Roma and Anya’s Excellent Adventure to Peru

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Lima, Nazca, Arequipa, Cuzco, Machu Pichu, Sasquahuaman

So, for two weeks in the beginning of Winter in Peru (June, 2008), we flew off to Peru. Everything was new, including chickens.

Peruvians raise guinea pigs (like so)

Lima Machu Pichu Nazca Cuzco

Arequipa

But then they eat them for dinner! Anya had roast guinea pig her first night in Lima!

We were told Lima was full of crime and poverty and that we should watch ourselves, but we stayed in a delightful neighborhood (Miraflores) and thought the city charming. We were totally overtaken by the main Cathedral in Plaza Armas, probably the most ornate church I’ve seen outside of the Vatican and Notre Dame. It was stunning. (See one of their many gold leaf altars below) The ceiling of the Grand Hotel in Lima (left)

Great restaurant in Lima where Anya had her first guinea pig (Huaca Pucllana)and located on Inca ruins (background)

These kids posed for us in front of the Presidential palace in Lima where Alan Garcia heads up the country.

On our journey we noticed that the people, especially the Andean people, dressed in traditional dress, not for tourists, but just because they dressed that way. Here is a sample of the more traditional Peruvian dress (girl feeding llama; old man knitting).

Anya in Lima at Plaza Armas (above) and in front of the Presidential Palace (below)

We went first to the Nazca lines. These are ancient landscapes carved in the steppes by moving iron rocks and exposing gypsum which then turns white and hard and lasts for millennia. The Nazca people about 500BC apparently carved out figures of monkeys and hummingbirds (photo below), visible only from the air (or space!) but there are also strange trapezoidal lines and rectangles which appear nowhere on Nazca pottery and thus may have antedated the Nazca people by, who knows, thousands of years. We flew in a plane, the first time I was ever in a single engine plane, and it was fun and scary all at the same time.

We then took a long bus ride with some nice Dutch kids and ended up in Arequipa, a delightful colonial city of considerable opulence.

Anya and Roma in Plaza Armas in Arequipa

Arequipa is filled with delightful streets and courtyards

We relaxed in Areqipa for the next stage of our journey with some cheese soup, coca tea, and sodoku:

And while there, we saw an agrarian protest march in Arequipa in the central square

Central square and main cathedral in Arequipa with Mount Misty (volcano) behind. We also visited a picturesque nunnery( Monasterio Mysterioso) where girls in 1520AD were sent from Spain to spend the rest of their lives in silence, (below) confined to the walls of this place. A very religious prison really:

Nuns can speak to the outside world through this screen. The nunnery continues in operation to this day. Roma decides, after deliberation, not to become a nun afterall.

One day we went to Colca canyon, a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon that features the world’s second largest bird, the condor with a wing span that can reach 9 feet. Had to get up very early to see them flying the thermals. We saw Vicuna, Alpaca and Llamas on journey. Vicuna wool is so rare, and the species so protected, its wool sells for $1000/ kilo.

Colca canyon with two perched condors (center right)

Condor left and Vicuna right

After leaving Colca Canyon and Arequipa we headed to the finale of our trip: Cuzco, Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley. All these places are high up (9000-12000 foot elevation and the rarefied air can cause shortness of breath, slowness and headaches. The countryside near Cuzco is peppered with brilliant scenes and ancient Inca terraces:

And there is a church in the center plaza of Cuzco which would knock your socks off

Cuzco cathedrals, the one on right dates to 1650

Temple of the Sun in Cuzco. Although degraded by the Spanish, This location was one of the most sacred Inca sites and literally covered in gold (before it was all melted and sent off to Spain as coins). (Protected vicuna seen from bus window below)

Cuzco hotel and restaurant in Cuzco where we ate Ostrich and Alpaca steaks.

Just outside of Cuzco is the most magnificent monument we experienced, far more interesting than Machu Pichu. This is called Sacsayhuaman (almost pronounced “sexy woman”).

It has stones weighing 600,000 lbs perfectly cut, shaped, and withstanding every earthquake. How the Inca did this (or if they did)after all they defended against Pizarro’s conquistadors with sling shotsis a mystery. The stones are so perfectly cut you cannot put a credit card between them, and there is no mortar.

We had a wonderful guide here, and speculated whether Incas, aliens, or alien-influenced people did these. It is not merely a spectacular stone structure, it is a zig zag affair in front of a giant park. The zig zags also are titled at 6 degrees. So when the summer solstice appears a shadow is cast from the top of one zig to the very bottom of the other zag, a perfect alignment only one day per year. On top of that, the entire structure is an acoustic engineering feat. When you stand on the other side, as Pope John did when he came, a perfect echo chamber is created and your voice is reflected back and amplified. It is absolutely incredible!!! The entire area of Sacsayhuaman, to blow your mind even further, is really the head of a giant puma, and the remainder of the city of Cuzco below (old town) actually forms the body of the puma. The detail and magnitude of this achievement boggles the mind. The first Spanish conquistadors who came here said that Sacsayhuaman rivals anything in ancient Greece or Rome, and they themselves did not believe that these native peoples built it.

Thanks to my late best buddy David Griffard and his interest in archeoastronomy which inspired this trip to Peru in the firs place.

After Cuzco we took a trip to the Sacred Valley and noticed some enchanting sites:

Stunning Inca terraces in Ollantaytambo (above) and Sacred Valley (below)

Andean woman with eagle and llama.

At the temple of the sun in the Sacred Valley we saw giant blocks of solid granite, perfectly carved. But notice, since this is an earthquake area, the granite had “buffers” of other granite in between the huge blocks. . . . in case of earthquakes. They were ‘retrofitting’ their temples long before Columbus!

From the Sacred Valley we took a train to Aquas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

Machu Pichu was a climb and a half at 14,000 feet.

More Machu Pichu terraces

More Machu Pichu carving, but this time in granite! One has 32 separate angles (not shown).

Miscellanea department In the Sacred valley there is a carving in a mountain of Virachoa, the god of the Incas. Came from the stars, went back, promised to return, you know the story. Here is his face (center of photo) and on the summer solstice the sun hits his eye directly.
Hi

Couple last minute things for this little bit of recorded history. Probably the best art gallery I have seen anywhere on my travels, with absolutely detailed and exacting Inca art was in Cuzco. “Museo Taller Galeria Arte Olave” on Plaza San Blas 651. (photo left) Good drink: Pisco sour. Tastes like a whiskey sour. Very Peruvian.

And when we finally got back to Lima, tuckered out, we had to kill 5 hours before our flight. We stumbled upon an incredible restaurant on the beach near Barrancos called “Rustica” We had the buffet with wine, two types of ceviche, sushi, crab, alpaca steak, ostrich, and got a nice buzz for our 12-hour trip back home. Thanks for letting us share our adventure with you.

Adios from Peru!