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Peru – September 15, 2017

October 20th, 2017 No comments

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday morning we have breakfast at the hotel before going on a tour of the Pachacamac Ruins. These ruins are near the coast southeast of Lima. The Pre-Inca society had created a temple here to Pachacamac, the Earth Maker. A carved wooden pole stood within the cave like temple and only the priests could enter to receive an oracle. The Incas accepted this god and expanded upon the temple grounds. However, when the Spanish heard of the site they made a visit with the intention of robbing all the gold and silver. They demanded entry into the cave which the priests vehemently opposed as it was sure to upset the god and cause violent earthquakes. Finding only a wooden pole the Spanish were quite disappointed and took the only metal they could find which formed a lattice over the door.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.

I am amazed at the enormity of the site which spans around 600 hectares or two square miles, much of which is still covered by large dunes of sand. However several temples have been excavated and some are in the process of being uncovered as we drive through the site. We stop at a large adobe community called Acllahuasi, or House of the Chosen Women. The Inca would take the most beautiful and skilled maidens in the empire and would send them here to learn elegant weaving and cooking so as to become proper wives to make alliances with neighboring leaders. They would also take from this convent of priestesses to serve the Sun God and to sacrifice to him.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.
PachacamacPachacamac.

Upon the highest hill overlooking the valley and ocean beyond the Inca built the Temple of the Sun. Although we can no longer enter inside the temple which is closed to the public in order to preserve it, we can walk around the perimeter and enjoy the view.
PachacamacPachacamac.

The next stop is Los Ficus Casa Hacienda. The Peruvian Paso Horse is known as the smoothest riding horse in the world and this hacienda breeds and shows these horses. We enter into the hacienda through 2 large double gates to see large lawns of green grass and flowering bougainvillea; such a contrast to the dusty road and adobe buildings we have just traversed. We are greeted by the hostess who takes us to meet the horses.

The horses are selected for breeding based on their strength, endurance, smooth gait, and easy temperament. They are not ridden until they are at least four years of age and are gently exposed to halters, bridles, and saddles over the years. Each day all the horses, from the yearlings to the show horses are let out with a trainer to work on a certain training according to their age and experience. Indeed each horse comes to the window or fence of their corral to be petted and loved upon. Vicky is very happy getting to pet each one. One is a trickster and tries to nip at her shirt, but Vicky is soon scratching his ears which he obviously enjoys quite a bit. Even the young colts have a gait in which they kind of throw out their front feet to the side.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.

Next we are treated to a show, in which we see each stage of the training for the horses from leading by halter to the award winning show team galloping in unison across the grass. In the finale a young woman comes out in a full skirt to dance with the horse. In the Marinera dance, the woman dances barefooted mimicking the horse’s prance and steps to win the heart of the rider. Then to our surprise we are invited to ride the horses ourselves. I must say the ride was incredibly smooth, and the horse so responsive to even the lightest touch of the reins. It was like she so wanted to do whatever you asked of her. I hear Vicky exclaim “She is sooo sweet”, and I am thinking “no, you can’t take her home with you”.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.

Here is a link to a video from the show. The video is about one and half minutes.
Peruvian Horses – Video

After the show we are treated to an elegant lunch under a covered patio. We feel like the lord and lady of the estate as we are virtually by ourselves with a number of servers bringing us wine and food. There is a nice salad from the estate gardens and roasted chicken, which could have also come from the estate as I see several of them scratching about in the nearby bushes. Such a lovely experience comes to an end with a sweet dessert, and we load back in the van to make our way back to Lima.
Los Ficus Casa HaciendaLos Ficus Casa Hacienda.

An easy walk from our hotel is the “Parque del Amor” or Park of Love. The view off the sea cliffs is nice and the area is populated with young couples strolling along the walk. A bit further down is a lighthouse where we decide to turn back and return to the hotel for dinner and a early night as we need to fly back home tomorrow.
Parque del AmorParque del Amor.
Parque del AmorParque del Amor.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

We have a morning flight back to Miami, but not so early that we are rushed. We both wake up before the alarm goes off and start getting ready as our guide will be picking us up around 7:15am. It is a good thing that we got an early start because our ride showed up about an hour early! She said that for an international flight we needed the extra time. So much for the leisurely breakfast at the hotel. However we make it to the airport and through checkin in good time and are able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant near the gate. It is nice having the direct flight back to Miami, but we do wonder what we will find in Miami and at our house given Hurricane Irma’s strike just last week. Well back to the real world.

Categories: Peru 2017 Tags: ,

Peru – September 14, 2017

October 19th, 2017 No comments

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Maria picks us up in the morning to take us to the Cusco airport for our flight back to Lima. The checkin seemed to take a long time, but we zipped through security as there was no need to remove shoes or finish your water, and the flight itself was uneventful. However, once we get our bags, we can’t find our guide. We keep looking around, but can’t find anyone that is holding a placard with our name on it. We attempt to call, but can’t really figure out the secret code for the country escape code and whether the area code is needed or not, and is it 2 digits or 3? Vicky takes another walk around and finds our driver – but our guide didn’t show up! The driver doesn’t speak much english, but gets us to our hotel in Miraflores.

After getting settled in, we walk over to the ChocoMuseo, or Chocolate Museum. We participate in a “Bean to Bar” chocolate workshop. They walk us through the history and process of making chocolate. Our instructor open up a pod and allowed us to take a bean. The beans are coated with a slimy goop when they are first taken out of the pod. We place the bean in our mouth and find that the goop is mildly sweet and rather tasty. We don’t eat the bean at this time.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.

The beans are then fermented and dried. Once dried, the shell of the bean can easily be removed. We get dried beans and shuck them into a small bowl. The flaky shell may be used to make a tea. The tea is surprisingly good and mildly chocolate. The remaining part of the bean are the “nibs”. Using a good old fashioned mortar and pestle, we grind the nibs into a paste. The Incas made a spicy chocolate drink by adding chili pepper and mixing with hot water. We try this drink, but I am not impressed so I don’t finish it. It was the Spanish who first mixed it with hot milk and cinnamon to make a much better tasting hot chocolate drink in my opinion. The paste can also be mixed with some milk, melted, and then cooled on a stone slab to make a molten chocolate. Using some plastic molds and a wide variety of toppings, we made our very own combinations. After being refrigerated for a time, we were able to take our creations home with us to be enjoyed with a glass of red wine!
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.
Choco MuseoChoco Museo.

Later that afternoon, a guide picked us up to take a tour of the Barranco District which is Lima’s artsy area. There are many colonial style buildings; the flowers and lighting presents a very nice romantic atmosphere. We take a stop and walk across the Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. It is said that young lovers from the two sides would meet here and thus the name of the bridge. After driving and walking around the area, our driver takes us to a dinner which includes a traditional dancing show. The dancers are dressed in a variety of Peruvian costumes and is very acrobatic and entertaining.
Choco MuseoBarranco District.
Traditional Dancing ShowTraditional Dancing Show.
Traditional Dancing ShowTraditional Dancing Show.

Here is a link to a video from the show. The video is about one and half minutes.
Traditional Dance – Video

Dinner BuffetDinner Buffet.

Categories: Peru 2017 Tags: ,

Peru – September 13, 2017

October 18th, 2017 No comments

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Today is Machu Picchu day! The group agrees to a 7:00am start although I suspect both Knock and I would have liked to start earlier to take pictures with less crowds. But given that dinner ran so late, I am thankful for the extra sleep.
HotelHotel.
HotelHotel.

On the way to breakfast we pass a group heading back to their rooms. They were obviously out bird watching given the collection of large lenses on their cameras and binoculars strung around their necks. I wonder what time they had to get up?!

While at breakfast, I spot a bright red bird in the tree outside the window. I grab my camera and take a couple pictures through the glass, hoping to get a good one without a reflection. Later, I show the picture to Diana and she identified it as a female of their national bird. She had only seen one before and was jealous since I had been able to get a picture.
HotelHotel.
HotelHotel.

After breakfast we all gather in the lobby before walking to the bus stop. There is a very long line for the bus. But they are running very frequently – about once a minute for the 30 minute drive. While waiting, one party of our group realized they had misplaced their passports – which for some reason is required for the bus. He ran back to the room to see if it was left on the table as we were anxiously waiting moving closer and closer to the bus pickup point. It turned out it was buried in the bottom of his backpack. But all is good and we board the bus to take the winding road up to Machu Picchu.
Waiting in lineWaiting in line.
Waiting in lineWaiting in line.

At our destination, our first order of business is to take care of any business as there are no restrooms inside the archeological site. The fee to use the restroom is 1 sole, but we are accustomed to this by now and have small coins. The lines are a bit long, especially for the women’s restroom, but soon we are all gathered together again at the bottom of the stairs.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.

Upon entering, we are immediately taken in by the beauty and size of the site set against the valleys and vertical sides of the surrounding mountains. Machu Picchu sits at 7,872 feet cradled between Huayna Picchu (8,924 feet) and Machu Picchu Mountain (10,111 feet). The Urubamba River encircles Huayna Picchu and the Machu Picchu site providing a dramatic drop to the valley below. The skies are mostly cloudy with just a hint of blue peeking through. The ruins are illuminated in sunlight – as are we.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.

For the next several hours our guide takes us to various locations explaining the history of the site. While educational, I would have liked some time to explore on my own and take more pictures. However we did hear the theories of the purpose of the site. It was rediscovered in 1911 by an American explorer, Hiram Bingham, who determined that it was a temple of women to serve the sun god. He based this fact on his observation that the skeletal remains were short in stature. This was not correct as it was later determined, but I have noticed that the native Quechua people are rather short with men standing closer to Vicky’s height. He determined that this was not the site of the old Inca capital that he was looking for, but he was taken by the precise stonework and the fact that the ruins were virtually undisturbed, so he returned with a grant to clear the site and further study the ruins.

Diana tells us that the site was more of a university of sorts. When the Inca expanded into surrounding regions they would send gifts to the leaders to try and form an alliance. What they would ask in return was for the intellectuals to come for a time to study. Of course if the attempts for a peaceful alliance did not work, they would resort to militaristic methods. But what happened was a gathering of the best minds in the empire to study together and to philosophize. They were able to achieve engineering feats such as the earthquake resistant walls, the water canals, and the terraces which would drain flooding waters. The terraces were used to test different crops under different growing conditions and once determined these would be planted in like conditions across the empire. Advances in metallurgy yielded new alloys such as bismuth bronze used to create ceremonial knives. It was a prosperous community at this point in time. So what happened?

At this time there was a civil war between two half brothers for the leadership of the Incan empire. This war coupled with a smallpox epidemic brought by the Spanish severely reduced the population of fighting men. When the native people first meet the Spanish Conquistadors they believe them to be some sort of gods arriving over the waters and they carry them on litters to meet their leaders. This was a terrible mistake as the Spanish captured and killed these men after extracting what gold and silver they could from the people. The inhabitants of Machu Picchu heard of these events and decided to evacuate the site rather than having it destroyed by war. They cut off the channels which fed water to the city from the mountains and left the site. There were remains of horses found at the site, which points to the fact that the Spanish did know about the site, but had no use for it and thus let it be. So the plan to evacuate did save the city.

Along some of the terraces are llama peacefully grazing on the grass. A couple of babies keep close the their mothers, but do not mind the tourists. Rocks in the quarry stand half chiseled, just as they did on that day of departure so long ago. Water trickles into the temple of the city from the ancient canals whose flow was mostly diverted. The clouds flow across the face of the mountains and the sun warms a small lizard on the rocks. What year is it?
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.
Machu PicchuMachu Picchu.

We visit the Temple of the Sun and observe Intihuatana stone which was arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. There was also a stone which was carved to reflect the 5 major stars of the Southern Cross constellation. We visit a small cave which was built to only allow the light of the sun to enter during the few days around the solstice.

As the morning progresses, the sun takes its toll as one of our party members needs to rest while Diana continues her discussion. As we get ready to go, we realize we are now missing that party member. Next thing you know, everyone is searching and I am thinking it is just a matter of time before we loose someone else. It turns out she had started to make her way towards the exit. But there are two paths to the exit. She took the long route and we were taking the short route. But in the end, we all found each other and we found the long line to get back on the bus.
Map My HikeMap My Hike.

Lunch as our last activity as a group. Some are staying an extra day, some are leaving later in the day, while we will catch the train shortly after lunch. After goodbyes and hugs, we walk over to the train station. Diana had graciously offered her seat to me to so I could take some pictures along the way. The seat was at the very front of the train with a large window giving me a great view of the surroundings. Unfortunately the seat did not offer a good view of the fashion show that the train crew performed during the journey.
LunchLunch.
LunchLunch.

Once we reach the station, we then get on a bus to take us back to Cusco. It is a long drive and we are exhausted.

Categories: Peru 2017 Tags: ,