Monday, October 20, 2014

Our trip to Peru

Well here we are in Lima, Peru and once again, I have fallen in love with another country.  The country itself has jungles and mountains at the north end and dessert and mountains on the south end where we will be traveling.  Since we have already traveled a small part of the Amazon in northern Peru we won’t be going there.  So we landed in Lima on a Saturday night and had an hour joy ride by taxi to the hotel.  I was terrified because the traffic was jammed, the driver weaved in and out of traffic at about 60 miles an hour, the whole time waving his right arm around talking a mile minute in Spanish.  My dear wonderful husband thought it was terrific to talk to him in Spanish the whole way.  They were having this great conversation and I was holding on for dear life.  The Peruvian people are wonderful.  They are friendly, polite and many speak a little English.  The real Peruvian’s are not over 5’8” and you won’t find a blonde anywhere.  Most of the women are very pretty and dress very modern.  So far in the city we are not seeing any traditional wear but I am sure we will as we travel south among the Inca people.

I thought I would add the map of Peru so you can see where we went.  The green line starts in Lima where we landed and then you can follow it down as we went.
So first about Lima.  It is a city of 8 million people and has the hustle and bustle feeling of NY city.  It really is a very sophisticated modern city in many ways with an upscale business district and fancy stores like Dior and Pierre Cardin.  But then it also has the structural design of many central American cities with the old plazas with 16th century architect designed building.  There are huge cathedrals, palaces and hotels built centuries ago. 

Harry under a street sign called Calle Schell, very large game of chess being played in the middle of the street and the famous Peruvian hairless dog (great for those with allergies)

Guinea pigs before and after.  Harry had one for dinner (tastes like chicken).  I declined

Plaza Major, the huge main plaza in Lima.  Picture is to small to really see the architect well.

The Catedral (right spelling) on the plaza with huge knockers

An example of the beautiful wood balconies seen all over the city

Inside the Catedral looking at the altar.  It was quite magnificent as all the cathedrals are in central and south American
  Lima has not had rain since 1974.  It was such an exciting event that people talk about what they were doing when it happened, like we do with the Kennedy assassination or 9/11.  They get all their water from mountain rivers.  It is chilly here in the 60’s this time of year but always sunny by the middle of the day.  It is a charming city and we thoroughly enjoyed it taking in as many sites as possible.  On Sunday as we were walking to a plaza a young college student stopped us when she heard us talking in English.  She was so excited and wanted to practice her English so she went with us touring.  Pierna had a wonderful personality and quite charming.  She spent the rest of the day and evening with us, interrupting tours and showing us the sites.  She took us for pizza at the end of the evening.  We had a wonderful time and learned so much more about the city and Peru having her with us.  We toured the San Francisco Cathedral including the catacombs’, took a trolley tour in Spanish and she interrupted, went to the oldest bar around for the famous Pisco sours, and ended the evening going to the Parque reserve to  see the most fabulous water fountain light show.  There were 13 fountains all doing different shows with lights.  Outstanding.  We were so exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel, we just fell into bed.

San Franscisco Cathedral.  Fantastic with catacombes etc but not allowed to take inside pictures

Top is the San Martin Hotel that goes on for 2 city blocks.  Unbelievable place.  Then the bottom is the building for their congress.  Quite gorgeous inside
At the park with the light show.  We are standing under a canopy of water.  it was really spectacular

This is a huge adobe pyramid called Huaca Pucllana.  It was discovered in downtown Lima in the 1940's but dates back to 200AD where 3 different cultures built this as a ceremonial burial grounds.  The structure of it is quite amazing.
The next day was better but we still did a ton of walking.  This month the blue bus system is free to everyone so the bus was extremely crowded going downtown but we managed and went to a Museum of Inquisition.  We had a great tour in English and then walked miles.  We ended up at the Hotel San Martin which covers 2 city blocks to have their famous Pisco Sours.  We felt we needed to do a test on who had the best ones.  They were both great.  Had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant by our hotel and called it a night.  Again we were exhausted, having 2 full days of walking and sightseeing. 
So  next on our trip was a 3 hour trip to Paracus on a very luxurious double decker bus.  We were up top and the seats make into beds, very comfortable and quiet ride.  This will be the same bus line we take all the way on our trip.  Paracus is a small dessert town of 800 people but extremely busy with tourism.  Tons of hostels, little cafes and tours.  The big attraction is a boat ride out to Isla Ballestas off the peninsula with tons of birds and wildlife.  We saw about 10 different species of birds, baby penguins and small sea lions, dolphins, flamingos but no otters (they hide).  Anyway, it was very exciting 2 hour trip.  We took 175 pictures of which I have eliminated a ton already.  I have attached a few.  We also went to a national park reserve which is all dessert but was a sea bottom 1.5 million years ago.  We walked on fossils from that time and took some amazing pictures of the Pacific ocean coast and this dessert.  It was a fun experience.  The food leaves a lot to be desired.  We tried their “famous national dish, ceviche” but I won’t eat it again – not like any ceviche we have ever had.  Breakfast is one small scrambled egg and a piece of plan white bread.  If you are lucky you get butter and real café not instant.  Lima food was much better.  Anyway, off to Nasca on another luxurious bus ride.

Isla Ballestas  where there were thousands of species of birds. On top are baby penquins, bottom left are sea lions and to the right are booby birds

Top is a pictures of all the birds sitting on the island, thousands.  Bottom is a picture of the boardwalk at Paracus.  Not much there but restaurants
Nasca is a real city with many stores, a big square in town with loud music and many restaurants. We did find one that had the best fish and dinners we have had since arriving in Peru.  Of course we are indulging in Pisco sours whenever possible.   The big reason it is such a tour destination are the famous Nasca lines and all the archeological digs and findings.  It is a remarkable area for history.  It is all dessert and we are now at the foot of the Andes Mountains which are all dirt at this point.  No rain.  We booked a plane to fly over the Nasca lines which was an unforgettable experience.  I have included pictures of the symbols we saw.  Not sure how good they are.  There are many theories as to why and how the people did these sculptures in the ground and totally amazing as to why they are still here after 1500 years.  Most of the theories come down to religion.  I have included this website if you are interested in what they are.  It was an amazing experience and worth the expense. 

The 5 of us boarding the plane to fly over the Nasca lines.  Quite a thrill.  bottom is a better picture of the plane

3 examples of the nasca lines:  left is an astronaut, top right are hands, bottom right is the hummingbird.

This is the drawing of what they are suppose to look like.  As we were flying, we had this chart to go by.  Amazaing experience.  No one knows who, why or when these were created.

  Off to Arequipa today on a 9 hour bus trip.  We’ll see how luxurious it seems after 9 hours.
Well, we arrived at 1 am but got a cab easily and off to the hostel.  All the buildings are behind walls here so it looked scary when we got here but once inside the wall, the place was beautiful.  It’s very oriental with gardens etc.  

Just showing these fancy buses we toured in. Top one was the one we did long distance traveling from city to city and the bottom was a tour bus.  All buses are double deckers

Breakfast in the oriental tea garden, so fancy.  Left is the wall outside before you get into the pretty garden
We spent our first day touring the Plaza and went to the Santa Catalina convent.  It is the largest convent in the world, built in 1597 and holds 200 nuns.  It is a village inside itself.  At that time, in rich families, the 2nd born had to be a nun or priest.  At 14 years old the daughter was taken to the convent to spend the rest of her life praying 10 hours a day and not ever allowed to leave or set eyes on a man.  Her other choice was to marry a rich man who was at least 40 and who would abuse her daily. “What a great life”!!!  Women think they have it bad now.  It was a fascinating place. 

Beautiful plaza in

Convent  with city walls all around it.  See the volcanos.  Top picture has 2 volcanos and the bottom has one.  3 volcanos circle the city.  The middle one is active.

Where the nurses bathed but in their robes.  A gold statue in their chapel  area

Loved this.  Left is the high tech washing machine in 1400's and the right is the washing center the nuns used up until about 20 years ago.
  This is the place to buy alpaca sweaters for $15.  They are beautiful.  I jumped right on that one.  This is a huge city of 900,000 people and has some remarkable architecture with gorgeous buildings from the 1500’s.  See pictures.  Yesterday, we took a bus tour that went outside the city to see some beautiful churches, an alpaca factory and a bunch of alpacas and llamas, a mansion built in the 1500’s by an extremely wealthy man and bunch of other sites.  It was a great 4 hour tour.  We were the only Gringos so our tour guide gave us special attention.  She would do everything in Spanish then English but when we got to places she took us a side and gave us a personal tour.  It was great.  Back in town we toured the cathedral (see pictures).  He even took us to the top of the bell tower to see the bells, the city and the 3 volcanoes that surround the city.  Last night we had dinner at the “Top of the Terrace” very high up overlooking the city.  We met 2 Polish ladies and had a great visit.  Amazing the international tourists that come to Peru.  We have only met a few people from the states but tons from other countries.

Cathedral in the plaza lit up at night

Inside the cathedral, the main altar

Our tour guide on top took us up to the top of the steeples and on the left you see me ringing the bell

The main pulpit and the pipe organ with 2800 pipes

The mansion we toured built by a very wealthy man in the 1500's

The courtyard of the mansion.  Picture on the right shows that they still use it now for weddings etc.
One of the patios of the mansion with our tour guide and one of the living rooms 

Alpaca and llama farm.  The little guy on the right is bad so he has to be by himself

Harry posing with ladies in original costume and 2 very large birds nesting on his neck

Our last night in Arequipa at a restaurant on top of the highest building in the plaza overlooking the city.  Breath taking but cold so they give everyone paunchos to wear.  Aren't we cool.
On to our next destination is Puno, Peru at 13,000 feet on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and the second largest lake in South America.  It was a 6 hour bus ride which was great until we got about an hour out of Puno when I started feeling short of breath.  I knew I might get some symptoms of high altitude sickness and I even had pills ready for it but I didn’t expect it to happen.  So by the time we got to the hotel, I must have looked like hell because the first thing the receptionist said to me is: “we have oxygen, would you like some”.  I sure did and it was wonderful.  I could have sat there all afternoon being on the other side of the oxygen mask.  After 46 years of slapping oxygen on patients, I was on the receiving end.  We quickly found out that all hotels have oxygen in the lobby, and coco leaves for making tea that helps with the sickness.  Every restaurant offers matte cocoa leaf tea as one of their beverages.  So guess who now has tea with every meal.  After 2 days I am feeling much better but do get tired quickly and I don’t have that famous energy I am known for.  So far Harry is altitude sickness free. 
We spent the first day doing very little but walking around this seaport town.  It is not as an exciting place as Arequipa but has some interesting sites.  Day 3 we took a tour in a boat to the island of Uros.  There are basically 3 islands that are not far from Puno where the Inca Indians live.  We decided to just do one island but it was so fascinating.  Our tour guide, Amar, is an Inca Indian from Uros who speaks his native language called Quechau, Spanish and English.  He had a great sense of humor and had us laughing all the time.  He gave us a lesson about the lake on our way out.  We did not know what to expect when we got there but Uros is not an island but 19 reed made floating islands.  These islands are literally made from the cuttings of reeds in the water and stacked high out of the water.  These people are from a very ancient civilization who centuries ago, ran away from the Spanish who were using them as slaves.  They build their homes on these islands. Each island comprising of about 18 homes or families.  As the population increases, they just build a new island.  If they don’t like their neighbors, they pull up the poles that are anchoring the island and they move.  It is really wild.  They go from island to island via reed boats that have been their major transportation for centuries.  See pictures below.

top left:  we are getting our lesson on Uros sitting on one of the reed islands. top right is our tour guide showing us crafts.bottom left Harry and I eating reeds, actually taste good and supposedly good for your teeth.  Bottom right is a model of how they built the island

Ok, stop laughing.  The ladies made us dress up in their native costumes.  They don't take no for an answer

Traveling in one of their reed boats to the capital where the houses are just slightly more substantial.

When we got back we discovered a fantastic parade going on with groups of young people in beautiful colorful costumes, playing music with drums and flutes.  The actual parade went from 9am until midnight.  Unbelievable.  We couldn’t find out much but someone told us it was a celebration of the years the university had been opened.  We thought maybe every alumni who had ever been there was in the parade.  See pictures.

There were hundreds of different costumes
The next day they had another parade but it only lasted about an hour.  It was a celebration of tourism.  We were told they have parades almost every day.

Left top is a tuctuc.  They are all over central and south America.  We use them instead of taxis.  They are fun.  Bottom is just an example of a mural which are painted in all the cities.  They are really quite beautiful 

We happen to be walking and a wedding was going by.  We actually ran into 3 different weddings that day
One thing I have not mentioned much about are the Pisco sours we have been treating ourselves to as much as we can.  They are fantastic and are the drink of the country.  Pisco is a grape that is made into a type of brandy and then mixed with a sour mix.  They are fantastic.  I have the recipe but no Pisco.  If we can squeeze a bottle into our suitcase in Lima, we may do that.
On to Cusco via a tour bus.  It took 10 hours because we stopped at 5 places including a cathedral (probably the 12th one we have seen), ruins etc.  It was a fun trip and relaxing on the bus.  Harry and I were both fighting colds which made the altitude adjustment that much harder.  Anyway, Cusco is a 1000 feet lower then Puno so I guess that helped a little.  Cusco is a very large city with the same beautiful plazas and cathedrals etc.  It is a very busy place with tons of tour offerings, tour businesses, many really nice restaurants but we did notice a definite increase in vendors on the street selling paintings, tour trips, jewelry, and all the Inca garb.  It got a little old after a while when they get persistent.  Harry started using his stern voice and that chased them away.  I just kept smiling.

The dessert terrain of the Andes Mt 12,000 ft high and Peru's outhouses.  We saw them everywhere

Our entertainment at lunch. check out the instrument on the left.  Me in my alpaca sweater with an alpaca and Peruvian lady

One set of ruins we visited along the way with a model of what it use to look like back in 1000AD.

Broadview of the beautiful plaza in Cusco and then the statue in the middle has a story.  It is suppose to be an Inca Indian but when it was made (wherever), it got sent to the states out west as an Indian.  How it got so mixed up, we don't know.

The left is a statue on top of our hotel in Cusco.  When ever they finish a house these are put on top as a ceremonial thing.  You see them everywhere on rooftops.  Pic on top right is a parade carry a statue of an Inca Indian. Sorry only half the picture came out and the bottom is another mural on a bank wall.  Quite pretty
On day 3 we took the very early train to Machu Picchu with hundreds of others.
 They allow 2500 people a day there.  The train was very comfortable with really nice servers, snacks etc.  When we arrive in a town called Aqua Calientes, we immediately were piled on to  buses, one coming right after the other.  The bus actually takes you to the top of the mountains by traversing back and forward up the mountain. See pictures.  It was slightly scary.  Once at the top here you were in another world.  It was such an amazing experience we now see why people come from all over the world and they have to limit it to 2500 as day (7 days a week).  We must have heard 10 different languages being spoken. 
In so many words, it is a city built by the Inca’s in the 1400’s lasting only 100 years when the Spaniards wiped them out but did not destroy the city.  It was built high up to hide from the Spanish and used as a ceremonial  grounds and was inhabited by the nobility, priests, soldiers and craftsman.  It was on top of a mountain in order to worship the sun.  If you have time, look it up.  It is a fascinating place.  The biggest question is how did they build such an awesome place.  I am including a few pictures which probably doesn't do it justice.  You really need to put it on your bucket list of travels. 
View from the train of the river leading up to Aqua Caliente, the town  at the base of the mountain at Machu Picchu
View from the top looking down on the mt peaks and the city

Some of the long walk ways the Inca people built to get to MP
More views of the urban area of the city.  

The stone work and construction was unbelievable
Left is a view of the city. Right side is the trails traversing back and forth up the mountain.  That was the bus route we took up to the peak.
Our only downside was just as we were done and coming back down to the bus, the heavens opened up and it poured.  We got soaking wet and spent 7 hours very wet getting home by bus and train.  I was shivering so badly that one of the hostesses on the train brought me her coat to cover me up.  We didn’t get back til 8:30 and were starving, cold and wet.  Our cab driver took us to KFC (he kept calling it Kentucky).  It was the only carry out place we knew of, got us food and we laid in bed under the covers eating chicken and trying to get warm.

Harry ended up with a cold but I ended up with pneumonia.  I actually got quite sick and laid in bed for 3 days before taking our flight back to Lima.  Harry got antibiotics and other meds for me and I did travel on the following Monday but ended up in a wheel chair in the airports.  Harry thought this was great because we were first through immigration, on the plane and a Copa employee pushed me through the airports.  I was too sick to be embarrassed and Harry thought it was great.  We did get back to Guatemala but missed out on a lot of Cusco touring.  We had 3 1/2 weeks in Peru which was wonderful but enough.  In central and south America, no prescriptions are needed so we just walk into a pharmacy and tell them what you want and you get it.  Harry asked for Bactrim DS and the number of pills needed.  She handed them right over $7.  Wow, what's wrong with our drug system.

  Harry went back to the boat and I fly back to the states to see my daughter and attended my 50th class reunion. (
All my old best friends from high school.  What a great gathering
Now you know my age)!!   I definitely was not myself (no energy) but rallied for the reunion and had a fantastic time.  I loved spending 3 days with Karla, as well.

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