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. 

Friday, 22 November 2019

DAY 7 SUNDAY DEFEATED BY MACCU PHICU


In the breakfast room the piped music featured ‘50’s Bossa Nova tunes. This was entirely appropriate as a large party of Japanese elderlies shimmied around the central buffet table monopolizing everything on offer.

After breakfast we enjoyed another perilous bus trip back up to MP. The girls made a triumphant walk all the way up to the Sun Gate, which sits high up above the main site. It was a three-hour walk of some nine kilometres, a triumph!

Planning to stay on the lower levels whilst they did their big walk, I barely entered Machu P before the darkness of my fear of heights forced my return back through the turnstile. I gazed down at the crowd entering and exiting, all of them salivating over their iPhone pictures. I nursed my shame over a coffee in the cafe looking out on the mountains surrounding me. One drawing made.


The Girls returned back from their great trek at 11:30 and we were back down in Aguas Calintes by noon. Everyone was hungry. We dived into a place with a grandstand view of Day Two’s mountain bike racing through the streets. I had a ‘Machu Picchu’ piazza.

For several hours we lolled in the hotel lobby. Everyone else seemed to be getting a train out of Aguas Calintes this afternoon. Ours is at 16:43 to CUZCO, well one stop just before Cuzco; Poray station, which is closer to our hotel. 

Thursday, 21 November 2019

DAY 6 SATURDAY TOWARDS MACHU PICCHU

We caught the 0730 train from Ollantaytambo and had a lovely journey to Aguas Calintes. This small town sits in the Urubamba River Valley. It’s known for its thermal baths and as a gateway to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Today is Sian’s birthday so the first celebratory cake was served in the hotel breakfast room at 6:30am with the waiters gathering round to sing Happy Birthday; the cake was excellent. 

AT THE STATION

Every member of Peru Rail appeared very well turned out in dark uniforms with gold piping, white shirts and gold ties and shinny black shoes. As we waited for our train elderly male tourists with incredibly large cameras chased up and down the platform photographing the trains as they came and went.

During the journey there were nice safety announcements and information about where we were on the route and jolly Peruvian music helped us along. Sixty minutes into our journey the surrounding country changed. Jungle reared up on side of the train, with mists, huge creepers, ferns, giant tree roots and all manner of green leaves. Occasionally a sheer rock face peered into our carriage. 

MACHU PICCHU


ASSULT ON MACHU PICCHU
Four to six thousand people visit this site each day. Curiously the Spanish Conquistadors gave it a wide birth. Today’s tourists don’t. Every nation is represented, ladened with bags, poles. They jabber in loud voices, swarming over this remarkable site, which was only discovered in 1910. It is over discovered now. 

LAND OF THE SELFIE MAKERS


We had packed into buses to take us up from Aguas Calientes. The bus ride was a precarious experience. At the top, once through the turnstiles of Machu Picchu with Tour Guide Alex there was a lot to discover. He explained the history and culture of this Inca city and settlement. Although I made two drawings (to my surprise) my acrophobia kicks in almost immediately and Tour Guide Alex often has to help me round most paths and bends. 

ANOTHER CAKE
The El Mapi Hotel was eco-chic affair with piped music in the lobby, Andean Pipes of course. In our room was a second birthday cake for Sian with a bottle of Malbec from the Valle Del Sol.  The wine was consumed with a good dinner and yes, at the end of the meal, another birthday cake for Sian. Again this was served with disconsolate waiters in attendance. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

PERU: DAY 5 FRIDAY DEEPER INTO THE SACRED VALLEY


Tour Guide Vitoria scoops up from reception and we spend sometime sorting our tickets out for Machu Picchu (the train, bus and the entrance tickets to this celebrated site!)

Then we are off along the valley, parallel to the River Vilcanota. And after sixty minutes through small towns and villages and fields proudly showing crops of maize we go up an almost vertical road to the Pisac ruins. This is an Inca site evidenced of their terracing and ‘town planning’. 

Pisac -  Inca Town Planning


Pisac Market: We met the mayor too
Sadly about twenty other tour buses had beaten us to it. So we sensibly turned off the track at a lower level and looked towards the site. Pisac was an early skirmish with the hoards of tourism; the real battles were to follow in the next two days. The girls walked a little way to explore the lower ruins. I sat and drew. 

Looking at the mountains, for the briefest of moments, I felt very close to them and God. As I write this I am tearful at the recall and I will hold this moment for always. It was my first brush with the spirituality of this country.

We returned to our hotel, the swish Casa Andina, via the village of Pisac. We wandered round the village’s market there and had our picture taken with the mayor whose stall in the market square was promoting something or other. 


The rest of day was spent at the hotel. B feed the llamas in the hotel grounds and I saw my first humming bird. We made a light supper ready for an early departure the next day.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

DAY 4 PT 2 INTO THE SCARED VALLEY WITH DOMINGO

The day was characterised by motion as well as mountain sickness, thanks in part to Big D’s driving. Added to which my dread of heights and the vertiginous roadsides made sight seeing a test.
Falcon's Rest and a rest for us too!


Falcons’ View was our first stop for a view, 12,800 feet above sea level. And it was extraordinary to contemplate, for a moment, the magnificence of these wonderful mountains several of which were capped by cloud. I made a quick drawing and we were off again!  ‘Hey ho Domingo!’ 

THE SALT MINES OF MARAS
Though not underground these comprise about four thousand pans through which water flows and is dammed. I stayed on the bus; the others got out, looked down and took pictures it must have been a thousand feet drop. The salt is supposedly the best in the world, much of which is exported to Japan.

MORAY 
The botanical circles of Moray were a curious place.  Set in a valley, it is a series of concentric terraces. Built by the Inca people to cultivate crops and see how they grew at certain heights and in certain growing conditions and soils. This was, I suppose, a sort of 12th century crop research institute. I of course was careful not to get to close to the edge of the viewing platform.
Inca crop research station


All around us now was a warm and softer landscape and a very fertile looking soil, a deep red-brown. Wonderful fields and trees shaped by the wind. And everywhere is the protective circle of the Andes.

OLLANTAYTAMBO 
Tourists, how do they do it?

Ollantaytambo is a village in the Sacred Valley set on the Urubamba River. We are now in the south Peru. It is oldest Inca settlement and on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. The site sits above the small town. The narrow streets of the town are infested by tourism. Heaven knows what it will be like a few years from now. There were huge coaches in the narrow streets marshaled by a curious traffic control system: This operated by policemen brandishing ‘stop’ and ‘go’ signs, somehow they make it work. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

DAY 4 THURSDAY LEAVING LIMA, HELLO CUSCO


A typical airport check in....




At 06:15am, yes, in the morning! Tour Guide Desi and our driver collected us from the cavernous hotel lobby. Many other people were camped there already, distinguished by their anxious expressions and gigantic suitcases. They were waiting to board a big coach.

On the way to the airport Desi repeated her altitude sickness guidelines:
1.     Drink lots of water
2.     Eat lots of glucose sweets
3.     Avoid too many stairs – I don’t have a problem here
4.     Avoid too much pork or beef – Easy for her to say
5.     Eat lots of vegetables - I suppose so
6.     Avoid alcohol on your first day – I am sorry - impossible
7.     In case of the need to be sick inform your local tour guide

Desi told us that several years ago there were only some five hundred visitors a year to Cusco, now 400,000 visit each year.  Most these people were, this morning, in the airport terminal building.  No stranger to busy airport terminals I was mighty glad to have Tour Guide Desi shepherding us through to check-in and departures.  

(I checked later: It is estimated that around 1.5 million tourists visit Cusco every year, Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco have become the main tourist attractions in Peru and one of the most visited in South America.) 

On our flight everyone was chewing or sucking furiously on sweets and confectionary shaped like coffee beans. I felt vulnerable as I packed my prayer book in my suitcase, which I checked in to the aircraft’s hold. 

LANDING AT CUZCO 
Cuzco is 11,150 feet above sea level. Sunshine and heat bore down as we crossed the terminal car park to our minibus with our new handler, Tour Guide Vitoria. Off we sped through streets of Cuzco. Our driver, Domingo, immediately applied his casual approach to fellow road users. This continued for another seven hours. Whether the road was narrow or wide, on coming traffic or no, there was one speed, ‘breakneck’.


The day was characterised by motion as well as mountain sickness, thanks in part to Big D’s driving. Added to which my dread of heights and the vertiginous roadsides made sight seeing a test.

Monday, 11 November 2019

DAY 3 WEDNESDAY JUST UP THE ROAD, THE SECOND OLDEST CIVILISATION IN THE WORL


If you want to see the second earliest civilisation in the world you have to endure a little pain - ‘the traffic’ in the five-hour drive to Caral. We traveled through Lima, northwards past various industrial wastelands, sometimes along the Pacific coast and broad plains

Remarkable pyramidal buildings
Caral was a large settlement in the Supe Valley, some 200 kilometres north of Lima. Caral is the most ancient city of the Americas and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. Source: Wikipedia

THE CITY OF CARAL
This civilisation was established 3000 years back. What remains still nestles in a valley of the River Supe and protected by the lower Andes Mountains.  Caral now contains six pyramids and attendant buildings and pathways. The sun was high as we arrived.

Not a soul about apart from us and the archaeologists 
Caral is extraordinary and there was not a soul about, aside from us and several small groups of archaeologists. These were busy discovering things or preparing to discover more things. One was busy mapping a part of the site making marks on a large drawing board. 
Hey, that’s my job sunshine! I thought.

Peaceful, peaceful and at one end of this sixty-eight hectare miracle was a small shelter from the sun. Here we looked westwards out across the valley. We could see in the distance several other smaller archeological sites; there are over twenty sites close by all of the same period. This was construction on a big scale; these pyramids were built for administration, entertainment rather than for entombment. Sacrifices were made of vegetables honoring the Gods for the plenteousness of the Supe valley.  
All the time, high sun, breezes, bird song and the occasion tap tap of an archeologist’s trowel made Caral so very special.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

DAY 2: TUESDAY LIMA - SAND MUD GOLD AND SILVER

Up towards the The Temple of the Sun

Our minivan did its very best to cut through the local traffic. An hour after leaving the hotel we looked out onto a vast stretch of sand and adobe brick. This was the site of Pachacamac.

Pachacamac is an archaeological site 40 kilometres southeast of Lima, in the Valley of the Lurín River. The site was first settled around A.D. 200 and was named after the "Earth Maker" creator god, Pacha Kamaq. Source: Wikipedia

As a prelude to the walking around the site we visited the museum. This was full of exquisite pieces, textiles, ceramics and devices and tools for building. A instrument for making measures to cut the bricks for building was series of knotted cords all attached to a longer cord so as to resemble a necklace.  Just as efficient as a rule and as easy to carry.



Pachacarmac Museum; Friendly faces
This is pre-Inca Peru although the Incas did turn up eventually in 1400 AD. They came away impressed and let the locals’ get on with it. (The Inca’s of course had their hands full turning the Cuzco area into a World Heritage Site, for us to visit on Thursday.)

Pachacamac was remarkable, especially when looking towards the Sun Temple high on a ridge.

We repeated the chariot race back into the city. The route ran parallel to the coast, past swamps and low scrub and marsh, then the outskirts of Lima. By the roadside small shops, car washes and repair shops marked our way back into the city and the Larco Museum.



THE LARCO MUSEUM: THE HOUSE OF TREASURE. 
Our time at this museum was piteously short, a regret that will last. What we did see were important statutes, masks and funeral attire in textiles, silver and gold. The memory of these will outlast the regrets. These riches were created 1AD through to and including the Inca period ending 1533 with the Spanish Invasion.

A word to the wise; spend a lot of time in the Larco Museum, it is a world-class museum and is free from the rowdy crowds in the British Museum, Prado or the Louvre.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

DAY 1: MORE OF LIMA

The splendid churches 


Each church vied with one another to be more splendid, and determined not to be out done in the application of every shade of gold, bronze and silver. Statutes gazed heavenwards, or down upon us miserable sinners, strewn with lights, fresh flowers and candles at their feet.

Rest stop from cathedralling
Underneath the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, dedicated to St John, Apostle and Evangelist, we saw the bones and shrouds of the dead. Burying people under churches was common practise until the mid nineteenth; while the clergy were given coffins, the rest of us were just laid in earthen graves.

Traipsing around streets we saw Baroque standing shoulder to shoulder with French and Spanish Colonial, Gothic and Classical pastiche and occasionally a delight of Art Deco!

Our hotel is in Miraflores district, modern and populated by tall buildings, which look empty. However the area was not unattractive and round the corner from the hotel is a Starbucks serving great coffee. Our greatest find is a 24-hour supermarket called Metro. This is world-class emporium with its first floor delicacies of fresh produce, a bakery; meat counters displayed a dazzling array of pork and beef products.

Our journey with food reached a pinnacle in the evening, eating at Panchita. Only five minutes from the hotel. Quite wonderful, fish, beef, and for me pork tenderloin, all served with charm. Every permutation of cooking was on the menu, grills stews, roasts, mashed, spiced, very spiced, totally spiced. Each of our choices was bang on the money. Word to the wise, portion size was humungous! None of us finished our choices, yet plates were cleared from the table with a smile and a flourish. 

The Mercy Church: The service is about to begin 
The hotel, Jose Antonio Deluxe where we checked in on Sunday and leave on Thursday is very good. Much marble and trendy chairs, frequently large parties of tourists drift through like nomads, each with impossibly large suitcases.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

A VERY PERUVIAN ADVENTURE: PREFACE


Journey Map
In October Siân enjoyed a significant birthday. She sponsored our Peruvian escapade. She, I and Megan and Bronnie travelled some three thousand kilometres, one thousand nine hundred miles, by plan train and automobile and boat.   We were in this remarkable country for twelve days. We started in Lima, arriving one Sunday evening by air 6,316 miles. Our experiences will be celebrated for a long time.
This story is told in parts across the coming weeks 

DAY 1: MONDAY LIMA CITY OF KINGS
We had planned a tour of old Lima, the city centre, with Antonio, the first of several guides. Once the Spanish had settled in Lima in the early 1500’s there was a frenzy of church building. The Inca’s had their Sun God. He had to move over for Jesus. Rome’s God was in and has remained so. Over 80% of Peru is practising Roman Catholic. In Lima the result of all this church building was a clutch of Baroque lovelies. These we devotedly visited under the direction of our dear Tour Guide Antonio. 

Our first church - across from Starbucks