Just checking in.. we are in Lima now, and fly out tomorrow to LA, then train back to San Diego on new years day.
Wow. What an interesting day. We woke up to construction and fireworks at about 6 am. OK, the fireworks, I get. Construction on christmas day? Take a rest! Our local german yogurt joint was closed, so we stumbled down to the plaza for breakfast. After wandering for a bit, we decided to give the oh so non-PC Baghdad Cafe a try. Decent food, but more importantly, it overlooked the plaza.
As we were paying our bill, the people in the churches around the square started to leave, a lot of them in costume. Next they started to sing, use noise makers, and do some sort of ceremony/parade around the plaza. Really, really strange to a paleface for Christmas. We followed two groups around the square for a little bit when a third group appeared.
This group was carrying a throne with a bling bling baby jesus (doll) seated on it. Marching behind the throne was a band, together with the crowd they sang and marched around the square. They stopped a couple times to sing happy birthday to the baby jesus doll, then continued on their victory lap back to the church.
It was amazing to see. I tried to discretely snap a few photos. Tried to avoid being the stereotype tourist, shoving a camera in the locals faces. There was a lot of them out today. Yes.. I know that just by being here I inevitably make changes to the country. Sustainable tourism is something great to aim for, but ultimately impossible. Let me have my little complaint session.
After picking up our laundry, I grabbed a cab and headed up to the Sacsayhuaman ruins. The ruins are zip zag walls of a religious complex that sits above Cuzco (right next to a mini Rio de Janeiro christ statue). The ruins are quite impressive when you look at the size of the rocks they used for the walls. Massive, perfectly carved and fitted rocks that the spanish didn’t even try to tear down after they defeated the Inkas.
After checking out the ruins I walked over to a little bike cart and had a cola. I like the way they do it here. The carts sell pop in glass bottles that are about 295ml, perfect for a quick drink. Unlike the bigger plastic bottles (which seem to be just tossed on the ground) they need the glass bottles to send back to the drink factory. You have to hang out by the cart while you finish your drink. It is great, sort of like a forced 5-10 minute break where you can chat with other customers.
I hung out on a little bridge while I finished my soda. Then shared my lunch with some of the locals. A bunch of families were out playing futbol on the grass, so the kids wandered over to talk to me. It is amazing, but I can actually manage to communicate some thoughts to the locals. Mind you, I’m not saying my spanish is good.. it is horrible. I just mean that it is always impressive how much you can actually communicate without knowing the language.
(All photos for this entry are posted here)
The fireworks for Christmas eve started at around 6am today. The bastards. Little kids running around with fistfuls of gunpowder in paper; every mother’s dream. Every building around is tile, stone, mud brick, or cement. I don’t think it would transfer too well to San Diego.
The market was great. It was absolutely packed. Lot of people from the city and the country. Lots of kids running around with ice cream. Chicha (chewed up corn drink that’s alcoholic) and beef hearts (with a potato on a skewer) as far as the eye can see. No, I haven’t tried cuy (guinea pig), yet. I had my lunch already set on Blueberry Lounge.
Yesterday we wondered why people were bringing huge bundles of plants and grass to the city. Well, it seems nativity sets are a big deal here. Almost half of the vendors were selling something to do with nativities and bling bling baby jesus dolls (while better than bloody jesus, they still have a very creepy quality [and full genitalia]). It looked like a model train supply convention. Fake grass, trees, little people, and buildings. All to build your very own baby jesus in a stable with the surrounding countryside. Before you ask, yes, we bought a little nativity set (andean stylized and fits in a hand) with a little christmas tree (branch stuck in a piece of wood). And yes, our baby jesus is also anatomically correct.
We are going to finish up here tomorrow, visit some ruins, and take it easy. We fly to Lima on the 26th, and bus it down to the desert of Ica. From there we hope to catch a couple festivals, the Nasca lines, sandboarding, and find some fossilized whales.
(All photos for this entry are posted here)
Anna and I took the bus to Pisaq today. 2 soles. Hell of a deal, that’s around 60 cents. The bus ride back was quite the experience though. The bus for Cuzco pulls up, and people rush the thing to push their way on. We ended up catching the second bus, and standing the entire 45 min trip. At least I got an arm workout on the corners. It leaned a lot, and some big metal objects fell out of the engine on the way down the hill, but there were at least 9 jesus faces on the dash, so I figured we were ok.
Pisaq was a good trip. It is mostly known for the giant market around a giant tree, but there are some pretty large ruins on the hill above it. We hiked up and wandered around, there were some really nice views over the sacred valley.
The market was a mix of products for locals and products for touristos. I didn’t see too many pale faces buying the pig feet. I had to buy some fruit though, it looked too good. Four mandarins, a bunch of cherries, and four bananas for 3 soles. Hot damn.
Not quite sure just yet what we are doing for xmas. From what the locals tell us, they buy fruitcake, and eat it with milk and chocolate at midnight xmas eve. Even in SA you can’t escape fruitcake. Actually, I don’t mind the stuff. But I’m pretty sure I am in the minority. Everyone goes to church xmas day. We had planned to go see the ruins above Cuzco today, but it was raining, so maybe we will do that xmas day instead.
We finished the trail on Dec 20, and I hiked up Wayna Picchu (mnt behind Machu Picchu) yesterday. It was a fantastic experience – great people, and a rewarding effort.
I will have to write more on the subject, but I am still letting it all sink in.
We got an update on the trail weather tomorrow; rain. The second day (climbing 1400m to a 4100 meter pass) it looks like snow. Fun! If it rains on the third day, we get to walk down 3000 wet stone stairs, even more fun. Wish us luck :)
We leave tomorrow for the Inca Trail. Still have a hard time getting enough air when doing the steep stairs around town, but figure I should be ok for the trail. I’m sure it takes longer than a few days to build up enough red blood cells to manage it with usual exertion. Makes you even more amazed at the Inka priests and soon-to-be-sacrifices that climbed up 7000m peaks in straw sandals.
We will be on the trail for 3 days, arriving early in the morning at the sun gate to Machu Picchu. I hope I can get a night ticket to MP, but it depends on the season. We overnight at a town a few miles a way, then head back up the next day. Then it is the train back to Cuzco.
I’ve been meaning to post some pictures, but none of the computers here seem to have image editing programs. That and usually only one of the computers has USB and a CDROM. I might get around to it, but no promises.
(Photos for this entry can be found here: Cuzco, Peru)
Anna and I had an absolutely amazing dinner last night at a place called Greens. Really hit the spot. With two great dinners in a row, I figured we were ready for an upset tonight, but we are in luck again. Another great meal from a place called Granja Heidi.
Anna and I spent the day wandering around Cuzco. The stairs were a bit easier today, but by the pounding of my head, we overdid it. We managed to hike quite a bit into the local areas of Cuzco. Probably not such a great idea at night, but it seemed quite safe in the day. Found some really great views from a point called the white tower. I will have to see if my gimpy picture taking actually lets me stitch together a panorama from it. Funny how the worst houses in a poorer city have all the great views. Mind you, there are those pesky mudslides.
I blew through a full memory card today, 512 of Cuzco goodness. I’m not sure how many pictures will make the cut, but the visuals of this city are impressive. We got to check out some of the original Inka walls on a street near us. Very impressive. Can’t even fit a piece of paper into the cracks, but the stones are all different sizes. It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with massive blocks of stone.
You can’t help but feel a bit of despair over the treatment of the city by the spanish. Just the foundations of the Inka structures are amazing, one can’t imagine what the full palaces must have been like. The original city was designed to look like a jaguar. They made visuals and symbols such an important part of their life here. Everything was in its place, and meant something.