Saturday, August 27, 2011

Machu Picchu

Enough said; seeing that pictures only do it half the justice that my eyes got to marvel upon of this beautiful earth that mother nature created. Furthermore, they say pictures are worth a thousand words, so trying to explain Cuzco and Machu Picchu isn't going to do very much. The point is- it was gorgeous, I'm truly blessed with the wonderful opportunity I had to see one of the 7 wonders of the world, and I highly recommend you try to see it one day if possible.

I'll show a few pictures and give a few anecdotes to try to give you an idea.

The trip as a whole consisted in a very few hours of sleep, a lot of walking and many amazing sites to see. We left Arequipa at 8 pm to arrive in bus in Cuzco at 6 am on Monday. Someone picked us up and said go with this woman, who said go with this guy, who said go in this van.... Well maybe because of lack of sleep or just because we are used to the lifestyle being such that you go with the flow always, we followed without questions. Luckily, it was the right tour (for the most part) that we had signed up for. We picked up the rest of the group at their appropriate hotels. We had a very interesting group of tourists: including a woman from Latvia who currently lived in Canada (speaking a total of 5 languages), a brother and sister from Germany, and the most unique (I would give $1 to anyone who could guess where) was a group of 5 people - who surprising had not come together but rather found each other in Cuzco, Peru- from Israel. From here we continued on a 5 ish hour minivan ride until we arrived to where we ate lunch. During this time, we traveled up high into the mountains when we were in the clouds. Naturally I had to open the window to say that I breathed in a Peruvian cloud.

Then we continued another 45 minutes and stopped at the train station. Karlene and I had misunderstood that we didn’t have that train ride paid in the package so she and I and the 2 Germans walked the rest of the way to where we were supposed to stay that night in the hostels. It was a long walk (after arriving they said it was about 13 kilometers) but it was so worth it for the beautiful view we got all along the way.

A centipede we found along the way!

About 2 ½ hours later, we made it, settled into our hostel, ate dinner and crashed afterwards since we were tired from the long walk. The next day we woke up at 4:15 so we could get up the mountain quickly to spend maximum amount of time in Machu Picchu. Supposedly it was another 3 kilometers up the mountain and just about straight up (with stairs). Since I’m not in great shape, this was a difficult hike for me. Also seeing that it was so early there wasn’t much of a view along with the fact that it was through a jungle-y, forest-y mountainside. We arrived around 6:15 to wait in line to get in (many had cheated in taking the bus up to Machu Picchu so they beat us.)

Finally we arrived and naturally it was beautiful. I’m sure everyone has seen pictures of Machu Picchu before so you know what that looks like, but what was more beautiful for me was the surrounding area of the mountains.

Down there is where we stayed in the hostel the night before

Machu Picchu was interesting thinking of what it used to be in the 1400s. However due to natural causes it was destroyed somewhat. So when rediscovered 100 years ago (yes, this is the 100th year!), they had to do much reconstruction to put it how they thought it used to be. They told us this took 25 years of reconstruction. So, for me this lost some of the specialness. But I am good at using my imagination to think how it was.

We had a guided tour where we got some of these details- very interesting. But after the tour, I was surprised at the freedom I had of wandering around Machu Picchu on my own. Here I could use my imagination even better to say ‘this used to be the school’ and ‘this a house’… ect. Of course we needed to get a picture with us in it.

still cloudy since this was around 6:30 am

later on from a bit higher view

Another very intriguing part of Machu Picchu for me was the terracing. They explained the Incans did this for water purposes so that when it did rain heavily the water would slowly run down the mountain rather than quickly to prevent landslides. It also helps to keep all their lands green (as you can see in these pictures- and now is the dry season!) Very smart people.

The llamas loved it too, they wandered around the terracing everywhere

I even touched one!
Another animal that hung around there was part of the bunny family. I can’t remember the name- Karlene thought it was similar to a Chinchilla.

Then we hiked back down to take the train (which was included this time) and the looong minivan ride back to Cuzco. We again arrived exhausted, ate dinner and crashed in a hostel to explore more of Cuzco the next day.

The cathedral in Cuzco

Another one of the 32 churches in Cuzco

The main plaza was very well taken care of

A cool mural in the city

A bit outside of town
We were told we must try to Cuzco bread. So we walked over to the market to find it, successfully of course, and bought this delicious sweet bread for a dollar. It is called Chuta.

We finally wandered down to the bus station where we took the nice 10 hour bus ride back home to Arequipa. Back in town, I got a $2 hair cut on Thursday. And we ended up riding the Combi's for almost 4 hours going to the bus station and back. However we saved ourselves about $3 dollars in taxi money! 

Due to some complications with our friend in Lima, we had to stay in Arequipa longer. So we changed our ticket and got a few extra days in this beautiful “white” city to say bye to everyone. Sunday we will take the short 17 hour bus to Lima to catch the Monday evening flight back home to the United States.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventure here in Peru because I surely have loved living it! I hope to see you all back in the states soon. Take care.

Yours truly,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wrapping up

3 more days of teaching. woah.

August has been more relaxed, not as many trips. More spending time with people to enjoy the last month we have with them. However this past weekend was more eventful, and lots of fun.

Monday August 15th is Arequipa day. It was founded 471 years ago by the Spaniards. So this weekend there was a lot of various celebrations.

Saturday Karlene and I wandered around taking more pictures of the city. We found a cool cemetery. Here, it is more expensive to bury the bodies so they put the bodies in a wall stacked on top one another.

We walked down to the plaza, where we have been a million times, but we finally took some pictures. There is a fountain in the middle with hundreds of pigeons. There is the cathedral in the background.

Decorations for Arequipa's celebrations
And even though we have walked by the Cathedral 100 times, we finally decided to see if we could go in. And we did with success- it was beautiful! With a gorgeous organ.

We of course had to stop for Peruvian donuts. Depending on the location they are called Bunuelos or Picarones. They are delicious and drizzled with honey. (taste way better than they look)

Saturday night we went out with some of our friends. However the new mayor has created a new law that all bars must close at midnight. So the police came into the bar around 1230 to kick everyone out.

Sunday we went out to lunch with other friends. Then we went for an adventure. I don't really even know how to explain it but it was originally to see a natural spring. Then we just continued wandering around until we got lost. We found our way back but got to see some beautiful country side along the way!

lost- hiking through fields.

Sunday night we went to a concert of Carlos Vives. That was a lot of fun! Around the stadium was almost like a mini state fair with booths and food.

We were really there!
Monday was the BIG parade! Started around 10 am and went until midnight. We only stayed about 4 hours. There was anything and everything in the parade. And sooo many people! But a lot of fun!

It was a great weekend! Now I need to start packing up everything because were going to Machu Picchu in 4 days and from there to Lima, and from there- home in less than 2 weeks! Exciting but also sad to leave!

Take care everyone. A big hug!

Monday, August 1, 2011

2 down, 1 to go

A little more of Peru:
-dogs think it is fun to bark at cars and chase them. It is rather dumb of them actually.

-driving here is ridiculous. So much so that a friend was explaining how his Canadian friend lives here and has become accustomed to the driving here and when he returns to drive in Canada, he usually gets at least 3 tickets.

-public peeing here is very common unfortunately, and disgusting. A friend was explaining that in Chile, if you are caught public peeing you get sentenced to 3 months in jail. Karlene made the comment that Arequipa would be half as populated if that were the case here.

-the variety in clothing is wide here. On the streets to going out at night I see anything and everything (even despite the temperature at times.)

-Last Thursday was Peru's Independence Day. Every house in Peru had a flag outside their house- so the city was filled with red and white. However most people left town to go on vacation because there was no work Thursday or Friday. And of course Karlene and I went out to celebrate Peru's 190th birthday!

Then we had a little time to travel. Friday we went to Yura which is about a half an hour away from the Arequipa. It was gorgeous. They had natural hot springs and it was so green. The actually city is small and boring, but the more and more we drove down the prettier it got- more green, more people, more nature.

Sunday we decided to take a nice little day trip to Colca Canyon. It is like a small Grand Canyon of Peru, maybe 1/3 as wide and I really don't know about depth but it was absolutely gorgeous!!

As you can see we stopped a few different places along the way. Then we stopped where the condors come out. What is a condor? Originally they came from California but now are going extinct there. They are trying to save them but they are many in Peru in this particular part of the country. One reason they may be extinct in CA is that they only produce one egg every 8 years. However, they can live to be 50-60 years old. They can have a wing span of  2 meters and weigh up to 30 pounds. These pictures don't do the size too much justice, but it was simply amazing.

Later we stopped at an excellent to place many of Arequipa's volcanoes all from one point. However because we were at almost 5,000 meters it was rather cold so Karlene and I couldn't pose for a picture.

We stopped in one little town where one of their forms of taxis was a motorized bike with a buggy type thing. It fits maybe 3 in the seat. We saw these in Puno as well. They are more economical however not as safe on the main roads- but we still took a ride in one!

The bus ride there and back was long, but it was very worth it for the beautiful part of the country we saw and all the people we met. Today we still had off work so we went to get our third $2 manicure!
Mine- wild blue, Karlene- elegant French  :)
There are a ton more pictures of Colca Canyon- and unfortunately the pictures can never fully capture what I got the wonderful opportunity to see, but I'd love to share if you're interested.

It's August first! How have two months already flown by- wow! See you in less than a month USA!