Monday, August 30, 2010

A Quechua Family Welcomes Us to Visit

Somehow I deleted this picture which is significant. This Quechua family grows their own grain. Felix is showing us the quinoa plant which the grandma is grinding in the background. They served us tasty biscuits made of quinoa and baked over an outdoor fire.

Felix, our guide for the Puno part of our trip, is Quechua Indian. He was born and reared in the Puno area, in fact, quite near Sicuani. He speaks Quechua, Spanish, and he is teaching himself German so he can guide German speaking tourists. He knows many of the families near the Inca burial towers. He asked friends, also Quechua, if he could bring by our family to meet them so we could have a personal experience. This is the family's homestead from the back. I noticed it as we were driving toward Sicuani. Little did I know we would be visiting the home.

Three generations share this home. The grandfather is weaving a rug. The mother of the little girl is standing against the door of her bedroom. The room is simply furnished--just a bed and hooks to hang a few clothes.

The family built their own home after the manner of their ancestors--simple stone walls, stone patios, adobe walls and arch. They even made the ceramic pigs which adorn the arch.

We were taken by the two pigs which seem to be welcoming us.

The family grows several different kinds of potatoes or papas. The bowl in the center holds "clay" which we were invited to taste. All the potatoes and vegetables are dipped into the clay. It tastes like a salty clay.

Emma, Spencer, and Kate were fascinated by the clay idea and the potatoes were really tasty. We peeled the potatoes first.

Margaret and Kate wanted to have a picture with the llama but the llama wouldn't look at the camera.

The little girl and Kate are both 7. She was so shy, but she surprised us by asking for a dulce or caramelo (a piece of candy) as we were getting out of the van. Fortunately I had some M & Ms from tropical trail mix to give her. We also paid the family for letting us visit them. It's customary. I don't have a picture of their homemade goods for sale. I'd have loved to buy a rug but the father wanted 150 soles or the equivalent of $50 which isn't a bad price, but it was at the beginning of our trip and we had no extra room in our carry-on luggage. I did buy a small ceramic vase.

Kate's alpaca was more cooperative. Their wool is so soft. There is nothing softer than baby alpaca. A good quality baby alpaca sweater is fairly expensive.

The grandfather wanted to show us all about their family life. He was really good with the kids. This alpaca is really cute--His facial expression was like that of a loving, happy puppy.

Felix explained that the grandmother does all the cooking. In good weather they use their outdoor kitchen. During the rainy season, they cook in the windowless inside kitchen which is behind Felix.

The little girl would have nothing to do with the hat her mother wanted her to wear. She went into the house and chose one of her own. Little girls are the same everywhere.

Grandmother demonstrated grinding grain for bread. The method of grinding corn, wheat, or quinoa is the same as the North American Indians use. They served a coarse, quinoa biscuit which was really tasty.

We enjoyed this experience so much. We were much more than tourists while we were there. We were honored guests. Emma, Spencer, and Kate will take with them a rich understanding of the Quechua culture.

In Peru Guinea pig is a a main meat choice along with chicken. Evidence of guinea pig pens in the Inca cities and estates is well documented. This family is living in the same manner as their ancestors have done for centuries. Any farm family has a pen of guinea pig.

This is one of the other small huts on the property. The guinea pigs are out in front, but I think this is a bedroom for the sons. The grandparents also had a hut of their own.

The kids must have given her the sucker. They had them in their backpacks.

Two cute faces...Emma and her friend.

Buffet Lunch at the Puno/Cusco Line

Felix took us to a roadside buffet Javier had arranged for us. We had been on the road since early in the morning. The buffet of traditional Peruvian fare was really good. The kids enjoyed the buffet meals because they could eat what they wanted. My favorite dish was the arroz con leche, one of four choices for dessert in addition to ice cream which was pure cream frozen.

This picture is one of many I took of Dad on the phone. The Jeffries and I decided it will make a fun blog.

This llama, tied to the sign that marks the beginning of the route to Cusco, clearly is nearing the time for shearing. He was very peaceful, tame, and seemed to enjoy the attention.

There were other llamas or vicunas on the restaurant grounds, a petting zoo of sorts. The kids had a good time with them.

Emma took this picture of herself with the llamas. She is wearing my hat.

We passed villages like this one, a particularly picturesque village because of the typical mud wall enclosure, thatched roofs, and stone and mortar houses and, of course, the family dog and llama.

This is the year of elections for mayors and city councilmen. Alcade (pronounced al-caw-day) is Spanish for mayor. Many property owners allow the candidates to paint on their houses, walls and roofs. We learned that the candidates tell the owners they will repaint after the elections, but too often those promises are not kept. An interesting side note is that first weekend of October, General Conference weekend, no public meetings are allowed because of the elections. So church members in Peru cannot watch the satellite broadcast in the stake centers.

This is a little chapel in the middle of nowhere but is a community chapel. I wish we could have seen the front of it.

One could get the idea this is the queen llama. She has such attitude. Behind her is the typical market found at every stop along the Inca Road.

So after three days in Puno in Puno, 14,000 above sea level, we are really headed to Cusco which is only 12,000 feet. We arrived in Puno on Monday night, August 9th, after an hour drive from the airport in Juliaca. The air was so thin, we felt heady. We thought we were prepared for the altitude, but we weren't. So this day, Wednesday, everyone felt much better than the day before.

This shot shows the scenery. As brown and barren as this landscape is, the drive was quite scenic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

From Puno to Cusco--Raqchi

The last stop we made before driving into Cusco (another 1 1/2 hours) was the community of Raqchi which today is a small but thriving farming community. Tourism is important to these people as well. The guide book says 90% of the community residents are devoted to pottery of different shapes and sizes. The pottery is sold all over Peru and is valued for the volcanic rock and clay mixture. We didn't buy any pottery. If I had read the guide book before we visited there, I would have picked something up. The people of Raqchi follow the traditions and patterns of ceramic art of the Ancients. The real draw, however, is the 1400s temple of the god of Wiracocha.

The chapel is made of volcanic rock thrown by a nearby volcano, Volcan Kinsachata, which gave to the Andean Indians a quarry of good building material. The road in front of the Catholic chapel is the great Inca road leading to Cusco. The guide book stated the road also ran as far as Argentina.

In Old Lima is a statue dedicated to the Pony Express of the Inca culture. Runners ran relay-style from Colombia, through Ecuador, through the small towns of Peru to Cusco and then on to Lima. From Peru they ran into Bolivia and then to Chile.

The temple is in the background. Living quarters connected to the temple are actually in the form of a neighborhood with a narrow road or alley way running between perfectly symmetrical houses with adjoining patios. The guide book said the priests and virgins lived here.

As we were approaching Raqchi, our guide Felix pointed out the Inca stairway on the outside of an ancient wall. This wall is part of the ancient wall that surrounded the community and ran along the Inca Trail to Cusco, the seat of the Inca Empire.

This is the residence for the priests and virgins. When the Spanish conquered the Inca, they plundered their silver and gold, took their idols which were kept in niches found in all the Inca ruins, and destroyed many of the temples as they strove to wipe out their pagan practices. They used the stones of the Inca temples to build their own cathedrals. One thing we have learned, however, about these Ancients is they had a belief in a heaven or pre-earth life and a belief in life after death. Earthlife was very important to them as well and they named the earth Pachamama. (They offered sacrifices to Pachamama for good crops, favorable weather, etc.) They buried their dead with precious belongings and food to carry with them to the next life. Their jewelry and pottery reflect these beliefs--the Inca cross, the eternity circles, and even the mysterious mountain petroglyphs or art, one which has a a giant "tree of life" which the locals call the "candelabra." There is a picture of that candelabra or tree on a January blog.

Notice the Inca blocks of stone fit together without mortar. Above the foundations the walls are of pure adobe or rolled clay.

This Inca community had storage bins or "silos" for storing potatoes and grain which were discovered in the 1960s when the site was discovered by archeologists. Farmers had been using the land for centuries, but only when Peru began preserving their archeological sites, did this area become important. The guide book states that the Inca leaders in this community made sure no one went without food. It reminded us of the church welfare program which provides humanitarian services and food for the needy and not just members of the church. Emma is standing in the doorway of a silo that was found in perfect condition. In it was evidence of potatoes and grains.

Emma, Spencer, and Kate are standing near the foundation or platforms. The field of storage buildings is in the background. The stone blocks topped by the rolled clay adobe are quite beautiful. We were amazed that such construction could survive the centuries.

Only the wall on the right has been restored to show what the design of the temple was originally.

One picture we didn't get was the Inca baths. The Incas had hydraulic engineering knowledge. The water is distributed by perfectly preserved stone channels which run underground and distribute pure, clear cold water to the west and east sides of the platforms. No one has discovered the source of the water but it flows "non stop" according to the guide book.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The trail ends at Machu Picchu

Bienvenidos a Machu Picchu, One of the Seven Man Made Wonders of the World.

View from the top of Machu Picchu--isn't it breathtaking! Margaret insisted we be on the mountain to watch the sunrise. It was worth the 4:45 wake-up call. We were on the bus at

5:30 am, thinking we'd be the first bus load on the mountain. Alas! We passed 5 buses going down. Each time our bus came upon a descending bus, one bus or the other had to pull tight against the mountain or precariously close to the side. Our guide Senior Will took us straight to the top, easier than it sounds. The steps (stones) were narrow, steep, and the altitude and climb left us breathless, well except for the kids who scrambled up like mountain goats.

We arrived by train in Aguas Calientes on Friday night after our day-long tour through the Sacred Valley. We had one of the finest buffet lunches of the trip in the Sacred Valley. Aguas Calientes is at the bottom of the picture. You can see in this picture the steep climb the buses must make to get to Machu Picchu.

This bus is one of a large fleet of buses that make the multiple hair pin turns up the side of the mountain. The drive is historic in that Hiram Bingham and his men hacked their way through the jungle to reach Machu Picchu which was virtually hidden from the Spanish Conquistadores. It is the only Inca city not to have been plundered.

The two-hour Vista Dome train ride from Ollantaytambo was interesting. We were served a light dinner. We arrived at Aguas Caliente in the dark. After walking through a dense market of all sorts of goods (a real tourist trap if one has the energy to stop and buy), we made our way across the train tracks to our hotel which turned out to be a really fine, small, new hotel. Our room was on the river and we fell asleep to the sound of rushing water. Margaret and Ted's room and the Kids' room was on the street/RR tracks side and they were awakened several times by trains.

Kate and Spencer are sitting on a stone cut by the Incas to match the mountain scenery. The pamplet we were given at the gate explains that in 1874, the German cartographer German Gohring had already registered the names Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. Also a farmer, Augustin Lizarraga, explored agricultural lands in 1900 and knew of the site. Other settlers knew of Machu Picchu, but Hiram Bingham, a North American professor, is credited with the discovery. He was interested in the military campaigns of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Peru. He and his translator started the journey from Cusco, on foot, and following the direction of the Urubamba River, they came upon a farm where they met a farmer who had heard of the "ruins at the top of the mountain." He farmed the terraces on the lower part of the site. A child actually led Hiram Bingham and his translator to the ruins. The local farmers called the site Machu Picchu which means "the old mountain." The actual date of discovery, marked by Hiram Bingham, is July 24, 1911. In 1912 he returned with a group of archeologists. The project was funded by Yale and the National Geographic Magazine. Peru now maintains the site through the National Institute of Culture Cusco.

Mountains are sacred to the Inca. This rock mimics Wayna Picchu, a steep mountain across from Machu Picchu. In order to hike the mountain, hikers have to be in line about 5:00 a.m.

The round tower-like structure is the temple of the sun. Notice how the sunlight is reflected on the massive center stone. The Inca's sacred date to make sacrifices to the sun is June 21, the Southern Hemisphere's first day of winter. Their sacrifices were a petition for the sun not to die. This is the only temple in the city not to have been restored some.

Here we are at the top. When we were here in 2006, I wore out before we got to the top. My legs went to jelly and my heart felt as if it would pound itself out. So when Senior Will took us to the top first, it made all the difference in our tour experience for me, but even for all of us. We spent about an hour at the top taking pictures and listening to Senior Will's history, archeology, and cultural lessons. When we started down to visit the individual homes, temples, and other sites, we were rejuvenated. Senior Will even pointed out to us great photos and gave us time to take the pictures. For Stuart to be at the top so long was really special because the guide we had in 2006 must have had another tour because he hurried Dad and Jim and Joan off the mountain after just a few minutes.

Our guide in 2006 told us the green plaza to the left and rear of the picture was a playing field. Senior Will laughed at that and said they did not have time to play games. It was a plaza like the Plaza de Armas.

This picture is looking off the back side and across Machu Picchu. The city was extensive. Interestingly enough, more bones of women were found in the excavation leading Hiram Bingham to wonder if Machu Picchu was a university or sacred site for women.

I pulled the zoom in tight for this picture. It's almost haunting with the sun rays and the shadowed mountain range behind Wayna Picchu.

The Inca believed in a pre earth life, earth life, an after life. There are depictions of the tree of life in their art as well. This stone is half of the Inca Cross which reflects the different levels of life, their worship of the heavens, the sun, the moon, and the earth or Pachamama. Interesting!

The stones in the foreground end the Inca Trail from the mountain behind. We are standing at the front door or original and untouched entrance to the sacred site of Machu Picchu. You can get a sense of how high we are by looking down to the right.

These are the lower terraces and houses. The rope has something to do with agricultural testing.

This is another view of the back side and Kate who was drawing her impressions of Machu Picchu in the dirt.

They say kids listen even when they aren't paying attention. It's true. These two artists were really listening to Senior Will.

This is the energy stone. The stone is believed to store energy from the sun. I did it! I had enough energy to go the distance....hmmm

This is the temple of the condor, a sacred symbol for the Inca. The rock walls above are the wings of the condor. The right wing is visible and on top of the wing is a temple. There was no way to step back and get the full picture of a condor, but the bird was there all right. Behind it is the sacred burial tomb.

While we were waiting for the buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge, we found a cool spot under a natural arbor where the guides go for their lunches. A woman provides lunch for all the guides and workers who pay her. Her little boy was so cute. He is not walking yet. He seemed to be totally oblivious to the jagged stones.

This moss covered piece of wood seems to have been carved into the shape of an animal. A horse? A dog? Who knows, but it made a cute picture.

Emma got on for "a ride."

It is late winter in Peru, but at Machu Picchu, according to our guide, it is spring. There are something like 132 climates in the world. Peru has 82 of them. This is a wild lilac in full bloom.