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Friday, May 01, 2009

Pictures of Peru

An early morning in San Francisco. Peru or bust. Ready or not, here I go.

View of the Andes from the airplane on the way from Lima to Cusco.
P.S. The in country flights on LAN airlines were perfectly comfortable and not at all the single prop aircraft I had envisioned in my nightmares. I would guess 737 airbuses? I was delighted.

Here we are, Ellen and me, on our first day checking out Cusco. What a beautiful Spanish colonial city with lots of Catholic churches built atop Incan temples. The Spanish were shameless that way. You can see behind us the Catholic monastery in the background and the gray ruins of the Incan Sun Temple in front of it.

This is coca tea. Coca tea is drinken (drunk?) all over Peru to stave off altitude sickness. Cusco is at an elevation of almost 12,000 feet above sea level. Coca leaves are from the Coca plant which is used to make cocaine, Lidocaine, Novocaine, and is an ingredient in, believe it or not, Coca-cola. But it sure did the trick against altitude sickness. We had our cup of coca tea every day (with a generous spoonful of sugar) and we were symptom free the whole week.

Here we are on our way to the market in Pisac. Ellen and I met 14 years ago in Costa Rica whilst studying Spanish. We then traveled all over Costa Rica and Guatemala where I subsequently met my darling husband. I hadn't seen her in 13 years and had only been halfway diligent about keeping in touch until we were reacquainted thanks to Facebook.

A woman selling yarn dyes in the Pisac market outside of Cusco. Market pictures are my favorite.

We loved our afternoon cappuccino and cafe con leche. Jack's in Cusco served up an especially beautiful display.

This dog and his pet monkey were quite a darling sight in Ollantaytambo. Apparently, they are inseparable and the monkey even holds on for dear life while his master is....shall we say....indisposed.

Ellen and I thought this mountain at the Incan ruins in Ollantaytambo looked just like the profile of an Incan warrior.

Our day at Machu Picchu was mystical even though it was rainy and foggy making the mountain views significantly less dramatic then they can be. We felt a little sorry for ourselves (but only a little) until we found out that the next day the park was closed because the professional guides were on strike.

Orchids growing wild at Machu Picchu.

We hiked up Hauyna Picchu which is a small mountain within Machu Picchu with even more ruins and stunning views of the ancient city below. It was very foggy almost the whole climb up but right when we got to the top, the fog cleared for just a moment affording a fabulous view of Machu Picchu. In the picture above you can see the river far, far below the steps that I am standing on. It was hairy. And amazing to think that these hardworking people had carried each and every stone up that mountain to build their city in the sky.

Another wild orchid at Machu Picchu.

See that mountain rising from the mist in the background? That's Huayna Picchu. We climbed to the top of that peak. We were pretty proud of ourselves.

The food in Peru, particularly in Cusco was so surprisingly and unbelievably good. This is a shrimp salad with grilled mushrooms, grated coconut, seasoned tomatoes, and an amazing mango vinaigrette. With the unbeatable prices for gourmet dining, Ellen and I fancied ourselves food critiques for the week. We tried all of the country's specialties including Alpaca steak, fresh ceviche, lomo saltado (like a beef stir fry), sopa de quinoa (did you know quinoa originated in Peru and is a staple grain here?), sopa criolla, and the Peruvian favorite, cuy (guinea pig). We had a hard time stomaching the cuy although it was plenty tasty (like the dark meat of a chicken) so we had our plate wrapped up and gave it to a woman begging on the street. We found that far more enjoyable than the meal itself.

If you click to make this picture bigger you can see the heard of rare Vicunas at a watering hole behind me. Not long after Ellen took this picture, the alpha male of the herd came and ordered his brood away from our offensive looking tour bus. Then he jumped up on a boulder between us and his herd and gave us "stink eye" until we left. The snow capped mountain in the background is, El Misti, an active volcano outside of Arequipa.

This mountain top "facility", at almost 15,ooo feet above sea level, is little more than a hole in the ground with crisscrossing boards for "balancing". Oh, and, BTW, it's strictly BYOTP.

We took a two day/one night guided tour to the Colca Canyon from Arequipa. The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is the home to some 50 giant condors. We were lucky with the weather and were able to observe at least 15 of the graceful (if not somewhat ugly) birds riding the thermal currents in the canyon.

Click to fully appreciate the condor "cuteness". This condor had a 10-12 foot wing span. Did you know condors live to be 100 years old? And then when they can no longer feed themselves (condors are scavengers) they crash themselves into the canyon wall ending their life before they starve to death. Whoa.

And just like that our week in Peru was over. The best part for me (aside from the amazing food) was having a week to get reacquainted with myself. Not me as a mom or me as a wife, but just me. And it was delightful to meet that person again after all these years.

P.S. Dave - You're an amazing husband to let me go have this adventure. I love you so much. Next time, let's go the two of us. ~H


Jackie Scott said...

Awesome! What an amazing experience...You, as always, inspire me, girl!

Tina said...

Thank you for sharing your fab photos! I especially love the last one of your gorgeous self!

lawtrix said...

Your pictures are amazing - I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip!