Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Selling candy to the crowd at the celebration of “La Virgen de la Candeleria". Dancers streak through the background in Puno, Peru

“La Virgen de la Candeleria" parade dancer. This is one of the THOUSANDS of costumes that dancers wear for the parade. (Puno, Peru)

Peru was to be my final country in South America. I would travel to Arequipa, Puno, then to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and then to Lima, where my flight would bounce me back to Buenos Aires , and on to Sydney, Australia. I already posted about the islands of Lake Titicaca, so I will start here when Rolf and I returned from the islands to Puno...

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)

After Puno, we traveled to Cuzco, and from there to the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley sees lots of tourists... Our tour included a trip to a little shopping village complete with aggressive salespeople AND --most importantly!--LLAMAS!

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)

After Pisco, the tour took us to Ollantaytambo, Peru. (remember 'll' sounds like a 'y'!). It is another ancient Inca town. The foundations of the houses have distinctive rock work that is from the Inca. Current houses are built on top of Inca foundations. The Inca did some REALLY NICE rock work that lasted thousands of years! Not all the photos show Inca foundations, they should be obvious when you see them.

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

After Ollantaytambo, the tour headed to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo, which is basically impossible to reach any other way than the monopolistic railroad. The prices to ride the rail are really high if you're a foreigner. But once you get when you arrive is priceless...

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)

After spending a short night in Aguas Calientes, Rolf and I hiked the following morning from the hotel to the base of Machu Picchu... And up. Normally tourists ride the bus up the mountain to the Machu Picchu entrance, but since both of us were on serious budgets, we decided to save the $10 and hike through the cloud forest up to Machu Picchu ourselves.

Early in the morning we departed. It was a very difficult hike up the mountain. Most of it was steps, and we crossed the dirt path the bus used 7 times. We were told we were hiking through a sort of botanical garden, but it was so dark and wet and sticky--and we were in a hurry to meet our guide at the right time--that we couldn't take much time to enjoy the scenery.

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)

After taking care of business, Rolf and I met up with our tour guide and continued into the park. It was still fairly dark, and continued through the cloudy morning to see the clouds were parting, reveling a little of Machu Picchu:

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)

This is the Intihuatana, or "hitching post for the sun" (the sundial). It was the most sacred and important point for the Inca religion in all of Machu Picchu. In the year 2000, the government permitted a beer commercial to be filmed at Machu Picchu, and the giant crane carrying the camera crashed into the Intihuatana, breaking off the piece on the upper left. (Machu Picchu, 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.

This is the very famous 12-sided stone in Cuzco. It demonstrates the Inca mastery of stonework. The seams match very closely, and observe the knob sticking out of the front-left-bottom. That was used to position the stone--to put leverage on it to move it around. Way to go Archimedes! (Cuzco, Peru)

I liked the blue door and fuzzy guard (Cuzco, Peru)

Not all Engrish exists in Asia! The intended translation is "Local Apartments for rent... Best offer accepted" (Cuzco, Peru)

The view down the hilltop from Plaza San Blas (Cuzco, Peru)

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 spoke with Maria for a long time, and she suggested I go to Los Arboles for dinner... This is the gang I befriended there. They were surprised to learn that I was a non-vegetarian eating at their vegetarian restaurant, but didn't kick me out! They were actually very nice! (Cuzco, Peru)

Looking up from the front facade of the Catedral Cusque~na (Cuzco, Peru)

I couldn't get enough of the dramatic sky! This is Catedral Cusquena (Plaza De Armas, Cuzco, Peru)

I stepped into a shop off of the Plaza De Armas and took a quick look at the sweaters inside. The one I picked up was $780USD. As I hastily made for the door, I looked up and I LOVED how the Iglesia La Merced was framed by the arch ("Plaza De Armas" by the way literally translates to "Plaza of GUNS!", but I've seen it colloquially translated as "Main square"... Interesting, eh?) (Plaza De Armas, Cuzco, Peru)

This was the door ' lock. It is currently locked, and you can observe from the photo that the doors didn't actually close all the way. Not very private, but it was a great place to sleep! (Cuzco, Peru)

More flowers at the hostel (Cuzco, Peru)

Geraniums at the hostel (Cuzco, Peru)

While in Cuzco, Rolf and I tried to save money wherever we could. This restaurant turned out to be EXCELLENT. They had a set lunch which we went to for days. It included a soup and a main course and a drink, and it was 5 Nuevo Soles--about $1.66USD

And THIS is what lunch looked like! YUM!!!! Cold days are SO PERFECT for soup! (Cuzco, Peru)

I was delighted I was able to catch this giant hummingbird in flight. (Plaza De Armas, Cuzco, Peru)

One afternoon it rained, and all the tourists jetted--along with all the salespeople that pester the tourists constantly. It was a rare moment of peace in the square. Rolf and I were having coffee on a balcony above the Plaza De Armas (Cuzco, Peru)

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!! ) flight. Rolf stayed in Cuzco to do volunteer work there, and I headed off to Lima.

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.

On the way from Cuzco to Lima, there was some absolutely breathtaking scenery (Leaving Cuzco, Peru)

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...

One evening I went to a park off of the Plaza De Armas (every colonial city in all of South America seems to have one!), and there was this great fountain that I wanted to capture as the sun went down (Lima, Peru)

In that same park, a dance performance was going on. This happened to be a performance to some middle-eastern music, and these dancers were GREAT! (Lima, Peru)

The view of the cable-stay bridge from the park. The cables are illuminated with LEDs. It was a really cool little light show!! (Lima, Peru)

Plaza De Armas, Lima, Peru

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.

The red-eye finished and I spent the following day in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was FANTASTIC to be back in Argentina! I stored my bags at the airport and took a bus into the city. At one point, I looked up and saw this awesome metal work on a balcony and wanted to capture it! (Buenos Aires, Argentina)... Or maybe it was Lima. BUT IT WAS COOL!!!!

When I was last in Buenos Aires, I went to the planetarium only to discover that it was closed for a month--STARTING ON THE DAY I GOT THERE. So there would be no hope of me seeing a planetarium show back in December. But on this trip, the planetarium was actually open! I got to see a show (which I slept through because I was so tired ) and this is the view approaching the planetarium entry. (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

The park surrounding the planetarium is in the neighborhood, "Palermo". Palermo is where all the wealthy live, and they do have some pretty fabulous green space. This is a flowering tree in that park in Palermo. (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

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


Anonymous said...

Que bellas fotos !!!! Muy interesante leerte. No conocia la "virgende la candeleria". Saludos de la isla " la réunion"... Anne.

Trevor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Trevor said...

Obrigado por seus "posts"...sempre interesantes. Que bom que voce visitou o bonito pais do Brasil. Sinto muita falta do meu querido Brasil. Que suas viagens continuem bem!


Anonymous said...

I am a bit confused.. Did you go to Japan after you left South America forever?

I've been up since 5 am.. not functioning optimally at the moment.
Wonderful pictures..

Lyzbelle said...