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Trip Report Peru Paradise - The Amazon, Machu Pichu, Lake Titicaca

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I returned from a wonderful trip to the Amazon Rain Forest, Cusco and Machu Pichu and Lake Titicaca with Overseas Adventure Travel in May. It was fabulous. One of the bennies of traveling with OAT is that there are no single supplements, so if you're a single traveler, as I am much of the time, you can have your own room with no additional cost. We saw such a diversity of sights from the monkeys and the amazing Peruvian Amazon rain forest, to the majestic mysterious Machu Pichu, to Lake Titicaca. Such different areas, right in Peru. I'm attaching my trip journal (it’s quite detailed). If anyone is interested in more information, please don't hesitate to ask. I can talk (or email) for hours about this fabulous trip. --Charlotte

Sunday, May 2nd
All luggage arrived intact and we were met by Elena. We boarded a bus and arrived at the small but cute Carmel Hotel about 6:15AM. Breakfast was fairly modest with fruit, toast, ham and cheese. It was a cloudy and fairly overcast morning. We walked down to the Pacific Ocean along the ocean path, and saw hundreds of body surfers. The clouds burned off and it got sunnier. We saw families enjoying the day and runners and walkers doing a marathon. We walked all the way back to the hotel, passing lovely parks along the way. At 1:30 we met our guide, Vanessa, who took us to lunch. Asparagus is a major crop in Peru and they are second after Mexico in growing and exporting asparagus. We ordered appetizers of asparagus and a specialty of the house, fried burrito. Pretty good! Main dish was whitefish with rice and potatoes and a type of sponge cake with jam. We again walked down to the ocean taking a different route this time, stopping again at Love Park. Then back to the hotel stopping for ice cream at Dove Vai, this was to be our dinner since we were not especially hungry. Delicious, not too sweet. I had chocolate with nuts and the house special. We got back to the hotel by 5:30 and repacked for the Amazon. We left quite a few things behind, sweaters and fleece mainly, since we’ll be back here after the Amazon.

Monday, May 3
Slept soundly until our 5:30 wake up call. Breakfast at 6 and out by 7. We set out for the airport for our next adventure in the Amazon. We flew over the Andes and the Amazon River and were able to see tiny villages and watering holes through the clouds. We were met by Lucio of the Cieba Tops lodge and traveled by bus through the busy little city of Iquitos which has the distinction of being the only city that be reached only by airplane or boat -- no roads. Iquitos’ claim to fame was its rubber resources which made it attractive during the rubber boom of the early 1900’s. There are homes built by Eiffel as well as other architects. Busy, hectic, noisy place-- small cars, bicycles, motorcycles and pedi-cabs fill the streets. Big fruit and veggie markets with bananas being the most visible fruit. About 45 minutes later, we arrived at the boat pier where we would take a 45 minute boat ride to the Cieba Tops lodge. We had a boxed lunch on the boat. Our original lodge is being renovated, so we are here at Cieba Tops for 4 nights. This place is air conditioned and has toilets in the room, the other lodge did not. Lucky us! It was bright and sunshiny all day and it was hot, hot, and humid, just as a rain forest should be. Just as we landed the skies opened up and it poured. We all got soaked. Welcome to the Amazon rain forest! Rain let up, but it was still very humid. We learned that there were both male and female rains. Female rains last for days, males last for hours :-). We were shown to our rooms, checked things out a bit and then met again @ 1:45 for our nature walk. Lucio gave us plastic rain covers, but they were hot and steamy to match the weather. It continued to rain on and off for most of the day. It rains at least once a day, sometimes more, but then it turns hot and steamy. There is 35 to 40 FOOT difference between the high rainy and low rainy seasons. We saw the rubber trees, the mahogany trees and the Cieba Top trees, all of which are dwindling as the Amazon rainforest is being deforested. We saw different types of mushrooms and tropical flowers. Also saw the walking trees, leaf cutter ants and lots of termite nests. It was getting steamier and steamier and muddy and slippery. Our walk lasted about 2 hours and our walking sticks proved to be crucial. We sat outside in the hammock area, and picked some bananas which Cieba Tops shares with the local monkeys. We showered and changed, walked over to the lobby and had Pisco Sours, the local drink, and talked with our fellow travelers. Soon our delicious buffet dinner was announced. We had our choice of marinated cukes and tomatoes, rice, beans, pork, chicken, broccoli, cabbage, watermelon and bananas in a sweet sauce. Our evening’s entertainment consisted of kids from Indiana, a nearby town performing local folkloric dances. Indiana is about a mile from Cieba Tops and was founded by a doctor educated at Indiana University.

Tuesday, May 4
We had our wakeup knock at 5:30 for our 6am bird boat trip. It was just getting light. We motored for about 15 minutes to a small island where we saw parrots, macaws, parakeets, kingbirds, vultures, egrets and other more colorful birds. We were back at the lodge in time to wash up for our breakfast buffet of onion omelette and fruits. Food has been fairly simple but tasty. We met again for our 45 minute boat trip to the Explorama Lodge, which was the lodge we had originally been booked into. We really got lucky that this hotel was not available -- no en suite toilets, no screens, no windows! We walked through muck and mire to the Yagua village where we were ushered into a huge ceremonial hut and Lucio gave us a history of the tribe. They used blow guns with curare tips to kill food and enemies. Curare comes from the venom of the poison dart frog. The chief and other tribal members danced for us then invited us to dance. We watched as the chief and tribe members shot blow guns at a target. Some of us tried with quite limited success. We bought some trinkets and walked back to the lodge for lunch. Lots of slaws with lime juice -- almost every meal had rice and beans. Lunch was catfish, very nicely prepared. We’ve been having watermelon and bananas every day at just about every meal. We walked back to the boat landing and then paid a visit to the local clinic which is supported by Grand Circle. Then the old rum factory with its dilapidated presses and a boat ride to see the pink dolphins. We must’ve seen about 5 or 6 dolphins, someone called them the Pepto Bismal dolphins. They breached so fast that we could barely see them -- just a quick flash of pink. A very fast motor boat trip back to the lodge. We relaxed with our Pisco Sours and had another delicious dinner -- this time roast beef and chicken.

Wednesday, May 5
We were out by 8:30 for our trip to Monkey Island. What fun! A conservationist brought endangered monkeys from the jungle to this island. He breeds them and releases the young ones back to the jungle in the hopes that the population will increase. Really fun to watch: they climbed all over us, drank from our water bottles, swung from our walking sticks, chased each other, and the chickens, and generally had a grand old time, as we all did. We hated to leave. Back to Cieba Tops and it was pool time. It was a fabulous pool with a water slide. We hung out at the pool for about an hour and watched as the workers unloaded the boats with supplies. Everything is brought in -- from toilet paper to cauliflower. We walked down to the river just to sink our feet in the Amazon. By then it was time for lunch. After lunch we walked down to the Cieba tree again. It was a much easier walk this time, particularly since it wasn't raining. We gathered again at 2:30 for our piranha fishing trip. We took the open boat and we saw life activities along the river: women washing clothing, men repairing fishing boats, etc. The views were spectacular. There are more than 1,000 tributaries of the Amazon. No pollution. We turned off the river when the water changed from brown to black, indicating a more nutritious environment. We saw parakeets and terns. Peaceful, beautiful river. When we got to the piranha area, we baited our hooks with pieces of raw meat. Only Abigael, the river boat driver caught a Piranha -- he caught 3! We fished for about 40 minutes, the fish nibbled, but didn't bite. Our next stop was the giant lily pads. They are the largest in the world and are so huge, that Amazon women would perch their babies on the pads while they did laundry. They can hold 60 lbs. Then it was back to the lodge where we met again at 6:45 for a night sounds walk in the jungle. It was muddy, slippery, buggy, mosquito-y and pitch black, but fun! We all had flashlights, but it was dark! We saw a giant bullfrog, a tarantula, and a huge tarantula spider on a tree. Fortunately, we didn't go back the way we came in. We made a big loop and the return was much easier. We were back well in time for our 7:30 dinner. Lots of veggies, hearts of palm in tomato and lime sauce, rice, black-eyed peas, local fish, pork, plantains and wild cucumber with watermelon and flan for dessert. Another great day!

Thursday, May 6
Wake up knock at 4:45 and coffee. Long boat ride (~2 hours) to yet the third Explorama Lodge -- this one was the Explorama Napo lodge. It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose over the Amazon.There was quite a bit of activity on the river. The Amazon is about 150 miles at its widest. Parts of the Amazon were so dense that as bright as it us, the sun doesn’t get through. We really felt like we were in the Amazon. We arrived at 7:30, just in time for breakfast of an onion omelet and rolls. We were greeted by Charley, the Capybara. I had never seen one -- it’s a semi-aquatic rodent that lives in South America. It weighs about a hundred pounds, and is about 2 feet tall at the shoulder. It looks like a huge rat. We relaxed after breakfast and enjoyed the views of the river. We then took about a 10 minute walk to the beginning of the canopy walk, the second longest in the world, the first is in Malaysia. The story is that the material for the canopy was mis-shipped to Quito in Ecuador rather than Iquitos in Peru. Much bartering and negotiations to get it sent back to Peru since at the time there was a war between Ecuador and Peru. The canopy walkway is 115’ high above the trees, it has 14 platforms and is about ⅓ mile long. We didn’t see any wildlife since the canopy was amazingly thick and lush and well above the trees. Back to the lodge for lunch. So many delicious veggies. Next a 10 minute walk to the shaman where we heard about different natural cures from jungle plants. I volunteered to be “relaxed.” The shaman blew some tobacco smoke on my hair and swatted my head with the tobacco leaves. I didn’t feel any more relaxed than I felt before. Then it was back to the boat for our ride back to Cieba Tops. The ride was shorter (about 90 minutes). It was hot and we were sweaty. Into bathing suits and into the pool for about an hour. We picked bananas from the bunch in the hammock area and watched the monkeys also eating the bananas. We showered and went to dinner. Tried the Arequipeña, the local beer. Another fun filled day.

Friday, May 7
An extra day in the Amazon. We finished all our scheduled activities and still had half the day. Lucio
arranged a 10 minute boat trip to the town of Indiana. We walked around the town and then took a pedi cab ride through 2 more towns where the boat would pick us up again. Saw the church where Lucio got married. It was another hot and steamy day… just standing still was tough. The boat ride took 10 minutes. We learned the history behind the name. A resident owned quite a bit of property and farmed some of it with his children. One son wanted more education and was sent to the US to Indiana State. After graduation, the son returned to the village. The father invited neighbors from nearby tribes and from across the river to share his land. It became a recognized town, the son became mayor and called the town Indiana. An interesting story. walked around the markets and made an unplanned visited to a day care center where they were having a Mother's Day event. The little ones sang to their mothers and presented them with some little gift. They were as cute as little buttons. We sang Old MacDonald Had a Farm -- no reaction from the 4 years olds. The we took the pedicabs again to Mazon, another little town, where we saw all the tiny houses and even a cow, painted with political advertising. The tiny dock was packed with bananas being shipped to Iquitos. So much is shipped back and forth from these little towns to Iquitos. Then it was back to Cieba Tops by 11. We cleaned the Amazon mud from out boots and finished packing up. We met at the hammock area at to take last minute pictures and to say goodbye. We flew back to Lima and met our guide, Marco, at the airport. Back at the same hotel. We decided to have a quick bite. We found Pizza St. WOW! I guess pizza is a big thing with the locals and with the tourists. It was one pizza shop after another, all trying to lure us in. We wound up with about 2 slices each for 21 soles, $7.00 -- 3.50 each. Lima was swinging and busy.

Saturday, May 8
We met at 8:45 to meet the new folks who just joined us and to change some money. We had a Lima City tour. Our first stop was the beautiful Plaza Major where we hoped to see the changing of the guard, but there was a mothers’ day celebration instead. Then to a Franciscan Monastery with beautiful cloisters. Most interesting was the rich looking library with its ancient books. Our last stop was the Archaeological museum which was founded in 1926, on an old mansion built in 1707. This museum has the biggest private collection of pre-Columbian art in the world. We saw archaeological pieces of ceramic, gold, stone, wood and textiles, especially the Peruvian northern cultures. The textile art room was lovely. The museum also exhibits the only collection of "Erotic Huacos"(erotic ceramics). Next stop was Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca pyramid of adobe bricks. It was one of the most important administrative and ceremonial centers of the Lima culture from 200 A.D. – 700 A.D. There is evidence of religious ceremonies, rites and sacrifices in honor of their deities, and possibly this was where the high priests lived. The site was abandoned when the Wari empire conquered the area in 700 A.D., and built a cemetery for the elite on top of the pyramid. The Incas moved in 3 centuries later. The other unusual site were the 3 dogs that we saw. Apparently, they guard the premises. Big pit bull type dogs with a red tuft on the tail and on the head and more tufts of red along the spine. They say they are friendly and are a protected species, but they certainly looked fierce. We were back at the hotel for a 1 hour intro to Peru by Marco. He certainly knows his stuff. Then we walked over to the restaurant for dinner and a Peruvian folklore show. Dinner was a very good buffet with many choices. The show was fun.

Sunday, May 9
Left hotel @ 8:45 for our optional day tour. First stop was another Inca ruins. The day was overcast and humid -- interesting that it never rains in Lima, everything needs to be watered by cistern trucks with long hoses. But it’s almost always overcast. We drove along the Pan Andean highway and visited the fish markets to see the catch of the day. Very interesting fish, wonderful scallops, shrimp flounder, flying fish and others. The fishermen pop sand crabs as a snack … they call it Peruvian viagra. We fed small fish to the pelicans and headed out to the small fruit, vegetable and produce market to buy supplies for Via Santa Rosa, a shantytown. Shantytowns begin when local families band together to form small communities. They buy food in bulk, cook communally and eat in individual small homes. They are vey poor, but seemed happy and friendly. Then we drove to the Pachacamac site, another huge Inca temple site. Lots of traffic -- mothers’ day is a huge holiday in Peru. People are buying flowers and visiting cemeteries. Saw people milling around and standing in line - they were waiting in line to visit loved ones in jail. We then drove through Via del Salvatore, one of the first Shantytowns with 450,000 people (there are 400,000 in Cusco). It didn’t look too much different from parts of Lima. Ice cream for lunch. We walked around Kennedy Park again and we finally saw a cat in a tree. There were lots of families in the park. We walked over to the artisan area where they had touristy souvenirs. We met the group for our Welcome Dinner of chopped salad with delicious lime dressing, mahi mahi, asparagus and potatoes. Back to the hotel where we packed up for Cusco.

Monday, May 10
Early wake up call - we left for airport by 7. The 1 hour flight to Cusco left at 9:45. We saw the Andes Mountains from the plane. Cusco was dry and sunny -- temperature was mid 60’s. We drove through some interesting scenery -- valleys, mountains, Inca ruins, all green and lush. It was hard to believe that in 1 month, everything will be brown. We had a box lunch and continued on to Pisac where we began our hike. Elevation was 11,900’. We didn’t experience any lightheadedness -- the meds must be working. There are many Temples of the Sun in Peru. Lots of uneven steps. The views more than made up for the huffing and puffing and getting our feet to do those steps. Inca terraces, patches of green, corn drying, Alti Plano (high mountains), like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We were serenaded by a Peruvian playing the pan flute -- very plaintiff sound. We stopped at a small market and then in was back on the bus to our lovely hotel. Dinner of onion soup, delicious local beef dish and apple pie for desert. It was another great day.

Tuesday, May 11
Wow, what a day! It began early with breakfast of ham, cheese, watermelon, papaya, cantaloupe and/or scrambled eggs. We set out for Ollantaytambo, an Inca ruin in Pisac. It was coolish when we began, maybe low 50’s, but as the day went on, the temperature rose to mid 70’s. Very comfortable, very dry. A very different world from the Amazon. Very well preserved ruins with steps, terraced gardens, retaining walls and more steps. There were 270 steps going up, and unfortunately, just as many down. All uneven. We were panting, the altitude was 11,500. We left Ollantaytambo for the school visit. It was a very short visit to a 6th grade class. They put on a play for us, again, in honor of mothers’ day. Then rafting on the Urubamba River. JJ was our river driver -- current was very mild. We saw where the water had risen during the rains of Feb and March. Views were fabulous. Snow covered Andes in the distance with gorges and valleys ahead. We saw a giant hummingbird -- the size of a small sparrow. Then we had a picnic lunch along the river. Chicken, salad, guacamole, pico de gallo, and rice, with cookies for desert. Everything was great! Back to the hotel for about ½ hour to rest and freshen up. We walked through town and saw a street that still had the original Inca ruts in the road and visited a home where the owners raised and sold cuys (guinea pigs). Then to visit the Seminario Ceramic Studio. Seminario is a great ceramicist and he and his wife have spent many years researching ceramic techniques and designs from ancient Peruvian culture. They have a wonderful studio where they create designs and train locals in their techniques. Forty of his pieces have just been sent to the Field Museum in Chicago. Then it was back to the room for a few minutes rest. We met again for our walk to the cheecharia (the local bar). When the cheecharia is open, the owners hoist a big red flower or a red balloon. Cheecha is made from corn or maize that has been fermented. Taste leaves something to be desired. Once again back to the room to change for our home-hosted visit. We were all at the same home, a middle class family with a huge dining room. The room is usually used for storage but when OAT visitors come, the huge table is used for dining. All the homes next to the homes of our hosts were destroyed by the rising waters this spring. His house was saved because it was built of concrete not adobe. There are people still living under tarps -- and this is about 4 months after the rains. There were a set of twin girls and a 3 year old daughter in the family. We brought gifts -- I brought Snickers Bars and got shouts of glee and many hugs. Mom was a waitress working this evening so dad and his mother were the hosts. Dad was very friendly and a great host although he spoke very little English. We got along with our fractured Spanish and hand signals (which always work). They cooked us a meal of typical Peruvian foods. Manzana juice (boiled black corn with apple juice -- very strong tasting), rice, lupine with sauce (another typical food -- a grain, I think), boiled small potato, stuffed green pepper and cuy (the taste treat -- guinea pig). Since I had sample the cuy in Ecuador, I passed this time around. Desert was moist pound cake with chamomile tea. Very enjoyable evening and a fabulous day!

Wednesday, May 12
Our Machu Pichu day. Wake up knock at 3:45 AM!! Breakfast at 4:30, bus left at 5. We packed a small overnite bag for MP and the rest of our stuff went by bus to our hotel in Cusco. Because of the flood damage, much of the train tracks were washed away. We took a big bus to a smaller bus which took us to a train. We all just followed Marco and were grateful that we didn’t have to do all this arranging. All was orderly. We had assigned seats on the train and I had a window view. We followed the river to the town of MP. Next we boarded a bus to the actual site. It was an amazing site -- a wonderfully preserved Inca city. There are as many reasons for MP as there are tourists. Marco’s version is that it was once a university nestled in the center of huge mountains. It’s impossible to see unless you knew what you were looking for. It was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, from Yale University and was completely overgrown. He came back the following year in 1912 with machetes, a team of men and National Geographic Magazine. The city sits in a saddle between 2 mountains, Machu Pichu and Huayna Picchu, with a commanding view down two valleys and a nearly impassable mountain at its back. It has a water supply from springs that cannot be blocked easily, and enough land to grow food for about four times as many people as ever lived there. The hillsides leading to it have been terraced, not only to provide more farmland to grow crops, but to steepen the slopes which invaders would have to ascend. The terraces also helped reduce soil erosion and protected against landslides. Regardless of its original purpose, it is strategically located and readily defended. MP was engulfed in early morning fog. It was very mystical and magical. We did lots of climbing -- up and down and up and down. Up slabs of rock and then back down them -- sometimes on our rear end. The sun came out and we were able to see the entire site -- it is enormous with storage areas, guard houses, baths and various other rooms and outbuildings. It's a mystery how they got the rocks to the site and shaped them. And what happened and why it became abandoned is another mystery. One theory is that the men left to fight and only women were and few children were left in the town. Eunuchs were left to protect and farm the land. Eventually everyone died out. This is all only theory, no proof. We then stopped for a picnic lunch with a fabulous view over the ruins. We hiked more up and up and down and up. The site was packed with people -- most people are day trippers, they arrive at 9 and leave by 1:30. We’re lucky that we got here before the crowds and we’ll be back again tomorrow. The crowds lessened as the day wore on, we hiked some more and then went to the cafeteria for about a 40 minute rest. Most of us (all but 4) opted to do another hike to the Inca bridge. It was called the tree-trunk bridge because it was at a location where a gap that measures 20’ separates the mountain. It could be bridged by two tree trunks. If the trees were removed, it would leave a 1,870’ fall to the base of the cliffs. More fabulous views. The day got sunnier and hotter. After the Inca bridge hike, others in the group decided to do another hike to the Sungate. I planned to do that tomorrow. We had a slower walk back down to the park entrance where we had our passports stamped with a MP stamp. We took the bus back to the hotel -- our rooms were small and cramped. We were warned and we were thrilled that it was only for 1 night, but a shower and a clean bed was all we needed. The hotels in the MP area cost a fortune -- so this is the compromise. We met Marco at 7 for our pizza dinner. We ordered our meal before we left and it was ready for us when we arrived. We stayed for a little of the dancing, but left early. It was a long day for us and we have an early morning wake up call tomorrow.

Thursday, May 13
Wake up call was at 5:00 today. We had a nice hot breakfast of scrambled eggs to order. Although the hotel was a bit seedy, this breakfast was one of the nicer ones. We 6 were out the door by 6:15 and caught the 6:30 bus to MP. We were at the site and ready to go by 7:15. How lucky we were that we had a bright sunny morning. We expected overcast and rain. We hiked to the Sungate which was 1.2 miles and 9’000’. It was a tough climb, not as many steps as to the Inca bridge, but this was all uphill. Some steps were huge. Fortunately, both Marco and Ricardo were with us -- one at the front and one at the end. It took us about 2 hours to get to the top. The views were spectacular with wild irises, wild begonia and other wild flowers that we couldn’t identify. We walked a tiny party of the Inca trail -- one of the most difficult hikes anywhere in the world. We made it down safely, relaxed until 11 and took the bus back to the hotel. We packed up and had a nice buffet lunch. We met again at 2:30 to get our train and train tickets. The train left at 3:10. We got off at mile marker 82, where we did the reverse. We boarded a small bus for about a half hour ride to our bigger OAT bus where Alberto was waiting for us. We left for Cusco on some really bumpy cobblestones roads, but eventually, it turned into a fairly smooth 2 lane road. It was pitch black by this time and the stars were out. It was fabulous - there’s no pollution, so everything was wonderfully clear. We saw the Southern Cross and the planets Venus, Orion, and also the Milky Way. We arrived at our fabulous hotel at about 7:45, took a quick shower and brought down our laundry. It cost 16 soles (about 5.00) to have almost all my laundry washed and pressed. What a deal!!! We met in the dining room of the hotel for dinner. We had avocado appetizer and I had a veggy skewer. One of our travelers had a birthday and we all shared her yummy chocolate birthday cake.

Friday, May 14
We left the hotel at 7:30 for Sacsayhuaman ( pronounced “sexy woman”), another ancient Incan site. It’s a walled complex near Cusco, at an altitude of 12,000 feet. The rocks supporting the are huge and carved precisely, no one has been able to figure out how they were carved since they obviously had no modern day tools. The stones fit so perfectly that no blade of grass or steel can slide between them. There is no mortar. They often join in complex and irregular surfaces. There are no other walls like these. They are different from Stonehenge, different from the Pyramids of the Egyptians and the Maya, different from any of the other ancient monolithic stone-works. Sacsayhuaman was supposedly completed around 1508. Depending on who you listen to, it took a crew of 20,000 to 30,000 men working for 60 years. A mystery: The chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega was born around 1530, and raised in the shadow of these walls. And yet he seems not to have had a clue as to how Sacsayhuaman was built. Marco told us that it took 50 years to complete. Some say it was a fortress to protect against enemies. Marco thinks it was built in peacetime as a legacy or monument to the Puma. A work of first rate art. The stones in Sacsayhuaman are huge -- some weigh as much as 170 tons and they are beautifully constructed so that each corner or angle of the rock fits into another. How did they carry these stones and carve them so they fit properly? Next stop was a visit to Paco, the medicine man who performed some type of ceremony and healed us of what ailed us. So why do I still have this cold? Then to the highest point of this area to get a view of Cusco (a not very pretty town). We took a bus trip through the city. Our first “discovery” was a cemetery, interesting in that it’s a social meet up spot for local villagers, especially on Sundays where they all come to leave flowers and meet the neighbors. Everyone is buried, no one is cremated. They have crypts piled one on top of the other with glass cabinets in the front of each crypt. Families will add mementos that are associated with their loved ones life -- like photos, replicas of foods they liked, a bottle of beer, mini pots and pans. The glass cabinets are framed in bronze. Children are paid 1 sol to clean the metal with lime. Good job for the kids. Our next stop was lunch in a local chicken restaurant. Delicious chicken and French fries. We were served ½ large chicken -- way too big and we left more than half of our lunch. Then it was another “discovery” --a local market where we saw all kind of wares, from food stuffs like bread, meat, veggies and fruit, to voodoo stuff and souvenirs. Again very interesting. Peru grows potatoes, about 2800 different varieties of potatoes. It’s hard to imagine, but each one has a specific purpose. The way they preserve the potatoes is pretty interesting. When the first frost hits, they spread the potatoes out in the field, some of the water escapes. They then stomp lightly on the potatoes to get the rest of the water out. They store them and they become like rocks. When they want to re use them, they just pop them in boiling water and they reconstitute and are ready to eat. Next stop was an alpaca factory. Another “discovery” tonight. Marco surprised us all by taking us to a folk dance and music show. Good fun. Colorful costumes and dances.

Saturday, May 15
We left at 8:45 for a walk to the Temple of the Sun (many Temples of the sun in Peru). Formerly an Inca temple, it was plastered over by the Dominicans. Earthquakes of 19?? shook some of the plaster off to reveal the sturdy Incan wall. There was a beautiful garden with huge fuchsia trees. Next we walked to the huge main square. There was lots of activity -- restaurants, vendors, people walking, people posing for pictures for 1 sol. Peru, along with Ecuador and Bolivia, are the 3 poorest countries in SA. Farewell dinner -- we had pumpkin soup, spinach ravioli and a very good chocolate crepe ice cream. There was a great Peruvian group playing during dinner. They had beautiful pan flutes, very unusual, very long pipes -- almost down to the floor. The most unusual piece of music they played was the William Tell Overture by Rossini - it was great! Then back to the hotel where Marco had arranged for a 5 piece Mariachi band for Ellen & Mike’s 35th wedding anniversary. They were really surprised. We said our good-byes to the 6 who would be leaving as we headed on to Lake Titicaca.

Sunday, May 16
Very early (5:30am) wake up call. We are driving to the Lake Titicaca area, about 262 miles. We had “discoveries” along the way. First stop was a family owned brick building operation where they produce adobe bricks. It takes the family 2 days to make 1,000 bricks which then sells for $100.00 US. They can fire 3,000 bricks at one time -- trucks pick up the bricks and bring them to town where they are sold. Marco bought the kids bread and they all lined up to receive the treat. Continued our drive and suddenly came upon a parade of pilgrims who were making their way to the Chapel of the Señor (or Lord) of Qoylloriti. This an old religious procession that is practiced by those who live in the high Andes. Every year, days before the celebration of Corpus Christi, every small village or clan sends a delegation with colorful dancers and "pauluchas" to the Chapel of the Señor (or Lord) of Qoylloriti. This Chapel is situated at the base of the Sinakara Mountain, at about 15,000 ft above sea level. The "pauluchas" are costumed dancers who carry alpacas and are intermediaries between the Lord Qoylloriti and his men. They begin their climb of the Sinakara glacier at 4am, a ritual where they ask for their animals to grow well. They go back with an iceblock or a block of snow which they use to purify humanity. This was an incredible opportunity for us to see the colorful costumes and the seriousness with which they undertake this pilgrimage. We watched and took picture after picture of the procession. We hated to leave, but moved on a few hours south. Such stark landscape! We followed the Andes, along a road surrounded on both sides by the mountains, tiny villages every few miles, some flocks of sheep, alpaca and cattle grazing. Stopped at a market where we continued to support the Peruvian economy. Our next stop was at the ruins of the Wiracocha Temple built in the 15th century, also all made from the material in the area, sandstone. We also stopped for a photo op of the highest point of our trip which was at 14,220.4'. We had no altitude problems, except for shortness of breath. We continued to make progress south and soon we came to the big city of Juliaca, from where we will fly home. It’s a fairly large town where the main industry is smuggling. Also illegal manufacturing of name brands, Nike, Reebok. It was busy, dusty and brown, just the main streets are paved, the side streets are all red sand. Lots of pedi-cabs. We had our first glimpse of Lake Titicaca at Puno. We arrived at our hotel about 3:45. We met Marco at 6 for a walk around town and to buy water. It’s quite cold here. I wore my fleece and my rain jacket. We met a gal from Venice who just arrived here a month ago, she has Multiple Chemical Allergies -- allergic to smells, chemicals, etc. And came to Puno because she can breath. Amazing!

Monday, May 17
Early (5:15) wake up call. Breakfast at 6, left at 6:45 to drive to the waterfront to pick up our boat to Uros and Taquille Islands. Boat was small and fumes were awful so we spent most of our time on the outside deck. We took a small channel through the reeds and after about 40 minutes, we came to Uros -- one of the 75 or so reed islands. Six families live on this small island that they built from reeds. It’s somehow anchored to the bottom of the river which is 50’ at that point. Everything is built of reeds, their homes, boats, furniture. They do fine weaving and sell to tourists. The children go to an elementary school on another island. They speak the Amyra language, although some speak Quechuan, none speak Spanish. They were incredibly colorful, in contrast to the bland looking reeds. We took a ride on one of their boats, thus contributed to their economy. Next we took a 2 ½ hour boat ride to Taquille Island -- again we sat on the upper deck -- it was much too cramped and diesel-ly smelling below. Finally arrived at Taquille Island and we hiked up to the village. Beautiful views of snow capped mountains and Bolivia across the lake. Men, as well as the women, do knitting, on very fine double pointed needles. Women do most of the weaving. We had a delicious lunch of trout, beautifully prepared over hot coals, with potatoes and rice and what they call a tortilla, which was a patty made of flour, potatoes and water, with all kinds of veggies, and I’m sure, deep fried. Then we hiked even higher to the tiny village and the main square where we stopped in the marketplace and admired the handmade goods. Didn’t buy anything. Then it was back to the boat for our 3 hour ride back to the bus and on to the hotel. Dinner was at 6:30 of vegetable soup, alpaca saltimboca. It wasn’t very flavorful, I thought it would be more gamey - tasted more bacon than anything. Desert was a delicious fruit cup. The altitude is exhausting us, but fortunately, we feel physically OK.

Tuesday, May 18
First stop was right across from the hotel -- the phallus site which dates from pre-Inca times. Fertility rites conducted here. There were about 30 penises with 1 major penis -some pointing to the ground some to the sky. Even today women come to this site and sit on a penis for good luck - we did too, although we hoped we didn’t have that sort of luck. Second stop was the market where we stopped to buy 100 lbs of sugar for 115 soles (about 39.00 - 35c per lb) to bring to the village we would be visiting for lunch. Next we hiked up some sandstone cliffs for a beautiful view of Taquille Island. People in this area speak Amyra, not Spanish or Quechuan. “Waliki” is the greeting. The people are somewhat smaller and darker than the Quechuan, according to Broz, but we can’t see the difference. We then walked down to Lake Titicaca and went in the water up to our calves. The water was cold, but refreshing. We walked some more around the lake picking up treasures, and then the bus picked us up. We stopped when we saw some harvesting of oats. It was a real assembly line. The villagers rented a thresher. All the oats were stacked in the field. One ran and brought piles of oats, one fed them into the thresher. A tarp was spread under the thresher, when it filled up, another was put in its place. Another young woman wrapped up the threshed oats and delivered it to 2 other women who threw the oats in the air to separate the oats from the chaff. It was a very interesting process -- we all took turns throwing the oats into the air. It didn’t work for us as well as it did for the experienced ones. Then we stopped at a local community for a visit and for lunch. We met quite a few older men and women - some in their upper 80’s, 1 woman was 90. They asked us questions about our lives, then prepared a meal of quinoa risotto, about 5 different types of potatoes cooked in hot coals, and both fresh and fried cheese. Then quinoa soup with veggies. The villagers ate communally sitting on the ground with a big blanket piled high with food. No plates, no utensils, everything was finger food. We sang, “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” Fred sang his solo of “Some Enchanted Evening” and we finished with “America, the Beautiful.” The villagers sang some folk songs, then a couple of kids sang “Old MacDonald,” they were really surprised when we sang it in English. Our last stop was watching a man harvesting his crops by hand, with just his scythe -- 1 man, 1 scythe. Amazing! Took lots of pics. Marco gives the people we visit either soles or food whenever we stop. Then it was back to the hotel. Dinner at 6:30 of avocado, Peruvian beef and fruit salad. Food has been good, but very salty. We have been kept incredibly busy on this trip -- it’s been great!

Wednesday, May 19
Our last day in Talypika, overlooking Lake Titicaca. Our first discovery stop was at a home where the women in the family made reed mattresses. They harvest the reeds from the lake, dry them, somehow make strong rope by braiding the reeds, then weave them, and eventually they have a finished mattress which they take to the market and sell for 10 soles, about $3.50. She can make about 3 per day but can only work 3 days a week because the reeds tear her hands and she can’t afford gloves. Such poverty! We drove up to a playground which was about 13,200’ above sea level for a view of Puno. It was a pretty tacky playground and the view of Puno wasn’t too impressive. It’s a very unattractive, dusty town. We then drove to another area, Broz and Marco call it the Wild West. Everything is flat and dry. Families live in stone compounds with their animals. We stopped at a home with llamas and cuys and saw the way they dry potatoes, fava beans and quinoa, a main staple in their diet. Next was a hike in the western plateau to see a pre Inca site. Interesting funerary obelisques. Views were fabulous from the top. We saw a gorgeous lake that we hadn’t seen before. It was an easy walk up guided by 2 dogs. We saw a flock of llamas with their shepherd. The climb down was a little more difficult. We then drove to Puno and had lunch of beautifully prepared lamb at a lovely restaurant. We walked to the main square and waited for the shoppers to return. At 2 we left for the contraband market where all the goods come from Bolivia. I bought 2 beautiful scarves. Then we took a pedi-cab ride through the town to another market. Then it was back to the hotel for our farewell dinner - sliced avocado salad, chicken cordon bleu and desert crepes with banana and chocolate sauce.

Thursday, May 19
Very early wake up call: we were all packed and on the bus by 6:30 for our last bus ride in Puno. We were headed to Juliaca (where the main industry is smuggling) and the airport. We boarded the plane at 8:45 for our 1 hour and 40 minute flight to Lima. We checked into our day room at the hotel, dropped off our luggage and headed for the Inca market. Our last meal in Peru was at a local restaurant and we had ceviche and cerveza. It was excellent! Then to our favorite ice cream place, Dove Vai, for our 2 scoop last splurge. We were picked up at 8PM for our ride to the airport.

Friday, May 20 We arrived in Miami (as did our bags) at 7:30AM. We boarded at 10:15. Arrived home safe and sound. It was a fabulous trip. Very active and adventure filled.