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PERU Machu Picchu & Cusco

Ten days in Peru. We started in Lima, and travalled down the coast to Paracas Natural Reserve. We boated over to the Ballestas Islands, travelled by dune buggies across the California Desert before heading to the Sacred Valley. There we ventured to Machu Picchu and crossed the Andes to arrive back in Cusco. We flew back out of Lima.

Here we are! Photo courstesy of Niko, our tour guide.

We travelled into the world of high altitude. Lima was at 1550 metres, Cusco was at 3300 metres. After landing in Cusco, we quickly drove down to Ollatayambo at 2790 metres to acclimitize for three days. Machu Picchu was at 2450 metres. Our highest elevation for the trip, was crossing the Andes at 4316 metres. Wow. Many of us suffered to varying degrees, from altitude sickness.

We goofed around a lot!

This was not the effects of altitude sickness. No, we were a group that liked to have fun and we were forever trying for 'levitation' style jumping photos, crazy shadows, and whatever we else we could creativity come up with, just for fun.

Yep, just a fun loving, weird group of photographers!

Now, you've met us, on to the tour. It started in Lima, a city of 10 million. We learned that over 90% of the population was born in other parts of Peru and moved to Lima to escape poverty and live a better life. But in Lima, poverty is abundant, and there are 'shanty towns' much like our 'tent city' that get built in any and all available green spaces and on the sides of mountains. Only 30% of the population pay taxes, mostly businesses. Since there is no revenue for infrastructure in the city, there are limited services, not a lot of government employees including police, little health care and in some parts, no garbage collection, no running water or sanitation. I came away from the country having a new-found appreciation for paying taxes and what that does for a socieity.

A cliffside city, green and lush with surfing and parasailing all along the cliff.
Playing with iphone apps, a cliffside shopping mall and looking out cliffside.

We headed out of Lima and travelled down the road to Paracas National Reserve. We headed to the Ballestas Islands, a National Wildlife preserve for mostly birds, but also sea lions, dolphins and of course, the Humboldt Penguin (that was for you Sue.)

The island is alive with birds! And the odd sleeping sea lion.
Yes, even starfish can be seen between water splashes.

There is so much guano, (that's fancy for bird poop,) that they have a crew who go and live on the islands every few years for months to clean up the guano. They sell it as fertilizer, a big profit making industry for Peru. All I can say is it really smelt awful anywhere within a couple of miles from the islands. I couldn't imagine actually spending time on them to clean them up!

The Candelabra geoglyph stand 595 feet tall and can be seen 12 miles out at sea. It was made by cutting two feet deep into the hardened soil around the time of 200 bc. It's meaning and symbolism is elusive, with some saying it respresents the holy trinity, others say its the Free Mason symbol and still others suggest it depicts a hallucinogen type plant that was used back in that day. Personally, I think it's just a cactus, and I'm sticking to that!

Fabrice, Anne's husband, travelled around and would quite often bellow, and I mean bellow, "Anne. Anne." He would wave his arms above his head, trying to get her attention so she could take his picture of where he went. I mean, it was everywhere he went! He was certainly an engaging character with a thick French accent. He added such flavour to our hodge podge of a group.

Anne. Here I am Ann.
Anne. Here I am Anne.
Anne. Here I am Anne.
Anne. Here I am Anne.
Anne. Anne. Here I am Anne.

I dont know if Anne took his photos all these times, but we sure did. Here. And here. And here. And here ....

Inside the Paracas Reserve

This is were sand and salt water mix to create a solid piece of rock. The sand is very hard and does not drift. Our tour guide called this being on the moon, and it certainly seemed fitting as the landscape was very alien.

A different kind of desert.
High Cliffs
Surreal Landscape
Anne. Here I am Anne.

Then we moved on to another type of desert, complete with Oasis. In the Ica Region, it's called the California desert and the sand dunes are just as expected, big and ever changing. You could taste the grit between your teeth. We were being transported out somewhere in the desert about an hour and half for sunset shots. This was the most terrifying experience, dune over dune in our buggy, going down what appeared to be 90 degree angles. But the sunset shots were well worth it! However, coming home in the dark ... I don't know what was scarier - seing what was coming or only feeling what was coming. Yikes!

Sunset on the Dunes
Oasis
A little strong on the HDR!

There were many Inca towns, and many terraces, as the shelves were called. They were used to grow things agriculturally from stratgically safe places on the sides of mountains. The Inca were conquered by the Spainish who insisted they all abandon their beliefs and become Christian Catholics. The entire country is Catholic now.

The Sacred Valley

The agricultural valley
A farmer plowing his field
Many terraces for crops
How did we get up here? Anne. Here we are Anne.
The sunlight was so beautiful.
Again, how did we get up here. Anne. Over here Anne.
Sites of the Inca were everywhere.

We went Peruvian! We spent an afternoon in a village where they shared stories, food, weaving and clothes with us. They even got us all up and dancing with them. This visit was a true highlight of the trip.

In Peruvian clothing and dancing to their music of flutes..

It was surprisingly cool, under the layers of wool, even in the heat of the day.

Celebrate! We also attended a large yearly celebration one day in in one town and a parade for police graduates in another town. Although many wore costumes for these celebrations, the traditional clothing is still worn by the majority throughout the country. We were to learn this is because they are poor and have no money to buy clothes, but many have lamas or alpacas and can therefore make their own clothing from their wool.

Some villagers
Some costumes. The children always seemed to look a little dirty.
The woman were so strong, climbing up and down those hills, putting us to shame. They carry everything across their backs in slings, whether supplies or children. When they smiled, they often were missing many teeth, another indicator of their poverty.

We went to the salt mines. We learned there are over 5600 ponds, and each is owned and 'mined' by a family. The pools are 30 cm deep and are filled by run off water from the mountain, a mix of salt water. Once a pond is filled, rocks are placed to stop water from entering. Over the next month, the ponds will evaporate, leaving one of four different types of Andean salts.

Salt Ponds

We also just went to different small villages and took photos. On one such occasion, I was able to take one photo of the police car before the police ran me off. BTW all four tires were flat! In another small village, we became part of a wedding processional making their way around the town square after their nuptuals. There was a man who was 'recycling' as he stood outside his restaurant and trampled down all his platic and tin cans. And I mustn't forget the Peruvian dog - a grey hairless cross between a Chihuahua and Chinese Crested dog with long legs. They often were seen with sweaters on to protect their skin from sun burn.

Small town living.

Oh, and did I mention the stairs and/or hills all over the place. I have never climbed so many stairs and my one knee swelled up like a ballon. And of course, the streets were quite narrow, all leading to a town square, and lamas and alpacas were everywhere. It seemed this way all over the country.

Did I mention the stairs? Cusco is built between stairs and hills!

But it wasn't always about Peru, the country, the people and the landscape. We sometimes took photos of each other, and sometimes we even put the camera down just to enjoy the moment unfolding in front of us. In fact, Martine our tour guide, made us all sit in a row, on the sand dune at sunset, cameras down, and just experience it for five long minutes! I can't show you a photo though ...

Just capturing moments.

Cusco was a beautiful city, well worth the UNESCO  World Heritage designation. It is Spanish in architecture with some of the old Inca walls still standing inside the old city. I don’t have many photos of it, as it rained the one short day I was there. However, some photos of Cusco were scattered throughout this presentation. It was a beautiful city of very narrow roads where a sidewalk is only shoulder width and there is either only hills or stairs.

Machu Picchu

Manchu Picchu
Lamas were all over the site. We have some photos of them locking lips with fellow travellors. Yuck!
Lone Tree
Beautiful afternoon sunlight.
The sunlight was stunning for our photos
Damn people! Ruining my photos. MOVE! Hurmph. No one listened.
More beautiful light.
I did make it (almost) to sungate where many distant photos are taken.

Thank You

To my tour guides, from Canada Martine of Rain Forest Reef Escape and Nico of Peruvian Sol Tours, and their helpers Jason, Danny and the driver Roberto.

Also a warm thank you to our host for making this all happen, Anne, and my many travelling companions, Tony, Diane, Jessica, Fabrice, Erwin, Keith, Cindy, Manu, Aruna and Annita. You all made the trip so enjoyable and memorable.

Leaving

With some beautiful landscape shots that I just couldn't resist. Remember, most of these photos (and those throughout this presentation) were straight out of camera (SOC) without any edits. I can't wait to edit them and bring out the best in each!

Crossing the Andes.
Manchu Piccu
Over looking start of the sacred valley.
Crossing the Andes.
A lake in the Paracas National Park.
Anne. Here I am Anne. Good Bye.

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