Sunday, 8 December 2019

DECEMBER SUN: BARCELONA

Watch the beach, the people, the sun, the palm trees and the sky as it blushes blue, magenta, red and yellow

From my hotel toward my towers


It is always good when the floods from November are still in the fields in December to look back on when one was last in the sunshine.

Life is simple in September. I fly out on Monday, work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, fly home that same evening.

My routine is simple, rise 6am, breakfast (in the over stocked buffet in the cavernous restaurant) at 7am. I walk through quiet streets to the office. 
Through the security gates and then I travel to the twenty-second floor of a tall glass block, it takes to my place of work.

A full on day with demanding and engaged people, each day my class and I become closer. 

Finish work at 6pm. And ten-minute walk, back to hotel, via a small super market, buy wine, chorizo, and chocolate for desert. This is supper.

In Barcelona I am just east of the city centre, close to the beach and in the midst of the Olympic centre built for the Olympic games in 1992, hey, sometime back.

Looking back now, stepping out of the office at 6pm and walking a little way, to lean on a low wall and watch the beach, the people, the sun, the palm trees and the sky as it blushes blue, magenta, red and yellow and then says

Good Night

Friday, 6 December 2019

EPILOGUE: PERU WE HAVE SEEN


     It is important to reflect on any journey. 
     What did we see and do across these two remarkable weeks in Peru?

We saw the pyramids of a civilisation that pre dates the Pharaohs and Inca temples and towns and their terraces lying in the sun.
 

Most days we were in sight of mountains crowned with clouds and snow. 

MOST DAYS, MOUNTAINS

We had the chance to explore cities and their gorgeous churches, each House of God dripping with gold and silver. 
DRIPPING WITH GOLD


And during these discoveries come to sense a people for whom Christianity and spirituality were very much part of their everyday.

We salivated over ancient textiles and pottery fashioned two thousand years ago

Recoiled from the tourist hoards including young girls perched atop of ruins, their arms spread wide and chests thrust forward for ‘the photo’. 

TOURIST HOARDS

We relished wonderful cuisine and stayed in some wonderful hotels

Travelled through jungles, plains and peaks and spied small villages by fast flowing rivers. 

PEOPLE WE WILL NEVER FORGET

Ridden on trains where smartly dressed attendants suddenly don colourful costumes and danced along our train’s carriage. Then they give a fashion show

And sailed across a lake and met people we will never forget.

      
     Each was an exquisite and unrepeatable experience.


Wednesday, 4 December 2019

PERU THE FINAL DAY AND HEADING HOME



We managed to wedge in one more site visit, driving twenty km out of Puno; up over the hillsides of the city and down onto broad plains. The region of Puno is an important for agriculture and livestock area, home to llamas and alpacas, which graze on its immense plateaus. We arrived at Sillustani

THE GREAT CEMETARY 


From 200 BC through 400 AD Sillustani was a necropolis, used by several tribes and peoples as a burial ground and stone circles indicate its significance as an astrological centre.  There were few people about this morning and soft breezes drifted up from the nearby lake.

Then it was down to the serious business of the run home.  From Sillustani it was forty-minute drive to the town of Julieta, and their ‘international’ airport. 

We caught a short flight back to Lima.  Immediately we were airborne my altitude sickness evaporated and spirits lifted. The latter were soon crushed given the five hours hanging around at Lima airport with its noise and crowds. 

AIR TRAVEL


The horrors of air travel, on this occasion, culminated in the flight being forty-five minutes late for take off. This was because the crew was late getting to the airport. Before we eventually took off we were given a simpering, almost apologetic excuse from the crew’s first officer about the heavy traffic. British Airways, typical.

Monday, 2 December 2019

PERU DAY 11 THURSDAY THE FLOATING ISLANDS


Lake Titicaca is laced by mountains and at the Puno end, vast reed beds. The reeds are home to ducks, grebes and egrets. This lake then broadens out and is mirror flat and deep blue and reflecting high cloud. Only the wake of our boat breaks the peace. In the far distance are small white outlines of other tour boats.  We have two island destinations today, our last full day.

UROS
The floating island reed beds are home to the Uros people. The Uros or Uru use bundles of dried totora reeds to make boats and to fashion the islands themselves. The larger of these island accommodate about ten families, while smaller ones, are only thirty meters wide, housing only two or three families. 
A WORLD CREATED OUT OF REEDS


COLOUR IS THE LEITMOTIF!
Tourism is the staple industry of the Uros. Dazzling colour is their leitmotif! The clothing made and worn by the women and girls were of the brightest hues, pinks, blues, reds and yellows, oranges and greens. 

I could not draw quickly enough and left the island that we were fortunate enough to visit with four drawings. This short outing was a high spot.

TAQUILE.
Taquile is a hilly island located 45 km (28 miles) east of Puno. It is narrow and long and was used as a prison during the Spanish colonisation and actually into the 20th century. We had an excellent lunch of trout fished out of the lake. Titicaca is famous for its fish especially trout. Taquile is home to a remarkable knitting industry. Taquile handicrafts are regarded as among the highest quality in the world. 
TAQUILE ISLAND TITICACA'S CRAFT CENTRE


Tour Guide Sindy explained some of the local customs. One convention is a curious try-before-you-buy aspect to getting married. 

A prospective couple have to live together for three years before they can get married, usually under the roof of the girl’s family. The engagement can be broken off before getting hitched of course. 

However divorce is prohibited. There was one case of divorce and the male of the party was banished from the island. There are now about 2,200 people on the island, all of whom are happily married. UNESCO honoured the island of Taquile and its Textile Art: They proclaimed the handicraft work on this island as ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. Men exclusively do the knitting, and start aged eight. The women do get a look in; making yarn and weaving. I bought a nice scarf.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

DAY 10 WEDNESDAY ABOARD THE TRAIN TO TITICACA


We left the lovely ARANWA hotel to catch the 07:10 from Cuzco to Puno.

Again PeruRail have excelled themselves again. All the carriages are a confection of 1920’s mahogany and brass. The chairs in each are wing backed and roomy, four to a table and two to a table on the other side of the carriage’s central aisle.

Each table has a brass lamp and vase of red alstroemerias. The staff are delightfully attentive and even this early in the morning we look forward to our three-course lunch with wine and our afternoon tea; all as befits a ten-hour journey.

Telegraph poles march across the land


We lumber along through the countryside. People are working in the fields, villages of low buildings some in bright pink or blue. On hillsides there are ruined settlements. Telegraph poles march across the land. Often we are close to a swollen river and then, all of a sudden; mountains crowd in on either side of the track. These peaks then yield to wide plains with small pastures. 

This is an enthralling landscape making it hard to look anywhere else but out of our carriage window for the entire three hundred and fifty kilometres.

LA RAYA A SHORT STOP
About half way through the ten and half hour journey we stop at La Raya, little more than a halt comprising a small church and an area crammed with high benches on which the local people display handicraft work for sale. Fellow passengers get off the train, take photographs, and poke around the goods on offer and then re-board, just in time for luncheon, having bought little.

La Raya,  small church  and a place for the local people to display handicraft


INTO PUNO
We finish this wonderful train ride in Puno a city on the edge of Lake Titicaca. Tomorrow we journey on the world's highest navigable lake. It was dark when we stepped off the train with its usual confusion of people and luggage, outside the station the inevitable line of tour buses. It started to rain, heavily, adding to the gloom. We were soon cheered up by a new tour guide; Tour Guide Sindy. 

Sunday, 24 November 2019

DAY 9 TUESDAY CUZCO ‘Asisto a misa a las 7 am’

I rose early to take Mass in the Cathedral. 
Siting inside by the main door with an official of the Cathedral, waiting for the 6:30 mass to finish. The organ boomed out as part of the service.
The official leaned over and said to me with a “Quechuan music”.  I had my voice recorder ready and so captured most of this lovely sound. It was curious sound, bouncy with a celebratory feel.

The cathedral of architectural confections


The mass, in Spanish, followed the conventions of the Rite so I was able to follow and enjoy the service. Afterwards, to the side of the High Altar, with the rest of the congregation, we gathered round the Priest, he waved his aspergilium over us dispensing a blessing of holy water. 

(Altitude sickness struck yesterday manifesting as a sleepless night and shortness of breath. I drink a lot cocoa leaf tea and move very slowly. 

Later in the day I visited the main square, made a drawing of the cathedral’s upper facade getting this Gothic-Renaissance-Baroque architectural ‘mash-up’ down on paper was a challenge.

Base camp for Jesuit Order’s colonisation
Adjacent to the Cathedral was the Jesuit Church. This was base camp for Jesuit Order’s colonisation Eastwards of here. Each settlement was marked with some remarkable architecture, a Baroque blow-out! 

This church in Cuzco, La Compañía de Jesus, was built in 1571 and rebuilt in after the earthquake of 1650. 
As the guide leaflet informs
‘They (the Jesuit architects) left behind the austerity and modesty and instead opted for the grandeur of the Baroque’.
Amen to that says I. Lovely gold and guilt dripped from every ledge, crevice and surface. The main altar is 21 by 12 meters wide, fashioned in wood and covered in gold leaf, it the largest alter piece in Peru.



I left the La Compañía de Jesus completely overawed and overlaying this experience with taking Mass in the morning, I was a little envious of this country’s disposition towards and manifestations of it’s Christianity.

Altitude sickness continues with loss of appetite added to my symptoms, forcing me to abandon most of my suppertime Pizza.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

DAY 8 MONDAY CARE OF CUZCO


Our hotel, which barely registered when we arrived at late last night, is now, in bathed morning sunshine splendid. It is the Aranwa Cuzco. I am luxuriating in the classical music over the sound system, and drinking my forth coffee as I hurriedly catches up on this writing.

Styled as Aranwa Boutique Hotel it is a former monastery with lovely wide corridors festooned with antiques and paintings.  There are chandeliers everywhere including a glorious monster-sized one in our room. Our bathroom is larger than our bedroom and dressed out in black marble, very louche.


The hotel was formerly the residence of an Arch Deacon who lived here when the cathedral was being built. In the various sitting rooms and corridors are so many paintings (C17, C18 and 19th) and pieces of furniture the hotel provides a map of their ‘museum’ and provide an audio guide!

MONDAY   CUZCO   STONES AND CROSSES
Cuzco was the flash point between the Inca and the Conquistador. The Spanish rode into the city and made short work (well, six months) of appropriating every ounce of gold and silver they could lay their hands on and thus the Inca were completely enslaved. 

The Dominicans built over the Inca Sun temple, the Koricancha. 
SUN TEMPLE WITH DOMINICAN ADDITIONS


This was one example of how Phillip of Spain and the Church of Rome established Christianity here in 1534, once and for good. Although the conquered Quechuan people put their own twist both on Christianity and its attendant art, this slight of hand most noticeable in the Cathedral.

PUCA PUCARA. 
Puca Pucara, in the hills high above Cuzco once served as a staging post (1200-1500) for Inca people travelling over the mountains and trails into the city. 

PUCA PUCARA


And less than ten minutes down the road is KENKO an Inca holy place. This second site is smaller and comprises a collection of huge boulders from which were fashions into a cave. Here it is supposed, that with the position of the sun and moon in the right place, sacrifices and mummifications were carried out. 

On the morning of our visit there was a traffic jam of tour groups. Their custodial guides shouting at one another to move on. I am happy to report that sacrifices took place that morning!

Again Cuzco is flypaper to the tourist, two million people visit the city each year. 
Further back into the city is SACSAYHUAMÁN where the Inca kings build a huge temple and fortress looking out over the city. 

SACSAYHUAMÁN


The stones from which this place is build are the height of three people, massive and immovable even by subsequent earthquakes.  Here the Inca made their last stand against the Conquistadors and lost.

DELIGHTFUL DOORWAY  CUZCO
Down into the city again and our last stop was the Cathedral. Here is where the Spanish brought to bear every device of art and craft to the glory of God and Rome.  The facade is an omelette of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque served with a local twist.