Tag Archives: Peru

Foundations That Last.

In every country there are ruins; old stone walls, chimneys, foundations.  As a child, I remember climbing over a stone foundation on the East bank of the Allegheny River that was said to have been an old house that President Washington had slept in. Maybe he did; maybe he didn’t. What mattered to me then was it was off-limits because of snakes,  its close proximity to the river, and it was too far for me to hear my mom call if she wanted to check on me.

We, the other naughty children who explored with me, because it was pretty much off-limits to all of us, made up stories about the place. We were sure it was haunted, that it was inhabited by spirits of the dead indians the army had killed, and white people who went to the house and never were seen agaIn. Nevermind that the Allegheny Indians were peaceable folks, in our tales, the white men always got scalped, the indians were shot with new Winchester rifles. The women, well, unless they were Annie Oakley, which in my mind I was, they kept the home fires burning.

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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

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ruins in Olantatambo (sacred valley)

ruins in Olantatambo (sacred valley)

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Inca Foundations the Spanish used to build their churches on.

Inca Foundations the Spanish used to build their churches on.

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12 sided stone-truky incredible

12 sided stone-truy incredible

k around Peru,  I’ve visited ruins of pre-Inca people such as the  Chachapoyas, Wari,  Moche, Nazca, ..and many more…than the  Inca. As I wandered through the impressive  foundations, I wondered  what games the children played, how the family structure was set up, if the girls coud be warriors? I know they had engineers, astronomers, shaman, warriors, builders, laborers, masons, farmers, and managers, but how did the community function exactly?

The foundation of anything depends on the people. Marriages, education, emotional stability and of course the physical stuff that  I, and many thousands of folks and academics have been exploring. Thanks to the Incas who built Machu Picchu where the greedy Spanish couldn’t find it we have a whole city of foundations to learn about the culture. The Inca empire was the largest empire in pre-Colombian America. It stretched through what are now five countries, from Ecuador to Chile, taking in Argentina, Bolivia, and Columbia.  Five major languages were spoken (Quechua the official ) and lots of other smaller ones because as the Incas subdued other tribes their languages and customs were incorporated. Quechua is still spoken by many people in Peru.

However, as grand, strong, and intelligent as they were,  the Inca empire only lasted from 1438 to 1533. 95 years! They were overthrown by, and yes I’ll say it again, greedy men who were motivated by Christian greed; men who believed that if you didn’t believe as they did, you didn’t deserve to live.

The Inca religion worshipped the sun, the stars, and Pachamama-mother earth. Their communities were built to last. The  buildings did; the culture didn’t. They were overpowered by might, (bigger, better weapons), the passion felt by people who were convinced they were right and everyone else was wrong, and the unquenchable thirst for money-(gold).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puno: The Living and the Dead

Founded in 1668  near a now defunct silver mine, and on the shore of Lake Titicaca, Puno sits at 12,500 feet. My faulty heart beat hard in my chest climbing up the hills to see the Chullpa Tombs of Sillustani-hell, it protested going up the stairs of the hostel.

The chullpas, huge stone towers cut into square, cylinder, and rectangular shapes that all fit snugly together, is where the Colla tribe buried their dead over 500 years ago.They have been plundered by grave robbers, tumbled by earthquakes, and defaced by tourists. However, they continue to stand as testament to their respect of the dead.  I get it. I take great pride in my family cemetery plot where the remains of  my beloved family lies in Foxburg, PA. although in comparison, our tomb stones are a bit understated.

Would you be interested in setting up house on a foundation of tortora reeds that rot continually, forcing you to move every 25 years or so? I didn’t think so. The small island, part of the Uros Floating Islands that  we visited was one of about 48 on Lake Titicaca. Three or four families, a  total of 26 people live there. I bought a hand-embroidered pillow case of Pachamama (mother earth), made by Maria, the matriarch of the clan. When I was paying her, the coin fell into the reeds causing us to dig among them to find it. Walking on the reeds, ones feet sink in am inch or two. I watched a toddler lurch and stumble, but he got to his destination without help.

The island was very small, less than a whole block in the US; the houses not much more than thatched roof huts. The tribe used to use reed boats exclusively , but out back, behind the houses were several motor boats that the kids were playing on when I was there. A puppy, that dared to poop in front of us tourists was isolated in one of them, looking longingly at the kids. Apparently most of the families only go the islands to meet the tourists, and live on solid land these days. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating history and gives one a clue to ‘back in the day.”

Taquile Island is a non-floating island, with an intricate pattern of terraced farming, fenced off by large rocks dug up on the land. It reminded me of Ireland and England.

The Aymara and Uros tribes have intermarried, causing the Uros language to fade out. We were given a demo of the hats the men wear. Similar to Christmas stockings complete with tassels, depending on if he is married or single, or needs a visor for the sun, it’s turned around on his head. Boy, it takes out the guessing for the girls, who wear long scarves around their hair but don’t cover their faces. They wear tons of petticoats under their skirts and intricately, handknit sweaters.

The guide books say Puno pales in comparison to the colonial beauty of Ariquipa and Cusco. Maybe so, but it beats them hands down for sheer friendliness. Saturday, I happened upon a festival in the plaza. It was not for tourists. The colors of the costumes dazzled under the bright blue sky and hot sun. Walking around taking photos, I was asked to danced, given a cup of beer, and asked questions about my country. Even the women who are usually shy and don’t want their photos taken, allowed me to take a few.

Hilda, the woman who owns Inka’s Rest Hostel could not have been friendlier or more accommodating. Within a day I felt a kinship with her. She suggested I move there, and teach English to her, he

Uros canoes

Uros canoes

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Taquile Island

Taquile Island

Huts: Uros Island

Huts: Uros Island

male heron

male heron

Uros Island

Uros Island

image imager 4 year old daughter, and the staff. It’s tempting. Having ceviche in a tiny restaurant, the owner came out to sit with me, to share lives.  That to me, is the point of travel.

 

Monasterio de Santa Catalina

So the story goes, the monastery was founded in 1580 by a wealthy Spanish widow who chose her novices from the richest Spanish families. In those days you either got married or became a nun. These nuns apparently, after joining the monastery kept up their lavish life styles, until, the guide books say, ‘hedonistic goings on continued for three centuries,’ when a spoil-sport, strict Dominican nun arrived on the boat from Spain to whip them into shape. But, three centuries of fun is not bad.

The imposing citadel takes up an entire block and is a warren of rooms: some for cloistering, some quite lavish with English and French china and silver service.  There is even a nursery, and a school room for those widow-nuns who had money and children.

Twisting streets and thick walls, hidden staircases to the roof and maybe elsewhere. The laundry tubs were made from huge pottery wine casks, cut in half, and placed on an incline with trough connecting them as the Incas had done. A sunken tub above them held water for washing the clothes and taking the requisite monthly bath. Being a somewhat hedonistic woman myself, I hope they drank the wine.

There were servants quarters, because remember, they were rich nuns, and a well appointed kitchen complete with a well made of volcanic rock which acts as a natural purifier. No one had go anywhere to fetch water.

It was only in 1970 that the place was open to the public. Today there are 140 nuns I think the guide said, living there. Also according to her, about 400 nuns were living harmoniously until the Vatican -or some controling bishop- insisted they follow strict guidelines set out by the Vatican. The numbers gradually dropped. Women just don’t like to be told what to do.

 

Juanita

Juanita was a little girl, not a teenager yet, when she traveled on foot, for days into the mountains, to the highest peak, to be sacrificed to the Inca  God, Apu Ampato. She was one of several children who were chosen to apease the angry god, who caused the volcano to erupt. Of course you give God the best you have:  innocent, virginal children, some ostensibly were of royalty.

Juanita was found by an  anthropologist, Dr. Johan Reinhard, in l995. The most astonishing thing to me was that her umbilical cord was with her. In Inca tradition, all mothers kept her child’s cord for as long as he or she lived, because it could prove useful if it contacted any diseases. Because of this, we have the  DNA of the sacrificed children. I remember the political commotion caused by the religious right  during the Bush administration about using umbilical cords for stem cell research. Whew. We have a lot to learn.

Jaunita was scanned at john’s Hopkins.They found out she had been killed by a blow to the temple above her right eye. The DNA showed she had eaten, fasted, and been sedated  prior to her death.

Juanita, who spends much of her time in the lab being studied, is taking a break from all that probing , and is resting, fully clothed in the same robes she had on 5 centuries ago in the small museum in Arequipa.  Visitors marvel at her small body,  pulled up into a fetal position, looking quite serene.

I expected grisly. It was anything but. Nat. Geo made a video of Juanita. It’s worth looking up.

 

Bilando, Gatos, y Amor

Lima is huge and complex. The poor are perched precariously in favelas on barren hills, and the wealthy over look the sea and live behind iron gates.

Facela

Favela

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For lunch today I had an Asian salad with grilled chicken breast and a delightful red wine at Tony Roma, on the malecon overlooking the beach where at least 50 surfers vied for the perfect wave. I could have been in Los Angeles. One of the parks along the malecon is Parque del Amor. And it was. Entwined bodies were openly, lovingly,  strewn about the grass, and cuddled together on the wall.

Sculpture of love.

Sculpture of love.

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The Flying Dog Hostel is in Miraflores, a neighborly section of the city, the center of which is Kennedy Park. Living in the park are an estimated 250 cats. I’m told they each have adopted parents who feed and care for them, and sometimes take them home for visits. Certainly they seem relaxed with the attention and affection they receive  from  tourists and residents alike.

Dancing in the park

Dancing in the park

On my way to lunch yesterday I saw a large crowd gathered around the sunken stage area, which turned out to be dancers. If I hadn’t been meeting someone, I would certainly have thrown myself into the dancing mass. Form wasn’t an issue, and it seemed that most folks danced with anyone who could move.

Dancing in the park.

Dancing in the park.

I’ve spent most of my time here researching my route to Cuzco, Lake Titticaca, Machu Picchu and then Chile, and purchasing the first of the bus tickets. Getting around has been fairly easy, but the bus rides are looong. Yikes.

 

A Day in Mancora, Peru

I wish I had been

Took the plunge

Took the plunge

Heading to hang on to put on mask

Heading to hang on to put on mask

Sebastian hanging on to tortuga.  yikes!

Sebastian hanging on to tortuga. yikes!

Ruby putting on snorkle mask

Ruby putting on snorkle mask

big  tortuga

big tortuga

dead manta ray said to taste like chicken!

dead manta ray
said to taste like chicken!

Blue footed booby

Blue footed booby

Pelligan feeding frenzy

Pelligan feeding frenzy

north beach Mancora, Peru

north beach Mancora, Peru

more beach Mancora

more beach Mancora

wearing a video camera yesterday, because it was one of those days I  want to remember.

First there was the swimming with the tortugas. The goodness was two-fold. The first was that I was not alone, which is frequently the case when I’m traveling. I was invited by Sebastian, a delightful young Colombian man who is working and living here at Psygon. When the  entire staff closed up shop and piled into the well-used car: four in the back and two in the front, I wondered, “Would they speak rapid Spanish and exclude me or was I really part of the party?”

As it turned out, language had no bearing on the experience. They were sharing with me. Paloma and I, girls to the core, thought the tortugas were scary and yelled every time one of them came close. After all, there were all those warning signs. When we yelled, the guys laughed. It was so typical and, I might add, had nothing to do with the weaker sex, for certainly we aren’t.

The other thing is that I wasn’t patronized in any way-ever. If I had asked for help  it would have been freely given. But, I didn’t, so it wasn’t.

After we got home I decided to go for a bottle of vino. Surprise. I walked  the 100 feet to the  beach. the wind was blowing sand around. Standing there, shielding their eyes from the stinging sand, were two girls, maybe 9 or 10. They asked me where I was going. I told them to the store for wine. They said they would go with me, that I was fuerte,(strong), and they would be seguro (safe) with me. hahaha.

We walked, talking and laughing. I found out that they live in the barrio close to the hostel. that they are Essie and Mia. They learned  I have daughters and grandkids in the US, that my name is Ruby.  I had no camera with me. I was just going doing a quick  wine run. We saw a huge elephant seal dead on the beach. It was looking straight at us, its tongue hanging out. Really creepy we all agreed.

When the beach ended, I started up the sand into an empty lot to a street I assumed was there somewhere. Mia and Essie stopped me. They pointed to the rocky sea wall in front of the buildings blocking the way to the next small beach. Piled sand bags interspersed with the rocks. The tide was coming in, splashing over them pounding into the buildings. “Prisa! ” (hurry). I leapt like a gazelle over the sand before the next wave arrived, and jumped onto the first batch of  bags. The girls were behind me.  After the sand bags, came the rocas-big slippery ones. Essie took the lead, then Mia. As we laughed and jumped like mountain goats over the rocks, she sometimes reached back to give me a hand. “Come, Mama.” So sweet.

At the end was a small beach. Standing there was a woman in a big flowered hat and equally big sunglasses, who I thought for a minute was their mom, but who turned out to be an Asian tourist. She was surprised to see us emerge from the rocks.

“That was fun,” I laughed. “You’re American,” she assumed. “Yes. These girls are great! They are bonito and muy fuerte.” The girls smiled. “They are Peruvian?” “Yes. They are fabulous.” She was surprised to find a wet  American grandmother climbing over rocks with Peruvian children?

I thanked the girls and went to find the wine store. On the way back to the hostel I stopped and bought a bag of sweet buns. I decided to walk through the barrio, and got lost. After getting directions from some guys hanging out  on a porch, I rounded the corner that they said would lead me to the hostel. There were Essie and Mia! just coming back from their afternoon frolic. They were hungry, coming home to eat. I opened my bag and offered them buns. They each took one, thanked me and went on.

Often in other countries, I am asked for money by children. Not here in Peru. I have been over charged by taxis, but not often. Peruvians, like their ancestors, are a proud people, they don’t beg-at least where I have been so far. The folks I’ve met have been open, honest and giving.

The exchanges I’ve had have been genuine. I’ve had intimate conversations with a few folks now, and have made friends. Each place I go, I find it difficult to leave.

 

 

 

 

Kuelap

It takes over two hours to get to Kuelap. Most of the road is dirt, bumpy, and frighteningly  narrow  as it  winds around the mountains. It felt like a Jules Vern Journey. Along the way our minivan shared the road with sheep, llamas, motobikes, and horses, most carrying burdens of wood, or goods to trade. Once I saw a child of 4 or 5 and his older sister, by a couple of years trying to coax an unwilling horse along the edge of the highway.

Kuelap is mind-boggling from anyone’s viewpoint. Looking at the massive stone wall, you can see why the dead were buried in it. It makes the perfect mausoleum. The round houses, had living space, kitchen, with large grinding stone, and small place to keep guinea pigs. The Chachapoyan architecture was only recognized in 1843! Roaming around on the site were llamas and  horses probably owned by the folks who live on the mountain. El Tintero is the circular turret in the shape of an inverted cone, said to be a challange to the laws of gravity. It’s placed  at the south end of the oval shaped fortress, and used for religious ceremonies, that, yes, involved some human sacrafice, but not as much apparently as the Incas who managed to subdue the Chachapoyan warriors about 800 years later! Dates Known  by the Inca pottery.

Kuelap, a mountaintop fortress city, rivals any ruins in the new world and comes complete with living quarters for thousands of residents and a stone wall fortification reaching 60 feet high running in circumference to the city 110 meters in width.
Kuelap is considered the largest stone ruin site in the New World and is comprised of massive stone blocks nearly 10-times the volume of the blocks used in the Giza Pyramid. The fortress of Kuélap consists of massive exterior stone walls containing more than four hundred buildings. The structure, situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley

in northern Peru, is roughly 600 meters in length, 110 meters in width, and is thought to have been built to defend against the Huari or other hostile Peoples. Archaeological evidence shows that the structure was built around 500 AD and occupied until the mid 1500s (Early Colonial period). (when the Spaniards showed up.)

Truly fascinating and important history. There are many articles on it inc. one from Nat Geo you can google.

 

 

 

The slow boat to Iquitos. Rumors. Blah.

The rumors abound: watch your stuff every minute or you will be robbed, the mosquitos are voracious and will eat you alive, the food gross, the noise deafening. Ah.

The minute the cab dropped  me off at the port in Leticia, Alex, a young man offered to carry my heavy roll-along bag across the island to the boats. For about a dollar and a bottle of water, he not only carried the bag, he found me a boat. Along the short walk, he asked a thousand questions about the US. He was especially interested in Las Vegas. Young men used-back in the day- to be interested in Hollywood.

I was safely, for if you are to believe the rumors again, the boats are unsafe, the drivers reckless. Personally,  I believe people who make their lives on the sea are some of the must cautious, reverential folks on the planet. So, I arrived on the muddy bank of the Amazon in Peru. A short mototaxi to the customs office, and I was legal for the next 90 days.

Now I had several hours to kill before boarding the boat. Lunch with locals on a picnic table in front of a hardware store, carried there in styrofoam coolers by moto taxi. It was delicious chicken, beans, rice, and totally fresh salsa. She allowed me to pick out the piece of chicken I wanted!

After lunch I still had a few hours. I stopped at a restaurant that was obviously closed, but the owner saw me and welcomed me to come in. I told him I had a few hours, he offered me the hammock over looking the marsh and river. “Se puede descansar en la hamaca. ” I ordered a cold beer and took him up on the offer. I napped, feeling safe and content.

I stood on a steep bank looking at two boats. The Gran Diego and the Maria Fernandez.  Porters raced to and fro, up and down the steep hill laden with enormous burdens. These young men grow old fast.

I started downhill to the MF because it was the closest. My roll- on wanted to roll away, and my heavy backpack pushed me forward. A man, Manolo, came along beside me, took the former, and carried it to the top deck(actually next to top because the top was used by the crew). He then hung my hammock, shook my hand and went to his,  I assume.

Later that day, he came to visit me, but the minute he sat down on the bench at the end of my hammock and gave me a little wave, a woman traveling with her son sat beside him. She talked and talked. Finally he left. My chance of the Maria Fernandez becoming a love boat dashed before departure.

I still hadn’t bought a ticket. I asked a guy in a hammock where and when that happened. “Mas tarde.” Lol.

More people boarded. Finally, Rene, a Canadian/Italian man, hung his hammock next to m

The Gran Diego

The Gran Diego

Ruby con sansia

Ruby con sansia

My foot among hammocks

My foot among hammocks

Rene eating gruel

Rene eating gruel

Peruvian ferry across the river to Santa Rosa

Peruvian ferry across the river to Santa Rosa

View from hammock in Santa Rosa

View from hammock in Santa Rosa

The closed restaurant photo from hammock

The closed restaurant photo from hammock

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El Gran Diego

El Gran Diego

ine. We were the only passengers not from Colombia or Peru.