape. 

We took a walk to the lake at sunset and settled down for a delicious dinner. Tomorrow is a day on the lake. 

July 5

Today we were treated with a sunrise over the lake. We had another delicious breakfast, and load the bus to head to Puna Marina to capture a shuttle boat to take us to the floating islands (Soru) and to a real island at the opening of the bay, Eliuqat'i. Our trip to the floating island was outstanding. The Community is made that hide from the Inca and built floating reed islands to live on. They fish, harvest the reeds and catch seabirds. There are at least 60 reed island that make up the community. Each island has 5-7 family groups that live in straw huts. When we arrive a traditionally dressed woman was there to greet us with a kiss. 


Titi Puna 

Kaka great or gold

El diablo