Peru 2009

Machu Pichu

Sunday 3/15/09 Machu Pichu

This day started out early. I had an alarms set for 3am and Madison had one for 1:20am. Early, looking back now that’s an ungodly time to get up. But that was OK. Because we were going to one of the world wonders: Machu Pichu.

To catch an early morning train up the mountain, the group was asked to meet that the mercado at 4:30am. My 3am alarm made more sense than Madison’s 1:20.

As soon as the bus started moving Madison fell right back to sleep. I stayed up for a bit watching the city lights pass by. I did doze off but when I woke back up the sun rise looked pink through the fogged up window. Priceless.

The train we were taking up the mountain served a boxed breakfast on the way up and a dinner on the way down. I passed on the breakfast. The ride took a couple hours, give or take.

Buses race back and forth on that skinny road

Buses race back and forth on that skinny road

From the buses we had to make our way through a market to get to the buses that would take us up the rest of the way. These buses would go racing back and forth up the mountain. When two of them would meet on the road you could have stuck your hand out the window and high-fived the other bus. And I thought the drivers in Cuzco were crazy!

You would think that when you get to a world wonder there would be a grand sense of Ahh. When we got to the top and off that crazy bus, I didn’t get that sense right away. Why would there be Ahh if the first thing to see is a restaurant? And pay phones, a jewlery bathroom and a spot with lockers? A let down… just a little.

Our group was given their tickets and we proceeded to a house on the path where we had to sign a visitors book and have our passports looked at. When everyone was through, we were on our way to the hidden ruins.

I say hidden because at the time of the Spanish invaders, it couldn’t bee seen. And when it was found again in the 1900’s trees and vegetation had totally taken over the place.

This place was huge! It had been estimated that 600-1000 people lived in the “fortified” city at one time. when it was abandoned 80% of the bodies found were women. That brings up questions like: Why were there more women than men?

At the time there were three theories given to the group. The first was that this city had been a home to virgin women of the Sun. Another suggested that them men had left to go fight the invaders. A third theory about aliens was tossed in for giggles.

When Mauch Pichu was found again, people found mummified bodies and thought that the Spanish had been there. The skeletons showed that the poeple hadn’t gotten enough calcium in life. There were skulls that had holes and cracked jaw bones. It was also found that many of the women had syphilis.

The first things we saw were the houses of the nobility. Some suggest that Machu Pichu wasn’t a completed city when it was abandoned. The reason for this is because of the open quarry right behind the houses of the nobility.

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From there we saw the religious square. Here the buildings were in the shape of a cross. I should clarify which type of cross it was. When most people think cross they think of the christian interpretation. Here is was more along the lines of a plus sign.

Next was the industrial houses. When the city was re-found they found tools, including a stone abacus.

You could take a thousand picture of Machu Pichu, but they will never do it the justice it deserves. You really have to go there to get the full feel of the place.

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After the main tour the group split in two. One half would follow a guide to the sun temple while the other would explore the city further on their own. Madison and I chose the sun temple.The trip from the city up to the temple takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

At first I regretted going to the temple. Don’t get me wrong. It was fun and hard, but I was slow. So I didn’t get to hear all the cool facts… Even if I didn’t get great pictures of Machu Pichu and learn cool things, I at least go braggin’ rights. I climbed 2,000ish steps, in the rain almost by myself.

When we got down  from the temple it was time for lunch. The group was to eat at a place Toto’s House, which was back in the market. Another crazy bus ride separated us from the food.

I can’t remember what I had for lunch. I do remember that there were four men singing for the guests as they ate. As we were leaving I bought a CD from them.

After  Lunch we were given our train tickets for the ride home. The whole group didn’t make it on the first train. One adult and half the group, myself included, would be taking the later train. This was a good and bad thing. Good because it would give us more time to look around, Bad because it gave us time to look around and shop.

I ended up finishing my shoping for gifts in this market- although I did wonder about getting something for the grandparents. Little cousins and immediate family members are easy, even friends are easier to shop for than grandparents at times. I was a Peruvian shop-o-hollic.

As we were shopping and it was starting to get dark a rumor started floating around that the chaperon for the second train had left on the first one leaving us remaining students high and dry.  Naturally those of us left behind had minor freak-outs. Thankfully this rumor had no truth to it. The sigh of relief was audible.  I’m pretty sure if he had left on the other train he would have gotten some choice words from us students next time we saw him.

The train ride and walk home were uneventful.

***

As an adult I wouldn’t mind going back to Machu Pichu and taking a slower look at things. If this post has put the travel bug in your brain below are some of the sites I’ve been looking at to plan my return trip.

 

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Pisac the Condor City

Saturday 3/14/09 Cuzco

Compared to the other days so far on this trip, this one was a little slower than the rest.

The day started out good. Madison was up around sixish and took a shower while I slept in. After looking back it appears that I had a headache lingering from the night before.

When Madison was done with the shower it was my turn.I forgot to bring a towel on this trip so post shower was a little interesting. I ended up drying off with another washcloth. Thankfully before the trip one of the teachers who had grown up in Latin American clued us in to the fact that washcloths aren’t a thing where we were going.

For breakfast we had eggs and passion fruit juice. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of the drink a color between orange juice and mountain dew. Now back in the states six years later I would love to have the real passion fruit juice.

Once again when it was time to go to the super mercado to meet the group, I kept forgetting things in the room. I must have made three trips back upstairs to get things. Thankfully  when we got to the meeting place we weren’t the last ones.

The first place we went to today was Pisac. This is a city that is laid out in the shape of a condor. Up in the mountain sides there was the city of the dead. On the lower hills were the houses of the nobility, the priests and their Sun temple, the homes of the commoners and farmers were lower on the hills.

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The second place we visited started with a “C”, but unfortunately I didn’t write the name down. This place had been an Inca town before the Spanish came. When they did arrive, instead of destroying everything they built on top of existing structure.

I guess, what better way to lower those you defeated than by turning their buildings into the foundations of your own.

On the opposite mountain of this town there were the store houses. The odd thing about this mountain was that there were the shapes of two faces and a monkey carved into the side.

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As we were leaving it started to rain. Our guide said the storm was coming down from Machu Pich, which was where we were going the next day.

Today the bus rides were longer and there was more climbing. i was ok but some others weren’t. Feo and a heavier set girl were having problems on the way back to the buses. I just makes me all the more thankful that I am healthy and know my way around outdoors. I mean, who wears a dark colored T-shirt in the mountains… Feo.

 

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Temperature and culture shock

Friday 3/13/09 Lima to Cuzco

Day two of my trip to Peru started in the middle of the night touching down in Lima the capital. When we had left Minnesota it was warm for a Minnesota March, but when we touched down we were all over dressed. It was really hot and muggy.  We stood sweating in a long line to get through customs. Once we were all through we hopped on to a bus to take us to our hotel.

Our hotel in Lima

Our hotel in Lima

The hotel was called “Hotel La Castellana.” It was a neat little place. In America most hotel room keys are electrical cards that you swipe through the door. Here we had an actual key. The hallways were narrow with a sickly green light. The color was cause by the lamps on the walls, because the color disappeared when I (accidentally) used flash to take pictures.

We got about three hours of sleep before we had to be up and moving again. The hotel served breakfast in the courtyard. There was freshly squeezed orange juice, rolls with i put butter on, pieces of ham that tasted like bologna and a really nasty tasting yogurt.

Two classmates down for breakfast in the courtyard

Two classmates down for breakfast in the courtyard

As a side note: I’ve noticed that yogurt outside the United States is nothing like the stuff inside.

 

After breakfast we got back on the bus, it was 7:45 in the morning. I think we would have left the hotel sooner if two of my classmates hadn’t been late getting up.

Looking back as I’m writing this, I’ve realized that I’ve never been good with going through security. On this trip, my first time ever dealing with airport security, I forgot that I had my Ipod in my pocket. Standing there getting the wand waved at me while my group was walking away was horrible. But we finally figured out why I kept beeping through the scanner and I caught up with the group.

Our next leg of the journey would be on a bus-with-wings, later I would come to call them “puddle jumpers.” The flight from Lima to Cuzco lasted only an hour and thirty minutes.

Out of the three plane on this trip I liked the bus-with-wings the most. My left ear had been clogged and in pain from the other two flights. It was nice to be able to hear again. Unfortunately I slept the whole flight. Dang, I missed out on lunch.

 

 Cuzco

The airport in Cuzco was small but welcoming. There were people playing music as we waited for our luggage. Thankfully we didn’t have to carry our stuff, it was loaded on to coach buses for us. The call was divided into two groups and got onto the buses. I got my first culture shock here. As we were getting on the buses vendors were everywhere; selling hats and trinkets. I decided that I would get a hat, but later in the trip.

The buses took us to the Excel Center where we got to meat out host families and try some “mate de coca,” a caffeinated drink to help with any jetlag. I didn’t try any, which I now regret, and neither did my house mate, except her’s was a religions reason.

Our host mother was called Vickie. She had two sons, a 20-something and Erik who was around our age, 16 or 17. We saw the younger son a couple of times and her husband once in passing. He was studying Engligh at the college. My house mate, Madison, liked the younger brother.

Vickie let us unpack our stuff, fed us and then took us to meet our group for our first tour of Cuzco. I found the driving in Peru to be very aggressive compared to the laid back fashion of central Minnesota. I’m pretty sure I held on to the “oh-Jesus” handle the whole time I was in the car.

The group was meeting at a super mercado for our tour. It was bright as we waited for the bus. Like a dunce I had left my hat and antioyos de sol back at the house. Thankfully I did ok without them.

The Tour around Cuzco

For the tour we went out of the city itself to some of the nearby ruins. The first two we went to were Tambomachay and Pakpukara.

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Here is where I regret to say that i don’t remember anything the guide said about the ruins. While most of my classmates were being slow and complaining about how it was hard to breath and how tired they were, I was hopping around the place like a mountain goat. For those of you that know me, wasn’t overly athletic, still aren’t, and have asthma. Now couple those two facts with the jet-lag, higher altitude and inclined ground. So how was I doing so well?

Even Kronk doesn’t get it.

Our next stop on the tour was Q’enqo. Again I was exploring out of ear shot of the guide. Man, I was a stinker as a teenager. On top of all my no listening, it had started to sprinkle so my classmates were grumbling even louder.

The final stop on the tour was Saqsayhuaman. Ask anyone to say it and it sounds like, “sexy woman.” Translated into its original Incan it means: “Head of the Panther.” The entire ruin is made of  limestone in the shape of a panther.

When the Incan’s built their buildings they fit the stones so perfectly together that a piece of paper couldn’t get through. This is reason that their ruins have lasted longer and better than those of the Spanish. Another trip that let the ruins survive is the face that all corners of building are rounded. This trick let shock waves from earthquakes move along them without resistance.

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See, I can pay attention when I want to.

Our guide explained that the size of the rock used for construction were not related to the size of their movers. The Incans were small but had powerful legs.

By this point it was really raining. We left Saqsayhuaman to head back to the super mercado. Madison wanted to take a taxi back to the house. Never again am I riding in a Peruvian taxi. For 1. our seat belts didn’t even work, 2. if I thought Vickie drove agressively, this guy was 10 times worse. But I guess all the matters is that we got back in one piece.

The door was locked when we got back. Now picture it getting dark, you are in a country that isn’t home and you don’t have a cell phone. We were a little worried, to put it mildly. We asked a security guard for the building if he had a phone we could use. He replied that his was only for getting calls not sending them. Eventually we found a nice business man who let us use his. Thank the Lord, I was uncomfortable standing out in the street. 

Vickie let us in and listened to us recount our adventures.

There is just one more thing I have to add. The street vendors are scary beyond all free belief. They flock like birds! and always, ‘Lady” “10 dollars, lady.” It’s hard to ignore them, but there are too many of them to say “no gracias” to every single one. That’s it I think… Hmm did I forget anything?

Nope.

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From home to Lima Peru

When I started thinking about writing about my experience I was worried about not remembering everything. It’s been six years since I went on this trip and a lot has happened since then. Let me say this, journaling day by day as the trip happened was a smart move. That is how I can share the whole trip with you.

*Note- All italicized text is exact excerpts from my journal. They do not reflect my views now, but my thoughts at the time

 

Theme of day 1: Waiting

Theme of day 1: Waiting

3/12/09 5:30am U.S.A home to St. Paul

In 2009 I was a junior in high school and as most things go in high school you get drama, everywhere. This trip started out as no exception to the norm. I had taken a nap on the couch before having my parents drive me to the high school parking lot to catch the bus to the air port.

At this point in time I had a boyfriend(?) who had been the oddest to date. He lived half a mile from the school and had been dead set on seeing me off on this trip. Like an idiot I had told him when we were leaving. I regretted telling him that and called him to say ” stay en su casa, en su cama, dormiendo.” (in you house, in your bed, sleeping.) He was a bobo and walked in the cold from his house to the school and was waiting in the crowd when I got there. I hid behind a classmate to get on the bus.

I thought I was safe, but he caught up with me as I was waving goodbye to my parents from the window. How he got past the teachers and the driver I’ll never know but that says something about safety on school functions, anyone can get on the bus… Anyway he was here. He gave me a note to read later and his gameboy Advance and a copy of the original Pokemon Red game. I decided that no matter how bored I was, I was not going to play the game. Even after he left the bus and we had been on the road for an hour or so I was worried about him getting back home in the dark with below zero weather.

When we left I was sitting with my classmate that I would be buddying with for the trip. When she fell asleep I got caught up in a conversation with the guy I hid behind to get on the bus. He was a friend called Wadsten and his “Spanish” name was Feo. Why he chose a word that translates to ugly as his name I’ll never know. We played a back-and-forth game of categories. At first it was Disney movies we had seen, then it moved to bugs; as this went on I started getting tired.

I woke up when we reached the airport. The group sluggishly hopped off the bus and waited in the area before checking luggage. What we were waiting for I don’t know but it took for ever and airport chairs are NOT comfortable. The process of getting through checked luggage was slowed because some people had forgotten to sign their passports.

Once that was all taken care of the leaders did a head count and we went through security. Without a hitch I might add. On the other side we found our terminal. It was 5:30am.

We waited another hour before boarding the plain. If I remember right, this was my first time on a plane: international or domestic regardless. My seat was E6 and I was seated next to Jillian from my class and another girl.

The take off was beautiful. The moon was still up and the city of St. Paul glowed. And when the sun came up, the cabin was filled with pink and purple light. The time is now 7:40am

 

3:40pm U.S.A Huston Texas

During the flight down to Texas my left ear decided it was going to come close to popping but never did. While we waited for the layover I finished the paperback I had brought with me, Underworld: Rise of the Lycians. Yes it is a movie but this was the book adaptation of it. Personally I liked the print version better. I had Wendy’s for lunch in the airport and their food wasn’t that great.

On the flight from Huston to Lima I got to sit behind the wing. it promised to be a fun ride. On the seat in front of me a TV screen gave information in English and Spanish, like: Time from Origin, Time to Destination, Distance to Destination.

It’s 3184 miles from Huston Texas to Lima Peru.

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Going abroad for the first time in 2009

peru 2009

There is some truth when people say that the best time to travel is when you’re a student. For those of you who have been with me a while know that I went to Europe the spring of 2014. But I bet you didn’t know that Europe wasn’t my first trip out of the United States.

When I was a junior in high school I went with my Spanish class to Peru. Yep, crossed the equator before the prim meridian. We went from Minneapolis Minnesota to Huston Texas, then an international flight to Lima Peru and a puddle jumper to Cuzco. The mountains were breath-taking and the seeped with history. We visited the ruins of Tambomachay, Pukapukara, q’enqo, and saqsayhuamn. And that was only on the first day!

We went to Machu Pichu, we got lost in the city, ate guinea pig, got burnt like a lobster but totally worth it

Do I have your interest? This was just a teaser of what’s to come. I’ll take you on a step by step tour of all the things I saw and did on this awesome trip.

Cuzco and its mountains

Cuzco and its mountains

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