I could share so much about Lima… the history… the Museo Larco… the parks… the olive trees… BUT, I am going to share two very different sights of Lima Peru that really stood out for me on my recent trip.Read More
Our train to Aguas Caliente left Ollantaytambo at 9:00 p.m. The train rocked along in darkness, which only added to the anticipation of getting a glimpse of Machu Picchu.
When we arrived in Aguas Caliente and made our way to the hotel in the darkness, the sound of rushing water filled the night. The only interruption was a sudden burst of celebratory fireworks on the other side of the river. We arrived at our hotel and the sound of the water outside became that white noise that lulls you to sleep.
On the first day in Aguas Caliente, as we ate breakfast waiting for the appointed time to meet our guide. The view was exactly what I envisioned with the morning clouds covering the tops of the mountains like cotton candy. Tomorrow. Tomorrow would be the day I capture that classic image. Today we would arrive at Machu Picchu too late. Today we hike.
The next morning we were in line for the bus to Machu Picchu by 5:20 a.m. and there was already a line blocks long. But, the que moved pretty fast and we were on the bus by 6:20 a.m. As luck would have it, the day was clear and warm. No classic clouds on the mountain for us today. After a little exploring Machu Picchu on our own, we headed back to the hotel with our passports stamped to memorialize our visit to Machu Picchu. On our way to the hotel, we stopped at a French Bakery and enjoyed coffee and a apple tartin that was DELICIOUS. We walked around the square and explored Aguas Caliente, which is not without its own special charm.
What a trip this was. I think the people of Peru are what stand out as the best part of the visit. But, it is time to head home and plan another adventure for another day. Thanks for “traveling” with me.
Days two and three of hiking the Sacred Valley are, quite frankly, a blur. I was trying to enjoy the experience and take it all in, but that proved to be difficult when you feel like you are neither seeing, nor experiencing, nor photographing when you are worried about safely navigating the climb/descent immediately before you. Many times, I felt like I was snapping photos from an automobile speeding down the Autobahn. I returned from the trip with very few usable photos, but hey, I got a torn hamstring as a souvenir. So, given the speed of our travels, I will consolidate these two days into one post. You are just going to have to trust me on this one. Day 2, we traveled about an hour drive from Cusco and hiked the back side of Tipón, where we saw examples of the Inca water channels and impressive stonework.
After that, we met the van and traveled toward Pisaq. Along the way, we stopped at a beautiful church – Seńor de Huanca. So named after the person who owned the land. The spot is famous because a meteor landed there. The meteor remains to this day inside a special room inside the church. It is a magical place and well worth a visit.
And then we were on our way to Pisaq. The Pisaq ruins were difficult for me. As full disclosure about this part of our adventure, there was more than one time I wanted to channel my inner two-year-old child so someone would remove me from the trail. I managed to be an adult and push through…barely. There was one point where we were on a very steep, narrow trail, and, I admit, parts of the trail was navigated on all fours. But I DID navigate it. After what I THOUGHT was a difficult passage, Jay and I reached a somewhat level area where we hugged the mountain stopped to catch our breath (we were high five-ing and celebrating our safety) when we turned the corner and discovered that we had another steep hill to climb. Okay, so this is where I lost it and started chanting, “I can NOT do that!” repeatedly. Maybe even at a decibel level higher than I realized at the time. Did I say, repeatedly? Jay finally broke the verbal panic-induced trance with the reality of our situation by stating the obvious, “We have to do this because there is no other way out.” For the record, I hate when he unleashes logic on me. And so, this is where the real “fun” began. Needless to say, I do not have pictures memorializing that part of the hike.
Day 3, we started the day visiting the ruins in Ollantaytambo. Sometime the day before, my Fitbit went dead, and I had no way to recharge it. With all these stinkin’ steps I was taking, I was not even getting fitness “credit”.
In the afternoon, I finally got some quality time in Ollantaytambo to walk around and take pictures. Ahh! This is more like it.
Before I hit any of these trails, one of the books I read was Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, in which he references “martini explorers”. When I read that, I scoffed, thinking, right-on brother. Then, it occurred to me that I might be classified as a "martini explorer". Horror! I had justified not hiking the entire Inca Trail, theorizing, to assuage my guilt, that this was my reconnaissance of the trek. By the end of day two, when I enviously; neigh, covetously, sat in a restaurant all stinky, sweaty, hurting, exhausted, sporting hat-hair… watching a group of ladies load up on a Mercedes bus looking all fresh and put together with shopping bags in tow; I know I was looking at them like a puppy eyeing a piece of bacon. It was then I announced aloud, "I want a Mercedes bus. I NEED a Mercedes bus." From here on out (and I feel a bit Scarlett O’Hara-ish about this), I shall be a “martini explorer”. And, furthermore, I shall make no excuses, nor be shamed by my new status as a “martini explorer”, for I have earned it.
LIFE LESSON: Before you unleash your hard earned money on a tour, make sure there is a Mercedes bus somewhere in the package. If there is no bus...RUN!! Run hard. Run fast. This is no time to power walk.
Next week, the reward is the end of the trail: Machu Picchu, so until then…
This week we are taking a quick airplane ride to the capital of the Incan Empire: Cusco. So, fasten your virtual seatbelts, because we are just beginning quite the “ride” as we explore the Sacred Valley high in the Andes. And, when I say, high in the Andes, I mean going from 280 feet in elevation to 10,800 feet in the time it takes to fly from Lima to Cusco. Since we are “flat landers” living at about 600 feet, we allotted a day to acclimate to the altitude before we started our hiking excursions. First up, the Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park.
Day 1 of the Sacred Valley:
We traveled about 4-5 miles outside Cusco. Our driver let us out and, after an easy walk, we were at our first Inca ruins. Tambomachay is an example of the masonry skills of the Incas. The remaining walls are so precisely cut and fitted together without benefit of mortar, which is amazing in itself, but then when you see the series of fountains still providing water to the site centuries later, you say to yourself... Amazing.
We continued our hike where we saw a herder with a flock of sheep and passed by a few adobe homes until we reached Sacsayhuaman. Our guide told us Sacsayhuaman is believed to be a Temple of Lightning. When you get a look at the big picture of the three-layered zig-zag terraces resembling bolts of lightning, it is not hard to imagine how that theory was born. Today, the large plaza is used for the annual Inca Festival of Winter Solstice (Inti Raymi), as well as other festivals. The site is located on a hill above Cusco which provides a perfect view of the valley below.
Qenqo is located in the east part of the archeological park. There are two large monoliths and is considered one of the larges holy places in the Cusco region. It is believed that perfectly preserved mummies were housed in niches around the perimeter of the site. As you enter a cave in the center of the site, there is a stone slab table that seems to suggest it was a place where sacrifices took place.
The construction at the site is impressive, but lacks the precise details that are apparent at the other sites. This indicates that the use of the site was probably more pedestrian. The logical indication would be that of a military base to protect Cusco because it provides great views of the main plaza.
The Inca palace was located on what is now called the Plaza de Armas. The palaces in Cusco were converted, or built over, to transform them into churches, monasteries, convents, or homes for the Spaniards, The stones used for the construction of the churches were harvested from the nearby Sacsayhuaman site. Today, the churches are central characters of the Plaza de Armas and keepers of art and history of the region.
San Blas Cathedral:
Church of San Blas is an understated façade that does not hint at the treasures housed within. The real jewel in the proverbial crown is the ornate pulpit carved from a single cedar stump. The artist, Juan Tomás Tuyro Tupaq, carved the pulpit using a drawing as his guide. His creation is something to ponder. He suffered from leprosy and the pain he must have endured to carve this stunning work of art is a visual testament to, not only his artistry, but his devotion. This may be the very definition of “labor of love” in the visible format.
Temple of the Sun:
The Temple of the Sun (Qurikancha) was the site of the great opulent temple in the Inca Empire. The accounts of the gold statues, ornaments, and plates make an interesting read. All of the gold has long since removed and melted down during the Spanish Conquest. It is still a beautiful place to visit full of history.
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin:
We walked to the Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas. The Cathedral was originally built OVER the Inca temple (Wiracocha) in the 16th and 17th centuries. Interestingly, the Inca temples below the current Cathedral survived earthquakes – the “newer” structures did not fare as well and have been rebuilt. Nevertheless, it is still the centerpiece of the town and is beautiful. Today it houses several works of art attributed to the Cusco School of Art, including the painting of The Last Supper which features a cuy (guinea pig) rather than a lamb because that is what is familiar in the Andes.
Hang in there with me. The hiking gets a little more challenging, and you know I'm going to make you laugh with me. Okay, I'll be honest. You will be laughing AT me not WITH me. Until next week...
When we returned to Lima, we took a "Lima at Night" tour. The tour took us to The Park of the Reserve (Parque de la Reserva) which includes The Magic Water Circuit (Circuito Magico del Agua). The fountains are hypnotizing and a lot of fun, even if you choose not to participate in the interactive fountains or get wet on a cool evening. Many of the fountains are choreographed with colored lights, music, and even an educational laser show of Peru's historical and cultural highlights. It really is something unique that can be enjoyed by all ages.
After the water park, we toured the Historic Centre of Lima. I would love to go back and spend some time exploring the buildings and learning about their historical significance. I hope the next time I visit Lima I will have an opportunity to explore more of the downtown and more of the museums because the Larco Museum (Museo Larco) was maybe the most beautiful museum I have ever visited.
Next week, we will start our trek along the Inca Trail, so start stretching now.
Near the city of Paracas is a small group of islands that serves as an important sanctuary for many species of wildlife. The rock formations that compose the islands are accessible only by boat. So, the tour boats for this ecotourism excursion are plentiful and run regularly.
The day we toured, the sky was gray and cloudless. Not a great sky for any photographer. One of our Peruvian friends calls this a "donkey belly" sky. I love that description. It takes a little bit of the sting out of knowing that this is not the optimum sky for your vacay pics. Even so, I was still excited about what we would see on our tour.
The first thing we passed going out (and returning) was a view of the giant geoglyph called "El Candelabro" (Candelabra). No one knows who etched the three-pronged figure, when it was created, or what it signifies. There are theories that it may represent a local cactus or the Southern Cross constellation. But the most popular theory seems to be that it may have served as a navigational guide for sailors. It is in close proximity to the Nazca lines, so I think it is just another one of the mysteries of Peru.
Next, we ventured to the shores of the islands where there were more birds than I've ever seen in my life... yes, even more than that certain Alfred Hitchcock movie that scared the bejeebers out of me as a kid.
We were even lucky enough to see three Humboldt penguins. There were also guanay cormorants, Peruvian pelicans... but, I think my favorite were the sea lions. They were perched on rocks in a languid, self-assured way that seemed to suggest that they could not care less if we were there. What a great wildlife sanctuary to see all these species living together. I would go back any time because I am sure you would see something new with each trip.
Next week, let's go "next door" to Ballestas Island and visit the Nature Reserve. The landscapes are spectacular. Until then...
The Nasca Lines consist of hundreds of simple lines, as well as more elaborate geometric shapes and figures of hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, and even an astronaut. The Nasca Lines are believed to have been created between 500 BC and 500 AD, which only adds to the mystery and intrigue of why, and how, they were created. The Nasca Lines are located in the Nazca Desert which is one of the driest deserts in the world. The lack of rain and absence of wind are attributed to the preservation of the designs, which consist of shallow lines, or trenches, that reveal the lighter clay beneath the pebbles and top surface of the desert floor. The aerial view is fascinating. But, if you go, you have to be on your toes because the figures come up fast and are gone before you have too much time to linger with composition, camera settings and such. My advice is to just start snapping photos without pixel peeping too much and focus on enjoying the view because this plane ride ended much too soon. I could have spent hours up there taking it all in.
(Thank you to our fellow "explorers" for taking the picture of us with the plane (top photo that has been horribly cropped to fit the collage format).)
Next week, we will trade in the airplanes and buses for a boat and head out to Ballestas Island, sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Galapagos". Until then...
In July, Jay had a wonderful opportunity to work in Peru. It just so happened that the scheduled travel time spanned the week of our 25th wedding anniversary. We had been planning a return visit to Venice to mark our anniversary, but this seemed like an opportunity for a new adventure, so we changed our plans. We postponed celebrating (by 4 days), he added a few days at the end of his scheduled trip, and I flew to join him in Lima for an anniversary adventure in Peru. Jay was in Peru for about three weeks before I arrived. We spent a lot of time on Skype, emailing, etc. getting things scheduled. Finally, it was time to fly to Peru. My plane was delayed, so I actually arrived in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Even in the darkness of night, I could tell Peru was as beautiful and biodiverse as I had read about and I could not wait to see it in the light of day. After a little sleep, I enjoyed hanging around the hotel while Jay worked. We stayed at the San Antonio Abad Hotel in the Miraflores District of Lima. The Hotel served as our "base camp" for the next couple of weeks. I can not say enough about the Hotel, but more importantly, how great the entire staff is. They were very accommodating to our requests and storing luggage for us as we took trips away from Lima.
Friday morning arrived and we were off on the first part of our travels. We rode a bus about four hours south of Lima where we stayed at Las Dunas Resort in Ica. Las Dunas is a beautiful and relaxing oasis in the desert. We checked into our room at 3:00 p.m. and where scheduled for a dune buggy ride at 4:45 p.m. It was sunset, so the light was beautiful and we were the only ones out on the dunes. Our driver even stopped and waxed up the boards for us to sand surf down a dune before he took us back to the Resort. I have not laughed that much in a long time. Jay made the comment that he hopes we are taking dune buggy rides for our 50th anniversary. Me too! Twenty-five years have provided a lot of moment where we feel like we have dropped off the edge of a sand dune, but somehow, we always seem to hit the bottom laughing. It has been the best ride of my life - literally and figuratively. And, while the dune buggy ride was crazy-fun, I'm still holding him to his promise of a gondola ride in Venice.
Okay, so I promise, no more anniversary stuff. Next week we are flying over the Nasca Lines. I hope you will come back, because I think it is fascinating and I really want to share it with you.
To my blog friends,
I'm planning a "Wednesday Wandering" series to post photos and entries from my travel journal starting today, and every Wednesday after that, until we get through my latest trip - together. I hope there will always be new travels (near and far) and enough interesting stories and images to keep you coming back, because I would love to make this a regular part of my blog and travel with each of you.
As always, I appreciate the gift of your time. Now, pack your virtual bags 'cause we're heading to Peru and I'd like to personally introduce you to my friend:
Like so many people, I have a “wish list”, a “bucket list”, whatever label you want to assign that list which takes the form of a mental list, a formally memorialized list on paper, or simply written across your heart. This list includes the desires and adventures one wants to experience in one’s lifetime; our own personal tick-marks, as it were, to measure and experience our gift of life - of actually being alive. One of my many desires has been to experience Peru. My fascination began in my very first Art History course in college. I L-O-V-E-D Art History. And, when I say that I loved Art History, I mean that I love it so much that I read beyond what was required for the course. (WHAT?! Why, yes! I am a self-professed geek. Thank you very much.) It was this “extra” reading that introduced me to Peru. I remember reading a rather obscure passage about Peru, which almost seemed like a condensed version placed in the text with the sole purpose of whetting my appetite for more. I read that passage, studied the small black and white image that went with the text and re-read the passage again many times. The details have faded a bit, but I do remember thinking I want to go to this place. I want to experience this for myself. I was smitten.
Since then, I have been courted by Peru. It has lured me and seduced me in many ways over many years. Peru has a subtle way of reminding me that we are destined to meet. She whispers a gentle reminder of my neglect when I am browsing bookstores and I see her name in book titles and again when I see the names of authors who reside there. She taunts me with her beauty when I go to art exhibits and spot a small painting across the room knowing instantly she is the subject. I feel hopeful when I discover that Georgia O’Keeffe visited Machu Picchu for the first time late in her life and painted about her experience. And, again, when I pepper dinner guests with questions to tell me more about Peru, what images I might return with, and the best way to tour and experience Peru. I was even approached by an art instructor during a workshop a few years ago, who did not know me or my Peruvian interest. He encouraged me to join an upcoming workshop he was teaching in Peru. He had no idea. How could anyone know that Peru has been my long-time friend who patiently awaits my attention, seemingly preparing for my visit centuries in advance.
Many years have passed since I first read the paragraph in that textbook. I think it has been around 33 years, give or take, but I am on my way to meet my beautiful, patient friend at last. We have so very much catching up to do. I want her to tell me everything.