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Peru – September 6, 2017

October 11th, 2017 No comments

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The next morning Vicky is pretty groggy probably from the shot and is not moving very fast in getting out of bed. We have another tour scheduled today for the Sacred Valley, but it is not looking very likely. I make my way down to the lobby at the pick-up time so I can speak to the tour guide and cancel. Next I make my way over to the breakfast room where I get some strong Peruvian coffee and a hearty breakfast. I return to the room with a small bowl of fruit for Vicky. She is tired and weak and still not doing very well. Definitely feeling better than last night as she is no longer vomiting, but we decide that rest and recuperation is the order for the day.
Around lunch time we decide to make our way over to one of the main streets in Cusco, Avenida El Sol, which Maria had pointed out to us on the drive in from the airport. Many of the shops have money exchange places, which Maria said were legal and would give a good exchange rate. As we have now spent about half of our supply of Soles on the doctor we decide to convert $150 dollars at one of these places and get a light lunch. We both order small sandwiches and a fruit smoothie. While we are waiting I make my way to the exchange counter and the attendant uses a calculator to press in the exchange rate of 3.2, which I agree to, and I see him press in the $150 that I want to exchange. Somehow the total is now 438 Soles, but it doesn’t dawn on me that this is incorrect until I sit back down at the table. Hey, that’s not right! So I go back to address the issue. He admits the mistake and properly uses the calculator this time to give me 480 Soles. I enjoy my sandwich and smoothie, but Vicky is sort of picking at her egg sandwich.
CuscoCusco.
CuscoCusco.

We haven’t seen much of the city but our walk back to the hotel takes us past several nice plazas with fountains and some ornate cathedrals. It is a good outing, but Vicky is pretty tired and decides a nap is in order.
Tonight we need to make our way over to the El Mercado hotel which is about a 15 minute walk away. Here we will meet our guide for the Salkantay trek as well as the other members of our group. The Inca Grill is along the way and looks to be a nice restaurant overlooking the Plaza De Armas. As we await our dinner we look out the large window in front. The plaza appears to be a pleasant gathering spot for locals as well as tourists. There is a nice fountain in the middle and several people relaxing here and there on benches. All over Cusco there are a number of dogs roaming around and this plaza is no exception. Apparently the dogs actually belong to someone, but they travel about the city during the day and return home in the evenings. I am not terribly hungry so I order a smoked fish and potato appetizer. The food is very good, but again Vicky manages to only eat about half of her bowl of chicken soup.

AppetizerAppetizer.
FountainFountain.

We arrive at the El Mercado a bit early as we would like to meet the guide ahead of time and let them know about Vicky getting sick. This works out and we meet Diana our guide. She gets the scoop about the previous night and the doctor’s visit. She is hopeful that Vicky will be feeling well enough to do the warm-up hike to the first lodge, but says that Vicky can ride in the van if needed. She also indicates that there is a doctor on staff 24/7 and can take a look if needed. Vicky is optimistic about her recovery and we settle in for the group meet. There are 6 in our group aside from the staff. The 2 of us, a couple from Venezuela, and another couple from Thailand. The fellow from Thailand is also named Eric and is actually French. He says he came to Thailand on business 15 years ago, met Knock, his Thai companion, and never wanted to move again. After the introductory presentation, we decide we may need some warmer clothes for the hike over the pass. It was pretty cold the other day and Diana says freezing conditions and wind are likely at the pass. Fortunately we had spotted a camping store on the way to the meetup, so we stopped in there on the way back to our hotel.

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Peru – September 5, 2017

October 10th, 2017 No comments

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Around 5:00am, people are starting to check out and the noise levels rise from the hallways. I keep hearing radios and knocking on the doors. In my half-awake state, I can’t help but wondering what is going on… are they performing a room by room search!?!? As it turns out, when anyone checks out, they send housekeeping to the room to ensure everything is ok before allowing you to complete the checkout process. We also notice that they have personnel stationed at all exits. They must really have a theft problem.

The room includes an all you can eat buffet. Part of the breakfast reminded me of the Iceland breakfast with cold cuts and sliced cheese. But there was also a Peruvian stir fry with chicken and some guacamole which Vicky enjoyed. She also picked up a fruit from the fruit bowl which we believe to be a passion fruit so we want to give it a try later. After breakfast we walk across the street to the airport. I quickly notice everyone is dressed in black – except us; we are wearing bright white running tech shirts. Yeah, we’re not tourists.

After getting our boarding passes and bag checked in to Peruvian Air, we find another ATM to get another supply of Soles. The ATM seems to provide a maximum of 400 Soles per day, which equates to about $120, and we are not sure about the ATM situation in Cusco so we get what we can here. Next is the security line. Oddly, they allow liquids through security here, and it is ok to leave your shoes on too so things proceed a bit faster than they do in the states. Around 9:00 we board the plane. Once everyone is on board, in their seats and the doors are closed, they announce that the flight is delayed due to traffic in Cusco. Departure is now scheduled to depart at 10:35, which would have been close to our scheduled landing time. Fortunately Vicky has built in a buffer into our schedule, but due to the delay, we might not get lunch. Hum.
Flight to CuscoFlight to Cusco.

As the plane is finally about to depart, we go through the typical safety brief. However something gets lost in the translation. In the event that we need to use the oxygen mask, we need to “Secure the rubber around our head.” Well ok then.
Flight to CuscoFlight to Cusco.

One of the passengers had a T-shirt with a bucket list of about two dozen items. Vicky asked if we could take a picture. I figure we have about 10 of the items scratched off our list. A few more are doable.
Bucket ListBucket List.

Landing in Cusco we claim our luggage and meet our new airport guide, Maria. As we are driving through town I inquire about the construction as there is building after building where 2 or 3 floors are enclosed, but then columns with rebar sticking out of the top reach for the sky. She says that a lot of the buildings had been started but were left unfinished as the men left for jobs working in the mines.
Cusco AirportCusco Airport.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we are offered a cup of hot coca tea which is supposed to help us adjust to the altitude. I do already notice being slightly winded with exertions like climbing a set of stairs, but given that Cusco has an elevation of 11,152 feet above sea level it is to be expected. Maria gives us a map of the city and recommends some local restaurants and points of interest.
Hotel BarHotel Bar.
Coca TeaCoca Tea.

Soon the front desk is finished with our travel documents and has us registered into a room. The room is very large with a red brick floor. The door to the balcony has a glass door on the interior and a wooden door to the exterior overlooking the narrow street below. We are hoping tonight will be quieter than last night, but the Peruvian drivers seem to “talk” a lot with their horns.
Balcony ViewBalcony View.

Mysterious fruit in hand, Vicky approaches the front desk attendant and asks if he could cut the fruit. He says that a knife isn’t needed you just “crack it like and egg”. He takes the fruit and whacks it on the side of the desk. It indeed cracks open and he pulls the two sides apart giving half to me and the other half to Vicky. It is a strange fruit filled with pulpy seeds with apparently is what we are now supposed to eat. So we take a bite and it is indeed quite sweet and good. The fellow tells us it is a type of passion fruit known as a granadilla. We may be picking up more of these.
Passion FruitPassion Fruit.

Vicky has us scheduled for a four hour tour to some of the nearby Inca sites. Edgar, our new English speaking tour guide, picks us up at the hotel and it turns out that we are the only guests for this tour. We leave in short sleeves and pack a light jacket just in case. Over the next several hours as we pop in and out of the tour van visiting the sites, the skies are getting more cloudy and we put the jackets to good use.

The first place we visited was Tambomachay, or “Temple of the Water”. The water was sacred to the Incas as were many natural elements such as the surrounding mountains, certain caves in the earth, the winds, the sun, the moon, and the stars. This was a site for spiritual cleansing and was recognized as a temple by the great care taken in shaping the stones used in constructing the walls. The engineering skills in the channeling of the water was also apparent. Stone channels were constructed underground to bring water from the mountain to this site where it seemly appeared from nowhere. Just below the primary waterfall the water is diverted into two equal secondary waterfalls. This perhaps represented masculine and feminine forces or other balances in nature.
TambomachayTambomachay.
TambomachayTambomachay.
TambomachayTambomachay.
TambomachayTambomachay.

The next site is just down the street and is known as Puka Pukara, or the red fortress. It was a defensive site and a place where young men and possibly women would come for initiation. In order to determine their path forward in life, they would sit overlooking the mountains beyond and meditate after consuming a drink that would induce hallucinations. At some point, possibly a number of days later, they would become aware of what occupation they should apply themselves to.
Puka PukaraPuka Pukara.
Puka PukaraPuka Pukara.
Puka PukaraPuka Pukara.

The third site is Q`enqo. This holy site is a cave where there was a large stone altar/table carved flat and smooth out of the rock inside. Outside of the cave is a small open area where seats have been carved into the surrounding rocks. The guide indicates that people would sit and meditate in these chairs. The large flat altar inside the cave was very cool to the touch, and was used in the mummification process of the great masters or teachers. The deceased would be exposed to alternating drying in the sun and exposure to very cold temperatures to preserve the body. They would always be arranged in a fetal position in a large basket that would also hold several worldly possessions. The Inca believed in rebirth and thus the fetal position, but the mummies were also part of an ancestor type worship in which they would be prominently displayed in stone niches of the temple walls during festivals or carried on decorated platforms in festival parades.
AltarAltar.

The next place had these giant stones and is known as Saksaywaman. We couldn’t quite make out the pronunciation of the site, but it sounded roughly like, “sexy woman”, and almost produced a giggle from Vicky before she managed to contain it. How they managed to carve and move these massive rocks with such precision is totally amazing. But by now, both Vicky and I are very cold and shivering; the wind is strong and blowing sand in our eyes. The weather has completely shifted from how we started the tour with our sunglasses and short sleeve shirts. Around this time, numerous tour buses arrive and the large courtyards of the site are being overrun with tourists. We decided to climb up one more level to a location that affords a nice view over the city of Cusco, then make our way back to the cozy van. As the day progressed, the temperatures dropped significantly. With the wind blowing, we were both shivering, wishing we had packed an extra layer (or two). This will serve as a valuable lesson in determining what to stuff in our day packs over the next couple days.
SaksaywamanSaksaywaman.
SaksaywamanSaksaywaman.
SaksaywamanSaksaywaman.
SaksaywamanSaksaywaman.
SaksaywamanSaksaywaman.

Our last stop, Coricancha, or the Temple of the Sun, is back in the city. To the Inca, the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the rain, the mountains, and the water were all sacred. Throughout their life, meditations and ritual focused on bringing the people in harmony with these elements. Gold and silver were simply used as decorations not being strong enough metals for purposeful usage in everyday life.
CoricanchaCoricancha.
CoricanchaCoricancha.
CoricanchaCoricancha.
CoricanchaCoricancha.
CoricanchaCoricancha.

When the Spanish arrived, they looted the gold and silver and destroyed the temples and religious artifacts. They then built their monasteries and cathedrals over them taking the carefully shaped stones and repurposing them. The Temple of the Sun is a good example of where the foundation and some walls are of Incan construction while other walls are of Spanish construction. It is obvious that the Incan construction was much more precise and better engineered because when the earthquakes came, the Incan walls stood while the newly built Spanish churches crumbled.

For dinner we walked to a nearby restaurant, Pachapapa, that was recommended by Maria. Since we didn’t have reservations, we were seated at a group table with others that did not have reservations. I guess this must be a very popular place. I ordered a combo platter that included an alpaca skewer while Vicky ordered a salad and ceviche appetizer. We then shared all of the food 50/50. It was all good and plenty of food for the two of us. We return just a short walk back to our hotel and settle in for the night.

Around 11:20 pm, our next door neighbors returned to their room crying and yelling at each other. Eventually they calmed down, and I think that I will get back to sleep, but then Vicky gets up and starts vomiting. She says she has a crushing headache and the vomiting comes again and again. After about an hour of this I called the front desk to see what options we might have. The offered to call a doctor who would come to the room. Really? A doctor that will make a house call at 1:00 in the morning; that’s great, send him up.

The doctor arrives and checks all of her vitals. The O2 saturation is at 96 percent which is way better than mine sitting at 88 percent. This indicates that to the doctor that it is not altitude sickness, and everything points to food poisoning even though we ate the same things and I feel OK. The doctor prescribes a shot to help stop the vomiting and let her sleep along with some other medications. He says that the nurse would be by to administer the shot in 20 minutes and asks if we would like her to bring the other medications. Yes! S/.200 for the doctor and S/.200 for the nurse and prescriptions; a total of about $123 US dollars, incredible. We eventually get back to sleep, but it has been a rough night.

Categories: Peru 2017 Tags: