Saturday, December 27, 2008


On Sunday, December 14, I arrived in Lima, Peru. For a city of 8 million people, there doesn't seem to be a lot going on. A lot of people skip Lima altogether on their way to Peru's better sights. There is a about one day's worth of stuff to see in Lima. I had two full days.

The central plaza is definitely worth a look.

Slums on a hillside painted bright colors so they look pretty from a distance.

I took a tour of the Cathedral San Francisco, including the library and catacombs. The cathedral was completed in 1674. For about 300 years, it was standard procedure to bury people underneath the church. They would throw the bodies in the catacombs along with some lime to control the smell. A lot of bodies accumulated over this time and they had arranged the bones into bins by type. It was really interesting. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited in the catacombs.

On Wednesday, December 17, I took a 5:40 am flight to Cuzco. I had intended to take a bus to cuzco, but heard horror stories about the 25 hour ride. I instead opted to take a one hour flight for a little over $100. Cuzco is kind of the starting point for Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Andes. It is a handsome Spanish-Colonial town that has many hotels, restaurants, and bars catering to foreigners, while still holding it's own as an actual Peruvian town.
Central Market in Cuzco.

Machu Picchu is an Inka site built in 1460 and abandoned about 100 years later. It was discovered by Hiram Bingham, an American historian in 1911. On Saturday, December 20, I took the Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientes. Aguas Clientes is a small, tourist town at the base of Machu Picchu Mountain. It is about four hours by train. The train and the town exist solely because of Machu Picchu. I sat next to an old British lady on the train who talked my ear off the whole time. The seats on the train faced each other, so half the train rode forward and half rode backward. The seat across from me was empty and I so wanted to put my feet in the seat. But I had flashbacks to a British lady scolding me at Heathrow airport for putting my feet on a seat. So I resisted.

Many people see Machu Picchu as a day trip from Cuzco. Doing this only leaves about three, possibly four hours to se Machu Picchu. For a sight like this, something I have wanted to see for a really long time, I wanted to spend more time than that. So I spent two nights in Aguas Calientes. I wanted to have enough time to see it and give a buffer in case of inclement weater. It rained quite a bit the day before and the day after I went. Also, Machu Picchu is an expensive trip by Peru standards. The train ride was $80 round trip, the admission was $40, and the bus ride was $14 round trip.

I got up at 5:00 am on Sunday, Decemebr 21 to catch the forst bus going to Machu Picchu. The first 400 people who sign up get to go up Waynupicchu (that forbidding looking mountain in the background). I climbed that bad boy. When you see how hig up Machu Picchu is and how steep the terrain is, it makes it even harder to imagine how it was ever built. On top of all that, the structures were mostly built without mortar. This building style has helped the site withstand eathquakes and is a major reason it is so well preserved.

Top of Waynupicchu.

Top of Waynupicchu with road from Aguas Calientes on the left.

Tina, come get some ham. The Llamas keep the grass trimmed.

Agricultural terraces.

On Tuesday, December 23, I took a bus to Puno, where I would stay thorugh Christmas. Puno is on Lake Titicaca and is a jumping off point for the Floating Islands. The owners of the hostel in Puno cooked a traditional Peruviuan dinner for all the guests on December 24. The 24th is more a celebratino day than the 25th. It started kind of late - about 9:30. They had a turkey, with a ground beef and bean stuffing, pig knuckles, a type of cabbage slaw with slivers of ham, a green bean and date casserole, and buttered potatoes. It was really good and I had a good time with the family and the other travelers. The neighborhood kids shot fireworks at midnight.

On Saturday, December 27, I took a boat tour to the Uros Islands. The Uros are an indigenous people who live on floating islands in Lake Titicaca. The islands are made of reed. As the reeds on the bottom rot away, more are added to the top. It was a strange feeling walking on the islands, as the reeds would give a few inches as I walked. It was an interesting tour, but the whole thing felt like a tourist trap. I'm sure the islands and the people would not exist if not for the tourism revenue. So, I was a little conflicted.

On Sunday, December 28, I'm taking a bus to Copacabana, Bolivia.


toomuchcountry said...

Now THAT's a way to spend a memorable Christmas.

Ozzy Nelson said...

I hope you are getting a lot of good stories about people as well as the places. Sounds awesome.

Brother John said...

Bro, You've Got Hair!?!?!
Man you pics are amazing. It was good to hear from you Christmas. Be safe and live out the dream!