Standing in front of a sculpture in San Blas. The sculptor came out and invited us in to view his art. It was mostly smaller variations of what you see. There were many yellowed-newspaper clippings about him on a bulletin board outside. He was likened to the Picasso of Cusco.
San Blas is a lovely part of town above the city center. It is full of art galleries, shops, and restaurants.
The Inca Trail is an amazing feat of construction for one's feet.
A window in a wall looking out from a ruin on the Inca Trail.
In addition to the hordes of humans, there are a number of llamas that enjoy the views of Machu Picchu. In addition to being fun to look at, they also serve as the local lawnmowers.
Abraham was our guide on the Inca Trail and at Machu Picchu. Here he shows us a doorway to a bedroom used by a Priest. Upstairs there is a doorway that is much taller...supposedly used as bedroom by Incan royalty.
Skye is relaxing during our exploration of Machu Picchu.
Here's a picture of Penny in front of a rock quarry at Machu Picchu. The fact that this quarry exists indicate to archeologists that Machu Picchu was unfinished, or at least a work in progress.
We drank countless cups of coca tea while in Cusco. Before leaving to go to the airport to fly to Lima I had one last cup.
This is the church of San Francisco in Lima. It survived the huge earthquake that hit Lima in 1746.
This early 17th century baroque Cathedral is full of interesting historical artifacts. It is a prime example of how Spanish/Italian art and religion morphed when encountered by indigenous peoples.
Note the graffiti on the hill. This is a common sight in Peru. Apparently, it is commonly used by politicians to advertise their campaigns. This example was created by Cusco's local infantry troop.
The town of Cusco is the jumping off point to enter the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is full of tourists, and people who want to make a buck off the tourists. It also has some incredible architecture and art.
Reluctantly Paul agreed to join Eric and I on a city tour of Cusco. Unfortunately our guide had quite a bit of attitude, the tour group was a bit too large, and we competed with other groups for space in the cathedral. This picture was taken at Saccayhuaman, pronounced Sexy Woman.
While sitting in a little cafe in Ollantaytambo, we played many games of chess. We attracted a bit of a crowd. The little guy in the lower right corner of the photo decided he wanted to play. He claimed he knew how, which we believed, until he started putting rooks where pawns belonged during set-up. His older sister actually started correcting him, perhaps she really did know how to play!
Outside of our hotel with the lovely gardens in Ollantaytambo, my brothers were exhibiting a bit of testosterone. I suspect it had something to do with chess. If I recall correctly, Eric challenged Paul to a wrestling match and even offered to have one arm pinned back. Paul was anxious to take him up on it. Thank god we never went there!
The amount of stone used on the Inca Trail and ruins is immense. While wandering through the Fortress at Ollantaytambo I spotted this fossil.
The official starting point of the Inca Trail.
We slept in tents. In one camp we had pigs, chickens, and a donkey nearby. Other camps had deer and foxes running through.
We were incredibly lucky on our Inca Trail hike. Abraham was our guide. He was knowledgeable, kind, and patient. We were joined by two women from Australia: Penny and Skye. They'd been booked with a group of Germans. The person who booked them thought they were from Austria! Penny and Skye are childhood friends from a small town between Melbourne and Sydney. They now live in Sydney. We had a great time getting to know them!
He wasn't supposed to sit on the wall...but we were quick with the picture taking.
Unlike the cast of thousands on Kili, the crew that accompanied us on the Inca Trail were a total of six plus Abraham our guide. There was a cook and five porters. They worked hard, were always polite and smiling, and earned every penny. When not schlepping people's baggage and food, they are subsistence farmers at home. On our last night they sang us a traditional Peruvian song.
Skye had a friend who was one of the first in line at the Sun Gate. We were the third group to reach it. Basically it is the spot that the park rangers patrol to keep people out of Machu Picchu during the off hours. The gate officially opens each morning at 5:30 AM. Yes, this picture was taken at about 5:10 AM.
Funny memory of the morning was when Eric, Penny, and Skye sang the theme song from Inspector Gadget. I had mentioned that at one point in my IBM career Eric suggested that I be a Penny to my boss at the time. (Penny did all the work, the Inspector took all the credit for solving the mystery.) I've learned that this is a generational allusion. I recalled the cartoon, but not the details. Paul hadn't a clue. Skye, Penny, and Eric burst into song!
As I reached a rather misty Machu Picchu, I took a picture of the rest of the gang. They all got there about ten minutes before me. What started off as a brisk hike, turned into a march (Eric's famous line, "think Bataan"), and ended up a run.
A picture of Eric, Skye, Penny, Paul, and me at the end of our hike on the Inca Trail. I don't think any of us knew it would be a race. We were amongst the first ten to reach Machu Picchu from our campsite. Of course, the train, bus, and guests of the Sanctuary Lodge beat us there.
Machu Picchu is a mixture of original stone and refurbished stone. This section shows the compression of stone over time. It is supposedly an entry way into a sacrificial altar.
Don't know why, but all five us lined up to stick our heads in these window boxes and make funny low humming noises.
Skye and Eric hiked Huayna Picchu. This is after we hiking three and a half days to reach Machu Picchu. Paul, Penny, and I decided to take a break and relax. Apparently we were the smart ones. Huayna Picchu is not for the faint at heart. Eric likened it to a Peruvian Theme Park. There were rampant opportunity for hikers to fall off mountains and bounce down cliffs. At one point on their way down, another hiker asked them if it was safe. Eric looked at the guy, thought a moment, shook his head, and said, "no, not really." He commented afterwards that he just couldn't lie.
Lots of terraces and steps in Machu Picchu.
We chose our trip timing to coincide with the start of the rainy season. Lucky for us we spent nearly two weeks in Peru and saw no rain. However, two weeks earlier there had been storms. Paul had a friend who hiked the Inca Trail and it rained every single day. I can't even imagine trying to maneuver the stone steps while wet. The upside for us is the spring flowers were starting to bloom. Another week or so and they would be out in full force. Here is one lovely example.
This is the high end of our sleeping situation. At the time I felt as if I had never slept in a more comfortable bed. The low end was probably the one night that Paul, Eric, and I shared the same tent. Sleeping bag on a meager pad on top of rock just isn't the same as down comforter, on comfy, comfy mattress.
Because I can't do the description justice I wish Paul had a camera with him when I took this photo. Immediately after clicking the photo, all the kids came running over to me to look at the picture from the back of my digital camera. I was sitting on the ground with five, little, black heads below me peering into my camera.
Note that a number of the kids are holding Halloween masks. They took them off for the photo.
At the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, our five-star abode in Agua Caliente, my brothers snooze after our descent from MP. I took a shower and went and got a massage at the hotel spa.
In a little town that seems dedicated to Machu Picchu tourism, we wandered through the stalls of the market. There were lots of kids about as it was All Saint's Day.
Our train attendants performed dual roles as models too. To pounding renditions of American pop (everything from Madonna to the BeeGee's) they modeled stylish Alpaca clothing and accessories. I got a kick of all the Japanese passengers taking photos of the fashion show.
When returning from Machu Picchu to Cusco there are three train options: the Hiram Bingham, the Vistadome, the Backpacker's. When making the choice it felt a bit like choosing amongst the three bears. Following that analogy, we chose the Vistadome...or Mama Bear. It wasn't $500. It didn't serve a five course meal. We also wouldn't have to dodge chickens and pigs under our feet.
We were served a snack and drink just like on an airplane. I sat next to a woman named Jackie. She is a law professor from Melbourne. We had a great chat...everything from plastic surgery tidbits (her husband Michael is a reconstructive surgeon) to the new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Alito. The next day we ran into Jackie and Michael at the Cusco airport. At that point I learned that Paul and Eric do in fact listen to their sister...because they replayed all sorts of little tidbits about Jackie and Michael that I'd mentioned from our conversation.
An expected bonus on our train ride...traditional Peruvian entertainment and a fashion show. This is an entertainer, not one of the models.
We sat in a Swiss Restaurant, drinking cappuccinos, looking at the Peruvian flags with the biggest McDonald's I've ever seen in the background.
Under the church of San Francisco are the Catacombs. Approximately 25,000 Limenos were buried under the church prior to the first cemetery in Lima opening in 1808. According to our friend Nicholas, the catacombs are notoriously difficult to explore. When groups of explorers would travel through new passageways describing what they saw, the batteries of their radios and their flashlights would go out and they would get lost in the maze...never to find their way out.
I took this picture from the steps of the Cathedral in Lima. Paul, Eric, and I had just had a tour of the Cathedral. Our guide was named Jesus. One of the most interesting things he mentioned is that in Peru 30% of the Catholic priests have unofficial families, 30% are gay, and that the Catholic church needs to get with the program and recognize these lifestyle choices amongst priests.