it has been two weeks in Peru now so, it is time to post an update. i have some awesome photos to post too, but first i need to find a computer that won't give my camera a virus (Internet cafes are full of viruses). i will briefly touch on highlights of the trip so i don´t bore you, and i will probably capitalize very few words in order to save time.
after arriving in Lima my mom and i went straight to Cuzco city (11,200 ft above sea level) which is the spring board for several popular destinations: Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, river rafting, etc. this town is the old Incan capital before it was plundered by the Spanish conquers in the 16th century. the Spaniards found this city to be very wealthy and well organized. in order to transform the loyalty of the people into Spanish (and catholic) favor, the conquistadores destroyed all the Inca temples and built catholic churches on the old foundations. i learned on a tour of one of the cathedrals the Spanish did this all over the Inca empire (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina), but the most interesting thing is that they used the old foundations because they were superior to anything the Spanish could build at that time. just one example of the Incas advanced society before being totally destroyed.
After a brief stay in Cuzco we went to Lake Titicaca for three days. we spent the first night in Puno (12,600 ft above sea level) which is a fairly large town located on the shore of the lake. the next day we went out on the lake in a medium sized boat (40ft.) that was pretty sketchy at best. it had an exhaust leak in the cabin so i rode on the top deck most of the time while those who stayed down below drifted off to sleep...and became ill, vomiting one by one. we eventually arrived to some man made islands called Uros. these islands are made of reeds and anchored so they don´t drift away. the people that live here are very friendly and humble. the chief of the island we visited gave us a demonstration on how the islands are made: the roots of the reeds float so they smash down an existing reed area and pack it with several layers of reeds from adjacent areas to form a semi-solid surface. they then anchor it down with ropes, made from reeds, which are attached to large rocks. they build reed houses and establish small fish farms in the center of the island for food. they also eat the lower stalk of the reeds for sugars and carbs. the small islands (about 8,000 sq ft) last six months to a year, during this time the community grows other patches of ¨land¨ to live on in coming months. the most surprising thing about this community of 20 inhabitants was that one of the huts had a solar panel and a TV. the kids were gathered around in amazement watching decade old episodes of Scooby Doo.
we continued on to an island called Amantani where we ate dinner and met our family hosts for the night. we hiked to the top of a rather large peak called la Pacha Mama which means the Mother Earth in Quechua. the peak was over 13,000 ft and proved to be a challenge to both my mom and i because of the altitude. we then descended the peak to attend a local fiesta. that was a great party. we dressed up in local style and danced local dances to traditional music. it was a beautiful night accentuated by a full moon. i decided on this night that this place was the most peaceful place i had ever been. i recommend it to anyone who enjoys the silence and tranquility of la Pacha Mama.
the next day we went back to Puno where we witnessed a parade in the streets and nothing else of real merit took place.
we ended up back in Cuzco the next day where we prepared ourselves for the four day, 45K trek to Machu Picchu. we stalked up on coca leaves, toilet paper, and Imodium. the trek started the next day at 5:45 am. the first day was fairly easy with about six hours of semi-steep and flat hiking. i was astounded at the size and weight of the porter´s packs. they were carrying 100 pound packs and running up hill! i saw one man in particular who had huge, toned legs that were more impressive than most pro athletes. our dinner at camp that night was amazing. we rested early because day two is supposed to be the hardest of all and it starts at 5:00 am.
day two proved to be very difficult indeed. we hiked a steep pass called Dead Woman's Pass that peaks around 13,800 ft. we all made it through day two exhausted and all went to bed around seven pm. i however stayed up talking to our two guides and drinking rum. it was during this conversation i realized these Peruvian people are noble. they are very intelligent, easy going, and tough. i believe them to be the descendants of an ancient culture of people superior in many ways to modern societies. i respect and admire these people very much and i do my best to express that gratitude daily.
day three was also demanding with two mountain passes and nine hours of hiking. we saw three Inca sites and ended up at a hostel type camping ground where every person in the group had at least a few beers.
day four started at 3:45 am to avoid lines getting into the sacred city. upon arriving at the Sun Gate. we were all impressed at the spectacle of Machu Picchu. we wandared around the city for a few hours and eventually embarked on another hike up to the mountain above Machu Picchu called Wina Picchu. after this steep yet rewarding hike we made our way to the bus which took us down to the small town of Aguas Calientes.
i need to say that the scenery during the hike was spectacular. it cannot really be described with justice, so i can only say it helped me to make some important decisions in my life. the Incas worshiped, among many things, the mountains. the splendor and power of these peaks helped me to understand why. these Peruvian people are energized by these mountains, they are the sons and daughters of this land, and it shows in every aspect of their being.
another thing to mention is how great the coca leaves are for stamina and overall health. as a matter of fact i am drinking a hot cup of coca tea right now. well my friends stay tuned because i will post pics and more stories soon. tomorrow i go to Iquitos and then to the Amazon jungle.