31 August 2011

La Sierra

Machu Picchu in the morning clouds.

(So first I apologize that this has taken me longer that I promised and thought that it would, those of you who have been checking everyday my sincere apologies for my laziness, I love you!!!!)
               I have had Machu Picchu on my list since I was about 12, I say about cause I don't really know when, but it has been on my list for a long time. So, everyone can assume that not only was there great anticipation to see my father who I hadn't seen in a year, but also there was anticipation to see this place that had been building for years. One of those things that was so big on your list you feel like you did 6 things not just one.  After arriving home last night I felt so worn out as if I knocked 20 things off my list. The last two weeks were the most refreshing two weeks I have had while in Peru, well at least in a while.

       Getting on a plane again was a weird feeling. Stepping into an airport alone was a strange feeling, it is a completely different environment than I am used to. I know all the steps to get where I am going like breathing, but it was strange. And when I got to the Lima Airport it was even weirder, cause the last time I was there I was the one freshly arriving on Peruvian soil, not prepared for what was next, but this time I was the guide. I got there before my dad, so I had to wait in the crowd of Taxi drivers for him about 20 minutes, and finally I saw him looking in the wrong direction. By the time I walked to meet him he was coming in the right direction but I was still looking where he was so I looked right over my father's head as he stood in front of me. The adventure began. 

Bags stored and checked now to wait in the airport 5 hours till our flight to Cusco in the morning.

       We rearranged some gear, locked up the big bag, played Canasta (I got beat, but the end total was 5 Samantha/ 4 Scott- I was just out of practice), talked, and took a quick nap at the gate for our flight at 0530. Another short flight and we were in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, so many adventures to be had- but first we slept. And then I had....a HOT Shower! So hot, so glorious, so many nights in a row- almost the best part of the trip. Then we set out to explore the city on our own. Dad didn't have too many things he wanted to do, there was just one church he wanted to see, that he had looked up right before he came, and we came across it day one! Qorikancha is the name, destroying Incas was the game. Kind of the story of Cusco except for Machu Picchu-the Spanish never got there. Qoricancha was pretty cool though, because they didn't destroy all of it. It used to be the temple for the sun, then the Spanish came took over and built a Catholic church right on top of it, using the Inca temple remains as the foundation. It was interensting to see the two cultures and architecture in the same structure- personally I liked the Inca walls better.

       The rest of our time in Cusco was spent looking at rocks, we saw so many rocks we have been named Rock Stars. We saw big rocks, little rocks, tall rocks (8 meters), heavy rocks (122 tons), rocks where they killed llamas-poor llamas, stolen rocks, sexy rocks (one place called Saqsayhuaman, when pronounced sounds like 'sexy woman'-and we are not the only people to think this), rocks with groves, rocks with holes, sacred rocks, street rocks, church rocks, and rocks that had no significance. Like I said rock stars, cause we saw them all, and don't get me wrong I love rocks. 

 Scott on the train.

     And of course the most important rocks were at Machu Picchu, or at least the most well known ones. For this adventure we started on a full day tour, but hopped off at the last stop to catch our train. It seemed as though we might not have actually got on the train because the girl bringing out tickets brought them 5 minutes before boarding time (that seemed to be normal for us, everything happened at the last second).  We got really lucky though on the train, the car sat about 35 I think, but there was only about 15 people in the car. So it was spacious and not full of loud Americans (I know I am American, but it is true, they are so loud).

           We got to Aguas Calientes at dark, but there was someone waiting for us at the train station. Got to our hotel, with the really short doorknob for our room the size of a closet (not important we were going to be there like 6 hours sleeping) and downstairs the guy on night duty had his own Harry Potter room under the staircase. We ate pizza, slept, I convinced dad that we were not taking a silly bus we were hiking up, we ate pizza, slept, woke up at 0400 in the morning, and started trekking to the bridge. Misted the whole morning, and was extremely humid, we stripped to our lightest layer, and were soaked when we reached the top. It did take us a little longer to get to the top that everyone else, because Dad informed me, "we cannot continue at gazelle pace, we must go at the pace of bear on the way to the biergarten." (a quoteish from Hogan's Heroes) So we took our time up the very uneven, very long set of stone steps, crossing a number of the road's switchbacks, not ever knowing how close we are to the goal due to the complete lack of mile markers (all anyone could tell us as to distance was a one hour walk, but how many Km or m? ah a one hour walk-fine), till we finally made it to the top and in Dad's words "Hooah!" But to our surprise and utter disappointment to find an unwelcomed anticlimax of a half mile long line of bus riders at the entry gate changing the mood in our tale of excitement and triumph.

This is how you look when you just hiked up a mountain at 430 in the morning, then find all the people who rode the bus in a line 1/2 mile long in front of you, perfect example of an anticlimax. 

       But after a while like 20 minutes of waiting for the people posing in their North Face clothes and hiking boots (when they in fact did not hike, they rode a bus and sport North Face cause they can afford it not because they have any true need for the technical aspects in the clothing and gear- apologies I sometimes hold grudges) Disappointment wore off, praise the Lord, when we unexpectedly outsmarted them all. We changed from our soaking wet clothes to our dry warm layers, and walked the path entering into Machu Picchu. And then using my superior guide skills (yes I am bragging) during the 2 hours we had before our tour guide got there, I said lets go down instead of up like everyone else. Dad agreed, because he didn't want to walk up anymore than 5 steps for a while. This decision enabled us to self explore the main part of the city, and all the special rocks without anyone around us, also we got some excellent pictures of things without any posers photo bombing us. With Dad's pre-trip research and my ability to ease drop into neighboring groups we knew exactly what we were looking at.

Dream come true.

        At 9 we met up with our guide, named Darwin, who has been doing this for 31 years, been to every festival or reinactment, and has written three book about the place. So we had the guide of guides basically. And we got lucky having a small group of six, so it was easy to get around and was pretty enjoyable. Much more enjoyable when the hotel called me (yup got cell service on Machu Picchu- surprised me but actually makes sense it is up there) to tell us that our train ticket was switched from 2pm to 7pm giving us much more time than we thought we had, which lead to more exploring and even time for a nap. In all it was a great adventure, and a giant check on my list of places I want to go to, so when we got back down (go Dad he is a sport, and didn't disappoint me cause he hiked all the way down, deserving a day of rest for his old self) I let dad in on a guide five. Awesome day.

Guide five, mission accomplished.
         After Machu Picchu we had a three more days in Cusco, a day to rest Dad's back, lounge and watch silly TV, One more tour, and then another day to do whatever we wanted. The tour we had that Saturday ended up being one of my favorites. It was to Moras-Moray, a little outside Cusco. Our first stop was to a small town, where they showed us how they processed Alpaca and Sheep wools. All of this is done by hand. They have to walk three hours to get the root of a certain plant to wash it (they also use it to wash their own hair), then the sun dries it, then they twist it onto a spool making it more like yarn, then they dye it. All of the dyes are natural plant dyes (I thought of my mom and her mom the whole time) To dye them they boil water (over fire) and leave the yarn in there for 40 minutes to boil with the dye and the other stuff they add for the yarn to retain the color. Then they again let the sun dry then out, twist it again, and roll them into balls. Then it is time to weave with the loom to make tapestries and other things. According to the girl it takes a month to make one working 6 hours a day weaving, that is a long time. 

Plants used to naturally dye yarn.
         Then we went to Moray, which I was also fascinated by, these are the true 'crop circles.' It was a project of the Incas and each level, so each individual circle was for a different crop. Doesn't sound impressive, well each circle because of the location on the mountain, and the circles being at slightly different altitudes each circle also had its own microclimate, which would be perfect for the plant they placed in it. Potatoes at the very bottom, there was one for corn, and basically most everything they grew. The place also has perfect acoustics, but we didn't get to test them ourselves by going down to the bottom level, because we chose the wrong day to go. The day we went happened to be the annual festival of Pachi Mama, which is where the Incas would honor the Mother Earth, and sacrifice another poor llama, and have a big party. The cool part is we were able to watch part of the festival-reinactment. It is done in the Quechewan language, which a lot of the natives to the Sacred Valley still speak, and the people are in different colors and they come in running with Cusquenan flags on each ring, then there were women that danced in spreading seed, or sweeping, etc, then the head honchos ran in and stood in their places. When in their places they kept running or dancing in place, looked like quite the work out. But that was about all we saw, had to move on to the next place. 

Moray, these are crop circles.

      Next were the salt mines (at which I thought about my grandpa the entire time). I thought they were beautiful, the white was so pretty banking itself next to the tans, and golden browns. It was also amazing that there is this natural spring of warm salty water coming out of the mountain. So good job to the person who long ago found it, and decided to channel it and create wells for the water to fall into so it could evaporate into salt. Pretty sweet. A little factual information, there are hundreds of these wells, and the families who tend to them have 40 to 50 they are in charged with, to keep clean, harvest the salt, and so forth. If there was anyone who needed a bottle of lotion it is these people, who stand barefoot in water  knee deep or up to mid-calf all day long, with their hands also under the water moving the salt, or pulling it out in the hot sun all day long. I give them props.

Salt Mines, pretty awesome.

After Cusco, we had a layover day in Lima until our night bus to Huaraz. So we went to Miraflores in hopes to Paraglide but we proved unlucky in that area. (They did not fly for six days the first being our first day and the last being our last day) So instead we ate lunch at Chili's, walked along the beach up top, and watched Harry Potter with my wonderful friend Gaby! It was a good day, minus not being able to fly. But then we made it to Huaraz, my new favorite city in Peru. Another mountain city bordered by the Cordillera Blanca and the other side bordered by the Cordillera Negra. So many beautiful mountains, and so many of the over 15,000 ft. Pure beauty. And so many adventure to be had I could live there, I would have to to do everything I would want to. Huaraz in my book better than Cusco, because there are less tourists and the people who are there are true adventurers they all have gear and it is well used, pretty cool people. Anyways what we did...I coned my Dad into bringing my rock climbing gear with him, so I got to get my climbing fix. Which was needed. My climbs weren't all clean but that is because I hadn't climbing in a year, but I was able to lead them so I was happy. We had two days of climbing, one where Dad got mad at me because to belay he had to fall down to a creek and I had to pull him back up and a rock hit his elbow my bad. Then the second Kevin met us, and we went in a car to the spot but he dropped us off to far up so we had to walk halfway down to find it but it was a beautiful bolted wall, and a great day.

One of the walls I climbed.
          The day after climbing, Dad pulled the old man card and let us two young folk solo the Laguna Churup hike. Which was probably a good decision for Dad, cause I had made him do a bunch of crazy things and it was a tough hike for the two young folk. It took us about three hours to make it, others made it faster but they did not take pictures on their way, we did. It was tough, the whole hike is at altitude, you have to take a taxi to get there, over some rally car roads, but driving a toyota with a hatchback, when it should be a Jeep. The last leg of the hike was climbing up the left side of the waterfalls, there is even a cable bolted in to help you up (Sam did not need the cable, she still had the climbing itch). Finally though we made it, and my goodness it was all worth it. So beautiful. Good place to chill, relax, think, snack, live, haha. I loved it, and only left because Dad was sitting at the hostal by himself, and Kevin needed to rest and eat before his not so comfortable bus ride back to Pacasmayo.

Kevin at I after finally reaching Laguna Churup, at 4,465m which is about 14,649ft.
         After the big hike Dad and I had one more day in Huaraz and we had decided to go on a commercial tour- even though we don't like them- to Postoruri a glacier in the Cordillera Blanca. The hike was all at pretty high altitude at sea level it would have taken like 5 minutes to walk or you could have ran it, but the sidewalk part too about 30 minutes then another 15 to reach the glacier. And the glacier was amazing. It was my first glacier to see and I want more, but I actually want to explore the glacier like the crazies not just look and admire it, I am hands on. Another hard to breath hike, but it was relatively easy actually super easy if it weren't for the lack of oxygen. But it was worth it, as it always is with adventures. 

Postoruri, a glacier at 16,500ft. (the base is 5000m-16,404ft and the summit of the mountain is 5400m- 17,717ft) I can't tell you the exact elevation of the base of the glacier but those are the mountain's specs so somewhere in between there. Again worth the hike. 

       And also as it always is with adventures, they always end. Ours did with one last day in Lima, with dreams of paragliding, that again fell through due to lack of wind. So instead we treated ourselves to a double feature of The Green Lantern and Captain America at the theater. It worked out perfect, and we had just enough time to taxi to the airport and make my flight. It was a fabulous adventure, with so many more stories than can fit into one blog. I have now seen the desert and mountain regions of Peru now only to slip in a trip to the jungle......

For a more complete set of Vacation photos click here!

15 August 2011

Look New PIctures!

So I will be writing something here in the next few days. I just got back from 3 weeks vacation, one at the orphanage and 2 with my dad adventuring in the mountains of Peru. I am working on posting those pictures too, and writing something to share that adventure with all. But for now I updated my pictures, that you can look through. Love you all, I will post soon promise.


If you have any trouble viewing the pictures, let me know, it just works so much easier uploading a multitude of pictures to Facebook and sharing that way.