Penguins, a girl feeding pigeons in Arequipa, Wooly and Raeski in Lima, llamas in San Pedro de Atacama, and a young mountain goat sticking close to mom in Rocky Mountain Natl. Park.
As we flew in over the bay with long running waves that seem to stretch forever I thought this must be a great place to surf when the waves get heavy. Our drive from the airport to our hotel did nothing to dispel this thought as we rode alongside the beach. The next day we saw a surfer with his board heading to the water.
We stayed in the upscale Miraflores district of Lima. Most of Lima’s population is poor and are unable to live in such a nice area. Unlike the U.S., in South America the hills are where poor people live. Yes, they have a great view from their homes, but poor construction and lack of utilities ensure daily living with hardship. I know I wouldn’t like having to carry water up a steep hill every day to my home. It’s a harsh life when you are poor and don’t have access to the things we often take for granted. This is the life of many in South America that tourists don’t witness.
What most people see when they come to Lima are places like Parque de Amor where they see the famous Victor Delfin statue, “El Beso”, or in English “The Kiss”. The views are fantastic from the park as are the tile mosaics lining the walkways. Of course the people in the park are fun to watch as I suppose we were when we emulated El Beso.
Since moving to South America we walk a lot more than we used to and as a result we stumble onto a lot of things other folks don’t see. In the Miraflores area there is a mall that is cut into the cliff. What’s nice is the view on top of the cliff isn’t spoiled by a lot of buildings. Above the mall there is a park overlooking the ocean with stupendous views of the ocean.
We also walked between Parque de Amor and the mall where we were rewarded with more sculptures, views and oddities. Painted stairs, a beautiful divided roadway and a rather eclectic door were a few of the things we saw along the walk.
In Peru one of the methods people use to draw attention to their cause is by striking. On the day we were in the main square doctors and nurses were marching for better medical standards, care and pay. The police were ready and also ready to smile for the camera. In the same square, as with many squares in Peru, was a cathedral. There is an amazing amount of wealth to be seen in these churches – something that will be discussed in another post.
Finally there are Inca ruins being restored in the city. Since granite wasn’t available in this area the Inca’s used adobe. While adobe isn’t the best building material to use in a seismic prone area, it is what was available to the Incas and the Huaca Pucllana still stands. The Incas were truly an amazing people. Like Raeski, I too wonder what would have happened if the Spaniards and Church hadn’t destroyed their culture.
In Lima the modern sits next to the ancient. You find a well-dressed business person rushing past a person in traditional dress. Hills filled with the poor overlooking the Spanish colonial homes they can only dream of owning. Street vendors hawking their goods across the street from a mall filled with efficient Norte Americano stores. It’s a vibrant place where we started our Peruvian adventure.
Today Raeski is contributing a post about our Peru adventure.
Our seventeen day adventure to several cities and sites in Peru filled us with much wonder but left me with many contemplations beginning with “I wonder…”
We began in the capital and largest city of Lima, Peru where we stayed in the area called Miraflores. This coastal site hosts a park inspired by Antonio Gaudi featuring a huge sculpture of a man and woman (the sculptor and his wife) embraced in a kiss and aptly named El Beso. Wonderment #1: How many people have been kissed at this location and who holds the title for the longest?
Arequipa, ‘La Ciudad Blanca’ was constructed predominantly from volcanic silica and serves as the gastronomic center of Peru. Curiosity #2: “Does alpaca taste like chicken, too?” was answered with a resounding “no” and left us considering ordering more. Not only is the meat scrumptious, but also the fibers of the baby alpaca are extremely soft and warm so we also became consumers of the external product with the purchase of a beautiful sweater, hat and scarf.
Mirador de los Andes and Cruz de los Condors presented magnificent views of the splendor of the seven snow-capped volcanic peaks at 5,600 to over 6.000 meters and the majestic flight of the condors scavenging the heights. Here we were left wondering #3: “Do the local caballeros toss their dead livestock over the edge of a ridge to keep the condors circling and inhabiting this specific area?”
Exploring the inhabited areas of the highest navigable lake, Titicaca at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) was an interesting marvel. In the village of LLacon on the peninsula we watched demonstrations of their textile handicrafts, and on Isla Taquile we participated in a ceremonial lunch event giving thanks to Pachamama or Mother Earth and the other gods represented by the condor, puma and serpent. On our final stop, one of the floating islands of Uros, we were welcomed by members of a family and treated to a visual demonstration of how the tortura roots and reeds are layered to create their anchored living platforms. We learned they apparently chew the tortura reeds that provide a source of fluoride but we couldn’t help but wonder #4 if the coarse fibers couldn’t also be fashioned into toothbrushes, which by their smiles, seemed to be of great need.
On our Inka Express bus trip crossing the highest point between Puno and Cusco we visited the panoramic vista and had the chance to use the highest public toilet (whole in the ground with planks and a hut for a bit of privacy). A short distance later we caught the flow of the Vilcanota River, which spans over 6,000 km and connects to the Amazon, eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. That made us reflect on the fact that we pee’d at what would be the Continental Divide of the South American continent. Wonder #5: which way the urine flowed?
Visiting the many ruins and foundations of the ancient Andean peoples emanating from the “obligo” or navel of civilization in Cuzco, one cannot help but be awed by what incredible engineers and craftsman the Incas were. The planning, chiseling, movement and careful construction of huge rock structures that have withstood centuries and earthquakes were somewhat mindboggling considering the time and lack of technology for such feats. No mortar and not even a blades-width of gap between stones cut with nearly a dozen angles seemed unimaginable, so #6: where would Peru stand in today’s’ global economy had the Conquistadors not trampled the indigenous peoples and “enlightened” them? At Sachsayhuaman (fittingly pronounced ‘sexy woman’), I offered a silent prayer deep in her womb chamber for Peru to remain resolute to preserve its hundreds of varieties of corn and thousands of strains of potatoes against such enemies as Monsanto and persevere as the heartland of organic products to keep us nourished and healthy.
But our final wonder was one on the list of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of the World #7: Machu Picchu, The Lost City rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Mere photos do not do the experience justice. Everyone should touch the Inca construction; feel the reverence to the gods of earth, air and water and sense the community of the terraced farm areas, communal areas and urban planning features. How thankful the world should be that this 15th Century treasure remained unscathed and is now available for humanity to enjoy and relish in the wonderment!
We have never done this before so you could say this was the first of many firsts. Our latest trip took us to amazing Peru and its many sites for our first time. But it was also the first time we didn’t plan the entire trip and relied on a travel company to handle the logistics.
Because it builds anticipation, planning trips is entertainment for Wooly and it’s much better than English lesson planning for the cadets at the academy. Planning helps the two of us get a feel for a place before we arrive and gives us an idea of how long we want to stay at each location. And there’s that ‘being in control’ thing tossed into the mix.
By the end of the trip we were able to say we were glad we used Tucanoperu.com to guide us on our trip. It was great to arrive at airports and see a guide holding a sign with our name on it waiting to take us to our hotel. Every day our guides were on-time and ready to take us on another day of discovery. They were very knowledgeable about the places we visited and we learned much more than if we did it on our own. We will definitely consider using a tour company in the future. When choosing a company we recommend staying with a single language tour.
Every journey must have a beginning and our 17 day adventure started in Lima. After Lima we ascended into higher elevation and thinner air of Arequipa. At 2,335 meters (7,661 feet) Arequipa would be one of the lower elevations we would encounter. The rest of the itinerary was Colca Canyon at 3,400 m (11,155 ft.), Puno 3811 m (12,504 ft.), Cusco 3,399 m (11,152 ft.), the Sacred Valley 2,800 m (9,186 ft.) and finally Machu Piccu 2,300 m (7,546 ft.). Along the way we ascended a mountain pass that took us to 4,350 m (14,275 ft.). If you have either breathing or heart issues you should check with your physician before you try a trip like this.
Fortunately we have never suffered from altitude sickness. But is you do, homeopathic remedies are abundant in Peru. Coca leaves are part of every hotel’s morning breakfast buffet and coca tea is served everywhere (just be careful about the water). In addition to coca there are pills that may help. For the uninitiated, coca leaves taste like alfalfa. And no, you won’t get high by chewing coca leaves or drinking the tea. Cocaine is a refined product from the reduction of a massive amount of leaves in rusty metal barrels filled with gasoline which eventually makes a paste. Then the paste is further refined with sulfuric and hydrochloric acids. Yum, Yum. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to blow a line up your nose. Okay, enough geekiness for today.
We were glad we started at high elevation and ended up lower. This allowed us time to acclimate to thinner air by the time we got to Machu Piccu. Once there we were able to take a hike without as much huffing and puffing as some of the other tourists. This was a blessing because Machu Piccu was definitely the highlight of the trip. Save it for last on your trip – you’ll be glad you did.