Sunday, March 12, 2017

March '17. Just Returned -- Fantastic Trip to Peru

After three weather-related aborted, planned trips to Denver to RV and the National Western Stock shows, I was so annoyed, I went on my computer’s bookmarked sites looking for a trip to some nice warm place with sun and snorkeling. 

Instead, out of curiosity, I clicked on a bookmarked site to OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) and “Real Affordable Peru” (not so much!) Before I knew it, I booked a February trip with a touch of uneasyness.

Because, here are two people who have never taken a tour, hate guides that talk in too much boring detail, and hate lengthy, numerous church and museum tours.  Plus, the brochure said up to three miles walking a day, about 10,000 steps.  I hadn’t walked that distance since October because of snowy trails. 

As expected the flights were long, to Peru.  Lima, is a huge city of 11 million.  Welcome meeting with our guide, Fredy, and the rest of the group of 15 was the following morning.  (Nice small size group — very important for a successful tour, we learned!)  That day and the next, we toured a pre-Inca part of a museum, the catacombs of a church, ate ceviche at a fancy restaurant down by the ocean, window shopped and rested.

Note size of kernels on this corn
in Lima mercado. 
And all of these colorful potatoes!

Our guide Fredy Delgado, his wife Monica
and two lovely daughters.
We flew to Cusco, where we felt  more at home because it looked like colonial buildings in Mexico and Guatemala, even though it, too, is a huge city.  At Pisac ruins we saw incredible terraces, still remaining from Inca times! 

A prime example of Inca terraces still in place
after all these centuries.
Believe it or not, these are hotel rooms, high on the mountain
side hundreds of feet above the river.  They can be reached
only by climbing!! and once up there, you can take a
zip line down!

Our group went river rafting (flat water, but scenic) one morning before our visit to a Peruvian home for a lunch of guinea pig (cui), and corn fritters made of masa, mashed potatoes, eggs, water, baking powder and salt.
  Both o.k.  We also had dishes of rice and fava beans, and rice and lupine beans (both very bland).  Potatoes, corn and quinoa (very high in protein) make up the bulk of their diet.
We were also served  a wonderful soup of corn, avocado, egg and cheese, with marigold leaves for additional flavor.  I had fun talking with the lovely hostess and her very pretty teenage twin daughters about the soup ingredients.  

Our luncheon hostess & daughters.

Cui or guinea pig -- our lunch!
A condor --largest bird in the this hemisphere.
I felt the wind of its wings as it glided past me.
Their wing span is nearly 10 feet!

A silky soft vicuna.  Its hide is used for rugs and clothing.

Seen on the street --Mother, daughter & baby.

The symbolic ceramic bulls that top every rooftop.
They blessed and kept the home safe.

The view from our room at one hotel.

One of the lovely painted pots in a pottery factory.
Native costume.  Paid a one sole,
about 30 cents to take her picture

Cute guinea pigs on the floor or a corner of
one home we visited.  They ran around our feet.
Raised for the family's eating.

Sitting on the side of a mountain, this looks
like a castle, but it is the ruins of an Inca grainery!

Seen on the street.  Note, each small town
has their own style of headdress.

 A visit to another ruins at Ollantaytambo was followed by a fun trip to Machu Pichu pueblo on a lovely old fashioned train alongside the Vilcanota River with horrendous rapids — at least Class 5 with rocks and holes everywhere in one several-mile stretch.  Absolutely no eddies.  Apparently it has only been run by professional kayakers — not all who made it.

We transfer to a local small bus and a half hour trip up and up, over many, many switchbacks brought us to a highlight of the trip:  Machu Pichu Inca Ruins.  It was mid-afternoon, a perfect time to avoid large crowds.  It IS a lovely and majestic site. 

 Fredy gave a wonderful, interesting not-too-long tour of the site before  we headed back to town for the night.  The same river, Vicanota,  ran through town and dropped maybe 100 feet in ⅛ of mile.  Totally unrunnable, but fascinating for Mike and I to see!
The rugged mnts. surrounding Machu Pichu are astounding.
Note the river at the bottom.

Amazingly steep!

These ruins were a "get-away" and religious site for
 the ruling elite from the capital, Cusco.

This is just one example of the fine work
the Inca did fitting the stones.  Notice the
little point on the top right of the left stone.

The rapids in front of our hotel in the Machu
Pichu pueblo.

Early the next morning, we once again left for Machu Pichu (before the crowds) and explored the ruins on our own, wandering at will, shooting lovely pictures of the mist and clouds over the ruins and valley. The Inca stone fitting is one of the most amazing features, here and everywhere in the Inca lands. 

Looking down from Machu Pichu, our road
snakes up was over 13 switchbacks.

The terraces down the hillside
grew their corn, quinoa, etc.

We asked a Peruvian gardener
to take our photo.
A favorite view of mine.

Another. . . 

The classic view. . . 

The mountains surrounding Machu Pichu
town central plaza.

More mnts. -- different direction in town.

Cocker spaniel on a shelf.  Cute.
That afternoon on our way back to Cusco, we traveled a different route over high, wide mountain valleys (12,500 feet) of lush farmland crops of corn, potatoes, fava beans, lupine beans (yes the wild flower) and a special tall grass raised especially to feed the cui (guinea pig).  

The few cattle, pigs and goats are either tethered or herded alongside the roads.  Good rich farmland is not wasted on animals, only for growing food. (In Colombia, we traveled along equally high smaller valleys that were incredibly steep.  There they grazed their cattle.)
Lupine grown as a crop at 12,500 feet elevation.

Colorful knitted hats at a roadside stop.

We loved the following day, so interesting and much like types of things Mike and I enjoy doing when traveling alone.  Our first stop was a mercado where we paired off and were assigned to buy a certain vegetable product which was new and strange to us.  

Because Mike and I both speak Spanish, we split to partner with others who were not so familiar with the mercados. We wandered the small market, passing through the malodorous meat section quickly.  (No different than Mexico or Guatemala.) We encountered many different fruits and vegetables with which we were unfamiliar.

Then off to the guinea pig farm.  We first met the family, went briefly into their kitchen, and then trooped out to the guinea pig barn.  (Many people just raise dozen or two loose in their homes!) The farmer takes some to market every week.  They are housed in pens of 20 or so with one male only.  The pregnant females were absolutely waddling around their 6x6’ pens. There were maybe 30 pens in the barn, and surprisingly little smell! Very interesting production.

After that visit we headed for a drive through high valleys, and a walk along a lovely country road where we stopped to visit with and watch a couple plowing potatoes out of the ground.  With OXEN!  I have always read about this, but never seen it.  In this case the woman ran ahead of the team holding a switch; the man followed, handling the single blade plow. 

They plowed every other row so they would not tromp the potatoes in the row they had just plowed.  After those potatoes were picked up, they would go back and finish the alternate rows. 
Typical mercado selling vegetables,
meat and fruits.

The family in the kitchen.  He was the guinea pig farmer.

Two tiny, literally just born babies.

Three expectant mamas. . . 

The couple plowing up potatoes.  The
pickers are in the background having lunch.

Four youngsters earning a sole each for posing.
In the next small village we went in to a weavers’ shop.  A shaman preformed a ritual blessing for us, then the weavers demonstrated the different steps in weaving: washing the shorn wool using a natural soap from a plant,  then spinning the wool into yarn, which always looks impossible to me. Different dyes were shown, including the tiny shell of the cochineal insect from the white webbing on the prickly pear cactus.

Dying of the skeins of yarn is done by dipping the strands in vats of dye, then hung to dry. And to weave a large piece, two weavers sit at the end of a loom, shuttling the ball of yarn back and forth between them. 

After demos, we had lunch — a weaver at each of our tables to question and visit with.  Lunch was a brothy soup, followed by a mutton, potato, carrot soup; both very bland with not much taste.  But it is what they eat and that fact is interesting and worth sharing a meal with them. 
The head weaver and the painter of the
watercolor paintings I purchased.

One of the other weavers who had just
demonstrated how to wrap the baby onto her back.

Crushed cochineal insects used
 for their red dye. 

Dancers at an evening performance.

The next day began with a tour of a ruins site high above a small town, then a visit to our bus driver’s parent’s bakery, and a wander through the town square as they were readying for a parade to celebrate the town’s anniversary — 250 years?  500 years?  I can’t remember.

Because we were close driving back to Cusco, we stopped briefly at Fredy’s mother and stepfather’s home.  Fredy definitely takes after his mother —happy, bubbly soul, very much an extrovert.  They served us tea and small tastes of 2 kinds of tamales which his mother made -- of course.

Our next stop was Fredy’s own home, where we were greeted by Monica and his oldest daughter.  After knowing Fredy all week — part teacher, part drill sergeant, confidant, and much more — it was interesting and wonderful to see his home, and his family again, with a chance to visit just a bit this time.  A few days ago Monica and girls delivered sack lunches before one of our trips.  

After a lovely lunch at a restaurant on top of a hill overlooking the city, we went to Saqsayhuaman ruins.  (A close pronunciation is ‘sexy woman’ or more accurately:  sock-say-who-maun, accent on the ‘who’.) Sky was looking threatening, but we had our rain coats and hats on, so no worries. . . . 

Mike and I wandered around, then started back to the bus just minutes before the skies opened up.  It rained, it poured, it hailed.  We huddled in the not-very-good shelter of a rock wall, then finally made a dash for it.  We stepped onto the bus— and everyone else was back on and DRY!  We were soaked to the skin!  They had a good laugh at us.
The Andes of Peru are truly steep!

The bakers pulling out large wonderful
loaves of bread from the horno, a very
large beehive type oven.

Lunch vendor for parade attendees. Those
 are guinea pigs on the top, front and center.

Dressed for the parade.
Notice the different style hats.

A vaquero posing for
a friend.

Another lady and her llama.

How did the ancient Incas move that huge
stone behind Mike -- and others equally large?!?
That night we had farewell drinks and our group’s critique of the trip.  All very positive.  It is truly a class act by this OAT organization. Meals, hotels, transportation, and organization were all top notch.  And, there simply was nothing our guide Fredy Delgado could have done better.   We learned history of Peru and the Incas, we learned of the role of religion in their lives, we learned of the good and bad governments over the years. 

 And we learned about potatoes —2,800 varieties to them grown in Peru and believe me, they were served at every meal!  Very impressed overall, (the trip; not the potatoes!) Traveling on a good tour is much easier and stress-free,. But the flip side, we had no catastrophes, therefore no good stories!!

Trip home? 19 hours from the time we left the hotel in Cusco, flew to Lima, waited, then flew to Houston, then Mike flew on to Colorado Springs.  (I flew to Phoenix to my sister’s, then home several days later.)  Whew.  Tired for two days!  But at least I didn’t gain any weight on the 3 course, very good meals.  That was because of the normally over 10,000 steps a day during the trip!  Great trip.

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