Peru Journal 9/2007
Peru Journal September 19 – October 3, 2007
Day 1 The trip begins
Day one was all about travel and a lengthy day it was. I was up a 1:30AM for the drive to St. Louis to catch my plane. I didn’t get much sleep before that, always worrying whether or not the alarm will go off or not. Things went smooth at the airport in St. Louis and the flight arrived in Miami on time. Then it was a 6 hour layover till the flight to Lima. Nothing like sitting in a boring airport for 6 hours when you are dead tired. After boarding for Lima we had to sit for an extra 30 minutes or so because some people missed the connecting flight and they had to make sure that their luggage was not on board. This caused the flight to be an hour late landing in Lima. After getting through customs, which was not too bad actually, my luggage was the last to come off of the plane. And it was a big plane. Thank goodness, the driver assigned to pick me up waited. Then a 40 minute drive and I was finally at my apartment. Cristina and Guillermo were waiting for me and showed me around the place briefly, we settled up and they gave me the keys and took off. They seem like very nice people and everyone has been helpful and friendly so far. At 12:30am I was finally back in bed for some much needed sleep after all most 24 hours on the road.
Day 2 Where is everything, how do I use it and how do I get there
Waking up in a strange apartment after being that tired is always a strange experience. Then there is the usual assortment of where is it and how do I use it. Strange land and being unfamiliar with the language can make for interesting experiences. Figuring out which is the hot and cold water for one, especially when the faucets aren’t labeled. Turning on the gas stove to cook, hmmmmmmm always interesting, especially when there is no pilot light. Where is the nearest Cambio for exchanging money, which way is North (it’s very cloudy out there), where is a grocery store, which are the good restaurants? All that thinking and I haven’t even gotten dressed yet.
Donuts, toast and cheese for breakfast. Hmm Hmm good. Mostly because I could not figure out how to turn the stove on (turns out it was out of gas). A quick call to Cristina resolved the issue after I returned from my walk. Then it was shower time, mostly a cold one because the hot water was very intermittent, get dressed and off to wander around a little. I found the beach, so now I know which way is North, and did a stroll along the coast taking lots of pictures. It was very beautiful in a gloomy sort of way. Low hanging clouds covered the hill tops and the sea looks a little angry. It looked like it might rain all morning but it did not. Returning back, I found the bank and was able to exchange some monies and then also found the grocery store and was able to stock up somewhat. Back to the apartment and eating a little lunch while typing this, then I’m off to explore again. Sunday my friend Mauricio from Cusco will join me and I will get to see the city first class. For now as always I am enjoying my time just wandering around on my own with my cameras. Everyone on the street smiles and greets you in a very friendly manner. I really do need to learn to speak more than just restaurant Spanish.
Lunch at the apartment, a small sandwich and some chips, then off again to see some more sights. Cristina recommended I go south for about eight blocks and there was a nice park and other interesting stuff to see. It was a nice area, lots of old buildings, restaurants, bars and assorted other touristy spots. I didn’t see any tourists though. Took some pictures and wandered down closer to the beach. The incline was not as steep there. I tried to get a good shot of the island off of the coast and some guys that were surfing. We will see how they turn out. In the process of wandering back towards the apartment, I stopped at a bakery that is a block from the apartment and had some coffee and cheese cake. They were excellent and all the food they had on display looked great too. Too much time in that place and I won’t be able to get into my clothes. At least I am walking a lot. That should burn off some of the calories. I stopped at the Internet Café and E-mailed Tim so everyone at work would know I made it OK. Checked work and personal E-mails all for one Nuevo Sol. There must be a lot of schools in the area. There are kids in Catholic School outfits all over the place. One interesting thing I saw at a stop light were guys “break dancing” and doing “gymnastic runs” on the cross walk while the lights were red. They were pretty good too. Very brave of them working on asphalt and concrete like that. It started to get chilly again and was spitting some rain so I am back in the apartment again. Time for a little supper soon and maybe curl up with a glass of wine and a book I started. I need to find a place with wireless access so I can send some pictures home.
Day 3 A good night’s sleep and all is well
Went to be very early last night and woke up quite refreshed today. Did I mention that there are no English speaking channels on the TV? I’m noticing the usual aches and pains from travel today. The knees are barking at me a little and my lower back is a little sore. I think most of this comes from the uncomfortable seating on the planes. I’ll make a quick stop at the local Pharmacy for pain relievers today. I fixed a good breakfast this morning (eggs, bacon, toast, cheese, an orange and a donut). Breakfast of champions. Once again it’s cold and cloudy this morning only this time you can add rain to the picture. Not a lot, just enough to make walking miserable. Naturally I did not bring one piece of rain gear with me and I doubt there is anything in my size in all of Peru since the average height here is about 5’5″ or so. The cars here even look smaller. I think two of them would make a good pair of roller skates for me. I am doing my writing here at the dining table and looking out on the street. This is one thing I like about being in the city. Just sitting and watching people walk by, living their lives. Making up little stories about them and watching friends interact with each other. People are the same everywhere to some respects. Friends, family, work, school, just living their lives to the best of their abilities. Differences in Cultures and religions aside, we all strive to make our lives better and to treat others with respect on an individual level. Boy am I getting preachy this morning.
John called last night to check up on me. He’s a good friend and it’s always nice to know that someone is worrying about your safety when you travel. I think my Sister has gotten comfortable with my travels and doesn’t worry anymore.
Well, it’s time for a shower and shave before hitting the mean streets of Barranco again. I hope the rain (drizzle) has stopped before I finish. Out of the shower and dressed, Yea, the drizzle has stopped.
Back in the apartment again, I had a nice long walk again but did not take lot of pictures. Anything within walking distance has been snapped by me so now waiting to range farther out, hopefully tomorrow. I did some more grocery shopping, went to the pharmacy for more Ibuprophen and some Celebrex, got a book for Tim (Cervantes) and found some writable CDs for sale so that I can burn some of the photos and take them to the Internet Café to send to friends. All that took several trips but I enjoyed looking around for those places to shop. I haven’t seen a single cheap or even expensive souvenir store yet. Not even street vendors, I must really be off the beaten path. For lunch I stopped in at my now favorite Coffee Shop and had a Prosciutto and Queso Sandwich with Café and some Cheesecake Fresa for desert while I read some more on my book. I noticed that a customer had a really great looking strawberry milkshake; I might have to try that tomorrow. Yummy!!! I’m starting to feel like I live here now. Maybe this evening I will wander out and look for a Pub and have a couple of beers.
Day 4 Now what?
Well, I made it out for dinner and a few drinks last night. It was nice. I went to a place called Toto’s first. It was one of those restaurants on that path down to the beach. I was the only customer. By the way have I mentioned that I have yet to run into anyone who speaks English. No menus or signs in English either. Anyway, I had the Carne con Parilla. If I remember correctly that translates into meat (red) and a salad. I’m not sure what the meat was. It could have been cow or even Llama for all I knew. It was tasty though and came with a couple of sauces (a red and a yellow) of which both were good and neither one too spicy. Also included were some potatoes and a salad. At times I am glad I don’t know, if I really knew I probably would not order it. I washed that down with a couple of Cervesas while I watched the waves roll in on the ocean. Finishing up I walked over to a local bar I had noticed a few blocks away. It was called Hakunas. Once again I was the only customer. I arrived there about 6:30pm had a couple more cervesas and stayed till 8. When I left I was still the only customer. I gather that Lima is much like Carbondale and people do not come out till late. Still everyone is friendly and I am grateful for that.
I’m writing this as I have my breakfast this morning, Cereal with Banana, Coffee, toast and some cheese. I’m not sure what I will do today. Probably just wander again, looking for some new sights. So far just from peering out my window this morning it appears that there are not as many people out as there are during the week. Since I am not sure if the stores and restaurants in the area will be open on Sunday I probably need to make a small shopping run today also. Oh, did I mention that it is cold and cloudy again today. On another note, I have noticed the drivers generally follow the rules of the road here. At least they use the lanes unlike drivers n Cairo and Istanbul. There also seems to be good public bus transportation if you can figure out which one to get on and of course there seems to be hundreds of Taxis always available. They are not cheap though.
I spent most of the morning reading my book. It’s really good and hard to put down. After that I went for another walk, exploring even further into the neighborhoods. There are some really nice places here, especially along the coast. I saw several home I wouldn’t mind calling my own. I also noticed a lot of very old places that appeared to be fairly run down with “For Sale” signs on them. Old mansions, built I am sure a long time ago. A couple looked promising but they would require some major repairs. Things that are definitely outside my abilities, maybe even Jims. There were also a couple of local artists displaying their art in one of the squares I walked through. Very nice work, some realist and some abstract. For some reason I was more attracted to the abstract art, although both were very good. I took a few more pictures but I am thinking I will have to wait for Mauricio before I find new material here in Lima. On the way back I stopped at the coffee shop and had the most delicious lunch. A sandwich called a “Triple”. Of course it was three layered with Mango (might have been Papaya or peaches) in the first layer, chicken salad of some type in the second layer and avocado with mayo in the third layer. It was so good. I also had a mixed meat Empanada that was even better. For desert, a chocolate cake, rolled with white and chocolate icing with apples and mango rolled in also. All covered in a Chocolate icing drizzled with whipped cream and strawberries. I think I have gone to culinary heaven. I am hoping I can get the recipes for some of this great food. Afterwards, a stop at the Internet Café again to check E-mails and drop a note to my Sister and Niece letting them know I arrived OK and am having a blast.
Day 5 Time for more adventures
Today is the day my friend from Cusco arrives. I am looking forward to all the things he will show me in Lima. I am also looking forward to returning to Cusco with him for a few days. He called last night and told me we would be going to a play in the afternoon. The children at one of the schools he is responsible for is putting on “Joseph and the Multi Colored Coat”. Something tells me it will be in Spanish also. I stayed in last night and finished the book I had started and watched a little TV. They talk too fast for me to understand much on the TV shows. I was watching a Jackie Chan movie with only oriental actors that was in Spanish. It wasn’t very good. I think the movie was done before he became a star in the US. I finally gave up and went to sleep; I couldn’t follow the plot at all. I have yet to see any American shows other that the Discovery Channel and the Disney Channel. Eggs, bacon and cheese for breakfast again all washed down with some good coffee. It has started to drizzle again outside, I guess Mauricio wasn’t exaggerating when he said the Sun never comes out in Lima in the winter. I am sure glad I didn’t take up valuable packing space with Sun Screen. Just a joke folks, I know that the harmful rays still get through.
I sat around this morning waiting for Mauricio to show up. I am always nervous when meeting a new friend for the first time. He finally arrived and we sat around and chatted getting to know each other better. There is a change of plans of course. He is going to have to help set up the play and film it so I would be on my own at the school for a couple of hours if I went with him. I’d rather just wait at the apartment for him to finish and then he will return to show me the downtown at night. First though he took me to lunch at that he termed a “Food Fair”. All I can say is WOW to the nth degree. It was like an open air restaurant with all kinds of vendors there, each with their own specialties. So much good looking food and it all smelled so delicious. Mauricio took me through all the tables explaining the items to me. I selected two dishes specific to Peru a potato pastry filled with an assortment of meats and served with rice and a dish once again with potato type dough that had a filling of tuna and a sauce. He had this delicious dish that was beans and rice with other stuffs (i.e. peppers), made into a cake of sorts and fried. This had two fried eggs on top, I think they were Quail. It also came with a big piece of meat that looked a lot like what I had at Totos the other night. I tried his dish also and it was wonderful. Then it was on to the deserts. A cake called “Three Milks” and a pudding that I do not remember the name of. Both were extraordinary. I have to make sure I get the names of these dishes before I leave.
After lunch we walked back to the apartment and Mauricio had to leave for the school and get to work on the play. I also discovered he has hurt his knee, first in soccer and then doing the Downhill Bike Racing. He will be seeing a physician while he is here also. He was limping some while we were walking so I know it is bothering him. I think he has injured his foot also in the soccer match.
The dishes from lunch were:
Papa a la Huancaina: Huancaina Potato (made with a cream of milk and bread)
Causa rellena: Pressed potato with chicken and mayonese
Tacu=Tacu: Rice and beans with fried eggs and meat
Papa rellena: Potato with sauce and with meat inside
Suspiro a la Limena: Lima whisper
Torta tres leches: 3 milks cake
Chicha Morada: Purple juice made of purple corn
Mauricio returned from the play. It apparently went very well. I asked him to provide the above menu from yesterday’s lunch. FYI, all of that was less than $10 US for both of us. He had the car from the Brother’s House and off we went to see Mira Flores and go have a light dinner. We stopped at a very nice restaurant (finally a menu in English), I think the name was Tanta. Apparently the most famous Peruvian Chef in the world owns and runs the place. I had a sandwich (Ravu Frischa, translates to Fancy Turkey) which was excellent and a glass of red wine. The menu was extensive but I was not that hungry after our huge lunch. Finishing the meal we went on a driving tour of the downtown area. Miraflores is beautiful, very clean and modern. Lots of Department stores, restaurants and high rise apartments. I would say a good comparison between Barranco (where I am staying) and Miraflores is like comparing the West Village in NYC to West Central Park in Manhattan. Mauricio tells me that all the artists live in Barranco and sell their art in Miraflores. You can definitely tell that the income level is higher there. There were lots of artists displaying their work in the Park at the center of town. He also tells me that a three bedroom, three bath with large kitchen and living room in one of the very nice high rises goes for $250 a month which includes water and electric. This includes an ocean view. OH MY GOD, why am I not already living here? Back to the apartment and M returns to the Brother’s House.
Day 6 More chores and stuff
I am up having my breakfast and deciding what I will do for the day. M has business to take care of and a visit to the Dr about his knee. I do know that I need to get more groceries and water, clean the apartment a little (no it did not come with a maid) and go for another long walk. M will call after all his appointments and show me some more of the city. We will also be going out to dinner again tonight. Food is so cheap here when you stay away from the fancy restaurants but they are a nice treat once in awhile. I was hoping that he could take me on a drive outside the city but he tells me that there is not much to see just outside the city and it would take a two hour drive just to get there. So I have to agree that it is hardly worth it at this point. I also got the scoop on Taxi’s, taking the buses, and other things to watch out for in the big city. Sounded like a lot of advice I got for NYC, Chicago, Rome, Istanbul and every other large city in the world I have visited. Boiled down to its essential it translates to “Be alert and don’t do anything stupid”. Sound advice regardless of where you are at.
A shower and a shave after breakfast and it was time to get out of the apartment for awhile. I went grocery shopping first to replenish my supplies of staples. Then it was down to the Internet Café (a misnomer since no food or coffee is served) for a little over an hour while I caught up on my E-mails. I sent messages to some friends and sent my Sister another message. Then I checked my messages from work. I had to respond to a couple to resolve some problems. As usual I had trouble with our Intranet E-mail service. This time I could not delete messages. Afterwards I was off for a walk and to see some more sights. I walked towards Miraflores but did not go too far into the town before turning back. It was close to lunch time and I decided to back track to my favorite little Coffee Shop. They like me there, I can tell. Of course being a big tipper helps. After lunch another short walk to the cliffs overlooking the beach where I made a little movie. I had not done that with my camera yet so it as an interesting little adventure. I think I actually have a slight Peruvian accent when I am speaking on the camera or in other words I sound very goofy. Naturally that killed the batteries in the camera so it was back to the apartment for new ones and a short rest from the huge lunch I had. M tells me that lunch is the main meal of the day in Peru. Everyone has a large meal at mid day and a small dinner at night. Well, I need to run back to the small store for another bottle of wine and some Tums. The very rich food is causing a little acid reflux after I am in bed at night. I need to put a stop to that quickly.
I spent most of the evening reading another book I had started. M’s meeting for the merger of his business went very late. At his Dr’s appointment, his physician put him on a medication to see if the bone growth in his knee would reduce. If not they will try something else. He finally arrived around 9pm and he took me to the big Mall in Miraflores, giving me the grand tour. What a spectacular place. I will have to go back in the day time and get pictures. It is built on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Open air with multiple terraces and lots and lots of shops and restaurants as well as a multiplex cinema. It looks very American although I have to say I do not believe I have seen one as nice as this one. After eating a very late dinner for me, we walked back to Barranco and then he returned to the Brother’s House.
Day 7 To Historical Lima during the day
I’m up early and just finished my breakfast despite staying up a little late last night. I finally found a couple of English channels on TV last night. One was from Germany and the other from China. Both are news cast types and you actually have to punch in number to get them. The up and down channel buttons skip over them for some reason. M is supposed to come by around 10am this morning and entertain me for a bit. He has appointments all afternoon and has to visit some old friends this evening so I will be on my own again most of the day. I hope to have him drop me off at the mall and I also hope I can find a decent map of the city or at least Barranco and Miraflores. Not much on my agenda today, just seeing how much more there is and getting some more photographs.
M showed up at about 10am and took me to the Historical Center of Lima. It was beautiful. Lots of old Colonial Buildings, Government buildings, houses, Palaces and churches. I took a bunch of pictures and got the grand tour. As in all churches, these were more like Museums with all the wonderful art, statuary and ornaments. There were lots of bones of the Peruvian Saints, something they are proud of. M tells me there are lots of Peruvian Saints but none from Argentina. Hmmm, what does that tell a person. We saw the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace. It occurs every day at noon with a lot of Pomp and Circumstance. There was quite a crowd of both tourists and locals watching the event. I managed to get a couple of little E-mail movies of the event. We toured the open air market, a museum of “Postal History” and several Cathedrals. One of the most impressive things to see were the balconies of the old homes. They were just beautiful in their detail and artistry. I took lots of pictures of them. Sure wish I had one on my house like that. Then of course my house would look like crap. There were of course the usual tourist type stores with lots of chotskies for sale. Despite it being a high tourist area I did not see that many. After all the wandering it was off to China town for some lunch. It’s amazing how all the China Towns in all the world all look the same. M took me to his favorite restaurant and once again I have to comment on how amazing the food was. So much better than the Oriental food we have at home. The Wanton Soup was a meal in itself and the tastiest I have ever eaten. We also had a couple of Chinese/Peruvian mixed dishes, for the life of me I can’t remember the names, that were also delicious. So much food we could not eat it all. I think he ordered four different dishes and the bill came to less than $20 for the both of us. After lunch it was back home for me and off to more business appointments for M. I dropped my stuff off and went to the Internet Café, sent a couple of E-mails and checked my work stuff and now I am back typing up my remembrances. I will probably stay in this evening, drink a beer and read some more on my book. I didn’t get much sleep last night so it will be early to bed for me tonight.
Day 8 More sight seeing and planning for Cusco
I am up at the usual time. Breakfast has been eaten and I am going over my Journal to correct spellings and add thoughts I had forgotten originally. Guess what, another cloudy day in Lima. I am starting to forget what the Sun even looks like. This morning M will come around 10am again. He has another Doctor’s appointment this morning to see if the medication is working on his knee. If not, I guess he is supposed to have the growth removed surgically. It is not big so it looks to me like it would be a minor procedure. Today he will show me more of the city, take me to lunch again and I think we will make the plans for my short trip to Cusco. I am looking forward to that.
I also wanted to note, I keep mentioning how chilly it is here and that is true when you are just sitting around the apartment. When you get out and start hiking around, it warms up very quickly. I think the high humidity is the main reason for it. The humidity here is different than in Cozumel, everything does not feel so damp and that may have to do with the temperature.
Peruvian dishes in Lima (Lunch in China Town yesterday)
CHIFA (Peruvian Chinese food)
Sopa wan tan (Wan tan Soup)
Siu Mai (Rolled wantan with meat, spoiled and with a nice sauce)
Pollo enrrollado (Rolled chicken with meat and pork and vegetables)
Arroz Chaufa especial (Special Chaufa rice with shrimp / Chinese rice)
Diet Inca kola (Peruvian coke that is the best known and won to Coke in Peru)
I am back from my day with M. Today he took me to two new parts of the city. They were to the East and occupied mostly by Peruvian middle class families. There does seem to be a thriving middle class here in Peru. Our first stop was at another big Mall. He needed to shop for a winter coat; they are on sale here (almost spring) and for a gift for his God Son. After going through every clothing store we could find looking for the best deal he settled on a nice coat in a department store called “”. There was some problem finding a key to unlock the merchandise so we had to wait while they tried to find someone who could unlock the chains. It seemed to take forever but the store gave him a nice wool hat for nothing to make up for the inconvenience. We looked for a present but could not find anything he wanted to give the young man. After this it was off to a bike store to try and find some type of body armor that they use in the Xtreme Downhill Racing. One Bike store was closed and the piece of equipment he needed at the one that was open was twice as expensive as it would be in Cusco so he will wait till he returns and buy it there. Riding in a car through Lima is not as exciting as it is in Istanbul or Cairo but it has its moments. You definitely need to be an aggressive driver in this town; otherwise it would take you all day just to get into traffic in some places.
After the shopping it was back to Miraflores for lunch. Can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it was on the park in the center of the city. We ate outdoors and the Sun actually peeked out for about an hour. It was like a summer heat wave. Now of course I am back in the apartment and the Sun is behind the clouds again. After lunch, M had more appointments and needed to visit some friends so he dropped me off and I went to the Internet Café and did my usual checking of E-mails. He did make arrangements for my trip to Cusco though; I will be flying into Cusco Friday around noon and staying until Tuesday morning when I will return to the apartment here in Lima. I can’t wait to see Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Pichu. Tonight will be spent at home again. I will make myself a light supper, read some more on my book and go to bed early again.
Added note about M’s Doctors appointment, the bone growth is softening so no surgery should be required. Good news for him. He will be returning to Cusco tomorrow morning so Thursday will be on my own. I hope the Sun is out just for a little bit. I would love to get some pictures of the coast with the Sun shining.
Day 9 A day on my own again
I am up early as usual, although sleeping till 7 or 7:30 seems late to me. I have finished breakfast and played some cards on my computer. I think it cheats, especially at solitaire. I think I have won one game out of 60. Today I am waiting word from M on the status of my plane tickets to Cusco tomorrow. I hope it goes well and there are seats available. It is awfully last minute and there are lots of tourists going there. He should be on a plane to Cusco by now. I will go for a good long walk today and go by the coast again. I like watching the Ocean even if it is cloudy. Also I will stop by the internet café and check E-mails and send some messages to friends. Now it is time for my shower and to get ready for the day.
M called; naturally I was in the shower. My ticket to Cusco is for 10am in the morning, he tells me that I will need to be at the airport by 9am and my return flight will be on Tuesday at 8:30am. If I remember correctly the flight takes about one hour. He will meet me at the airport. Now I am off for a walk.
I am back in the apartment now. I went for a nice walk, stopped at the bank for some more Nuevo Soles, went down by the sea and made a little movie to send to friends, took some pictures of interesting houses and stopped by the market to get Tim another book, this time by a Peruvian author. Also stopped at the Internet Café, my reservations for the Cusco flights were in my Inbox so I printed them out and I responded to some questions from work as well as sending the little movie to family and friends. Afterwards it was off to the little restaurant for some lunch. Now I am debating what to do for the rest of the afternoon. Should I go to Miraflores and back to Larcomar (the big Mall on the Sea) and take some pictures or go back to the town center of Barranco and see what is happening there? I guess I will decide when I step out the door.
Out the door turned into a walk to the central area of Barranco and back again. I also walked to the end of the park by my apartment and just set for awhile and watched the waves roll into shore, a very relaxing past time. Returning home I fixed dinner, played games on the Lap Top and finished the second book. Early to bed so I will be rested for Cusco tomorrow.
Day 10 Off to Cusco and other adventures
Up at 6 am this morning to get ready for the trip to Cusco. I packed last night so this morning was just about a shower, breakfast and getting dressed. Then it was out the front door for my first adventure, catching a cab. I had noticed while eating my breakfast that there was no traffic on my street this early in the morning so I was a little nervous. Packing up I trod down the stairs and onto the street. The first two cabs were unwilling to make the trip to the airport. Finally the third one agreed and for a price of 35 Soles. I was shocked. This was about one third the price it had cost me to go from the airport to the apartment. He whisked me to the airport in no time; traffic was low so we made it in about 40 minutes. So with all my paranoia about getting here on time, now I have a 3 hour wait till my plane departs. I gave the driver a healthy tip (M would not appreciate that) and thanked him profusely. After all the warnings about cab drivers taking advantage of me, it was nice to get lucky and find an honest one. Even when I asked M how much he thought the trip should cost he told me about 60 – 65 soles. It was fairly easy getting through airport security and the ticket lines. I think I was there early enough to avoid the rush.
The flight to Cusco was uneventful. It was cloudy so we only got occasional peaks through the clouds at the Andes mountain range. The landing at Cusco was spectacular. We had to dive in over a mountain range to the airstrip located on the valley floor. Then there was a short wait while one of the gates freed up. M was there waiting for me so we loaded up my things and he brought me to the school and “Brothers” house where I had an apartment waiting for me. This apartment is nice also, a one bedroom with living room, dining room, kitchen and office. Considering that it is free, it’s a palace.
So the first thing on order was for me to drink some coca tea and take a nap, orders from M, stating that this was the best way to avoid altitude sickness. His statement “Better 4 hours of rest than 4 days of sickness” was good advice. It is over 11,400 feet here. I think the only time I was this high was the skiing trips in Europe to the Alps (French and Swiss). It is definitely harder to breathe here. After my rest it was over to the common rooms for lunch, they have their own cook here. It was delicious, some meat, rice, lentils, an avocado salad and fruit. Finishing lunch it was off to the Volleyball championship game for M’s students. I think they were in the 10 – 14 year old range. It was a very exciting match but they were obviously better than the other team and much better coached. They won handily in three matches. We took a cab to get to the school where the game was being held and the driver took us up a road that looked like it was much too steep for a car. Turns out it was and we had to walk part way up the hill and get back in the cab. It was not a long walk but y the time we reached the top I could barely breathe. Yeah, the air is a lot thinner here. Of course M and the other Brother thought it was hilarious. Not to mention the cab was one of those small roller skate vehicles that I looked ridiculous getting in and out of.
After the match it was a tour of the historical parts of Cusco and ALL the churches. This is a beautiful place with remarkable views in every direction you look. Now if I could just get rid of all those boat people. You can see how the city was built on top of the ruins of the ancient Incan Capital. I think that the stone work of the Incas is even more amazing than that in Egypt. The work is so amazing that the stone work of the Spanish on top of it looks shoddy at best. Still the colonial architecture is beautiful and the churches are among the most magnificent I have ever seen. One of the churches in particular is jut covered in gold on the inside, absolutely breath taking. I can tell that M is very proud of this city, I could not have asked for a better guide. After the tour, we had dinner (I had Alpaca and it was delicious) and then it was back to the Brothers house and call it a night.
Day 11 Temple of the Sun, the Sacred Valley and who knows what else
Up at 7 and ready for the day. I am supposed to meet M in the Common area at 8:30 or so to start our day so I am catching up on my journal till then. It is a beautiful sunny morning (yes I said sunny) and I am excited about seeing more of this beautiful place. I need to get some Sun screen though, the burning rays are much more intense up at this altitude and the ozone is supposedly thinner here. More later folks.
Well I am back from the first outing and quite an outing it was. We took the Downhill team to Coya, a small town on the other side of the mountain to practice the trail for the competition. We loaded up the truck with their bikes and headed out. The scenery on the way there was breath taking. Beautiful mountains and valleys with small towns were in every direction. On arriving in Coya a town festival was going on. Coya is very small, I would say around 500 – 1000 people in all from the number of homes. All the elders of the town did a small parade around the town square in native costume. They were beautiful and full of rich colors. The elders were followed by a group of young people in Costumes with masks. They represented the spirits that protected the mountain.
After the parade it was loading up the truck and a drive up this mountain on (I will NOT call it a road) a goat path. Sheer drop offs and hair pin turns (guard rails HA! I LAUGH AT YOUR GUARD RAILS) made for one of the most exciting rides I have ever had. What seemed like an eternity later, we arrived at the starting point of the down hill race. Looking down at the trail these chicos were going to have to ride I immediately turned to them and stated that they were all LOCO! The boys got a big laugh out of that. They mounted the bikes and shot over the edge like they were jumping the curb on a street in town. M asked me f I would drive the truck back down the mountain, at which point I told him he was crazy. He had his bike with us also and he wanted to do the trail also. If I had been in a vehicle I was familiar with and spoke the language fluently in case I ran into problems, I probably would have done it. But, there was no way I was taking the “Brothers” truck down a road like that. In the end M took a curve too sharp on the way down, hit a concrete abutment on the last bridge before town and bent the rim on the back wheel. Fortunately the air leak was slow enough to get us to the next town where a guy straightened out the rim with a hammer, while it was still on the truck, for a mere two Soles. It took us about 35 minutes to get back down the mountain; it took the boys 8 minutes on their bikes. I got some fantastic shots though and we made it back to town safe and sound. I can honestly say that I have now seen parts of Peru that no other tourist will ever see.
On returning, it was time for lunch and a short nap. Afterwards, M took me up to see the “Cristo Blanco” on a mountain top above the city. The statue was beautiful and it was a gift from the Jewish community in the 1940s when the Catholic Church was thinking of expelling all the Jews from Cusco. After the gift, there was no more mention of the expulsion. Then we were off for a driving tour of other parts of town with us stopping in the San Isidro District which is the artistic part of town. It is also part of the historical center and very beautiful. Then we took another walking tour of the older parts I had not seen before. I got to see the Temple of the Sun or at least the base for it. The Spanish built a Convent and Church on top of it. Such a shame that all of the ancient building here in Cusco have been built over and all you can see are the stone foundations. We ended the evening with dinner at a friend of his restaurant . She is a very nice lady, very cultured and well traveled. She is the one who arranged my flights to Cusco and a tour for tomorrow of the surrounding ruins as well as the trip to Machu Pichu on Monday. Time for bed now, we’ll see what the morning brings.
Day 12 Incan Ruins, a Tour and other adventures
My day started off with a quick breakfast of yogurt and it was off to catch the tour bus for my days activities. Talking it over with M I decided to do the tour instead of going to the Bike race since we would not be able to watch anything but the end. Most of it would have been sitting in the town square waiting for the boys to show up at the finish line. Turns out one was hurt but not seriously though. M is at the hospital checking on him now.
The bus picked me up in front of the Brother’s house and it was off to the races. We had a nice little group from all over the word. China, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia are the ones I remember. First stop, side of the road for photo op as we entered the Sacred Valley, haven’t I been here before. Photo Op my eye, guess what was waiting for us. You guessed it, the Peruvian souvenir sales persons. I must admit though that they are not nearly as bad as the ones in other countries. They know the meaning of the word NO. I snapped a few shots and got back on the bus. Then we entered the valley and stopped in a town called Pisca I think. Guess where we stopped? That’s right, the local market with 10,000 more souvenir sales persons. Luckily I have M to do my shopping for me. I decided to lag behind the tour group (lost them really easily) and do a little walking tour of the town. Not much to see but I did get a few interesting photos.
After Pisca it was off to the ruins of “Alomaloalay”, I’m sure I spelled that wrong. Finally, something of archaeological interest to see. The place was massive and I was again impressed with the engineering of the Inca. This temple complex (another Temple to the Sun God) was never completed and therefore never destroyed by the Spanish. I climbed as much of it as I could before the old knees gave out and got a lot of fantastic photos with both my digital and film camera. It should be noted that like all archaeological sites around the world, the mandatory (yes you guessed it again) souvenir market was right in front and had to be wadded through before getting to the entrance to the site. After much wandering and much picture taking it was back on the bus for Lunch.
We were taken to this very nice restaurant where they had a buffet of traditional Peruvian foods, most of which I recognized from my dinners and lunches out with M. Once again the food was amazing and they had the usual fine selection of deserts afterwards.
After filling our bellies it was off to the last site, the most beautiful church in all of the Sacred Valley. It was built atop the palace of one of the Kings of the Inca “___” . The Church is very old and looks to be in very fragile condition but it is very beautiful on the inside with magnificent frescoes and paintings, with the altars all done in gold and silver. The Incan religion can be seen in every church and every painting that they did for the church. Even today they consider themselves to have two religions, one Catholic and the other “______”. After touring the church and battling our way out of the ever present market it was back to Cusco. Home at last and I discover that I have left my camera on the bus. A quick call to his friend by M and my camera is being delivered to the door by the owner of the tour company. I am so totally relieved and yet feel so stupid at the same time.
Now I am waiting for M to return from the hospital and we will go out to dinner.
M has returned and the boy is fine. No broken bones or serious injuries. He will have some bruises and aches and pains but will be fine. We went to the local market and I loaded up on cheap souvenirs for all my friends and co-workers. It was fun shopping for them with M, he knew where the bargains were and they are some nice things also. I think my friends will like them. Then it was off to dinner and to meet his friend to pick up my train tickets to Machu Pichu. Another fantastic day. I am excited to be going to Machu Pichu but I wish my friends were here to enjoy it with me. Time for bed, it is an early day tomorrow.
Day 13 Machu Pichu, train rides and another tour
Today I am up early to catch the train up to Machu Pichu. No time for breakfast, M drags me out the door, we catch a cab and are at the train station in minutes. It wasn’t the fancy train and it wasn’t the local (no chickens or pigs) either. The one I took was called “The Backpacker” and it’s name says it all. We took off from the train station on time (0700) and were immediately treated to the first novel part of the train ride. It’s called a switch back, we had to do 6 of those just to get out of Cusco. Since we didn’t know about it before hand; everyone on the train though we had broken down and were headed back to the station. It was amusing to say the least. The ride to Aguas Caliente, the last stop on the ride takes about 4 hours depending on an assortment of situations. The scenery is beautiful and ever changing; from farmlands with cultivated fields, large cattle ranches, to mountainous gorges with wild rivers and the beginning of the Amazonian Jungle. They sold sandwiches and drinks on the train which were freshly made and tasted mighty good to a hungry man. I sat next to a window and tried to get as many good pictures as I could before our final destination. Aguas Caliente is the small town where to train ride ends and you catch the bus to Machu Pichu. They have lots of nice hotels here and thermal hot springs where you can relax in a sauna type atmosphere. I highly recommend you spend at least one night here although on this trip I didn’t. The bus ride to Machu Pichu is about another 45 minutes up to the entrance of the site. You want to talk about switch backs, the “mountain” that Machu Pichu resides on is practically perpendicular and the drive up is quite exciting. Not as exciting as the ride to the top of the Bike Competition but close. I really have to admire the drivers for their ability.
So here we are with our guide at the entrance and he tells us we have to climb some more. Of course I am dying from all the climbing already. He stated it was about a 10 minute climb, it took me twice as long because I had to keep stopping and catch my breath. But, coming over the top of the ridge and looking down on the ruins was worth every step, labored breath and pop of my knee joints. The disgusting part was the fact that there were people there older than me having no problem what so ever. It gave me hope though that there were people there a lot younger than me that were having as difficult a time as me.
After that initial climb though, it was fairly easy going. The most difficult part being the very narrow steps (much like the Maya); that made it hard for us Big Foots to get down some of the stairs. The views from Machu Pichu were breath taking and the ruins themselves were awesome beyond belief. Much like Egypt you just don’t get it unless you see it up close and personal. If you have a serious fear of heights you might have a problem with this place. There are thousand foot drops on all sides and if anyone ever went over the edge I doubt they would ever recover the bodies. The tour lasted two hours and after that you were free to wander the ruins. I had to catch a bus back in time to catch my train back to Cusco so I did not really have the time to explore as much as I wished. I really wish I had the time to spend a night there.
After getting back down from the mountain there was just enough time to grab a quick lunch and catch the train back to Cusco. Most of this trip was after the sun had set so not really any photo ops on the way back. I called M as we were entering the city limits and he was waiting for me at the train station. We dropped the car off at the Brother’s house and took a cab back into the Central Square and had a wonderful dinner. I had a different version of the Tacu-Tacu which was good but in my opinion, not as good as the one M ordered at the food fair. Then it was back to my apartment to pack and go to bed. I had an early morning flight.
Day 14 back to Lima and the last of the adventure
I was up early again this morning to catch the flight from Cusco to Lima. M came and took me to the airport. I cannot express how wonderful this person is. We will be friends forever; I owe him so much for his hospitality here. I actually managed to get on an earlier flight 0800 instead of 0830. The flight went smoothly and now I am back in sunny Lima (that’s a joke folks). I took a cab from the airport to the apartment and arrived safely. After some quick shopping, I had some lunch and unpacked from the trip to Cusco. Now I have to pack for the trip home. This trip has gone so quickly, the fun ones always do. Also went to my favorite little coffee shop and had coffee and a desert then to the Internet Café to read my E-mails and send Tim an update on my whereabouts and doings.
Time for a nap and then I will start the process of packing.
The nap is over; I packed most of my clothes, played some card games on my lap top and watched a little TV. Then it was early to bed because I will get very little sleep over the next 48 hours.
Day 15 A last look around, a few goodbyes and then farewell to Peru
I slept in a little this morning. It is hard to sleep too late, the traffic noise gets a little loud starting around 8am. Everyone loves to honk their horns here. It seems that is true everywhere I go except in the US. Cereal and coffee for breakfast and lounging about till close to 10, that seems to be when all the stores are open for business.
I went out for another stroll around Barranco. I needed to absorb more of the atmosphere before I leave and say hello to my regulars on my path. I also stopped at my favorite little coffee shop for lunch and said good bye to the owner and the waiter. Naturally I had the camera with me and took more photos of the area. I am really going to miss this place and I look forward to returning here as soon as possibl