Peru, 2006

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1:00 AM

The Beginning

It all started about 2 weeks ago when one bright morning it occurred to me that I have a weeks worth of vacation days left. HR wasn’t too sympathetic to my plea to take them later in the year and set a deadline of March 31st – take them or loose them. Spending a week home doing nothing was not an option and thus the hectic search for a trip began. I considered a number of destinations I wanted to visit and after a breath elimination process (New Zealand, Singapore, Australia – too far, Europe – too boring, Argentina – last minute tickets happen to be a bit out of my price range for a weeklong trip) settled on Peru. Peru was exotic, Peru had Incas, and Nazca lines and those floating islands and so much more. Just booking tickets and hotels was exciting.

2:52 AM


Some Statistics

# of Plane rides: 6
# of missed flights: 1
# of delayed flights 1
max # of babies on a flight 5
# of times boarding passes were lost 1
# of items the airline lost/then returned 1
plane book: "Hitchhiker's Guide To Galaxy"

Countries Peru (some Panama)
Cities visited: Lima, Cuzco, Machu Pichu, Ica, Nazca, Paracas, Pisco (Panama City)
Places I want to still visit in Peru: PUNO & TITICACA LAKE, Rainforest, AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON, SIPAN CHAN CHAN, scubadiving on the west coast, north,
# of horrible guides 2 (one in Lima, one in Cuzco)
# of naked Peruvian dogs seen none
# of colonial balconies one 2 many
# of political rallies witnessed 1
# of times pestered by locals one 2 many
New Favorites drink “Pisco” Sour
New Favorite food Sebiche , alpacha
# of times we slept past 9am: 1

Inca trail

# of days it rained out of 4 3
# of kilometers walked 47km+
the highest point 4,200 m.a.s.l.
the highest altitude climbed in a day 12,000 m
# of steps walked countless

maps,-75.074257&Lang=WLD0409&Alti=2000&Size=656,532&Offs=0,-667.919799&MapS=0&Pins=|bb| !!! good

peru links:

Inca trail links:

2:04 PM

Lima - Historical Part

We arrived at Lima on Friday the 25th at 2pm. The hotel I booked turned out to be great. Hotel Bolivar located on St. Martin square used to house diplomats visiting the city now being privately owned it housed us. The whole feel of the place was so old-world with it’s cathedral ceiling entrance and high ceilings and grand old bathroom.

After checking in, booking an evening city tour, and asking for a 4am wake up call for the next morning we decided to roam the city in the search of the great naked Peruvian dog i read about. Well at least I was. We walked along some avenue towards the main square. Here we started doing the whole ‘no thank you’ dodge. Walked around for a bit and came back to our hotel to find a small political rally outside. Who was against what and why we were not sure, but there was lotsa screaming and chanting:

And as we found out later the reason is not important. There is at least one mandatory transportation/education strike a month (especially with an upcoming election).
So we sat for a bit in front of our hotel watched the rally and waited for our tour guide who was being delayed by above mentioned rally. The guide took us through the historical part of the city, San Isidro (a Very nice sleeping quarters), and a bit Miraflores. The things we learned…. For instance, the reason why the Italian museum was established in 1930s is because during WWII a large number of Italians came to Lima (1940s!), and apparently the myths about Amazons, Cyclopes and other Greek characters were all brought back to Europe by Spanish. Yup.
After receiving all this interesting information we were taken to the Junius restaurant for some buffet and supposedly native dancing show. The enthusiasm of the dancers was amazing. One of the dances was this excellent ‘tease’ dance. The guy and the girl were flirting using only their feet (Marinera peruana ?).

Overall I didn't really like lima. Too big, too noisy, too touristy. The main distinction of historical part of the city were the colonial balconies hanging off the two story buildings:
and the large squares. All is Spanish colonial.

12:00 AM

Cuzco - the day of rest 3326 meters above sea level

So we arrived early morning at Cuzco.

The city is located in the valley ( elevation of 3,326 m (10,912 ft)) and used to be the capital of the Inca Empire. Most colonial Spanish buildings were built on top of the Inca foundation still visible. Trully a magnificent with it's narrow steep streets...

After playing chicken with a tour van on the way to our hotel

(the streets are barely wide enough for one car to pass) and loosing (the tourists on that van had a small party to mark that occasion)
we arrived at Hostal Tika Wasi.

Our and many others like it) hotel was a simple door in a wall

with barely a sign indicating what it is you'r about to enter. Inside it proved to be rather cozy. Freshly painted in warm colors walls, overlooking the city with a small garden it was perfect.

We were greated by Pappy.

Not a hairless Peruvian dog but more like a Basset Hound in Harvard sweater.

He thoroughly inspected our bags

and demanded to we pet him as an entrance fee.

We were told to sit on a terrace while our room was getting ready and to wait for the our <a href="">GAP Adventures</a> guide. After a turbulant morning this was a nice break. The weather was gorgeous and the terrace had a gorgeous view of the city:

Meanwhile, we were served the famous Coca Tea

(which didn't really impress us with it's taste, but was the thing to do, so we did it). We were fed Coca Tea time and time and time again and after a while it grows on ya.

We were warned that Soroche (altitude sickness) is the biggest problem for most tourists flighting in. Even the cabby who drove us to our hostel advised us to sleep a day, drink lots of fluids, no alcohol and not eat any heavy food (such a the famous alpaca). You need at least two days to get used to it. So what do we do the very first day? Thats right we go horseback riding. Ohh ohh and for the next day we decided that we wanted to see the Sacred Valley and booked that (what a way to relax huh).

The horseback riding trip was not until 2pm so we decided to drop our bags in our room and go find a place to eat breakfast (lunch... dinner... 'All was confusion in the Oblonskys' house'). That we did.

<i>The thing with Peru is that you are constantly asked to buy something, give away your money, eat at their restaurant, etc. It didn't bother me at first, but when we took the city tour the next day I started to get annoyed. I don't like being looked at like i'm a bag of money. And yes I understand the relationship between an American tourist and poor Andes Indian can be nothing more, and i fully abided by the notion one picture = 1 sole, but i still didn't like it. </i>

So these narrow streets with thick walls are pestered with small doors and behind those small doors are perfectly lovely little restaurants with absolutely amazing food.

The meat is incredible not as good as Brazilian, but a contender. Dishes to try are Alpaca (lama) meat, cuy (the guiny pig) and sebiche. When i was told told that Peruvians eat lama and guiny pigs i vowed not too. There's something odd about eating a cute lama (like horse meat) and the little guiny pig? they are pets. yak. Alpaca i tried by mistake and it turned out to be excellent juicy meat. Cuy went untried. <a href="">Sebiche</a> is awesome. it is marinated fish and sea food and absolutely great.

So, we picked a whole in a wall and entered a cozy little restaurant:

we had a lovely dinner and listened to some beautiful American melodies (including a We Wish You a mery Christmas) sung in Spanish which were forced upon us by two adolesents for a small fee:

They did have some skills though.

4:00 AM

When things go wrong things go wrong...

The wake up call has never happened. So we woke up half an hour late. Threw our stuff back in the bags, ran downstairs, jumped in the cab and breathed a sigh of relief. The calm lasted about 5 minutes or precisely up to the moment I remembered that I left my wallet in the room, behind a TV (because thats where I placed it before going on a tour the night before, and because that’s the last place a robber would look if one was to rob us, and because it’s all really very logical if you give it some thought). After being upset for about 5 minutes I decide that I’ll call the hotel from the airport and ask them to keep it at the front desk. I can pick it up on the way back to New York. Yes indeedy that was the plan. So, we get to the airport, get to the check-in desk and I find that I’m missing my passport. No passport – no flight. Tracking back my steps I realize that I probably never got my passport back after the check in at hotel. Marvelous. I call them up and that is the case “don’t worry” they say “your passport. We have. Come. 5 minutes from the airport.” Yup for normal people it’s 5 minutes for me it’s 30. We get into the cab and tell the driver to go to Hotel Bolivar. Easy right? Nope 15 minutes later we realize that we don't recognize the road. woo hoo. after briefly conversing with the driver we realized that he was taking us to Hotel Oliver in San Isidro and not Hotel Bolivar on St. Martins square 5 minutes away from the airport.
Needless to say we missed the plane.

We tried finding a Taco representative, but apparently their office only opened up at 7 or 8 and waiting for them seemed silly. So we had to buy another ticket ($100) at the Copa counter. And off we went to Cuzco.

2:42 PM

Horseback riding

That was cool. We picked two horses from a bunch that were brought to us by a local boy.

Mine was night black and called Carusel and Denises horse was brown and called Caligula.

I'm not sure what was wrong with my horse but he sure had an attitude problem. I suspected pms except he was a boy, so that theory was out of the door. We speculated then that he must be drunk or high with coca-leaves. He refused to walk in the straight line and argued with me on every turn. He did seem to like singing. So we sang. A lot. Our guide seemed to be quiet amused by this.

His english wasn't good enough neigher was his sense of direction. After about two hours of froliking in Cuzco mountains we stoped and asked for directions from locals.

Our final descinationi was Puca Pucara ("Red Fortress") archeological site

It's a small site with breathtaking views. Here we had to disembark from our horses. And that's when I realized what a mistake this have been. The grownd was still trotting, galloping and walking in circles. And my feet... well lets just say i now know why those cowbows walk funny.

12:54 AM

The Day Tour

<i>April 14th ugghh the thing with city tours is that if you don't write the names down you'll probably forget where you were...</i>

the next day I was in no mood to move. The night before after our horseback ride we got dropped off by a local bus somewhere in the vicinity of Main square (about 10 blocks walking up).

By this time I was exhausted. We stoped by a local farmacy to pick up altitude sickness pills. I was sure that most of my tiredness was due to the alititude sickness. We entered the main square at dusk and decided to grap a byte to eat. We found a lovely restaurant on the second floor overlooking the square.

Had a dinner. Meat some Russians (first and last on our trip). Exchanged some remarks and went on. We crawled on a steep street trying to follow the map until we reached a dead end it occured to us that we were lost.

That didn't last too long. We backtracked found the right dark alley and kept crawling up.

In the hotel that night we had an orientation with our Inca Trail guide (later in the news) and after we called our Gap Adventures guide to cancel our next day trip to Sacred Valley. As much as I wanted to go there and as much as I hated to loose time being sick I honestly didn't think I was going to make a 6 am - 7 pm tour in the mountains. Single smart decision made. Instead we booked an afternoon City Tour.

The night wasn't fun. Kept drifting in and out of sleep. Felt out of breath. So, that morning was the first and last day I slept late. Didn't even feel like breakfast.

Never the less at 1pm I picked myself up and we were off to take our tour. On the bus I managed to catch some pictures of the locals:

And some locals managed to catch me:

This little one, for instance, was terribly cute up to the point when she stocked our bus trying to get a sole out of me.

Our first stop was the Cathedral.

Located on the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) This cross-shaped Cathedral was built by the Spanish in 16th Century on top of the Inca palace. This is the story of most of the architecture in Cuzco. Colonial Spanish took apart Inca buildings and built on top of their foundation their own churches and palaces.

Cathedral is very pretty, full of colonial paintings and Inca's carvings.
This is where we learned that Inca's where good at cyder carvings and really bad at oil paintings and the Spanish were really good at oil paintings and really bad at cyder carvings.

Many interesting myths and legends are associated with this church. For instance that in one of the towers an Inca prince was burried alife and once the tower is distroyed he'll come out and reclaim his throne and bring freedom to his people. In the 1950 earthquake many waited for the tower to come down. (which never happened)

I mostly remember this place by it's hard wooden benches. You see i was simply crawling from one bench to the next so I can sit down.

The next stop over was Koricancha (or Qorikancha) (Inca Temple of the Sun) <i> actually this was our first stop by who cares now</i>

The Temple of the Sun was one of the greatest temples in Inca empire and is speculated to be the 'Navel of the World' in their culture.

This is one of the best examples of Inca architecture. The walls are all at 10' angle inward. This was done on purpose to prevent the distruction during earthquakes. The square stone are polished perfectly, the space between the stones is minimal and the windows align in perfect proportion:

Of course the Spanish came and distroyed most of the the most sacred temple. Now only the old chronicles remain to tell of it's past glory.

One thing I 'remembered' was Incas representation of the milky way and constelations. These are purely representative of their culture. They have lamas and kings and water and crop fields. Funny how the sky was a perfect reflection of the culture that describes it.


<a href="">Wikipedia</a>
Next was the Sacsayhuaman ruin(where things get really cold)

One of the biggest ruins near cuzo and most important ones.
Basically it is a huge field:

with the ruins on the left and right sides.

On one side the structure is zigzag

(yes thats me being cold)
and forms the head of the Puma. Apparently this fortress and Cuzco where built in the shape of the Puma (now largely unrecognized due to city sprawl).

The stones are huge:

(this is a very small stone)
And the creases are unbelievably clean. They still don't know how they were polished so well. Incas didn't have access to any metal tools to cut the stone with such precision.

On the otherside there are the terraces for crops with steep steps and a beautiful view of Christ statue

<i>The good thing about coming during rainy season in the spring is that all is a bloom. Green and fresh. The bad thing that it's kinda nasty to be outside in that kind of weather.</i>

As far as I could see locals use it as we would Central park: to spend time with their families:

play soccer


and annoying the tourists:

Q'enko is basiclaly a small mountain completely hollowed out inside by incas. It was used by Incas as a sacrificial temple.

By this time we were too cold and miserable to come and see
Puca Pucara. We have visited it the previous day and felt that was enough. We did however take a walk to Tambomachay (Cavern Lodge), which we missed during our horseback ride.

This is one of the more interesting places. This has an extraordinary water streams flowing from the walls through perfectly carved channels. The water flows non-stop 365 days a year. And they don't know where it's coming from. The small mountain the temple is situated upon doesn't have the capacity to hold such amounts of water. They also say that it is the freshes, purest water one can find.

And on that note we were taken back to the main square. Why? because they always took us to the main square so we can walk up to our hotel.

That night we decided to grab a byte to eat and then rush back to our hotel to pack for tommorow morning. Since tommorow was the big day. The restaurant we picked was not a hole in a wall. It had doors and windows and candles and New York prices and horrible food. What gives?

12:42 AM

Inca Trail The begining

Inca trail was the reason behind this whole trip. Something we both heard of and sounded like a cool thing to do. And it was.
We booked an <a href="">Independent Inca Trail</a> and the rest (tickets, hotels, etc) was booked around that.

The idea is to go backpacking for the four days in the Andes using the old Inca trail. On the way you pass a number of Inca ruins and on the forth day you reach the most famous one of all the Macchupichu at sunrise. Then you catch a train that goes back to Cuzco.

On the evening of our arrival to Cuzco (see first day of Cuzco) after the wonderful horseback tour we were back at our hotel for orientation. There we met our group. 9 people all together. Brian an american from midwest, quiet and nice. 2 girls Lynn and Monika old high-school friends very friendly. Four mba students on their spring break. Forgot their names may be i'll remember later :).

Thats our group by the way:

Our guide gave us our duffle bags. These were to be stuffed with bare necessities for 4 days. Weight limit 15 pounds. Woohoo. And that wasn't even the problem. Trying to fit in the sleeping bag and all the clothes proved to be more difficult then choosing what to take. But all was packed and on the very early morning of the 27th we were off.

A bus took us to the place called obscurely 'kilometer 82'. We stoped by a little town called Chilca where we managed to grab our last civilized breakfast and pick out our walking sticks:

From Chilca we took a lovely dirt road to the infamous km82. We only had to disembark our bus once due to 'road construction:

<i> grrr just erased a lot of stuff... </i>

so we get to the km 82. Km 82 has a small mountain

with a sign at it's foot announcing the beginning of the Inca trail and confirming that this is infact Km 82 for those still in doubt.

km 82 also has a check point and while the rest dutifully were submitting thei passports for the inspection i was shamelessly snapping away the poor porters passing by (at this point they were still a novelty:

Porter. Is a very important person on the Inca trail. This is a word you hear more than the steps you climb. You see due to the fact that the trail in most places is only wide enough for one person to pass unless you want to appear inconsiderate or be pushed off the cliff you must let the porter through since more often than not they are walking twice as fast as you are and are caring twice as much stuff. At first I thought that for everyones convienience they should start carrying wistles, or better little bells around their necks. Later however, after giving it some though i figured that the little bells and whistles would drive me crazy faster than hearing the call 'porter' or having to call 'porter' myself (cause i'm considerate like that).

So Porter. Important. Back on track. Depending on which tour you book you either get porters to carry all your stuff and i mean all your stuff or you carry it yourself. Now, here's what they carried for our group: dinning tent,

(yes yes thats them putting it together after having to carry it)
9 sleeping tents:

(yes those are my feet after a day of walking not having to carry anything)

food supply for four days (that included 2 bottles of whine, and pisco sour for one of the nights)
water supply for drinking and washing
our duffle bags (15 pounds each, yes)

Their job was to set up the dinning tent 2 times a day lunch, dinner (for breakfast it was left overnight and thats where they slept themselves) and fold it back. Set up our sleeping tents before we get to the camp and fold them back together in the morning after we leave the camp. Prepare 3 meals a day (yes there's a cook for it).


After the check point we crossed the river Urubamba

via a lovely hanging and swaying bridge:

Our first pass was supposed to take around 5 hours to the ruins of Llaqtapata, or the Town on the Hillside.

The sun was shining

goats a roaming:

cemetary a laying:

(Lobo our guide explained to us the history of this place: apparently those your tourists who didn't make it)

Lobo a pointing:

we just stoped for lunch somewhere half way when it started to drizzle:

So far this is one picture i like from this whole trip titled 'where is my cow?'

may be i'll find some others as i do them. what i found out that taking pictures of the mountains is not easy. One second there's a beautiful snowcap peacking throught clouds and the second you take out the camera it disappears. I tried playing with polarizer, but guess what. l when it's cloudy the polarizer is difficult to use. At least on the go. so i stopped. The result was totally overexposed sky (clouds) or underexposed ground. grrr.

anywho moving on.

see that sign? that says 'banos' and banos is spanisih for bathroom. that's right.

, is the first of the ruins that you come across if you begin at the traditional starting point for the Inca Trail, Kilometre 88 or Qoriwayrachina, Gold Sifter, which is where the local train stops briefly. It is easy to walk past it thinking that it is just an uninteresting set of agricultural terraces but if you come by road and start at Km 82 you will have a good view of Llactapata down below when you reach the edge of the hillside on the opposite side of the Kusichaca Valley. That is where this photo was taken.

12:48 PM

Sebiche Receipes

<a href="">Some historical info</a>

<a href=""> Peruvian Cebiche
1 pound fresh fish fillet (such as red snapper, cod, halibut, flounder, bass, grouper, salmon, or bay scallops)*
1 pound small bay shrimp, deveined, peeled, and cooked
1 lemon, juiced
4 to 5 limes, juiced
3 tablespoons green onions, minced
2 to 3 fresh tomatoes, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced (or to taste)
Celery, minced (use the tender inner stalks only)
Black olives
1 cup prepared good-quality tomato salsa (mild to medium)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Celery salt to taste
1 large can tomato juice
Cilantro sprigs
Tortilla chips


Some sort of mexican one:
<a href="">
Preparation time: 15 minutes to prepare, 6 hours to let sit.

The first time I made ceviche, I was amazed. I could actually see the lemon and lime juice turning the color of the fish from translucent pink to opaque white. The acid from the limes and lemons change the structure of the proteins in the fish, essentially "cooking" the fish without using heat. I love ceviche rolled up in a freshly cooked, still warm corn tortilla with lettuce and salsa.

2 lbs of firm, fresh red snapper fillets, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, completely deboned
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 purple onion, finely diced
1 cup of fresh peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 serrano chili, seeded and finely diced
2 teaspoons of salt
dash of ground oregano
dash of Tabasco or a few grains of cayenne pepper

Tortillas or tortilla chips

In a non-reactive casserole dish, either Pyrex or ceramic, place the fish, onion, tomatoes, chili, salt, Tabasco, and oregano. Cover with lime and lemon juice. Let sit covered in the refrigerator for an hour, then stir, making sure more of the fish gets exposed to the acidic lime and lemon juices. Let sit for at least 6 hours, giving time for the flavors to blend.

Serve with chopped cilantro and slices of avocado with heated tortillas for ceviche tacos or with tortilla chips.

Optional: Can use shrimp and or scallops as a substitute for some of the fish. Can use a firm cod in place of the red snapper.</a>