Saturday, April 30, 2011

Peru - PART VIII - Back to Lima

From Puno, we took a bus to Juliaca, where sits a tiny airport. It says international, but that’s “only for emergencies”. From there, we flew back to Lima, and returned to our first hotel - the same room, even! -  which is still our favorite (because the room was huge and they gave us water!) As our journey back to the state began at midnight, there was no point in unpacking. We just had to occupy our time until our ride to the airport arrived around nine.

So we went to the Museo Nacional de Arqueología Antropología e Historia del Perú (National Museum of the Archaeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru). We had to go by taxi, and we brought along a friend, who fortunately spoke fluent Spanish, which was great, because our driver had a lot to say about Peru and its history and culture. He agreed to pick us up after we were done, and we told him, I think, 4:30.

We didn’t even get through the entire museum, but I think we covered most of it. It was interesting, and awesome. And pretty amazing. It was like a recap of our entire trip.

And at 4:30, on the dot, our taxi came speeding around the corner, and pulled right up the curb to pick us up and bring us back to the hotel. We met up with our New Friends for a final dinner in Lima, then gathered up our things and hung out playing some game I can’t remember the name of until it was time to go.

Then it was off to the airport, and onto a plane bound for Atlanta. And from there, Seattle – home.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Peru - PART VII - Lake Titicaca and the Uros Islands

So, Jason wasn’t feeling well, and our water supply was looking pretty sad. We needed water, and something else – there was Powerade in Cuzco when I was sick. We were lucky enough to have a late morning, but anybody who really knows me knows that I am not comfortable with striking it out on my own in foreign places. I grabbed some soles and a dollar bill (just in case), and headed down to the lobby to try and get directions to a store. Given my success with the smoke detector, I wasn’t very confident.
As predicted, the woman behind the counter made a great show of understanding, but not understanding at all. When I told her I needed water for my husband, she said there was a market that sold water. Yes! She drew me a map… That took me alllllll the way to the lake. A few minutes by bus, but a long way by foot. Luckily for me, another woman arrived who was listening in and explained what, exactly, I needed. I got a better map, with stores all up the street, but none of them opened until nine, and it was only 6:30 at this point. There was one just at the corner, she said, that would open at seven.

So I got some coca tea for Jason and went back to the room. At seven, I headed out again, to find this corner store. But every door was shut. I walked all around the block, just to be sure. Nothing.

I returned to the room, and Jason got up from bed and decided to muscle through the day. We went down for breakfast, and then boarded buses for the short trip to the docks, where we hopped on a boat and headed out to the Uros Islands – manmade islands, made of reeds, in the middle of Lake Titicaca. They are really a site to see, and the people were open and welcoming. They showed us how they build their islands, and talked about how they live, and then asked us questions. We bought a few things before leaving. The children were adorable.

The islands in the distance.
A couple of girls peeking through the boat window.
A house made of reeds. The woman is made of carbon, water, etc.
Once we got back to the mainland, we found the corner store was open, so we bought some water and Powerade and went back to the room to find…

The damn smoke detector was still going off!

Jason jumped up on the bed, shoes and all, and grabbed it, popping off the cover – and thankfully not yanking the whole thing out of the ceiling. If only that had worked the first time we had attempted it! He took the battery out, and later that evening, when we headed out to find a place for dinner, we handed it off to one of the housekeepers (with some help from our tour guide for translation). They made it sound like they were going to do something about it, but when we left the hotel the next morning, the smoke detector was still hanging wide open. Oh well. At least it wasn’t beeping.

Peru - Interlude: Adventures in Detection

Our hotel in Puno was nice, but not great. We could see the bell tower of the cathedral from our window, and one of the beds was big enough for two. But, there was construction on our floor, so all day there was constant banging, and the strong smell of adhesive and sawdust that was just blocked by shutting the door.  Worse, our smoke detector needed batteries. Every five, or ten, or even twenty minutes it would BEEP! This wouldn’t be a big deal, normally, except I couldn’t get anyone at the front desk to understand my plight!

I said, “The smoke detector in my room needs a new battery…”

And the woman said, with a big smile, “No no no no no. You can’t.”

“I… can’t? No. I mean, the… smoke detect…”

“No smoking.” And she smiled.

“I don’t want to smoke. The… detector. Um… alarm? The…” I gestured to the ceiling. “You know… if there’s a fire… It’s beeping. It just needs a battery. You know. A battery?” I’m miming the whole time, and probably look pretty stupid doing so, while looking around for one of two people in the group I know speaks Spanish. I don’t know if there is another way to describe this thing that hangs from a ceiling and beeps when there is smoke.

But she stopped me. “No, no. That’s impossible.”
“…Uh. No… It’s not…” We went back and forth a bit, with me trying to explain, and her not understanding, and she finally agreed to send someone up to the room. Which was all I really wanted. If I could just show someone what was wrong, then surely they would fix it, right? Or, hell just hand me a battery, and I'll do it myself! 

But, an hour passed, and no one came, so I made a call. And the same conversation was repeated, over the phone, almost word for word (the same woman, obviously), except when I asked that someone be sent to the room, she refused at first. It was only at the end of the conversation that she agreed to send someone up to see what the problem was.

Except no one ever came. We tried to deal with the problem ourselves, but our attempts resulted in nearly yanking the whole detector out of the ceiling. So we dealt with the beeping. All. Night. We didn’t sleep well at all, and Jason was already feeling bad, having caught the crap that many of the rest of us had caught.

As we prepared to join up with the others and get breakfast the next morning, we snagged JC and had him communicate our peril to the front desk. Finally! Someone understood! She wrote something down in a book and pointed a guy wiping down the front doors. They were going to fix it! Hooray!

Away to Titicaca we go!

(…but this isn’t the end…)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peru - PART VI - On our way to Puno

We loaded up on the buses again, for a long, long drive up to Puno and Lake Titicaca. The land changed as we traveled, lost its color and flattened out. It looked cold.

As we approached the cities, there was more trash along the side of the road and a feeling of perpetual construction. In Juliaca, nearly every building has rebar sticking out of the top – even the buildings that appear to be finished.

We took a couple stops along the way. The first was a primary school, where we helped deliver supplies to the children, and got to hang out with them for a bit. They were so cute! We decided to go into the 4th grade classroom, as our oldest is in the 4th grade. We thought it would be good to show him what school in that part of the country and world is like for children like him. The teacher (with one of the tourists translating) explained the curriculum and how the students spend their day. Then we spent a little time with a couple of girls, Jenny and Jennifer. We didn’t understand each other, but they showed us their artwork and writing, and I wished I had brought my Zune with me so I could have at least shown them a picture of Jarod and Jada. Afterward, we all went out to the courtyard again, and the girls took both of my hands and stood with me while we said our good-byes. Little children were holding hands and hugging people all over the place. A little boy latched onto Jason and escorted him out the gate.

Second stop was Raqchi, aka the Temple of Wiracocha, an Incan temple – unusual in that it had rounded storehouses instead of squared. And there were so many of them! There was also a wall built up on the hills, but you could just make it out, and I don’t think my pictures came out very well with the light we had. Still, very impressive. And I loved being able to just walk right into the ruins, stand right on top of them, even.

There was a little market there. We browsed, but didn’t buy anything. I did, however, go into my very first PAY TOILET. 1 nuevo sol. I kept the ticket for my scrapbook.  

Then we were back on the road, and on our way to Puno. I fell asleep off and on. The landscape wasn’t enough to hold my attention for long.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peru - PART V - Cuzco

This was another free day, where Jason got to play tour guide for everyone else (and he can and probably will make additional comments below). We were in Cuzco proper, staying in a lovely hotel, though again, separate beds. The very first stop on our route was right next to the hotel – but not yet open. So we continued on.

We walked through a large market, which was pretty cool.
And everywhere, in every city, there are plazas and
cathedrals, thanks to Spanish influence.
Also...panties and cake.

Unfortunately, my journey ended around here. I wasn’t feeling well when we started, and just got worse as the day progressed. When the circuit brought us back around to the hotel, I waved good-bye and went straight to bed, and Jason and the others went on without me – to Sacsayhuamán (pronounced like “sexy woman”).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Peru - PART IV - Machu Picchu

To begin – Today was April 26. Today was Jason’s Birthday. Today, Jason turned 34.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JASON!

So, climbing up a mountain the day before going up to visit ruins on top of a really huge mountain might not have been the brightest of ideas. I was sore, and Machu Picchu has stairs. A lot of stairs.

But it was also pretty awesome. We took the backtracker train up, and they gave us snacks. It took about an hour and a half. Along the way, you could see other ruins dotting the landscape, the mountains, farms… then we loaded onto buses and rode switchbacks up, up, up to the site.
You can see the terraces in the back there.
This is part of the Inca Trail.

We took a guided tour through Machu Picchu, and saw pretty much all of it, even if we didn’t set foot on all of it. It was tiring, even for people who didn’t go climbing the day before.
The side of the mountain on which Machu Picchu sits.

The other side: Buildings, terraces, and
the faultline running down the middle.
We had a little time to do what we wanted after the tour, so we decided to sit down and enjoy the scenery and eat a little lunch. Many other people were settling down on the terraces and just hanging out or, in some cases, taking naps, so... But, a few minutes later, a man in uniform came by with a whistle and shooed us away.

That was the cue that it was probably time to start looking for the exit. It wasn’t far from where we were, and we were soon on a bus winding down the mountain, then back on the train. One of our New Friends bought Jason a birthday cerveza.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Peru - PART III - Via ferrata and zipline

Broke character today and did something new, that was like hiking, but not at all like hiking.

A via ferrata is a route up a mountain made with fixed cables, ladders, bridges, and so on. The via ferrata we climbed was mostly ladders and cable, with one suspension bridge (some cable to stand on and some cable to hold on to – I use “bridge” loosely). We went up 400 meters  (about 1312 feet). And then we ziplined back to the bottom.

We brought along a friend we had met previously, and made some new friends. Also, I may have found a beer I don't despise.

It was an awesome experience, and though I'm afraid of high places, it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. The only part I didn't like was the last - walking backwards down the last bit of the mountain. The climb wasn't all that difficult - aside from the few parts where I wasn't quite tall enough to reach some parts and had to get creative with my jumping. I was afraid for my knees, and wore a brace halfway up - but it kept slipping down, so I admitted defeat and removed it. Aside from a bit of a twinge, however, I didn't have any problems. And the ziplining was hella fun. I definitely want to try that again.

- Sacred Valley Via Ferrata & Zip Line

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Peru - PART II - Chinchero, Ollantaytambo

We flew into Cuzco, then took a bus through the city and up to Chinchero, where we had lunch and sampled guinea pig. I did not like the taste of it at all. Jason did not like that it had lots of little bones.  Then we watched a weaving demonstration, and picked up a table runner and cooed over the little guinea pigs (who will one day be someone’s special meal).

Then it was off to Ollantaytambo, home of the 15th century refrigerator. I was not feeling too great by this point, so Jason and I split up. He went with a group going up to the top of the ruins, and I stayed with a group touring the bottom. We each had a camera, so it was all good. I heard him shouting from way up high, and we got grainy pictures of each other from a distance.

Unfortunately, because we divided forces, we were met with a tiny problem. One of the buses was ready to move out, and the group on the mountain was still coming down. Normally, I would have just waited for Jason, but we left some of our things on the seat in the bus, and I didn’t want someone else to have to deal with it, or go through it. So off I went, to see a pottery demonstration all on my lonesome. Jason arrived a bit later, and we picked up a few things from artist – a couple of masks for the kids and a cup for Jason.

Our hotel was nice, but we had to sleep in separate beds. That was strange.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Peru - PART I - Lima

Starting point: SeaTac to Atlanta, Atlanta to Lima. We stood around in the Lima airport for ages, as we waited for others in the tour to arrive. Finally departed by bus to the hotel. We were tiiiired.

The hotel – Antigua Miraflores - was lovely. Our room was huge. We had a nice big bed to share, a huge bathtub. There was water in the bathroom, and water in the halls, which was totally awesome. Because we were drinking water like fish, but you can’t drink water from the tap in Peru. It has be bottled. This hotel was the only one that provided water for refilling our bottles.

Our first day in Lima started with breakfast in the hotel. Jason had a tamale, and I had little plate of eggs. There was also orange juice, but as I am allergic, Jason drank mine. I also had – I think – coffee. Maybe. Or something close to it. I drowned it in milk and sugar, so it probably didn’t matter in the long run.

Then we all loaded onto a bus and took a little tour of Lima.

After the tour, we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We did a bit of exploring, and Jason was eager to try ceviche, so we hunted down a restaurant recommended to us by our tour guide. We actually walked by the restaurant twice before “finding” it. The name on the door was not the name we were given. Ceviche is very good, but cooked with lemon juice – and like oranges, I am allergic. L I had prawns, and my first taste of Inka Cola.

After, we decided to backtrack to some ruins of a clay temple we had just glimpsed on the bus tour – Huana Pucllana. They weren’t too far from the hotel, and it would be a good way to end the day. We arrived, paid for our admission, requested an English guide, and were told it would be a few minutes. We checked out the tiny little museum they had at the admissions area, then lingered around out front. After a while - much longer than “a few minutes” – we sat down on one of the benches. Other groups came down from the pyramid and left. Those of us waiting … waited. Eventually, one man demanded his money back. I’m not even sure how long we waited – maybe twenty, maybe forty minutes – before a guide came out and confessed that he thought he had done his last tour for the day. But he led us into the ruins.

Things to note:
  •  You can't flush TP down the toilet - it goes in a little bin by the toilet. It took a little getting used to. And when we got sick... Oh my.
  • Can't drink the water, either - gotta buy bottled. And you need a lot of water in high elevations. The tour did provide a free bottle each day.
  • No eating unpeelable fruits or veggies or lettuce, either (unless they are cooked).
  • They will take American money - but only if it's in really good condition. And they can be PICKY. Stock up on brand new bills, and if you can, don't even fold them.
  • Take a shot every time Jason whips out a travel guide to look up a location, a route, or a place to eat.
  • Take two shots every time Jason says, "I read it in a book..."