Saturday, August 17, 2013

Some Local Flavor

We began our day with a visit to a typical Saturday marketplace, where there are stalls for every need - radio repair and haircuts as well as meats and produce. Jack was fascinated by the open stalls where they were but hearing and selling meat of all kinds! (The vegetables had less appeal!)

I loved this (very polite but clear!) warning to thieves we saw posted in the market:

After getting an overview of the marketplace, each family was given some Peruvian money and two photographs of local produce and told to go buy those items and return. A contest! Jack took off running, remembering where he had seen the black corn! He was a little frustrated that I couldn't keep up with him (but I tried - I didn't want my grandson loose by himself in a crowded foreign market!)...

Next: a visit to a chocolate factory (I use the term loosely!) and everyone had a chance to make chocolate. What fun!

More Inca ruins, more llamas, more native culture on our way back to the hotel...

...where we had an afternoon of leisure: we read, lunched, read some more, and then went to the pool before our farewell reception and dinner. It was quite a farewell: Andean food and music, with each kid receiving a pan flute as a souvenir.

We're tired! And another early morning luggage pull for our flight back to Lima and then, eventually, home! It's been a good trip!

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Nature Walk

We began our day with a nature walk through the rain forest, and ended with a visit to the Spectacle Bears. Quite fun and interesting!

Then the long trek back to Cusco (train, followed by a large bus, and then a smaller one to fit in the very narrow streets of downtown Cusco!)... En
route we saw more Inca ruins and some spectacular scenery!

The river (and yes, it is the same river on which we went rafting!):

Here, the granaries where the Inca stored their food (some of their more-than-three-thousand varieties of potatoes!):

And, of course, the valley, and the glorious mountains and glaciers!

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Location:Aguas Calientes

Ollyantaytambo and Machu Picchu

Our first stop on our way to Machu Picchu was at Ollyantaytambo, famous as the only place ever to have successfully resisted attacks from the Spanish. As we pulled in to the parking lot, our guide pointed out an original Inca street still in use today:

It's an impressive sight, and Jack scrambled up and down, over and around the stone terraces and walls... He was heady with excitement! (I almost think he liked Ollyantaytambo better than Machu Picchu because he had so much more freedom to explore there...)

Once we got (by train) to Agua Calientes, the "gateway to Machu Picchu," we had to take a public bus on a hairpin-turned road for half an hour to reach the actual site of the ruin. From the window we could see people starting out on the Inca trail (a trek of four days, and requiring a doctor's clearance) to reach the ruin from above. It's a pretty amazing site! Unfortunately, I've been sick (not with altitude sickness, but with Jack's cold) and hadn't really slept for the two preceding nights, so I turned back after climbing about halfway up. Jack, of course, was still going strong, so hooked up with another family to complete the climb.

He returned to the hotel so happy! He burst through the door of our casita and said, "okay, so when do we leave on our next activity?!" He doesn't want to miss a thing!

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

No breathing room!

Today was exhausting! We went from one activity to the next - all good, but soooo many! - and yet, when we came home from one, Jack was chomping at the bit to go on to the next! We'd have a rest-and-regrouping time (often scarcely an hour) and in 5 minutes he was ready to head out the door again!

We began the day with a rafting trip... Beginning with "class one" and ending with "class three." We were grouped four or five to a raft, and Jack was quite clear that he was NOT going with me! He wanted to be with his "new friends," and their mother (a pediatrician AND an outdoors person) said she would take care of him. He did great! He was grinning from ear to ear the whole time! I didn't get pictures of the trip because that would have sent me straight into the drink - I had all I could do to stay in the boat!

The river is a northern tributary of the Andes and is fed by the Veronica glacier, so the water was very cold! (I'm not sure if it was harder to get in and out of the wet suit or to stay in the boat as we went through the rapids!

As we arrived at the end point of our trip, we saw some Andean people crossing the river...a kind of ferry/bridge combination which seems to work well if you don't mind callouses on your hands!

We went from rafting to another pachamanca lunch, this time with a horse show of Peruvian horses, plus some Peruvian dances.

And on to a pottery studio where we saw demonstrations of Inca pottery-making - and then got to design and paint our own tiles.

And then: with adults dragging and kids running around, we went to a performance of Andean folk legends around the creation myth.

And ate some more! (The kids made their own pizza.)

When I collected Jack from the kids table, one of the girls told me, "Jack is the most popular kid here!" And he certainly seems to be!

Another early day tomorrow - and long one! -as we finally get to Machu Picchu!
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

When Jack talked about his favorite things of the day, one of them was NOT being awakened at 5:30 a.m. to be ready for the 5:45 a.m. luggage pull! That being said, however, he did not sleep on the bus or the plane as we traveled! Instead, it was a very active day for him (for us all, in fact) filled not only with the assortment of interesting activities planned, but with bonding with a gaggle of boys and climbing, running, bumping into things (on purpose), falling down (again on purpose) and generally having a very good time, in spite of admonitions (from our tour guide) that we Should "go slowly" while we adjusted to the altitude. Apparently the altitude hasn't affected him one bit! We flew from Lima (sea level) to Cusco (11,000 feet) and then climbed (by bus) to the mountain pass about 13,000 feet, before dropping into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. (Our hotel is at about 10,000 feet.)

They have divided our tour into two groups of 15 so that we have a more intimate experience. Jack and I are with the "boys group" and they have taken over the back of the bus. One if his favorite things if the day has been playing with them - in the creative ways of little boys, They have had "sword fights" with their plastic water bottles, and I interrupted a fill-your-mouth-with-water-punch-your-cheeks-together "fight" before everyone got soaked!

Our first stop was at a llama and alpaca farm (the "second favorite thing") where we could see/feed the animals (the boys favorite) and see demonstrations of the dying, spinning, weaving of the animal fibers (not a high interest for them!).

After a "pachamanca" lunch ("pachamanca" means "earthen bowl" because all the food - meats and vegetables - are buried and cooked under the heat source) during which we tried Alan assortment of interesting foods - including guinea pig, the national delicacy! - we drove on again through the valley to a local school house near our hotel, where they had arranged for us to visit (a third favorite) and have the kids play some games together... Jack participated in a "balloon relay" (which involved in sitting on balloons to pop them - a great favorite!). They kids also did an art project together.


In the middle of all the activity, we heard a trumpet, and then a band - and around the corner mar he'd a funeral procession, flowers, casket, mourners, musicians, and more flowers! Quite an experience! It really was a "celebration of life"!

After checking into our hotel - quite a luxury spa and resort with bridges, streams, peacocks, a gym, even faux dinosaur eggs (cracked open), an ornate church which looks like something right out of medieval Spain, a labyrinth, and a zen garden (something for everyone!) we met a Shaman who demonstrated for us an Inca religions ceremony and blessed our journey (a fourth favorite thing). A long day, but good.

PS - I finally got Jack to change out of his favorite Peruvian soccer shirt for dinner! (it bore the residual of the last three days' meals plus who knows what else!)

A view of the Sacred Valley from our hotel:

Internet connection is spotty, so who knows when this will get posted!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Adventure Continues!

Jack was full of excitement today, and could hardly wait to get us out the door of our hotel room! We took the bus through Lima traffic (which makes LA traffic look good!) to the port on the other side of the city where we boarded a small speedboat to go over very cold and choppy seas to the island of San Lorenzo to see the sea lions.

There were lots of small islands full of birds en route - One of Peru's main industries is the harvesting and refining of guana for fertilizer, and the birds provide plenty to harvest!

Because the water is so cold (it's fed by the Humbolt current from Antarctica) we were able to see some penguins, as well.

There were sea lions everywhere! Many of the babies were in a kind of nursery along the side of one large rock...

They couldn't find a wet suit small enough for Jack to be able to swim with the sea lions, so they put him on a small raft so he wouldn't miss out on all the fun! He didn't want the time to end, and was reluctant to get back into the boat when it was time to leave!

A second favorite thing was the afternoon excursion to the catacombs of the Franciscan monastery (no pictures allowed!). He and a couple of other boys were running and squealing with delight from one pile of bones to the next!

We wound up the evening with Jack's "third favorite thing" - a cooking class, where we were divided into three groups and taught to make three different Peruvian dishes: Pisco sours (a group of mostly men); ceviche (mostly women); and "Causa" - a chicken and potato dish (the kids). It was great good fun - and the resulting meal wasn't bad, either!

It's early to bed tonight because we have a 5:45 luggage pick up in the morning and an early departure for the airport for our flight to Cusco.

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