Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Peru - October 2013

Last year was our 40th wedding anniversary. Being on a mission we didn't do much to celebrate, except go out to eat for lunch. We decided to make up for it and have our anniversary dinner in Cusco, Peru so we signed up for a 10-day Peru tour.

Oct 22, 2013 (Tue)
            Since our plane leaves at 7:25 am tomorrow morning we decided to stay at the Baymont Inn in Salt Lake tonight. We can park our car there for the duration of the trip and take a shuttle to and from the airport. 
Oct 23, 2013 (Wed)
            Today was a long travel day, with three flights. Our first flight was to Los Angeles. There was a group of missionaries on the flight headed for the Dominican Republic. 
Missionaries going to the Dominican Republic
Our next flight was on Copa Airlines to Panama City. It was a long flight, but watching three movies kept us occupied. They even had food that Paul could eat. Our third flight was to Lima, Peru, arriving at 12:30 am. We made it through immigration and customs then met Marco, our tour guide, who led us across the street to the Costa del Sol Hotel where we had a lemonade and finally got to bed by 2 am.

Oct 24, 2013 (Thu)
            Today is our 41st wedding anniversary. We got up at 5 am, so we could go to the airport (across the street from the hotel) for our flight to Cusco and our anniversary dinner. Our flight was delayed because of weather (lacking modern instrumentation Peru Star Airlines could only make a visible landing). We were finally able to load and take off about 12:30 pm. After a short flight we turned around and landed back in Lima. We spent the rest of the day in the Lima airport. Our tour guide made arrangements for us to stay at the Ferre Colonial Hotel (across town) for tonight then fly out tomorrow on LAN airlines (with modern instrumentation) tomorrow. Our anniversary dinner in Lima was at the hotel with chicken, rice, and potatoes for Paul and a seafood rositto for Diane.

Oct 25, 2013 (Fri)
            This morning we received a 2:20 am wake-up call to take a bus ride across town to the airport and a 5:45 am flight to Cusco. The views were marvelous as we flew into Cusco - the snow-capped Andes sticking out over clouds, terraced mountains, and stone structures.We were taken to the Eco Inn (very charming) for breakfast and checkin. 
Eco Inn lobby
Fountain in front of the hotel
We then went on a tour of Cusco. Our first stop was Qoricancha, an Inca temple turned into a Catholic Church and convent (Santo Domingo). We were able to see the Inca walls that could not be destroyed by the Spanish. The stones are carefully cut then laid without mortar. 

Convent courtyard 
Stone structure 
We next went to La Catredral located on Plaza de Armas, the main square. It is a product of the Spanish, but with Inca overtones, which makes it like an Inca temple. It was excessively rich and ornate, but picture taking was not allowed inside. During the visit Diane got dizzy - a combination of menieres, a cold, and altitude sickness. They brought her some oxygen that helped her feel better. 
Cusco cathedral
Plaza de Armas
On the cathedral steps
We then took a ride to the Sacred Valley. 
Andean roof construction
We went to Chinchero, a farming center with hillside farming terraces and the remains of the royal estate of Inca Tupac Yupanqui.  It includes a colonial church built on Inca foundations. We saw the site from the distance. 
Farming terraces
The town
We stopped at the Balcón del Inca (elevation about 14,000 feet). They showed us how they died wool and alpaca fur for weaving. 
Hand spinning
Natural dying 
Which color should I use? 
Local food products
 We stopped at an overlook of the Sacred Valley. 
The Sacred Valley of the Incas 
Children playing
We then went down into the Sacred Valley for lunch that included alpaca meat and a new drink - Inca Kola. We were told that Inca Kola doesn't contain caffeine, but later learned that it does. Is that what keeps us awake at night?
Restaurant by Chinchero
A nice buffet
Bottoms up
There were beautiful gardens in the back of the restaurant with llamas, alpacas, and vicuña. 
The gardens
A shy alpaca
We then visited Ollantaytambo, an Inca fortress with temples, farming terraces, and walls. It was a military, religious, administrative and farming complex built on top of two mountains. Some of our group went to the top, but we decided to look around the lower sites. 
Stone building
Hillside terraces 
It was a long ride back to the hotel. We went out and looked at a crafts market (didn’t get anything) and a supermarket (got some snacks). I did buy a painting of Cusco to put on our travel wall. The artist was named Juan (called himself Jonny Cash). 
Jonny Cash

Oct 26, 2013 (Sat)
            Today is the day we have waited for - Machu Picchu. We met at 5:30 am to get on a bus to the train station (about ½ hour). We then had a 3 ½-hour train ride to Agua Caliente and a bus ride up the mountain to Machu Picchu. 
Train to Macho Picchu
 Machu Picchu was beautiful. I never realized how much it is built on a hillside. I always thought it was more meadow. We went with the guide at first and then we had an hour and a half on our own. There were spectacular views and amazing workmanship. 
Group photo
We are actually at Machu Picchu
Nice view 
Stairs to climb
From the top
We took a bus back to Agua Caliente the end of the line for the train.
Fountain in Agua Caliente
We then settled in for our 3 1/2- hour train ride back to Cusco. On the train we sat across from Kenji and Minako Deno from Japan. It was fun to tease and talk to them. 
Kenji and Mikano

"El Diablo"(a man dressed as a devil) come out and danced around and also danced with some of the passengers. The "son de los Diablos" or Devil's Dance is a popular Afro-Peruvian dance performed during carnival in Lima. 
El Diablo
This was followed by a fashion show of alpaca wear. Diane ended up buying a poncho. 
Alpaca fashion show
When we got back we went to the hotel and dropped off our things then we went to the Inca Grill to eat. The food was good, but spicy. We then walked back to our room. 

Oct 27, 2013 (Sun)
            We had a little touring time today to see some of the sights we missed by spending a day in the airport. We visited Sacsayhuaman ruins just outside of Cusco. It is the remains of a large zig-zag structure formed by three-tiered defense walls fitted together with precision. It include the largest stone used by the Incas. We saw some of the very large stones that make up the walls. It is amazing how well they fit the stones together. 
Walking in the rain 
Largest stone used by the Incas

We then went to Qenqo, which is a cave where the dead kings were mummified. Our guide said that they were better preserved than Egyptian mummies. 
Alf (our tour leader) with our tour guide
Mummifying table in the cave
As we finished looking at Qenqo we had a nice view of Cusco.
Cusco from the hillside
We then went to Puka Pukara, which was a military checkpoint with a signal tower used for communication with other communities. 
Puka Pukara 
We rushed to a busy airport for a flight to Lima. We were picked up and taken to Pez Diablo for a typical Peruvian lunch.  We had Ceviche as an appetizer (which was fish, shrimp, octopus, and calamari) followed by seafood paella. 
Our Peruvian lunch

We then went on a city tour of the historical part of Lima. 
Plaza as seen from our bus

We then had a tour of a Franciscan church and convent called San Francisco that included catacombs with lots of bones. A mass was going on. There were a lot of interesting things and it was ornate, but no spirit. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the church.
San Francisco museum
San Francisco church
We then went to Plaza Mayor and saw the cathedral, palace of the archbishop, and the presidential palace (from the outside since it was getting dark). 
Plaza Mayor
From there we went to see Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca pyramid, but we had to look at it from outside the fence. The pyramid was made of adobe bricks instead of rocks, yet it is still standing. 
Huaca Pucllana
We had planned on a fireside, but it was so late that we just passed by the LDS church to see if anyone were there.  There were people there and it felt so good to walk into our church and feel the spirit. One girl there said she was going on a mission to Curitiba next month. 
Visiting our LDS church
We then came to our hotel, which is Jose Antonio Executivo. We got the honeymoon suite because it has a big Jacuzzi tub and a living room and king bed. It is too bad we only have it for one night.
The unused hot tub 
Oct 28, 2013 (Mon)
            This morning we were up again at 4:30 am for a flight to Iquitos. We arrived in Iquitos around 11 am. A bus took us to the Amazon River where we caught a boat ride. We passed three LDS chapels on the way to the River.
Iquitos airport
This isn't the Hilton
Boat ramp pavilion

 We had an hour and 15-minute boat ride down the Amazon River to our resort area, Heliconia Amazon River Lodge. 
Our riverboat
Victor, our guide 
Village on the Amazon
We were greeted, given our room keys, and took our things to the room. It was a nice room and we have a screened balcony with a hammock and a rocking chair. The electricity is only on at breakfast, lunch, and from 5:30 to 11 pm. 
Stairs from the river to the lodge 
The Heliconia Amazon River Lodge
After we got settled we went and had lunch - vegetables, rice, pork, fish, beans, banana, and watermelon. We then went on a two-hour jungle walk. We were shown medicinal plants, frogs, different kinds of ants, two kinds of falcons, as well as insects. There were some squirrel monkeys, but I just saw the tail. 
The heliconia flower
Jungle path
Poisonous frog
After dark we took a short cruise up the river with a float back down. We could see Venus shining and the Milky Way. We could hear the night sounds of insects. It was very pleasant and peaceful. 
A night frog 
Oct 29, 2013 (Tue)
            Today we had 4 activities. We got up at 5:30 am (it was already light) and went on a boat to look for birds. We went up the Amazon then a small tributary. It was a nice pleasant ride and we saw several birds and an iguana as well as some of the local people. 
Morning on the Amazon
House on the Amazon 
One of the many birds
Children on a tributary to the Amazon
We came back and had breakfast then rested for about an hour before our next boat trip. 
Pedro, the macaw
Hammock sleeping, Amazon style
After breakfast we went looking for the pink river dolphin and Diane saw one. Paul barely saw the back of one as it quickly came out of the water. We then went up the Napo River to a tributary where we fished for piranha. We put meat on hooks and dangled it in the water. We had lots of nibbles, some out of the water, but didn’t bring any in. Mike caught four. When we returned we had lunch, starting with the piranhas we caught. They were actually quite good.
Our riverboat 
Crane on the marshes
The great fisherman
In the afternoon we went up the Yanamono River to Palmeras, an Indian village with a mixture of several tribes. 
Palmeras village
Getting off the boat at the village
We walked a short distance toward a small Yagua village. Before entering the village, Victor prepared a crown for our "queen". 
A walk to the village
First encounter with the Yagua
Collecting crown materials
Our queen
 The Yagua presented a small program demonstrating what life used to be like (and may still be like in remote areas) among their people. They explained a little about themselves and then they danced for us. They put red paint on our faces as a gesture of friendship. 
Yagua chief
Musical ensemble - rattles, drum, flute
Yagua dancers
Our group joined in
We were able to go out into the village to mingle with them. They then demonstrated how they use a blowgun for hunting. They also has gifts for sale. We bought a fan and necklace then had group pictures taken. 
Blowgun demonstration
Yagua Indians
Diane buying a fan
Group photo
Modern-day Yagua?
We then went through the “Modern” village to see what it is like for Indians today. It seemed like a nice community (they even have satellite dishes). Youthlink, a humanitarian group from Salt Lake City, has been working with the village to build a bridge, sidewalks, etc. One young girl was carrying a sloth. I think they said it was her pet. The guide said she expected to get something from us. Some people gave her some crackers and some money. It was a very cute sloth and smaller than I thought they were. 
Volleyball game
House with satellite dish
Girl with a pet sloth
Stocking up on soda
 We walked through their village now and We then came back and went for a swim in the pool. It felt very refreshing. 

Back from the village
Before dinner we went for a night jungle walk using flashlights. We saw tarantulas, frogs, lightning bugs, and even a boa.
Night walk through the jungle
A cute frog 
Our camp boa constrictor
For dinner they made some special gluten-free fish. 

Oct 30, 2013 (Wed)
            This morning we got to sleep in. We got up and discovered a large spider in the bathroom. 
Our bathroom spider
We went for breakfast at 7:30 am and then went on our last tour on the Amazon. We went to see a sugar cane plantation where they turns sugar cane into alcohol with their own distillery.
Sugar cane mill
Sugar cane press
The still
On the plantation was a pond with Victoria Regia, or giant Amazon water lilies. There were also water buffalo wandering in the pond. 
The pond
Victoria Regia
Water buffalo
On the way back to the lodge we saw a large lumber barge and a small family boat, fully loaded. The Amazon river accommodates all types of boats.
Lumber barge
Loaded boat
We then went back to our rooms, showered, rested, and packed. At 11 am they fed us a wonderful lunch of fish wrapped in leaf with banana and other seasonings and grilled. We then took the boat back to Iquitos and a bus to the airport. As we came into Iquitos a small plane landed on the water. What a way to go.
We went by bus to the airport and went through a long, slow process of getting out of Peru, with 5 passport checks. We took a 2 ½-hour flight to Panama City. We were met at the airport by Juan who took us to the Victoria Hotel & Suites. The room is very nice and we can drink the water here.

Oct 31, 2013 (Thu)
            Today was our day for Panama City. We really didn’t see a lot. We drove through the Metropolitan Natural Park and Fort Clayton (now the City of Knowledge) on the way to the Panama Canal. 
Flags from the bus
We went to the Panama Canal Museum and we were able to see a ship go through one of the locks. It was fascinating. 
Panama Canal 
Large ship in the locks 
Lock doors opening
The mule guiding the ship
The museum was nice also. it made me realize that the Panama Canal has an important role in the world. While we were there young girls kept asking Daniel Foreman for a picture. We found out it was because he looks like “Thor” (the one in the movie). 
Canal builders in the museum
Ship captain guiding his ship through the canal
Our guide then took us to the Panama City Temple. It was so nice to feel the spirit on the temple grounds. They are changing temple presidents today. 
Panama City Temple
Apartments for temple missionaries
We then went on the Amador Causeway to Isla Naos and got out to walk around (not much there). We then went to the old city, a historic area. It was raining so it was decided that we would go back to the hotel.
Isla Naos
It took a lot of time to get back to the hotel because of traffic. We got back about 2 pm then went to Manolos for lunch. I had a Cuban sandwich and Paul had chicken. We then walked around the financial district and looked in souvenir shops, but did not find anything to buy. We came back to the hotel to relax.
Fancy church in the financial district

Nov 1, 2013 (Fri)
            Our driver was concerned about traffic so we left our hotel at 6:30 am to catch a 11:35 am flight to Los Angeles. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in the airport. To pass time we told some "old" jokes. One was: Where do you get a beer shampoo? In a beauty saloon, of course. Soon afterward we saw one. 
The beauty saloon in the Panama City airport
We got on the flight to LA on schedule and watched several movies to help the time pass. We landed in LA a half-hour early, but waited on the tarmac because the LA airport was under lockdown. (We found out later that it was a shooting spree that killed a TSA agent). We finally got off the plane, wandered down several very long corridors to immigration (which was extremely slow). We then had to wait for our bags then go through customs (which was not so slow). We hurried to terminal 4 from terminal B then saw the length of the line for American Airline check-in (since the airport had been shut down). We finally found someone who could tell us that our flight was on schedule and where to go for the gate. We were able to move toward the front of the security line since our flight was leaving soon. Our gate was 44c so we hurried down the corridor and found that 44 a-j needed a shuttle to another terminal. We caught just barely before it left and arrived at the gate just in time for a 6:35 pm takeoff. The plane left the gate then sat on the tarmac for an hour due to mechanical problems. 

It has been a crazy day, but we were blessed with tender mercies along the way. We are so thankful for that watchful care. We were picked up at the airport by the Baymont Inn and taken to our car. It was a long ride to Logan, but we are glad to be home.