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Trip Report Barb and Margee's Peruvian Escapade

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We are two gals who have been friends going on 20 years. We both love to travel and after going on an enjoyable tour to China together in 2008 we decided we would plan our own adventure to Peru. The planning started over a year ago. I find the planning and research to be almost as much fun as the trip. I read many guide books, spent hours on the internet and gleamed valuable advice from other travelers on Fodor’s.

Slowly the itinerary started to come together. We decided on a 24 day trip primarily so we could see pretty much everything we wanted to see. Also, Margee is a school teacher so we had to plan the trip for one of her off track months. We had the choice of March, July or November. I have another trip planned for July and November encroaches on the holidays so we decided on March and hoped for decent weather. Unfortunately, the weather in January cancelled our excursion to Machu Pichu but we decided not to cancel the trip as we had so many other great places to visit and adventures to go on.

I took an Iphone with me and each day we tried to make a recording of what we had seen and done. Some days we were really good about it and some days not so good! I am going to transcribe the recordings and post them as fast as I can go. I will also provide the names of the hotels/hostels we stayed at as well as the tour companies we used for various portions of the trip.

To start with, we decided to travel light with backpacks. It turned out to be a good decision as it kept our shopping to a controllable limit! I know folks are always interested in what other people pack and if they would make changes on the next trip. We decided to limit our initial pack weight to about 22 pounds. Here is what I took.


1 pair low top hiking boots
1 pair casual shoes
1 Marmot lightweight, waterproof rain jacket
1 pair rain pants
1 mid weight fleece jacket
1 light weight fleece top
3 pairs of travel pants
1 pair of Capri’s (Margee took three pairs of pants including two zip off pants but I couldn’t find any zip off’s I liked.)
1 swimsuit
1 pair long underwear bottoms
4 short sleeve tops (used one for sleeping)
3 long sleeve tops
5 unders/5 socks
1 hat
Typical toiletries and medications
Camera and accessories
Small binoculars
Iphone
Small Rick Steves bag to bring home our purchases
1 tour guide – only sections we needed
1 book for pleasure reading

I did not need the casual shoes but we were lucky that our feet never got wet. I could have left the rain pants at home as I never used them. Other than that, maybe a couple more pairs of unders/socks would have been nice so that I didn’t have to do sink laundry so often. I bought a knit hat which came in handy.

Here is our itinerary in a nut shell:

March 8 – Fly from Sacramento to Lima
March 9 – Tour Lima
March 10 – Paracas
March 11 – Isla Ballestas and El Huacachina
March 12 – Ica and Nazca
March 13 – Nazca
March 14 – Arequipa
March 15 and 16 – Colca Canyon
March 17 – Puno
March 18 - Uros – Amantani
March 19 – Taquille and Puno
March 20 – Cusco
March 21 – Pisac ruins and market
March 22 – Maras and Salineras
March 23 – Ollantaytambo
March 24 – Urubamba and Huilloc
March 25 – Cusco
March 26 – Cusco
March 27 to 30 – Amazon
March 31 – Lima and home

Next post : On our way!

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    March 8, 2010 On our way

    Today is the day we go! Margee, my husband Tom, and I all got up at 3:00 am as we had a 6:00 am flight out of Sacramento. We drove the 6 houses down the street to Margee’s and found her front door wide open, the back pack leaning up against the door jam and Margee ready and waiting to go. Tom drove us to the airport and basically dropped us at the curb. I think he was in a hurry to get back home for a few more hours of shut eye!

    We had decided to carry backpacks on this trip and even though we had measured, weighed and prayed, we were a bit worried that Delta would make us check them. We were confident that they met the size and weight requirements but backpacks are a bit awkward no matter how much you cinch them down. We want to carry them on going to Peru, and check them coming home.

    We handed over our boarding passes and were immediately directed to stand aside. Oh boy, here go the packs into the luggage compartment. We waited until everyone was boarded and finally, after reviewing our passports with great detail we were allowed to board. I was starting to think that Margee was listed on Interpol and I would witness her being dragged off for a more thorough body search. It was our lucky day, our passports checked out and we were allowed to continue on with our backpacks.

    Well, being the last ones onto the plane means finding empty overhead bin space is quite a challenge. We did a bit of rearranging and politely explained to one gentleman, “I am sorry sir, your coat doesn’t need to take up 2/3 of this bin, if you don’t mind we are just going to move it over a little bit.” In went the packs, they fit perfectly and were light enough that we could handle them without dropping them on the poor gentlemen sitting below our frantic activity.

    We settled into our seats and hoped for a nice cup of coffee to start the day. We settled for juice and cookies as the plane had no hot water.

    In what seemed to be a blink of an eye, we arrived in Salt Lake City. We trotted down a few gates and sat down to wait. It was not a long wait. The attendants called out that they were boarding zone 4 and Margee heads to the gate. I am double checking my boarding pass because I thought we were in zone 3. Margee is zone jumping! She blends in with a large group and hands over her pass, stating “I’m with them” and as she heads down the ramp she looks back at me and tells me to catch up. Just then they announce zone 3 is boarding so I now I don’t feel so guilty.

    We both slept most of this leg of the trip and arrived in Atlanta feeling drowsy and caffeine starved. We had to take the train to another terminal and I was obviously in the way of a bunch of folks who wanted to get off. I commented to Margee that I wasn’t going anywhere as I stepped off the train and out of the way. I guess she didn’t really hear me because her eyes got big as saucers. I got back on the train and she stuck to me like glue until we got onto the plane.

    We got on the next flight to Lima without any hitches. I think we are starting to get the hang of it. As a settled into our seats we watched a Peruvian flight attendant run up and down the aisle, snapping her fingers at passengers who are not getting into their seats fast enough for her. I have never seen anything like it. We flew Korean Air not to long ago and everyone was quiet and serene. Delta was like a free for all.

    So we are on our third flight of the day and Delta decides they are going to feed us something besides cookies. The finger snapping flight attendant comes by with the cart and offers pasta or chicken. Margee asks “how is the chicken cooked?” Finger snapper holds up the cellophane package and pokes at it with her finger and says “it’s cooked like that”. That’s enough for both of us to decide on the pasta. The flight attendant leans over and quietly tells us “good choice”.

    Margee tried to watch the movie “Precious” but was sound asleep before it started. I knew I would not make it through a movie so I turned on a 20 minute Amazon cooking show. After watching, I have decided I may be really hungry for the 4 days we spend in the Amazon!

    We arrive in Lima, grab our bags and head out. There is a huge crowd of people, many of them holding signs. I am searching for our names and finally find Renato from Taxi Lima Peru waiting on us. He escorted us out of the airport and asked that we wait on the curb while he paid for parking. His car looks great on the outside; in fact it looked just like the picture on the internet. It was funny though because the right side of the windshield was covered with insurance stickers and inside was many, many garage door openers and a collection of sun glasses.

    He pulled up in front of our hotel and we discussed what time he would pick us up in the morning for our city tour. He rang the bell on the gate and we were admitted to the lovely Hotel Antigua Miraflores ($94.00 per night). Check in was quick and easy and we soon hit the sack in anticipation of our day in Lima.

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    March 9, 2010 Lovely Lima

    Today is our first full day in Peru and we are going on a Lima City tour with Renato from Taxi Lima Peru. We both wake up at 9:30 which was kind of late but we didn’t hit the sack until after 1:00 am so I didn’t feel to decadent. We decided that Margee would shower first and I will shower second. She is a bit slower in the morning than me so I luck out and get to sleep in longer.

    Renato asked us to eat light this morning as he has a nice place he wants to take us for lunch. We find the lovely breakfast room and select a nice table in the sunshine. We order our breakfast and quickly the waitress brings a tray full of items including a big carafe of what we hoped was coffee. I poured some into my cup only to find hot water. OK, what do I do with a quarter cup of hot water? Dump it into the nearby plant that’s what. Now we are looking around the table for instant coffee or another carafe and instead find a little pitcher with thick, black, rich coffee in it. Next to it was another pitcher with hot milk. Works for us, mix up a little coffee and a little hot milk, add some sugar and we were in coffee heaven. I quickly found out that coffee is necessary in order for Margee to have good will towards her travel buddy and the world at large. I had a roll with butter and jam and Margee had banana and granola. They served her a glass of thick white stuff that she was swirling around with her spoon and she commented that she didn’t think she could handle milk this thick. I wondered if it was yogurt (I hope its yogurt), and it was. In fact it was really good yogurt.

    There were two business men who sat down at a table RIGHT next to us and started up a conversation in LOUD voices about the architectural plans spread out in front of them. The breakfast room is quite a large room and we were the only other folks sitting there. We decided they wanted to enjoy the nice sunshine also. If they had been my kids I would have told them to use their indoor voices to talk.

    We have a little time before Renato shows up so we decide to track down an ATM machine. We ask at the reception desk and the nice lady pulled out a map, circled where the hotel was and circled the closest ATM machine. We have 15 minutes so if we hustle we will make it back in time. Down a couple of blocks, right hand turn and there it was. The maximum we could withdraw at one time was 700 Sols, or approximately $240.00. We get back to the hotel and Renato is waiting, but he just pulled up in his car so it was good timing.

    We hop into the car, Margee encouraging me to sit in front. This will prove to be a mistake later in the day. Renato drive us through lovely Miraflores and along the ocean where we stopped at the Parque del los Ninos which is a great park with terrific children’s playgrounds, dog park, and walking and jogging paths. I wish I lived near a park that nice, I would spend all my free time there. We also went to the beautiful Parque de las Lineas de Nazca. The gardeners have planted flower beds that replicate some of the Nazca lines such as the Condor and Monkey. Next we went to Parque del Amor where I appreciated the beautiful tiled benches. Lovers congregate at Parque del Armor on Valentine’s day and get married in a group ceremony by a priest. What an economical way to get married! A quick stop at Larcomar Mall just to see how the upper crust shops and we headed out for lunch.

    Lunch was at the Rustica Buffet in Barrano. It was a great introduction to Peruvian cuisine. We parked the car on the street, and Renato tipped a gentleman standing nearby. Evidently, Renato paid him to keep an eye on the car. When we got back after lunch, the car had been washed.

    We got to the restaurant just as they were setting the piping hot dishes out on the food warmers and the cold dishes were still chilly from the refrigerator. Renato explained each dish to us, pointing out his favorites. I really enjoyed the ceviche, stuffed potatoes, rice with cilantro, and the various meat dishes. There were so many things to try that I could only eat the tiniest bit of each. The beverage of choice is Chicha Morada, a Peruvian beverage made out of purple corn. The Chicha Morada reminded me of Welch’s grape juice. They first brought out just a taste so we could try it, then they brought out a chilled carafe for us to share. Dessert was Arroz con Leche, yummy!

    We did a little walking after lunch and saw the Bibliotheca de Barrano, and Monumente de Chabuca Granda y el Caballo de Paso Peruano.

    Next we went to Chorrrillos and stopped at a fishing pier. Once again Renato paid to have the car watched and of course they washed it, again. This was great fun and I enjoyed the local color! The fisherman had set up tables to sell their fresh fish, crab, and octopus. As we walked out to the pier, a gentleman was talking non-stop with Renato. I didn’t understand what was going on but Margee figured out that he wanted to take us out on a boat ride and was trying to talk Renato into it. Renato got rid of the guy by telling him we just got off a cruise ship!

    You could rent a hook and line to fish off of the pier if you wanted to. There were many young people out there fishing for their dinner, some were catching and some were not. They would toss the hook and line over the rail and when they had a bit they would snap it and try to hook the fish.

    There were several cevicheria or cebicheria restaurants next to the pier. We couldn’t figure out why the difference in the spelling from one restaurant to the next.

    Back in the very clean car, we drove by the Stations of the Cross. Margee REALLY wanted us to stop the car so she could get out and walk the Stations of the Cross but Renato said we had too many things to see to wait on her. LOL! We get to the top of the mountain and stop to see the Cruz Luminosa de Chorrillos. We enjoyed the beautiful outdoor chapel and the statue of the dog, cat and mouse that had to share one meal a day.

    As we drove back down the mountain, Renato told us that even thought the people did not have much money; they knew how to have fun. Then he showed us a pool table on the roof of a house. He pointed out that between the road and the ocean was the most exclusive area of Lima with beautiful beaches, expensive boats, swimming pools and huge homes. On the other side of the road was a shanty town where a lot of construction workers live. They bring home left over building materials and that’s what they use to build their houses.

    Up until now, we had been going at a nice relaxing pace. The traffic was non-existent and everything was calm. That was all about to end. It was time to head to Central Lima! The closer we got to central Lima the more traffic there was. It was total chaos. I don’t think they have traffic laws in Peru, only traffic suggestions that all the drivers appear to ignore. I was sitting in the front seat, white knuckled. Margee was in the back seat with her eyes closed Renato was not the same driver as he had been before. He turned into a driving maniac just like all the rest of the drivers. He said “they know what I am going to do and I know what they are going to do”. Well, all I know is that I can’t watch what any of you are doing!

    Amazingly enough we arrived in one piece and Renato parked the car and paid for it to be watched again. Yes, it was washed again. We saw the Plaza de Armas and the beautiful balconies and the Cathedral. Renato said to poke our heads inside the church and look quickly. Margee ran interference with the ticket seller while I had a 60 second look. Thanks Margee!

    There was a group of policemen on duty holding riot shields and we walk over to take pictures of them. Margee asks in her rapid fire Spanish if we can take pictures of them. Evidently they said yes because she jumps right into the thick of it. One of them puts his arm around her and they close ranks a little bit and I got a nice picture of them. Ok Margee, move over, it’s my turn to hang with the hunks! I think they got a bigger kick out of it then we did.

    Then we went to Convento y Museo de San Franciso and the Catacombs. We had a guide who took us through the catacombs and unfortunately I could not understand what he said so I tuned him out and just “enjoyed” the experience of seeing the bones of 75,000 people! They had boxes of leg bones, boxes of hip bones, boxes of skulls. Well, you get the idea. I have a short attention span for museums and this pushed me to my limit.

    On our way out, we are standing in front of the post card rack (no photography allowed) looking for pictures of bones. It dawns on me that we did not see the painting of the “Last Supper” Peruvian style where they were serving guinea pig. We asked about the painting and were told they were having a special event so this room was closed.

    Renato asked us what we would do if we served a guinea pig with a tail. We decided we would not eat it. Then he asked what we would do if it didn’t have a tail. Now we have to think about it and we decided we would probably not be eating guinea pig or rat as the case may be. It was very funny!

    We are walking out of the church and the courtyard is swarming with pigeons. There is a little boy having so much fun chasing them that I patiently wait with my camera hoping for a good picture. Patience paid off. A man sitting on the steps grinned broadly at me after I took the picture; I think it must have been dad.

    We walked through the shoe shinning plaza but we were getting tired at this point, and it is just a blur. We also say Pizarro’s statue, hidden away in the trees. Who wants a statue of your conqueror. From there we went to the arts & crafts area where an entertainer was performing the scissors dance, doing backward somersaults with scissors in his hands.

    We walked through the post office area where there were dozens of little booths selling cards and stationary. Very convenient if you need to mail it. The sidewalk had large metal grates in it. Margee stepped on one and it moved. All three of us sidestepped and jumped over the silly grates all the way down the street. Renato said oh they are safe, but he walked around them also.

    Back at the car, I get back in the front seat. Margee gets in the back and closes her eyes. I get in the front and say a little prayer. It was so frightening. We finally get back to calmer Miraflores and Margee and I are talking about our dinner plans. Renato asks if we want to go back to the hotel and change our clothes. We both laugh at that, we are already wearing the best stuff we brought with us, it will have to do . He shows us on the map how to walk back to the hotel and we settle up our bill with him and he drops us off at Astrid y Gaston’s for dinner.

    Right next door to the restaurant is a guitar shop. Well, how convenient is this. Margee goes in and orders a custom made Cuatro Venezolano guitar with case for her boyfriend, Mario. The proprietor says it will be ready to pick up in 20 days. We hope so because she had to pay 50% down and we don’t have much wiggle room in our itinerary. She doesn’t have any idea of what she has ordered or how big it is. Hopefully it will be ready when we get back to Lima, that it will be small enough to carry onto the plane and it is what Mario wants.

    Dinner was interesting. I think we were a bit early for dinner as there were more men cooking and men in suits standing around waiting then there were customers. We ordered our food and then waited…..a long time. We ordered Pisco Sours and the waiter told us we should order something else to drink, so we did. I am not sure what we got, but it was tasty. We ordered stuffed rococo peppers, a spicy scallop dish and a potato appetizer. The bread basket was good and came with three different dipping sauces.

    Margee wanted coffee after dinner. I think they sent someone to Starbucks for it. It took forever to come out and when it did they served it with a little bowl of whipped cream. She enjoyed it so it was worth the wait. Then they brought out a complimentary chocolate dessert. This was our fancy meal for the trip. We both wished we had been better dressed and that we had gone later in the evening but we did enjoy the food.

    We walk back to the hotel past Kennedy Park. Many people were out walking and stores were still open. It was a very pleasant way to end our hustle, bustle day. Back at the hotel we decide we have to get up at 5:15 in the morning to get to the bus in time. Tomorrow we go to Paracas. We are laughing that the recording is 32 minutes long and that it will take me hours to transcribe, and it has!

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    Hi Barb-I am enjoying your report and look forward to more. We are leaving for Peru on May 20, so hopefully your report will be done by then, as I am interested in your comments on Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

    I have a couple of questions regarding Lima, as we will be there for 3 days. How did you book Renato? Would you recommend him. What was the cost? day? We want to hire a taxi for the day to see what you saw in the morning, but thought we could do Lima central sites on our own by foot with a guidebook. What do you think? Did you feel safe walking around Lima on your own? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
    Shelley

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    We contacted Renato through his website: http://taxilimaperu.com/

    I filled in "Complete a Quote" and within 30 minutes he was on the phone with me! He has a San Francisco phone number. We spent about 8 hours with him and the cost was $90.00 for the two of us. We also bought him lunch and gave him a tip. It was money well spent as he spoke English very well, was entertaining and very informative. I am sure that you can arrange any kind of tour you would like with him. He also picked us up at the airport when we arrived at midnight. That was terrific as we didn't have to worry about how we would get to the hotel that late at night after flying all day. I think you would be fine in central Lima by yourselves with a guidebook. In fact, if we had scheduled more time in Lima we would have done just that but we were on a one day blitz and the tour worked great for us.

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    March 10, 2010 Paracas

    We are leaving Lima today and are travelling to Paracas. We got up before the crack of dawn because we want to be at the Cruz Del Sur bus station by 6:30 am, the bus leaves at 7:00 am. www.cruzdelsur.com.pe. The bus ride takes 3 ½ hours so we will arrive in Paracas about 10:30am.

    The taxi driver was scheduled to pick us up shortly so we quickly ran into the breakfast room to power down some coffee. We each ate a roll and said goodbye the nice girls at the front desk. They were very pleasant, extremely helpful and the hotel is very nice. Hotel Antiqua Miraflores www.peru-hotels-inns.com/index.htm $94.00 for two of us.

    The taxi ride was short and in quick order we were at the bus station. It is very modern and bustling. As you walk in there is an information desk so Margee asked what we needed to do to buy tickets and the gal looked it up on the computer and told us how much the tickets would be. She directed us to another podium where we obtained a number. There were some empty chairs so we sat down to wait for our number to be called. It did not take long and went up to the counter and told the lady where we wanted to go. We had to pull out our passports again and she got all of our information. Then she turned the computer screen towards us and asked where we wanted to sit. We select seats 13 and 14 which cost us 55 sols each.

    As we walked away, happy we have tickets in hand, Margee turns to me and says she heard her name being called over the loud speaker. OMG, Interpol has tracked her down again! She asked a guard why she was being called and evidently it was just time for us board the bus. The guard said we had to check our backpacks and directed us to a counter. It was total chaos, there were a dozen unhappy people standing around with luggage while the employee worked with a gentleman who was shipping a large quantity of packages somewhere.

    Margee and I had the same thought that if we hand our backpacks to this guy, they will get left behind. The bus was loading so we walk over to the gate and ask if we can carry them on. A security guard wands us and the bags but the check in guy says no we can’t carry them on. Margee explains in Spanish that we don’t want to leave our bags at the luggage counter because it is a chaotic mess. They discussed it back and forth, and Margee prevailed. We were instructed to board the bus and look around to see if there was anyplace to put our bags. I was ready to keep it on my lap the whole trip but right across the aisle there was an empty space behind two seats in front of the stairway bulkhead and they slipped in there perfectly. Yeah!

    They brought us a snack box of bakery goods. I ate the chocolate cupcake and that was it. Margee didn’t eat any of it. Then they turned on a movie. I don’t know the name of it but it was definitely a budget film and turned up way to loud. I am sure the people three buses behind us could hear it. Margee listens to her iPod and I just go into denial.

    I watch the scenery go by and am struck by how poor the people are. The area is rocky, sandy and very desolate. The folks live in 8X4 woven reed houses with no running water or electricity. I am not sure where they can even get water it is so dry that nothing is growing.

    We arrive in Paracas at a cute little bus station. We jump off the bus and hope to see a sign with our name on it. Martha from Hostel Refugio del Pirata said she would send someone to pick us up. No web-site, email refugiodelpirata@hotmail.com. Scroll down on this web-site for a picture: http://www.paracas.com/turismo/servicios-turisticos/hoteles/index.php

    Finally a taxi driver walks by with an upside down sign with our names on it. Here’s our ride. We get a nice view of the town and the fishing port and five minutes later we are at the hostel chatting with Martha.

    Actually, Margee is chatting with Martha as she speaks no English. As a side note, I worked out a scheme to communicate with Martha over the internet. I would type what I wanted to ask her into BING translator, translate my English into Spanish then cut and past into an email. I would do the reverse when I received an email back from her. It was not a perfect system but it worked well enough as we had a reservation and they picked us up!

    Martha had our whole schedule worked our according to our requests. We have a half hour to go to our room, drop off our stuff and get ready to go on our guided tour of Reserva Nacional de Paracas and Museo Julio C Tello. We did just as she said, ran back downstairs into a little store to by water and were ready when we were supposed to be. She introduced us to our guide (I can’t remember his name) and they walked us over to a van. There is obviously a problem as it is packed with people and there is not enough room for two more. They had an unexpected rider get on the bus, a local person who wanted a ride part way. I think Martha stood up for us as they soon had another car for us. They grabbed another American named Donald, and his Lima friend Teo, out of the bus and they joined us in the car. So we are much more comfortable as we follow along behind the bus.

    The Reserve is nothing but huge expanses of sand dunes. They were desolate and beautiful at the same time. It almost looked like a moonscape. We stopped at one point and the guide showed us 45 million year old fossils. Then we drove up and down the coast line stopping at different spots for the perfect Kodak moments. The guide pointed out the cathedral which was an arch that collapsed in the last earthquake. There was a display that showed what it used to look like and you could see the tremendous change.

    For lunch they took us to a fishing village that had several restaurants. We get out of the car in front of a restaurant and we are surrounded by pelicans. A man is trying to chase them away but it only makes them crazier. We are trying not to get run over by crazy pelicans and are trying to get into the restaurant and it’s an absolutely amazing experience.

    We invited a gal from French Guiana, who we had previously met on the Cruz Del Sur bus, to join us for lunch along with Donald, Teo, and an American guy we nicknamed Florida guy. Margee ordered ceviche and fried fish. I ordered fish soup and we both had Inca Cola. It is bright yellow and tastes similar to Mountain Dew. After we ate, we had plenty of time to wander around. We took lots of pictures of the now calm pelicans and of the fisherman lounging on their boats.

    The ladies room was quite a treat. Of course, you had to pay the man sitting outside and he handed us a few squares of tissue. There were nice sinks to wash your hands in but no running water. The man came running inside with a big bottle of water and held it over our hands and poured water over them as we “washed” them in the sink. Talk about service! Good thing this kind of stuff doesn’t bother us.

    After this we went to the local museum that had displays of the local fauna and flora. I was much more interested in the live critter on the wall. A foot long lizard!

    From there we headed back to town and Martha is waiting for us to go over the rest of our itinerary. We are going to the Isla Ballestas the next morning then on a guided tour of Ica, a chocolate shop, a local bodega and then continue on to El Huacachina. She has it all arranged just as she promised.

    Margee decided to take a little rest and I went for a walk around town. It is a half hour town, I walk along the ocean, out on the pier, check out the vendors and restaurants and I was done. I met up with Florida guy and we talked some more and I kept him company while he shopped the vendors.

    I went back to the hostel and decided to read my book on the outdoor balcony and enjoy the sunset. As I was sitting there a young girl of about 12 settled into a chair in front of the TV and started to roll up silverware in a white paper napkin. She would carefully wrap the napkin around the silverware then used her tongue to lick the napkin to hold it in place. Well, I was flabbergasted and speechless. Breakfast is going to be a tough call in the morning.

    Margee wakes up and wants to walk around town. So I get to do the half hour town tour again but it was very pleasant. I pointed out a building under construction as there are two very large Rottweiler dogs hanging their heads over the side of the wall. We didn’t walk under them as we didn’t want to get doggy drooled on.

    We found Florida guy eating dinner alone so we pulled up chairs and ordered Pisco Sours. Unlike at Astrid y Gustov in Lima, this waiter brought them to us. I lost count of how many we drank, but it was not so many we had a hangover the next day. We had fried fish with fries which was good. We just sat and yakked for awhile with Florida guy and had a very pleasant evening.

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    Another Installment.

    March 11, 2010 Isla Ballestas and Lago Huacachina

    We went on the Isla Ballestas tour today. We got up early and stepped right out of our room for breakfast on the outdoor patio. I had to steel my nerves to deal with the saliva sealed napkins on the silverware. The waitress brought the silverware out and I just stare at it. It was too early in the morning to deal with it. I walked over to the bar and asked for more napkins. She fumbles around then folds them up so they fit into the napkin holder, then hands them to me. The napkins are very small and thin and she has handed me the equivalent of one and half napkins. I walk back to our table and use the fork to scrape the dirty napkin off our silverware, spray it with hand cleaner and wipe it off with a clean napkin. She then brought out rolls, butter, jam and instant Nescafe. Margee was not happy about the instant Nescafe. It was a tough meal.

    We headed downstairs to join the Isla Ballestas tour group. We signed in on the tour sheet and purchased some water. We decided we wanted our binoculars so Margee runs back upstairs to get them. Then we decided we wanted our wind breakers so Margee runs back upstairs to get them. She is a real trooper. We think we have everything we need. They walk us over to the pier where there are a lot of people waiting. Jesus, our guide, gets us lined up property and we buy disembarkation tickets. We march down the pier to the boat and board grabbing seats on the left side as Florida guy said that was the best view. It was a nice, clean, well maintained boat and the life preservers were in good condition and fairly new.

    They take us down the coastline to show us the Candelabro, giant candelabra like drawing etched into a cliff overlooking the bay. Then we headed towards the islands and we could smell them coming the guano was so strong. It was interesting that in some areas the smell was overwhelming while in other areas you could hardly smell it at all. It had to be because of the wind direction. We saw thousands of birds, hundreds of sea lions with young babies, and many penguins. We were amazed at how high the penguins climbed up the rocks. We boated around the islands and the guide told us about how they harvest the guano, that’s a lovely job. On our way back to the pier, the engine dies. Jesus goes back to check out the engine and manages to get it started up. We were relieved as it would have been a long day if we had to be towed back in. The boat took a short detour because there were thousands of birds diving into the water. A fish bait ball must have been close to the surface. It was spectacular.

    Back on shore we walked down the boardwalk back to the hotel. Our next guide, Yuri Pineda of Executive Tourist Service, was waiting on us so we quickly grabbed our bags and waived goodbye to Jesus. Yuri provided an excellent talk about the history, culture and geology of Paracas and Ica. He spoke only Spanish so Margee was giving me the short translated version in English. Our first stop was at a Bodega or winery. Yuri turned us over to nice young man who took us on a delightful private tour of the winery. He explained the old style of making Pisco to us. The first stop was under a beautiful grape vine where the grapes were just waiting to be picked. It was so hot that I could feel my skin burning so I put my long sleeve shirt on. Then we went to the grape stomping vat which is full of grapes, leaves, twigs, bugs, you name it. It smelled like very ripe grapes.

    Our guide spoke very little English except he had had the English tour spiel down pat. He asked if we would like to stomp the grapes. Margee said yes but what happens to her shoes. He replied that they would dry. Obviously this was a moment of miss-communication. Margee stepped into the grapes and the guide immediately yells “No, not with your shoes on”. She pulled her foot out, and responded with “I asked you about my shoes”. It was an interesting moment as he obviously had not understood her question.

    We both took our shoes off and got into the vat and stomped on the smelly muck for a few minutes while the guide took pictures of us. While we stomp away, a group of young people who had been on the boat ride with us earlier in the day show up. Some of the girls joined us, but none of the boys did. We get out and our guide pours water over our feet while we wash the grape juice off. We get cleaned up and put our shoes and socks back on. Margee has one dry shoe and one that is a bit damp.

    The tour continues to the fermentation area then to the tasting room. We tasted various Pisco’s and wines. Some were very good and some tasted like gasoline but all were fun to experience. He served us some lovely chocolate and fried corn. We had not eaten lunch yet so we were just a bit tipsy by the time the tasting was over.

    Next, Yuri drove us to Ica. Thank goodness the car had air-conditioning as it was very hot. Ica was a very large town where 3 out of 4 vehicles are Indian 3 wheeled motor taxis. Evidently an inexpensive one costs $3,000 while one with more accessories is $4,000. We walked around the Plaza des Armas and admired all the buildings painted a beautiful yellow. Most of the buildings had been damaged by earthquakes and rebuilt in a modern style instead of the original colonial style.

    We heard a tuba so walked across the street to see what was going on. We were in Ica during their wine festival and Miss Wine Festival Congeniality was going to appear in a few minutes. We did not wait around for her. We saw the old cathedral, closed up and surrounded by a fence due to earthquake damage.

    Next we stopped at a chocolate shop, Senora Buendias. The owner unlocked her door and asked us what we would like. All of the chocolates were wrapped up in paper so you could not see what they looked like. So we bought a mystery variety and they were all excellent. Then we went to Helena Chocolates. Here you could look through the window and see the workers making the candy. We went inside and of course bought more chocolate.

    I am pretty tired by this point and I thought Margee was also. We decided we did not want to go to the Ica Museum as we are hungry. Our bread and jam breakfast was hours and hours earlier and we have drank too much alcohol.

    Off to Lago Huacachina we go. We settle up with Yuri, about $40.00 and check into the very cute El Huacachina Hotel. We walk out of the lobby and Margee looks around for the hammocks as shown on their website. They had done some remodeling, and the hammocks were gone. She was a bit disappointed but got over it quickly as the swimming pool right outside our door was lovely. The room was nice and the beds were comfortable. We opened the window and propped open the door to get some breeze moving. We had pizza for lunch at the hotel restaurant then I decided to talk a nap. Margee went outside and read her book by the pool. After I got up we both went swimming and had a nice chat with some other tourists while enjoying the cool water.

    Next on the agenda was our Dune Buggy and Sand Boarding adventure. There were six of us on the ride, a couple from Bahia, two gals from Mexico City, and our Crazy Driver. We were buckled in like we were going to take off in a space ship with shoulder straps and seat belts. Without warning our Crazy Driver takes off and within 30 seconds all of us are screaming at the top of our lungs. We are not even out of town yet and the thrill ride has begun. I looked over at Margee and thought, oh my god she is going to throw up. Her eyes were squeezed tight and her mouth was pressed together. I asked her if she was all right or did we need to stop. She whimpered back that she was OK. After that I didn’t worry too much about her. I couldn’t, it was like being on a non-stop roller coaster. It was the best fun! We were airborne at some points. He would come up to the crest of a sand dune and you would just know that it was going to be a steep down hill ride. Round and round we went, it was an amazing ride.

    Crazy Driver stopped at the top of a huge sand dune and pretty soon several other sand buggies joined us. It was time for the Kodak moment. We took turns taking pictures of each other then Crazy Driver loaded us up so the real fun could begin. He drove us up to the top of a sand dune, jumped out and unloaded the sand boards. The sand boards look just like a snowboard with straps to step into. Of our group, only the guy from Bahia actually sand boarded down the dune standing up. The rest of us lay down on the board. There is quite a trick to it. First you put on goggles, and then you lie down on the board and grab the straps with your hands, tuck your elbows in, hold your head up high and dig your toes into the sand if you want to break. Then Crazy Driver pushed us over the edge of the dune. It was so fast and everyone screamed all the way down. Margee and I both did it and were quite proud of ourselves. Crazy Driver drove down and picked us all up then drove us to the top of a bigger sand dune. We are all charged up and ready to go this time.

    Margee had a successful ride but I had technical difficulties. The slope was pretty steep then leveled off rather suddenly. Unfortunately, I did not hold my head up high enough and when I hit the level area my face hit the curve on the sand board. I thought I broke my nose but of course I am still moving fast and can’t do anything about it. I finally came to a stop and rolled off the board and I tell myself “your fine, your fine” but I’m not fine. I looked up at one of the other gals and ask if I am bleeding, and she replies that I am not, thank goodness. I sit up and gingerly touch my nose and it is very sore on the bridge but there are no weird bumps to indicate that it is broken. I decide I am now a spectator of this sport. Margee kept going down bigger and bigger dunes and she got braver and braver and became “one with the sand” She is my hero! Margee liked the boarding better than the dune buggy ride and I liked the dune buggy ride better than the boarding.

    The wind picked up while we waited at the top of a dune to watch the sunset and I think I got a bit of sand in my camera so I put it away and missed the photo opportunities.

    Back at the hotel we showered and washed a little laundry then decided we would go to the wine festival in Ica. We needed to eat dinner so we found a cute restaurant and had a nice meal. By the time we were done we decided we were too tired to go to the wine festival. It had been a very busy day.

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    Barb, I am really enjoying your report. The sound dunes sound awesome, but I think I would not be brave enough to go down them on a sand board. Good for you, and I'm glad your nose was not broken.

    Peru is in my 'bucket list' but I don't know if I'll ever get there.. and so I'll imagine I was there along with you and Margee.

    How did you find the buses? IN Chile and Argentina they were great.

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    We took Cruz del Sur most of the time and they were excellent. We purchased first class tickets which were only a few dollars extra. We did take Soyus from Ica to Nazca. I am glad the ride was only two hours long as it was dirty and smelly.

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    Hi Barb,
    I am very interested to read your report. We will be leaving for Lima on 6/14 from San Francisco. We are in Lima for one night, & then heading to Paracas, then to Cuzco for a week in Manu, after which we will meet the rest of our family for a week in the Sacred Valley.
    I am particularly interested in the Paracas part of your trip as I have not booked that yet. Do you recommend the hotel you stayed in. We only have one night in that area before we have to head back to Lima for our flight to Cuzco. I know it will be tight, time-wise, but we don't want to spend 3 night in Lima & we do want to see Paracas.
    I was considering using a travel agent & contacted Peru for Less. They gave me an unbelievable quote of $270 per person for one night, hotel, bus & tour. I was astounded so gave up the idea of using a travel agency & am now working on the Paracas aspect of our trip. Any suggestions you could provide would be appreciated. I look forward to reading the rest of your report.

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    The Hostal we stayed at in Paracas was very basic. It was clean but the room was small and there was no airconditioning. We did grab a fan that was in the hall and that helped. Martha was a great help to us and you can contact her at refugiodelpirata@hotmail.com. She does not speak English so if you don't speak Spanish use the Bing Translator. The room was 80 sol including breakfast, no CC. As I mentioned the breakfast was not great. I liked staying in Paracas because we were close to the pier for the Isla Ballestas tour and the Paracas tour. It is a cute but sleepy town. There were a couple of other hostels in town but the only higher end hotel was out of town and that is not what I wanted to do. So the costs of this excursion were $27.00 for the double room, Cruz del Sur bus from Lima to Paracas about $26.00 per person, Ballestas boat trip, Paracas tour and Ica city tour were 140 sols each or about $50.00 per person. So it looks like you can do it on your own for a lot less than $270.00. Even if you stay at a more expensive hotel you will probably come out ahead. If you have another day go to El Huacachina for a sand dune/sand board ride. The transportation of El Huacachina was included in the cost of our Ica tour.

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    Thanks, Barb. Basic hotels are fine with us. For 3 of us, Peru for Less quoted $700+ for one night!!!!! I will definitely follow your lead. Air conditioning shouldn't be a problem as it is winter in June. I'm also interested in the guitar shop. I hope you will add more details on that aspect of your trip. Thanks, again. I'll look forward to reading more...

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    Keep it coming Babs. I'm enjoying it so much.
    SInce I will be travelling on my own, I've very interested in budget accommodations. SO any cheapy recommendations are greatly appreciated. Fball, 700 is crazy!!

    Babs , would you recommend a single ( older) woman doing this on her own?
    Would you make any changes in retrospect?

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    Hi kodi

    I don't know why you couldn't do it on your own, we are not spring chickens and had no problem. As far as organizational, it went very smooth and I attribute that to the kindness of the local Peruvian people who helped us whether they were a guide we hired or a gal behind the hotel check in counter. We did have hotel reservations set up in advance because I had a budget to keep and I don't like wasting time trying to find a place to sleep when I get off the bus. We reserved our Lake Titicaca overnight stay and our Colca Canyon overnight stay in advance. Pretty much everything else was on the fly.

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    Thanks Babs. I was in Argentina and Chile this past winter, on my own, the the buses were great. I, too, had my accommodations set up in advance. My big worry was not being able to speak Spanish, but I did ok.

    I'd love to tour Peru the same way. SO it's good to hear your positive words. Thanks.

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    My Spanish is limited to ordering two beers and asking for the bathroom, hello, thank you, and goodbye. I take a little Spanish (or any other language) translator book with me when I travel so that I can communicate my basic needs. That and a few courtesy words, hello, thank you etc. and a big smile usually work.

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    March 12, 2010 Not quite a chicken bus to Nazca

    We slept in this morning and it was very welcome. We had a nice breakfast at the hotel restaurant then decided to walk around town and the lagoon. The lagoon was very pretty and some people were enjoying the day by renting paddle boats or row boats. The boat vendors provided complimentary colorful umbrellas for the boaters as they needed them. The sun was very hot.

    We could not resist looking around several of the hotels and we enjoyed talking pictures of a tortoise at one of them. I could not pass up a visit to the local library so we thumbed through a selection of English and Spanish books. Most were very old as if they were cast offs from another library. They even had a complete set of Shakespeare! An elderly gentleman appeared to be the resident librarian and we had a nice talk with him and left a donation.

    Sometimes you just have to sit down and watch the world go by. A wall along the edge of the lagoon was perfect for people watching and enjoying the scenery. We never expected a 12 foot black gorilla to walk up to us. Of course he was not your ordinary gorilla; he was a plastic gorilla with a fan on his rear end to keep him blown up. He had a lovely entourage of two young ladies in yellow and orange outfits selling Peruvian lottery tickets. We could not resist this Kodak moment so we moved into the embrace of King Kong and smiled our heads off. We each bought a scratch off ticket but didn’t win. I wonder if they would have paid us if we had won!

    We decided to eat lunch at an outdoor patio restaurant right on the water. It was pretty with a nice cabana roof. The waiter was very talkative and he took the time to tell to us ALL about the area. He was so chatty we thought we would die of dehydration before he brought our drinks to us. I had lightly breaded fish and chips and Margee had grilled fish and rice. My fish was probably the best fish I have ever had in my life. Every mouthful was a delight. The chips were so so but the fish was delicious. Margee picked a bit at her food but enjoyed the Chica Morada.

    We did a little bit of shopping at a few vendor booths and then went back to the hotel. We are getting the hang of packing up our backpacks and moving on. We waved a taxi down in front of the hotel and are concerned because it looks like it is being held together with chewing gum and duct tape. We put our packs in the front seat and clamber into the back. At this point we expected the taxi to start moving. It was not to be. The driver could not get the car started. There was a very nice, brand new 4 wheel drive pickup truck behind us and the driver was laying on the horn as he could not get by. Margee looks at me and without a word we both jump out of the taxi and grab our bags out of the front seat. Neither one of us wanted to be 4 wheel drive road kill! The taxi driver finally got his car started and moved out of the way of the truck. We waved down another taxi, which was marginally better than the first, and off we go to the Soyuz bus station in Ica.

    This bus station was not quite as nice as the Cruz Del Sur station in Lima and it was definitely more confusing. We got in what we thought was the correct line only to make our way up to the counter to find out we needed to go one window over. No problem, we just scooted over. Two tickets to Nazca cost us 20 sols or about $7.00 US dollars. We definitely got what we paid for. It was a local experience rich with the total bombardment of all of our senses. We watched our bags go into the luggage compartment and we boarded the bus. Well, this was not quite a chicken bus but not far from it. There were a lot of local folks but no livestock that we could see. It was hot, noisy, smelly, and crowded and we were happy it was only a two hour ride. While we waited to see if the bus would start, there was a big commotion going on outside. We think a gal was trying to stow away in the luggage compartment. Maybe she knew that was the better option!

    We arrived at the Nazca bus station and no one was there to pick us up because we had not been able to phone ahead and let them know what time we would arrive. We grab our bags and aim for the exit. Over the top of the bus station we saw a huge Hotel Alegria sign. This is good, the hotel is right across the street. We walked across the very busy street, dodging food carts, buses, cars, taxis and humanity. For such a short walk it was quite an adventure. It was funny how many people stared at us. I guess they were not used to two middle aged gals with backpacks skedaddling across the road.

    Checking in was quick and easy. The hotel was very nice with a lovely garden area and swimming pool. Our room was quite large and had air conditioning. There was a walkway with chairs and table that overlooked the pool. The only problem with the room was that it had one light with a 40 watt bulb in it. You could not read if your life depended on it and forget about putting make up on in the bathroom. Oh the air conditioning was heavenly though!

    We walked next door to El Limon, a cevecheria that I read about online. Of course, as we walk in the door at 5:00 pm the owner, Aldo, says he is closing and the cooks have gone home. He was kind enough to serve us Cristal Beer and roasted corn while he finished cleaning up. We promised we would come back the next day and have lunch.

    A walk around town and souvenir shopping was next on our agenda. We also needed water and snacks since we didn’t eat dinner. We went into a small store and I bought several interesting candy bars and we both purchased water. The lady behind the counter told Margee in Spanish that I needed to put my camera away because someone would try to take it. It was hanging around my neck, just like a tourist, so I paid attention to her warning and put it in my purse. We figured if she was kind enough to warn us, they must be having problems and problems are not what we are interested in. We thanked her and went on our way, much more vigilant.

    The Plaza de Armas was full of local folks enjoying their Friday night. We walked up and down a few more streets, enjoyed the evening, and then headed back to the room for the night.

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    Here is another installment, hope I am not dragging on too much!

    March 13, 2010 Dramamine and the Nazca Lines

    Nazca lines here we come. Our pickup time was 8:00am so we had plenty of time to have the included breakfast at the hotel. The Nazca flight was arranged through Alegria Tours on Alas Perunas Airlines. Our flight cost $50.00 US dollars and 20 sol departure tax each. The tour agency was conveniently located right next door to the hotel so after breakfast we walked over to wait for the included transportation to the airport. It was a short walk so we had some time to wait. The young man at the counter was looking at Facebook on his computer so Margee asked if she could look at her Facebook and make a short posting. He was fine with that and so Margee got a little impromptu computer time.

    Our van arrived and we loaded in. There was one more hotel stop for a few more folks then we headed for the airport. It was a pleasant and short 10 minute ride. We arrived at the airport and were instructed to go the Alas Perunas booth and check in. They had our reservations so all we had to do was go to the “next window please” and pay our departure tax.

    We received a name tag and were invited to sit down and watch a video about the Nazca Lines produced by National Geographic in 1986. The gal asked if we wanted it in Spanish or English. We picked English. She also said that as soon as the pilot received permission to fly he would come find us by our name tags.

    The wait was not long, maybe 30 minutes. The pilot took us out to the side of the tarmac and we walked by several very nice looking airplanes. Ours was also nice and safe looking. We were just practicing our positive thinking! There were five passengers and one pilot. When we checked in at the desk, the gal asked each of us what we weighed. I didn’t think this was the time to lie about it, but whispering it was OK. We assumed that we would be strategically seated in the plane. Nope, they loaded us right in. Evidently they were just looking for a total weight. Margee and I got in the back, seat belted up and put on our headphones so we could listen to the pilot. I need to mention that we had both taken a Dramamine prior to boarding the plane. The medicine hit Margee much harder than me and I wondered if she would nod off during the flight. I thought she was goofy but she described it as relaxed.

    We each received a map of the lines we flew over. Briefly, we flew over the Whale, Trapezoids, Astronaut, Monkey, Dog, Condor, Spider, Frigate Bird, Hummingbird, Alcatraz, Parrot, Hands, Tree and Condor Baby. The pilot would announce “You will see the Monkey under the wing on the right”. Then he would circle around and fly back over the Monkey, tilting the wing again, so the passengers on the other side of the plane could see it. “You will see the Monkey under the wing on the left”. At first the tilting back and forth was fine but towards the end of the flight we were glad that it was just a 30 minute ride. The Dramamine was a good idea.

    Back at the airport we took pictures of the plane and of each other posing in front of it. Our van was ready and waiting to take us back to the hotel. All in all, it was fun and very well organized. A personal long time dream comes true for me!

    Lunch was next on the agenda so we popped into El Limon and said hello to Aldo. We tried to order lunch but we had a definite communication problem. Even though Margee spoke excellent Spanish, the waiter must have been speaking a different Spanish! She tried to explain that she does not like breaded fish and would they grill it. He points at the menu “Oh you will like this”. Well she didn’t! He brought out a huge platter of breaded fish with very unusual fried potatoes. When the waiter came back to check on us she quietly told him that she did not like fish cooked this way and could she have some rice. He brought the rice fairly quickly and between that and the ceviche we ordered there was enough to eat.

    We had a bit of time before we had to leave for the bus station so we went on a shopping hunt for a spoon to add to Margee’s collection. We found lots of sterling silver spoons with big price tags but no typical, cute tourist spoons.

    We shrugged into our packs, checked out of the hotel (www.hotelalegria.net) and once again skedaddled across the street and down one block to the Cruz Del Sur bus station to catch our bus to Arequipa. We had purchased our tickets the day before while we wandered around town so we were ready to go. First class tickets cost us 103 sols each or about $36.00. I have to admit that this leg of the trip freaked me out for six months and basically gave me nightmares during the planning stages. I read too many news reports of late night buses from Nazca to Arequipa plunging off the side of the mountain and killing everyone aboard. I wanted to take a bus during the daytime but the trip is 8 hours long and none leave early in the morning. I compromised by selecting a bus that left at 1:30pm and arrived in Arequipa at 9:30pm. At least we were not driving during the wee hours of the morning. I was so worked up I could not look out the window the entire trip. Margee slept off the Dramamine in the next seat over, lucky girl.

    The bus arrived in Arequipa and after a bit of luggage confusion, we claimed our backpacks and trundled off to find a taxi. The hotel we were going to stay at did not provide bus station pickup but they advised it would be easy to get a taxi inside the station and it would cost about 5 sols for the ride. As we and all the other travelers discovered, there were no taxis. We had to walk out to the street and flag one down. The bus station charges the taxi’s a fee to come inside the station and evidently the taxis didn’t want to pay the fee. No problem though, we told the driver where we wanted to go and offered him 5 sols for the ride and we had struck a deal. Once at the hotel, the taxi driver was very nice and rang the bell on the gate and waited with us until they let us in.

    We stayed at the Casa de mi Abuela Hostal – www.casadeiabuela.com. It was $54.00 for two including breakfast. They showed us two rooms and we picked the larger of the two and called it a night.

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    Thanks for the post, Babs. I was not planning on doing the Nazca Lines & now I'm glad! I don't like to fly. I have a long wait until you are back in Lima with your post, picking up your guitar. I'm really curious about it as I want to order one for my daughter. Any chance of a sneak preview on that last bit of your trip?

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    I have emailed Margee for the guitar store info and will post as soon as I get it! Here is the next installment.

    March 14, 2010 Arequipa On Our Own

    Today was a free day. We did not have a tour or time commitments so we just enjoyed wandering where the guide book happened to take us. Hotel La Casa De Mi Abuela served a nice buffet breakfast on an outdoor patio. It was nice to eat hot scrambled eggs and bacon for a change from bread, butter and jam.

    There was a tour group of high school kids from a private boarding school in Colorado Springs eating breakfast with us. They were on their spring break trip and we were to see them on and off over the next few days as we crossed paths.

    We went to Giardino Tours, which is in the same complex as our hotel, to confirm our Colca Canyon reservation. Some how they had written the dates down wrong. We planned on going March 15th and 16th and they had us scheduled for March 16th and 17th. Thank goodness they were easy to work with and very professional. They scurried around for a few minutes and came back and said we were all set. I think we benefited in the long run because we ended up in a private van with a driver and tour guide all to ourselves. The 2 day 1 night trip cost $67.00 US dollars per person and included a double room at the La Casa De Mama Yacchi, transportation, guide, driver, and breakfast.

    The Plaza de Armas was our first stop on our self guided walking tour. The Cathedral was beautiful and we enjoyed taking photos of the pretty fountain with the Cathedral in the background. We stepped inside to take a look around the church and Margee noticed a sign that said no tourists during Sunday Mass. As we enjoyed the church we noticed that a service was going on. All of a sudden it dawned on us that it was Sunday. We had completely lost tract of the day of the week. We exited out the nearest door as quickly and silently as we could. At least Margee could report back to her elderly father that she went to mass while on vacation.

    We walked around the gardens of the Plaza and enjoyed watching the families and their children. There were many touts trying to sell tours but they were not that pesky. I saw a cute doll in one of the stores that interested me, but not enough to convince me to carry in my back pack for another 17 days.

    The guide book said the La Compania was a nice cathedral right off the plaza. We headed that way but got stopped by the chocolate shop right across the street. We don’t have a problem buying things if we can eat them on the spot. We tried a few sweets they were offering then bought a paper cone filled with cookies that had chocolate filling. The façade of La Compania is carved sillar stone. It has a beautiful entrance with Inca carvings and a lovely interior. The cookies were outstanding.

    Down the street and around the corner we found the Museo Santuarios Andinos. This museum is the home of Juanita, the Ice Maiden of Ampato. We bought our tickets and a guide led us into a nice theater where we watched a National Geographic movie about Juanita. It was very interesting. After that we had a private guided tour of the Museum. The guide was very good, spoke English well, and explained all about the culture and why Juanita was sacrificed. We saw the clothing she was wearing and all the items that were found with her. But, we did not see Juanita. She was in a deep freeze at the University of Maryland being studied. We did see another ice maiden who was not as royal as Juanita, but she was just as frozen. We were glad we had the guide because there were no signs on anything.

    Our planned next stop was the Monasterio de Santa Catalina but hunger pangs were setting in. We kept our eyes open for a place to eat lunch. We found a little Swiss place called Zig Zag Creperia. We decided to sit outside in the attractive patio and I ordered a caramel custard crepe with vanilla ice cream and Margee had an apple crepe with ice cream. They were so yummy and desert for lunch is always great.

    Next to the restaurant was a shop that had beautiful baby alpaca items for sell. I found a great coat scarf for my son. The great thing about fabric gifts is they pack down very small. I felt like I had scored for him.

    We finally arrived at the Monasterio de Santa Catalina and decided we wanted a guide. It was a good decision as Priscilla was friendly, knowledgeable and very entertaining. She took us all over the convent and explained everything to us. At one point she took a phone call then asked if it was OK if her two nephews joined us for the rest of the tour. They wanted to practice their English as one of them was getting ready to go North Carolina and attend dental school and the other wanted to be an engineer. We said no problem. These two nice young men showed up, ages 20 and 22, and spent the next 45 minutes or so with us. They were very pleasant. The entire tour was great and the stories about the nuns were fascinating.

    We were getting tired by now and decided to go back to the hotel. On our way back we saw two older Peruvian ladies sitting on a door way step selling dolls. One of the ladies was actually sewing the doll as we watched. Margee decided she wanted the doll that the lady was making as it was more memorable than buying one in a store. I didn’t want to be doll less so we ended up buying two. We are going to carry them around for the next 17 days, just what I had tried to avoid earlier in the day. We took pictures of each other with the ladies and the dolls and decided it was well worth every sol.

    We had asked Patricia for restaurant suggestions and she recommended we try Chifa, which is Peruvian influenced Chinese food. We asked at the desk in the hotel where we could find Chifa and they recommended Ka Hing. They called a taxi for us and said that the restaurant would call one when we were ready to go back to the hotel. I don’t know what we were expecting but it was a typical Chinese restaurant. We each ordered combinations. I had fried rice, noodles with vegetables and won tons. Margee had fried rice with a chicken and vegetable stir fry with egg rolls. It was just like home. It was funny that they served us a Pisco Sour to go with the food. Cost was 31.50 sols or less than $11.00 US dollars. Our nice Peruvian waiter called us a taxi and we waited in the sitting area for it to show up. The restaurant was serious about security; they had a security guard and a traffic control guy out front. There was a lot of traffic because the restaurant sold a lot of take out food.

    Back at the hotel, we packed up as much as we could in preparation for our Colca Canyon Tour.

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    Hi Barb,
    Thank you so much for tracking down the store name and link. I will try to go when we are in Lima. My daughter is 14 and plays many instruments. She would really enjoy this store. I am looking forward to the rest of your trip posts.

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    Hi Barb-I am waiting for you to continue your report as we are leaving for Peru in 2 weeks and I was hoping to read your section covering Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Any chance that might happen in the next 2 weeks? If not, do you have any general tips for that area concerning restaurants or activities that might be helpful to us. Did you go to Maras and Moray and did you think it was worth the time and expense to do this?
    Shelley

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    Hi shelleyk

    Margee is in charge of the next few days installments but she hasn't finished them up yet. I have quite a bit of the rest of the trip done. I should have Cusco and the Sacred Valley soon, I just don't want to post them out of sequence.

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    I am going to continue posting but will skip March 15th and 16th which was our Colca Canyon trip. I gave Margee, the school teacher, an assignment to write up the journal for these two days but she has not finished it yet and I know shelleyk wants to hear about Cusco so here goes.

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    March 17, 2010 Cruz del Sur to Puno

    We had buffet breakfast again this morning and then took a taxi to the Crux del Sur bus station. The bus left at 8:30 am for a five hour ride to Puno. The tickets cost $25.00 US dollars each and we had no problem buying the tickets. Once again we decided to go first class so it was very comfortable and quite luxurious. They showed three movies, August Rush, Miss Congeniality and the Magician. Lunch was a chicken sandwich and a piece of hard candy. I napped a lot and Margee got all teary eyed over August Rush.

    We get to Puno and there is someone waiting for us from the Mosoq Inn. I love getting off the bus or plane and have someone waiting for me with my name on a sign.

    The Mosoq Inn is a small hotel but very cute, clean and modern and conveniently located to the Plaza. Our room was large and they had free internet and a nice breakfast. www.mosoqinn.com The room was $50.00 US dollars for both of us. Our room was on the third floor, each floor had two flights of stairs. We both struggled up the stairs because of the altitude which is about 12,500. Every time I climbed the stairs I did fine on the first three flights and the fourth one kicked my butt. The air is thin.

    After we settled in we went down to the lobby and asked the receptionist to call Allways Travel to confirm our reservations for our Cultural Exchange tour of Uros, Amantani and Taquille for the next day. They said we were confirmed and that they would pick us up at 7:50 in the morning.

    We also called Inka Express about our March 20th tickets because they provide a ticket drop off service. Their representative showed up and wanted $100.00 US dollars for two tickets. We asked how much if we paid in sols. She told us 250 sols. That sounded like a much better deal to us so we paid in sols. The tickets cost about $90.00 US dollars! She took our money, gave us the tickets but said she had to go back to the office to get a receipt and would we please wait until she came back. We double checked that we had actual tickets and said OK. She was back quickly with the receipt. The whole thing made me uncomfortable, if there is ever a next time, I will go the Inka Express office to buy the tickets.

    We relaxed a little bit and did some laundry in the sink. It was close to dinner time so we walked over to the Plaza de Armas to see what our food choices were. Puno is known for its spectacular festivals and we stumbled right into the middle of one. There was a big festival going on celebrating the anniversary of the school district. There were hundreds of school age children dressed up in their tidy blue uniforms. Most of them were girls but there was a scattering of boys. The teachers were trying to line the children up in parade formation and other adults were supervising the youth band. The plaza was packed with families and gawking tourists. The music started to play and the school children marched around the plaza and down a side street. The girls in the front of the parade had to be what we call AP (advanced placement) students as they marched in perfect form and wore ribbons, gold braids and medallions. The boys at the back of the parade were goofing off, shoving each other and acting like - boys. We wandered all around and took pictures of the event enjoying ourselves tremendously. Then the band starting playing a new song and it immediately caught our attention, they were playing the U. S. Marine Corp song “The Halls of Montezuma”. It was the funniest thing to travel halfway around the world to listen to this song played by a youth band at a Puno, Peru festival.

    We chatted a bit with a tourist from Australia and found that he had just returned from a Lake Titicaca trip and enjoyed it very much. We are going on a two day/one night trip to Lake Titicaca so we asked about the accommodations and his comment was that it depends on what you are used to. He backpacks a lot so they were not bad. What a fun conversation.

    Things were starting to break up so we headed over to Jr Lima Street, a pedestrian-only main drag full of souvenir shops and restaurants. First we stopped at the IPeru tourist office and talk to nice gal about the status of Machu Picchu. She said it was supposed to open March 29th. Margee and I look at each other as the wheels are spinning. We don’t leave for home until March 31st. She gave us a bus/train schedule so we could make our plans. At dinner we discuss whether we can change our itinerary and see Machu Picchu. We think we will continue our regular itinerary except on our flight from Puerto Maldonado to Lima; we will get off at Cusco. We will then take the bus/train combo to Machu Picchu for one day, then take the plane from Cusco to Lima and continue on home. We will have to change our Lan Peru and Delta flights, get bus/train tickets to Machu Picchu and add two days to our trip. We really need to think about this. Margee absolutely has to be home by Sunday April 4th as she has to be in her classroom on the 5th. My schedule is more flexible so I don’t have a problem.

    We had dinner at the Tulipan Restaurant, I had spinach lasagna and Margee had something with a sauce on it, I don’t know if it was chicken, beef or what. Not sure she knew either but she enjoyed it.

    We went back to our room to pack up smaller bags for our trip to Lake Titicaca. The Mosoq Inn let us keep our backpacks in our room while we were gone overnight and we didn’t have to pay for the night. It was very convenient.

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    March 18, 2010 Lake Titicaca overnight home stay

    We are going on our two day/one night All Ways Travel Cultural Exchange tour to Uros, Amantani and Taquile Islands. We ate a big breakfast not knowing when we would get our next meal except for the snacks in our packs. Two representatives from All Ways met us in the hotel lobby; one was our guide and the other the “Money Man’ as he took our payment. The tour cost $45.00 US dollars each and we paid the local family an additional 25 sols each. Money Man led us to the bus which already had quite a few travelers on it. We stopped and picked up more people then they drove us over to the port. We had five minutes to buy fruit for the family we would be staying with. We bought a bag of apples, a bag of oranges, rice and a 12 pack of pencils in case the family had children. The guides then hustled us down to the boat. We had to walk across one boat to reach our boat. We settled down inside and listened to a musician. He finished his song, opened up his instrument case and practically ran down the aisle as people tossed change into it. The boat was moving and he had to get off!

    The Captain did not make anyone put on a life vest. There were dozens of them lined up in the rafters of the ceiling but we did not have to wear them. We are sailing along when all of a sudden one of the guides yells at another guide and they start pulling life vests down from the ceiling and tossing them out the cabin door to the folks sitting outside. They told the outside tourists to put them on. I wanted to know if we were sinking! It didn’t look like it and the guides were not worried about the people sitting inside but those outside better have their vests on. The mystery was solved in less than ten minutes when we pulled up along side a Peruvian Coast Guard boat. The Captain handed his paperwork over to one the serious navy sailor’s and I caught a glimpse of the folder he was using. It was a child’s folder with a cartoon of Cookie Monster on it. I could hardly stop snickering it was so funny. The Coast Guard boarded our boat, instructed everyone to put on life vests and walked through taking a video of all of us. Evidently everything else was OK because they allowed us to continue on to Uros.

    We arrived at Uros, got off the boat and our guide, Eber, stepped up to take us on our tour. It was at this point that Margee and I realized that out of the 30 tourists, she and I were the only ones who had our own private guide. Everyone else shared a guide. I kind of remembered signing up for this because it did not cost that much more. At this point it did not matter to us; later in the trip I would appreciate having our own guide very much. Eber lead us across the slightly squishy, moist reed island and invited us to sit down on a rolled up reed bench. Everything we could see except a bowl with fish in it was made out of reeds. He explained that these small fish are the mainstay of the Uros people’s diet. They catch them with nets and eat them in stew. The fish have a lot of phosphorus in them so they stew them to make them edible. Eber introduced us to a local Uros gentleman who proceeded to tell us all about Lake Titicaca, the history of the floating islands and how the people survive. He went on to explain how they make the islands and a young man in native clothing illustrated the cutting of the reed roots to make an island base and how they use rope and stakes to hold it in one place. Then they pile green reeds on top, lots of green reeds. When they have enough they build their reed houses. When the islands start to sink they can either add more reeds, or make a new island. Each island has one family living on it and there are many, many islands. The Church of Latter Day Saints has a floating school that the children attend. We peeked into one of the houses and all that was in it was a bed about the size of a double bed, some clothes hanging off the wall and a couple of huge rolls of reed walls prepared for the next house. The young man who showed us how the islands were made shared this house with his brother. The bed was on a frame way up off the floor so that the moisture would not soak it. When we looked up at the ceiling we could see sky. Evidently there is plastic to keep the rain out.

    The Uros people used to live on reed boats until the 1970’s. Then they started to make the floating island. Eber told us that many of the young folk are moving away and it won’t be too many years until the Uros Islands will be just a tourist attraction with no one actually living there.

    We had a few minutes to wander around and do a little shopping. Both Margee and I bought a reed boat. I climbed up to the top of a wobbly tower and had a terrific view of the islands. Another tourist asked me to take his picture but I would have to guess at the view because he broke the camera. It still took pictures but the screen was gone. I am sure he will have some crazy pictures when he gets a chance to look at them.

    We had an option of taking a ride in a reed boat to the next island or going on the regular boat. Of course we rode in the reed boat. Two local guys rowed this huge reed boat to the next island, it was not fast, but it was steady. As we moved away from the island, the ladies lined up and sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as a farewell song. It was quite a moment! A man came around to collect payment from us. Margee and I had the correct change but a young couple sitting next to us did not. The money collector indicated that we should pay for them. We tried to explain that we were not together, in fact we didn’t know each other. In the end, we fronted the money for them and they promised to pay us back later.

    The next island was just a shopping opportunity though they did have a big reed serpent that we took pictures of. We boarded our regular boat and set off on a 3 hour ride to Amantani where we were going to spend the night with a local family. I think we both relaxed and napped a bit.

    Upon arrival at Amantani, we got off the boat and walked down the pier where we were greeting by many local women all dressed in beautiful clothing. They wore embroidered white blouses, colorful skirts with many pleats, black shawls with colorful embroidery at the ends, knee socks and sandals. They pulled the shawls up over their heads so it covered most of their hair. The main guide called our names out first and said we were to go with Annalisa. We start up the rocky road to heaven, following Annalisa who is obviously not going as fast as she would normally go. I personally found the walk to be strenuous and I had to stop for “Kodak moments” frequently so I could catch my breath. It was steep and rocky in some areas but extremely picturesque. We saw cows, sheep, donkeys, chickens, dogs, children and many small gardens. There were people walking everywhere and carrying heavy burdens that had to weight more than they did.

    We finally arrived at Annalisa’s house. It was a two story hacienda style house with a court yard in the middle. The floor in the courtyard had been covered with a beautiful stone mosaic. Eber was still with us and he said we had our choice of two rooms, one had two beds and the other had three. We picked the room with two beds because it was roomier. The whole set up was very rustic. The beds sagged a bit but did have clean sheets and were pilled with many blankets. There was one light bulb hanging from a wire in the middle of the ceiling. We had one table and two wobbly chairs. There were four windows, none of which had a matching curtains. We had to duck to go in and out of the door and there was no way to lock it. There was a beautiful bathroom with tiled shower, toilet and sink. The only problem was there was no running water. We flushed the toiled by pouring in a pan full of water taken out of a nearby water bucket.

    They gave us 20 minutes to relax then we were to come downstairs to lunch. We went down stairs very carefully. The railings were not very solid and the last thing we wanted to do was to get hurt. The kitchen was very dark and it took a minute for our eyes to adjust. We were standing on a dirt floor with a table and a bench and two chairs on the right of the room, a shelf with a few kitchen implements in front of us and a pile of wood and wood fire to the left. There was also a propane stove but I think Annalisa cooked most of our food on the open fire. There was no refrigeration and no running water. Again, there was one light bulb hanging from the ceiling. She indicated that we were to sit down at the table and she served us delicious Quinoa soup. The next course was fried cheese with rice and a vegetable, which was also quite good. It was so much food that I could not eat all of it and I felt really guilty about that.

    After our meal, Eber said it was time to go on our optional walk. From now on when a guide says “optional” we need to ask more questions as to why it is optional. Forever in my mind, optional will now mean “difficult as hell”. Lake Titicaca is at 12,507 feet in elevation so the air is thin and breathing is hard just standing still. The island has two hills, the taller is called Pachatata or Father Earth, the smaller is Pachamama or Mother Earth. I think our goal was Pachatata. We start up a very well maintained path and we go up, and up and up. My breathing gets ragged so I lag behind Margee and Eber but I keep telling myself I can do it. Margee does not seem to be having any problems and Eber is in his element.

    We walk past a local man and his horse. I petted the horse then kept on hiking. Only on the way down did Eber explain that I could have paid the man and he would have let me ride the horse to the top. I wish I had known that!

    I keep asking how far are we going and Eber responds “to the top”. I point out the top of a hill and ask “over there?” Eber says no and points to a higher hill. Well, I wanted to sit down and cry but I knew it would be darn near impossible to stand back up if I did so I kept putting one foot in front of the other, five steps then rest, five steps then rest, it went on for over two hours. Jiminy Cricket, you would think we were climbing Mount Everest. I think it was the hardest thing I have ever done in life not including child birth! As we got closer to the top, I started to feel better because I knew I would make it. Margee is practically skipping along at this point. We get the top finally and Eber says we have to walk around the temple going counter clockwise and make a wish. Margee does this first then finds me and asks if I have done it yet. Nope, still trying to get my breath! I make the walk and wish that I can make it back down in one piece. The temple at the top was a disappointment. It was walled and fenced off and what you could see was terribly overgrown. There were many vendors at the top so we did a little shopping. They had very cute dolls and stuffed llamas. Eber told us it’s time to head down and thankfully the walk is easier. It definitely was easier to breath. Down, down, down we go. We get back to our home away from home and congratulate ourselves on our hiking accomplishment. We are both happy that we had our own guide for this optional tour. He didn’t seem to mind waiting on us while we struggled up Mount Everest.

    We had a little time to rest before dinner so we both took advantage and lay down for 20 minutes. Dinner started out with soup again, it had quinoa in it but was different than what we had for lunch. It was very tasty. Then she served us rice, and a stir fried vegetable dish of potatoes, green beans, and carrots. There were also bread and butter but no protein.

    We learned a bit more about Annalisa and her family. She is the daughter-in-law of the household. Her husband was in Cusco for business. They live in her father-in-laws house with her brother-in-law and her little boy. The father-in-law joined us for dinner. He sat on a tree stump in the corner of the kitchen. The brother-in-law also came in and sat on one of the two chairs. Annalisa served Margee, Eber and I the soup and then a b second course. She only served her family the soup. Now I really feel guilty, like we are taking food out of their mouths. Then after they all eat a couple bowls of soup, she served them rice and vegetables and I felt better.

    Next it was time to go to the festival. Annalisa brought a pile of clothing to our room and she dressed Margee and me in local outfits. We put on the multi-pleated skirt with white embroidered blouse and she cinched us tightly with one of the beautiful handmade woven belts. It was so tight I could hardly breathe. Then she gave us a lovely black head scarf. The only problem with the dress up was that we were obviously not the first people to wear these clothes. They had a definite body odor smell to them. All we could do was deny, deny, deny.

    We grabbed our head lamps and Annalisa led us to the community center in the dark. We were among the first to arrive so we got to enjoy watching all the other tourists show up in their finery. A local band played music and we were able to enjoy some local beer. Annalisa and her lady friends convinced us to join them out on the dance floor. We held hands and danced in a big circle. When the music stopped, you took a few chugs of your beer. Music and dancing then chug a lug. Music and dancing then chug a lug. We had loaned an Australian guy and his French wife some change to pay for the Uros reed boat ride and they reimbursed us by buying beer. We chatted a bit, finished up our beer and left fairly early but I bet some of the younger set had quite a wild evening of dancing and drinking! Back to our room we settled in for the night.

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    March 19, 2010 Taquile Island

    We had a pretty long night at our Amantani family’s house. The beds were not all that comfortable and we both tossed and turned. It is amazing how much we take for granted. Getting dressed and ready for the day is hard without any running water. We had some bottled water which we used to brush our teeth and rest we had to save for the remainder of the day. We packed up our bags and went downstairs for breakfast. Annalisa was cooking over the wood fire again and there was so much smoke in the kitchen I almost had to excuse myself because I could hardly breathe. She made corncakes served with strawberry preserve and it was great. We also had cheese, bread, and butter.

    Part way through the meal, Eber showed up all out of breath. He had gotten up before the crack of dawn, run up the mountain (the one it took us hours to climb), visited with his parents, and ran back down the mountain in time to join us for breakfast. Absolutely unbelievable.

    While we finished up, another guide came in to tell us that one of the other tourists was very sick and they were taking her back to the mainland immediately. She was suffering from very bad diarrhea and did we have any medication to spare. Margee gave the guide some lomotil. Hopefully it helped.

    We finished up our breakfast and took pictures of Annalisa and her little boy then we started down the hill. We were the first to arrive so we sat down on a wall to wait. Annalisa had her son in her lap and it was the cutest pose so I tried to take a picture of them. Annalisa was fine with it but her son squirmed down so all you could see were his eyes peeked out from behind her scarf.

    The boat ride to Taquile Island took about two hours. Once again I napped; it makes the time go by so much faster. I think Margee listened to her iPod. Eber told us that there would be a little hike and then the trail would stay fairly level around the island. So huffing and puffing we hiked up the trail standing aside when the local sheep herders brought their flocks by. The sheep were tied one front leg to one back leg. It slowed them down a lot and I am sure made them much more manageable.

    We made our way to the main plaza and checked out the hand made textiles for sale inside a cooperative shop. Each piece had a price and the name of the craft person who made it. We looked at a lot of pieces but did not buy anything.

    Lunch was at a little restaurant where we sat outside on the patio. I had fresh trout and it was good. Margee enjoyed an omelet. We shared a table with three young men from Israel. It was very interesting talking to them about their required military service and future schooling plans. All three were on extended trips after finishing their service and before entering college.

    Back on the trail, we walked around more of the island then had a challenging climb down the hill on the craziest stone staircase I have ever seen. There was no rhyme or reason to the stairs and I thought they were treacherous. On top of being dangerous, there were tons of people going up and down as that was the access point to the pier. We did make it down in one piece and safely boarded the boat for our last boat ride back to Puno.

    Upon arrival in Puno, we had a short walk down the pier and then down the road to the bus parking area. All along the way were vendor booths set up with many local people shopping and congregating in happy, lively groups. It must have been a holiday as there was live music, laughing, singing and people were dancing in small groups up and down the road. I wanted to go check it out but we were hustled onto the bus. A guide asked what hotel we were staying at and they kindly dropped us off right in front of it. Eber actually walked inside with us to make sure we were all set. Talk about excellent door to door service.

    The hotel’s hot running water, flushable toilets and a smoke free environment was heaven sent. Our bags were still in our room just as we left them. We cleaned up and did some sink laundry.

    Margee had a little shopping list of things she needed like tooth paste, tissue and hair spray so we decided to walk to the plaza. We visited a Pharmacia and a perfumeria and finally had everything except the hairspray. She wanted hairspray that comes in a pump dispenser so she could refill her 3 oz bottle. All the stores had huge 24 oz aerosol spray Aqua Net. No way did she want to add 24 oz of hair spray to her back pack. Finally a store clerk suggested we look for it at a beauty salon. She gave us directions to go down this street, turn right and there are several lined up. We followed her directions and found a beauty parlor with several women in it. Margee explained what she was looking for and unfortunately they did not have it. The ladies were so nice that a couple of them walked down the street with us to a beauty supply store. Bonanza! This store had what she was looking for. It took a little perseverance but she had her hair spray.

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    March 20, 2010 Inka Express to Cusco

    We paid our bill of 100.00 sols for two nights at Mosoq Inn and said goodbye to the nice people who worked there. They called a taxi for us and he promptly arrived and took us to the bus station. It was a quick 5 minute ride. We checked in at the Inka Express counter and were directed to the window to pay our departure tax. As we walked over to the window, Margee physically ran into the nice Australian man we had met on the Uros reed boat ride. He and his wife were waiting for a bus to go to Copacabana, Bolivia. We chatted a little while then wished them a happy and safe trip.

    Inka Express is a tourist bus that travels between Puno and Cusco. We left Puno at 7:30 am and arrived in Cusco about 5:00 pm. It was a long day but the nice thing about the trip is that we stopped four times to visit attractions and have lunch before we arrived in Cusco. The road was in pretty bad shape between Puno and Pukara. We were worried that it might be a very long day if it did not improve but it did.

    Our first stop was at the small town of Pukara which is famous for its “Toritos de Pukara” (Little Bulls of Pukara). We visited the "Museo Litico de Pukara" (Pukara Stone Museum), displaying a good little selection of anthropomorphic monoliths, zoomorphic sculptures, ceramics, and other objects from the Pukara pre-Inca Culture (original and replica pieces). Can you tell I cut and pasted that bit! In order to use the restroom you had to buy a ticket of .50 sols. The gentleman actually gave us a paper ticket. Then you went to the rest room and showed the attendant the ticket, but you didn’t have to give it to her. I guess you could use it more than once if you wanted to. I have paid for the using the bathroom many times but this was the first time I got a paper ticket.

    We poked our heads inside the church located in the main square and a cooperative store selling handmade dolls and other items. The only thing we bought were two bulls. We decided to buy a set and we would take one each. I bargained a bit for two bulls and told the lady that I wanted two brown ones. I think they normally came in sets of one brown boy and one white girl. When I told her I wanted two brown ones she gave me such a look. I think she disapproved that I wanted two boys!
    Back on the bus our tour guide said that within an hours drive we would be leaving the beautifully green scenery and will enter the antiplano which the area Cusco is in. After a short drive we stopped at La Raya which was the highest peak of today’s journey, 4335 meters or 14, 222 feet. The air was a little thin. La Raya is the line dividing the regions of Cusco and Puno in Peru. La Raya provides beautiful views of the Andes rising high above alpaca farms. The vendors at the stop were the most aggressive we have run across so far of the trip. A polite no thank you or no gracias did not make them even blink. One gal was trying to sell me a violet scarf that definitely had been sitting out in the sun too long. “Very beautiful for you lady”. All we could do was keep on walking. Margee did buy a cute stuffed vicuna. We took pictures of each other standing with a llama and I hope I can photo shop the bus out of the back ground. When I was composing the photo of Margee and her llama, she asked me in a stressed voice to hurry up, her llama was chewing his cud and looked like he was about to make a deposit on her!
    Next stop was for a lunch buffet. It was a comfortable patio restaurant and they served the typical foods along with spaghetti. I have to confess, all I ate was the spaghetti. Some of the other food looked like they had been sitting there way too long. Margee asked if I was going to have any dessert. I looked at the selection and reported back that it was either runny, slimy or it jiggles. I am obviously off my food and nothing looks good. Where is a Carl’s Jr. when you need one?
    There was a baby llama in the courtyard and one of the ladies on our bus got to feed it with a baby bottle. It was so hungry! We did a bit of shopping and both Margee and I bought table linens. I am excited to see mine on my table, it will be perfect.
    We arrived at Raqchi, an Inca archaeological site also known as the Temple of Wiracocha. The most outstanding structure is an enormous rectangular two-story roofed building that measures 302 feet by 84 feet. The roof is now gone but our guide showing us an artist rendition of what they think it looked like. Areas of the site have been reconstructed while others have been left to deteriorate from the elements. I enjoyed watching several small children lead their leashed sheep through the ruins and over to a stretch of the Inca trail that went by. We got to walk on the Inca trail a little ways over to some round granaries and we saw a water fountain where water was diverted to different troughs. At one point it started to lightly rain and I covered my camera with my hat but it did not rain long.
    Our last stop of the day was at Andahuaylillas and a visit to its picturesque colonial church. It is a beautiful church sometimes called the Sistine Chapel of the Andes because of the extent and quality of its frescoes. Almost as impressive is the quantity of precious metals used on the altar and elsewhere.
    We arrive in Cusco and the bus pulls over to the side of the road. It does not look like a bus stop. Everyone is getting off the bus and most folks are being met by friendly sign holders or are grabbing taxis. Pretty soon Margee and I are the only ones left. The bus driver asks if we are being met by anyone and we tell him that we have a guide, David Choque, who is supposed to pick us up. The bus driver waits with us for awhile longer than asked if we know what hotel we are staying at. We told him yes so he encouraged us to take a taxi. I understand he did not want to leave us standing on the side of the road and I think he wanted or needed to get going. We finally gave up and are about to get into a taxi when David rushes up. Evidently there was some construciton work going on at the regular bus station and he got caught up in it. That’s why we stopped on the side of the road instead of at the station. I guess David got the memo late. He drives a nice Hyundai van and I thought it would be comfortable for the next six days.
    David takes us to Nino’s Hotel (www.ninoshotel.com) and carried our packs inside. We get checked in and I got the impression that he was in a rush. Margee thought he was just stressed out from being late picking us up. Either way, he told us that Fidel would be meeting us in the morning to take us on our tour of Pisac, the Pisac market and Urumbama. I thought this was strange as I had requested his services 6 months prior and he gave us no indication that he would not be our guide. But, if I have learned anything over my years of travel, it’s to roll with the punches. Before he left, I asked if he had any information about when Machu Picchu would open and if he could get tickets for us. He was sure it was opening on March 31st and assured us he could get tickets.
    The hotel is very nice and our room is lovely and very large. It had one double bed and one twin bed. We flipped a coin and Margee got the double which was fine. The floor creaked no matter where you walk. I don’t think there was anyone staying in the room below us; in fact I don’t think they were very busy. We only saw a few other folks the entire time we stayed there.
    We headed to the Plaza de Armas and had pizza for dinner. The restaurant was right on the Plaza but I didn’t write down the name. It was tasty and we enjoyed ourselves. We decided to contact Lan Peru and Delta airlines to change our plane ticket departure days by a two days so we could go to Machu Pichu. The internet café was right next door to our hotel so it was convenient. We decided to contact Lan Peru first and Delta second. This decision would prove to be a mistake. Margee has a Skype account so she got online and contacted Lan Peru. It took about an hour but she managed to change our plane tickets. We originally were flying from Puerto Maldonado to Lima with a layover in Cusco. Then we would take the Delta flight back to the states. She changed our Lan Peru ticket so that we went from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco. We would stay in Cusco two days. Then fly from Cusco to Lima. Those two days would give us time to make a quick trip to Machu Picchu.
    Then she got on line with Delta and our plans started to go down the drain. Delta wanted an exorbitant amount of money to change our reservations. Hours later, she got off the phone with Delta as we decided to try to find an alternative flight home. It was so frustrating! We discussed various options and tried to find cheaper flights home but were not successful. Margee has to be back home in time to start class on April 4th. My schedule is flexible but hers is not. In the end, we decided it was not going to work. Now we have to change our Lan Peru tickets back to what they were originally. Too bad, we didn’t call Delta first. Tomorrow is another day.

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    March 21, 2010 Pisac and our day with Fidel and Tiger (Alberto)

    We were in the internet café talking to Delta and Lan Peru again this morning and in walk David and Fidel. David is standing with a bright window behind him and all I can see is a shadow person. I must have had a dumb look on my face because David says don’t you recognize me? I think, well I would if you weren’t just a shadow person. I say, Hi David. He introduces us to Fidel and our driver Alberto, also known as Tiger. Fidel is a nice 28 year old man who does not drive. Thus we have the very nice driver named Tiger who does not speak English. One speaks, one drives. We think it will work out OK.

    We tell David about our Delta Airlines and Lan Peru trauma and that we have decided there is no way we are going to be able to go to Machu Picchu. We need to fix our Lan Peru tickets but are hoping we can do it without trekking to their office. We will find an internet in Ollantaytambo and contact Lan Peru tonight.

    Off we go with Fidel and Tiger to Pisac and the Pisac Sunday Market. We went to the ruins first and purchased our Boleto Turistico del Cusco for 130.00 sols. We left Tiger to guard the car in the parking lot and we walked through the gauntlet of vendors. I saw a very interesting chess set that I thought my son would like. The two armies were the Spanish “Bad guys” and the Inca “Good guys”. We both had to buy one for our boys but would do it later. Margee was hand carrying her water bottle when an entrepreneur came up with a water bottle holder with a strap. She immediately bought it and was very happy with her purchase.

    Pisac is the largest fortress complex built by the Incas. Fidel wanted to know if we want to go on a “BIG” walk. Margee and I look at each other and say no, we want to go on a “little” walk. We look UP at the Pisac ruins and decide that we can climb that but nothing higher. I don’t know where Fidel wanted to take us if he thought the top of the Pisac ruins was a “little” walk. I guess it is all a point of view. They say trudging along steep mountain paths is how the locals get around. Personally, I want a taxi.

    Fidel is very entertaining and quite charming. He waited patiently for us while we huffed and puffed our way up the ruin. We get to the top of the grand temple and it consisted of a room with a thatch roof and a huge rock in the middle of the floor. I guess they couldn’t get rid of the rock! He pointed out the tomb holes in the cliff as we hiked back down. The views were beautiful, the ruins interesting, and the walk was pleasant. All in all in a good visit to Pisac.

    One side note, there was a group of Spanish tourists on the site with us. They had a lady with them who had a blood pressure cuff and bottle of oxygen. She was checking the blood pressure of each of her tourists and supplying oxygen if needed. I wanted to get in line for a quick inhale myself.

    It sprinkled a little bit on and off so we were adding clothes, taking off clothes and covering cameras. On of the few days we could have used our rain jackets and we did not bring them. We did enjoy watching a large tour group come walking up in their rainbow of ponchos. They added quite a bit of color to our day. Margee and I were talking about the rainbow of colors and Fidel couldn’t figure out where the rainbow was, he laughed when we explained it to him as he was looking for a real rainbow.

    We asked if he had just taken us on the “Big” walk without telling us and he replied no. We decided to have some fun with him and told him that he should tell the middle aged ladies “yes that was the Big walk”. It also wouldn’t hurt if he told us we were “amazing” but he had to say it with sincerity. Well, these ladies were “amazing” for the rest of the day. LOL

    Tiger was ready and waiting for us. He led us to the car and off we went for lunch. We stopped at a little café on the side of the road and were welcomed by the owner/waitress. Evidently she knew our intrepid duo so we received nice service. We all had the tourist menu and it was very tasty, especially the chocolate cake for dessert. Fidel got his meal for free for bringing us in and we paid for Tigers meal.

    Pisac market was next. Margee decided she was going on a shopping spree and I would just slow her down. She looked at Fidel and asked him to stick with me as “ she needs your help, stay with her” and off she went. Ok, thank you Margee.

    Fidel and I are wandering around and I buy a few trinkets then we reach the local market. Now I am in seventh heaven. This is what I wanted to see, not just more tourist junk. The ladies are sitting on the ground with their produce displayed around them. There must have been dozens of different types of potatoes for sale along with peppers and other vegetables. It was wonderful and I loved walking up and down the aisles.

    One lady had a display of dyes for sale. The different colored dyes were in individual tin containers, most of which had lids on them. One dark, dark green dye was open and Fidel showed me how I should put just the tip of my index finger into it. I did as he showed me and then we rubbed our fingers together. The dye turned into a beautiful bright pink color that keep growing and growing and growing. Pretty soon we are both laughing our heads off as the bright pink color is all over our hands. We try to wipe it off with Kleenex. Then we try washing it off with water. Finally Fidel pulls a bottle of hand sanitizer out of his back pack and we use that but we still can’t get the pink stuff off. It was amazing how a little green powder could turn into a huge pink mess. Thank you for the very fun experience Fidel! (The next day, we both had pink remnants that we couldn’t scrub off!)

    Fidel had another treat in store for me. We had fresh baked bread with ham and cheese that came out of a huge wood burning oven. I bought one for each of us and it was delicious.

    As we wandered around we found several vendors selling school supplies. I made a mental note of where they were located so I could bring Margee back after she was done shopping. I admired the ladies at the meat stalls, patiently waiving the flies away from their wares. I tasted fried corn and even some beans. Fidel and the sales lady laughed at me because I ate the bean, shell and all. Well, they didn’t tell me it had to be shelled first!

    We found Margee who had successfully put a dent in her shopping list. I told her about the school supplies so we went back to buy some. We are going on a school visit later in the week and wanted to bring supplies with us. The school supplies people struck bonanza with us. We purchased almost everything they had. We bought tablets, pens, pencils, crayons, glue, colored pencils, rulers, etc. etc. It was a huge box of stuff and even though they did not negotiate very much, it was a heck of a deal. We walked away happy and I am sure they went home very happy.

    There were some children who followed Margee around the entire time she was shopping. They wanted her to buy whistles from them. Margee didn’t really want whistles but they would not leave her alone. We wondered later if she had spent the few sols they were asking if they would have gone away.

    Fidel took us to Ollantaytambo and we checked into KB Tambo and met the owner KB. (We never saw him again during our stay.) The room was nice and the restaurant looked inviting. We had to work on our plane ticket problem so we spent the rest of the evening across the street at the Internet café. It turned out that Lan Peru would change our tickets over the phone if we owned them money. If they owed us money we had to go to their office in Cusco.

    The café was dimly lit, a little girl sat and stared at us most of the time we were there and then the electricity went out. It was a scene right out of a scary movie. Even more funny was trying the cross the muddy street in the dark, in the rain and deciding we had to wait for a car to come so we could cross quickly in the headlights. Talk about living dangerously! LOL

    After Margee arm wrestled with Lan Peru to no avail we struck up a conversation with a gal and her two young boys from Seattle. We had a bit to eat with them at KB Tambo’s restaurant. Margee gave the boys her tablet and pen to entertain themselves with and they used up a third of the paper, but they were fairly quiet. We had delicious rice pudding for dinner and that was the end of another day in Peru.

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    Babs-Thanks so much for skipping Margee's part of the report and continuing with your piece of the report. I am really enjoying reading about your adventure. I was so excited when you mentioned that you would be able to get to Machu Picchu. I am really sorry if it did not work out. I know you must be disappointed if you did noit get there, but the rest of you trip so far sounds like it was wonderful. I give you a lot of credit for doing that hike on the island. I am hoping that we do not get altitude sickness as neither Jim nor I can take Diamox. I am looking forward to the rest of your report.

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    March 22, 2010 Moray and Salineras de Maras

    We got up bright and early because we have to return to Cusco to change our Lan Peru tickets back to our original itinerary. We were so early that KB Tambo was not serving breakfast yet. We wandered down the street to Heart Café and they were not open either. We did stop at the ATM in the plaza and got sols and dollars. David Choque wanted to be paid in dollars.

    We walked into another restaurant that smelled like they had mopped the floor with a dirty, stagnant mop and I told Margee I could not eat there. We ended up next door where the owner was placing tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. It was a warm, pretty, sunny morning so breakfast outside suited us fine. We were now a bit short on time so we asked if he could have coffee for us in about 15 minutes and he replied yes. We actually ordered pancakes to go with our coffee. I ran back to KB Tambo to leave word for Fidel and Tiger that we were breakfasting on the plaza. By the time I got back to the restaurant our food arrived. We had just the right amount of time to eat and pay our bill before Fidel and Tiger arrived. They apologized for being late but we told them their timing was perfect.

    Back in the car we return to Cusco. It is about an hour and ½ drive and this was the third time to see the scenery. Fidel took us to the Lan Peru office and Margee grabs a number while Fidel and I search out a restroom at the hotel across the street. It was not a very long wait until our number popped up on the screen. The best part of our transaction was walking up and sitting down at the service representative’s desk. It went downhill from there. We were to soon learn that she needed a HUGE sign on her forehead that said “IN TRAINING”.

    Margee tries patiently to explain to her that all we want to do is to go back to our original itinerary, and here is a copy of what we want. She fussed on the computer, over and over and over and over. It was unbelievable. We have no idea what she was doing. We don’t think she did either. She asked for help from the gal sitting in the next window but all she got was abbreviated assistance that did not move things along at all.

    Finally she figured out that she could switch our tickets back as there was still room on the flights. OK, now we are getting somewhere though this has taken an hour. Of course we want printed confirmation of the change; her word that it’s OK is not enough. Confirmation was not so easy for her. This probably took another 30 minutes. Now we are due a refund but she can’t put the money back on the credit card, she has to give us vouchers. Vouchers are another item she has not been trained on yet. At one point, she is so frustrated that she is wiping her eyes and I think not only is she traumatizing us we are traumatizing her. Margee nicely but pointedly asked the gal in the next window to help her because at this point we have been sitting here for two hours, but no help was provided. She could not figure out how to process the vouchers and at one point asked us if she could meet us at the airport and deliver the vouchers to us. I was not born yesterday and I knew if we walked out of that office without the vouchers that would be the end of it. She would hit the delete button and that would be that. So I told her NO, she needed to figure out to process them. Finally, she passed the vouchers over. I bet she went on break after we left and had a good cry, we certainly wanted to. What a nightmare. Lan Peru was not a good experience. We took big cleansing breaths as we walked out the door with patient Fidel and we decided to put it behind us.

    During all this turmoil, a nice American couple asked if we needed assistance. We had purchased the Lan Peru tickets with Wells Fargo points and they said they were familiar with the program. I explained that our problem was not with Well Fargo but with Lan Peru but it was nice of them to offer assistance. These nice folks are affiliated with the Methodist Church and are with a group providing health and dental services to people living around Lake Titicaca. I asked if they ever had pre-med students assist them and they said they did. I jotted down their info to give to my son Chris in case he is interested in volunteering before he heads off to medical school. Too bad that Chris is interested and I lost the information!

    We walked out of Lan Peru and thanked Fidel and Tiger for waiting on us. We were all hungry by now so Tiger drove us to the San Blas area and we ate lunch at Pacha Papa. Margee and I both had pizza and we shared. The two boys had something off the “tourist menu” that looked really good and we treated both of them to lunch for so patiently waiting while we arm wrestled Lan Peru. The food and the atmosphere were delightful. In fact, we liked San Blas so much that we decided we would come back when we returned to Cusco in a few days.

    We are on our fourth trip on the road out of Cusco. We are a bit bored with it so we decide to have a doggy counting contest. On a five mile stretch of road Margee counted all the doggies on the left side of the car and I counted all the doggies on the right side. If a dog was crossing the road, he would be counted on the side of the road he was headed to. Fidel and Tiger thought we were crazy but it didn’t take long before they got into the act. I counted 67 and Margee counted 50. We would see one here and one there, then all of a sudden there would be a pack of 5. Someone we met along the way told us if they have a blue collar on they have been vaccinated by a volunteer group. We never saw any blue collars and most of the dogs were in pretty bad shape.

    We have our revised plane tickets; we have a full stomach, finally it was time to have some fun. First stop is Moray, the concentric ring terraces probably developed by the Inca as an agricultural experiment. Each ring terrace has a different micro climate, and the temperature differs by 1.5 degree Celsius each level. It was kind of fun to climb up and down the Inca steps to each level. Inca steps are big rocks that jut out from the side of the wall. They are rather precarious but I figured out that if I kept my center of gravity low it was easier to climb down them. Climbing up was pure jaw clenching work. Of course, I was huffing and puffing but determined to climb to the bottom. I figured if I could climb UP to the top of Pachatata on Amantani, I could like climb DOWN to the bottom of Moray. LOL! Fidel took me a different route going back up and it turned out to be easier. Being the great guide he is, he kept encouraging me along with “Your Awesome!” Margee, being the smarter one of the two of us, watched me from above.

    Back in the car, we went to Salineras de Maras. This site is way off the beaten track and it was interesting that we headed down the road right after the school children got out of school. Some of the children had bicycles so were way down the road while the walkers straggled all along the stretch. The road to Salineras de Maras stretches 3 ¾ miles from the main road and there were kids all along the way. Some of them had quite a walk and in wet weather I can imagine the road would just be mud.

    AT Salineras de Maras, the Inca had set up thousands of individual salt pans that form terraces on a hillside. Water runs down the hill in carefully created ditches and spreads out to all of the salt pans. As the water evaporates, the salt crystals form. Unfortunately, the workers do not collect enough salt to sell in quantity. Most of their product is sold on location as tourist souvenirs. It was interesting but I wish we had seen it when it was actually being worked but we were there in the off season. We each bought a small bag to bring home.

    It had been a long day so we headed back to Ollantaytambo and found that we had been moved to a larger room. They receptionist asked us in the morning if we wanted a larger room and we really didn’t make a decision expecting to be back fairly early. Well, they decided for us and moved our stuff. All of it, even the razor and shampoo in the shower. Neither one of us cared so the move worked out just fine though we did feel a little guilty that we didn’t have everything packed up ready to go.

    We had dinner at the hotel and I ordered a beef burrito and Margee ordered the chicken burrito. They brought out beans, really good guacamole, tortillas that were more like crepes but very tasty, cheese, salsa, and our meat. We piled it up on our plates and dug in. It was delicious. To celebrate our successful Lan Peru transaction, we ordered a bottle of red wine. We drank half with dinner and took the rest back to the room for another meal.

    After dinner we were heading back to our room when we met Mr. Seattle Longshoreman. We chat with this dreadlocked guy for awhile in the hallway until he invited us to join him and his wife back in the restaurant. We did and we spent another pleasant hour talking about where we had been, where we were going, and what are the chances of getting to Machu Pichu. Zero chance as far as we were concerned but they had plenty of time and we planning as they went along.

    We stopped at the desk to confirm our bicycle ride in the morning. We were not on the schedule so the receptionist said she would try to work it out for us and we should be ready to go at 9:00 am in the lobby. This time we made it back to our room and our beds.

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    March 23, 2010 Downhill Heaven, Uphill Hell

    Bright and early we got a knock on our door. It was the receptionist telling us they found a guide for our bike ride and we need to be ready by 9:00 am. The restaurant was serving so we had an energizer breakfast and were ready and waiting in the lobby at the appropriate time. A young man walked up to the door and looked in at us. He said a confused “Hi, bike tour?” We don’t think we were what he expected. He was not what we expected so we started off on the same footing. Evidently whoever had contacted him about guiding the bike ride told him we were two tourists who had eight years of mountain biking experience and were looking to go on a ride. Margee and I have ridden bikes all our lives but in no way are we experienced mountain bicyclists.

    He introduced himself as Richard and the taxi driver was Percy. He confided that he was worried about keeping up with the anticipated experienced mountain bike riders. Instead he found that we were “ladies of age” (I love the way some thing’s translate) and that we were a responsibility instead of a challenge. We later learned that he did not take his responsibility very seriously.

    Into the taxi we go. The back is loaded with three dismantled bicycles, helmets, gloves and leg guards. It bugged me a lot that the seat belt did not work in the back seat. The buckle had broken and replaced. The problem was that the replacement buckle did not fit the latch. It was a scary one hour ride up the mountain road. I decide to play with Richard a little bit so asked Margee to ask him in Spanish if he could teach me how to ride a bike. His look of utter dismay was priceless and both Margee and I started laughing. I really don’t think he saw the humor of it.

    Richard finally mentioned that we were not going all the way to the top of the mountain which was fine with me. During the drive, Margee, Richard and I discussed whether we would ride all the way down on the road or go off road. He pointed out a section of off-road trail and Margee asked how steep the side of the mountain was. Richard explained it was an abyss. Margee did not know what this meant but I sure as heck did. It is a steep cliff and I am not riding a bike next to it. Abyss does not have a good connotation what so ever. Margee pushed the issue and asked if there isn’t some easy off-road trail we could go on for a little bit. I am thinking that going down the nice smooth road is an excellent idea.

    We arrive at the top of the mountain, which is not really the top, and thank goodness we brought our coats. It was very windy and cold! Richard is putting the bicycles together and we are trying not to freeze. Percy is going to stay close by to us in the taxi as we ride down the mountain. He would pass us then we would pass him on the side of the road, back and forth all the way down. Richard told us we would take it slow. Off we go and he is leading the way down the hill. I am behind him and am constantly on the break. He must have known this because they squealed loud enough to wake the dead. If I was to take my hand off the brake I would have rolled right on by him. I didn’t say anything, he would not have understood me if I had, but Margee finally had enough and yelled at him in Spanish to speed it up. He did and it was much more enjoyable. We wanted to stop occasionally to take pictures so Margee told him when we yelled “photo” that what we wanted to do. He glumly went along with it.

    This road had more switchbacks then a plate of spaghetti. Back and forth, round and round just like a roller coaster. The scenery was beautiful and we saw little houses with gardens, farmers working their small fields and dogs that thought chasing us was great sport.

    Richard pointed out painted red rocks on the side of the road. These were the entrances t o the off-road bike trails. They have a huge off-road bike race on this mountain each year and Richard has qualified to race in. Down the mountain we go and everything is going fine. I enjoy speeding by those darn red rocks. Richard pulled over onto a gravel area and we see a red rocks and a small trail heading off. Richard advises that we can ride on a little easy part of the trail right here. I am looking at this easy trail and saying NOOOOOOOO! I don’t want to; I am fine on the road. Well no one listened to me. Richard goes first and he does some fancy bike work of braking and balancing down the hill. He made it look easy. Margee is behind him and if he can do it, she can do it. She heads down the hill and is braking, balancing and maneuvering. As she gets to the bottom she has to turn to avoid hitting Richard who has not moved off the trail far enough. She hit a muddy, rocky area and she wiped out. She thought she fell in slow motion, it looked like slow motion to me, but she still wiped out.

    I am at the top of the hill waiting for her to get up. She didn’t get back up but she did yell at me not to ride the bike down. I’m thinking to myself “no kidding”. I am not riding this bike down the hill, so I dropped it, and trotted down safely. She managed to get herself up and is hobbling around. Her knee is bleeding and she tore her pants a little bit. She was pretty upset and her adrenaline was pumping so we let her walk around for a minute before we doctored her up. Richard hands me two small packets that I think are antibiotics. I tear one open and smear it on her knee. Of course, then I look at the packet and realize that I had just put suntan lotion on her boo boo. The other packet is antibiotic so I wipe her knee off and apply the second goop. I then got out my own first aid kit and found a band aid to put on. She walks around some more to calm down. I thought it was her knee that hurt the most but it turns out it was her ankle that hurt more, it just wasn’t bleeding.

    Back to the asphalt we went. Under my breath I told Richard to stay on the road. He may not have understood my English but he definitely understood my meaning.

    We are going down, down, down and down. At some point I figured out that the gears on my bike did not shift. It did not matter as long as I was coasting downhill but once we hit a level or uphill portion I would have problems. I mentioned it to Richard (via Margee) a couple of times and he played with the gears and said it was fine. I could only get into two speeds. All downhill rides must come to an end and this one did. As I expected, the gears would not shift and I could hardly peddle the bike up the hill. I am puffing and wheezing and am definitely having a problem. On the best of days this would be a tough hill to walk up so I know I can’t possibly ride a malfunctioning bicycle up it. I got off the bike and pushed it. Margee rode by and offered to switch bikes. I was game for anything besides walking the last five miles so I agreed. She agreed that it did not shift very well while hers was a well oiled, well tuned machine. Figures. In the meantime we catch up to Richard and I told him I was done. I had had enough fun for the day. Please call the taxi back and give us a ride into town. It is at this point that Richard tells us he does not have a cell phone on him. Both Margee and I were stunned. What if one of us had been really hurt, he had no phone to call for assistance. He really didn’t take his job or his responsibility very seriously. He rode down the hill and found a phone and called Percy to come pick us up. Percy drove up and they loaded the bikes in the taxi and we piled in. We are not happy with Richard.

    We got back to town and pulled up in front of the hotel and in a blink of an eye, Richard disappeared. We haven’t even gotten out of the taxi and he is gone. I think they went inside the hotel to talk to the boss and cover their rears. We saw Richard three more times before we left town and not once did he ask how Margee’s knee was. In fact the first time, he totally ignored us. In my phone book you would find him listed under the letter J.

    To celebrate our bicycle ride survival we finished off the bottle of wine at lunch. We ordered the chicken and beef sandwiches at KB Tambo and they were delicious.

    After lunch we went to the Ollantaytambo ruins. We decided not to hire a guide and just wander around at our own pace. We hiked around a bit but didn’t make it to the top. I didn’t care then and I don’t care now but it was fun and interesting and we took some really pictures.

    We shopped some more at the market and Margee bought a very nice tapestry and some other things for folks back home. After that Margee went to the Internet café across the street and I walked around and took pictures. Since we had a late lunch we decided to go to the Heart Café and have dessert. I ordered apple crumb cake with ice cream. Margee wanted decaf coffee which they did not have. What they served me was not edible. It looked like it had been baked/burned a week ago and left out on the counter the whole time. I didn’t complain or return it, but I certainly couldn’t eat it. I just could not put it in my already iffy stomach. So much for dessert.

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    Babs-Thanks so much for this wonderful report. I've been looking forward to and enjoying every installment. The bike adventure sounds like way too much "fun". We will be in Peru in just a couple of months and your report is invaluable--lots of good information. Thanks again!

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    Your report is great! We are staying at KB Tambo in June for 5 nights & I had been considering doing the bike ride. My children were discouraging me as I have a propensity to hurt myself. After reading this, I think we will either pass on the bike ride or make a point to NOT have Richard for a guide. Would it have been an ok experience if you had had a better guide & a better bike? If so, I will still consider it. Looking forward to the jungle part of your trip...

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    Enjoying your report. We will be in Ollantaytambo this Saturday to begin our adventure. Really looking forward to spending 3 days in this village. The only difficulty we have had is that PeruRail only allows ll lbs. carryon bag for trip to MP on their train! We will be traveling with one backpack each for a 2 week trip. This will be an experienence.

    Your episode at the Lan Air offices reminds me of our ordeal at the China Air office in Lhasa, Tibet. We purchased our round trip tickets thru Expedia from Katmandu to Lhasa, but China Air wouldn't honor them in Lhassa on our return trip. The Chinese representatives screamed at the top of their lungs at our guide back and forth (the most bizarre thing ever) and after 2 hours we ended up having to run to an ATM and buy one way tickets back to Katmandu. Yes when traveling you roll with the punches than deal with the credit card companies from home!

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    fball, the bike ride was really a blast except for the "incident". Try to talk to KB, the owner, when you arrive. Grab him the first time you see him as you may not see him again. Discuss your concerns and you should be OK. No matter what, stay on the road! Wanda, ask the hotel in Olly if they will keep your excess baggage while you go to MP. We travelled really light but 11 pounds is extremely meager. I think I have read elsewhere on this site that the rule is not enforced, BUT don't take my word for it as we never made it to MP and have no first hand experience.

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    Thanks for the advice, Barb. I think I will set up the bike trip by email with KB & see if I can arrange a different guide for us & completely functioning bikes. There are 5 of us so I don't want anyone stuck on a crummy bike. KB has been pretty responsive by email & I've spoken with him by phone.

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    Margee finished up our Colca Canyon tour journal so I am going to post it now though it is out of date order. Here goes:

    March 15 and 16, 2010 Colca Canyon

    An early wake-up call had us eating breakfast on the lovely terrace of our hotel overlooking some gardens with many trees –one in particular with a birdcage suspended housing some colorful parakeets. The breakfast was a nice buffet with the typical eggs, sausage, breads and also included a variety of grains and yogurt that made for a nice hearty cereal concoction. A variety of juices were available and the coffee was delicious. A great start to a great day. We were sharing the terrace with several high school kids who were traveling on a spring break from an elite boarding school in Colorado Springs. We ran into them a few more times on our excursion. We were all headed on a tour to the Colca Canyon.

    While they boarded a bus, our guide and driver escorted us to a typical mini van and soon we saw that we were its only passengers. We enjoyed a nice amount of conversation with our very pleasant guide who shall remain nameless due to our inability to remember her name! Nevertheless, she spoke English well enough and had lots of anecdotal information to share as we rode along. As we journeyed to the outskirts of town, we stopped at a small market to buy water and a bag of coca leaves. We were going to be ascending to altitudes of over 16,000 feet as we crossed the Andes and traveled to the famous lookout point to await a view of the infamous Andean Condors. We had been taking meds to ward off altitude sickness, but the locals recommended chewing the coca leaves as well.

    Upon leaving town we stopped briefly to photograph a magnificent view of the volcano. As we left the paved roads, the real adventure began as we endured the bumpiest and most uncomfortable roads imaginable. It was four hours of unpaved roads that jostled us about until I thought my kidneys would dislocate. On the positive side, we traveled along seeing amazing vistas. The terrain changed dramatically with each passing hour. What started as flat fields with small family farms dotting the fertile land soon turned into vast open prairies where herds of alpaca, llamas and vicunas roamed and grazed. These same grasses called ichu are the primary source of material for the thatched roofs and mud bricks that are used for the homes’ construction.

    At one point we reached the summit where four major volcanoes could be seen. We stopped along the road and walked a short distance to a fascinating area where small stone altars were erected by individuals who then placed coca leaves atop and made a wish to the god of the earth for a safe journey. As the leaves blew away, we were assured that our wish was taken “heavenward”. We stopped a little further up the road to see the plaques naming the four volcanoes and also saw some artisans selling their weavings. A little girl was dressed in the traditional clothing and she smiled readily for pictures.

    We continued to gain altitude and see rugged mountainsides until our van stopped again at the place they call Mirador de los Andes. It is where the traveler crosses from the western side of the Andes to the eastern side. More artisans with lots of embroidered fabrics, rugs and general handicraft were displayed. A young boy was walking with an alpaca on a rope posing for pictures with the tourist. I was convinced that the animal was about to spit since it kept chewing and chewing while I stood next to it. Someone had just warned me that they often do such gross behaviors and to be careful. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

    As we got closer to the town of Chivay I get thinking that we would soon have decent roadways but we weren’t that lucky. The welcoming arches marking the town entrance were the first pavement and if I’m not mistaken, that was cobblestone. Our hotel was beyond Chivay another 20 minutes further and more poor roads to get to a small village called Coporaque where a beautiful lodge awaited us called La Casa de Mama Yacchi.

    What a treasure in the rough it was! The setting was stunning with views galore. The stone structure and beautifully landscaped flower gardens made for a serene reprieve from the violent jostling of the long trip. We entered to find a beautiful lobby and large open dining area a flight of stairs down. The bay windows and wood beamed vaulted ceiling made for a dramatic impression. We were directed to our room down a hall and beyond the man painting fresh varnish on the door and hall area. Our first impression upon entering was that of toxic fumes. However, the room looked and smelled fine.

    As we checked things out, we were delighted to look out the window and see our neighbor, the hotel llama named Manchito, tethered to a stake and enjoying the grass only 10 feet from our window. We quickly returned to the dining room for a lunch buffet which was beautifully presented in Peruvian style with earthenware dishes and colorful table décor. The hostess and waitress were dressed in traditional garb with veils and sashes.

    After lunch we opted to take a walk and tour the area with our guide. She walked us down a path that was pathetically strewn with litter yet bordered the most beautiful acres of vibrant crops such as beans and barley and potatoes. In our conversation it was noted that we were interested in schools and she offered to take us to see a little day care center subsidized by the government. Being a little later in the day, we found only a few children remaining but nevertheless, it was quite an eye opener to enter and see a functioning child care center. My first thought was that it mirrored what I had been seeing in the country in general. The poor conditions and lack of sanitary conditions saddened me. The ladies in charge were very delightful and you could see that they loved the kids. The kids were sweet but quite shy and lacking a good face scrubbing. The toys and materials were equally in need of a good scrub. We took pictures and walked around to see the nap room and the bathrooms. Before leaving we decided to make a donation since we had not brought anything in the way of materials with us to give. I think we left them thirty or forty dollars to buy whatever the children needed. It felt good to do at least that much. The caregivers were very grateful.

    Our walk was leisurely but everything at that altitude felt somewhat strenuous. I remember feeling quite tired upon return. We washed up and decided to have a glass of wine before dinner and capitalize on the inviting fireplace. It was very enjoyable and the little area had wonderful artifacts of traditional Peruvian culture—especially some musical instruments.

    Our evening dinner was delicious and the dining room seemed especially lively with the arrival of the Colorado high school group. Barb was quick to say that we better get up to the buffet as it wouldn’t last long once they hit it. The staff was attentive and explained the different dishes. I tried most everything and loved them—especially the soups.

    We were cautioned that this would be one of our colder stops so we dressed “up” for bed in the long underwear and warm layers. I was overheated and slept poorly. They attributed it to the altitude but I think it had to do with getting up at a ridiculous hour to start the next day’s travels. We were so tired at breakfast, Barb couldn’t even eat. My first pictures note the time as 5 am as we left the hotel.

    Another long drive of unbearably bumpy roads brought us to the famous lookout for the Andean Condor. The panoramic vistas along the way left you breathless. We stopped in a small village with a church to use the facilities. There was a man holding a captive Condor and he would perch it on your head for a picture—of course demanding money afterwards. Our guide encouraged us to not support this inhumane treatment of the prized bird. We were back on the road for the final ascent.

    We were offered a short walk or a long hike and we quickly opted for the short walk given the altitude issues. The canyon was spectacular and we saw many caves in the canyon walls which served as burial places by the Incas. It was hard to conceive of how they managed to scale these walls and bury their dead. You could see lines suggesting how they carved trails traversing the walls. As we were heading up a path about 300 feet from the look out peak, our guide directed our attention to a couple of Condors overhead. My first impression was that they must be plentiful if we already spotted two before even getting to the best lookout. Little did I realize that those were to be the only two we were to see in the next hour. How I wish I had been quicker with my camera. I got one decent picture. Barb and I then later purchased a few photographs from a vendor on site for a pretty pricey sol or two.

    Our ride back to Arequipa was highlighted by two additional travelers riding part way. One American and one Peruvian who seemed to be a “couple” were archaeologists working in Nazca. At one point we had stopped for one last picture of the canyon and the Peruvian gal steps a few feet up the hillside and picks up a piece of pottery and nonchalantly shows us what she’s found. Our guide clarifies that it is authentic from the Inca culture and is hundreds of years old! We then get some explanations as to how the archaeologist evaluates the pottery’s details and how they determine what size the piece was. To our amazement she tosses it back up the hillside claiming that the government red tape involved to register and catalog such a piece is much more laborious than anyone can imagine. At least we got a picture of her holding it!

    We arrived at our lunch stop in the town of Chivay a little before noon. Another attractive and extensive buffet awaited us and our ravenous appetites. After all, we had gotten up at the crack of dawn and Barb could hardly talk let alone eat. Perhaps this accounts for her sense of adventure and willingness to try the dish of guinea pig. I could not bring myself but sat mesmerized at her response. Lots of bones was the first comment and little meat to follow. Enough said. I passed on the opportunity. I did enjoy a stew with alpaca meat in a good broth. My favorite highlight was the dessert flan. It was worth going back for seconds.

    The remaining hours of our trip were somewhat quiet with one stop for bathrooms and we arrived back at our hotel in Arequipa late in the afternoon. Neither of us can remember eating dinner that night so I think my supply of granola bars served me well. We needed to be up early for our bus to Puno the following morning. It had been a wonderful and full two day excursion to experience the Colca Canyon.

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    And now back to our regularly scheduled installment:


    March 24, 2010 School Visit

    We went touring with David Choque today. We telephoned him last night because his schedule indicated that we had a 9:30 am cooking class and a 2:00 pm school visit. This didn’t make any sense as the children would be out of school by 2:00 pm and we didn’t want to visit empty rooms. David called the cooking class and rearranged the day so we went to the school first.

    Huilloc is about 45 minutes up a very narrow, bumpy, muddy road. In fact, of all the roads we had been on in Peru, this was the one that scared us the most. Obviously the incessant rains had taken its toll on it. There was mudslide after mudslide and some sections were almost impassable. David kept saying he was a good driver but as the car slipped sideways in the mud towards the cliff, we prayed he was right. Road workers were diligently moving tons of mud and rock off the road with shovels. At one point, David stopped and handed money out to them for their hard effort. We arrived in town and found that we are definitely a novelty. David said the town may get visitors every three months or so. There were no vendors. This was the first place we went where someone didn’t try to sell us something. It was wonderful.

    David led us to the school and the first classroom we visited was for second graders. The teacher was delightful and welcomed us into the class. She led the children in songs which was wonderful. Margee and I checked out the classroom and took many pictures of the children.

    We had purchased a big box of supplies and one point I saw David digging through it, Evidently, he wanted to pick out some of the supplies for this class and the rest for the kindergarten class. It irritated me a bit that he didn’t ask us what we wanted to do. Months previously when I was planning the trip with him he had agreed to take us shopping for school supplies. That didn’t happen as he sent us off on tour with Fidel. We did manage to locate supplies on our own and we bought a large quantity but I felt like he let us down, and then took over the distribution without asking us. Margee and I decided that we did not want to dilute the moment by discussing glue sticks and pencils with him. I did have to draw the line though when he wanted to give the large stapler to one teacher and the box of staples to another. The teachers showed the children what we brought and they clapped with big smiles, that’s what it was all about.

    The children were adorable and well behaved but they all needed baths, teeth brushing, clean clothes and quite a few needed medical attention. Margee wanted to scrub the tables down they were so dirty. Life is hard when you don’t have running water or electricity and the teachers do the best they can.

    We went to the kindergarten class next. There were about 30 three to five year old children sitting around their tables and squirming just like all kindergarten children do. The teacher had them sign a song for us then Margee then asked the teacher to continue on with her normal activities and we would just watch. The teacher had painted tin cans yellow, red, blue, and green and used them for teaching colors. She worked on color recognition with the painted cans and colored plastic soda bottle caps. Margee was worried that the younger children would try to chew on them. The teacher reviewed the colors and the children would select the appropriate bottle cap that matched. Margee commented later that the classroom materials were meager and very primitive but resourceful. There was one little boy balancing his chair on two legs. It wasn’t long before he was sprawled on the floor. There is at least one wild child in every classroom and I picked him out almost immediately and knew what was going to happen.

    We toured the room and saw nesting boxes, dollies, and kitchen toys. There were many toothbrushes in a jar next to a tooth brushing poster. The toothbrushes did not have names on them. Margee held up a Spanish copy of Good Night Moon and we both smiled. I wondered if my son’s copy is still on the bookshelf at home.

    Our schedule had been rearranged but evidently we didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the school because David hustled us out as we had to get to the cooking class. We arrived at Tres Keros in Urubamba and David knocked on the door. Then he banged on the door. Finally a gal answered and told David that the chef, Richard Behar, had gone to the market to buy ingredients. David called Richard at the market and arranged for us to catch up with him. We got to the market and parked the car. Our backpacks were in the back of the car and I was extremely uncomfortable leaving them there. David said are packs would be fine. We have managed to hang onto them and all our belongings so far this trip and here we are leaving our
    stuff out with hundreds of people around. I worried about it the whole time we were in the market.

    The market is quite big with an outdoor area and a covered indoor area. It was amazing looking down at it all and I enjoyed it very much. There were so many people selling so many different types of fruits of vegetables. The colors were vibrant and I had a hard time taking it all in. We climbed a set of stairs that overlooked the indoor market and David says to look for


    a tall man. I wonder “how tall?” We didn’t see a tall man so David called Richard again and we were directed to the fruit department. We wander over there and meet up with Richard and two other cooking class students, Candice and her son Zeek, from Massachusetts.

    Richard walked us around the fruit section and explained that the quality is so poor it can’t be exported to the United States. Then he points out some beautiful apples and told us they came from Washington State. Then he points out some very nice fruit and advises it came from Chile. He explained that the US and Chile use technology such as genetics, fertilizer and insecticides to raise crops while Peru does not have this technological advantage yet. It was nutritious, tasty food for the local people but it could not be sold on the international market.

    Both Margee and I noticed that Richard was not treating the vendors very well. He wanted to cut a piece of fruit up so we could try it but he did not want to pay the vendor for it. He complained about the quality and price of EVERYTHING. I enjoyed the market but would have enjoyed walking around the market even more without Richard. Richard is buying a little here and little there and he finally has everything he wants so we head back to the car. I am praying that our stuff is still there and it was thank goodness.

    At the restaurant there is one table set up with ingredients with one knife and cutting board. I guess only one of us actually gets to prepare food. This is going to be a demonstration rather than hands on cooking class. Zeek, the 14 year old, jumps in and cuts up the salmon for the ceviche. All the other ingredients had been cut up by Richard’s staff so there was nothing else for us to prepare. Richard tossed ingredients into the bowl with the salmon but did not tell us what the ingredients were. One ingredient was a very smooth, off white paste. I asked what it was and he said it was garlic. I asked if it was cooked, blended or what? He was not real forthcoming with the answer. I kept thinking to myself that this is a cooking class and I would like to know what ingredients you are using so that I can make the dish later. All the ingredients for the ceviche were tossed together and it was set aside to marinate.

    Next, Zeek sliced mushrooms. Lots of mushrooms. I am looking at the way the knife is cutting the mushrooms and decided it had to be very dull. At one point when Zeek put it down I checked the edge and it was dull as a putty knife. Margee took her turn at slicing and pretty soon there was a huge bowl of sliced mushrooms. Richard put the mushroom dish together and at this point I am losing interest because I don’t want to guess at each and every ingredient. I want him to explain what he is doing but no amount of coaxing from me is going to convince him to do this.

    The next dish is marinated beef on skewers. It is marinated in a red sauce. He scoops the red sauce out of a jar. I ask what is in the sauce and he says it is chilies. So then I have to ask how they had been prepared. He confessed that the chilies had been cooked and blended until smooth. I am pulling teeth to get the most basic of info out of him.

    During all of this he is yelling at his staff and negotiating food prices with a group of farmers who came in. On top of this he pulls a couple of cook books out and starts flipping through the pages to show us pictures of the food. The funny thing is that they were not his cook books. They were written by other cooks that he apparently was impressed with. It was very weird.

    We sat down at a table and the staff served us the food. They served several dishes that we had not seen during the cooking ‘demonstration’ such as mashed potatoes and fava beans. Richard asked us to guess what the secret ingredient was in the potatoes. We had no idea so he told us he put vanilla in the mashed potatoes. Definitely weird.

    There was a yellow sauce on the plate and of course I asked what it was. Richard held up a jar full of yellow sauce but the jar
    had a fruit label on it. I asked again what was in the jar and he replied that I could buy it anywhere. Well, no I can’t because I have no idea what was in that jar. I never did figure out what kind of sauce it was.

    The food was pretty good but at $69.00 US dollars per person, it was a steep lunch.

    David drove us back to Cusco, so this is trip number 5 on that road. I napped. We checked back into Nino’s Hotel and got the same room we had before. We sent our clothes out to the laundry then walked over to the Folklore show at the Qosqo Native Art Center that was included on our Tourist ticket. The show was entertaining with colorful costumes, lively music and fancy dancing. We treated ourselves to a taxi ride back to the hotel, the taxi needed shocks desperately.

    Back at Nino’s we enjoyed tea, coffee and dessert in front of the warm fire for a very nice ending to a hectic day.

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    Oh boy! What a mixed bag of an adventure! I'm glad we are not planning on attending a cooking class. I guess all you can say is that the really good days make up for those that are somewhat mediocre. Thanks for posting it. I enjoyed reading more about your trip.

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    Thanks fball. We joked between us that we didn't have bad days, some days just had more "texture" than others. I guess the best thing to say is that Margee and I always seemed to find some way to see the humor in things. Having a good laugh can make most anything seem not so bad.

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    March 25, 2010 Sexy Woman and more

    David Choque picked us up at 10:00 am for our Cusco tour. It was raining outside so we took our rain jackets. We had definitely expected more rain over the course of the trip but had lucked out as the weather was great. Our first stop was at the Qoicancha Templo del Sol. It had the most beautiful, finely crafted Inca masonry that we have seen. The temple is dedicated to sun worship and used to be covered in gold. It is an Inca fortress on the bottom though the Spanish had demolished most of it. Then the Spanish built the Convent of Santo Domingo on top of the Inca ruins in the 17th century. A section of cloister was removed so that you can see the remains of four Inca temple chambers and the exquisite stone work. The monks kept trying to hide the remaining beautiful Inca masonry by plastering and painting over it so that it would not be ransacked by the Spaniards.

    David pointed out a few areas where the Inca stonework had been ripped out so that a convent wall or arch could be built in its place. The difference in workmanship was amazing. There was one small area where the Inca stone was removed and an arch carefully inserted. Evidently the mason decided the Inca workmanship was so good that they may as well incorporate it into their own work.

    I enjoyed the tour and the information but did not enjoy the weather. It had turned cold and we were exhaling frost. At the end of the cold tour of the Temple of the Sun, Margee came to our rescue and told David we needed to go back to the hotel and get more clothes, knit hats, and gloves because we were freezing. She also needed camera batteries. He obliged graciously.

    After our quick stop at the hotel, we went to Sacsayhuaman which was a short ways out of Cusco. It is a low lying ruin, so did not require much climbing, and it had a stunning view of Cusco. The outer walls are in a zigzag formation with some of the stones at the base estimated to weight 300 tons. David explained the zigzag design was useful in times of defense as the aggressors at the walls would always have their flanks exposed. I enjoyed looking at the areas being worked on by archeologists.

    We took a few minutes to enjoy the view and a pleasant surprise was that we could clearly hear a band playing music. It sounded like a huge festival and it was clear as a bell. They were rocking out!

    Back on the road to Q’enko we passed by the tall white statue of Christ on the hill next to Sacsayhuaman. Q’enko looks like a pile of rocks with a cave. Inside the cave is a huge alter made out of smooth limestone. We asked David if the Inca sacrificed humans here and he denied it though he said it was possibly used to sacrifice black llamas and black guinea pigs because they were rare and valuable. There were very small steps up to the
    slab. David said that old men performed the rituals and they needed small steps to reach the alter. Outside there were smaller alters used by different communities to make their own offerings. They would put fruit and vegetables on their alter along with anything else they wanted to offer up. There was another huge slab in the courtyard. I don’t really want to think about what they did on that huge slab.

    On our way out I yelled at David to stop the car. Hanging from a tree next to the road were two effigies of a local boy and a local girl. David explained that boys put the girl up in the tree to tease the girls so the girls put the boy up in the tree to get back at them. It was a cute story.

    We returned to Cusco and David dropped us off in front of La Cathedral and went off to park the car. La Cathedral cost 25 sols to enter. David said it used to be included on the tourist ticket but the church decided they would make more money by charging their own fee. We enjoyed David’s tour of the church and ended up by going down into the crypt of Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega the author of Comentarios Rales de los Incas in 1609.

    There was going to be a procession so one of the statues of Christ from a side chapel was in the main chapel next to the 884 pound silver altar. Christ was all decked out and ready for the party. Too bad when it was over he would be put back in his little side chapel for another year.

    It was now 3:15 and we had not eaten since 9:00 am. We told David that we were fine being left at the plaza as we wanted to do a little shopping and eat. Margee and I decided to cancel our tour with David for the next day as we were toured out. We were going to wander around Cusco and do our own thing. We made arrangements for him to pick us up on March 27th to take us to the airport.

    We had a lovely late lunch at an Italian restaurant on the plaza. I have racked my brains and have done an extensive web search but can’t figure out the name of the restaurant. We spent several hours there talking with a young backpacker named Bessie Bishop. Five months out of the year she works on an Alaskan tourist train, the rest of the year she travels. Now that’s the life. Margee had pasta Alfredo and I had pizza. It was relaxing and enjoyable.

    We wandered around the plaza and did some shopping. Once it got dark, I especially enjoyed the plaza with all the lights reflecting off the cathedral. Back at the hotel we relaxed in front of the fire and enjoyed hot tea and dessert.

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    March 26, 2010 Cusco

    Yesterday we told David we needed a free day so we are on our own today. To start off we walked next door to the Internet café to print off our Lan Peru boarding passes. To bad they didn’t have a printer. The owner directed us to another Internet café down the street so off we went. Something that would take less than 5 minutes at home took over an hour to accomplish but we ended up with our boarding passes and that’s part of the fun of traveling.

    We made our way to the Plaza de Armas and saw a huge crowd standing around the fountain. There was what we would call a mariachi band posing for a photo shoot. The musicians were all dressed up in their handsome outfits with their fancy hats and beautiful musical instruments lining up for photos. So we took some, along with all the other tourists. Then they started to play music. Unfortunately, about the same time they started to play, a protest march started to walk around the plaza with all the accompanying yelling, hollering and chanting typical to protest marches. It was a group of teachers and students protesting against the government but we never did figures out why.

    After visiting several shops on the plaza we hiked up the hill to Barrio de San Blas, the upscale artsy district. We had lunch here a few days ago and decided we wanted to see more of the area. We went into the different shops and Margee purchased enough pencils with boy and girl dolls at the end to give to each of her students. We discovered the girl pencils and asked the vendor if she had boy pencils. She said she would go get some and have them ready for Margee when we headed back down the hill. Upon our return Margee and the vendor agreed on a price and Margee handed over her money. The vendor didn’t want to give her back the change so she threw in a couple of inexpensive items. As we are getting ready to leave, another gal came up to me and said that Margee hadn’t paid enough. Well, I told her that I wasn’t involved in it and she needed to talk to Margee. So she went over to Margee and told her that she had underpaid. Margee told her sorry, this transaction is complete. It was very strange, especially since they threw in extra items so as to not give Margee any change.

    We ate lunch at a really good Mexican restaurant called El Cuate. We ordered the tourist meal which included nachos, coca cola, and main course. They did not have any coke and would not substitute any other beverage, not even water. It was funny but I can’t complain because my cheese enchilada was really good. While we ate, a little cocker spaniel came inside the restaurant begging for food. When I finished eating, I took my leftover tortilla outside to give to him but he was long gone. I wrapped it up in napkin and took it with me in case we saw him again.

    As we walk around I am looking for a hungry dog to feed. Where is a hungry dog when you need one? Everywhere we went there were hungry dogs except when I had food to offer. We were sitting on a bench in San Blas and finally a dog walked by. I offered the food and believe it or not, he was picky. Excuse me, eat the darn tortilla!

    Next stop was a Museum Inka. It had an interesting blend of ceramics, textiles, mummies, etc. Most of the displays had descriptions written in Spanish, but every now and then there would be one written in English. It was hit and miss. I purchased a hand woven bag for my sister from the women weaving in the courtyard. It was definitely a 45 minute museum.

    By now we were walked and shopped out so we returned to the hotel. We relaxed for awhile and organized our packs for leaving the next day. We decided to walk back to the plaza for dinner. It was Friday night and the church was open and many folks were headed that way. The restaurant touts were out in force. You couldn’t take five steps without being asked what do you want to eat, how much do you want to spend or Happy Hour Ladies. We made a pick and walked up stairs to the restaurant to find white linen table clothes and only one couple eating there. Margee was not in the mood for white linen and I wanted something more lively. We compromised by going to McDonald’s. It was a perfect choice, inexpensive, fast, and tasty and a nice reminder of home. I had a Big Mac, fries and a coke for 17sols. Margee had a Quarter Pounder, fries and a coke for 11 sols! Our last celebration in Cusco before going to the Amazon tomorrow.

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    Enjoying the details of your time in Cusco. I'm especially looking forward to the Amazon part of your trip. We will be spending a week with Pantiacolla tours in Manu. Any and all details as to what to bring and not to would be appreciated. I hope you saw lots of wildlife. Keep writing, Barb!
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    I just returned from a different part of the Peruvian Amazon (near Iquitos). Depending on what activities you would be doing, my packing list would include:

    For head covering, I found I preferred a mosquito head net to a hat (yes you look dorky but eventually you realize it's much cooler). Also a bandana or sweatband for the forehead.

    Something cool and loose to wear around the lodge.

    Enough socks and underwear for the stay..extra socks even. It may be that nothing will dry.

    Short sleeve T-shirts and Deet/sunscreen for the lower arms. A LOOSE lighweight long sleeve shirt or a sun-reflecting jacket.

    I did mostly wear long pants, the nylon travel kind. Walking around gets muddy and there are plants that can cut your legs. We had rubber boots. Even in the canoes there would be mosquitoes at your ankles.

    Head Lamp, if your lodge doesn't have electricity. Much handier than a flashlight. I also had a little battery operated light that I clipped to the mosquito netting.

    Antihistamine tablets and cream. DEET and sunscreen.

    Two water bottles.

    Bathing suit.

    Water shoes of some type are nice (I used fake Crocs).

    Extra batteries for camera and headlamp.

    Binoculars.

    What not to bring..black clothing, mosquitos like it
    Also scented soaps, shampoo, creams, etc.

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    Great list mlgb. I especially agree about the extra socks and the head lamp. The Amazon was very wet and rainy when we were there so consider a rain pancho or jacket. The lodge provided rubber boots but they were not very comfortable, thick socks helped with that. Extra batteries a good idea, our lodge had limited electricity and I forgot to get my batteries to the office at the appropriate time. My iphone, which I used as my alarm clock, died the last night so I kept waking up afraid we would be late for our departure time.

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    You're right, the lightweight rain poncho should be added. I guess I forgot because the last 4-5 days we had no rain!

    Another thing I forgot. Bring some ziplock bags and save those little dehumidifier packets (or buy some). Keep your electronics, cameras, watches, etc zipped up with the packets when not in use. Also a ziplock for important papers & even cash, it's amazing how much moisture gets absorbed.

    On the positive side, after a week of 80% humidity and bathing in Amazon silt, my skin looked great!

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    Thank you so much! What great ideas! I would never have thought of the dehumidifier packets. Will definitely bring some. I know my husband will think I'm nuts, but I'll show him your post & convince him to pack some. I am nervous about not having enough battery time on my camera & my iphone. Any suggestions? I'm assuming you both took the anti-malarials, yellow fever & typhoid vaccinations. If so, did you feel ok when you took them? We are just getting started as we leave in 3 weeks.

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    Yep, took all the drugs including Diamox for altitude and had no side effects from any of it. All I can suggest is take extra camera batteries and if they are rechargable to recharge them before you hit the jungle. I have a 3GJuice battery for my iphone that will give you a few more hours, but once again it has to be charged up which I neglected to do before we got to the Amazon. I ordered mine from Amazon for the Amazon. LOL Keep your toiletries in a zip lock. I had the nasty morning surprise of finding a huge cockroach in my toiletry bag on my toothbrush. UGH! FYI, the lodge we stayed at provided biodegradable bar soap and shampoo, maybe yours does to.

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    Our lodge also provided bar soap, but not shampoo. I just brought a bar of castille soap, which I used for hair. I'm not even sure if it was biodegradable.

    I wouldn't bother to bring cosmetics because you will just sweat it all off. BTW the mosquito net functions a bit as a hairnet when you push it back off the forehead.

    I did get the YF and had an itchy red patch about 2 inches by 3 inches for about two weeks. Unless you are going to another country that requires the YF certificate because you were in Peru, you might consider not getting it, especially if approaching or over the age of 60. I took Malarone and didn't have any problems with it.

    I did not go to high altitude on the recent trip. Prior trip I spent 3 nights in Ollantaytambo and then 3 nights and Cusco and didn't take Diamox. Except for a slight headache in Cusco at night I was fine. However, I didn't hike the Inka Trail or go to Puno.

    Our lodge had a recharge station for cameras etc with some limited assigned slots for recharging, which actually was enough for the small camera. So bring the recharge connections. The spare batteries might be needed for the headlamp depending on how much you use it. Also get a strong beam if you plan on going looking for wildlife at night.

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    March 27, 2010 Amazon Here We Come

    We had an early flight out of Cusco to Puerto Maldonado this morning. David arrived to take us to the airport and I asked him if we could settle our bill with him. He said we could do it later in the car. We had an idea of what the tour and hotel costs would be but were not exactly sure as we had made some changes on the fly. Both Margee and I had been hitting the ATM’s for US dollars as that is what David wanted to be paid in. So as we drive along Margee speaks up and asks what we owe him. He pulls some paperwork off of the dash and tells us a number. Yeah! We are within $20.00 of each other. Margee hands me her cash, I add mine to it and hand it over. That was easy.

    We get to the airport and we formally shake hands with David and off we go. Inside the airport we wrap our backpack rain covers over the straps and hand the bags over at the check in counter. I hate loosing control of my bag and pray it arrives in Puerto Maldonado the same time as us. We paid our airport taxes and go through security into the boarding area.

    I am still looking for cute little souvenirs for some guys I work with and decide to buy each a small bull. I know I overpaid for them but they will have to do. All the gals I shopped for will receive a cute little stuffed llama.

    We board the plane and I head for seat 9C. Well, there is a nun sitting in it. I didn’t know what to do so I simply held out my ticket and pointed to 9C. She shrugged at me, got up and moved to another seat. OK, no bad karma for kicking the nun out of her seat.

    It was such a short flight that we didn’t even time to nap. The plane stopped on the tarmac and they rolled up the stairway. I love getting off a plane like this. It’s much more fun than a gangway. I always feel like a celebrity and like to do a parade wave. We are both thrilled that we are out of the altitude and into the humidity. I immediately feel like I can breathe again and of course I need to strip off layers of clothing. It is heaven sent.

    Inside the terminal a young man walks right up and asks “ Bar bar a, Bar bar a”. Yep that’s me; you must be with Posada Amazonas. We watch the workers toss luggage onto the carousel and we are relieved when our packs come by. The Posada Amazonas guy grabs both bags and leads us out to a bus in the parking lot. We wait a few minutes for two German gals to show up and we are on our way. Our guide for this journey and for the rest of our stay is Armando. Armando is a nice young man with developing English skills. Too bad my Spanish skills are not more developed because we had a hard time communicating. My good buddy Margee translated as needed, bless her heart.

    Armando explained that they were going to give us “snakes”. One of the German girls looks at him and says “snakes”. Armando says no, “snakes”. Ok, we are not getting anywhere here and none of us want snakes. He said it one more time and it dawned on us that they were going to give us “snacks”. It was hilarious. He gave each of us a hand woven basket made by Infierno locals. Inside was a yellow beverage that turned out to be tomato juice. We also got a local orange which was green. Banana chips which looked like banana chips and candied Brazil nuts which at first we thought were moldy but actually had sugar frosting on them. It was all delicious and fun but everything sure looked different than what we are used to.

    We stopped at the Posada Amazonas office and they encourage all of us to repack and bring a small bag with just the bare necessities. Margee and I had been traveling 20 days with just the bare necessities, how can we leave any of it behind. We solved the problem by pulling out a Rick Steve’s lightweight bag and stuffing all our souvenirs into it. We left that behind but took our packs with us. Armando said we could hire someone to carry it and we thought about it but decided against it. At this point we were pretty used to carrying our packs and since we offloaded the souvenirs they were pretty light again.

    Back in the bus we went on a 45 minute drive on a dirt road. There was a lot of road construction going on but no pavement yet. We got to the port which consisted of a very rickety stair case going down the hill to a spot in the mud where the boat is tied up. The hand rails are iffy and the stairs are all catty wampum. It was a thrill a step as we lumbered down with our packs. I think I briefly regretted not hiring a porter to carry my bag, but I banished the thought quickly. Armando grabbed our hands as we made the last giant step onto the moving boat. We looked for a dry spot on the floor of the boat, dropped our bags and put on life vests.

    Armando introduced us to his uncle who was the driver of the boat. He gave us a little wave and off we go. It was a lovely 45 minute boat ride up (down?) the Tambopata River. The thing we both noticed is that these was no garbage in the water. No plastic bags, no plastic bottles, and no trash on the river banks. I was impressed with how clean and natural it was. We saw turtles sunning themselves and a few birds.

    We arrive at the “dock” and I use that term loosely. Up the rickety staircase we go with backpacks bouncing. We wanted to bring them so no complaining allowed. It was a ten minute wide eyed walk through the jungle. There were so many plants and trees and the water was dripping all over everything. The sounds of animals and birds surrounded us. It was absolutely wonderful and exactly what I was hoping for. Suddenly we came upon a clearing and there was the lodge.

    We had to take our muddy shoes off before going up the steps. A young gal offered us a fresh fruit drink and wet towels to refresh ourselves. She invited us to sit down and relax while she gave us a brief overview of the lodge, meals, and activities. We are in room 7 so we grab our belongings and go check it out. We walked through a hanging fabric curtain into our room. There are two double beds with mosquito nets over each, one table with stools and a hammock that Margee immediately claimed. The most amazing thing is that there are three walls and one open area with a three foot railing that opened up to the jungle. We were told not to worry as “nothing big will come in”. I wondered how “big” is “big” but I was afraid to ask. There was no electricity but they provided us with two candles. We also had a sink with running water, a flushing toilet and a nice shower. There were oil lamps outside in the walkways that they lit at night for a few hours.

    As we settled in, I discover a huge bug in the bathroom. I figure I can chase it to the open wall and out to freedom. Problem is, bugs don’t necessarily go where you want them to go and it freaked me out. I shrieked so loud I am surprised they didn’t send a rescue team to our room. On second thought, they are probably used to Gringos acting like idiots around the wild life!

    Armando gave us about 30 minutes to relax then we met up to select rubber boots and go on a nature walk to the canopy observatory tower. We walked along a beautiful trail and tried to avoid the largest mud puddles. We went through some areas of primary rain forest and some of secondary jungle. We could hear lots of animals but didn’t see any except for bugs, bugs, and more bugs. Especially ants of every size and color you can imagine. I was afraid that if I stopped walking they would pick me up and carry me away. After a fairly long walk we arrived at the tower. It was tall, really tall, 120 feet to be exact. We climbed slowly up the stairs and the higher we got, the more it swayed. By the time we reached the top, Margee was a bit unnerved and the view did not hold much interest for her. I enjoyed the view and took lots of pictures from different levels of the tower. We could hear another tour group tromping through the jungle and so we started to make our way down. We didn’t reach the bottom before they started climbing so we had to squeeze past each other. I loved the view; Armando said we could see Brazil and Bolivia from the top.

    Back at the lodge, we both decided we needed a shower to freshen up. I went first and turned on the water knowing it would be cold. It was actually refreshing though I didn’t want to spend too much time luxuriating. Margee asked how the water was and I told her “tepid”. I guess I did not describe it accurately as Margee yelled at me from the shower “this isn’t tepid!”

    I wanted a cocktail of some sort so I walked to the bar but there was no bartender. I decided to relax and read my book for awhile and enjoy the sounds of the animals I couldn’t see. Margee hung out in the hammock and read her book and napped.

    Dinner was buffet style and pretty good though there were only a few selections to choose from. We sat at a large table with the two German girls, Armando, another guide whose name escapes me and a family of five from the States. We spent our entire 4 day/3 nights with this same group and they were delightful and enjoyable companions.

    At dinner, Armando tells us we have to ready to go to the Oxbow Lake at 4:30 am. They will light the gas lamps and knock on our wall to wake us up. It’s been a long day and will be an early morning so we turn in early.

    It was kind of scary wandering back to our room using our headlamps. We lit our candles which attract a variety of flying bugs. We both tucked our mosquito nets under the mattress and tossed in anything we might need during the night such as water bottles, Kleenex, and my iPhone for an alarm. Neither one of us wanted to wander out of the “safety” of our mosquito net cave for any reason once we were settled.

    My senses were on high alert all night long. There was a noise that kept going off over and over and over and it sounded almost mechanical. After several hours of listening to the noise, it stopped. Or I fell asleep. I don’t know which but that darn noise drove me crazy. I think I did sleep a bit but not for long and not soundly. I kept wondering what was crawling around us all night long and what is that noise in the roof and did I hear a monkey outside, can jaguars get through the railing……..

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    March 28, 2010 Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake

    Before the crack of dawn, employees of the lodge lit the oil lamps and knocked on our wall to wake us up for our Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake excursion. We had 30 minutes to get ourselves together and meet the other folks at the lodge. I brushed my hair and my teeth and vacated the bathroom for Margee. She asked quizzically “did you shower?’ Nope, we only have 30 minutes. I’ll be lucky to stumble down fully clothed at this hour. It’s another extremely early breakfasts and I can barely choke down a couple of mouthfuls of waffles. I’ll be hungry later but now I can’t force anymore down. Margee is looking desperately for coffee and I think she scored if you consider a concoction of powdered coffee, powdered creamer and sugar a good cup of coffee.

    We met up with the same group as yesterday but Armando is gone. He went back to Puerto Maldonado to pick up more tourists. In his place if Jihm, who is very personable and speaks excellent English. Margee is happy she doesn’t have to translate today. We also had another guide named Carol join us.

    We put on our cute headlamps and followed Jihm down the dark, scary trail, trying to stay close to each other. It was even muddier than yesterday so the trail was a challenge in the semi dark. We board the boat and go for a thirty minute boar ride and then a forty five minute hike to arrive at the Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake.

    We arrive at the lake and board a catamaran with no engine. There is an oar/rudder at the back of the boat and Carol and Jihm take turns paddling us along. It was very quiet and peaceful and we were intentionally silent because we didn’t want to scare the wild life away. We saw some birds and enjoyed watching them fly around. Everyone had their binoculars and cameras out and we are scouring the water trying to find the resident family of giant river otters. Carol set up a big, powerful, monoscope and we take turns looking at birds through it.

    Finally we see the otters. It was a family of five or six and they were hunting fish out in the middle of the lake. They floated right by us and one had a big smile on his face because he was eating a good sized fish. We were thrilled to see the otters as they are endangered and only about 60% of the tourists catch sight of them.

    Jihm ties the boat up to a branch near the shore and he and Carol hand out fishing poles. We are going to fish for piranha. I can hardly wait!! The poles are basically long sticks with an eight or nine foot piece of fishing line and a hook at the end. Not fancy, but they worked. Carol had a plastic bag of cut up mystery meat that we used for bait.

    There is a technique to Piranha fishing. You swish the tip of the pole in the water to stir things up, then you bob the hook up and down a few times before you slowly lower the baited hook down until you can just barely see it. Then you wait for the tug and yank back as hard as you can to set the hook. If you are lucky you would pull in a beautiful yellow piranha about 3 or 4 inches long. Yahoo! The kids on the boat are catching and releasing as fast as they can bait their hooks. I on the other hand was fishing but not catching. In a frustrated moment I put the pole away and of course someone else on the boat catches a darn fish. I grab the pole again, put bait on the hook and with great determination drop it into the water to be rewarded immediately with a tug. I caught one! I caught one! Margee said I was grinning from ear to ear.

    The kids took turns paddling us back across the lake. We backtracked to the lodge and are very happy because a gal greets us with juice and sandwiches to tide us over until lunch. Good thing, by now I am hungry.

    I decided not to wear the rubber boots anymore as I have developed a couple of hot spots that I don’t want to turn into blisters. We are going home in a couple of days and I can always put my wet, dirty shoes in zip lock bags and wear my second pair. We had a few hours to relax so we both took lovely “tepid” showers and worked on our trip recordings. We got caught up except for the two days in the Colca Canyon.

    Later in the afternoon we went on another boat ride twenty minutes downriver to the Ethno botanical garden. The Centro Nape is a communal organizational that produces medicines out of forest plants and administers them to local patients who seek their assistance. There is a nice trail and scattered along it are medicinal plants with name signs. The curator patiently explained in Quechua what each plant was used for. Then Armando, Carol and Jihm would take turn translating for us. When Armando translated, Margee would have to translate what he was saying. I have a short attention span and this pushed my patience. At the end of the tour we were offered medicinal liquids to try, they must have been 100 proof because the one I tasted knocked my socks off!

    Back at the lodge we enjoyed another nice dinner, sat at the bar and drank cocktails and enjoyed chatting with the other tourists before hitting the sack.

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    March 29, 2010 Parrot Clay Lick

    I must confess I did not make a recording for today. After 22 days I ran out of steam.
    We had another early morning but not nearly as early as yesterday. We met up with our group and guides about 6:30 am and had breakfast. The plan is to hike to the Parrot Clay Lick and arrive right after daylight. I chose to wear my own shoes today so I did a bit a puddle jumping instead of slogging through the middle of the mud. The clay lick is a twenty minute walk from the lodge. One of the kids was especially loud this morning, if there was any wildlife around, he scared it all away. Finally someone asked him to tone it down a bit and he did.

    As we got closer to the blind, Jihm indicated for all of us to be as quiet as possible. We entered the blind and quickly settled down. The blind is a man-made structure with three sides, a roof, floor and built in benches located in front of “windows” cut in the walls. We are situated with the river on our left and the clay lick is actually the river bank to the right of us. Quietly we stare through our binoculars at the clay river bank looking for any movement to indicate there are birds there. We stared for 20 minutes to no avail. Finally, way down the bank I see a flutter, there are two parrots sitting in a tree. I watch them hoping that more birds will come. No such luck. Jihm told us that the birds are scarce after it has been raining, and we had been rained on a lot. Usually there are Mealy and Yellow-headed Amazon parrots, Blue-headed parrots and Dusky headed parakeets. We were all a bit disappointed as we hiked back to the lodge.

    I decided I had done enough hiking and that I would spend the rest of my last day in the Amazon lying in the hammock reading, or enjoying the comfortable couches in the lounge area. Margee decided to go on another nature walk to a farming community. She reported back that it was more entertaining than the medicine garden tour. Darn, I guess I should have gone! The group also hiked two hours to see the largest tree in the vicinity, a Ceiba tree. She has a picture of it where the entire group is standing in front of the tree and the truck extends past them on both sides.

    I want to mention the sound of the jet propulsion lab that we kept hearing. The noise would start in one area of the jungle then you would hear it coming from another direction then another. It would build up to a crescendo then die out. We could not figure out what it was. When we mentioned it to Jihm he had a laugh at our expense. The noise came from groups of Howler Monkeys! Amazing.

    During our walks we always kept our eyes open for wildlife. Armando, Jihm and Carol were terrific in pointed out animals, birds, bugs and interesting plants to us. We saw many monkeys in the tree tops but didn’t manage to get very good photos because they were so high up and hidden by the leaves and branches. There were interesting birds everywhere and we did see a few parrots. There were more bugs than anyone could possible want. We used Deet and kept ourselves covered up but the mosquitoes were incessant while hiking. If you stopped moving you were a target. If you kept moving it was better. We also saw a capybara hopping between buildings at the lodge. We tried to follow it to get photos but it disappeared into the brush. On one of our hikes, Jihm pointed out a branch overhead that crossed over the trail. It had a row of bumps on it. We couldn’t figure out what the bumps were, until he explained they were curled up bats!

    Probably the scariest animal of the entire trip was a black feline that followed us into our room one night. We thought we had chased it off until Margee saw the gleam of its yellow eyes in her head lamp. She shrieked, “The cat’s in our room!” To say that Margee does not like cats is an understatement. Being the brave big game hunter that I am, I shooed the poor thing out of the room through the railing. Remember, the railing that won’t let anything big come in.

    Margee was packing up her bag in preparation to leave in the morning. She had not been in the pack for a few days because she had either hung up or laid all her clothes out on a shelf. Well, a huge cockroach had taken up residence in her backpack. That same morning I am digging through my toiletry bag and find that a cockroach was residing on my toothbrush. I hate cockroaches!

    We enjoyed our last evening with our new friends, had a nice dinner, drank some wine and finished packing up our bags. Tomorrow we are off to Lima for a day, then home.

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    Very nice report. It sounds like you had a very interesting time &, though you didn't see all of the wildlife you would have liked, it still must have been amazing. Thank you for all of the time you spent doing this report. I have certainly enjoyed reading it, as I'm sure others have, as well. I hope you add your last day in Lima. I'm looking forward to going guitar shopping when I'm there!

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    Thanks fball, I appreciate you reading my report. I am working on our last day in Lima, should have done this weekend. Now I get to go through my 1000 pictures and Marges' 1000 pictures and thin it down to 500 or so. Next step is a scrap book will the pictures, diary and all the bits and pieces of paper we picked up along the way.

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    March 30, 2010 Lima and home

    Today we left Posada Amazonas to start our journey back home. We had our final breakfast, tipped all of the guides and hoisted our backpacks on for the last jungle hike to the boat. I decided to wear the rubber boots and change into my shoes when we got to the boat. I tucked my last pair of clean pants into the boots and walked carefully to keep them clean. Margee decided to wait and put clean clothes on when we reached the office back in town.

    We have a lovely chat with our new friends and enjoyed our last boat ride down the Tambopata River. We disembarked at the dock where the bus was waiting to take us to Puerto Maldonado. I wasn’t so worried about my luggage anymore and was agreeable when they tossed my pack up on top of the bus roof. Margee was not so agreeable and kept her pack with her.

    The road back to town was wetter and muddier than the first time we drove on it. It didn’t seem to bother the drive at all though we spun our wheels and slide uncomfortable close to the ditch on the side of the road a few times.

    We arrived at the office where we had left our bag of souvenirs and we collected it up and repacked some of the items into our back packs. (Nope, my pack did not fall off the roof!) They didn’t give us much time so Margee quickly changed and we hurried back to the bus. Ten minutes later we are at the airport, Puerto Maldonado is not a very big town.

    We have the hang of this airport thing pretty well, check in, drop off our bags, pay our departure tax, go through security, collapse on a hard chair and patiently wait. I did wander over to a shop and buy an ice cream treat. Margee disappeared for a few minutes and came back looking gorgeous with her makeup on. I didn’t bring makeup on the trip with me; she is always full of surprises.

    We boarded the Lan Peru plane for the short flight to Cusco, then another short flight to Lima. We had a long layover in Lima so had several things planned for the day. We arrived in Lima and walked out of the gate expecting Renato from TaxiLimaPeru to be waiting for us with a big sign. We looked around and didn’t see him. We figured he was running late so we just waited. A gentleman from Taxi Green approached Margee and asked in Spanish if he could be of assistance. Taxi Green has a booth inside the airport with tours and prices listed on a board. Margee explained that we were waiting on our guide to pick us up so he thanked us a walked away. A few minutes later he came back and again asked if he could be of assistance. By now, we have given up on Renato so Margee explains to Alejandro that we need to pick up a guitar in Miraflores, we want to go shopping, we are hungry and would like to eat at a nice restaurant and if we have any time left over we want to do a little site seeing. She explains that we have to be back to the airport by 9:20 pm for our 12:20 am flight our. The two of them negotiate for a few minutes and then we have a deal. We walked over to the left luggage room and lock our bags up in a locker and off we go.

    Alejandro speaks no English but he had a lot to say in Spanish. Margee listened to the entire history of Peru and the rise and fall of all of Peru’s political leaders. I think she became numb at some point because she stopped translating. I wasn’t the best audience anyway as my stomach was giving me problems.

    Margee tells Alejandro where the guitar shop is in Miraflores. He suggests several good restaurants in the area, and tells us there is great shopping also. He drives us around and shows us where all these suggested places are and we set a time and a location for him to pick us up later. He drops us off near the guitar shop and we are on our own. We go into the guitar shop and I am looking around thinking that they rearranged things since we were last in. Margee is talking to the owner and he has no idea of what she is talking about. She pulls her receipt out of her wallet and that explains all, we are in the wrong shop. The one we want is right next door. We didn’t know there was more than one guitar shop on the street, in fact there are three. We express our apologies and slink out the door. Next door is the shop we want and it definitely looks familiar. Margee goes up to the counter and hands over her receipt and the proprietor tells her the guitar is not ready. Oh boy, this may be a problem as we are getting on a plane in a few hours. Margee goes on to explain that she had called just a few days ago to confirm that the guitar would be ready on March 30th instead of March 31st as we had originally ordered. Evidently the guitar was done except for the strings but the custom carrying case wasn’t. The proprietor called the case maker and confirmed that it will be delivered later in the afternoon and that he would also have time to put the strings on the guitar. We agree on a time to return and leave with our fingers crossed that this is going to work out.

    We are really hungry by now so stop at one of Alejandro’s restaurant suggestions. It is a very nice Swiss Restaurant called La Tiendecita Blanca on Ave. Larco. I had a lovely fish entre, Margee had pasta and we both toasted our successful trip with a wonderful glass of Chilean wine. We topped off our slightly expensive lunch with a shared ice cream dessert. It was a nice way to celebrate our great vacation and our impending trip home.

    There was time to spare before we were scheduled to go pick up the guitar so we walked over to the shopping area Alejandro had shown us. There were some very nice gift shops that had every souvenir possible from all over the country available. We are admiring some jewelry and we look at the gal behind the counter and realize it is Teo. We met her on the Paracas Tour back on March 10th and again in Lago Huacachina on March 11th. It is a very small world. She and her American boyfriend were on a little vacation but as we know all vacations come to an end and she was back at work in the shop.

    Margee is watching the time so we wrap up our last minute shopping and walk back to the guitar shop, fingers crossed all the way. As we walk up to the counter, the shop owner holds up the guitar now complete with strings. We are admiring it when a young man enters the store and hands the custom made case over to the shop owner. Perfect timing, it is Margee’s case. It is so freshly completed that some of the glue holding the furry liner inside is still wet but that’s OK, it’s here and Margee is thrilled. Hopefully her boyfriend will be thrilled with the gift. She settles the bill and we walk out of the store with Margee happily toting the guitar.

    We walked across the street to Parque Central and Parque Kennedy. I tried to talk Margee into posing for a Kodak moment, strumming the guitar with the open case at her feet, but she refused. I even offered to put money in the case but she didn’t go for it.

    Parque Central had an outdoor photo exhibit set up. There were dozens of poster sized photos of Peruvian people who were murder victims. It was very moving and unnerving. On a brighter note, there was a crafts fair going on at Parque Kennedy. There was a variety of holistic and mystical items for sale as well as the typical tourist souvenirs. There were many local people enjoying the parks including a cat lady. She was feeding wild cats, dozens of wild cats. Margee walked out of her way to avoid contact with any of them. I don’t blame her, you don’t know what kind of diseases they may have and I don’t want to bring anything nasty home to my pets.

    We decided that it was time to go to our meeting point to wait for Alejandro. There was a nice park bench available so we take a load off our feet. It is fun to sit and watch the people go about their activities. Across the road was a little booth selling sodas and snacks. An old lady was sitting in a chair next to the booth and she stared at us. It was disconcerting as she was so intense. Eventually she got up and hobbled off down the road. We patiently wait on our ride but both of us are checking our watches and wonder if we have been stood up. I had written down Alejandro’s full name, phone numbers and taxi number so we were prepared to borrow someone’s call phone and call him if we had to. (My iPhone battery is still dead from the Amazon.) Thank goodness before we resorted to that he showed up. We piled into the car and he apologizes for being late. He had gone home to take a nap and had overslept!

    When we had arrived in Lima at the beginning of our trip we wanted to go to the Fountain and Light show but unfortunately it was closed. We told Alejandro that’s where we wanted to go. We hit rush hour and the traffic was terrible. I was sitting in the front seat with a bird’s eye view of the horrible traffic and my stomach was still unsettled. When we arrive we discover that it is closed again and we are very disappointed.

    Alejandro felt bad about this and offered to stop so that we could enjoy a soda somewhere. I tell him (via Margee) that I need a restroom but want to go to the airport. Traffic is so bad that it will take awhile but we would rather be early than late. Back on the road, he takes a turn into a dark residential area and my survival instincts immediately go on high alert. In a not very nice tone I ask “where the hell are we going”. Even in English I think he got the message and he reassured Margee in Spanish that it was a short cut to try and by pass some of the traffic. Within a few minutes he was back on the main road and shortly we turned into the airport. He parked the taxi and we all went inside the airport where we settled our bill at the Green Taxi desk and picked up our luggage from the storage area.

    We checked in with Delta Airlines and checked our two backpacks through. We were both done with carrying them. We had all our souvenirs in our Rick Steves bag and were set to go. It was a long trip home, Lima to Atlanta, Atlanta to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City to Sacramento. But when you pay about $450.00 round trip, it’s hard to complain. My husband Tom was waiting for us in Sacramento but he didn’t bring a big sign with our names on it unfortunately.

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    Look into airfares mid January. Often there will be good sales on LAN. May seems to be a very slow month for Lima (since the fog starts) but really not a bad month to go to MP.

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    Barb-We just got back from Peru. We got a good airfare from Boston on Lan for May. As mlgb said, it may be foggy in Lima in May, but visibility at MP was fine. I enjoyed reading your report. Maybe, after I get some things done here, I will get time to write mine.
    Shelley

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    Our trip was very good with a glitch here and there, but nothing that ruined the trip as a whole. We did Lima, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco and Puno in 11 days on the ground. One of the biggest surprises to me on this trip is that I got altitude sickness for around 10 hours after we landed in Cusco and went straight to Chinchero, which is at 13, 500 feet. Thank goodness we were there for only a few hours and then checked into a hotel in Yucay (Sacred Valley). After several doses of aspirin and a good nights sleep (no food eaten since landing in Cusco) I felt much better. I do not know why I was so surprised to get altitude sickness. My husband worried about getting it for months before the trip, and he was just fine. I guess I was in denial before the trip, but I sure know what it is like to get it and I hope not to ever repeat that feeling again.

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    I am sorry you didn't feel well. We didn't have problems with the altitude because we took diamoz. We both had problems with our stomachs on and off the entire trip but nothing that slowed us down. It's all part of traveling I guess. Looking forward to your report.

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