We had a wonderful trip to Peru. It was adventurous and wore us out at times. We're glad we did it! I apologize for the TONS of pictures, but then again, this is our journal...so let the pictures begin!
DAY 1, Sun 6/8
We got to LAX at 12am Saturday night (Sunday morning) and waited for the shuttle:
TACA airlines took us to South America. I have to admit, I was expecting a below-average stinky plane. But it was great! Clean, professional, great service, and actually better food than I've had on various american airline carriers (and much cooler looking presentation). What's under the foil??
Burritos! What a great idea. On the flight home, we had some really yummy pasta dishes. All in all we had great food our entire time in Peru. None of it felt very "foreign". Though there are two things they really don't do well: bread and ice cream. The bread is dry and tasteless. The ice cream is hit or miss. Some is good. Most is muy mas o menos.
We laid over in San Salvador and then landed in Lima (altogether, two- 4 hour flights from LA). Lima (my apologies to Linsey and Kenny) is a kind of a gross city. Though it's a coastal beach town, it's overcast and cloudy 8 months out of the year. You never see the sun till summertime. It's the country's capital city and like many urban metropolise (is that the plural?), there are tons of cars and car exhaust everywhere. The cloud layer just holds the exhaust in. I couldn't wait to breath the fresh mountain air when we reached Cusco.
We mostly took taxis, but these collectivos (chapas, autobuses, combis, etc) are everywhere and normally PACKED with people. It's a funny site:
Most of our cab drivers were great. Our driver from the airport was very talkative and blasted Cold Play from his stereo. We saw this billboard on our drive. The INCREDIBLE MAN! Not sure why they can't just say "Hulk" instead of "Hombre":
Some immediate observations:
Like many central and south American countries, there are always stray dogs wandering the streets. Some of them have Sarna (a disease where their hair falls off. Kinda sad):The people work hard to take care of their daily needs, no matter what age:
Babies go where their mom goes. Many women had bambitos on their backs:But overall, they are a happy people. They enjoy life just as we do because everything in your economy and social environments are all relative:Those are some nuns we found selling tamales on the street.
The day we arrived in Lima, my cousin Linsey, her husband Kenny, and their kids were also arriving from a local trip to Arequipa (another major city in Peru). They were super kind to let us stay with them. Kenny works for the US Foreign Service and they are on a one year tour of Peru. They move in a week to Caracas, Venezuela where they'll be for the next two years. Here's a picture of them (which I stole from their blog since I didn't get a picture of all of them. boo). This is when they blessed their new baby Isaac:
and here are their cute boys Caleb and Isaac in their matching jammies. Adorable:
Their house was spacious and we felt right at home in their cozy beds. They are both very interesting people and we loved sitting and chatting for hours (I hope we didn't wear you guys out with all our questions! And thank you for hosting us!)
The first night there, we weren't sure where to go so we jumped in a taxi and asked our driver to take us to the center of Lima or to a hot spot for shopping and hanging out. He did great! We ended up at the Peruvian version of 3rd Street Promendade, the Irvine Spectrum, you know, an outdoor street for shopping. Most of their stores though were either appliance stores or cheap food/restaurants. And on both ends of the street were beautiful plazas:
We stumbled upon the Presidential Palace where the President of Peru takes care of business:It was guarded by tanks (which Casey found thrilling):
DAY 2, Mon 6/9
In retrospect, our trip felt like: travel, travel, travel to get to Machu Picchu and then travel, travel to get home. Thus, on Monday morning we continued our journey to MP and got back on a plane for the city of Cusco. It's up in the mountains at a high altitude of almost 12,000 feet (Casey was feeling the affects of high altitude that first day). The air was crisp and cool and it was sunny most of our stay. I loved this city; very charming. We had a private tour guide, Rony, who picked us up from the Cusco airport and took us to see some sites. First on the list, Qorikancha, an old Incan temple that was thought to be THE most sacred and important temple of their surroundings. Later the Spaniards came along and built right over it (the Spaniards seemed to do this often). The temple is that large structure behind us:
And here's the view looking back on the street from atop the temple:
The courtyard inside:
Walking the back streets of Cusco. Rony, our guide, is on the right. He was great:
We also visited a huge Cathedral and then stopped for some lunch. We ate on a balcony overlooking the main town square, the Plaza De Armas:
This was my favorite part of town. You could just sit and chill on a bench and people watch (of course 5 different locals would try to sell you trinkets while you relaxed; the downside to being a blond tourist).
From Cusco, we drove 90 minutes to a city called Urubamba, out in the country in The Sacred Valley. We stayed at an adorable Bed and Breakfast type place called The Hosteria Rumichaca. We were the only ones staying there and had very personable service from the staff. Here's where we stayed:
Unfortunately, it was too cold to eat outside. It's the beginning of wintertime in Peru. But it's also the dry season, so it's the best time to visit MP.
Our bedroom was quaint and charming. As a true American, however, I really missed having a TV in the room. None of the hotel rooms were equipped with them. It just seemed very quiet everywhere we went. I guess I'm used to a lot of noise in my life! We exchanged our TV watching though for playing chess and reading books. How old fashioned.
This was the downstairs lobby. The first night we arrived, it was SO cold inside. Thankfully they built a fire, but we spent most of the night with about 6 blankets over us:Here 's the Hosteria staff. Diego, on the left, was super quiet and made us laugh. One night when we got back, we noticed that Casey's Rubix Cube , which we'd left in the room, was all messed up. Haah. We could only imagine Diego taking a whirl at it while we were out. The two ladies were our cooks, Eulogio was the main helper. He was great. And Abel was our taxi driver :
DAY 3, Tues 6/10
This is the day we made it to Machu Picchu.
Jose, who owns and runs the Hosteria, has 3 white dogs. This picture is funny to me. Casey looks like some rich man out rough-housing with his dogs for the morning:
We got into Abel's taxi and drove to the train station:
It's a 90 minute ride on a rickety train to the city of Aguas Caliente. While waiting for our train to arrive, the locals came out to sell us their goods:
I thought the children down there was just too adorable. Maybe I should try totting Owen around on my back:
We also kept running into the same travelers along the way. This kid was our favorite. Some rich South American teenager who seemed less than impressed with the sites around him. He was on our flight, our train, and we kept bumping into him in MP:
Once in Aguas Caliente, we took a 1/2 hour bus ride up the mountain and finally turned the corner to the beautiful sites of Machu Picchu:
It really is this beautiful and it is absolutely amazing. The ruins are very well preserved and once you start exploring, the city is quite large:
As you can see, MP really is set-up high on a mountain top. There are huge cliffs on both sides. In order to preserve the terrain from landslides, they cultivated the land and created these agricultural terraces for farming. Truly amazing:Casey was a great tour guide and read all sorts of interesting info to me from our MP book:
Here is the main entrance to MP. This is where royalty and important visitors entered. I felt very VIP:
The rooms, of course, are missing their thatched roofs that existed long ago:
The Temple of the Sun room (the Incas worshiped the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth in general):
They created a remarkable water system that flowed through the city with natural water from high on the mountain. There were 16 fountains in all:
Lama grazed the grounds:
The Temple of the Three Windows. What a creative name:
Half-way through our visit, it started to rain. So we took shelter for a bit in one of the rooms with a re-created roof. We hung out on the window sills:And that was our Machu Picchu visit! It was amazing. We spent the rest of the day hanging out in the town of Aguas. Then back on the train and back to the hosteria for the night.
DAY 4, Wed 6/11
In the morning we drove back to Cusco and decided to spend a day hanging out in town. We stayed at the Hotel Arqueologo. It sat on this street:
We had the Inkan Suite. There was still no TV, but there was a cool loft above the sleeping area, and a joey looking bed. We loved it:
The courtyard inside the hotel:
We spent the day walking the streets, we visited the Inka Museum and again, I couldn't get enough of the cute kids. Here's a school group visiting the museum while we were there:
One of the main archeological draws to Cusco is Saqsaywaman (pronounced "socks-say-why-mon"). It is another huge Incan structure that was eventually overtaken by the Spanish. So only 1/5 of it still exists today. The stones are HUGE and the cutting that went into it's creation are magnificent:Look how big those stones are! They cut them to custom fit next to each other without any mortar holding the wall together. Brilliant.
The main entrance to the city:
From the top you get an awesome view of the Cusco rooftops:
We had to be careful in Cusco to put on sunscreen. At 12,000 feet, you can burn very fast. My skin looked a little pink and I had even applied 30 spf.
The hill next to us had a beautiful Christ statue. We decided to hike over and realized how worn out we were from a day of hiking at MP and the high altitude. But it was well worth it. The statue was beautiful:
On the other hill, locals watched their lama graze on the countryside grass:
We decided to walk back into town. And we're so glad we did. It's fun to see sites off the beaten tourist path. This lady made me smile. She didn't mind posing for a picture:
Back in town we checked our email at an internet cafe. The exchange rate in Peru was about $1 : 2.8 soles. So the internet cafe cost us about $.30 for an hour. What a steal! When we came out, the whole square was lined with young men marching and chanting. They were holding a rehearsal for the big upcoming Cusco City Celebration. It was really endearing to see the whole town come together in preparation for this big event...especially young men (who in America would probably complain that it was stupid). Here they are all lined up: DAY 5, Thurs 6/12
We flew back to Lima but had a few hours in the morning to kill in Cusco. We wandered the streets and had a good laugh at their English attempts (very phonectical, so the locals would know how to pronounce it):
And there was another celebration going on in the main plaza. This time it was a real parade (not just a rehearsal) with tons of little children. They were adorable:
And we flew back to Lima!
We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with Linsey and Kenney and then headed to a trendy fun restaurant for dinner. We met up with some of their friends, Heather and Carlos, who also work at the US Embassy. The food was muy delicioso!
DAY 6, Fri 6/13
We decided to head home a day earlier than planned since we had soaked up many Peruvian sites. We enjoyed our stay but we missed our kids and homeland, so we headed to the airport to see if we could change our flights. It worked!
The ONLY big regret, however, was that we didn't think to spend our extra free day now staying overnight in El Salvador. We landed there again for a lay-over and it suddenly occurred to us that after 5 rigorous days of hiking and exploring, sitting on a tropical beach in Central America sounded too dreamy. So we talked to TACA airlines again, only this time they weren't so helpful. They said we were only allowed to make one change in our flight (which we had done in Lima) and now we would have to buy a new flight if we wanted to stay (for only $5oo each. No gracias). Boo! If only we had thought in Lima to change JUST the first leg of our flight and keep the other leg of the flight set for a Saturday departure. Oh well.
El Salvador, we may see you again on another South American lay-over. But until then, we'll sit in your airport for 3 hours drinking yummy tropical smoothies and watching soccer:
5 more hours till we're home. Yay!
And that's it. Quite a long recap to an adventurous trip. We sure missed our little kids but it was nice to venture about by ourselves. We picked up Owen yesterday and he definitely grew bigger and older in just a week! I know he had a great time with Grandma Willard. Thank you for watching him! Today we go to pick up Lucy and we can't wait to see her! She's had a ball with my parents and Jeremy but my mom said that every once in a while she would be playing and then her little lip would start to quiver and she'd cry. Not for very long, but something just made her sad. I'd like to think she was thinking of us! Can't wait to see our little girl.
Addendum (BY CASEY)
Casey was chatting online with his guy friends about Peru and I decided to include his thoughts as well. Here's Peru-in-a-nutshell, by Casey:
* It's an exhausting journey, and we didn't even do the Inca trail hike, which I'm told is the better experience. Traveling to Macchu Piccu took two planes, one train, and several cab rides. The final ascent, which we took via bus, climbs about 1000 feet. It was the exact same scenery as Joan Wilder on that chicken bus in Cartegena - only there were no chickens.
* As far as archeological tourism, I can't imagine it gets any better than Peru. The Inca made incredibly resilient stone structures that have withstood time and numerous earthquakes. The Spanish were pretty destructive conquerors, though. What's great about Macchu Piccu is that the Spanish didn't know about it, and therefore it stood basically untouched for 500 years. Some artifacts were sent off to museums in the 20th century, but otherwise I believe we walked into a desserted and untouched city, built on a cliff. There was lots of good stuff in Cusco too, but the Spanish (and Peruvian looters) have destroyed much of it. I can tell you one thing for sure - George Lucas didn't bother going there for that latest Indy movie.
* Lima is gross. We had planned to kick around Lima on Friday, but just bagged it and flew home a day early. My greatest regret on the trip was that we weren't able to secure a one-night stay in El Salvador, where we had a small layover. We had earned a relaxing day on the beach, but weren't able to cash it in. I also wished we had booked that final day or two for La Paz, Bolivia. Not sure when I'll ever go to Bolivia.
So in the end, I thought it was well-worth it. It wasn't an expensive trip, stuff is cheap down there. But I wouldn't go back, it's a one-time thing. We're definitely crossing the Atlantic on our next few big trips.