Saturday, July 19, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 16 (Heading Home)

Saturday, July 19, 2008
Originally Brynne and I were to stay at a hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima (on the other side of the city) and have the whole of today to tour Lima, then fly home Sunday, July 20th. Instead, we were flying home a day early, now on the same day as Jan and Kirby. Which meant getting up at 2:45 AM in order to check in three hours early for our 6:15 AM flight. We were delighted to find upon check-in that our airport fee was paid! Able to skip that line and go ahead to breakfast in the food court. Jan and Kirby joined us, then watched our bags as we did last-minute souvenir shopping at the Café Britt store.
Going through security, I handed over my x-ray. My suitcase was opened to get the cuticle scissors out of the first aid kit. I guess they didn’t get the memo that those scissors are now allowed, and they tossed them in a large clear bin with other confiscated materials, including mostly water bottles. Fortunately, I had left the walking stick with reception at the airport hotel, along with Veronika’s Teva sandals, for Rob to pick up next week when he is in Lima. And unlike on the trip until now, I was wearing capri pants so that everyone could see that I was limping because I had a cast on my right ankle!
It turns out that in the international part of the Lima airport, there are more shops and places to eat. We snoozed until it was time to board. We were in the first group to board and had seats right behind the first class bulkhead. Kent had made sure we had the best seats for leg room and ease of reaching them. These seats were two steps from where you entered the plane. So yes, plenty of leg room, but no baggage room. We had carried on all our baggage, but were able to put everything above us. Mostly slept, and Brynne slept through breakfast. “Penelope” was the movie again, so no need to stay awake! A five-hour and 20-minute flight went quickly.

After we arrived in Miami and got off the plane, we started walking through the corridors, only to be stopped as they checked our passports before we reached immigration. Apparently they had a bomb scare three days earlier at the Miami airport, but that doesn’t explain the extra step to check passports…
(But then the same thing happened when we returned from Costa Rica last year!)
We waited at the baggage area for Jan and Kirby, and said our goodbyes. At customs, the official asked if we had eaten guinea pig in Peru. We said, “No.” So he asked if we had eaten chicken in Peru. We said, “Yes.” And he said that meant we had eaten guinea pig! Then he let us go.
We had to go through security again, and this time I was singled out to step into a clear glass booth. A woman came over to let me out, and she took a round piece of fabric, rubbed it around the top of my cast and on my hands. She put the round thing in a machine, and after a minute of the machine humming, the woman told me to have a nice day.
We found that the next flight to Jacksonville was at 4:05 PM. We went on standby, then went to grab lunch from a pizza place. We did not get on the 4:05 flight, so continued waiting until our scheduled 6:30 PM flight. We took a shuttle bus out to our twin turboprop plane, and everyone boarded through the back door. So Brynne and I had the last two seats in the plane. Although they warned of turbulence, the flight was fine, except that we were sent to land in Orlando due to thunderstorms in Jacksonville. We stayed in Orlando about an hour, then re-boarded the plane and headed to Jacksonville. This flight was turbulent, especially coming in to land. I had the feeling that the plane almost tipped sideways, but Brynne said the plane just dropped. We finally arrived at about 10:00 PM. Kent picked us up at the arrivals level. By then we were hungry, so had to stop at Denny’s for another breakfast! Home at last!


Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 15 (Sillustani)

Friday, July 18, 2008
Got up really late today at 8:30 AM! Mayro and a van driver met us to take us on our morning tour. As we left Puno, he pointed out the National University of the Altiplano at the edge of the city of Puno. Apparently Mayro attended the university to study tourism and business. He owns the family ranch with sheep and cattle, and has a couple families working for him. He has a wife and two small children.
At another point we passed a fortified block of buildings that looked like a prison with barbed wire and towers. Mayro said it was the university’s research center, and that during the days of the Shining Path domestic terrorism, such institutes were protected with walls and towers. He talked about how he had to live with the guerrillas and government troops who came through his property. He simply offered them a cow or couple of sheep for meat to appease whoever was at his door. Jan and Kirby asked if he even laughed at that time in his life (a period of 10 years!), and he just laughed!
We came to a small town of Santa Maria (?), where there was a procession for the Fiesta de la Virgen de Carmen. Since the road was blocked, we hopped out to walk ahead to catch the parade, as the van followed behind. A band followed several groups of dancers, each group supposedly represented some facet of history. We had seen a brightly-dressed women get on a bus back at the road turnoff, and here she jumped out of the bus and ran ahead to join others dressed like her!
Village parade
Child on motorcycle
We watched this procession turn up a side street to a church, then hopped in our van to continue on our way.
There were several walled communities, each with many sets of ceramic bulls and crosses on the rooftops.
Walled community
The livelihood here is herding sheep and alpacas. Before we reached Sillustani, we stopped briefly at a lagoon at the foot of the hill. Birding opportunity. Then up to the parking lot filled with tourist vans and buses, and souvenir vendors.
Sillustani on the ridge
Sillustani is a necropolis/cemetery on a peninsula in Lake Umayo 30 km/19 miles from Puno. There are 28 stone funerary towers called chullpas. Some of these chullpas pre-date or coincide with the Inca period, being from the 14th and 15th centuries, and as early as AD 900. The Colla people buried their dead in chullpas, whose stone masonry rivals that of the Incas. Their stones were generally the same size and placed parallel. Chullpas is correctly the shroud to cover the mummies deposited inside, and the proper name of the towers is ayawasi (“home of the dead”). The mummies were buried with their possessions, such as jewelry, food, and seeds. Mayro explained that since the soul would experience a rebirth into the next world, the mummy was placed in a fetal position on a flat stone, and covered with a rounded pile of stones to represent the womb of Mother Earth, or an oven. The tops of the towers were open, to facilitate the spirit going to the higher world, which is in the mountains. Each year on November 2nd (All Souls Day), the families come to the chullpas to bring food offerings to sustain the spirit of their loved ones, and tell them news of the family and request that the spirit look after those family members in need. All of the chullpas had openings which faced the east, which made it easy for grave robbers to find the openings and remove the appropriate stone to get inside. Mayro indicated that the cylindrical chullpas were from the agricultural societies, and the square ones from the cattle-raising societies.
Cylindrical chullpas
The tallest of the chullpas is called the Lizard, because of a relief carving on one of its stones.
Lizard chullpa
This is the largest chullpa with a circumference of 28 feet. The feature of these chullpas is that the bottom circumference is smaller than the top. Mayro also pointed out a chullpa with a relief of a snake.
Snake relief
The snake and lizard represent the lower world (of the earth’s interior or of the sub-conscious) and these animals do not have any negative connotation.
In the lagoon below, there was a curious pattern in the ground at the edge.
Lagoon with planting beds
Mayro explained that in order to grow crops in cold temperatures, the Incas built alternating raised beds with water channels between them. The water in the channels would be warmed by the day’s sun, and provide protection to the plants on the raised beds if a frost occurred.
Next we saw the foundations of two temples, one of the Sun where the shadow of a rock at the entrance would match the edge of another stone in the temple on a certain day (at a solstice? or All Souls Day?).
Temple foundation or circle of stones?
And is this really a foundation or a circle of stones? It goes by the name Intihuatana, which has been translated as the “Hitching Post of the Sun”. And why are there two circles next to each other? Mayro made it sound like the other was a temple to the moon. Some like to say there were two suns to worship. It is all a mystery!
Next we headed over to the other side of the peninsula for a gorgeous view of Lake Umayo and a flat-topped island.
Kirby & Jan, Tamiko and Brynne
The island is a national reserve and protects a herd of vicuñas. Even as isolated as it is, there are still poachers who try to boat across the lake to capture a vicuña. Some say the island is a landing place for alien spaceships…
As we headed back to the bus, Mayro showed us a stone with a puma profile.
Mayro with uma stone
The stone also had the symbol for Mother Earth, a spiral, this one with two short lines from the end. Mayro explained that the two lines represented the two directions one could go, to the heavens or below. He also seemed to indicate that one could feel energy in the center of the spiral. I have read that the center of the spiral has magnetic energy, and that a compass placed on the spiral will have its needle spin in the direction of the spiral. The spiral is said to also represent the gateway to the next dimension. The two lines are also described as a comet.
Mayro then helped me down the steep steps back to the van and we started off. But we backed up the van to see an Andean Goose that Mayro had spotted. Mayro had given Kirby a red and white rosette, which was being worn by Peruvians to celebrate their National Day coming up on July 28th.
Then off to the city of Juliaca and the Aeropuerto Internacional Inca Manco Cápac (Inca Manco Capac was the first Inca). Although it is designated as an international airport, it has only domestic flights. At 4,200 m/13,779 feet in length, it has the longest runway in Latin America. (Brazil has a longer runway in Sao Paolo, but it is at a private airport.) First we got in line to check in with LAN Peru Airlines. We checked our two suitcases, and went to the airport tax line. There we paid something like 9.35 Soles each, the last of our Soles, and got a sticker on our boarding passes.
Next we went to have lunch in the airport restaurant. We ordered soups and a ham and cheese sandwich, which came out one by one. Brynne got her cream of mushroom soup as other people were being served before we were. Then Jan got her chicken soup which had a quarter chicken in it. Kirby got his ham and cheese sandwich along with two other people who had arrived later. By the time I got my soup, we wanted the checks, but the waitress was hard to locate. When it seemed we should be boarding the plane, Kirby got up and tracked down the waitress and stood at her side behind the counter until she had the checks all figured out.
I had left money for lunch and started my slow way through the line to security, only to be sent back because I could not take my hiking stick through. So I had to return to the check-in desk, where I did cut in line, to check my stick. Then it was back through security, and now my watch set off the alarm. I also had to hand over my x-ray to circumvent it being x-rayed! I finally got through and joined the others, only to learn that our plane was late.
Got to stand in the full waiting area, until Kirby found a seat for me. Then it was time to board. Walked out to the plane and our rows boarded from the rear. This flight made a stop in Arequipa at their Aeropuerto Internacional Rodríguez Ballón. Here a young man boarded and he put a couple items in the overhead bin, but was left with a carry-on suitcase that was not going to fit under the seat. He was in the window seat beyond Brynne and was holding the suitcase in his lap. I was in the aisle seat and could see that there was room just one row forward, so I moved a suitcase to make room, and motioned to the young man to let me put his carry-on up in the overhead bin. My leg may be casted, but my arms still work! On the way from Arequipa to Lima, we were given a snack of a piece of pound cake and a chocolate stick.
Arrived in Lima at 6:20 PM. Got the young man’s carry-on suitcase down for him, so he wouldn’t have to go against traffic to get it. Had a long wait for our bags, and Kirby was able to grab our bags off the carousel for us. We thought we would try to check in for our flight the next morning, but we were not able to do so. Then it was a short walk across the street from the airport to the hotel, Ramada Inn Costa Del Sol. When we checked in there, we were part of the "Jan B. group of 4." Now, this place had everything, even a chocolate on the downturned bed, but we weren’t going to be there long enough to take advantage of the spa, fitness room, pool, gift shop, business center, etc. Met for dinner in the hotel restaurant and completed our bird list. Brynne used our free-drinks coupons to get bottles of water and Coca Cola from the bar (rather than the offered Pisco Sours or beers). Returned to our room to re-pack the USA-way, and go to bed.
Next: Day 15 Heading Home.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 14 (Lake Titicaca)

Thursday, July 17, 2008
Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel
Yavari boat behind the hotel
Up much later today! At 6:30 AM. We had the buffet breakfast, and saw birds and guinea pigs running around the hotel’s backyard. Brynne and I went out to see more guinea pigs up close, from the gazebo out near the water. There were also reed tents built to shade lawn chairs out in the back of the hotel. After breakfast, we met Mayro, our guide who was waiting in the hotel lobby. He took us out the back of the hotel and down to the dock where the Yavari is tied up, and beyond to our private boat. We went through a gauntlet of guinea pigs and saw more birds. This boat was enclosed, with sofa-like seating. The sun was bright in this rarefied air, and sparkled on the water.
We headed out through a channel between tall totora reeds.
Totora reeds
Saw many White-tufted Grebes with the white patch on their cheeks. Later as we got farther out, we did see the endangered Titicaca Grebe, which is flightless.
We chugged along, passed a checkpoint of sorts with a lookout tower, and headed out to the Uros Islands.
Lookout tower
These are man-made floating islands. Wow! There are so many of them, over 40.
Floating island
The Uros Islands came about when the Uros people fled to the lake area to avoid the aggressive Colla tribe. They initially built reed boats and lived on them on the lake. Later they made the boats bigger, and built a hut on the boat to live in. Eventually they made the floating islands to live on, which could be moved to safer locations. The Uros people intermarried with the Aymara-speaking people who lived on the shores of the lake, and adopted their language. Legend says that the full-blooded Uros Indians had black blood that protected them from the frigid temperatures on the water and also from drowning. The Incas considered the Uros so poor and simple that they taxed them very little, yet the Uros have outlasted the Incas.
Winay Totora island
We landed on the island of Winay Totora, where the women lined up to help us off the boat and shake our hands saying "Kamisaraki”.
Pulling in our boat
Welcome committee
We couldn’t remember the answer to the greeting, but smiled broadly. A young man had pulled us in and tied the boat. He then came over to help our guide demonstrate how the islands were made. We sat on a semicircular roll of bound reeds. The totora reeds have a thick base of roots intertwined in the clay of marshy ground.
Totora reed with root base
When the water level rises, whole mats of these reeds rise to the surface along with 3-4 feet of the root system. The roots are cut into large blocks (10 x 15 m/33 x 49 feet) called quilis (?). Each family is allotted one block, so that this island of eight families is based on eight blocks. They had plenty of room. The blocks are tied together and then anchored. These islands are anchored along a “river” in the lake, along its shores of totora reed marshes. Yet from above water, it just looks like they are floating in the immense lake.
Layers of reeds are laid across the multi-block island, alternating directions.
Demonstrating alternation of layers of reeds
As the reeds decompose, new layers are simply added on top. The new reeds on top seemed so fresh, that you could eat them! As it was, the base of a freshly-pulled reed was peeled and we were given a bite of the white part. This supposedly contains fluoride and calcium, and is used for medicinal purposes. Mayro said to notice that the teeth of the people are yellow. I could find no reference to totora reeds containing fluoride, but it does contain iodine. That would cause yellow staining.
Add houses and people and you have a floating island home
The islands themselves last 25-30 years and then get rebuilt using the same name. On occasion, if there are disagreements among the inhabitants of one island, one could become literally cut off. We saw an island with two houses on it, likely cut off. It seems everything is made from reeds. The houses and their roofs (now supplemented with plastic tarps to make the roof last longer), the boats, and souvenirs! The lookout towers are made with eucalyptus poles which had to be traded for. Some of the islands had very fancy lookout towers, with reed sculpturing to make them look like a flamingo or fish. Cooking was done over clay stoves which used a dried reed fire set on stones in an isolated area. The biggest danger for the Uros is fires, as the reeds burn easily. Although they still cook by fire, they no longer use candles in their homes. Thanks to former President Fujimori, each family has a solar panel that provides energy for lighting.
We were shown inside one house, and found the people had extended the wiring to power radios, televisions, and computers.
Inside a house
Three mattresses covered most of the floor, there was a small chest of drawers, and clothing was piled between beds. The walls were covered with weavings, photos, educational posters, and school backpacks.
Some of the women put traditional dress items on Brynne, Jan and me, with an ample skirt tied around our waists, a bolero jacket put over our shoulders, and big tassels thrown around our necks.
Brynne and Tamiko with traditional dress items
Brynne, a local, Tamiko
Brynne and Jan
Usually the tassels decorate the ends of the women’s pigtails, but we didn’t have any. They gave Brynne and me the bowler hats worn by the married women, and Jan wore the virgin’s hat. Which reminds me that at hotels, they were never sure who went into which room. The two people with the same last name (Brynne and I) were in the double room, and the two with the different last names (Jan B. and R. Kirby) were in the matrimonial room. Oh, those Americans!
On the back of the island, they had their souvenir stands set up. But also small enclosures for domesticated ducks, ibis, and guinea pigs.
Animal enclosures
There was an area in the water surrounded by netting for the trout farm. They even had a flower garden, but had to protect it from the sun with a reed canopy.
Flower garden
Tourists are discouraged from giving money or items to the indigenous people, and they ask that you purchase souvenirs or pay for a ride in the reed boat so that the people have earned the money.
Local kids
They all share in the profits. Although the weavings were thought to be made by the inhabitants of these islands, it was questionable if other items were. We did buy a toy reed boat, as we were looking for a souvenir for a 13-year old boy! My traditional skirt was over my fanny pack, so I had to reach up under my skirt to get money to pay for the souvenir!
Totora reed canoe
We ended up taking the reed boat ride for 15 Soles each. We climbed up on a platform which gave us a great view all around.
Going for a reed boat ride
All the inhabitants of the island gathered to sing a song to us, and Kirby tried to knuckle punch with the smallest child there. Then as we left, they sang a song in Spanish, then two songs in English (“My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”)!
Kirby tries a fist bump
Two fellows had to row us and it looked like a hard job.
Our rowers
These catamaran-like boats probably aren’t really streamlined! Although one rower would sometimes lean back in a lounging position. They also were in no hurry, as we made our way to one of the biggest islands, the Santa Maria. We passed several other boats with tourists.
Reed boat
Ours had what could have been puma heads, and other boats had other shapes on the front of their boats. Some looked like dragons, but there doesn’t seem to be any dragon references in Peru. Others were decorated with colorful weavings. Even saw a woman rower. The locals seemed to all have non-reed boats with motors! (Some with oars!)
Local's newer boat
Our tourist boat met us at the island of Santa Maria. Some of the islands had two tourist boats tied up at them. Mayro got out to show us around this island, where women were sorting fish and laying them out to dry.
Sorting and drying fish
One woman was building an oven, so some of the fish must get smoked. We saw a bowl of clay on the ground, that Mayro thought was for the people’s diet, much like the tapirs and macaws.
Oh, yes, bathrooms! The Uros people believe in the medicinal value of urine, and it seems urinating into the lake is okay. But for any other business, they have a separate outhouse island for just that purpose. You have to take a boat to go to the outhouse, which has lime sprinkled on it, so that it and the totora root system can take care of things. The bathroom on the boat had a window on the door to look out to see where you have been! Fortunately the boat’s second mate, always moved from his seat behind the bathroom to the other side when you were using the toilet. He also took a big plastic can and filled it with water from over the side, and when you were done, you used the water to flush the toilet. Now this toilet was only for number 1 and not number 2.
Back on the tourist boat, we had two and a half hours to get to Taquile Island, which was out beyond two points of land that put the Uros Islands in a bay of the lake. Once out in the greater part of the lake, you could see the snow-capped mountains of the Royal Mountains in Bolivia. Part of Lake Titicaca is in Bolivia, but we weren’t anywhere close. Our little old Dodge or Chevy car engine from the 60’s or 70’s wasn’t going to get us to Bolivia.
Mayro entertained us with stories during our journey. He was always laughing. But he may have confused things a little. For one, he told us that Thor Heyerdahl came to this area to have the Kon-tiki built, and then he sailed from Lima to the Polynesian Islands to show that it could be done. We were a little confused, thinking that sailing from Lima to the Polynesian Islands did not prove that Polynesians could have sailed to South America. But, it does seem Heyerdahl was proving that South Americans did sail to the Polynesian Islands using the Humboldt Current in pre-Columbian times and settled there. Although the present-day Polynesians did not descend from South Americans, it seems there was a race of “long-eared” people who were killed off by the “short-eared” people. The “long-eared” people could have been descended from South Americans. And Heyerdahl did have the Kon-Tiki built in Peru, but on the coast. It was a raft of balsa logs with a mahogany mast. Bamboo was also used. He sailed the Kon-Tiki successfully in 1947. The Kon-Tiki name is the old name of the creator god, Viracocha.
However, when Heyerdahl built the Ra from papyrus to sail from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean on the Canary Current to Barbados, it took on water after the crew made some adjustments and had to be abandoned. He then came to Lake Titicaca to have Ra II made from the totora reeds. This ship successfully made the trip from Morocco to Barbados. Heyerdahl was mainly trying to prove the seaworthiness of such boats, rather than that the Egyptians traveled to the New World.
Taquile Island is one of the natural islands (of maybe a dozen) in Lake Titicaca. It was used as a prison by the Spanish, and only became totally the property of the Taquile people in 1970. The people speak Quechuan, while Aymara is spoken on the other islands. The island has been inhabited for 10,000 years, and was part of the Inca empire as seen by the agricultural terracing. There is no electricity, no cars, and no dogs. (Although there are generators, solar panels are favored as an energy source.) The people of Taquile continue to wear traditional dress as a daily habit, and make their own textiles. The women wear layered skirts (up to 16) with a black shawl. The men wear embroidered woven waistbands (fajas) and wool stocking caps. The caps indicate marital status (red for married, and red and white for bachelors), and leaders wear black. The men do most of the knitting, while the women do the weaving.
Saw laundry laid out to dry on rocks by the shore.
When we reached Taquile, we then had to climb the hill! There are 538 steps to the village center, but we went about half way up, and took a detour to a restaurant. Passed Merino sheep which were brought from Australia to provide the wool for the textiles on the island, along with alpacas. Mayro had the locals bring a table out from a covered arbor to an open area where we had a breathtaking view of the lake.
Lunchtime panorama
We were served a wonderful lunch of quinoa soup and trout. There was a spicy salsa criolla (made with chopped Spanish onions, chili peppers, and lime juice) to eat with bread or the trout. Some of us had seconds of the soup.
Lunch table
We were then rejuvenated enough to continue the climb to the town square, a large dusty plaza, again with a view on the beautiful blue waters of Lake Titicaca.
Town square
We passed by an arch (not Incan),
men knitting, and lots of tourists.
Kirby & Jan, Tamiko, Brynne
We had been cautioned not to give the kids candy, but some of them were asking for “caramelos”. We went in the cooperative store, where all the textiles were marked with the name of the maker. There was a large variety of items, but mostly there were stocking caps and waistbands.
Brynne and I started down the steps to the boat. We had climbed another 138 m/ 453 feet to the 3950 m/12,959 feet elevation of the town. So now we had to go back down on the stone-paved path that was none too smooth. The others caught up to us.
Our tourist boat
Eventually we stepped back in the boat, which required some planning, as the boat was rocking up and down about 5-6 feet. You waited until the boat rose up closest to the dock and stepped down, bringing your other foot quickly before it got caught on the rapidly rising dock side. Getting off had been much easier as you just waited until the boat rose to the dock and stepped up. Now for our three-hour boat ride back to Puno. Good time for a snooze.
We had some excitement as we neared Puno, because the boat crew spotted the Coast Guard. We quickly had to don life jackets. The Coast Guard boat was tied up with another boat on one side, but they waved us around to the other. A couple uniformed guys came on our boat, checked out some papers, answered a cell phone call, and then we were on our way.
Brynne with life jacket
Arrived back at the hotel just before 6:00 when we were to meet Maricela with our plane boarding passes. She was late, so I sent Brynne to check our e-mail, to find out Kent did get us on a flight a day earlier. So when Maricela and Hugo arrived, after we got the drill for the next day, I asked if they could get in touch with Anahi about changing our hotel. Maricela had two cell phones, and explained it was easier to have multiple cell phones to keep in touch with various travel agencies that used different cell phone companies. Hugo contacted Veronika, and let me talk to her, and she made arrangements right away, and called back to confirm them. So we were all set for our early return home. Maricela had asked us how we liked our guide Enrique. Who? We think Maricela thought Mayro was being too familiar with us by giving us his Quechuan name rather than his Spanish name…
We had the hotel call us a taxi and by 7:30 PM we were on our way to downtown Puno. We were dropped off in the main plaza and charged 7 Soles. The driver gave us his card with a number to call for our return. As we walked down Avenida de Lima, we shopped for souvenirs. Kirby was looking for his Pucara toritos, and Brynne needed just a few small things. Brynne was getting roped in by young men standing outside Giorgio’s Restaurant, where we were going anyway, but we were still shopping. Then Brynne and I went in to get a table while Jan and Kirby kept shopping. We were still waiting for them to clean a table when Jan and Kirby arrived. We were put in a back waiting area, with displays of hats, ceramics, and musical instruments. Finally we were shown to a table in the front of the restaurant. Brynne tried to get the fettucini alfredo with regular ham instead of the alpaca ham, but despite several people trying to understand English, she ended up with no ham.
As we waited for dinner to be served, Kirby ran out to check more souvenir shops. And he ran out again to make his purchase of a pair of Pucara toritos. The young man at the door had his head whirling watching Kirby come and go.
There was also a young girl in somewhat traditional dress (the skirt was very short!) who seemed to take turns being hostess with the young men.
She later came around to ask if we wanted to hear a live band, after we had been asked if we want to hear Andean music. Well, we had heard a band before, so said “No”. She seemed a bit taken aback, but why was she asking? A live band did come in to entertain, and they were the same band as the night before in the Pizzeria. We enjoyed their music, nevertheless, and they were probably the best band we had heard in Peru. But we were not going to buy another music CD!
Hostess and band
After dinner we did final souvenir shopping on our way back to the main square. At the square, a taxi kept flashing his lights at us. We thought maybe it was our taxi driver from the trip in, but when we got in the taxi we realized it wasn’t. Then when we asked the fare, it was 8 Soles. When we tried for five like the night before, we were told that it was very late, how about 7 Soles? Some of us were out of the taxi, before it was agreed we would pay the 7 Soles. Back at the hotel, we had to re-pack again.
This rarefied air was giving us dry noses and throats.
Next: Day 15 Sillustani.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 13 (To Puno)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Up early once again, had breakfast in the hotel, and were picked up at 6:45 AM by van to be taken to the tour bus. Hugo and Norma accompanied us, and Norma presented Kirby with a small Cusco flag. Rob stopped by to give me my ankle x-ray, and for final goodbyes. The tour bus, which would take us to Puno, left at 7:30 AM with about 16 people. We had the driver, a guide, Juan, and the hostess, Jenny.
Tour bus
The hostess sold us a map/brochure and offered us drinks, which I think were complimentary, but we never had any. She also offered hard candies on a couple occasions. The bus had a toilet, which was reached by going down a few steps halfway back in the bus (behind Jenny’s beverage station!). The door slid sideways in a circle around the toilet.
We were to look for a few landmarks on our way out of Cusco. We were following the Avenida de la Cultura, a broad straight road heading southeast. Somehow we totally missed the 6-story monument of a condor made from the aluminum of a plane donated by the army. (We missed it because we were looking for a 6-story tall condor, not a condor on a 6-story tall pedestal!) The beak of the condor is solid gold, in contrast to the humble dwellings below it.
Eucalyptus groves were everywhere. We ended up in a wide fertile valley, with very little habitation. A few cuyerias along the road, small restaurants specializing in serving cuy, roasted guinea pig. Saw a lot of burros. Have they replaced the llama as the beast of burden?
We made a quick stop in Oropesa, the bread-making town.
Juan with Orepesa bread
Juan let us try some of the famous bread, which was slightly sweet. It is baked in large flat loaves - the size of deep-dish pizza. The tops of the loaves are often patterned. It was reported that a team from Oropesa went to the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in France this year, a competition for the best bread bakers in the world. They supposedly did well.
We drove past the Inca gate at Rumicola, which was an aqueduct that served as a border checkpoint and customs post for the southern entrance to the Huari empire, before the Incas enhanced the original construction by fortifying it with andasite stone. The gate is 12 m/39 feet tall.
Rumicola gate (aqueduct missing)
This was where it was useful to have Kirby on the other side of the bus to take photos! Kirby could not find his camera once he arrived in Peru, and either used mine or requested that I take photos for him. He was better at clearing people out of photos and getting close-ups of people.
Later we passed a vast stretch of adobe-brick factories; everything was brown and smoky.
Adobe-brick factories
Our first stop was in the town of Andahuaylillas, where we were the first of several tour buses stopped in the town plaza.
Andahuaylillas town plaza
A few vendors were along one side of the square, with immense thick-trunked pisonay trees. Andahuaylillas means “Copper Prairie” in Quechuan, probably describing the fields of corn, barley, and wheat.
Our guide took us into the Iglesia de San Pedro (Church of Saint Peter), built by the Jesuits in 1572.
Iglesia de San Pedro (Church of Saint Peter)
The adobe towered church was built over the remains of an Inca building. There was a contrast between the simple exterior and the rich colonial baroque art inside. Known as the “Andean Sistine Chapel” because much of the walls were done in al fresco, with the paint applied to wet plaster. Along the tops of the walls were huge framed paintings from the Cuzqueño school. There was a painting of hell to the right of the front door, just inside, and of heaven to the left. Juan pointed out evidence of niches on the walls, where patrons could be buried in return for having something painted over the plaster closing. The coffered ceiling was painted in bright colors with traces of gilt still visible.
The Jesuits needed to convince the indigenous people to come inside the church, and are said to have told the people that their souls were inside. They had side altars decorated with mirrors, so that the local people saw their “souls”. But the locals soon had their say in decorating the church with elaborate statues of the Holy Family in indigenous traditional dress. The altar was an amazing concoction of 24 k. gold leaf, with a silver tabernacle. Juan continued the story of the Jesuits who “forced” the locals to build the church, but later became their champions in their fight for independence. This caused the Jesuits to be expelled by the Spanish from Peru and all of Latin America. The Dominicans came in and painted over the frescos which smacked too much of indigenous themes, and now both sets of wall paintings are in disrepair. Juan, the guide, bonded with me, because he had just sprained his ankle playing soccer, and was limping as well. Jan had left earlier to look for birds, and I went out to see the giant pisonay trees, with blooms in red. The architecture around the square was Spanish colonial.
Joined braids
We were herded back on the bus. After all, we had a schedule to maintain.
Our next stop was Raqchi, one of the most important archeological sites in Peru. Legend says that a temple was built in homage to the creator god, Viracocha, to ask intercession in keeping the Quimsachata volcano in check. Early in time, Viracocha traveled through the area to see how his creations were faring. The people of Cacha came out with weapons and not recognizing Viracocha, they meant to kill him. So the god called for fire and the power of the volcano, which made the people realize who he was. They kneeled before him, and Viracocha tapped the volcano to stop the eruption. Later, Inca Pachacutec ordered the tallest of all the Inca monuments to be built to Viracocha for helping him overcome the Chancas warriors who had attacked Cusco. Viracocha is a pan-Andean god, creator of all living things. Quimsachata has been dormant since about 4450 BC.
Raqchi 2-story wall
Raqchi west wall
It was the largest roofed building built by the Incas, being 92 m/302 feet long, 25.5 m/84 feet wide, and 15 m/49 feet high. The walls have since eroded due to weather and are only 12 m/40 feet tall. They are now covered with protective tile roofs. (A pair of young kestrels were sitting on these roofs.)
Originally there were eleven walls with a golden ichu grass thatched roof. Here also was the only example of round columns (there were 22) being used to support the roof.
The walls were finely dressed for the base 3-4 m/10-13 feet, and on top of that was an adobe wall strengthened by llama fibers and grasses. The upper portion appeared to be adobe brick with a plaster overlay.
Upper portion of wall
Juan pointed out where Andean crosses may have been painted on the central wall.
Juan points out Andean cross
Window in the thick wall
Apparently the doors were double-hinged and could be locked from the inside. We saw the cylindrical door-hold like that in Machu Picchu. There were four doors, two at each end to represent the four cardinal points. The doors were double-jambed, and Jan and Kirby realized what Edward meant when he talked about “double-jumped” doors in Ollantaytambo.
Double-jambed doorway
Juan showed us drawings of Inca surveying equipment which helped them keep things straight. Behind the temple was a shallow lagoon, which was part of the temple complex, as it was built to represent Lake Titicaca. There were several birds to be seen; Common Gallinules, Andean Goose.
We moved on to an area of kancha-style housing, arranged around a courtyard.
We could see tall gable walls of twelve pairs of houses along a straight avenue. Priests lived here. Acllahuasi were houses of the acilas, the chosen women who were the most beautiful and hardest working women from Inca nobility, who lived here and were responsible for spinning and weaving the finest cloth for use by the Inca, or for religious ceremonies.
We then climbed over a wall to the ccolcas, circular storehouses, each 8 m/26 feet in diameter. There were 156 of these buildings to house the offerings of foods and other goods. In hard times, these foods were distributed to those in need.
View towards ccolcas
Circular ccolca wall
On a ridge behind the temple, you could see the remains of a 7 km/4.3 mile-wall that once circled the entire complex. The wall was only 3 m/10 feet high, because the people were short.
Wall on the ridge
The roughly built walls with stones piled together with mud mortar are called pirka walls. Juan also tried to point out the volcano, barely seen peaks beyond the closer mountains.
As we left the complex, a herd of sheep passed through.
Sheep herd
Out in the square, a costumed man greeted us as I headed to the restrooms requiring a 1 Sol admission fee. By the time I was finished, we had to get back on the bus.We didn’t have far to go for our lunch stop - a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Brynne was smart and used the restroom here for free. It was another buffet in a new establishment with the wall painted to look like an Inca wall, with plastic plants.
Restaurant interior
When we arrived they turned on the waterfall behind the buffet tables. There were a couple men outside who were putting in a fence post, and for some reason a pair wires came in through an open window, and the ends were stuck into the two holes of an electric outlet! The soup was very popular with our group. The aji de gallina was not the best we’ve had, and nothing was hot except the soup.
We came to think of our guide as “Billy Bob” because of his habit of saying “umm-hmm” after nearly every sentence!
In the Sacred Valley we had noticed large numbers etched on the mountain sides, and were told that usually these were school numbers. On special occasions, students burn clearings in the shapes of their school number. We saw more of these numbers on the way to Puno.
School numbers on the hillsides
Noticed people were doing their laundry in the stream along the road, and laying things out to dry on the banks. Every once in a while there was a cross up on a ridge, especially above a town. Saw some areas on the mountains that looked like glacial moraine, and other areas looked like landslides. The mountains were looking craggier, and began to show some leftover snow.
We made a stop at Abra La Raya, the highest point of our bus tour, at 4,313 m/14,150 feet above sea level.
Abra La Raya
Now this was the highest we had been in our lives (except in airplanes). The Rio Vilcanota, which becomes the Rio Urubamba, begins here. We could see the snow-capped mountain of Chimboya, at 5,489 m/18,008 feet in elevation.
Chimboya mountain with snow
Jan walked forward along the road to observe birds on a lagoon, I took photos, Kirby shopped, and Brynne rested.
Puno-Cusco train
Vendor at Abra La Raya
As the bus tour continued, there were patches of burned areas, where the locals burn off the dried grass in order to stimulate growth of new grass. At this elevation, the locals are cattle and sheep “ranchers,” or keepers of alpacas and llamas.
There are also vicuñas and guanacos. Here in the high plateau or altiplano, there is no source of firewood, so they use ichu grass, or dried llama dung. Young shoots of ichu grass is for grazing, the old for fuel, although Juan made it sound like they burned iru grass... There are no tiles on the roofs, because it is too windy.
The road was generally straight and there was not much traffic.
Straight road
The bus driver drove on the left side of the road if needed to avoid potholes and rough stretches. We were on the Pan-American Highway, which apparently has two branches in Peru, one here in the mountains and one along the coast. We passed through at least 4 toll booths. The railroad tracks also followed our route and we saw several trains. The rail route from Cusco to Puno is 351 km/218 miles and the road route is 380 km/236 miles. The train takes 10 hours with a scenic stop at La Raya. The bus takes 9½ hours with four tour stops and a lunch stop.
Our next stop was to be Pucara, the town famous for its ceramics, especially the little bulls that are found on rooftops. Kirby was interested in purchasing a couple toritos de Pucara, and the Pucara museum sounded interesting. But on this particular day, the town was celebrating the festival of Virgen de Carmen, by having a huge market. We would see why we could not make a stop in this small town. As it was, we did not go straight through town, but took a road half-circling it. But even that road was jammed with people, carts, moto-taxis, buses, vans, trucks, animals, children, bikes, and more people. There were all sorts of taxi-chollos, a bicycle rickshaw, except that often cargo is carried on an extension in front of the bicycler.
Bicycle cargo rcikshaw
Close to the sides of the road were all the wares, animal skins, whole skinned animals, textiles, rugs, fruits and vegetables, corrugated tin for roofing, eucalyptus poles and lumber, etc. Many people were resting up on a ridge of a hill at the edge of town. Some bicycle carts had a speaker attached to a tall pole. Our bus had to stop many times, back up some times, and move forward slowly, although we passengers feared for the pedestrians in our way. Side mirrors of trucks and buses passed mere inches from our windows.
Resting with their wares
Corrugated metal
Locals with bundles
Weighing an animal carcass
Later we passed through the city of Juliaca, on a wide road of concrete that had huge excavations at many points along the way. We had our first glimpse of Lake Titicaca, which is shrinking away from the railroad tracks that once ran along its edge.
First glimpse of Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is situated at 3,812 m/12,507 feet above sea level. It once was at sea level, but was pushed up between the Andes Mountains when tectonic plates collided. Because it was once the sea, it is partly a salt lake. But now it is fed by five rivers created by rainfall and meltwater from mountain glaciers. It is the largest commercially navigable lake in the world, and South America’s biggest lake by volume. It is roughly 176 x 50 km/109 x 31 miles in area, and covers about 58,000 sq. km/22,400 sq. miles. Maximum depth is 284 m/932 feet. The intense sun at this altitude causes 21,000 cubic feet of water to evaporate per second! As we got closer to the water, we could see the masses of totora reeds growing in the shallower parts of the lake, especially along the shore.
Yellowed totora reeds in the lake
Because of the legend that Manco Capac and his sister consort, Mama Occlo, emerged from the icy depths of Lake Titicaca, the lake is considered the birthplace of the world, or at least of civilization. We rounded some mountains and saw the city of Puno below on the shores of the lake.
City of Puno
Puno was founded in the late 17th century to work the silver mines of Laykakota. Now it appears geared for tourists.
The tour bus backed into a parking lot, and it seemed everyone was met by someone with a tourist van. Lo and behold, we were met by Hugo! That man is everywhere, and this time he was accompanied by Maricela. We were driven to our hotel, Sonesta Posada del Inca, which was on the outskirts of town. Filled out the forms and handed over our passports. We were offered drinks of tea or juice. We discussed the schedule for the next day and settled on a 7:30 AM departure time.
We also discussed dinner plans. It seemed the best idea would be to let the driver take us to town. Maricela and Hugo could point out a bank and recommend places to eat. We took our bags to the room and came back to the lobby to meet the others. We drove into Puno, and were let off in a small square, Parque Pino. We were surprised to then learn that because this was an extra trip, we would have to pay the driver 15 Soles. We decided we did not need for him to pick us up later; we would take a taxi!
The main shopping street, Jr. Lima, is a pedestrian-only street, and Maricela and Hugo accompanied us, but we could have done it on our own.
Kirby used an ATM, and then we went to the Pizzeria de la Buhe. Brynne had the olive pizza and water, and I had a vegetarian pizza and Coca Cola Light. A large group of musicians came to play, and Kirby bought a CD from them. After dinner we walked farther along the Avenida de Lima until we came to the main plaza with the cathedral off to the right.
Avenida de Lima
Main plaza
A line of taxis waited along the curb, and Jan picked one. Only 5 Soles to return to our hotel! At the desk we retrieved our keys and passports, and I was given a message! It was a copy of an e-mail from Kent. I asked about the internet, and I could get the first 15 minutes free. So I responded to Kent with our decision to go ahead home if he could get the seats on an earlier flight.
The Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel is right on the shore of Lake Titicaca, and has 62 rooms with private bath and cable TV.
Our hotel room
The bathroom had a glass bowl sink.
Hotel room bathroom
The walls were decorated with ceramic bowls, and a huge ceramic pot sat in a niche. They have a private dock and a private train stop (the train tracks ran in front of the hotel). Jan and Kirby took advantage of the laundry service and had to leave a deposit to get a hair dryer. This hotel also had both 110 and 220 volt electrical outlets. Peru uses the 200 volt system. We had been able to use our camera battery chargers (which accepted voltage up to 220) with their outlets.
While Brynne showered, I went out behind the hotel, to see a sign for the Yavari Museum. That little ship docked behind the hotel must be the Yavari.
El Yavari is a Victorian-era iron-hulled ship built in Birmingham, England in 1862. It made a seven-year journey to Puno, having been sent in 1383 pieces, along with its sister ship, the Yapura, which also came in 1383 pieces. It had to be hauled up to the altiplano in pieces on the backs of mules. With several varying setbacks, it took six years for this section of the trip. British engineers and laborers assembled the pieces over nearly a year, and launched the Yavari on December 25, 1870. The Yapura was launched in 1873 and became a Peru Navy Medical Ship. The 100-foot Yavari was initially propelled by a two-cylinder 60 HP steam engine. When they ran out of coal, they used dried llama dung. In 1914, the ship was fitted with a Swedish Bolinder four-cylinder hot bulb semi-diesel engine. After 100 years of service, the ship was beached. In 1962, an Englishwoman, Meriel Larken, saw the rusting ship and started "Project Yavari" to restore the ship, with the support of Prince Philip. In 1987 it was afloat again, and in 1999 it actually made a trip out across the lake. The Yavari is the oldest single propeller-driven ship still in working order. Now it only needs modifications to comply with safety standards, and some renovations to allow it to accommodate passengers and crew for a day’s cruise.
Next: Day 14 Lake Titicaca.