Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peru Part 4

We went to the little museum in Cusco after a stupendous breakfast of fresh jungle fruit, yogurt cheese and eggs. Then we saw the 12 and the 13 sided stones and the Puma and Snake stones. The Inca were such master stone craftsmen that they shaped their sacred animals into the block stone walls. We bought me a silver and green pendant and I got a massage. ½ hour of glorious rubbing for only $7. Then we flew to Lima and then Iquitos with only a slight mishap. We lined up at the right gate for the departing flight in Cusco according to the flight attendant and were watching the line waiting for our turn to board the plane. Suddenly over the sound of my book on tape, I heard my name on the intercom. I looked up and saw we were at the wrong gate and had to race to get to the right place before they shut the door. Then in Lima, we were confused about the plane – asked he flight attendant for the correct directions – and she walked off never to return. So we left the airplane to go find our other flight and ended up going all the way through the entire airport and repaying the airport fees before we raced back to get on the exact same plane for the flight to Iquitos. Again we made is with just a few minutes to spare. It is much hotter and more humid in Iquitos in the Amazon basin. We found a restaurant called the Yellow Rose of Texas where you can eat these two amazing fishes; the Dorado and P something wrapped up in a banana leaf and baked with tomatoes and onions. So delicious.


Humanitarian Day: Met Steve Jackson, Kizzy and Dave Meza for breakfast. We went with a doctor, nurse and pharmacist to Santa Maria a very small village on the Amazon. While the medical people handed out medicine for malaria and parasites. We met with the villagers’ in a room and Kizzy spoke Spanish with them. As with any enterprise there are tons of problems with the project. Steve donated a lot of money for seeds and other supplies but the villagers are slow to clear the community hectare for corn. They have delayed 3 months and couldn’t get organized to clear the land. The corn is to be sold to help the whole village. However, the government bought corn seed and the seed is “missing” (probably going to a village with more important voting power). As it is so late in the season, the water will flood the patch of ground anyway. I handed out crayons and paper and they drew me pictures of the river, their houses on stilts, and the animals in the jungle. One boy had been to Iquitos and he drew an ambulance and 2 story buildings. The community chicken coop in the next town was a little better. It takes 100 days for a chicken to mature and they’re going to use the proceeds from the sale of chickens to replace the batteries for their generator. We handed out little toys to the kids in the village. We bought Don a tiger skin drum from the village handicrafter. We probably spent about 4 hours in the boat this day. But it was worth every minute because on the way home we saw a pod of Pink Dolphins chowing down on a school of fish. I was so excited.

April 19

We went with Freddie, one of the local tour guides, to view some jungle animal reserves. First stop “Monkey Island”. So many kinds of Monkeys in this little spot on a jungle island 35 minutes down the Amazon in the fast small boat. Iquitos is at the junction of three major rivers and each is a different color. The Amazon is chocolate brown while the others have more of a blue color. The two colors can run side by side for miles. The river is filled with branches, logs, and whole trees ripped from the river bank of the jungle. It is a hard and fast rule that small boats must be off the river before dark because of all the junk in the river.

At the Monkey place I told them I had to use the baƱo and that was a cultural experience in itself. Thank goodness the outhouse had a toilet seat and toilet paper because 80% of the toilets here don’t. This particular outhouse was open and wild. In the reserve there was a baby spider monkey with a yellow belly and a long face that thought I was his mom. He insisted on wrapping his tail around the back of my neck and cuddling with me the whole time. He had long thin soft fingers and toes. He liked to be petted and tried to taste my silver ring. He only weighed as much as my little granddaughter Charley and wanted me to carry him around the whole way to view all the other monkeys. I hope to have a pet like him in the Celestial kingdom; I hope he likes riding horses too. The monkeys loved to eat bananas and the baby ones loved to hug us. Then we rode more on the river to get to the ¨serpentaria¨ with snakes. There we got to hold a big boa and a baby 2 meter anaconda. On the way there Freddie informed us that a pregnant woman was washing her laundry on the side of the river, and a huge anaconda swallowed her head first. They found her when they cut open the snake. So when they showed us a small anaconda at the serpentaria I only wanted to hold the body, I was leery of holding the head. For lunch we had the most amazing Amazonian Peruvian food. Rotisserie chicken with piles of green rice flavored with cilantro and this yummy Peruvian style hollandaise sauce over
everything with ripe sliced tomatoes and avocados. I love the fruit and avocados in the jungle. When you are done eating and have them put the leftovers in a to-go box to give to a kid on the street. We bought embroidered fabrics from Amazon Indians in the center square
which I plan to make purses out of for presents. There are so many amazing fabrics and handicrafts and jewelry to shop for here – at least 3 lifetimes. Mark has been great as he lets me ride horses, buy jewelry and fabrics and waits patiently.

April 20

A nice restful morning for our last day in Peru and we headed out to the most bizarre market I have seen. I’ve visited lots of village market days and witnessed many bizarre meats and vegetables and people crammed into small spaces with colorful sights and smells to knock you off your feet, but never have I seen such a huge market with as such an outlandish concoction of strange things. There was even a Viagra row with shop after shop of multi colored potions and lotions to help old men. Unfortunately many of the show owners saw me as old enough to qualify for their wares. I was highly insulted and Tracy and Freddie just laughed. The rows of meat vendors ran for 3 blocks and included the usual piles of plucked chickens and pig’s feet, but also had piles of turtle, alligator, piranha, snake, and guinea pig, plus some mounds of general intestines. Right next to a purveyor of dead fish would be a great place to buy a nice watch. It was a mix mash of fabric and food with no sense or order. Cages of monkeys were next to a mound of yellow mush that promised larger breast for a woman. Lunch was being cooked and devoured next to gross displays of guts and innards. In these narrow little walkways people pushed past the stalls in a never ending stream of motion. We had to have a guide in front to mark our path and another behind us to protect from pickpockets. We wandered through down to the river’s edge. It was still city with buildings partially flooded. The river will rise another 12 ft before it starts receding and will completely put the first floors of the buildings under water. The people were in the process of moving to the second floor to wait out the annual flood. We went out in a small canoe to tour the floating city where the really poor people of Iquitos lived. They lived in very squalid conditions with bare wood walls and small rooms for a whole family to live. Little kids were swimming in this filthy brown river water chalked full of parasites, germs, and raw sewage. This trip creeped me out with how incredibly rich our lives are compared to so many people in the world, how can we ever complain about our lives.

We stuffed in a trip to the Iquitos Zoo where I got to feed the pink dolphin (he returned the fish to me so I got to feed him over and over again as he kept giving back the fish to me) a final lunch at the Yellow Rose, and even a little shopping before we caught the plane for an overnight trip to Chicago. Our target is the heart of commercial shopping American style along the “Magnificent Mile” at the Peninsula Hotel. It is without question the nicest hotel I have ever seen or stayed in. The contrast couldn’t be any more dramatic from the Amazon basin to Tiffney’s – polar opposites.

Peru Part 3

April 15, 2010 Machu Picchu

Because of massive rains and the destroyed train tracks we left for Machu Picchu at 4 am. Some people walk the Inca trail and 2 or 4 days. We didn’t have enough time and we found out later that those treks have 2-3 porters for each person and all you have to carry is your personal possessions, they carry all your food and bedding for you and prepare all the meals.

The other Inca ruins we’d seen were in the high dry part of the Inca Empire. Machu Picchu is much lower (7,000 ft) and is in the beautiful tropical, lush jungle. I was prepared to be underwhelmed with all the hype of this ruin, but it was incredible. It is a massive area that was an ancient breadbasket for the Inca that lived in the area. The inhabitants build the terraces by hauling tons and tons of gravel sand and soil up the steep slopes to fill in the terraces. Less than a 1,000 people lived in the buildings; it was mostly a farm and ceremonial plaza. The sun on the grassy terraces looked like glowing jewels. I really liked how they would incorporate a huge stone into the temple or house wall. We climbed Wuayna Picchu, the tall mountain right next to Machu Picchu. If you turn pictures of Machu Picchu on it side you can see the profile of an Inca warrior’s face and that mountain is the nose. It was a spectacular 2 hour humid hike, virtually straight up the mountain. For someone queasy about heights this would not be a good place to go. Now if you wanted to quietly get rid of someone then it would be a different story. They only let in 400 people a day to climb it and we were #381 and #382. We saw the guards carry a couple of people down on a stretcher. It is such a well hidden site; it took hundreds of years to find it. The Inca people were so amazing at stonework and building. It’s pathetic that only 160 of Pizarro’s men overcame such an advanced culture, effectively wiping them out. If only the Inca’s in the 1500’s had had gunpowder, the wheel, the written word, they could have repelled the Spanish invaders.


It rained all day. The river right outside our hotel seems stronger and more destructive in this heavy rain. The side streets had piles of sandbags from the flood in January. We tried to hook up with the missionaries but no luck. Boy we were blessed to get to see Machu Picchu on a sunny day. We went to the hot springs in Augas Calliente which weren’t all that hot, but the high mountains rising abruptly with jungle vegetation growing all over them was great. That afternoon we spent 6 hours traveling via train and bus to get back to Cusco.

Peru Part 2

13 April 2010

We flew to Cusco. It is 12,000 ft in altitude and the tiny mud homes are plastered all up and down the rolling hills. This was the Inca capital and they felt it was the “Navel of the Earth”, I guess it could have worst names – like armpit or backside. First thing we got to do was ride horses up to the temple of the Moon. It was a strange little cave with a hole in the top to let in moonlight on certain nights to illuminate the stone alter. There were carved rocks shaped like a puma, a condor, a llama, a couple of snakes, and female fertility stuff. I figured it must be their make out cave. On the way back down the mountain the horses saw this huge grassy, muddy meadow and took off trotting and galloping like crazy. For Tracy it was wonderful like flying and she couldn’t help but giggle. I was in terror/pain/terror/pain/terror/pain and almost fell off more than once. We then go on the city tour to the Cuzco Catholic Cathedral and Santa Domingo where the Dominicans built the Catholic one over the Inca temple. The foundations and base walls were from the Incas and the walls and roofs are Spanish. At least the Spanish were smart about this because it took too much work to dismantle the Inca foundation and they never fell down in the earthquakes like the Spanish buildings did. The Spanish wanted the Indians to integrate into the catholic beliefs they enticed the natives with things never used anywhere else. The cathedral had mirrors because the Inca’s like them. In the artwork Mary was depicted as Mother Earth as in the Incan religion, the Savior was seen with the Sun and the Moon as in Inca times and at the Last Supper Inca chilies, corn and guinea pig was served.
We toured some of the outlying ruins near Cusco such as; The Sacsayhumwan ruins (pronounced sexy woman) are shaped like the head of a puma. The largest stone tightly fitted is 125 tons. We also visited the temple of the waterfall and the Inca trail nearby. It was their human pony express that controlled the empire and you got to admire anyone that can run up to 10 miles in that altitude in a very short time. Last stop was at the temple of mother earth where the mummified nobles laid. It was these cool caves and trails – I figured it was another make out spot with a view of the city. We had grilled Alpaca for dinner.

14 April, 2010

We left Cusco city for a tour of the Sacred Valley of the Inca’s. It was an incredible drive. We were as high as 12,500 ft and dropped to a low of 8,000 along the drive. The Andes around us went up to 18,000 ft and at that altitude you would think it would be cold, but this close to the equator it is warm all year and in these wide mountain meadows they had two growing seasons. The drive was along these narrow two way roads that had massive speed bumps across the highway multiple times in every little village. In Chincero we bought “real baby alpaca sweaters” and saw a demonstration on dying wool and spinning it with hand held spindles. In Pisac we went to a silver factory where Mark bought me cocoa leaf and silver earrings. There was a brick bakery with empanadas. In Urubamba we had lunch. At Ollanteytembo’s temple there were 7 rose colored granite monoliths on top of a terraced mountain with granaries even further up. The end of the tour was along the river valley that had flooded in Jan. The towns had evidence of the water about 3 ft high on the buildings and they said that all their fields had been flooded. The floods had wiped out the train tracks and the road in spots. The road has been repaired barely and some towns were totally isolated until repairs could be made. Most of the train cars were on the Cusco side of the break so train service to Machu Picchu was really limping along requiring additional hours of bus rides along very narrow one way dirt roads with tons of construction delays to reach the new temporary train station. That night we ate in the market and I also talked mom into eating some guinea pig – it is very expensive and the ugliest things imaginable on the picture menus.

Peru Trip Part 1

12 April 24, 2010 Lima Peru

What an incredible city, founded by Pizarro in the 1500’s to become his port and Spanish capital in Peru, it was like stepping back into colonial times only with tons of traffic, smog, and honking horns. On the city tour we saw a famous San Francisco church with catacombs. There were brick bins filled with bones and skulls with this one spot where they were organized into this circle pattern. I love the plazas with the Spanish buildings all around the square. Most of the buildings were built in 1800’s because the previous structures had been ruined by earthquakes. There was a 1970 earthquake that killed 70K people. For lunch we went to a Peruvian Greasy Spoon and had the “Monumental Platter” which included fried egg, cheese, ham, hamburger patty, chicken and huge fries. We tried the INCA COLA which tasted like Bubble Gum. We went down to the beach. The place is famous the world over for surfing and it was a blast to watch the surfers. It wasn’t a gentle beach – no sand just rocks. It hurt like crazy to go on the beach because it was like walking on big marbles. The sun sets at 6 and the Peruvians love colored lights in fountains. We went to a dinner show. There were giant avocados stuffed with yummy seafood and they have elevated the potato to new heights. (300 varieties) We got to sit right in the front for this really fun show of dance from the different regions. Instead of just the mountain region where they just spin, we saw really sexy African/Spanish dances and an unbelievable scissors dance. For the scissor dance they throw in a little French ballet, Russian Cossack dancing, Chinese acrobatics, New York break dancing, and a painful form of “frying bacon” all while clicking these large scissors to the beat with their hands. They give a whole new definition to “don’t run with scissors.” Or “Watch out Edward Scissorhands, here comes the Peruvians.”