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Peru and Ecuador May 2012

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Peru and Ecuador May 2012 - Page Text Content

FC: Peru & Ecuador May 9-26, 2012

1: Our late night arrival into Lima was made more pleasant by an upgrade to a beautiful three room suite with luxurious bath.

2: The newly-built Westin is located in the San Isidro district in Lima. | A beautiful work of art in the lobby bar area.

3: Our first outing took us to the historic Plaza Mayor where the Presidential Palace, Town Hall and other important buildings are located.

4: Plaza Mayor The Presidential Palace (right) Changing of the guard below.

5: La Catedral is on the eastern side of Plaza Mayor; it has five naves and ten side chapels, all exquisite. The remains of Francisco Pizarro lie in one chapel. We found it beautiful and unusual, especially the fullness of expression on many of the statues.

6: A few blocks from the Plaza Mayor, the San Francisco complex comprises a church, a convent, several chapels and catacombs. The Convent Library houses more than 20,000 books from the 15th-18th centuries.

7: Library,Capitular Room, Choir Room | Sevillian tiles from the 17th century

8: We had a wonderful day two in Lima on our own. We took a long walk through the high-end shopping area and newer apartment buildings. We visited our first ruins of the trip, Huaca Pucllana. The site was inhabited more than 10,000 years ago by nomadic fishermen and farmers.

9: We were looking for a simple lunch but ended up in a very nice restaurant where the patrons were enjoying leisurely lunches--so we did too! Wonderful food--we had crispy pork and goat--for the first time. The goat was like a delicious beef stew. Dessert was a creme brulee--less rich than U.S. and had rice on the bottom.

10: Tonight we got an education on Pisco, the key ingredient to the Pisco Sour, which is served everywhere and must be the national drink of Peru. We had several varieties that were very different from each other--like tasting vodkas in Russia. Then a simple dinner in the "fancy" restaurant.

11: After room service coffee and tiny cookies, we said good-bye to the Westin and headed off the hotel Jose San Antonio where we met our Peru trip leader and fellow travelers. Our first adventure was a long walk to lunch via John F Kennedy Park.

12: Our first of many rice pyramids, Cusco beers, and the large kernel corn ubiquitous in Peru.

13: Parque Del Amor

15: Rotary monument across from Parque del Amor and Rob taking in the view from the parque. | Cute purse, Rob!

16: Sandy was our tour guide for the day. The unusual thing about the bowl is that the pattern is inside the bowl as well as out. | Pre-Inca Archeological Museum

18: Our visit to the Shanty Town | The local grocery store. The door never opens! Sales are through the bars.

19: House of the Chosen Women at Pachacamac (meaning you were a candidate for a sacrificial offering!)

20: Daniel, our guide at Pachacamac

21: View from the Temple of the Sun at Pachacamac

22: Everyone followed Juan after our morning tour to his favorite restaurant for a fun late lunch.

23: Moving on to Cusco, Peru and the Sacred Valley of the Incas and finally, Machu Picchu.

25: Flying over the Andes from Lima to Cusco, Peru

27: Juan de Dios, our Peruvian guide, the best of the best! | Toasting corn beer! | On the train to Machu Picchu | At "Sexy Woman" ruins

28: After landing in Cusco, we went straight to the bus for a sack lunch and a brief tour of Cusco followed by our trip to and through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Late in the afternoon we arrived at the lovely San Agustin Hotel in Urubamba.

29: Jean & Hugh Moore Chattanooga, TN | Mike & Barbara McMahan Chattanooga, TN | Ruth & Venki Narayan Fremont, CA | Patti & Larry Londre Los Angeles, CA | Spencer & Sandra Schwartzbach Valencia, CA | Gayle Lauradunn Albuquerque, NM | Hugh Garnett, Pottsboro, TX | The Family for 16 Days | R&R

30: The Sacred Valley of the Incas, formed by the Urubamba River in the Andes close to the Inca capital of Cusco and below the ancient sacred city of Machu Picchu.

31: As we traveled through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we saw the house ornaments common in the region and our first of many Inca terraces.

32: We visited Pisac, where splendid Inca ruins sit high on the mountain overlooking the city. It was late afternoon and the scenery was bathed in soft sunlight. A flutist was playing and there were beautiful birds and flowers.

37: Why we loved the trip-- An unplanned stop to see the corn we had been eating throughout the trip being shucked. Yes, the kernels are naturally that big. The lady of the house brought us a cooked sample to try.

38: Across the road, a field of quinoa. Peru is a large producer of quinoa and we had lots of quinoi soup throughout the trip.

39: San Agustin Hotel, Urubamba, Peru

40: A Day in the Life of the Urubamba Community. | Our bus was late so we took a walk down the street where we saw the "packers" washing their clothes in the stream, a local street sweeper, and preparation of a restaurant's lunch.

41: A visit to Raqchi School in Chincero (which receives funding from the OAT Foundation) was our first stop. The class entertained us with a native coca dance. | Magda Arenas Human, my personal escort for the visit. | Playing Angry Birds on my iPhone!

43: Next stop was the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, where the Spanish lost a battle during the conquest of Peru and where we learned that slow, easy steps are the key to climbing steep, uneven steps at high altitude! | Grain storage | At the top

44: A celebration of the Feast of San Ysidro was an unexpected surprise. The town was filled with people in colorful traditional attire. Prayers and blessings preceded the parade.

45: We walked through the streets and visited a "typical" home with guinea pigs raised inside and a shrine to ancestors. Oh, yes, and things to sell to us!

46: Colorful sites along the way . . .

47: Corn beer tasting--strawberry added to to sweeten its very sour taste. Sold by the (bring your own) bucket!

48: Home-hosted Lunch | Quinoa soup,pasta and potatoes, roasted guinea pig and poached fruit for dessert.

49: Next stop was a high-end pottery shop where the owner/artist gave an informal presentation. Pieces of his work are displayed in a Chicago museum.

50: Artisans at work - kneading clay, painting, molding. Animals are just hanging out!

51: A stop at the Urubamba square and then a ride home in three-wheeled motorcycle carts.

52: Flowers around the San Agustin Hotel grounds. | A morning walk across the bridge over the Urubamba River.

53: Before heading off to Machu Picchu, we stopped at the local market (not a tourist market.) Treats included plenty of live animals for sale, fresh cooked food and tons of local produce.

55: Juan bet that the guy couldn't carry the bag of potatoes! Juan lost -- but the guy's buddies helped him get it off the ground. | Back on the bus to Ollantaytambo (the town is much quieter after the previous days festivities) where we board the train to (finally) Machu Picchu!

56: On the train from Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes with spectacular views into the gorge of the Urubamba River along the way.

58: Breath-taking views on the bus ride from Aquas Calientes to Machu PIcchu.

61: Note the terraces high on the mountain side. | Juan led an afternoon tour of the two sides of the area -- Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu. Steps and walking were difficult for some. Well-known highlight is The Temple of the Sun where the summer and winter solstice sun projects through the window. | One of the windows at the Temple of the Three Windows.

62: Not mortar but precision cutting to construct the walls. | "Puddle" sun dial. | Condor sculpted in the rock.

63: Before restoration

65: The "Shirley MacLane" Rock where we all tried to feel the spirits of our past lives. Rob allowed it was just the heat radiating from the rock!

67: We departed Machu Picchu well after the crowds had left. After a bus ride down, we had a good dinner and live entertainment--some of us even danced!

68: The next morning many of us hiked to the Sungate at Machu Picchu. The clouds and fog would move in and out quickly--one minute great views, the next minute only clouds--and lots of birds and flowers along the way. Elevation change from the base to the top was about 1,000 feet.

69: The hikers were led by "Little" Juan. It took about 1.25 hours up and 45 minutes down. Lots of birds and flowers along the way.

70: The end of the Inca Trail--the hikers enter Machu Picchu at the Sungate. We met a few coming down as we were going up.

72: A little rest, a little lunch, and then back on the train to Ollantaytambo and a bus to Cusco. It was a long day!

73: Dusk came and went on our trip back to Cusco and many gorgeous photo opportunities slowed us down.

76: Nope--the day was still not over--we had dinner on our own at a lovely little restaurant just a few yards from the hotel. We shared a "pumpkin-type" soup and then had the roasted pork and osso bucco which were excellent. Dessert was a beautiful cappuccino. Not Peruvian was a welcome change!

77: Touring Cusco | Plaza de Armas Known in Inca times as Huacaypata, or "the warriors' square", this was the scene of many key events in Cusco's history: it was here that the conquistador Francisco Pizarro declared Cusco under Spanish occupation; it was also here that Túpac Amaru II, leader of the indigenous resistance movement, was killed. The Main Square also hosted the spectacular Inti Raymi, or festival of the Sun. With the arrival of the Spanish the plaza was fringed by beautiful stone arches and wooden balconies. Across from the Main Square are the Cathedral and La Compañía church.

78: At the top of the fountain in the middle of the plaza is a statue of Inca Pachacutec. Pachacutec ruled the Inca's from Cusco and was responsible for expanding the Inca kingdom into an empire. It is believed that the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu was designed by him and built for him.

79: Túpac Amaru II was a cacique (hereditary chief) in southern Peru. He received a formal Jesuit education but maintained his identification with the Indian population. In 1780 he kidnapped and executed the corregidor (provincial administrator), Antonio Arriaga, on charges of cruelty. This act inspired the last general Indian rebellion against Spain, at first with the support of some Creoles (Spaniards born in America). The revolt, which spread throughout southern Peru and into Bolivia and Argentina, lost this support, however, when it became a violent battle between Indians and Europeans. Túpac Amaru II and his family were captured in March 1781 and taken to Cuzco. After being forced to witness the execution of his wife and sons, he was mutilated, drawn and quartered, and beheaded. The revolution continued until the Spanish government issued a general pardon of the insurgents. | A remembrance/celebration was taking place on the Plaza.

80: Colonial arches, Inca walls | "Modern" structures built on top of Inca walls

81: We experienced a touch of local flavor as we walked around the area. The lady on the left was sitting on the step peeling potatoes. Juan bought a loaf of bread from the lady on the right, and we all shared. He gave the leftovers to the medicine man who conducted our healing ceremony later.

82: Qoricancha Sun Temple was once covered with sheets of gold which the Spaniards stripped, melted and sent back to Spain. | The Convent of Santo Domingo atop the Incan foundations.

83: Inside the Sun Temple, stand on the stone platform and look through the lined up windows. | Qoricancha was begun around 1200 and Pachacuti added the gold plates, statutes and other ornamentation. A large golden sun was the focal point of worship to the Inti (sun).

84: The Convent Courtyard | Historians have not been able to figure out the meaning or purpose of this little rock inserted into the wall structure.

85: Inside the Convent

86: This Lady was intent on selling us the sheep! | Flowers in the Convent courtyard and gardens.

87: La Vicunita Factory Demonstration of Peruvian dying and weaving of natural Llama, Alpaca and Vicuna fibers. | Mixing natural dyes | Hand weaving--only for the tourists! | Yes, we bought it!

88: Step 1: Send your "prayers" to the coca leaves. | Step 2. Mix leaves, herbs, dried alphabet soup and bunches of other stuff into a pouch. | Traditional healing ceremony by a "curandero," an Andean medicine man.

89: Step 3: "Bless" each person head to toe, front and back with the special pouch of healing power. | Step 4: Burn the pouch. | The curandero is thought to possess a special power to cure the sick.

90: After the healing ceremony, we walked across the field to where a woman had prepared baked potatoes that were served with cheese--yum! | How to do it at home: Make fire, burn down, add potatoes, collapse the fire and cover with dirt, remove when done. Import cheese from Peru.

91: Christ near the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman above Cusco | Rob near the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman above Cusco

93: So how in the heck did they get this rock to the site??? | The Sacsayhuaman ("sexy woman") fortress is set on a hilltop overlooking Cuzco. Its double-zigzag wall is said to symbolize a puma's teeth. There were three large towers and enough rooms to hold 5,000 Inca soldiers. The walls were built by hand, fitting boulders weighing as much as 125 tons without mortar. In 1536 the Inca made their final, failed attempt to recapture their city from the Spanish.

94: Gateway made with giant stones slotted together.

95: View from the top -- Parade on Plaza de Armas (where we spent the morning.)

96: Another spectacular view from the top of Sacsayhuaman.

97: The Plaza, the Sun Temple, the Convent, the bread, the vendors, the Shaman, the potatoes, Sacsayhuaman and finally, lunch! More of the big-kernel corn and alpaca-"tastes like chicken", really, veal--very good. We also had an aperitif that was creamy and tasty.

98: A nice afternoon on our own to walk around Cusco. Juan's family came to the hotel in the evening, Larry made our last round of Pisco Sours, then we had our last Peruvian dinner.

99: An early morning flight to Quito where we were greeted by our Galapagos guide, Franklin, and our Quito guide, Lorena. After a brief tour, we checked into the Mercure Alameda Hotel Quito. We hunted for (and found) an ATM and of course, the huge market for shopping! | Quito, Ecuador

100: A highlight of the entire trip was our Sunday morning visit to the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, whose members are physically or mentally disabled. | The children (and their parents) came to the school just for the performance since school isn't in session on Sunday. The entire experience brought tears to our eyes!

101: Audience participation was enthusiastic!

102: Middle of the World Monument | The Monument was built to mark where French engineers calculated the location of the equator. Recently, using GPS, scientists identified the true equator which is about a 100 yards away.

103: Little "town" and gardens constructed next to the Monument.

104: Now--the real deal! | Alexandria, our tour guide for the "real equator" and surrounding exhibits.

105: We were shown a real shrunken head--highly guarded and a very rare commodity. This isn't it! Below--how to do it! Contrary to popular belief, it was done to preserve royalty or important people.

106: Next stop--ice cream hand churned in a copper bowl--way harder than it looks--note the guy laughing!

107: Around town-- Did you know the number one export of Ecuador is roses?

108: We start our historic Quito tour on San Franscisco Square with lunch on the patio.

109: San Francisco Church and other sites around the plaza.

110: Local art in a little shop on the plaza.

111: The Church of the Society of Jesus built by the Jesuits 1605-1765.

112: Guards at the Presidential Palace and a peek inside the gate.

113: Independence Plaza Winged statue representing freedom (left) Cathedral de Quito (right) | This was Quito’s main square in the 16th century, serving as a central market and bullfighting area. Today local artists were displaying their work.

114: To raise money, part of the Archbishop's residence was converted to retail. | Walking the streets of Quito on our tour.

115: Basilica del Voto Nacional or "The Basilica" It is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas.

116: Home-hosted Dinner Our hosts were Faviola and Dario.

117: They provided bubbly and special glasses to toast Patti and Larry's wedding anniversary.

118: The Galapagos | Early departure from hotel to airport and flight to the Galapagos. City bus, then ferry took us to our rickety private bus. | Not DIA | Great to be on the water to our first island, Santa Cruz.

119: Wonderful fresh food and a beautiful tropical location for lunch.

120: First stop after lunch was a lava tube which is formed by the solidifying of the outside skin of molten-lava flow. When the lava flow stops, the molten lava inside keeps going, emptying out of the solidified skin leaving tunnels. | Our first lesson was to not pick leaves on Galapagos! Next stop--giant tortoise!

123: We boarded the ship La Pinta to begin our island adventures!

124: Bahia Ballena on Santa Cruz Island | Day 1

125: Tortoise and tortoise nest. | First hike was through grassy plant area--the last we would see of this type of terrain.

126: Marine Iguana | Brown Pelican

127: Sally Lightfoot Crab

128: Fur Seal

129: All are happy - we have seen the Blue-footed Booby. . .

130: . . . and eventually the Red-footed Booby

131: . . . and the Nazca Booby!

132: Sombrero China, a tiny island near the larger island of Santiago. | A lesson in how to identify the gender of a crab-the next time you need to know!

133: Tomorrow we see this guy (a lava lizard) with different camouflage. | Galapagos Penguin about 18 inches tall.

134: Sea Lion | Hermit Crab

135: Checking her nails! | "Chinese Hat" (where the island gets its name.)

136: Ride to Bartelomo Island near Santiago Island, a fantastic landscape of lava formations. | Day 2

137: Hike on the boardwalk, including 372 steps, to the lighthouse and great views.

138: This is a "newer" island with little vegetation, yet it is fascinating how plants will grow out of crevices in the lava rock. | Alana Cactus

143: Same lava lizard, new camouflage! | Franklin caught the fly, explained it, and then let it go! | A hawk, the top of the food chain.

144: Sally Lightfoot Crab | Galapagos Penguin

147: Glass bottom boat foot photo to prove we were really did it! | Trip to ship and back--mmm...maybe one of the best parts of the trip--anticipation and good to be home!

148: Sullivan Bay on the east side of Santiago Island. | We landed on beach and rocks that were formed by volcanic eruptions only about a hundred years ago. The lava is amazing; it looks like it was solidified yesterday. Most of what we see is "pahoehoe" or ropey lava. | Marine Iguanas | Great Blue Heron

153: Pinnacle Rock -- we spent a wonderful day with you!

154: At the end of the morning excursions, a drink awaited upon reboarding. In the afternoon, we had snacks too.

155: Franklin, our OAT naturalist and guide, and ship staff.

156: Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island | Day 3

157: Great Frigate | Swallowed-tail Gull | Darwin Finch

158: Flying Frigate | Mockingbird | Galapagos Dove

159: Sea Lion Parade

162: Lava Heron

166: Sea kayacking sounded fun until we saw how small and close to the water they were! | Afternoon Lecture on Darwin In 1831, Charles Darwin sailed to the Galapagos Islands in the HMS Beagle. His trip was from 1831-1836 and the purpose was to chart South America. Charles Darwin was only twenty when he left England in 1831. Thirty years later he published his "Origin of Species", one of the most revolutionary ideas science had ever known. His original intention was to have his work published only after his death.

167: Heading out for the last time!

168: Prince Phillip's Steps | Final excursion was a fabulous walk on top of the caldera. We took the steps up the side of the cliff and then saw an amazing display of birds. The main goal was to see the brown short-eared owl, of which we saw several.

169: The birds were so unafraid of humans. This mother just went about her business of sitting on her eggs as we walked by.

171: Brown Short-eared Owl about a foot tall.

174: Sorry to see us go!

175: A lovely farewell dinner!

176: Hanging out to get out!

178: Back to Quito--

179: Final dinner in Quito at native arts museum. | Early AM flight tomorrow home!

180: A good time was had by all!

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