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