“La Virgen de la Candeleria" parade dancer. This is one of the THOUSANDS of costumes that dancers wear for the parade. (Puno, Peru)
Puno, Peru was a fantastic spot. The locals were friendly, our hostel was absolutely fantastic (in Peru one should always ask if there's hot water available, and if so, how much!), and the whole town had an air of celebration--it was festival time. Puno is home to the celebration of “La Virgen de la Candeleria", and these people take it very seriously. The parades and music last all day and well into the night... FOR A WEEK!!
After the parade one night, a group of dancers in giant bear costumes all collapsed together to take a rest, have a chat, and have a beer. I thought the human wool pile was hilarious! (Puno, Peru)
Walking downtown as the evening was drawing to a close, some people had lined up their helmets. They obviously took a lot of work--a LOT of attention to detail is put in on these! This is, after all, the most important celebration of the year! (Puno, Peru)
Beautiful animal--Just watch out when they start hooking lugies! (Sacred Valley, Peru)
I even got to feed one! Oddly, the llama didn't comment on my new sweater. (Sacred Valley, Peru)
The Inca literally left behind hundreds of villages throughout Peru. Pisco is one of those. The ruins themself are not very impressive--but can you imagine living with a view like this? Apparently the Inca staggered the hillsides not necessarily for agrarian needs, but to make the mountain more beautiful. (Pisco, Peru)
Daily life in Ollantaytambo. (Ollantaytambo, Peru)
The Inca left a couple of significant ruins on this site. One is the temple, and two other ruins (granaries) exist on the far hillside. (Ollantaytambo, Peru)
On the hill on the left-hand-side of the photo, you can see one of the granaries. Below is the city of Ollantaytambo, Peru. The city still uses the Inca fresh water and drainage system (Ollantaytambo, Peru)
Walking down the streets of Ollantaytambo, we saw lots of sticks with yellow and red plastic attached to them. We asked one of the residents what they meant, and she said that it meant they were selling "Chicha"--a traditional fermented beverage--which is mildly alcoholic. (Ollantaytambo, Peru)
This photo was taken from downtown Ollantaytambon. On the hillside beyond, one of the granaries is clearly visible (you may have to click on the photo to zoom in on it!) (Ollantaytambo, Peru)
The Inca needed a way to climb between terraces on their staggered hillsides. They used these: "floating stairs". Helloooo Vertigo!! (Ollantaytambo, Peru)
Here is another view of the same floating staircases (Ollantaytambo, Peru)
Farm animals roam the streets in Ollantambo, Peru
When I say that the hostel was "close" to the train tracks, I'm not joking. The 1st time the train went by, I thought it was going to take half the hostel with it. This is also where I had to drag my bag... Where this picture was taken there is an actual sidewalk on the left-hand side. Shortly out of frame, the sidewalk ends, and you're left to drag your bag through the gravel or carry it. Sometimes the drag-bag thing seems like a great idea, and other times not so much!
The hotel was 1m from the train on one side, and perched on a cliff above the ABSOLUTELY RAGING Urubamba river on the other side... SO if you were close enough to the raging water, you couldn't hear the roaring of the train! (Aguas Calientes, Peru)
I am in LOVE with trumpet blossoms! (Aguas Calientes, Peru)
BUT WHEN WE DID turn around behind us to see what surrounded us, this is what we saw. (Machu Picchu, Peru)
FINALLY after 40 minutes of stair-climber action, we made it to the top. Here I am in scruffy 'I didn't have time to shave' 'or do my hair' 'or get that damned spot below my eye lasered off' "victory" pose! (Machu Picchu, Peru)
One last check.... "Did we get the right address?" Yup, this is Machu Picchu!
And after our grueling 40 minutes of hiking, I needed to use the bathroom. Let this serve as a warning to all: ALWAYS keep change handy for using bathrooms in Peru. It doesn't matter that you've paid an arm and a leg to enter the Machu Picchu park: you have to pay to use the toilet (but complimentary with your purchase, you get SEVEN LUXURIOUS SHEETS of toilet paper too!) (Machu Picchu, Peru)
Frankly, the Machu Picchu bathroom was one of the (much) cleaner bathrooms I encountered in Peru. And as this toilet demonstrates, THIS is the most common configuration of a public toilet... NO TOILET SEAT. So always remember 1) Bring change 2) Bring toilet paper, and 3) Bring your own toilet seat! (Machu Picchu, Peru)
And then, just like in all the geography books from years past, I started to see the Machu Picchu like I had dreamed of seeing all my life:
Seeing the view of Machu Picchu, incomplete though it was, was an absolutely wonderful moment for me (Machu Picchu, Peru)
This photo is of the "observatory". Observe the natural (HUGE!) stone foundation. The Inca seemed to try to integrate their additions and changes to the natural landscape with a respect for what is already there (Machu Picchu, Peru)
Looking through one of the portals (Machu Picchu, Peru)
Inca Stonework (Machu Picchu, Peru)
A couple of interesting things about this photo. First, the man in black getting ready to take off into flight. Next, observe the large stone in front and the small black hole above it: That's a drainage hole! And if you look below it, there's the catch basin! There are little gullies everywhere to manage the rainfall. These Inca knew what they were doing! (Machu Picchu, Peru)
During the day at Machu Picchu, we took a side-hike and visited the "Inca Drawbridge". It was fascinating. The Inca knew they were isolated and wanted to control access to their enclave. On the way, there was this interesting... Plant. Also saw a REALLY AWESOME butterfly! It looked white, but when it flapped its wings, it was IRIDESCENT BLUE! Gorgeous!! (Machu Picchu, Peru)
This beautiful millipede lives in the crevices in the rocks in the main entrance to Machu Picchu.
A chinchilla! (Machu Pichu, Peru)
The Inca creed was simple: 1) Do not be a thief 2) Do not lie 3) Do not be lazy.
That's IT! (obviously there were no lawyers in Inca society)
After a long day at Machu Picchu, we hiked back down the mountain, scarfed up a Chinese-food feast, and slept REALLY WELL for the few hours we had until our train left in the morning. Shortly thereafter, we were back in Cuzco.
That evening, I struck up a conversation with an art dealer named Maria in the Plaza San Blas. She was veryfaithful to her religion, and felt it had brought her through many hard times. She also talked about the difficulties of life in Peru, including low wages, corrupt government, and a healthcare system with contanimated blood. Despite the problems of which she was well aware, she had a very positive attitude in general and was not complaining so much as responding honestly to my queries. AND she spoke slowly and clearly and used small words, so I understood ALMOST everything!!
I scheduled three days in Lima so that I could be assured there would be no problems with my trans-continental (and multi-million-dollar!!
I took an overnight bus from Cuzco to Lima and didn't sleep much. I had heard that many times, these buses are hijacked and the travelers get everything stolen. But because of my schedule, I didn't have much choice... So I got on the bus and kept my fingers crossed.
I made it to Lima the next morning and breathed a tremendous sigh of relief. From the terminal I took a taxi to a not-so-great neighborhood near the center. It was good because many attractions were nearby.. The hostel was also very nice--in an old mansion with big airy rooms and nice public areas... But the city itself scared me--it can be a very dangerous city. I dreaded being there and always planned to be in before 9pm. I tried to be careful and had good luck while I was there... But I was bit tense the whole time.
Lima CAN be quite disarming. There are some very beautiful things there...
Finally, I had to get to the airport for my flight to Sydney (connecting in Buenos Aires). The hostel called me a taxi (DO NOT GET IN ANY TAXI YOU DIDN'T CALL FOR!!!) and took me to the airport through some REALLY REALLY REALLY scary looking areas. The perimeter of the airport was guarded by the typical 18-year-olds-with-machine-guns and once I got inside, I felt a lot safer. But I was thinking about it... People who DO have enough money to travel outside of Peru have TONS more money than 99% of the population here... Those guards are there for a reason--when the money is spread so inequitably, one has to EXPECT that those who feel they have been shorted will try to go about "even-ing the score" somehow.
I grumbled as I paid the $30USD (WHY OH WHY do foreign countries charge fees in American Money? I find that so strange!) departure tax... And took my flight.
I grumbled once again as I had to pay another departure tax--this time $18USD exiting EZE (Ezeiza--No, it's not possible to pronounce it correctly, so don't bother trying!) and dragged my feet onboard the flight. I had gotten very little sleep on my flight from Lima (11pm to 7am), spent the day running around Buenos Aires, and finally was seated in one position...
This marked the end of my experience in South America. I was both delighted about what I had done and anxious about what the future held. I felt I had done everything I set out to do in South America and more... I saw the beautiful and exotic Brazil--I saw the architecture of Brasilia, and the flashy samba-hipped beaches of Rio. I saw the engineering marvel of the Itaipu dam, and the overwhelming power and beauty of Iguassu Falls. I saw the tango-laced passion of Buenos Aires, and I went to the furthest south city in the world--and kept going. I experienced the midnight brightness of Antarctica--and set foot on its life-filled shores. I saw the stunning beauty of Tierra Del Fuego and the windswept mystery of Patagonia. I saw the Perito Moreno glacier--nature's majesty changing the form of the landscape--in fast-forward. I saw Mendoza, Argentina's wine region.
I traveled to Chile and saw the hillside city of Valparaiso and reveled in the modern architecture and transport system of Santiago. I traveled north to experience the dryest desert in the world--to look up and see the midnight sky--so clear the air and so beautiful unobstructed by light.
I went to Peru. I found the upscale cleanliness of Arequipa, and the down-home cheeriness of Puno. I sailed across the highest navigable lake in the world and took in the hospitality of its islands. I traveled to Cuzco with its old churches and beautiful square--opening its arms to tourists, and finally I experienced the ancient mystery of Machu Picchu...
And now it was all disappearing behind me at 900 km per hour. And I slept.
Blog entry completed: 2008 Mar 30, 1:03am
Events completed: 2008 Feb 19 12:48pm