Peru, part 6

Peru, part 6

 

    

Typical countryside we drove through on this day trip

Lalo, (Lahlow), our guide for the day is in the lobby at eight this morning and the man exudes energy.  We are driving north of Cusco today, our main destinations being the salt mines of Maras and the Pre-Incan site of Moray, surmised to be an experimental Ag area. As we leave the center of Cusco, we drive through the shantytowns on the cities outskirts. A very different picture of Cusco emerges than what we have seen up to date.

    Leaving the city behind us, we drive through country where the patches of land create a mosaic of yellows, greens and browns. The colorful fields cover the mountainsides like a patchwork quilt. There are snow-capped mountains in the background that pierce an impossibly blue sky. To bring the land to life we pass brightly dressed woman wearing big top hats working in the fields. There are men and boys herding livestock down the road we are driving. We make numerous stops to record these stunning views with our cameras. Being able to stop whenever you like is the luxury of a private tour!

    

Our first stop is at Sal Natural Y Ecological site, or in English, the salt mines of Maras. The road to get to this unusual place is narrow and windy. I must admit our driver, who is up there in years, makes me a little nervous. He crowds the side of the road and takes chances when he passes other vehicles. Paul thinks he is doing fine so I just tighten my seat belt and try not to look into the abyss below the edge of the road.

    

The salt mines or Salinares, definitely a unique place

The multilevel saltpans that fill much of the valley are surreal. The colors of the manmade ponds range from white to brown with many shades in between. Lalo, the ex-professor, is a walking encyclopedia and bombards us with statistics about Salinerous. Three hundred and thirty families from Maras maintain the 3600 salt ponds/pans. The people channel a small spring, obviously salt-laden, to fill the ponds and after the water evaporates, the people harvest the salt. Each pond produces on average, 25 kilos of salt, which they sell for 20 cents a pound. We watch the workers as they hand shovel salt or use a handful of weeds to sweep debris up from the harvested ponds along with other tedious jobs. Now and then, the workers treat themselves to a glass of chicha, downing the stuff in a few gulps. Yikes, but as hot as it is and as tough as the work is I can’t blame them.

    We follow Lalo along the narrow dams of the saline ponds soaking in the sights all around us. I second Paul’s motion when he calls out to Lalo telling him the terrain is becoming too treacherous and we should return to wider paths. In addition to the dubious footing, the sun is glaring off the white surface causing me to squint even though I’m wearing sunglasses. Lalo cheerfully turns around and leads us back to the viewing deck.

    

What a view!

We leave this unusual place behind and our driver points the car in the direction of Moray. The picturesque countryside calls for many stops by us to photograph its beauty. Lalo often joins us in the photo shoots, though he admits to having taken the same photos untold times before. The man truly loves this area and the people living here.

 

The old drover and his livestock

Driving down a dirt road we pass a drover with his three dogs hazing sheep, burros and two brown swiss bulls. We ask to stop for photos and Lalo is delighted to comply. Lalo speaks Quechua, the language of the natives here, so this is a major plus.

Peruvian stockman, Paul and the dogs

The elderly man is quite amiable and at Lalos’ urging, Paul and the Peruvian stockman pose together for a photo. (Lalo has Paul and I pose in front of vistas and sites all day. I think we are in more photos on this one day than all of our other trips combined!)  I am concerned because our interruption in the herder’s day has the man’s animals disappearing in the distance. The bulls have even crossed the road tempted by greener fields. The old man doesn’t seem worried and his three dogs are completely blasé about the escaping herd. Lalo suggests Paul give the man some soles, which he does. We crawl back into the car trading smiles and waves with the friendly native.    

     

Looking down into Moray

We arrive at Moray, famous for being the oldest known “greenhouse”. Moray predates the Incans although they made use of the site during their reign. The circular terraces of Moray reach to a depth of 300 feet. This amazing structure is tough to describe and our photos don’t do it justice either.  We begin our descent into the pit but find the three stone steps you must use to traverse every terrace tough to navigate.  The space between the steps is often very wide and for some reason, there are no handrails! Lalo walks nimbly down the steps, and then offers his hand to help us out. I didn’t count but we sure went down a bunch of steps to reach the bottom. The people who built this place were small so I don’t understand the reason for such wide steps.  

    

Paul and I relaxing at the bottom of Moray

We sit down in the grass to enjoy the view of the circle of terraces towering above our heads. It is also interesting to watch people as they stand in the center of this bottom terrace and meditate often with their arms stretched skyward. Lalo explains that many people believe the exact center is sacred and it has special powers. Lalo points out that irrigation channels run from top to bottom. Therefore, it makes more sense that this center spot is where all the excess water would accumulate in order to drain. Yep, I’d have to agree with his practical explanation. Lalo also explains scientists theorize that the ancient Peruvians built this unbelievable site as a place to acclimate plants. The experts surmise they would start plants at the bottom terrace where it is much warmer and then move them up to higher terraces slowly introducing the plants to colder air.

     Scrambling up the steps is much easier than going down. By the time we reach the top of the ancient greenhouse, I am short of breath. Our driver must have known we were in need of muños as he is waiting for us and hands us some of the plant leaves. I take them gladly, crush the leaves and deeply inhale the fragrance. This plant is amazing as my breathing calms down almost immediately.  I would love to have access to muños when I have a cold.

   

Two chicharias directly across from one another

On our way back to Cusco, we stop in a small town where Lalo takes us on a walking tour. Lalo points out carvings on the old stone door frames, explaining the various meanings of them. Sticks with wads of red plastic stuck to them adorn the doors of a few houses and Lalo tells us these are chicharias. Talk about cheap advertising! We arrive at the car and Lalo retrieves our sack lunches from the trunk. We walk up a shady incline to the church and sit down on an outside bench to eat. The amount of food stuffed into the sacks is ridiculous. There are two sandwiches, two pieces of fruit, an energy bar, juice and candy. I eat the chicken salad sandwich and drink the juice. I give my ham and cheese sandwich to a man working around the church and my energy bar to Paul.

    

Friendly woman harvesting Konua or Kinua or Quinoa….

After lunch, we continue our leisurely drive to Cusco when we come upon a woman harvesting Konua (Quechua spelling). Konua (keenwa) is a grain that the Inca developed and is a staple food for the people. The scene is right out of National geographic as a colorfully dressed woman is harvesting a bright red grain with a snow-capped mountain in the background. The busy woman was gracious enough to take time to pose for us and answer questions from Lalo, who would translate her answers for us. I wish my photo was Natgeo quality but I had a real problem dealing with the intense sun in Peru. Often the snow-capped mountains would melt into the clear blue sky like it did here and no adjustments on my camera would take care of the problem. Very frustrating!

   

Pretty church where the celebration of farmers was being observed

Lalo takes us to a farming village, Ch’eqereq, because he wants to show us the church. We meet a flock of sheep with two young girls trailing them. Other than this encounter with life, the dusty streets of the town are deserted. Could everyone be in the fields? As we approach the church, we find the answer to our question. The town folk are sitting on wooden benches that line the perimeter of a cement pad in front of the church. A small band is playing and singing a song and in all honesty, they are not very good. There is a large vat of chicha sitting in the middle of the cement, which seems to be garnering most of the audience’s attention. At least it was until us foreigners show up. Lalo speaks to a man and asks if we can visit the church. I have mixed feelings about this because it seems so intrusive but the man seems delighted that we are interested in the church. A woman accompanies us inside answering questions and giving us permission to take photos. The altar is overflowing with lovely bouquets of flowers largely made up of gladiolas.

Village church decorated for the farmers’ festival

A small statue dressed in farmer attire is sitting just below the altar surrounded by offerings of bread and potatoes.  We have come to this village on the festival of farmers’ day.  Seeing the modest church decked out in celebration of farmers makes it worth the embarrassment of walking through all the somber folks after all.

   When we leave the church, a teenage girl with a purple banner draped over her shoulders is there to meets us. Although I can’t read the wording on her sash a good guess is that, she is the queen of the festival. I feel my face blanch when I see that she is carrying a tray with three plastic glasses upon it. In this rural culture it is only polite to offer your guests chicha. Lalo at first tries to decline the offer but with a hundred set of eyes watching you, what can one do. A man dunks the community dipper into the frothy concoction and pours a generous amount of the corn alcohol in each cup. The three of us take a cup from the tray and timidly take a drink. Whew, I barely wet my lips but even this small amount tells me the liquor has some punch to it. I notice Paul and Lalo only take a small swallow before replacing their glasses on the tray along with mine.

Typical scene in the farming village

Lalo says a few words to the crowd in Quechua, which brings smiles, and a few thumbs up. The three of us smile and wave goodbye after which we make a hasty retreat.

     We are in Cusco by mid-afternoon and move to our new hotel, Midori. Our room is a little bigger than a walk in closet but we are lucky to have found a room on such short notice. We will be here for three nights and the good news is they might have a larger room available tomorrow night. The hotel was originally a large colonial house. Maybe we really are in the walk in closet!  

    We find a small restaurant near our hotel that is definitely a mom and pop place. Dad is helping his young son with homework at one of the tables while a toddler sleeps in a crib near the bar. Mom is busy in the kitchen. The tablecloths have a few stains but the floor is clean and the aromas wafting out of the kitchen smell wonderful. Our food arrives and my huge bowl of creamy corn soup is delicious as is Paul’s cream of mushroom & Alfredo pasta. We visit with a personable Dutch couple who are eating here for the third time. Our main topic is how businesses are reluctant to take soles bigger than a 20. ATM’s disperse fifties and hundreds so this is a real headache. Businesses really prefer coins to paper money because of a huge counterfeiting problem. We lay a fifty on our dinner check for our supper and I see the man roll his eyes but he takes it. He uses the Dutch couple’s small bills and coins they pay their check with to give us our change 🙂

Cusco women in Plaza de Armas square

   

             

     

      

Peru, part 5

Peru, part 5

 

   

View of Cusco from the terrace at Hotel Maytaq

Paul returns with a renewed supply of soles and I feel refreshed from the hot shower. We are to meet with our Choquequirao guide at eight tonight. We decide to begin the tedious process of packing our backpacks with what we will need for the five-day trek while awaiting our guide’s arrival. By the time we dig all the stuff we don’t need out of our backpacks and all the stuff we do need out of our suitcases our room looks like it was hit by a tornado. It is time to go down to the lobby so we leave the room with our junk strewn everywhere.

     We walk down to the lobby and one of the friendly staff takes us to a small sitting room. Two women are waiting for us, Norma our guide and Debra, the owner of Absolute Latin America, which is the tour company we booked through. By the way, if anyone is planning to travel in Latin America we will give an exuberant two thumbs up to this company. We give Debra a short report on our trip so far and then we wait for the briefing on Choquequirao.

     Debra and Norma glance at each other,then Debra informs us that the government has closed Choquequirao to tourists. We knew before we left home that a landslide had closed our original route by damming the river, which left the bridge underwater. Debra had changed our route so we would come in from the other direction. Now it seems that the only way across the river via this route is by an old cable strung above the water. Norma has just returned with a group from Choquequirao and describes how they had to stick one leg through a loop, hold on with both hands to the wire that attached to the cable while someone winches them across. The government deemed the cable was unstable but would allow a group to go if the guide and tour companies signed a paper accepting all responsibility if someone fell out of this contraption. Norma and Debra aren’t willing to sign the release but it doesn’t matter because we aren’t crazy enough to do that anyway.

     I’ll come clean right now, my face lights up at this news, Paul’s face, in complete opposition to mine, crumples in disappointment. I had questions about this trek from the beginning but Paul convinced me we were up to the task. Most of our guides, upon hearing we were walking to Choquequirao, would shake their heads and tell us that this was a tough trek. One looked us right in the eyes and said “you won’t make it”. Naturally, this did nothing for my confidence.

     Debra and Norma have come up with an alternate trek although there are no ruins on this route. Since seeing ruins was really our motivation for the hike in the first place, our interest is low. When Norm traces the route on her map and points out the 16,000-foot pass we will cross, Paul and I both say “forget it’. Norma insists that this trek, although much higher than Choquequirao, is easier. I reply that I would not be able to handle the altitude and they would be carrying me down the mountain at some point.

     So, the problem we have to solve now is what to do for the next five days. Paul asks if we can do some day treks so the training we did at home won’t go to waste. Debra and Norma throw out suggestions and before long; we have several things to consider. I suggest that Paul and I have a free day in Cusco tomorrow. This will give Debra time to arrange day trips and let us have a leisurely day on our own. Paul will do some research on the tablet tonight to help Debra out with suggestions of places we would enjoy around Cusco.

    We return to our room to face the unnecessary mess we created an hour ago. We try to put our things back in the same baggage it came out of so we will have some idea where to find them. Why is it that when you repack nothing fits as easily as it did the first time. When we finally finish packing the last item, I crawl into bed more than ready to call it a night. Not Paul, he is typing away on the tablet as he looks for sites to visit on our open four days.

    

    

A small area of Plaza de Armas

I can’t believe it, we slept until seven a.m. and it was wonderful! After the continental breakfast, with the offering of several fruits, avocados, croissant(delicious), another great kind of bread, tea, coffee, yogurt, toast and eggs made to order, we are ready to explore Cusco. Our hotel is only one block away from the main square, Plaza de Armas. We have a jolt of memory when we begin to cross a street in this busy city. Here as in any Latin America country that we have ever been to, pedestrians are on their own. There are few cross-walks and stop lights so you must wait for a lull in the traffic and run or at least walk fast. It doesn’t take us long to learn it is best to cross a narrow one-way street and follow the natives when they make a break for it. Oh well, it keeps you on your toes.

    

Inca wall showing the incredible fit of the stones. The center stone is the famous 12-angled stone

Paul makes use of a city map and we meander through the narrow streets admiring the Inca stonework that still constitutes the base of most buildings in this historical part of the city. When the Spaniards conquered Peru, they tore down the Inca structures then built their churches and buildings on the Inca foundations. The Spanish at least had the sense to keep the superior structure of the Incan foundations as the Inca work was about the only thing that didn’t crumble after a devastating earthquake in 1650. Paul is absolutely mesmerized by the Inca stonework as we wander street after street examining and exclaiming over the incredible walls. The stones fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle with every angle fitting perfectly. Remember that these walls have no mortar and were made by a culture using rock and bronze tools. How in the world???

    

These stacked eggs are amazing, San Pedro market

We find our way to San Pedro, the central market for Cusco. This market is in a large building and once we are inside, we realize this sure isn’t our hometown supermarket! We walk down the aisles trying to keep from gaping but when you walk by whole hogs lying on counters it is hard not to.

One of the whole hogs we saw for sale in the market. Paul’s photo

In the meat section there are chickens including their feet for sale, slabs of hanging meat, hog heads, guinea pigs and a lot of other stuff we couldn’t identify. I might add nothing is refrigerated. The beautiful arrangement and eye-popping colors we find in the vegetable/grains/fruit aisles reminds us of India. Perhaps one of the most incredible things we find is a daring display of eggs, piled high and carefully by someone. The breads for sale not only look wonderful but also smell heavenly. In the dairy aisle, the towers of cheese are so high it is difficult to see the vendors behind the displays. Seeing someone dipping milk out of milk cans brings back childhood memories.Clothing, shoes, household wares and about anything else you need is for sale here. Probably a third of the place is set up with stalls that are preparing food for people. We both snap many photos of this fascinating place although a few folks sternly tell us “no photos”. When we exit the market, a woman is selling roasted guinea pig just outside the door. I ask if I can take a photo and the woman, laughing, grabs a guinea pig and holds it up to Paul’s mouth. Paul joins the game and pretends he is about to take a big bite out of the critter. This makes us all laugh plus I get a fun photo and I am happy to pay the requested one soles to the guinea pig vendor.

Having a little fun, well not the guinea pig

     We opt to return to our hotel and rest a bit, after all Cusco is at an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet. Once we feel rested, we go in search of a place to eat lunch.

It tasted as good as it looks

The Inka House looks interesting so we climb the stairs to the entrance. It is a good choice if only for the spectacular view of Inca walls and a courtyard complete with grazing alpaca and vicuña. Paul orders lasagna and I order ravioli from a wide variety of menu items. I know, not very Peruvian but sometimes you just want familiar food. The personable waiter brings us a small pisco sour on the house that is quite tasty. The waiter also brings us a free appetizer of maize, which tastes a bit like hominy and a plate of salty Peruvian cheese. The two compliment each other nicely.Our pasta is good but certainly prepared differently from the way we fix it in America.We share a Peruvian ice cream, made with special Peruvian fruit, to top the meal off. The ice cream was delicious.Guess what, my appetite seems to be back.   

Serpents carvings in the rocks, we found lots of them. Paul’s photo

We explore more of the Cusco streets looking for and finding the famous 12-angled stone. There are also supposed to be serpent carvings on stones scattered about and it becomes a game to search for and find the snakes. We end our day by sitting in the main square to people watch. We are approached innumerable times by people selling paintings, sunglasses, pottery to which we always shake our heads no. The vendors here are not persistent and when you say no thanks, they take you at your word. I love these town squares with their fountains, benches, trees, flowers and amicable people.  Paul and I return to our comfortable hotel for the evening and agree it was a relaxing and interesting day.

    

Ornate fountain in Plaza de Armas city square

Paul checks our tablet and finds an email from Debra. We are visiting Moray and Moras tomorrow, which will be a private car tour. We have two days of trekking with Norma, our Choquequirao guide and one day of driving and exploring ruins with Norma. We must move to a different hotel tomorrow, as Maytaq is full. The new motel is only a few blocks away from Maytaq so we will still be close to the main square. We are impressed with how quickly Debra was able to put together these impromptu tours for us.

I had to show a photo of produce in the San Pedro market

  

 

   

            

Peru, part 4

Peru, part 4

 

     We were up at five this morning and I feel well enough to go on the Lake Titicaca tour. We have become so used to our early mornings that we wake up before our alarm goes off! The tour bus picks us up at 6:30 and when we climb in Ina and Boris greet us with cheery hellos and big smiles! It is only a short drive to the lakeshore where the tour boats await the onslaught of sightseers. Our guide seems to be very personable, as have all of our guides to this point.

     Our boat joins a long line of tourist boats whose destinations are the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. As we approach the unique reed islands, the boats split up and distribute us evenly among the islands. That’s good, as I had no idea how all these people were going to fit on the tiny island of Uros where we are going. There are several Aimaras, the island residents, who are waiting to help tie our boat to the dock.

   

Uros women and reed houses

Before we disembark, our guide cautions us to stay in front of the reed houses as there are places behind the houses where the reeds are thin and you could fall through. What astonishes me is that they make everything from the totora reed, houses, watchtower, the boats and the island itself. Okay, they have motor boats but they also have incredible reed boats that are a work of art in my opinion. The women wear colorful traditional garb and as is the case of all the places we have been in Peru, they have their wares laid out in hopes of selling some to their visitors.

     Our guide and a man from the island give a demonstration on how they tie the reeds together to build this manmade island. It’s too complicated to explain but trust me the human ingenuity and the considerable work to build an island of reeds is amazing. One of the most interesting things they divulge to us is that Uros Island was much larger just a few years ago. The residents couldn’t agree on some issues so they just cut the island in half, pulled the anchors, floated apart and went their own way. Hmmm, that is one way to settle your differences!

    After the demonstrations and lessons are over, we peruse the items for sale to find that almost everyone has the exact same things. I silently question whether the blankets, wall hangings etc. are handmade on the island. A woman, who asks me my name, invites Paul and me into her small house. When we exit her home, she begins calling my name, “Nancy look at my work”, “Nancy you buy something from me”. Paul is never part of this mantra. Of course, I do look at her wall hangings and she does have one with lots of birds on it that catches my attention. Paul points out that we have no place for it in our house and talking softly tells me the work is not very good. Paul is much better at seeing quality work than I am.

    We wander off with the woman plaintively calling my name and my feeling a

Look at those hands

bit guilty for not purchasing anything. They know an easy target when they see one. We watch an old woman who is weaving what looks like straw into plaits and for the life of me, I can’t understand how she is doing this. The woman looks like she is just rolling several stems back and forth between her palms but somehow they become interwoven. At one of the outdoor shops, I find miniature reed boats that the island residents probably do make. A preteen girl is in charge and when I ask the cost of the toy, she shoots me a very high price. How tough can it be to barter with a little girl? When I counter her offer, she scornfully turns me down and doesn’t bother bartering! Oh yeah!

    I move on down the line of merchandise and find a reed boat that I like better anyway. When I ask the cost, a young girl quotes a price of 30 soles while Mom who is standing right beside her, says 35 soles. I try to bundle another item with the small boat and offer them 20 soles but they turn my offer down. I finally offer 20 soles just for the boat and the woman quickly accepts. Rats, it was too much to offer, as they never tried to barter up. I knew I should have let Paul do this. He loves playing the game and usually gets the price he wants to pay, if not he just leaves. Oh well, I like the boat enough that I ask if they have another one, they do, so I pay too much for two of these miniatures 🙂.

   

Impressive reed boat next to a floating island

Several members of our group, including Paul and I, pay ten soles each to ride in a reed boat a short distance to the next floating island. Two oarsmen operate the reed boat and row us to the neighboring island. There is a young girl on board, 5

Singing for the tourists

or 6, dressed in a colorful native costume and she is just cute as a button! A few minutes into our voyage, the youngster bursts into song. She sings Twinkle, twinkle little star in English. When the soloist finishes singing, one of the oarsmen (her dad?) tells her to sing the ditty in French, German then Japanese and she dutifully does so. The vocalist also sings the tune in Quechua, their native language. As we draw near the island, our private entertainer removes her hat, extends it towards her captive audience, in hopes of tips. I know, it is a bit exploitative, but she seemed quite happy with her role and we certainly enjoyed the show.

     Once our group is back on the boat, we settle in for the two and a half hour ride to Taquile Island. Paul and I join Ina and Boris on the open upper deck. There are no chairs but you sure have a better view of things. A canal cut through the vast field of totora reeds allows the boats passage to the open lake.  Imagine our surprise, as we motor through the channel, at seeing a few pigs on a tiny reed island. I have to use the word disbelief when we float by a slightly bigger reed island where someone is raising a few head of cattle. We’ve seen some odd things in our travels but this has to rate near the top of the list.

Pig pen on Lake Titicaca

    When we arrive at the island, we along with several other tour groups begin trudging up the steep incline to reach the village at the top of Taquile Island. Most people are walking in slow motion and gasping for air including me. However, Paul and I pass several folks who have to stop and rest so we are doing better than many of them. Our guide steps off the pathway to pick some leaves from a plant. He hands us all a few leaves and instructs us to crush them, hold them to our nose and inhale deeply. Whoa, talk about instant clearing of your nasal passages and lungs. The plant is muños and it sure beats coca leaves for helping to clear your head and enables you to breathe easier.

  

Men in traditional dress on Taquile Island

The path leads to the town square but there are few of the natives around. Here there is a building full of items handcrafted by the natives. The men also make crafts and we see a few men who are knitting as they walk. You might as well be productive on your way to wherever. The Taquilians don’t negotiate on price and the price tags on the hats; scarves etc. are more than we want to pay.

    Our guide gathers our group and we follow him to the restaurant where we are having lunch. We have a choice of an omelet with rice and potatoes, starch anyone, or trout. Paul has no choice and orders the omelet, as do I. The egg dish tastes wonderful but as has been the case since we left Arequipa, I have no appetite so leave most of the food on my plate. Since I am trying to follow orders and drink three liters of water, I’m sure this is blunting my hunger too. After lunch, we must walk down more than 500 steps to get to our relocated boat. The downhill walk to the dock is difficult but interesting as we see more of the natives’ houses and the farming area on this side of the island.

It’s a long ways down to our boat, Paul’s photo

     

As the boat turns back to Puno, we sail next to the scenic island for some time. Gazing at the island from the upper deck, we see a panorama of pastoral scenes. People are working in the fields, grazing livestock are scattered over the terraced land. Higher up the mountain a multi-colored church stands next to a bright cemetery dominated by the color blue. Once we leave the island behind, there is only the expanse of Lake Titicaca around us so we go below to sit in our comfortable seats. There are a few people sprawled in the small open area at the back of the boat and they are clearly miserable. One woman is even lying down. I don’t know if they are suffering from altitude or motion sickness but I pity them. We arrive in Puno at five and several of us are ushered to a waiting van that drops us off at our respective hotels.

Colorful church and cemetery

     Paul and I return to the medical clinic shortly after our arrival at the hotel. Our route takes us through a celebration that includes a band, fireworks and crowds of people. This makes for a noisy but interesting walk. I wait the required 15 minutes before seeing the nurse who is pleased to tell me my blood pressure is down substantially. Great news and I won’t have to bother the doctor in Chivay. As we walk the now quiet streets back towards the hotel, we stop to eat at a tiny café where the specialty is pizza cooked in a kiln oven over open flames. A young woman works in the pizza place alone although she has her toddler with her. The child is sitting in its stroller while mom bustles around preparing and cooking our pizza. We have noticed throughout our travel in Peru that young women often have their babies and toddlers with them in the work place. We find the uniquely cooked pizza very tasty but I still have no appetite and only eat one piece of the Peruvian pie.

     I have not talked much about the city of Puno. In Peru, it is dark at 6 p.m. since we are on the equator.  Our arrivals both nights in Puno were at dusk and we left Puno both mornings very early. The little bit we were walking in the city was after dark and on the way to the medical center. Some things we will remember most about the city are that the altitude is over 12,000 feet. The streets are incredibly narrow leaving little room for error as cars meet and the traffic is very heavy.

     We have another early morning, as we must catch the seven a.m. Inka express bus. The Inka express is a double-decker tour bus that includes a guide and a woman who passes out drinks and treats along the way. We will be riding for ten hours across the antiplano (high plains) to Cusco making several stops along the way. As we approach the large bus who should we see occupying the front seats of the second deck but Ina and Boris. They beckon us to join them in the two vacant seats next to them. We all exclaim about our good fortune to have the front seats with their huge windows giving us the best view in the bus. Someone taps Boris on the shoulder and points to the seat number on their ticket. How silly of us, of course you would have assigned seats on the bus. Four red-faced people get up so the people who really have these wonderful seats can sit down. Paul and my assigned seats are just two rows behind the front seats, so close and yet so far away. Looking out of our bus window at arriving passengers, we see Melissa and Doug. Our Arequipa group will be traveling to Cusco together.

     Our first stop is Pukara where we visit a small museum full of pre-Inca pottery among other items. We don’t get to tour the ruins, as there isn’t enough time. Our next stop is Raqchi, which is my favorite stop of the day. Raqchi is an Inca ruin where one wall of the once magnificent temple still stands. The stonework of this temple is incredible and gives us our first look at the beautiful work of the Incans. Granaries, rock walls and stone houses surround the temple wall. If you aren’t awestruck by the history and workmanship of Raqchi, something is wrong with you. Paul and I wander through the ruins and wait until the last-minute to board the bus.

    We stop to eat lunch at a restaurant where we go through the usual buffet. There are many Peruvian dishes to sample; my only complaint is some of the food is just lukewarm. The landscape we are traveling through is dry and stark although deep in the valleys along the river the land is green and looks to be productive. We make a photo stop at the highest point of our trip, La Raya. At 14,000 feet plus I decide to stay in my seat and looking behind me, I wave to Doug who has opted to do the same. No sense pushing our luck.

     Our last stop is the town of Andahuayillas to see the church. The famous church is referred to as the Andean Sistine Chapel because of the renowned frescos it contains. Despite the restoration work in progress on parts of the ceiling and the altar, the church’s grandeur is mind-boggling. The frescos in gold leaf frames line the church walls. In fact, there is gold leaf everywhere in this 17th century church plus beautiful mosaic work on the ceiling. How interesting to find this beautiful church in this tiny Peruvian town.

    We pull into the Cusco bus terminal at 5:15 more than a little road weary! A young woman, Maria, along with the van driver is waiting for us. I love this part of our tours, as we don’t have to deal with finding a taxi. We find Cusco’s streets are just as narrow as the ones in Puno with lots of traffic too. We arrive at Hotel Maytaq and Maria takes us to the desk and waits as we check-in. We are running low on the soles we brought with us from the U.S. so she has agreed to take Paul to an atm machine to get some more Peruvian money. I retire to our clean and comfortable room to enjoy a much-needed shower. We have a lot of repacking to do, as tomorrow we are to begin the trek to Choquequirao. I hope I am up to this strenuous journey.

This photo was taken on Taquile Island, one of many door photos I took in Peru

   

      

     

      

 

    

    

Peru, part 3

PERU, part three

Colca Lodge

 

      Once Paul and I have settled into our room at Colca Lodge, we change into our swimsuits, put on the robes provided for us and walk down to the thermal pool. We join two men who are already enjoying the steaming water. Being in such close quarters, what can one do but visit with each other? We learn that the younger man relocated from America to Peru and owns a tour company specializing in motorcycle travel in Peru. The older man, an American, is a member of his current group. As we trade stories, two Canadian women have joined us in the bath. We recount our scare with one of our group passing out. The motorcycle men tell us about one man in their group colliding head on with a bus. All the cyclist broke was his arm, which is a miracle in itself! Someone else speaks up about a woman who died last week at Colca lodge from a heart attack. Gees, this is getting too morbid.

    I do ask our bathing friends for advice in combating the altitude that has me just feeling crummy.  The motorcycle tourist swears by eating lots and lots of chocolate, the travel agent says you will eventually adapt and one Canadian woman asks if I have brought diamox. I tell her I do have the medicine but am reluctant to use it because our pharmacist said the pills side effects are very similar to altitude sickness. The woman says she has had no problems with the medicine and that diamox has helped her tremendously. After an hour of soaking in the thermal pool, we have had enough, besides it is getting dark and chilly.

    As we walk back to our room I still have a nasty headache despite taking three ibuprofen earlier.  I am light-headed and find myself off-balance on occasion and this symptom bothers me most. I make the decision to take a diamox since I don’t see how I can feel much worse than I do now. It is only 7 p.m. but I shower and get ready for bed. When I floss my teeth, I find that I cannot get the floss in-between my molars. Well this explains my throbbing gums. I settle into bed and begin writing in my journal. A short time later, I become aware of an odd sensation in the back of my head. For a while, I say nothing to Paul. When the feeling grows stronger, I tell Paul that something weird is happening to me. I can only describe the symptom as a buzzing feeling in the back of my head.

    As we debate what to do, the sensation begins to move into my neck and shoulders. We can’t call Erica, as we don’t have her contact number so we call the front desk. Paul tells the receptionist that I am not feeling well. The lodge has a nurse on their staff and the receptionist has her talk with Paul. He describes my symptoms to the nurse as a tingling in my head. By now, this sensation is moving down my arms and I am starting to get nervous. The first thing the nurse says to Paul is that it could be high blood pressure. What!  My blood pressure has never been a problem for me.

     In minutes, the young nurse is at our door. Now my fingers are tingling and the buzz in my head feels like a swarm of bees trying to find a way out. As the nurse takes my pressure, I tell her I am sure this must be a reaction to the diamox but get little reaction from her. When she finishes taking my blood pressure, she says “bien” and I feel some relief. The nurse tells us in broken English that the lodge has called for the doctor in Chivay and I ask if she thinks this is necessary. Her answer is an emphatic yes. I suppose that after last week’s tragedy they are taking no chances.

     An hour later, there is a knock at our door and the same Dr. that took care of Doug enters the room loaded down with equipment. He speaks English and immediately starts asking questions as he clamps something on my finger, takes my blood pressure, listens to my heart and takes my pulse. After I tell him my normal blood pressure numbers, the young Dr. decides that 120 over 80 is too high in comparison to my usual reading. My blood oxygen is 83 and he wants it to reach 91. I put on the oxygen mask he hands me as the friendly Dr. begins dispensing pills. He gives me pills for blood pressure and high altitude sickness instructing me to take them twice a day for three days. The Doc leaves me another packet of pills in case of “ague”. A steroid shot in my derriere is the grand finale. It isn’t until he is preparing to leave that I remember I received a steroid shot 10 days ago because I couldn’t shake the persistent cough I had developed before we left. The Dr. just shrugs at this information; after all, it’s too late now. I hope my hat still fits by the end of our trip!

     The Dr. figures his bill for this hotel call and the total is 200 Soles or 76 bucks. I give him 100 dollars and tell him to keep the change. As he prepares to leave he instructs me to drink three liters of water a day (are you kidding me). In his opinion, diamox sucks, o.k. that’s my word, because it acts as a diuretic, which dehydrates you. He says I am to have my blood pressure taken as soon as we get to Puno. Circling his phone number on the medical receipt, he instructs me to call him with the results of my blood pressure reading tomorrow night. By now, he has repacked all his gear in preparation to leave when his phone rings. I can tell by the concern in his voice that this incredible man has another call to make tonight. He waves goodbye as our heartfelt thanks follow him out the door.

     When I wake up this morning, I am relieved to find my headache gone and the buzzing bees have disappeared except for those still in my fingers. I can deal with that. After an early breakfast, our van pulls up and we are delighted to see Doug and Melissa. Paul and I would have bet the farm that the Dr. would send him back to Arequipa. As we drive towards Colca canyon, I tell Erica and our group about my problems of last night. Doug quips that two out of six people becoming ill is not a very good record. Let’s hope that we are the end of the streak!

   

Terraces and fields divided by stone fences

We are traveling through some wonderful farmland as we journey to Colca canyon. The farmers have the land divided into small parcels using stone fences

to mark the boundaries. Other farms are a succession of terraces up the mountainsides. We do stop for photos although we are often looking at this beautiful mosaic countryside from on high. We see farmers hand milking cows in their fields in places. There are people working in the fields or driving livestock down the road. It is all very peaceful and picturesque.

     As we near the “Cruz Del Condor” point, Huber drops Erica, Ina, Boris, Paul and me off so we can walk a trail along the canyon edge that will lead us to the famous Condor Cross point. Erica refuses to let Doug walk with us so Melissa stays in the van too and Huber drives them to the lookout point. The

Wild flowers along hiking trail to Condor Cross Point

trail we hike is stunning as we walk through a profusion of wild flowers and cactus. The river is flowing far below us at the bottom of the Canyon that is twice as deep as our Grand Canyon. This place sure makes me feel small and no photo can ever do the wild landscape justice.

     As we draw near the Condor Cross point, one of the stars that people come to see, flies right by us. I knew these vultures were big but that is a misnomer, they are massive! The Andean condor’s wingspan can reach up to ten feet. Compare that to the five or six-foot wingspan of our turkey vulture. You won’t be surprised to find that I am delighted that the enormous bird did a fly by for us.

Condor doing a fly over

     As we approach the viewpoint, we are astounded to see hundreds of people lining the various platforms and railings up on the mountaintop. There are several condors wheeling in the air over the onlookers and you can hear the gasps of delight even down here. There are many steps to climb in order to gain access to the viewing area but if I take it slow, I think I will make it. Once we arrive at the top (I’m very out of breath), we weasel our way into a small open space, which allows us an unobstructed view of the vast, blue sky. Soon a male condor with his trademark furry white ruff soars right above our head. Wow, now our sounds of delight join in with the rest of the gallery.

    Trying to get my camera to focus on a flying bird with a blank sky for a background proves to be very difficult. In the end, we have the privilege

the male and female condor

of watching seven different condors as they swoop and circle us humans who are transfixed by the king of the vultures. We also get to watch a male and female condor, perched on a rock below us; go through what is obviously a mating ritual. How cool is that?

     It is time to leave as we have a six-hour drive ahead of us to Puno. We stop in Chivay for a buffet lunch. Paul decides to try the cuy (guinea pig) and after a sample bite, the rest stays on his plate. I stick with chicken soup; at least they said it was chicken…

    Our drive to Puno takes us through some more spectacular country but also some country that could be moonscape. We do see vicuña in places but the oddest thing in my mind is the flamingos we find standing in a small lake. Stopping to look at the pink birds, we pass our binoculars around so everyone can clearly see the live specimen that is very different from the lawn version:).  I check my Birds of Peru book and find that the Chilean flamingo is “often found on freshwater lakes unlike other flamingos”. I guess they do belong in this sparse landscape. A note to Erin and Randall, I used the bird book almost everyday. You chose well as this particular book is the “bible” for professional birding guides in Peru. Thank you again for such a thoughtful gift.

     We arrive in Puno, altitude of 12,400 feet, in the early evening and luckily for us, our hotel is the first stop. We say so long to Erica and Huber who are going back to Arequipa tonight! I feel very sorry for them. We also bid adieu to the rest of our group though odds are we will see them on the Lake Titicaca tour.

    Once we finish checking in at the Qelqatani Hotel, yeah I can’t pronounce it either; we go out in search of a Farmacia (pharmacy) where the Chivay doctor said they could take my blood pressure. We stop in at two pharmacies but they shake their heads no when asked if they can perform the task. Not sure what to do, on a whim we stop in at a travel agency we are passing by to see if they can help us. They direct us to a medical office that caters to tourists just a few blocks away. Sometimes things just work out.

    A friendly young man asks what my problem is and I answer that I need my blood pressure taken. He tells me that I must sit and rest for 15 minutes. When the nurse announces that my pressure is 120 over 90, I am not surprised, as my face has been flushing occasionally for the past hour. The young nurse asks if I want to see a cardiologist! Well that isn’t something I want to hear. I explain to her that I am to call my doctor and report in to him.

     When we get back to the hotel Paul can’t get our international phone to work and we end up borrowing a cell phone from the hotel receptionist. When the doctor answers his phone, I can only call him doctor, as we can’t remember his name. Embarrassing to say the least! When I relay my blood pressure reading to him, he surprises me by saying that for Puno the numbers are fine as long as I don’t have a severe headache and am not dizzy. I can answer no to both of those symptoms and I feel a weight lift from my shoulders. The doc still wants me to have my blood pressure checked tomorrow but if it is no higher, I don’t need to call him. Hurray:).

    Paul and I had conversed while walking back to the hotel from the clinic that I might have to skip the Lake Titicaca tour tomorrow. After the cheery news from Dr. Chivay, we agree that if I have no headache and am not light-headed I’m good to go. I was feeling quite sad at the thought of missing this adventure. We return to our dimly lit hotel room, all of our hotels so far seem to be shy on wattage power, and retire as we have an early morning pickup.

     Our next stop will be Lake Titicaca, the floating island of Uros and the island of Taquile.  

     

      

    

  

   

Reality Ranching, Rattlers and Fawns

Reality Ranching, June 2012

 

    I decided to take a break from my Peru posting to relate two incidents on the ranch that happened since we came home.

    We have been haying as fast as we can since we have come back from Peru. We have been mowing with two swathers, raking, square baling and round baling our brome and alfalfa. With only a few minor breakdowns, we have been putting up hay like crazy. Paul and I are still scratching our heads trying to understand how Randall made a spring for the square baler to keep it running. His ingenuity saved a trip to town for a replacement spring.

      A few days ago, Paul left our house by the backdoor; his destination was the big tractor and round baler that was sitting by the fuel tanks. I was stepping out the back door, when I nearly ran into Paul as he walked hurriedly back to the house. The reason for Paul’s hurried return is that there is a big rattlesnake lying across the bottom step at the end of our sidewalk and he had nearly stepped on the reptile. He was coming back to get my shotgun. While he went for the gun, I went for my camera. As I tiptoed up to the edge of the top step, I was not prepared to see a fair-sized timber rattler! The last two rattlers that made the mistake of invading our home territory were massasaugas, which, at their largest (3.5 ft) are equal to a timber rattlers smallest adult size.  I snapped a quick photo to document the brazen snake then retreated to the house as the loud report of the shotgun echoed through our yard.

The unwanted visitor

     We tolerate most anything around the boundaries of our house. Our visitors include raccoons, skunks, rabbits, squirrels, opossum, deer and once even a bobcat that wandered across the backyard. We often see ring-necked snakes and garter snakes in the yard, ho-hum, they are small and harmless. I might add that Taz has carried both of these species into the washroom. Two of her victims I rescued and released, the other snake didn’t survive. We always have black snakes in the yard and they can get very big. Although it is startling to come upon one of them when you are out in the yard or in some of the out buildings we leave them alone. They are great controllers of rodents and even though they will raid a bird’s nest occasionally we figure the trade-off for all the rats and mice they consume is worth it.

      However, a venomous snake around our house is not something we will allow. We can’t be watching our every step while working around the house. We certainly don’t want a certain black cat to run into this type of snake!  There are thousands of acres uninhabited by human beings just beyond our farmyard and we leave the rattlers alone that we encounter in the prairie. However, I’m a staunch “not in my backyard” advocate in the case of rattlesnakes!

 

FAWNS

    I am disc mowing three small fields of brome on this day of our hay season. Paul and Randall are baling or picking up square bales or both. I have lost track as the days are melding into each other. As I make the initial round in the second field, I see many places where deer have bedded down. This is a good indication that there could be fawns hidden in the brome grass. I scan the trees that grow along the edge of the field to see if a doe is lurking in the shadows but see nothing. I try to watch the area in front of the disc mower for movement or the color of brown. The trouble with watching for the color of a fawn is that the seed heads of the brome are a good match for the hair coat of a baby fawn. All I can do is be vigilant and hope for the best.

    I only have a few rounds left to cut in this small hayfield when I see a tiny fawn standing next to the last windrow I have mown. It begins to totter away and as I watch its unsteady gait, I’m afraid I have injured the little thing. Then I realize that if I had run into or over the fawn, it would never have survived. This fawn must be a newborn and yet it had the instinct to move out of danger plus the sense that it needs to find cover.

   I continue watching the baby deer over my shoulder as I cut to the end of the field. I use the old cement well as a way to mark the place where the fawn disappears into standing grass bordering the newly mown patch of brome. When I near the point where I saw the fawn exit the mown field, I stop the tractor, grab my camera and walk across the field. It doesn’t take me long to find the

Fawn standing in brome grass right before he yells for help

fawn since he is standing right at the edge of the field. My gosh, he is so small and so cute. We stare at each other for a moment after which I raise my camera to take a photo.  I push the shutter button, which overall is very quiet but evidently not to the sensitive ears of this wild thing! The little pipsqueak lets out a bleat as loud as Liberace’s stage outfits. Holy Cow another megaphone bleat emerges from his little throat as it totters deeper into the grass.

    I need to get back to the tractor because a past experience with bleating fawns tells me Mama will be making an entrance. I am halfway back to safety, looking over my shoulder the entire time, when I see the doe. Wow, she is a beauty and the sun is lighting her hair coat up like polished copper. The mother is very hesitant taking one slow step then stopping as she watches my every move. Once I climb into the tractor, she begins trotting towards the brome and you can almost see her confusion now that the brome is lying on the ground. When I rev the tractor up and turn on the power take off, she loses her nerve and runs back into the brush.

The concerned and beautiful doe

      I finish mowing and drive over to where I last saw the fawn. I am concerned because the little guy was walking towards the county road and I want to make sure the baby didn’t lie down in the road ditch. I find the tiny deer under a clump

The fawn in his new hiding place

of gamma grass a good choice for a hiding place. He is lying as flat on the ground as possible but his eyes are wide open as he stares up at me. I retreat until I feel I am at a safe distance, zoom in and take a couple of photos. The fawn doesn’t move a muscle and I leave him in peace. I know the doe will come out under cover of darkness and retrieve the fawn even though his hiding position has changed. The doe will either sniff him out or call to him until the fawn responds. In the past, I have seen both of these methods used by doe after fawns have run out of a field I have been mowing and they soon retrieved their wayward babies. Later, Nancy

 

a male collared lizard that is enjoying Paul’s newest stone fence

   

        

    

   

Peru, part 2

Peru, part two,

 

   Erica, our perky young guide, meets us in the lobby of our hotel at 7:30 this morning. We load up the luggage and climb into the comfortable seats of the van. Doug and Melissa, a young couple from Boston occupy the front seats so we climb into the middle ones. We stop to pick up another couple who also turn out to be from Boston although they are originally from the Ukraine. Again, the world proves to be a small one as the couples discover they live just a few blocks apart.

     Our destination today is the small town of Chivay. Before we leave Arequipa, Erica takes us into a market to buy coca leaves. This leaf is something the natives chew everyday and it is for sale everywhere. The leaf supposedly gives you energy and reportedly will help we flatlanders fight altitude sickness. Since we will cross over two mountain passes today in the 16,000 feet category the six of us figure this is worth a try.

     The coca leaf has a distinctive smell, a bit like drying alfalfa but stronger. Erica demonstrates how to roll up a few leaves with a tiny piece of lime ash that acts as an activator. Erica tells us to place the wad in our cheek and chew. After a few minutes, I find the cud disgusting and my saliva glands have kicked into high gear.  I ask our guide what we are to do now and she replies, “Just chew it”. Well, since there is no place to spit, I guess I have to swallow the gross stuff that is accumulating in my mouth.

     

A bag of coca leaves, a wad in your cheek. What more do you want?
Paul’s photo

Time passes, the leaves are disintegrating, and my cheek is going numb. I relate this info to Paul in a low voice and he replies that not only is his cheek getting numb but his nose is too. We whisper to our van mates and ask how they are getting along with this coca leaf experiment. Doug and Melissa have removed their leaves already and the expat-Ukranians acknowledge numb cheeks and disappearing leaves. We sheep who are still following Erica’s instructions remove what is left of the coca leaves, tuck the green mess into tissues and wait for the feeling to come back to our faces! Later, we discuss our coca episode with another group who also were encouraged to try the leaves. Their guide told them to remove the leaves after ten minutes. Oops, I would guess we left our leaves in for an hour and Erica never told us a thing after “just chew”. Paul quips that we should all start chewing coca leaves before a dental appointment, as due to the coca leaf or maybe the activators numbing quality, you wouldn’t feel a thing! I for one will not use this altitude “aide” again as I felt no difference at all except for the numbness.

  

Vicuna with volcano in the background

Scrubby vegetation and cactus grow on the mountains we are traveling through today. We are fortunate that the sky is crystal clear so the three snowcapped volcanoes, Misti, Chachani and PichuPichu, are readily visible making for majestic views. When we enter the National reserve of Pampa Canahuas, we don’t travel far before we spy one species of two wild camelids. Vicuñas are a protected species in this reserve but it is interesting to note that every year the natives round up the vicunas and shear those whose fur is long enough. The Vicuñas don’t yield much wool but the wool is valued for its fineness, which equates to extremely soft wool. If you want to buy anything made of vicuñas wool I suggest you take out a large loan. We stop a few times to snap photos of these fine-boned delicate creatures that pay us no attention.

     As we continue through the reserve with plenty of vicuña to look at, Erica excitedly calls out “guanacos”! This is the second wild species of the camelids family but in comparison to the vicuña, the guanaco has a heavier build, longer fur and sports a dark face. Erica is very excited over the guanaco sighting, exclaiming that she has been making this drive for six years and never seen a guanaco here before. The animals are to far away to document the sighting with photos but we can see the beasts clearly through our binoculars. Paul and I share our binoculars with the others since they don’t have any. After they use our binoculars, they all wish they did have a pair.

      We see domestic herds of llama and alpaca, also members of the camelid family. The herds often have a human accompanying them along with a few dogs. I put in this humorous photo of one dog asleep on the job as a baby llama escapes down the road.

Asleep on the job

     We take a break at a little bump in the road to use the toilets, at a cost of one soles each, and to have a cup of coca tea. I’m not sure what the altitude is here but most of us are a little lightheaded; lose our balance on occasion and walking up a couple of steps causes us to gasp for air. Paul seems to be the only one of our group that the altitude has no effect on.The best thing about our stop is the contented cat that has made her bed among the various woolen items on display in a wooden stall.The coca tea just sped my heart rate up as if I had drunk three strong cups of coffee! Great now I’m light-headed and jittery.

   

The infamous 16000 foot mountain pass

We continue to climb higher, which makes my head ache and my gums throb. When we reach the highest pass of today’s drive (just shy of 16,000 feet), we pull off at a lookout point to take photos. The view is breath taking in more ways than one. Erica informs us we will only be here five or ten minutes and that everyone is to walk very slowly. Paul joins the line for the loo as I walk in slow motion, past all the women trying to sell their wares. I want to get an unobstructed view of the beautiful snow covered mountain that dominates the horizon. (Why is this bold and why can’t I change it back?) 

    As I am “breathlessly” admiring the landscape, I see a tall young man to my left stumble. For a brief moment, he manages to stay on his feet but then his knees buckle and he falls backwards and his head hits the ground hard. He draws in a long wheezy breath and then is completely still. I begin to call for help in the same instance another woman is yelling for “someone to come help this man”. Suddenly every guide is sprinting to the poor fellows’ side. One puts an oxygen mask on the victim and suddenly I feel the need to see Paul. When I spot Paul and his trademark Stetson hat a feeling of relief settles over me even though I knew he was fine. To say what I witnessed has shaken me up is putting it mildly.

    Feeling rather weak myself, I go back to the bus and find that our driver, Huber, is very upset. He tells me the man that collapsed was part of our group. I assure him it wasn’t as I witnessed the whole thing and did not recognize the man. He insists that the person is part of our group and says that maybe it is your husband. I know that isn’t the case but I look more closely at the cluster of people surrounding the unconscious man. There is Melissa kneeling next to the prostrate man. Good grief, it must be Doug and I feel terrible that I did not recognize him!

     It takes at least twenty minutes to revive Doug to the point that they could get him back to our van. Two guides carry him to the van and help to get him in his seat. Doug keeps asking what happened and he is speaking in a slurred voice. We need to get this man to a doctor but we are at least an hour away from Chivay. All of us are quite subdued as our driver makes the best time he can on the windy road. Erica has Doug using the oxygen they have, all tour groups carry one, and we can tell by the strength of his voice that he is getting better.

    Erica has been on the phone to arrange for the Dr. in town to see Doug when we arrive in Chivay. Paul and Boris (I made that name up, as we can’t remember the ex-Ukrainians name) help get Doug to the doctor’s office, as there is no way he can walk there on his own. Erica asks the men to return to the office in a half hour in order to help take Doug back to the bus.

   

Endless offering of grains and dry goods
Paul’s photo

kinua grain for sale at market

Paul and I wander through the local market; this one is for the natives not tourists. The gunnysacks of grain, dried beans and potatoes intrigue us. Tempted by the smell of fresh bread we buy a small loaf and share it as we sit on a bench in the town square. As we eat the tasty bread, we pass the time by watching the people. The women in their traditional dress and top hats create a temptation for me to snap constant photos of them but I restrain myself to only a few snapshots.  There are two men, wearing straw cowboy hats, sitting on a bench in the square. I get the nerve to ask them if Paul, wearing his stetson, can join them so I can take a photo. I use the term ask loosely as what I really do is point to Paul, the bench, their hats and say photo. They are willing, I end up with one of my favorite photos of our trip, and they didn’t ask for money!!.

Three amigos

    When Paul goes to assist Doug get back to the van, we are delighted that he doesn’t require the help. It is a relief to see him walk albeit slowly on his own and to be able to converse normally. The man’s blood oxygen was in the low 70’s and Erica tells us it should be in the 90’s. We knew he was in bad shape, we just didn’t know how badly. We continue to the village of Coporaque to have our lunch at the hotel where our four companions are staying. Their hotel sits high above the valley giving us a wonderful view of the landscape as we dine. The buffet lunch has a variety of foods including barbequed alpaca and chicken. I am not hungry because of the bread we ate so I only take some chicken soup and a potato dish. I do have a bite of Paul’s chicken and alpaca, which is quite tasty.

     After lunch, Huber drops Erica, Ina and Boris off at the hot springs and drives us to our hotel the Colca Lodge. The road is bumpy, narrow and full of curves but once we reach the Lodge we understand, why Erica was so effusive in her praise of the place. Colca Lodge with its stunning manicured grounds is a short walk from the river. The lodge has a private thermal bath, they had two baths until a flood washed away one of the pools last year, a spa, a glassed in restaurant with a lovely view of the river. They also have a grizzled yellow tomcat that enjoys the attention he receives from me. Our room has lots of space despite the king size bed. This place is much fancier than we are used to or need. That being said we intend to enjoy this luxury for the one night we are spending here beginning with a visit to the thermal bath.

Colca Lodge

    The next journal explains why we will never forget our night at Colca lodge and you can join us as I write about our visit to Colca canyon and the condors. Nancy 

      

    

   

Peru, part one

Hello all,

    Due to the encouragement and explicit directions written for me by Geoff, Paul’s nephew, I am going to try to post our Peru adventure as a blog. The blog site was also set up for me by the ever patient Geoff. This way you can go to the blog site when or if  you wish too. In addition, I can place our photos alongside the related story. As we will be busy haying, this journal will be drawn out but eventually I will finish, I hope. Nancy   

   Peru, part one

    We are off to Kansas City early this morning on May 8 to board a plane bound for Houston. We have no problems out of KC but our Houston flight is an hour late, in which most of that hour we are sitting on the plane 😦. Despite the delay, we arrive in Lima, Peru at 11:45, only 20 minutes late. Making our way through customs is a piece of cake and a friendly Peruvian is waiting to whisk us away to our hotel. It seems odd that after a seven-hour flight from Houston we are still on Central Standard Time. We arrive at the Allpa hotel which is located in the part of Lima called Mira Flores (considered the safe part of Lima) where we check-in. We briefly admire the large room with its king-size bed before crawling into bed as soon as we wash up and brush our teeth. We have an early start tomorrow!

     We are up at 5 a.m. to shower and pack what little we unpacked last night. We eat the breakfast buffet provided by the hotel at 6:30, which is nothing to brag about, gather our luggage and check out. Our driver picks us up at 7:30 and we are at the airport an hour later. Traffic is crazy and the way the Peruvians drive reminds me of India, this is not a compliment. We have another flight delay so our arrival at Arequipa is quite late. When we file into the small airport, someone starts whistling the theme song from Clint Eastwood’s “The good, the bad and the ugly”.  I look around to discover the whistler and spot a Peruvian man leaning on the handle of his baggage cart. He smiles at me and points at Paul and his Stetson hat. I begin to laugh aloud along with several other passengers as we find the reference to Paul and his hat quite funny. The man continues to whistle, with uncanny precision, the western movie theme song as we leave the airport.

    Our poor driver who has to have been waiting for an hour or better is quite friendly but speaks little English. He drops us at the hotel Monastario San Agustin. We walk through an iron gate into a gorgeous courtyard.  There are benches placed on the tile floor and a beautiful fountain graces one end. We later find a garden hideaway in another corner of the grounds filled with potted plants. We are only a few blocks from the main square too. As soon as we settle into our room, we will be off to explore this charming city.

    After strolling around the square and doing a little people watching we decide to visit the Museum Santuarios Andinos. No, I can’t pronounce the name either. This museum is dedicated to the subject of Inca human sacrifice specifically that of the famous mummy Juanita. We have an excellent English-speaking guide as most of the signage is in Spanish. I guess what I find most fascinating is that Juanita’s sacrifice and burial took place at the lofty height of 20,000 feet! Can you imagine climbing that height without the benefit of oxygen or any of the cold weather clothes we have today?? The other thing that struck me on this tour and throughout our trip was how the guides always stress that the families of these young girls and the victims themselves considered it the highest honor to be a “chosen” one. Of course, the girls selected for this honor had to be without any flaws, pure and beautiful. Hmm, I wonder if any mothers in that time ever managed to inflict a small but prominent scar on their daughters at birth.

          We eat lunch and proceed to the Arequipa cathedral for another guided tour. The young woman explains that the cost of the tour doesn’t include a tip for the guide and it is customary to give 10 or maybe even 15 soles to your guide. We burst out laughing at her precociousness but after the tour, she indeed receives a tip since she did a terrific job. The opulence of the cathedral is overwhelming and we can’t help but wonder what the gold, that seems to encrust everything, would add up to in dollars today. There are centuries old paintings adorning the walls along with intricate wood carvings. I am rather taken aback to find a devil, horns and all in the cathedral! Granted Christ is standing atop the demon and crushing him so to speak but still it seems startlingly out-of-place amidst all the grandeur. We will visit many cathedrals in the days to come and all the silver and gold they contain will continue to astonish us.

     As darkness begins to fall, at six p.m., we visit a grocery store on the main square to purchase a light snack for our supper. We wander through the aisles seeing familiar items and some things that are new to us, like different grains and fruits. Bottled water, a banana and bread sticks are among our purchases. This costs us a grand total of 5 dollars or about 13 soles.

     Since we leave at 7:30 in the morning, we retire early for a good nights sleep. Well that was the plan anyway. After midnight, we become aware of a constant deep vibrating sound. We decide it must be some type of machine but as we listen closely, we believe we can hear words too. Finally, we determine that there are songs accompanying the persistent beat so we get up and peer out our window. Cattycorner to our hotel, probably two blocks away, neon lights are flashing in time with that annoying “ba-boom” beat. When we open our window, the words of the songs become audible. A dang disco in the heart of this historic square has dashed the hope of a restful night. Paul puts a pillow over his head to muffle the noise and is able to go to sleep. I, being somewhat claustrophobic, can’t follow suit and must listen to this din, always with the same vibrating beat, until 2:30 in the morning when they mercifully shut down.

   A few points of interest we have found here so far. Gazing up at a rooftop in Arequipa you will often find a dog looking down at you! The napkins here barely cover the palm of your hand but they give you a half-dozen of them :). You never put the toilet paper into the toilet but in the trash bin next to the toilet. Do you know how hard this is to remember? On occasion, I forget despite the big sign on the wall commanding you not to throw paper in the toilet. I always fear that because of my transgression I will back up the whole sewer system of the city where I’ve committed this crime!!

   In my next posting, we will travel through the Andes with our destination being Colca Canyon and Condors.