Joined June 2016 Message
  • Day17

    Heading Toward Home (Lima)

    July 10, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Left Suasi Island in a small speed boat (zodiak) and took the 1 km ride to the nearest shore where we were picked up by a driver. The drive back to Juliaca (an extraordinarily poor city) took 2 hours. Our flight to Lima was delayed by an hour and we got there at 4. We were met by a guide, Marvin who was great! He explained things very well and his English was excellent. He gave us a brief tour of Lima. We saw the very European downtown area with beautifully ornate buildings. The area was hopping, not atypical on a Saturday, we're told. There were entertainers, people selling balloons and stands selling fried donuts. It definitely was not what I expected! We saw their train station that had been turned into a library and their post office that was turned into a thoroughfare of craft sellers.
    Next we drove to Miraflores, the upscale suburb that was built in the last 10 years. The buildings are contemporary and clean and, from what we could tell with the sun going down, it looked like a very nice Western US suburb on the ocean. We ate at a very cool restaurant called Huaca Pucllana which is connected to a pre-incan pyramid that is undergoing ongoing restoration via funds from a percentage of restaurant sales. Much of the seating is on a beautiful outside patio next to the pyramid and the Peruvian style food was excellent.
    The driver waited for us while we ate and then drove us to the airport. We got to the airport 3 hours early and waited in line to check in for an hour.
    We just landed in Atlanta an hour behind schedule. Flight to Detroit leaves in 2 hours! See everyone soon! 💞
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  • Day15

    Suasi Island

    July 8, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    What a lovely place to, almost, end our days in Peru! After breakfast, we hiked around the island for about an hour. It was sunny and windy today. We came across vicunas (one of the 4 camelids whose fur is highly prized here) and roaming alpacas. At the peak of the island were beautiful views. Too windy for a canoe ride today. Despite the water all around it is remarkably dry here due to the elevation.
    We came back to the hotel and played cards by the fire until lunch. We took a short walk and then I took a nap. Wow, did I sleep hard! Blaming it on the altitude! I made myself wake up for the best hot chocolate we've ever had.
    Played cards again until dinner and then packed our stuff to be ready to go home tomorrow night! 😊
    Overall the service was good but not excellent (as it could have been given that we were the only guests!)
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  • Day14

    Lake Titicaca

    July 7, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Early start today to explore the 2nd largest lake in South America but the highest navigable lake in the world. Titicaca means 'puma stone' in the native pre-incan language of Aymara. The puma is a sacred animal for the Incan people. Ironically, once arial photos of the lake could be taken, they found that the shape of the lake had the shape of a puma.
    We traveled by motor boat with an enclosed area. Good thing because it was cold today (30-40 degrees)! I used the scarf and gloves I overpaid for in Cusco (still only $25).
    We started our exploration on the floating, man-made islands of Uros. There are over 100 small islands with, typically, 4-5 families per island. They use small reed canoes/boats to navigate to other islands and most are very close to one another. They build their islands with the roots of reeds and then add layer upon layer of reeds, so each island feels very spongy to walk on. They make their homes and beds out of these reeds along with some wood. The women stand in bright clothing along the small shore of their island indicating that they welcome visitors. We stopped on an island and 2 women showed us their home. We saw the fish they collect and reeds they use, not just for building but also to eat the stems for calcium and iodine. Their livelihood relies on selling tapestries and other crafts. We couldn't help but buy a small tapestry despite not really needing it. We also bought a couple of craft items for the boys. All for around $40. They sang goodbye to us in their native language and then in English, a bit mangled version of 'Row Row Row Your Boat'!
    We spent 10 soles per person (~$3) to be taken across the small channel in a large reed canoe to the small tourist island. They actually have huts that they describe as hotel rooms.
    Our guide, Maria picked us up in the motor boat, and we traveled an hour and 20 minutes to a much larger, natural island called Taquile. There are about 2000 inhabitants on the island. We stayed at the shore to meet a few of the local people and to learn about their customs. In particular, the women weave and the men knit. Their woven clothing/hats/belts indicate their marital status. For single men, the direction of the pom on top of their hat indicates whether he has a girlfriend, is interested in one or isn't interested at all.
    While we sat there, a couple of women wove and 4 men performed a song for us with flutes and a drum.
    We traveled another hour and 20 minutes to the island where we will be staying for the next couple of days. It is called Suasi. There is only 1 hotel on the small island. As it turns out, we are the only guests, in this 24 room hotel, for our whole stay! It's our very own island with our very own staff! Makes us feel very special. This is another eco-friendly lodge so no WiFi, limited electricity (all by solar panels) and no outlets in the rooms. (Julie, you must be wondering how we can survive!)
    Still, the room is perfectly nice with a small fireplace and a window on the ceiling to view the stars on a clear night.
    Meals are included here and lunch was very good - trout, chicken, alpaca, veggies, potatoes and chocolate mousse for dessert - our favorite!
    If it was nice out we could have hiked, looked for animals, kayaked or canoed etc, but it was cold and rainy ☔ (The Incan sun God is clearly angry that Dave left - and maybe the luxury train god too!) so we sat in front of a nice fire in their bar area and played cards for way too many hours with the wonderful sound of the rain around us - that, Julie, you would have loved!
    We ate a very good dinner with, of course, chocolate mousse for dessert! Mmmm...
    Realized today that I'm nearly maxed out on my outgoing text allowance, so I will only respond by text if necessary. 😊
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  • Day13

    Puno

    July 6, 2016 in Peru ⋅ 🌙 9 °C

    Javier transferred us to the airport and made sure we got to security without any issues. The local tour operator, Metropolitan Tours, has been very thorough and we've been impressed with their attentiveness. They have offices in Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil. The 1 hour flight to Juliaca was uneventful and we were met by Erik for the transfer to our hotel in Puno.
    The elevation of both Juliaca and Puno, an hour's drive away, is 12,500 feet. In Cusco we were at just above 11,000 feet. We've had a decent amount of time to acclimate though brought Diamox with us. I took it once, before arriving in Cusco, but it caused me to have annoying tingling of my hands, so I opted not to take it any more. Ken has had only mild tingling so has continued to take it.
    At the airport today, I developed a mild headache which improves as long as I drink a lot of water. We did notice that we were out of breath though after only walking up 16 stairs at our hotel!
    Our hotel, Casa Andina Private Collection is on the shore of the expansive, Lake Titicaca (which, seriously, is just fun to say!) The hotel is quite nice and, we had the good fortune (if I truly believe that a certain travel agent/mother didn't have anything to do with it!) to get an upgrade to a suite. Our room is very nice with a fireplace, jacuzzi tub and beautiful room-wide lake views. It was a perfect room in which to spend a day if we couldn't be on a luxury train. I, for one, finished the final season of Downton Abby while Ken read.
    Thank you mom!
    We had a delicious lunch in the hotel restaurant though service, as it has been throughout Peru, is slow. You always have to ask for the check or you will never leave!
    Our guide for tomorrow, Maria, showed up at the hotel to discuss tomorrow's plans. Not bad service!
    For dinner we opted to share a cheese plate by the crackling wood fire in the lobby. Hace frío en Puno!
    Early start tomorrow, so we're off to bed.
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  • Day12

    Cusco and Dave's last day in Peru

    July 5, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We toured Cusco today with Yahayra. We drove to several Incan sites, all of which are a little disappointing after seeing Machu Picchu. The fortress of Sacsayhuaman (mispronounced: sexy woman) was the nicest, reflecting again, the unbelievable, architectural abilities of the Incan people - to fit enormous stones together, so precisely and so tightly, that no mortar is needed. We stopped at a good textile place where I bought a black shawl made from baby alpaca wool and a table runner as a gift for my mother-in-law.
    Within the Plaza De Armas - Cusco's main square, we went to Qoricancha, the Incan Temple of the Sun - the most sacred of Incan Temples.
    From there we went to lunch where, prior to eating, we said goodbye to our tour guide Yahayra. Overall she was very knowledgeable though lacked some warmth and was very vocal when she felt she was wronged in some way or if someone wasn't following the rules.
    We had a very good lunch at a Peruvian restaurant called Chincha. I'm enjoying stuffed red peppers here (and the empanadas have been great too!).
    We walked back into the Plaza De Armas to see the cathedral. It's a very ornate church and has a funny mural inside, of the 'Last Supper' but with Peruvian food on the table (ie, guinea pig with it's legs in the air). I don't have a great interest, in general, of churches (go figure!), so it only took us about 20 minutes to walk through.
    We walked back to our hotel and enjoyed watching the baby sheep in the courtyard of our hotel. We said goodbye to Dave at 3:45. We got some very disappointing news when Javier, the guide, came to get Dave. Apparently, workers of Puno are on strike and, because of this, the luxury train we were scheduled to take tomorrow was cancelled. Apparently, this occurs a couple of times per month. I was really looking forward to the train ride after hearing such great things about it, but that's foreign travel for you...
    The local tour operator sent someone to walk us the 10-15 minutes to the LAN airlines office where we got airline tickets for tomorrow at 11:20. The flight only takes an hour to Juliaca. It will take 1 or 1.5 hours to get to the hotel. Not sure what we will do once we get there. Maybe just relax. Not used to that!
    Ken and I went out to dinner at a restaurant recommended by Javier called Limo. We had a classic Peruvian meal. See picture below! It was delicious!! And don't worry mom, all cooked! Then we went to a small cafe for dessert. As far as I'm concerned, any place called café y chocolate has to be tried. 😊
    On a completely different note, here's another interesting thing about Peru. They have weak plumbing here, so you are not supposed to put toilet paper in the toilets. It's a crazy thing to get used to! They all have small waste baskets next to the toilets. Lovely....
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  • Day11

    Machu Picchu Day 2

    July 4, 2016 in Peru ⋅ 🌙 27 °C

    Happy July 4th!
    It was another beautiful 70 degree day in Peru. High temperatures have been between 70 and 75 each day though usually in the 40s and 50s at night.
    We had another opportunity today to go back into Machu Picchu. We arrived up the mountain at 9:30a, perfect timing for our 10:00 hike up Wayna (also spelled Huayna) Picchu. Only 400 people are allowed to hike up this mountain per day, 200 at 7am and 200 at 10am. There's a picture below, of the mountain in behind the gate. We had read that the hike was harrowing and STEEP. Both were right but mostly the latter. The hike up, which took us 53 minutes, was made up, primarily, of stone stairs, some at a 75-80 degree angle. We took it slow though and most of it was manageable. Views from the top were, once again, spectacular. It took us 38 minutes to descend.
    After that, we left Machu Picchu and took the bus back to Aguas Calientes. We walked to our hotel, Inkaterra, and cleaned up. They allow use of their showers even after check out. Lunch was included at the hotel, so we had a delicious lunch there. We took a walk through the hotel's Orchid garden though the flowers are, disappointingly, not in bloom this time of year. Still, a pretty walk and we did find begonias! Lucky us. 😉
    We walked the 5 minutes to the train station and left on the 4:22 train back to Ollantaytambo. They had a man in costume dance in the aisles and then had an alpaca wool fashion show by the train attendants. Flight attendants have it easy!
    Once we arrived, we were met by our driver from several days ago, Cero and another, English speaking guide. We drove nearly 2 hours to Cusco where we checked in at the Costa del Sol (a Ramada hotel). The hotel looks very charming and our room is nice. We walked into the city square which is beautiful and very European. We found a small trattoria to eat in and had some good Italian food.
    On our drive in to Cusco, I was reminded of an interesting thing about Peru. There are dogs EVERYWHERE! Our guides have told us they all belong to someone thought it's difficult to imagine. They all appear to roam the streets at will. What is fascinating is that you don't see dog feces anywhere nor have I seen any dog urinating. Not sure who is cleaning the streets as we haven't seen that either! Maybe these dogs don't require this bodily function?
    Off to bed - hope the fireworks 🎆 were great for you tonight!
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  • Day10

    Machu Picchu

    July 3, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    What a day! Took the 8:30 Peru Rail train 🚈 to Aguas Calientes with our guide, Yaharya. We had seats on the left side of the train which is ideal for seeing the gorgeous views on the way. They served drinks and sandwiches, and the ride took 1.5 hours. At the train station we gave our overnight bags to porters who took the luggage to our hotel (Inkaterra). In the meantime, we walked a short distance in town to catch a bus to go the 1/2 hour up the mountain to Machu Picchu.
    I've heard from several people that, even with all the hype, you can't help but be overcome by the Incan city that was never destroyed by invading armies. They were right.
    When you turn the corner and see the city, it's awe inspiring!
    Yaharya gave us a 2 hour informative tour of this Incan city that was shared with the world after 'discovery' by an American history professor from Yale in 1911.
    We ate an included buffet lunch at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. Afterwards, Yaharya left us to head back to Cusco (4 hours back! And only to come with a different group tomorrow).
    We headed back into the archeological site to take the Sun Gate hike. An hour up and difficult but absolutely worth it! The views were stunning. The Sun Gate is the entrance from the Inca trail into Machu Picchu. I was far less winded on the hike then I anticipated and was proud of my accomplishment. 😊
    I forgot to mention that we were accompanied on our hike by our red bull-pig. We forgot our Wandering pig at home and had to buy a stand-in. No red pigs at the markets so we opted for a red bull (to go with the red hippo-pig we had to buy in Africa)! 🐷🐂
    Dave did the hike in his water shoes that he's been wearing since the Amazon when his hiking shoes literally fell apart. It's surprisingly difficult to find a pair of hiking shoes in the small cities of Peru! His water shoes have been holding up great though.
    After the bus ride back down the mountain we walked to our hotel, another Inkaterra. The hotel is beautiful and our room is impressive. (I'm running out of adjectives for this trip I think!)
    We were a mess so we took showers before going out to explore the grounds. Then we had dinner which was included in our stay and which was delicious. Very impressed with Inkaterra resorts. Too bad they are only in Peru!
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  • Day9

    The Urubamba River

    July 2, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We left at 9am for our river rafting excursion. The temperature, when we left, was in the 60s and the idea of rafting in bathing suits in 40 degree water was not exciting! As it turned out, we had long wetsuits and a windbreaker over it, both provided by our guide, and the cold was not an issue. The rafting was great! We spent about an hour in level 1 to 3 rapids and then stopped at the side of the river for lunch. We ate at a restaurant near the shore which was very good. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day for Peruvians, which we are enjoying especially after a full morning of activity. We had Peruvian cola with our lunch, known as Inca Cola - a lot like Rock N' Rye.
    We were driven back to our hotel at about 2pm. It would have been ideal to leave tonight for Aguas Calientas (near Machu Picchu) but our tour operator must have thought the rafting excursion took longer than it did. We walked into the small town square again though not much to see or do. Then we rested at the hotel until dinner. Adventurers that we are, we ate at the hotel again!
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  • Day8

    Sacred Valley Horse Tour

    July 1, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Today we rode Peruvian Paso horses through the Sacred Valley of the Andes mountains. The views were stunning! Our tour guide for today and tomorrow's adventures is Willy. He is very nice and knowledgeable.
    We rode an hour out, to Moray, a huge earthwork that is essentially circular stacked levels of earth used by the Incas as a testing ground for plants. There is a significant temperature difference from the top to the bottom and therefore different plants thrived at different levels.
    We had lunch in a tent overlooking the valley. Not a bad picnic spot! Food was made by a chef who works for the today's tour company and it was delicious - beef, quinoa, veggies and apple pie for dessert.
    On the way back we were able to ride a bit faster, but despite our understanding that Paso horses have a particularly smooth gate, it felt just like a trot to me! May have a sore behind tomorrow but still very much worth it!
    Next we went to the Maras salt mines - 3000 small pools of mountainous salty spring water that are dried so that water evaporates and leaves salt. We bought some pink salt on our way out which is supposed to be great for BBQ.
    We rested at the hotel in the late afternoon and ate dinner at the hotel. Dave had the Peruvian delicacy of fried Guinea pig (for $20!). Ken and I opted not to try it. There wasn't much meat there to try! And they included a shot of anise afterwards to "help the stomach" after eating it. More card games after dinner and off to bed...
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  • Day7

    Ollantaytambo

    June 30, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Today we toured the Sacred Valley of the Incas. First we went to Awanacancha where they farm Llama, alpacas and related cameloids. They dye and weave the animal hair and create a variety of intricate tapestries. Ken purchased a scarf made of baby alpaca wool and we also bought a small tapestry for the wall. Prices were expensive, so we had to stop ourselves there!
    Next we stopped to take a picture of the beautiful valley. On our way to the next stop, our van was stopped by inspectors who were unhappy that our driver (Cero) was missing a maintenance log of his vehicle. Our tour guide was angry since we had already been cleared by inspectors on the way up and she made sure these inspectors knew it! She is feisty! After 10 minutes or so, they let us go on our way.
    We drove to the Pisac archeological site, an old Incan city, much of which has been rebuilt since the Spanish invasion and destruction in the late 1400s. Many Incan cities were built on top of mountains to avoid jungal tribes and to keep watch over the entire area and avoid invasion.
    Next we had a short stop at the Pisac market - a craft market with many vendors. We were impressed by both the overall quality of the items as well as the lack of nagging by the vendors. We found a couple of items for Addey (so easy to shop for!)
    We had a late lunch at Wayra restaurant at the Sol y Luna cafe where we had an included buffet style Peruvian feast. It was fantastic (minus the cow's heart that we were only told about after we ate a bite)! For the record, the flavor wasn't bad but the consistancy was strange.
    We were dropped off at our hotel and then walked up to the small town square. We covered the whole thing in about 1/2 an hour and walked back to the hotel.
    We played some cards and had a sampling of Peruvian chocolate for dinner - my kind of dinner! 😊. Too full from lunch for anything more! Tomorrow, horse back riding...
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