The amazing Incas

We returned to Machu Picchu today to climb to higher heights. Maggie and I did not get our wake up call so we rushed through breakfast which meant no time for coca tea and no time for my altitude pill to start working.. We began climbing very steep steps, everyone was winded but I was not recovering as fast as the other days. I opted to turn around and spend the morning exploring by myself. After two hours I returned to town to site see until after lunch.

Lunch was at another fabulous buffet. After lunch there was shopping and the the train back down the mountain.

We had another long bus ride to Cusco for a two night stay.

Saturday Feb 2

Cusco is a lovely city with a very large square, built originally by the Incas. When the Spanish came they decreased the size of the square by building several streets of shops.
The Spanish also built a very large cathedral with a basilica. The art, silver and gold that adorns the walls,niches and side chapels is stunning and mind boggling. When the church was built the people in town pleaded for prime spaces to decorate with commissioned art work. There is a solid silver carriage that was pulled by horses. It has been converted to ride on a golf cart and is used for religious festivals. My favourite is the Last Supper painted by Zapota(?)) the food on the table consists of Andean bread and cheese and a roast Guinea pig. The face on Judas is the face of Pizzaro the Spanish conquistador.

We visited the Korichana, the sun Temple which has been converted to a Catholic Church. The architectural skill of the Incas is still maintained in parts of the building.

We stopped at Sacsayhuaman, an Inca fort that was never completed. The size of the stones and the shapes they are cut I so that each stone fits perfectly against the next and has remained in place several hundred years without mortar.

After a quick stop at an alpaca factory were we hosted in a private home for lunch. The meal was all native dishes made from ingredients purchased at the market that day. The surprise treat was Guinea pig. It is a greasy, stringy meat with small bones, one piece will last me a lifetime.

Evening free time was spent shopping the small stands for souvenirs that my kids will eventually donate to goodwill or toss.

In the Clouds

We began the day with a visit to the local corn beer bar. We learned how to make corn beer and we sampled both the plain and the strawberry flavoured. Of course the strawberry was my favourite. As we walked a round this local bar we saw the Guinea Pig barn. Everyone raises a few Guinea pigs for that special dinner, weddings graduations…. In the market there is always at least one vendor selling grass to fatten the little buggers. Our guide tells us the trick is not to name them.

After drinking we played the local coin toss game. A small table with a drawer has a metal frog with an open mouth anchored in the centre, around that are several other holes for the coins to fall into. The coin is about the size of a quarter and the weight of a
Silver dollar. At ten in the morning, after a glass of strawberry beer this game can be very entertaining.

Next stop, Inca Railroad, the train up to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca village. Their was a light rain and the clouds were hanging very low. I have been very concerned about this part of the trip because of the altitude sickness and my asthma. We walked for about three hours, up and down stone stairs of varying widths. Our guide, Edgar
Is very knowledgeable, he is a trained guide which requires a four year degree, he has a Phd, and is a consultant for National Geographic. Among the amazing things he shared with us new theory on the orientation of Machu Picchu. The mountain structure is between four mountains, one in each of the cardinal directions and the river from the sacred valley runs by all the mountains.

The method of building required no mortar. The walls, doors and windows are all trapezoidal. Many of the rocks were from the top of the mountain. They were cut and hauled down to form the large terraces,

When we returned to the hotel we celebrated Pisco day. We learned to make Pisco sours, the national drink.

I may have mentioned this already, sorry, the national population is three women for every man. This is further complicated by the number of gay men.

The land of the incas

13* South

Tuesday Jan 28- Jan 30

Tuesday we took the boat to Iquitos, the bus to the airport, the plane to Lima, another plane to Cusco, a bus through Cusco to our fabulous hotel, Casa Andia, Private Collection. This journey took most of the day. The only unscheduled stop was Bembos Burgers, the most popular fast food store in Peru.

I also lost my innocence today. We drank coca tea and chewed the leaves as a preventive.

Dinner was exquisite with the requisite Andean harp player. This is the night that the rest of people joined trip. There appeared to be no problems until today when one of the older ( than me) women fell down stairs, fell getting on the bus and was barely responsive until the guide sent her to the local doctor. She is suffering from altitude sickness.

Our first stop today was a women’s weaving cooperative. They demonstrated the hand spinning techniques, and the natural dye. The red dye was the most amazing, it was made from a crushed bug that is a parasite on one of the cactuses. It takes one woman thirty days to make a table runner for which they charge $225 solaces or about $75 American. The woman dressed in native costumes. Each tribe has a distinguishing characteristic, this group’s was braided hair. Many purchases were made, sweaters, table runners and hats.

On the bus ride to lunch we learned about the history of land ownership in the Scared Valley. At one time all the land was owned by six families. The government bought the land and distributed it among 350 families. The large land owners were allowed to keep their houses and the reduced plot of land. We had lunch at one of the old plantation houses, Tunupa. The house has been restored and is very spectacular.

The major crops are potatoes (380 kinds), barley,quinoa, asparagus, coca and corn ( apparently) with the largest kernels in the world.

The last stop was Ollantaytambo, the best preserved of all the Inca sites and a still functioning Inca Village. I was faltering on the climb up but one of the guides stayed with me and cheered me all the way to the top. I dubbed him my hero and gifted him with beer.

Meeting the amazon

3* south

Friday was a full day of travel. Wendy picked me up at noon From my house to The airport, then to, Miami,then Lima, another flight to Iquitos, a bus ride to the boat launch and then 45 minute boat ride up the Amazon to the Ceiba Tops Explorama lodge in the Amazon Rain Forest was a 26 hour trip.

After we unpacked, we took a short walk in the forest to see some of the unusual plants and birds.We were accompanied by a Tapir. We saw tarantula holes, golden orb spiderwebs, mushrooms and the large tree, ceiba, for which the lodge is named.

After dinner people quickly returned to their rooms for a good nights sleep.

At 5:30 AM some of us got out of bed to travel up river and see the Sunday market in the town of Indiana. Our local guide, Paul stopped frequently to explain the medicinal properties of every plant. Termites nests for mosquito repellent, papaya for digestion, a
Combination of several plants to rid the stomach of the parasites that invade the stomach and intestines of people who swim in the river. There were many kinds of fish, the Amazon has over three hundred kinds of catfish. Other meat sources included chicken, venison and Paccar, a huge rodent.
On the ride we looked and saw serval pink dolphins.

After breakfast we traveled by boat to a site of the Yagua Indians. Here we witnessed part of their culture, canoe carving, blow guns, weaving of the leaves for roofs and the local dancing. Mary, I can hear you questioning the authenticity of this adventure. Think of it as the Greenfield Village of the Amazon. It supplies a small income and keeps the culture alive. In the pictures below there is a quiver for the arrows. Piraña teeth are part of the hunting equipment, they are used to sharpen the arrows.
In the afternoon we traveled by boat to an animal rescue farm. The monkeys, sloth and birds were very entertaining but the snakes, anacondas and boas, were terrifying. I wonder what you have to pay an employee to bring a 10 foot anaconda out of its pond space and show it to tourists.

The life of any of the people here is one of subsistence, fishing, farming, a few skinny chickens. If you are lucky you have a job in the lodge, own a water taxi to transport people 50 miles to work, sell produce in Iquitos or own a small motorcycle taxi to transport people to market.

Paul found another plant miracle drug which he claims stabilises your blood sugar and controls diabetes. I have heard many people say the cure for most of the illnesses we have exists in the rain forests…are these cures of the natives myths or is western medicine as resistant to these natural cures as we have been to acupuncture.

After our dinner we were entertained by dancers from Indiana high school. They perform to earn money for school supplies.

The company, 3 couples and Maggie Conger, has been delightful. My only complaint is the heat. I have been dripping wet since we arrived. Good friends of mine will remind me of this next time I am ready to book another adventure tour in the tropics.