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Sunday, 26 January 2014 00:00

2002 Trip Report - Desert Explorers in Peru

Written by Marian Johns' Journal
Machu Picchu Machu Picchu

Peru

September 2002

by Marian Johns

 

Background

       The idea for a trip to Peru was an indirect result of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center tragedy. A group of us Desert Explorers was all set – money paid - for a trip to the Taklamakan Desert in northwest China. Every participant, except me, wanted to cancel, and I wasn’t going to go alone, so cancel we did. Reda tried to set up a trip to Patagonia, instead, but the cost for two weeks was $5000, not including airfare – way too much. Reda asked – where else can we go? And I said – how about Peru? She said – sounds good; let’s do it – you be the leader.

(click Read More, below, to continue)

So by December, 2001, plans were beginning to hatch – mainly, the possibility of renting vehicles and driving ourselves, which would basically be a do-it-ourselves trip. Having driven all the way to South America years ago in a Jeep, I knew a trip like this was possible. I just had to convince others who were somewhat skeptical and more comfortable with the idea of a commercial, but less adventuresome, less risky tour. So, slowly, over the course of the next months, plans congealed and eventually became a reality.

(click Read More, below, to continue reading) 

Back in May, 2002, airfares were exceptionally low. The cost of a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Lima on American Airlines was only $471. So I e-mailed all prospective travelers and said, “You will buy your plane tickets now if you are committed to making this trip!" Lo and behold, 12 people bought their tickets, so we were in business.

 

Itinerary

 

Desert Explorers Peru Trip, September, 2002

 

  • September 4, Wednesday - LAX to Lima 
  • September 5, Thursday - Lima 
  • September 6 Lima to Pisco       
  • September 7 Pisco to Nazca       
  • September 8 Nazca to Camaná       
  • September 9 Camaná to Cabanaconde
  • September 10 Cabanaconde to Arequipa
  • September 11 Arequipa to Puno       
  • September 12, Thursday - Puno      
  • September 13, Friday - Puno to Cuzco    
  • September 14, Saturday - Cuzco   
  • September 15, Sunday - Cuzco to Ollantaytambo   
  • September 16, Monday - Machu Picchu   
  • September 17, Tuesday - Ollantaytambo to Cuzco   
  • September 18, Wednesday - Cuzco to Abancay    
  • September 19, Thursday - Abancay to Nazca    
  • September 20, Friday - Nazca to Lima   
  • September 21, Saturday - Lima to Chavín de Huántar    
  • September 22, Sunday - Chavín de Huántar to Caraz   
  • September 23, Monday - Caraz to Trujillo   
  • September 24, Tuesday - Trujillo to Chiclayo    
  • September 25, Wednesday - Chiclayo   
  • September 26, Thursday - Chiclayo to Chachapoyas   
  • September 27, Friday - Chachapoyas to Leimebamba    
  • September 28, Saturday - Leimebamba to Celendín   
  • September 29, Sunday - Celendín to Cajamarca   
  • September 30, Monday - Cajamarca to Trujillo    
  • October 1, Tuesday - Trujillo To Lima    
  • October 2, Wednesday - Lima to LAX 

 

 Day 1, Wednesday, September 4

 

LAX to Lima  See Map  Sept. 4, Wednesday - The big day has finally arrived. Up at the ungodly hour of 2:45 a.m. Neal, the stubborn old fart, refuses to go, claiming he isn’t up to such an ambitious trip. So my cousin, Charlayne Horton, is going and will share hotel rooms with me. She took Amtrak from Merced to Bakersfield and then the Amtrak bus from Bakersfield to L.A. Strange it doesn’t go all the way to L.A. Lorene Crawford came over to our house last evening and stayed in one of our spare bedrooms. She is also going to Peru, so Neal took us in her 4Runner to the airport, dropped us off, and then drove her car home. He will also pick us up when we return home.

            We were supposed to be at LAX two hours before the flight, but we managed to get there an hour early because traffic was so light at that time of day. Check in didn’t take as long as expected, so we had time to twiddle our thumbs. Assembled there at LAX were Chuck and Kathy Mitchell, John and Joann Kosharek, John Page, Lorene, Charlayne, Reda Anderson, and myself. 

Our flight on American Airlines went to Lima via Miami. There in Miami, with an hour layover, we were joined by Lorene’s daughter, Mary Crawford, and her husband, John Hunt; they flew down from Jacksonville, Florida. Mary, with the rank of Commander, just recently retired from the Navy.

        Both flights were uneventful – thankfully. Arrived in Lima about 10:00 p.m. – about half an hour late, but the Hostal Residencial Victor, where we are staying sent two vans to meet us. That was a relief – not having to call or arrange for enough cabs to get us all to the hotel. One of the hotel vans had to return to the airport again a little later to pick up Washington State resident, Paul Ferry, who came in on a flight from Vancouver, B.C. Customs at the Lima airport was not a problem.

            So now, we are twelve travelers total. Instead of relying on a commercial tour, we have planned our own trip, created our own itinerary, and reserved hotels on our own. We have also reserved three 4x4 double-cab rental pickup trucks which we intend to drive all over Peru to see archaeological sites, museums, cities, towns, villages and the extraordinary scenery.

            As the so-called leader of this venture I bought five guide books and then scoured them for information about not-to-be-missed sights, car rentals, road conditions, mileages, travel time, hotels, health issues, preventing altitude sickness, money, security, etc., etc. Using this information, I worked up an itinerary that lengthened into a three week proposition. Still, three weeks didn’t allow enough time to see much of northern Peru. So, four of us (Paul, John Page, Reda and I) have opted for an additional week. Even though I am the trip leader, we will be relying heavily on Kathy Mitchell because she speaks fluent Spanish. She took on the arduous task of phoning all of the hotels to make reservations. And she also made the reservations for the three trucks after calling and comparing four rental companies. Now that we are actually here in Peru, she will be our chief communicator. Thanks to the men of this group, emergency tools, a first aid kit, and GMRS radios for inter-vehicle communication were brought from home.

 

Day 2, Thursday, September 5

 

 

Lima   See      Map 

Sept 5, Thursday – After a continental breakfast, we were ready to be tourists. We had originally planned to take cabs to the museums today, but the hotel owner arranged for a 15-passenger tour bus to take us, instead, for $20 each for eight hours. We got an unexpected extra I had not planned on – a driving tour of downtown, central Lima that included the cathedral and government buildings, plus a stop at the Sheraton Hotel (elegant – bring money) to use the ATMs there. I screwed up at first, pushed the wrong button, and got US dollars instead of soles. Did it right the second try.

      John and Mary have volunteered to be our kitty keepers. They will use it to pay for our entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites and later when we get the trucks, they will use kitty money to pay for the fuel. They will also buy food for on-the-road lunches, bottled water, and any other group expenses. Luckily for us, John is also a doctor. He brought the first aid kit.

      After the excursion around central Lima, we went to the Museo de la Nación which is a huge, ultra-modern structure of unusual and imaginative design. It has a good overview of pre-Columbian cultures and incredible artifacts. The ceramics and textiles are just amazing! And there are so many cultures and sites I have never heard of. Peru indeed deserves the title of “archaeological center of the western hemisphere”.

 

            For lunch, our bus driver took us to a shopping mall with several restaurants interspersed among the shops.At an Italian “Pasta Pronto” place, I had ham and mushroom lasagna – different from any lasagna I’ve ever had – very creamy, but good.

     Last stop of the day was the Museo Nacional del Antropología, Arqueología y Historia. It was similar to the other museum, but housed in an old, yet well-maintained building. The gift shop has some very nice and reasonably priced replicas of pre-Columbian pottery. I’m sorely tempted to buy some, but I don’t want to lug them all over Peru for the next four weeks.

 

            The tour bus and driver, despite the cost, was an excellent introduction to Lima sights - and Lima traffic which we are in no hurry to experience first-hand. Got back to the hotel about 5:30 and rested up a while before dinner. The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, so we had a dinner of chicken, fries, and salad that was ordered and brought from a nearby take-out place. The chicken was very good – almost as good as Pollo Loco at home.

 

Day 3, September 6, Friday
Lima to Pisco  See Map 

 

Sept. 6, Friday – The tour bus picked us up at 9:00 a.m. and took us to the Museo Raphael Larco Herrera. It has an unbelievably huge collection of Moche pottery. Displayed are hundreds and hundreds of ceramic pots. These pots depict every aspect of Moche life – occupations (artisans, farmers, fishermen, servants, slaves, and beggars), musical instruments, tools, jewelry, foods/crops, food preparation, domestic and wild animals, marine creatures, houses, surgical procedures, people afflicted with various diseases, ceremonies, ceremonial pyramids and temples, priests/nobles, warriors, captives – including punishment, mutilation and death. My favorites were the “portrait” pots which represent individuals – fat, thin, smiling, laughing, somber, young old - you name it, it probably exists. Even sex is shown realistically and the museum has a collection of erotic pottery in a separate building. I’m guessing it’s in a separate building so the school kids who come on field trips won’t be scandalized. In addition to the pottery, there was also an impressive pre-Columbian gold and silver show.

 

            After the museum tour, our bus driver, as requested, took us to the big, nearby, super mercado. This was a real super market, similar to ours – a hub of activity with a wide selection of products. The produce section was particularly interesting to me. There were a number of strange fruits and vegetables, and many varieties of potatoes – a Peruvian staple. Here we purchased lunch fixings – bread, fruit, cheese, and lunch meats, and John Hunt bought a rotisseried chicken.

 

            Then it was off to the airport where we picked up the three double-cab pickup trucks we had reserved with the National Car Rental company. John Page, John Hunt and Kathy Mitchell each put a truck in their name and on their credit card. At the end of the trip everyone else will need to pay their fair share. We were supplied with two Toyotas and a Mazda, but only one canvas tarp to tie down over the luggage But since all of our luggage wouldn’t fit into one truck, we needed at least two tarps. So, we were taken to the National Car Rental maintenance garage where we were supposed to get an additional tarp.

 

            While we waited there, we decided we’d best go ahead and have our lunch on the tail gate of one of the trucks. That worked out well - by the time someone finally showed up with the tarp, we had had lunch and were ready to head out of Lima.

 

            Lima is different from what I remember when we were here 36 years ago. I suspect this is partly due to the fact it was so long ago – memories that far back have become fuzzy. Lima seems to be more congested – narrow streets – it’s nearly impossible to find your way around. Luckily, a kind gentleman from the maintenance garage took pity on us and guided us, by driving one of the trucks himself to the outskirts of the city, and got us on the Panamericana (Pan American Highway) headed toward Pisco. I guess he had to take a bus or taxi back.

 

            The process of getting the trucks and tarps took so long, we had to skip ruins of Pachacamac and went directly on to Pisco where we found our hotel – the Hostal Posada Hispana – without too much trouble. After settling in, we all walked to a restaurant a few blocks away for dinner. I had fish in garlic butter – pretty good. John and Mary, who were sitting across from me, ordered ceviche, a traditional Peruvian dish made of marinated raw fish or other types of seafood. I sampled a bite – not bad, but don’t think I would want to eat a whole meal of it.

 

Day 4, September 7, Saturday
Pisco to Nazca     See Map

 

Sept. 7, Saturday – Got up early to have a continental breakfast and then drove ourselves down to the Paracas port for the Ballestras Islands boat trip. We pre-paid for this trip while in Lima at Victor’s hostal. Victor’s mother, who lives in Pisco, went with us and directed us to our guide and boat. On the outward boat trip, we first followed the coast south a short way to see the Candelabro, a huge trident-shaped geoglyph scooped into the sand hill above the ocean cliffs. It is not certain who made this or what it signifies. From there, we motored on  out to the islands to see a myriad of sea creatures and birds. The government allows the collection of bird guano once every seven years. This was last done two years ago, so not much has accumulated yet. The islands are very rugged – riddled with caves and arches. They don’t appear to have any access, but somehow strange-looking piers that hang out over the thrashing water have been built. We saw lots of sea lions (called ‘wolves of the sea’ by Peruvians), birds and a few penguins. We watched in amazement as sea lions, with only their clumsy flippers, managed to climb out of the water and up onto near-vertical, jagged rocks .

 

            Back on shore, we continued down the Panamericana to Ica where we had lunch at a nice restaurant. Most of us tried the special which was a hunk of veal with a bean sauce and another hunk of yuca – a starchy sort of root that reminds me of a cross between a potato and a plantain – a very good meal.

 

            Also in Ica, we went to the Museo Regional de Ica that has displays of locally-found Paracas, Nazca, and Inca artifacts – mainly textiles, pottery, mummies and examples of trepanned and deformed skulls. The latter were purposely deformed. Evidently it was considered becoming to have a pointy, flattened head.

 

            We took a short side trip to Huacachina, a touristy place built around an oasis which in turn is surrounded by sand dunes. It’s an attractive place in photos, but the water is actually rather murky and not very inviting, but the locals don’t seem to mind. Locals also come here to go sand boarding .

 

            Just north of Nazca, the next destination, we stopped at the mirador (observation tower) and climbed up to see a couple of the mysterious Nazca Line figures – a tree and hands. These huge ancient figures and geometric designs are etched into the desert surface and visible only from the air or heights such as the mirador.

 

            In modern Nazca, we stayed at the Hotel Alegría. It’s a busy place - with lots of other tourists here too. Charlayne and I are on the third floor and no elevator. Yikes! Two doors down from the hotel, we found an inviting restaurant where we were serenaded by a group of six Andean-style musicians. I had “potato salad” – four thick slices of potato in a cheese sauce. And then a main dish I can’t remember, except it had potatoes too. The musicians were hawking CDs for $10 US. Some of our people bought them. I already have two at home that I got in Seattle and at the L.A. County Fair.

 

 

Day 5, September 8, Sunday
Nazca to Camaná   See Map

Sept.8, Sunday – Left the hotel about 7:00 a.m. for an 8:00 flight over the Nazca Lines. We flew over at least 12 figures – a hummingbird, monkey, dog, whale, hands, spider, “astronaut”, condor, vulture, tree, parrot, heron, and lots and lots of gigantic, elongated trapezoids. Erich von Daniken has suggested they are extra-terrestrial landing strips made by aliens from outer space - a controversial theory that is not accepted by serious scientists. 

Again, we pre-paid for this trip through Victor back in Lima - $50 US. We probably could have paid less if we had arranged it on our own, but it was worth the extra cost because it gave us (me, at least) peace of mind to know we had reservations. At the airport, I bought a small silver charm with the monkey design ($13) and a small, double-spout pot decorated with a Nazca-style design ($20) – both were way overpriced in my opinion, but that was the only place around to buy things.    

        The airplane made Charlayne nauseous. Riding in the truck also bothers her, so Dr. John gave her a medication-dispensing patch to put behind her ear, and that seems to take care of the motion sickness.

            John took care of Charlayne’s problem, but now has one of his own. While backing one of the trucks out of the parking area behind the hotel, he hit the roof support post next to the truck, and put a fairly big dent on the right-hand side.

            We didn’t have breakfast until about 10:30 - after the plane flight. So, we skipped lunch and drove south along a desolate stretch until we came to the Yauca River Valley with its many olives trees. When we stopped there in the village of Chala to buy some olives, Mary and John miscommunicated their intentions and locked the keys in one of the trucks. It took the next hour, plus the help of some locals to get a coat hanger grip on the lock latch to open it.

As we drove on south, the highway became quite twisty and was perched high above the seashore – I’m guessing maybe 500 ft., with sheer, hair-raising drop-offs. Instead of building oodles of bridges across innumerable arroyos, the road engineers merely turned the highway inland up each dry canyon and then back down, then up the next canyon and back down. This made for very slow going, but eventually we reached Camaná where a large river, the Majes, dumps into the ocean.

            Our hotel, the Primer, was the least inviting of all so far, but they had parking for the trucks in the basement level. We walked to a nearby local-style restaurant for dinner - simple food and no ambience – definitely not a tourist hangout. I had chicken noodle soup, a fried, whole, but small fish and rice. Later, we walked down a pedestrian mall to an ATM.

Day 6, September 9, Monday Camaná to Cabanaconde     See Map

Sept. 9, Monday – Everyone had hot water except for Charlayne and me, so we skipped the shower this morning. 

The Panamericana turns inland here – near Camaná and heads toward Arequipa. At the turn-off for the side road to Corire and the Toro Muerto petroglyphs, we stopped for a powwow. Should we take the time to see the petroglyphs even though we would probably have to drive in the dark to reach our hotel in Cabanaconde? It was decided to go ahead and do it.

            This road starts off over dry, flat desert, and then drops dramatically into the deep Majes Valley. The floor of the valley is a green patchwork of fields, mostly rice paddies – a spectacular sight! Peru is supposed to be a major, world rice producer. At the bottom, a one-lane bridge crosses the river at the tiny village of Punto Colorado. By following the guide book directions, we continued on a short way to Corire, took another lesser side road and found the site. A caretaker let us drive up to the first group of petroglyphs. That saved us at least an hour and a long, hot walk up the steep road.

       

The most common representations I saw were llamas, snakes, sun disks, and abstract and geometric designs. 

Just as we were about to leave, a group of school kids and their teachers arrived after a steep hike up from the entrance. Kathy chatted with them for a few minutes.   

            We returned the way we had come – back to the bridge where we found a restaurant overlooking the river. We had another memorable meal there. I ordered camarones which were not salt water, ocean shrimp, but rather river crayfish caught locally in the Majes River. They were small, but excellent – and plentiful.

        Just as we were finishing lunch, we watched a humorous little drama unfold right there on the bridge. A big truck piled high with cornstalks for animal feed tried to cross, but it just wouldn’t fit under the upper structural members of the bridge, so the driver had to back off and rearrange his load.On his second try, he had just started across when a car and small van came zipping along from the other direction and blocked the way. There followed a conference of drivers and eventually the truck backed off again even though he was on the bridge first.

            We retraced our route up and out of the valley and back to the Panamericana. Here, we turned toward Arequipa again, but only went a short way before taking another side road. This was the unpaved, back road to Cabanaconde where we had hotel reservations for that night at La Posada del Conde. It was a long drive. We had to climb up and over a 14,000 ft. pass, and as we descended the other side, darkness overtook us. Finding the correct turn to take us into town was a challenge in the dark with no signs to direct us. Somehow the lead vehicle in our little caravan “followed its nose” and got us there.

            Charlayne and I were assigned a room on the third floor again! There was no stair railing and the stair risers were not equal in height, so we had to be very careful not to trip. A bunch of Dutch tourists are also here. Ate dinner in the hotel – had good asparagus soup and steak that was just a little tough, plus rice and fries. I’m not sure why they think it’s necessary to have two such starchy side dishes.

 

Day 7, September 10, Tuesday Cabanaconde to Arequipa     See Map

 

Sept. 10, Tuesday - Up early – breakfast at 7:00     and off by 8:00 to see soaring condors at the Mirador Cruz del Condor, a view point on the brink of awesome Cañon Colca. It is supposed to be one of the deepest canyons in the world – deeper than the Grand Canyon. The Colca is a tributary of the Majes – where we were yesterday.

 

            There at the mirador, I could not see the bottom of the canyon, but we did see soaring condors – though not right away. There were umpteen tour buses and oodles of people waiting for the condors to make their appearance.   When we first arrived, we watched one preening himself on a boulder down below the view point. Meanwhile, brisk business transactions were going on between tourists and enterprising Indian lady vendors who were dressed in wonderful, colorful dresses and hats. I bought one of the neat, colorfully embroidered hats like the ladies were wearing. It seems this is a fee area because an official money collector came around checking to see that we all had our tickets - which we didn’t, because we came in our own vehicles from the “wrong” direction. Most tourists come from Chivay instead of Cabanaconde. John Hunt paid for everyone with the kitty money.

 

            When the condors finally decided to fly, they put on quite a show for us; almost as of they had been trained to perform for the turistas. First, they soared all around us in circles, coming as close as 50 to 75 feet. 

Then they caught the thermal updrafts and disappeared into the heavens.

 

        After we left the mirador, we stopped at the fee-collection station a few miles up the canyon where there were some modest natural history displays.

 

            The ancient terracing in this canyon is impressive, and it is still used today. I can’t imagine the infinite amount of time it must have taken to build them. Our road to Chivay was bumpy and slow. But the scenery and views into the canyon along way were wonderful.   

 

        We reached Chivay in time for lunch which we ate at a local-style place. I had more asparagus soup and a combination dish of rice, potatoes, plantain, fried egg, tomatoes and steak. Not bad!

 

            There wasn’t enough time to see the hot springs near Chivay – we had to push on to Arequipa. Leaving Chivay, we began the long climb up to the bleak but beautiful altiplano. On the way, we saw our first llamas – maybe alpacas too – I can’t tell the difference yet.       And I also saw a small group of vicuña, but they were too far away for a photo.

 

            Our road topped out at 16,021 ft. – at least that’s what John Page’s GPS said. This is supposed to be the highest pass we will encounter. Everyone seems to be handling the altitude quite well. I know most of us are using some sort of altitude sickness-prevention medication that we brought from home. I definitely feel the altitude, but I’m not sick like I was on our trip years ago.

 

            At the summit, I was left nearly breathless when I got out of the truck to take some pictures of several rock huts with thatched roofs and a miniature array of rock cairns stacked all around.  Have no idea if they had a purpose or if they were created just for the fun of it. They reminded me of the “Basque boys” we sometime see in the remote parts of Nevada. But the “Basque boys” I have seen are solitary rock piles/creations. I think they are made by bored Basque sheepherders. Maybe these were made by bored Peruvian llama herders.

 

            Not long after we started down from the pass, the Mazda had a flat. I wasn’t surprised because its tires are the most worn of the lot. As the men changed the tire, a dog came looking for handouts. Where he came from was a mystery since we were in the middle of nowhere - not a single house for miles. I noticed the driver of a bus that went by slowed down and tossed him some food. I’m thinking the dog may “live” at this spot by road because he knows the bus drivers will bring him something to eat. We also gave him some food - he ate as though he was ravenous, yet he seemed to be in good physical condition.

 

            We eventually reached the paved highway that took us down into Arequipa. Getting to our hotel, the Casa de Mi Abuela, was comical. Trying to get over the right bridge and figuring out one-way streets had us going around in circles. When we finally found the hotel, we were shown the way into a secure parking area. The little alley where we parked divided the hotel complex into two parts. It was the nicest place we have stayed in so far, with garden space, lawns and even a swimming pool – not bad for $13/person US. We had a nice dinner that evening right there at the hotel.

 

Day 8, September 11, Wednesday
Arequipa to Puno     See Map

 

Sept.11, Wednesday – Today is the one-year anniversary of the World Trade Center disaster. Don’t know what’s happening at home, but haven’t heard of anything extraordinary. Chuck and Lorene were not feeling well this morning.

 

Yesterday, coming down from the altiplano on the paved road to Arequipa, I noticed a loud howl in the truck I was driving. This morning, the men crawled under it and determined the rear U-joint was shot. Kathy called National Car Rental in Lima, and they eventually contacted a local mechanic. He came, inspected the U-joint, and agreed that there was indeed a problem that needed to be fixed before we went on. So, it was decided that four people, (Chuck, Kathy, John Hunt, and Reda) would stay in Arequipa until it was repaired while the rest of us went on to Puno and Lake Titicaca.

 

Before heading up to Puno, we spent the morning there in Arequipa, and walked down to the central plaza,    passing the Santa Catalina Monastery (convent) on the way. The entrance fee is $7 US – a bit much, so I passed it up. I wasn’t too interested anyway.

 

            After stocking up on soles from an ATM at one of the banks, we went to see Juanita, the 500 year old, so-called “Ice Maiden” and another frozen mummy who were human sacrificial victims found in 1996 on the high peaks near here. “Perfect”, high-status, young women and boys were sacrificed by the Incas to appease the gods who were associated with the high mountains. These mummies are kept frozen in atmospheric-controlled display cases. This was not on the itinerary, but should have been – well worth the short time it took.

 

            After lunch – mine was a chicken sandwich and an avocado/tomato plate – we left for Puno, taking the two good trucks, and leaving the Mazda and its riders. Our route took us back the way we had come into town yesterday. This is a different route from the road we took years ago which followed the base of El Misti, the conical-shaped volcano that hovers over Arequipa. The new, paved highway may be longer, but it’s much faster. Back up on the altiplano, we passed a lake and saw flamingos along the shore line. Unfortunately, they were so far away, they only appeared to be tiny specks.

 

            By the time we got to Juliaca, it was dark. I was in need of a baño, but none was available. On and on we drove, eventually reaching Puno. That’s when the “fun” started. The directions we’d been given were confusing, and we found ourselves in the chaos of tiny, narrow streets barely wide enough to squeeze through, with vendors and shoppers everywhere. I was amazed at all the nighttime activity going on. Because of the congestion, traffic was stopped more than it moved. We asked a policeman for directions, and he kindly got in one of our trucks to take us. But he took us back the way we had just been. Actually, we didn’t realize it, but he was trying to find the hotel owner, which he eventually managed to do. Then he got out, she got in, and off we went to the hotel. Turns out, we were supposed to go to her other hotel (she owns two) which wasn’t the one where we had made reservations. Somehow, we got shuffled over to the second hotel, unbeknownst to us.

 

            Once we arrived, I had to make an emergency beeline for a baño and then took some Imodium-Advanced. What a relief! I didn’t dare go to dinner though, for fear of a sudden urge, so Lorene brought me a ham sandwich from the restaurant where they ate. The hotel is a funky place, but our room has a nice bathroom and beds. However, the carpeting is rather strange. It looks like it was torn out of another place and put in here with unfinished seams in sort of a patchwork fashion. Dug out my hot water bottle as Puno is cold – not too surprising since it’s located at about 12,700 ft. elevation. There was a little portable radiator in our room and we had it going full-blast.

 

Day 9, September 12, Thursday
Puno     See Map

 

Sept. 12, Thursday – The dining room where we had breakfast was like a glass penthouse – with views of all the neighboring roof tops and Lake Titicaca off in the distance.

 

We decided that we had better go ahead and take the boat trip out to the Uros Floating Islands without the other four, because we weren’t sure how long it would take them to get here from Arequipa. It had taken us between six and seven hours. Also, it looked like there was be a possibility of rain. If we waited for them, we might not get a chance to go at all. The hotel arranged for a bus to pick us up and take us down to the docks. That was a wise decision because otherwise it would have been quite a long walk.

 

We had a knowledgeable guide who gave us lots of information about the lake, the islands, and the Uros people. 

 

They make the island with reeds – layers and layers of them. The lake is very shallow in this area, and the reeds grow in abundance. When the floating island reeds decay underneath, fresh ones are added on top. Walking around feels rather strange – sort of spongy. With so many tourists wanting to visit their islands, the residents have understandably become tourist oriented. The Indian ladies make and sell souvenirs – don’t know what the men do. Well, some of the men ferry tourists (like me) around on their reed boats. I took a ride on one of these boats from one island to another for three soles (90 cents).     I read that some of the Uros people now prefer to live in Puno, but still go out to the islands every day to sell souvenirs to the tourists. And being a tourist, I bought a pretty alpaca sweater with geometric designs knitted mostly in shades of blue for only ~$9 US. I also bought an embroidered wall hanging and a mobile made of tiny reed boats and colorful pompoms.

 

            Back in Puno, we returned to the hotel and then walked to the pedestrian mall. Found a nice restaurant where the tourist menu for 12 soles (~ $3.50) was a super-good deal. I had a salad – avocado (called palto here) stuffed with chopped veggies (potatoes, carrots, green beans, onions) in a mayonnaise sauce, and soup – asparagus soup for me again, and a main dish – trout with fried papas (potatoes), sliced tomatoes, dessert – I had flan, and a drink – Coke for me. Asparagus is a major crop in Peru and it is exported to the US. All in all, it was one of the best meals I have had so far, and so reasonably priced!

 

      

After lunch, we walked farther on to the plaza and cathedral, after waiting for a procession of political advocates marching down the mall. When I got back to the hotel, I took a nap, and Charlayne took a walk by herself – not such a good idea, but luckily she didn’t get mugged - or worse. About 1:30, while I was napping, our fellow travelers arrived from Arequipa. They decided not to go on an afternoon boat trip. We had a late dinner, but I only ordered a bowl of vegetable soup. I wasn’t quite over my bout with the trots and I had had that big lunch, so I wasn’t too hungry.

 

Day 10, September 13, Friday
Puno to Cuzco     See Map

 

Sept. 13, Friday – Not too far from Puno, on the way back to Juliaca, we made a short side trip to Sillustani to see the large stone funeral towers called “chullpas”. 

 

These were made by the Cholla people for the burial of their nobility. The Cholla were contemporaries of the Incas, but they spoke Aymara, not Quechua. Sillustani is located on a peninsula that juts into Lake Umayo.

 

On the way back to the main highway, we first stopped at the local museum, and then stopped at peasant’s farm that we noticed earlier on the way to Sillustani. We were curious about the ceramic good-luck bulls mounted on the gables of the roofs. We weren’t the only ones to stop. A whole bus load of tourists was inspecting the premises, so we just joined them. The owners had things set up as though their home was a regular tourist stop. There were two metates with large manos and ground corn? on display, and an outdoor kitchen with bowls containing examples of different foods they eat. The highlight of our impromptu stop was a little new-born, day-old baby alpaca. His mother kindly let us gawk at him and even hold him. Of course camera shutter were clicking away - I’m glad we took the time to stop.

 

 

 

The drive toward Cuzco was initially across the flat altiplano, following the Pucara River. On the horizon we could see snow-capped mountains. We continued north until we were right beside them. Terracing and fields exist on the slopes that are sometimes so steep I wonder how a person can even stand upright. At some point – I don’t even remember where exactly – we reached a pass and began to follow another river, the Vilcanota, which eventually becomes the Urubamba.

 

The closer we got to Cuzco, the more prosperous farms and homes seemed to be. People and animals are everywhere. Llamas and alpacas were common on the altiplano, but cows, goats, and sheep are more common in this area. Chickens, pigs and dogs are universal. Some dogs seem to be free-roaming strays while others apparently belong to families and help with the livestock. Cats are rare – at least I haven’t seen many.

 

Midafternoon, we stopped to see Raqchi, the ruins of an Inca Temple dedicated to the god, Viracocha. This structure supposedly supported the largest roof of any Inca building; it was enormous. We thought this site was way off the highway, but it was actually quite close – only a kilometer or so from the main road.

 

   

 

We reached Cuzco while it was still light and made our way along narrow one-way streets to our hotel, the Hostal Los Niños. It is located in an old colonial-style building with a central patio. The floors are not level. In fact, the whole building seems to be sloping. But the water is hot – really hot - almost scalding. The trucks had to be driven to a cochera, a secure parking lot several blocks away. Streets are too narrow to park on and not secure anyway.

 

For dinner that evening, we all walked down to the main plaza and ate in a second-story restaurant overlooking the square. I had a Peruvian chicken dish with a nicely spiced sauce. At 11,000 ft., it’s pretty chilly here in Cuzco too, so I filled my hot water bottle and curled up around it when I went to bed

 

Day 11, September 14, Saturday
Cuzco     See Map

 

Sept. 14, Saturday – In the morning, we bought our Boletas Turisticos (tourist tickets necessary for many attractions in and around Cuzco), and went to see the Religious Art Museum and the Inca Museum. I particularly enjoyed the latter, but we had to rush through it because we were scheduled to take an afternoon tour in a tour bus with a local guide.

 

            The first stop on our tour was Koriconcha, the site of an Inca temple that was destroyed by the Spanish who then built a church, Santo Domingo, on the Inca foundations. 

 

Next was the cathedral. It was enormous, with many side-chapels.      The place was brimming with tourists following their guides around just like us. As we walked through the various sanctuaries and chapels, we were accompanied by haunting hymns being sung in Quechua by a group of Indians. I wish now I had bought one of the cassettes they were selling. Our excellent guide pointed out a large painting of the Last Supper, showing Christ and his disciples about to eat a cuy (guinea pig), a traditional Andean dish.

 

            From the cathedral, we drove up to Sacsayhuaman, the huge Inca fortress that overlooks Cuzco. This impressive site may also have been a ceremonial structure. It is supposed to form the head of a gigantic puma – with the town of Cuzco as its body. We only had time to walk along the base of the zigzag ramparts (representing the teeth of the Puma) and marvel at the huge size of some of the boulders and the perfect fit of adjacent rocks.     It is hard to imagine the size it once was. Only about 20% of it is left - the Spanish carted off most of the stones to make their own buildings. Next stop was Qenko, a large rock outcropping that was transformed into an Inca ceremonial site with elaborate carvings. Beneath the rock are several caves, tunnels, and carved niches and steps. A little farther up the road, we were taken to Tambo Machay, a wonderful example of Inca water works and stone masonry. And nearby are the ruins of Puca Pucara, an Inca hunting lodge.

 

            Daylight was waning by then, so we weren’t able to explore Puca Pucara. We did, however, take time to stop at a souvenir shop. Here, I bought some of the knitted caps with ear flaps for gifts.

 

            That evening, we walked down to the main plaza again and ate in a little restaurant on a narrow side street. Had asparagus soup again – my favorite, and an entrée of tasty truchas (trout). On the way back to the hotel I stopped at a tourist shop and splurged ($218 US) on a beautiful little silver, inlaid figure of the Sicán culture.

 

Day 12, September 15, Sunday
Cuzco to Ollantaytambo     See Map

 

Sept. 15, Sunday – We managed to find our way out of Cuzco this morning and drove ourselves over to the town of Pisac in the Sacred Valley. It was a lovely drive with views of the valley and the Urubamba River far below. The Urubamba eventually joins the Amazon. And off in the distance were beautiful snow-capped peaks. I don’t remember the mountains being so big, nor so steep. The scenery is spectacular!

 

Down in Pisac, we enjoyed shopping at the colorful and lively Sunday market.    I bought some silver, inlaid pendants. Then, I helped Joann Kosharek look for some jewelry with Peruvian opal set in gold. I have seen Peruvian opal back home at Quartzsite but haven’t noticed any in Peru yet. We were in luck – we found some opal items, and even though they were set in silver, Joann bought them. I don’t think the vendors here sell pricey things made of gold. Joann is quite the bargainer. She offers about half of what the vendors ask and usually they accept – eventually, after trying to haggle the price up.

 

            While wandering around the market, I stopped to watch a group of Indian musicians making quit a racket in front of the church. One instrument was a large conch shell.

 

            Lunch goodies were purchased at the Pisac market, and then we drove up to the Pisac ruins parking lot where we made sandwiches on the Mazda tailgate.  

 

There is a paved road part way up to the ruins now, but it’s still quite a hike. Years ago you had to hike all the way from the bottom in Pisac. Most of us elected to look through binoculars.

 

            There were several children and women there at the parking lot dressed in their colorful native outfits, holding little animals – puppies or baby lambs – hoping to be photographed for a sole or two. In Cuzco, kids trying to sell stuff can be quite obnoxious with their persistence, even when it’s obvious you’re not interested in their merchandise.

 

            Our next destination was Ollantaytambo, down the Sacred Valley where the paved road ends. Drove through the towns of Calca and Urubamba on the way. We will be staying at the Albergue Ollantaytambo for two nights. It is located right next to the train station, about a kilometer from the center of town. We put the trucks in a walled yard nearby. Across the railroad track is the Urubamba River which presently is a roaring, slate-gray torrent. The returning trains from Machu Picchu come fairly often and spew diesel fumes everywhere while they discharge passengers.

 

  No one feels like walking a kilometer up to town to see the Inca ruins or to have dinner there, so we elected to eat at the hotel. I have become spoiled by the low prices for meals, so the $10 US we were charged at the Albergue seemed high. We didn’t have much choice though unless we wanted to walk to town. We had mashed potatoes, either a chicken or beef entrée (I picked chicken – just average), spinach soup (good), and cake (not too good), - a rather disappointing meal for $10.

 

            The Albergue has a nice garden with a beautiful datura plant – related to ours, but huge – almost tree-size. This plant has large white flowers like those at home; however, they do not stand upright, but instead hang down.

 

From the second floor balcony, you can see the Inca fortress in the distance.

 

            The hotel has three dogs – black and yellow labs that are obviously spoiled. I took a cute photo of two sprawled on the bottom two steps of the stairs up to our rooms – made negotiating our way up a bit difficult.

 

            Our Machu Picchu train tickets have been screwed up. I made reservations several months ago while still at home, but the day before we left, I got an e-mail saying I needed to remake reservations with a different company. It was unclear what that was all about, but when we were at Victor’s in Lima, he supposedly made new reservations for us. That evidently got screwed up too. We thought we were scheduled for the 7:00 a.m. Vistadome #1, but now they tell us we can’t go until 10:00. That will cut our time at Machu Picchu considerably. I wanted to avoid the problem we had years ago when we only had two hours to explore. As compensation for the screw up, we are being supplied with a guide once we get there.

 

Day 13, September 16, Monday
Machu Picchu     See Map

 

Sept. 16, Monday – Machu Picchu day! Mary, John Hunt, and Paul were able to go on the early train – there were three extra seats.

 

 Our later 10:00 train ride was uneventful, but the scenery was extraordinary. I don’t remember the canyon walls so high or so nearly vertical. And I don’t remember a tourist town at the end of the train trip like there is today. Back then, I think the train went farther down the Urubamba River canyon and stopped directly across from the road up to the ruins. Now the train stops at Aguas Calientes (new name is Machu Picchu Pueblo) and then the buses have to drive down the canyon a ways before they cross the river and start up the switchbacks to the ruins. I have read that a landslide destroyed the rail line below Aguas Calientes and there are no plans to rebuild it.

 

            Years ago, when we got off the train, we didn’t realize we needed to get in line to buy bus tickets, and by the time we figured out what was going on, we could only get tickets for one of the last buses going up (not really buses back then, but more like big Suburbans – I think). With only two hours to see such a large site, we were forced to rush around. This time we had about four and a half hours, most of it with our guide. That was actually enough time for me. I was pooped by the time we finished – hiking up and down wore me out.

 

            The site of Machu Picchu is breathtaking. Those Incas and pre-Columbian Indians must have explored every inch of this area over time. Even before Bingham “discovered” it, the local folks knew of it.

 

            Early on in the planning process of this trip, we considered staying at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Hotel which is located right up by the ruins. 

 

However, we didn’t have to consider very long – with a price tag of $300+ for a room, we all felt our money could be better spent some other way.

 

        Our 5:20 train (the Backpacker) ran out of daylight returning to Ollantaytambo. We arrived back at the hotel about 6:45 in the dark. The hotel had dinner ready, so we ate right away – creamed chicken over yuca, rice, veggie soup with quinoa, and a cooked corn starch-like dessert with a pleasant fruity flavor. Another $10. The hotel is owned by an American woman, Wendy Weeks, but we saw neither hide nor hair of her. However, her son was there and he and several helpers seemed to have things under control. I have caught Joann’s cold – my throat is scratchy. Those diesel fumes don’t help either.

 

Day 14, September 17, Tuesday
Ollantaytambo to Cuzco     See Map

 

Sept. 17, Tuesday – This morning, some of us went up to town to see the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. There were lots of taxis and buses near the train station and our hotel, which is next to the train station. The drivers were waiting to take people back to Cuzco, so none of them was interested in taking us only one kilometer into town. We had to walk instead.

 

            Once we got to the ruins, there were mucho stairs to climb to reach the main part of this complex. I took ten steps at a time and then rested and finally made it up. Ollantaytambo is situated at the confluence of the Urubamba and Patacancha Rivers. Across the side valley of the Patacancha, are more ruins high on the near-vertical canyon walls. We could see several rows of neat, but roofless buildings. What a hike that must have been to reach those structures.

 

    Reda and I explored the main ruins, and marveled at the six huge, pinkish granite blocks that were moved six kilometers from a quarry across the river and up to their present location. They are part of an Inca temple that was never finished. Down near the Patacancha River, the Incas diverted some of the water and directed it here and there with stone aqueducts, and little picturesque waterfalls chiseled in stone – a pleasant, idyllic spot.

 

            We walked back to the hotel, packed up the trucks and headed toward Urubamba. My cold’s getting worse. In Urubamba, we made an unplanned stop at a ceramic shop operated by a Señor Seminario. They make and sell very impressive creations – from pots, vases, plates, cups, and tile to large, and very expensive ($1100 - $1200) ceramic, totem-like figures. All items are decorated with stylized figures and designs. I couldn’t resist – bought a large, tall pot/vase and a plate. Arranged to have them shipped home - $245 US – ouch! $55 of that was just for packing, shipping and insurance. All our purchases will be sent together to the Mitchell’s – which is supposed to help cut down shipping costs.

 

            The ceramic shop was a delightful place – seems to be their home also, complete with several colorful macaw parrots. It was very neat and tidy. Ceramics have been worked into the decorations of the buildings, yard and outer stone wall. It was another worthwhile stop.

 

            We returned to Cuzco by way of Chinchero which is a village built on Inca foundations. Here, we found a very nice restaurant and had another memorable meal – one of the best yet. I watched some girls by the front entrance playing jacks. Kids at home don’t seem to play jacks anymore. 

 

        We walked around the town for a while, after getting our tourist tickets punched. There were, of course several tourist shops. I bought another alpaca sweater – shades of red and indigo (~$8 US), some more knitted caps (~$1.25 US), and a replica Moche stirrup-spout pot showing a painted ceremonial scene ($6 US). Most of the group went on to see a museum and more Inca stone work, but I went back to the trucks.

 

            From Chinchero, we can see 360 degrees – there are snow-capped peaks everywhere. What a beautiful drive back to Cuzco!    

 

We stayed at the Hostal Los Niños
again and had dinner at a restaurant near the main plaza. I had an avocado stuffed with chopped veggies in a mayo sauce similar to the one I had in Puno. My order of soup didn’t come until everyone else was done and ready to leave.

 

            Kathy Mitchell arranged for a tourist shop (headquarters of the shop we stopped at last Saturday) to send a van to pick us up for some more shopping. They weren’t into bargaining, but I bought two baby alpaca sweaters for sons, Jonathan and David – a completely plain black one and a completely plain gray one – about $45 each. Haven’t decided who gets which. The van also returned us to the hotel.

 

Day 15, September 18, Wednesday
Cuzco to Abancay     See Map

 

Sept. 18, Wednesday – Today, we drove to Abancay. Went up, up, up over a couple a passes and then down, down, down into valleys. 

 

We made another unplanned stop at the site of Rimatambo, better known as Tarawasi, the name of the hacienda on the site. Here, we inspected a tambo (resting place) and ceremonial center – an example of well-made Inca stone work. 

 

  There were twelve niches just big enough for one person each to stand in. John Hunt had the caretaker take a photo of us standing in the niches. We also inspected the big, old adobe hacienda buildings next door. We noted about twenty little cuy sitting around on the kitchen floor. I imagine the cook must need to sweep their dropping out occasionally since they do their business right on the kitchen floor. The door was wide open, but they made no effort to escape, despite their pending fate. Several days ago, Reda ordered cuy for dinner, but when it was served whole, with head, eyes and tiny feet, she was taken aback and quickly changed her mind about actually eating the little critter.

 

            Somehow, we in the Mazda got separated from the other two trucks, and thinking they were ahead of us, went charging down the road trying to catch them and reach them on the radio. When we couldn’t do either, we considered the possibility that they were behind us and turned around. Sure enough, they had stopped somewhere back by Tarawasi, but hadn’t told us and we hadn’t seen them.

 

            At some point, we crossed the Rio Apurímac, a large river that flows east into the Amazon basin.

 

            Stopped at the Stones of Saihuite to see the intriguing boulder the Incas playfully carved with houses, animals, figures and water channels; it is supposed to represent an Inca village.

 

    I don’t know its purpose, but I suppose it was ceremonial because there is a temple? foundation adjacent to the boulder. We saw it 36 years ago too. I remember pouring water at the top to see it run down the maze of little channels. There was no fence around it then as there is now. This boulder used to be on the main road, but the current, paved highway by-passes it, so now it is necessary to make a short side trip on the old dirt road. There are other carved boulders nearby and some of our people walked down the hill so see them.

 

            Reached Abancay by 3:00 p.m. Our Hotel Imperial has parking inside their compound which is handy and unusual. 

 

A nicer hotel across the street is where we had an early dinner since we didn’t have a real lunch at noon. I had mushroom soup, trout, potatoes, rice and carrots. Good, but not as good as yesterday’s lunch in Chinchero. We will have an all-day drive tomorrow – from Abancay to Nazca. It’s supposed to take about 12 hours.

 

Day 16, September 19, Thursday
Abancay to Nazca     See Map

 

Sept.19, Thursday – Got up about 5:00 a.m., had breakfast, backed the trucks out of the narrow parking area, and headed for Nazca. We had information indicating that this route would be entirely paved by the time we got there, but it was not to be. Despite a lot of road work going on, it looks like pavement is still a long way off.

 

        We drove down, down to the Rio Pacacocha, and then followed it up-stream for many miles 

 

until we at last found ourselves on the altiplano again. We passed through the vicuña sanctuary of Pampas Galeras. We weren’t disappointed – saw large numbers of these wild, llama-related creatures grazing in small groups. 

 

  They are noted for their fine fur and once a year they are rounded up, shorn, and released to run wild for another year. Back at Machu Picchu I checked the price of a vicuña neck scarf - $400!!

 

            We had a tailgate lunch up there on the chilly heights (about 14,000 ft.), 

 

and then started down the long descent to Nazca. We stayed in the same hotel as before, arriving about 5:00 p.m., but this time Charlayne and I got a first floor room out in the older section. Had dinner in another nearby restaurant.

 

Day 17, September 20, Friday
Nazca to Lima     See Map

 

Sept. 20, Friday – The drive up to Lima was uneventful. I took some photos in Ica of the mausoleum-type cemetery, also took one of huge mounds of trash strewn along the streets – disgusting! Don’t remember seeing this on our way through Ica the first time.

 

            Pachacamac, the Inca and pre-Inca archaeological site that we missed on our way from Lima to Pisco two weeks ago, was on our route back to Lima. 

 

With a little extra time, we made a quick driving tour of the ruins, stopping briefly at some of the huacas, and then hurried on into the city. It was there at Pachacamac that we saw our first Peruvian hairless dogs – strange looking, almost repulsive, and they do feel extra warm, just as we had read.

 

            Somehow, with Mary’s navigational help, we made it through Lima’s chaotic traffic and found our way to Victor’s hostal. We were all bushed, so the hotel ordered us another chicken dinner, just as they did when we first arrived in Peru. Lima has been overcast both times we’ve been here, and years ago, I remember it was the same. It has to be one of the ugliest cities I’ve ever been in. The central plaza area is nice enough, but much of the rest is dirty and dreary – a hodgepodge of residences and businesses. Many building do not appear to be finished. They are built side by side with no room in between. It seems 90% of the cars and vehicles are for public transportation – taxis mostly, which are commonly Toyota Corollas and tiny Daewoo vans. There are also larger passenger vans and finally big buses. It’s impossible to describe the way these people drive, yet there seem to be very few fender benders. Maybe it’s because every one has to be super alert, plus traffic isn’t overly fast.

 

            Somebody screwed up again, and locked the keys in the one of the trucks. This took a while, in light rain, to remedy.

 

            For the rest of the trip, I have decided to leave my big, heavy bag at the hotel and just take my smaller daypack. After telling everyone else to pack light, I have brought too much myself. The heaviest items are the satellite phone and all that radio stuff I haven’t even used. There is plenty of radio equipment for the three trucks without mine. The radios are indispensable communication aids, especially when we are trying to maneuver through strange towns. We would have a much more difficult time without them.

Day 18, September 21, Saturday Lima to Chavín de Huántar     See Map

 

Sept. 21, Saturday – It took about ten hours to drive to Chavín de Huántar, our next destination. It is located in the Callejon de Conchucos on the eastern side of the Cordillera Blanca. First, we drove up the coast in fog which keeps the hills somewhat green, and then inland up a dry river valley. Higher and higher we went until once again, we were driving across the altiplano with snow-capped peaks in the distance. Then we turned off to the east, climbed even higher, stopped to take pictures of beautiful Laguna Querococha, and topped out at the 14,500 ft. Cahuish Tunnel. 

 

  We drove through the tunnel and down the other side, passing a huge, white statue of Christ. 

 

Surprisingly, there was a considerable amount of traffic on the road. We continued our downward descent, dodging on-coming buses, trucks and vans on a one-lane dirt road barely wide enough for one vehicle, let alone two when they needed to pass.

 

            It was just dark when we finally reached Chavín and made our way to our hotel, the Hostal Turistico Rickay. After unloading, we all walked up the street, past the plaza to a restaurant for dinner. We eat most of our lunches on the road. We use the Mazda’s tailgate because it carries no luggage. I still have a cold, and several other people do too. That should be no surprise, being cooped up with one another all day long. Kathy’s not feeling well and skipped dinner.

Day 19, September 22, Sunday
Chavín de Huántar to Caraz     See Map

 

Sept. 22, Sunday – The archaeological site of Chavín de Huántar is back at the edge of town the way we came in last evening. It is estimated to be 3,200 years old. This culture had a well-developed art form that focused on a feline motif showing large, menacing fangs. These creatures are quite similar to early Chinese representations, so some scholars have suggested there may be a connection. 

 

      We walked around a large sunken court surrounded by stairs and mounds. Part of the complex has underground chambers which are lighted with electric bulbs so that tourists can explore them. Inside one of these is a lance-shaped stele called the Lanzon de Chavín. The Stele Raimondi, originally found here, has been removed to the Museo de la Nación in Lima where we saw it earlier when we visited that museum. Returning to the hotel, we packed up the trucks to make the long trip back over the mountains.

 

            On the western side of the Andes again, we followed the main road down the Callejon de Huaylas, between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra. The highway here is paved. It was a beautiful drive – high, snowy peaks off to our right and lower, snowless ones on the left. We drove through Recuay, one of the cleanest little towns we’ve been in and then continued down the valley through Huaraz and on to Caraz where we stayed at the Hostal Perla de los Andes which is right on the main plaza. We were running short of time so had to skip the Monterrey Hot Springs and the waterfall that is supposed to be somewhere near it.

 

            Had dinner at a restaurant a few doors down the street – up on the second floor. They didn’t have enough help, so meals were served in an on-going fashion - those who were served first were done long before the last people got their food.

 

            As we were leaving to return to the hotel, noise and commotion caught our attention. We had the pleasure of watching a celebration in honor of the spring (our fall) solstice. We enjoyed a bird’s-eye view from the second floor of the hotel. Local people were celebrating with a parade around the plaza. There were dancers and musicians in colorful costumes, a couple of floats – one with a queen, and people carrying critters made of paper such as cats and butterflies. It seemed the most of the town citizens were in the parade. The first time around the plaza they evidently were just getting warmed up, because they went around a second time. It was dark, but I took lots of photos with the flash.

Day 20, September 23, Monday
Caraz to Trujillo     See Map

 

Sept. 23, Monday – This morning we made our way out of town and headed down the hair-raising, breathtaking, Cañon del Pato, an enormous, deep gorge that has been cut by the Rio Santa. Sheer cliff faces tower several thousand feet above the river, and it is so narrow in some places, it resembles a slot canyon. We passed by a rickety-looking suspension foot bridge. A fellow just crossing, asked for a lift which he was given – riding on the truck pickup bed. We also passed a small, but spectacular side tributary with a seven-tiered waterfall that must have been hundreds of feet high.

 

   

 

            The dirt road that has been blasted out of the canyon walls has no guard rails. As it wends its way toward the hydroelectric facility at Huallanca, it passes through 35 tunnels. I didn’t notice an intake for the diverted water and can’t imagine where the tunnel was, unless it was directly under our road bed. By the time we reached the coast, Joann had counted 47 tunnels total. The drive was spectacular, but also long, hard, bumpy, and dusty, yet worth doing – at least once.

 

 

 

            In Trujillo, we stayed at the Hotel Continental. It has an elevator, the first one we have seen on the trip – hurray! Went to a bank up the street and used the ATM to get 1200 soles which should be more than enough for the rest of the trip. We all had dinner at the nicer-than-usual Mochica Restaurant. Mine was fish and rice with onions – good. Also had an avocado salad, but not as good as previous ones.

Day 21, September 24, Tuesday
Trujillo to Chiclayo     See Map

 

Sept 24, Tuesday – Kathy arranged for a guided tour today - $20 US per person – a little steep, but worth it. With traffic in major cities so chaotic and intimidating, we have found that hiring a local guide and tour bus is an ideal way to see tourist attractions. It saves time and helps prevent frazzled nerves, plus the drivers know what streets to take to get places quickly and the guides have a wealth of information.

 

            Our Trujillo area guide, Michael, was very knowledgeable and he spoke good English – in fact, he was English - married to a Peruvian. He was a complete contrast to dark-haired, dark-eyed Peruvians. He had blond, nearly white hair and blue, blue eyes. First he took us to the Huaca de la Luna with its colorful friezes. This, I think, has all been uncovered since we were here before. He said the Huaca del Sol may also have friezes, but archaeologists have not yet attempted to excavate it to find out. In the souvenir shop there, I bought Mary and John a modern ceramic pot decorated with a Chimu design, as a thank-you for all their help as the kitty keepers.

 

            Next, we went to Chan Chan, the huge Chimu city and royal palace compound made of adobe. I think much has been done here since our earlier trip. 

 

Our guide mentioned the reappearance of a large fresh-water well – more like a fresh-water pond that, up until recently, was dry. It evidently existed in Chimu times, but dried up when the city was abandoned. Bought a replica Moche “portrait” pot there for only $3. 

 

And last, we visited the Huaca Del Dragon with more large friezes similar to the others. It has been nicely restored. We saw this 36 years ago too.

 

            I asked Michael why we see so many fields of marigolds and he said the flowers are used to make orange colorant, some of which is fed to chickens to make the egg yolks oranger.

 

            Back at the hotel, we said goodbye to our eight traveling companions who are going home early. We remaining four, Reda, Paul, John Page and I, who are staying an extra week, started the drive north to Chiclayo – arrived there about 6:00 p.m. Charlayne will now share a room with Lorene for their remaining two nights. Lorene had been Reda’s roommate. I will share a room with Reda for the last week. Reda will now take over the kitty-keeper duties and Paul will be our chief communicator since he knows more Spanish than the rest of us.

 

            Our hotel in Chiclayo, the Kalu, isn’t quite as nice as most we’ve been in, but it’s adequate and only $13 US for a double ($7.50 each), plus they have a parking area in the back. Unfortunately, our rooms are on the fourth floor! And no elevator! Actually, it’s more like the fifth floor because the hotel entrance is on the second level, with shops below at ground level. That evening, we walked six blocks to the plaza, looking for a restaurant. There were scads of rotisserie-chicken places but we wanted a regular restaurant with a choice of Peruvian food, not just chicken – we can get chicken like this at home. Once again, I ordered asparagus soup, but it didn’t look like asparagus soup or taste like it – good anyway, what ever it was. Also had Chicken Milanese, a breast pounded flat and thin, breaded and fried. This came with French fries.

 

            At dinner, Kathy and I were surprised (at least I was surprised) when Mary and John presented us with gifts from the group as a thank you – me for planning the trip, and Kathy for making all the reservations and being our Spanish-speaking liaison. Kathy was given a lovely necklace made of purplish spiny oyster shell? - I think. And they gave me a replica Chavin–style, stirrup-spout pot, and a Seminario (Urubamba pottery shop) serving tray with a unique duck design. Mary was very observant and remembered things I had admired in tourist shops. I actually didn’t have to be much of a trip leader once we got to Peru. Seems everyone pitched in and took care of things. The men, for instance, just assumed it was their job to change flat tires, take the trucks to secure parking lots each night and load and unload the luggage each day. They also installed the radios each morning. Others, especially Mary, became navigators when we arrived in new towns. I didn’t have to do much at all – just made a few decisions now and then.

Day 22, September 25, Wednesday
Chiclayo     See Map

 

Sept. 25, Wednesday – Up early and out to breakfast at 7:00, but we couldn’t find any place open. Bought some pastries instead, and then on the way back, found that the restaurant right next door to the hotel had opened in the meantime. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and got baloney and cheese. Guess here in Chiclayo they call baloney, ham.

 

            On the drive out to the site of Sipán, we missed a turn. Stopped a couple of times to ask for directions and eventually found our way back to the correct turn. That little detour cost us an extra hour. 

 

  

 

Sipán, a site where Moche warrior-priests were buried, has replicas of the funerary goodies in situ – just like they were when excavated. 

 

My UCLA thesis advisor, Christopher Donnan, was one of the archaeologists who excavated Sipán. I doubt that he would remember me, since he was only my advisor for a few weeks after my original advisor, Ralph Altman died. There is a little museum there also. I bought a $3 “Sipan – Peru” T-shirt there.

 

            Next, we drove to Lambayeque to see the Brüning Museum where the actual, real treasures from the Royal Tombs of Sipán are (were) on display. 

 

    

 

That was a disappointing turn of events. Seems the Sipán artifacts are being moved to their own Museum of the Tombs, which is scheduled to open October 3rd, a day after we return home. Luckily, I was able to see the Royal Tombs of Sipán show when it on tour at UCLA. I was overwhelmed by the richness and beauty of the gold, silver, inlaid, and beaded funerary apparel in which the Moche warrior-priests were buried. The Sipán treasures are, in my opinion, on a par with Egypt’s King Tut. Even though we missed the Sipán exhibit, the Brüning Museum was a worthwhile stop. There, we hired a pleasant, enthusiastic, English-speaking, local man to be our guide. He was pretty good even though he had a heavy accent.

 

            When we asked our guide if he would take us to Tucumé (for an extra charge), he agreed. 

 

      

 

It is an immense site with many huacas (adobe pyramids) that are slowly eroding away. We hiked up a nearby cerro (hill) to a view point overlooking the site. 

 

He also took us to the new Sicán museum in Ferrañape which just opened last year. 

 

The Sicán people were from a later culture than the Moche of Sipán. Their original capital was centered at Batan Grande, but when that site burned, they moved to Tucumé. The Batan Grande site, which is being excavated by a Japanese archaeological team, is not yet open to ordinary tourists. But the new museum is outstanding. The artifacts found at Batan Grande rival those of the Sipán tombs.

 

 

 

            Back in Chiclayo, we had dinner right next door to the hotel – where we had breakfast. I had tallerin con pollo – noodles with chicken and veggies. It was good and plentiful; however, I was awake most of the night with the trots.

 

Day 23, September 26, Thursday
Chiclayo to Chachapoyas     See Map

 

Sept. 26, Thursday – We drove north on the Panamericana about 60 miles, then turned east on a paved road and began the climb up to Porculla Pass – about 7,000 ft, the lowest pass over the Peruvian Andes. The road then dropped down to the town of Jaen in the Rio Marañon valley. From there, we followed a tributary, the Rio Utcubamba, to Pedro Ruiz and then on to Chachapoyas.

 

            I felt lousy the whole way – I’m not yet over what ever started last night, but at least I wasn’t in frequent need of a bush. I didn’t even have enough energy to get out of the truck to take photos of this beautiful area.

 

            Most of the way between Jaen and Chachapoyas, the road was gravel and full of chuck holes, but the scenery was exceptional. The Utcubamba River cuts through a spectacular area of high vertical cliffs. The vegetation is lush – green and tropical. It rained – not a surprising event, considering the jungle we traveled through. 

 

By late afternoon, we finally reached the side road that took us up the mountainside to Chachapoyas, the small town where we stayed at the Hotel Revash. I was feeling worse and I was cold besides.

 

 

 

            For such a small, off-the-beaten-path town, our hotel room has a nice bathroom, all color coordinated – except it looks like they never finished the tile work around the tub/shower. Thank goodness the water in our bathroom was super hot. But there was no toilet seat, so I had to sit on the cold, porcelain edge. Then, I filled my hot water bottle, took two Cipro tablets and felt even worse. About half an hour later, I threw them up and felt better. Went to sleep cuddled up with the hot water bottle – so glad I brought it. I skipped dinner, of course.

 

Day 24, September 27, Friday
Chachapoyas to Leimebamba     See Map

 

Sept. 27, Friday – I feel much better. The hotel doesn’t serve breakfast, so we went to a restaurant next door on the second floor to eat. Returned back down the mountainside to the main road by the Utcubamba River and then followed it up to the village of Tingo. Here, we took another side road that goes to Kuélap, the huge fortified city built by the Chachapoya people who were eventually absorbed by the Inca Empire.

 

            It took one and a half hours to make the drive up from the principal gravel highway along the river. First, we passed the clean, tidy village of Nuevo Tingo which has an array of topiary animals in their central plaza, 

 

and then climbed up a narrow, one-lane road with scary drop-offs. The views of the countryside were spectacular – fields are cultivated on steep slopes and livestock graze on these steep slopes too – don’t know how they stand up on such steep terrain. There doesn’t seem to be a level inch of ground anywhere.

 

            At the end of the road, we were faced with a hike up to the ruins of Kuélap. The guide book says it’s a ten minute walk - a gross underestimation, I would say, even for a fit person. It took me much longer because I went extra slow. Yesterday’s bout with a bug has left me less than my usual self, which isn’t very fast to begin with – plus the elevation is nearly 10,000 ft. 

 

   

 

Kuélap is located at the end of a mountaintop ridge. The exterior walls, which surround the entire city, are truly impressive – 60 ft. high in some places. The two entry ways are narrow slots, easily defended should an enemy try to enter.

 

     

 

            A secondary level inside is reached by another slot. I wore myself out climbing up to that secondary level, but didn’t see much there; however, the view from there, of the precipitous hillsides and our narrow little road, was awesome. The high wall of the enclosure on that side, which is perched at the edge of the near-vertical mountain side, must have been quite a challenge to build.

 

            The guide books say the building material used to construct this citadel was greater than the largest pyramid in Egypt. It appears that much of the “building material” was rubble used to fill and raise the interior level to the tops of the wall. Inside the fortress are the remains of more than 400 dwellings. 

 

        
 

 

Most are round, and one has been reconstructed. It was quite roomy inside, with a raised sleeping platform about one foot high against the back wall. In the lower living/kitchen area was a large, flat stone – sort of a giant metate. A steep, conical, thatched roof rested on a circular stone wall that was decorated on the outside with geometric stone designs.

 

            I was completely bushed by the time I started back down to the truck. On the way up, I managed, unintentionally, to miss seeing the ticket booth. On the way back I saw it, but I wasn’t about to retro-pay. I was just too exhausted to go out of my way. I made it back to the truck by going super slow. I’d do it again though; what an incredible place.

 

            Back in Tingo, we continued up the river canyon on the main road to Leimebamba. When Kathy was making hotel reservations, we found that the guide books gave no phone numbers for the hotels in Leimebamba. However, there is phone service there after all, and last night’s hotel owner in Chachapoyas kindly called ahead for us to make reservations in an old home called La Casona with several second-floor rooms that had been converted for tourists. There were no directional signs to this place, so we just asked and finally found it.

 

            We were allowed to park the truck inside, behind locked doors. By opening several adjacent doors at the entrance, our host made a seemingly wide access; yet, it was still quite narrow and something of a trick to get the truck in the tiny space available. First, John tried going in frontward, but the street was so narrow and the truck was so long, he couldn’t swing wide enough to make it without hitting something. So, he tried to back it in, and somehow, for some reason that worked. I’m still mystified how it is possible to back in some places when you can’t drive in forward.

 

            Considering Leimebamba is even more remote than Chachapoyas, it was a fairly nice place – even if the floors weren’t level. We walked a short distance to the main square and found a simple restaurant where we had truchas (trout). They were a bit small, but there were lots of fried potatoes to fill us up. We met a German fellow who was also having dinner there. He spoke good English, and told us that German men are required to serve two years either in the military or in some humanitarian-type program. He had chosen the latter, helping a Catholic, church-based endeavor.

 

        He encouraged us to see the new Leimebamba Museum that houses artifacts of the Chachapoya culture – many of which were found in mummy bundles initially discovered by looters plundering cliff, shelter caves of that region. Everyone we talked to says it is a must-see. The only problem is our schedule; we won’t be able to make it all the way to Cajamarca by tomorrow night. Someone thoughtfully asked the museum caretaker if he would open early for us - he will, so we decided to stay in the morning long enough to tour the new museum. Tomorrow night we will probably stay in Celendín.

 

Day 25, September 28, Saturday
Leimebamba to Celendín     See Map

 

Sept. 28, Saturday – This morning, Reda got up at 5:00 instead of 6:00. At 5:30, I asked her why she was up so early - she replied it was 6:30 and I had better get up too. A check of both our watches revealed hers was set an hour early – a mistake that happen when she dropped hers and needed to reset it – she set it wrong by an hour. So we didn’t have any trouble making it to breakfast by 7:00 down at the restaurant where we had dinner last night.

 

            The museum caretaker and his helper, who live in town, hitched a ride with us to the museum which is three kilometers on the road out of town – the road toward Celendín. We were properly impressed with the Leimebamba Museum and it was indeed worth the delay and time. 

 

Not only is it brand new, it is also nicely done with attractive displays, and descriptions are in English as well as Spanish. Its construction was financed primarily by Austrians. The highlight was a temperature and atmospheric-controlled room with 200+ mummy bundles that have been rescued from a cliff, shelter cave overlooking Laguna de los Condores. Grave robber had destroyed some of these mummy bundles, but much was saved. There was also a life-sized replica of a Kuélap house – with a tall, conical-shaped thatched roof. 

 

We two ladies found several things to purchase in the tiny gift shop. I bought a replica Chachapoya/Inca-style ceramic pot with a rounded bottom – supposedly to make pouring easier.

 

            Across the street from the museum, we watched a woman weaving on a back-strap loom. It must have been twelve feet long – so long that she had to work standing up instead of sitting down.

 

            After leaving the museum, we continued on toward Celendín, first climbing up the dirt road into drizzly clouds/fog – this is, after all, the land of the Cloud People. We reached a pass and then drove down, down for many miles it seemed, to the Rio Marañon, the same river we crossed at Jaen two days ago. 

 

Many places, the road was extremely narrow, with alarming drop-offs, just as scary as the road to Kuélap yesterday. At the river it was uncomfortably warm, but we stopped for a quick lunch anyway on the other side of the bridge and watched as a man drove his herd of goats past us.

 

            From the river, we ascended one more time to yet another summit. We were able to relax a little because the drop-offs weren’t so dramatic and the road seemed somewhat wider. Along this stretch, we once again saw condors soaring, but they were quite high and soon drifted over the mountains out of sight.

 

       Then, it was down, down again and into Celendín. Since we hadn’t planned to stay there, we didn’t have reservations, and the guide books didn’t recommend any of the several hotels there. So we were on our own – picked one on the main plaza with a neat, clean patio and a pretty fish pond/fountain – the fountain wasn’t working, but the water was clean and the goldfish looked happy. Our room, however, was dowdy, with high ceilings and a smelly bathroom that had the lower four feet painted black. Plus, there was no hot water even though we had been told there would be some that evening – no shower for us. But at least we had clean sheets. We watched the owner put them on.

 

            It was still early, so we walked to the market looking for additional travel bags. I need an extra one for all the goodies I have purchased along the way, and so does Reda. I found one for 28 soles ~$8 US. It expands, but the wheels on it look rather cheap, and I doubt they will last even long enough to get it home. But I desperately need something, and I can manage without the wheels – I hope.

 

            Many of the people in this area wear tall hats – both men and women. I have been amused by all the different regional styles of hats we have seen throughout Peru. My favorites are the colorful, knitted caps with ear flaps we saw around Cuzco.

 

            The hotel was noisy and so was its restaurant. They did turn the music down when we asked though. I had soup with some sort of rice-like grain, plus a piece of fried chicken that was cut in such a strange fashion, I couldn’t tell what part of the chicken I was eating – but it was good.

 

Day 26, September 29, Sunday
Celendín to Cajamarca     See Map

 

 

 

Sept. 29, Sunday – This was Sunday market day, and the town was bustling with activity. When Paul went to fetch the truck from the cochera, he found a near-flat tire on the right rear. This is the second flat the Mazda has had on the trip. We pumped it up with the battery-operated tire pump that had been brought from home, and then drove it to a little hole-in-the-wall tire repair shop. 

 

The leak was in the side-wall and the only way to fix it was with the addition of a tube. The shop owner then discovered that the spare was also flat. It had not been properly sealed to the rim, so he fixed that too. A few days ago, when we got on the bumpy dirt road, we began to hear a persistent rattle. This morning, I noticed that a spring shackle on the left rear looked loose and when I kicked it, it rattled. That is the source of our noise - it seems one of the spring leaves has broken. The men wrapped some duct tape around it, to silence the racket.

 

            On the way out of town, we were side-tracked by an animal market where we stopped to watch and photo the sea of tall hats and animals - mostly cattle, but some pigs, goats and sheep.

 

            It was supposed to be six hours to Cajamarca, and that’s about what it took us. We passed through a small town, not far from Cajamarca, that was just as lively as Celendín. As we squeezed our way through, we saw another livestock market, another anything-everything market, and some sort of political rally.

 

            By lunchtime, we reached Cajamarca. Actually, we stayed in the Hostal Galvez right across from the Baños de los Incas, about five kilometers outside of Cajamarca. We ate lunch in a nearby restaurant popular with the locals. We all had the “set” lunch which was soup, fried chicken, rice, and potatoes in a good, but mysterious, orange-colored sauce.

 

            The Baños de los Incas is where Atahualpa, the Inca noble, was camped when Pizarro arrived. That was the beginning of the end for the Incas. Atahualpa was captured and held for ransom. Pizarro demanded a room filled with gold once and twice with silver, and then executed Atahualpa anyway. Today, the baths are modernized and crowded with local Peruvians; we didn’t go in.

 

            At 2:30 a guide came, who had been contacted, at our request, by the hotel manager-lady. His name was Edwin. Peruvians seem to use Anglo first names frequently. He brought his little boy along who slept most of the way. We asked to be taken to see the cave paintings near the village of Llacanora that are said to be 7,000 years old. It was a steep hike up to these red-colored pictographs. 

 

There were only a few and they were not in a cave. Our guide explained that they had once been in a cave, but it collapsed. There were a couple of other caves there too, but neither had pictographs, so we didn’t bother to walk over to them. It was interesting to know the pictographs are so old, but for such a strenuous hike, I was disappointed there wasn’t more to see.

 

            There is supposed to be a waterfall nearby that I wanted to see, but our guide said they haven’t had much rain lately, so it is currently dry. He then took us to the Ventanas Otusco. Near Cajamarca is the suburb of Otusco where a cliff-side is riddled with ancient burial niches. 

 

 

 

These niches are carved into a soft, tufa-like rock that reminds me of modern mausoleums with several rows stacked on top of one another. I didn’t feel like hiking uphill again for a closer look, so I stayed at the truck and watched some workmen building a new adobe house nearby and two young men on their little Peruvian horses all decked out with their silver-studded bridles and saddles.

 

            Back at the hotel, we walked down the street looking for a restaurant. Pickings were slim – only a couple of very simple places. We chose one and I had Lomo Saltado, small pieces of meat - beef I think - fried with onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and served with rice - actually quite tasty.

 

            On the way back to the hotel, I saw and petted a Siberian husky! I told the shop owners, who were also the dog’s owner, that I had three, like theirs at home. Theirs was named “Dinky”. Made me homesick – a month is a long time to be gone. Oh yeah, I miss Neal too.

 

Day 27, September 30, Monday
Cajamarca to Trujillo     See Map

 

Sept. 30, Monday – We prearranged to meet Edwin, yesterday’s guide, at 7:30 a.m. for a tour to Cumbe Mayo, the Bosque de Piedras (Forest of Rocks), and 3,000 year old petroglyphs – all in the same area.

 

        The road out of town was an obscure and complicated route. Without Edwin, we would have had real trouble finding the way, and undoubtedly would have wasted much time asking directions and backtracking when we took wrong roads. Paul quipped, “Hey, we could have found this easy. Who needs a guide?” The road we took climbed up and up, from about 8,000 ft. to nearly 12,000 ft. where once again we were surrounded by a barren, treeless landscape. But this was an altiplano dotted with beautiful rock formations, and not as flat as the other altiplanos we have driven across. When we arrived at the archaeological site, we found the driveway in blocked by a chain. Edwin and Paul walked over to the buildings to see if anyone was there. There wasn’t, so Paul stayed with the truck for security reasons while the rest of us walked down, first going to see the petroglyphs that are in a shelter cave in the eroded rock formation at the bottom of the hill. The designs are supposed to be Chavín in style, but it was difficult to make them out.

 

            Farther down the hill is Cumbe Mayo, an ancient aqueduct, cut out of solid rock in this section that remains. A right-angle jog in the course was made to slow the water down. Perhaps constructed as early as 1,000 B.C., the aqueduct once collected water from the Atlantic watershed and brought it to the Pacific side. This was partly possible because it is so close to the continental divide. 

 

There was some water in it, but only a trickle – it is no longer used. While there, we watched two Indian ladies bring their menagerie of livestock – six cows, two burros, one pig, eight sheep, one horse, and two dogs – down the hill to graze nearby where the grass looked thick and lush.

 

            When we were ready to tackle the hike back up the hill to the truck, a caretaker finally came to unlock the chain gate – and just in time to collect the entrance fee. But at least Paul was able to drive the truck down the hill to pick us up, so we didn’t have to huff and puff our way back up. Once at the bottom with the truck, Paul got to see the aqueduct and petroglyphs too.

 

            Returning to Cajamarca, we dropped our guide off, bought some groceries at a “super market”, and headed for the coast and Trujillo. Had to drive over a pass first and then followed a river down. Ate our lunch by the river, out in the rocky canyon bottom – no trees, but it wasn’t hot. It did get hot as we descended and got closer to the coast. We passed by a large reservoir filled with clear, turquoise colored water on the way.

 

            In Trujillo, we stayed at the same hotel – this time on the third floor. Sure glad they have an elevator. Had a “last supper” at a nice restaurant we found by walking around. It’s amazing how lively Peruvian towns become at night. Of course, I had asparagus soup, my favorite on this trip. Reda and I split an avocado salad. For the entrée, I had shrimp in another mystery sauce over potatoes. They do love their potatoes here. At home, that dish would probably be served with pasta or rice, but not potatoes. Then my three companions paid for my dinner as another thank-you for planning the trip.

 

Day 28, October 1, Tuesday
Trujillo To Lima     See Map

 

Oct. 1, Tuesday – Our last day! We managed to find our way out of Trujillo after getting lost and then drove south. Saw lots of asparagus and marigold fields on the way back to Lima. At Casma, we made a short side trip to see the archaeological site of Sechín, one of the oldest in Peru - probably older than Chavín. Most of the temple walls have been restored. They are composed of many large stone slabs with bas-relief designs and figures representing warriors and captives. 

 

The small museum there was disappointing – not very well organized and lacking informative descriptions of the displays. 

 

We had our lunch there, in the shade of some trees. While eating, we noticed a pitiful scrawny dog. Reda and I gave it most of our bread and some left-over mayonnaise. Poor thing – it was only walking on three legs – the fourth had evidently been injured. For many creatures and people, life is cruel. Is there is a loving god? I doubt it. If there actually is a god, I don’t believe he ever, ever meddles with the course of destiny.

 

            The rest of the day was a nightmare. Our course of destiny was certainly not altered in our favor. Three times, we were stopped by the Policía Carretera. Never before had we been stopped even though we saw and passed by many officers and their vehicles parked along side the road. The first time we were stopped, I was driving – we were never told why we were stopped. There was no ticket or fine for that one. The second time I was also driving. This cop wanted 350 soles, the equivalent of $100 US, which we could pay at the police station by returning miles the wrong direction or by paying him directly. We felt the infraction was bogus and were seething with irate rage by the time he relieved us of $100 and sent us on our way. I decided I had had enough and turned the wheel over to John. And then, would you believe, he, too, was stopped when we somehow managed to get on the truck-and-bus-only route just north of Lima. There had been no signs that we saw indicating cars and smaller vehicles were no allowed on this route. This cop only asked for a mordida of 40 soles = $12 US “to buy gas for his motorcycle”.

 

We drove by the ruins of Paramonga, a large Chimu huaca, but didn’t have time to stop. Also drove by the first serious accident we have seen – a cement truck on its side evidently took a curve too fast.

 

Once in Lima, we took the truck directly to the airport and the National Car Rental desk. Next followed a big fuss about checking the truck for damage – not possible because it was after hours and the mechanic had already gone home. The result of that little fracas will be a partially delayed bill. We paid the fixed rental costs up front, and authorized any damage charges to be charged to John’s credit card, and then we will all owe him our share of the final bill. Paul stayed at the airport since he had a 1:00 a.m. flight home - he didn’t bother going to the hotel.

 

            Next, we remaining three called Victor’s hostal, and they came to pick us up. We had chicken dinners sent over again, as we were too tired to eat out. Then, I had to repack my stuff using the new bag I bought in Celendín. I got to bed about 10:30.

 

Day 29, October 2, Wednesday
Lima to LAX

 

Oct. 2, Wednesday – Up at 3:00 a.m. and off to the airport in Victor’s van at 3:30. We were told to be there three hours early. There was a $25 airport tax, but we knew about that and were prepared to pay it. By 4:30, we were checked in, and then had to wait until 7:00 for our flight. A three hour early check-in was hardly needed. To pass the time, I wandered around the airport shops and found that the nicest (and most expensive) souvenirs of the whole trip can be bought here. Wish I was rich! There were some very nice replicas of pre-Columbian pottery, jewelry, and beautiful, colorful sweaters. My only purchase was a Peruvian cookbook. Sadly, it doesn’t have a recipe for asparagus soup. Guess I will have to experiment when I get home and see if I can make something comparable.

 

            On the flight to Miami, a Peruvian girl, Katherine Valle, sat next to me. She is going to Long Island to visit friends, leaving her husband and toddler daughter at home. Grandma is taking care of the little one while she’s gone. She spoke enough English to carry on a conversation, so, of course, I had to tell her about our unpleasant ordeal of the day before. She was disturbed by my account because such incidents give visitors – and prospective visitors - a bad impression of Peru.

 

            Our lay-over in Miami was boring – with nothing to do for three hours. While waiting, I called Neal; it was good to hear his voice. He’ll be there at LAX to pick me up. Our flight to Los Angeles left about 15 minutes late, but we still managed to arrive 15 minutes early. I was sure glad to see Neal waiting for me. Got my luggage, said good-bye to Reda and John, dragged the luggage to the truck (wheels on the new bag are worthless as suspected), and drove home. I drove because Neal doesn’t see well at night.

 

Afterthoughts

 

The bottom line for me = about $2250 for four weeks, not counting souvenirs – less than my original estimate which was a nice surprise. $2250 included round-trip airfare, Lima airport tax, hotels, meals/food, rental trucks, fuel, toll roads, tour buses, guides, entrance fees, Ballestras Islands and Lake Titicaca boat trips, Nazca airplane flight, Machu Picchu train, undeserved traffic tickets, truck damage (broken spring, missing mud flaps {missing in photo taken when we had our first flat tire} and tire – not sure about the latter), and phone calls Kathy made to reserve hotels and trucks. I spent an extra $800 on souvenirs and gifts.

 

            Getting cash was not a problem because ATMs were available in all the major cities and towns. Although I took some Travelers’ Checks, I didn’t use them. Charlayne brought some too and cashed a few, but it was a very time-consuming operation - on the back of each T check, she had to write her life history – practically. She used her ATM card after that.

 

            The Peruvians are very picky about their money; they won’t accept any bills that are even slightly torn, and they examine coins to see if they are counterfeit. I had a couple of coins rejected once, but I used them later with no problem.

 

        Twelve participants was an ideal number for our three double-cab pickup trucks. More people or vehicles would have been difficult to manage. In fact, I think traveling in just one vehicle with only four people was quite nice, but two vehicles would probably be better for safety and emergency reasons. During the trip, we tried to rotate so that we didn’t ride with the same people every day.

 

            The trucks we rented were all diesels – noisy and underpowered, but diesels are very common, so finding fuel was never a problem. Plus, they got terrific gas mileage. Mary figured about 27 miles per gallon. (They measure fuel in gallons, not liters.) A gallon of diesel cost about $2.00. Years ago gasoline was incredibly cheap – only 8 or 9 cents a gallon – the government must have subsidized it back then. Gas stations in Peru are called “grifos” which means faucets. We four, who stayed the extra week, drove about 4,000 miles total.

 

            Peruvians stretch their gas dollars (soles) by using cute little Japanese-made motorcycle and scooter “rickshaw” taxis. They are made with room for two passengers in a back seat and the driver straddles a single seat in front just like a regular motorcycle or scooter. Some are outfitted with an enclosed body to keep out inclement weather. I think they ought to import them here. They would be great for getting around town – to the grocery store, bank, etc. However, they wouldn’t do well for long trips, nor could they be driven on freeways.

 

            Of all the sites and sights we saw, I would put the Nazca Lines, Machu Picchu, and Kuélap and the top of my “don’t-miss” list. And of all the museums we visited, I think I was most impressed by the Raphael Larco Herrera in Lima – with its hundreds and hundreds of Moche ceramic pots. The two other new museums in northern Peru were also first-class. The Chachapoya Culture museum in Leimebamba, and the new museum near Chiclayo featuring the Sicán culture would be on my “don’t miss” list. The Museum of the Tombs, with artifacts from the Royal Tombs of Sipan, also near Chiclayo – (the one that was scheduled to open the day after we got home) will be, I suspect, one of the highlights for future tourists.

 

            Would I do it again? Yes, I certainly would, even though I had the usual tourist ailments, and despite the tribulations of the last day. And I wouldn’t mind going again because there is so much more to see. On the other hand, we saw a lot! - more than the usual tourist highlights. We explored Peru from top to bottom in a way that few travelers do. We kept on schedule; saw nearly everything on the itinerary, and several that weren’t. We were also lucky not to have been troubled with very many unexpected problems. Plus, the cost was quite reasonable, considering all we saw and the length of time we were gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 













































Last modified on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 22:28
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