A Travellerspoint blog

Sacred Valley, Peru - Friday, 3 April 2015

Scenic Free Choice - visit the Moray ruins and the ancient Inca salt pans. Tapas style dinner with a private performance by local musicians.

Had a great night's sleep and met with Amparo at 8.45 am for a briefing about our train trip and overnight stay in Machu Picchu. We have to pack down to our carry on luggage and our big bags will be collected tonight and sent on ahead to Cuzco and will be waiting for us in our hotel room on Sunday night. That's service!

Our Scenic Free Choice today was to visit the Moray ruins and the ancient Inca salt pans. We really had no idea what to expect and were absolutely blown away by both places.

First we stopped in a tiny village that dated back to the 15th century. All the buildings in the villages we have seen so far look like they are crumbling and falling down. This statue is dedicated to the local farmers and their wives.

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The Moray ruins were amazing. They are situated at 3,500 m above sea level, which is 700 m higher than the Sacred Valley. Everyone seems to be over their bouts of altitude sickness but we became a bit breathless climbing the steps at the ruins. The village near the ruins dates back to the 15th century and as with many other Inca sites, it has a very sophisticated irrigation system. The history of the depressions is unsure but the temperature difference between the top and the bottom is about 15 degrees celsius and it is thought that the Incas used this to study the effects of different climatic conditions on their crops. It was an Inca experimental agricultural station and wild vegetable species that were inedible were modified and adapted for human consumption.

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We had a group photo taken overlooking the ruins and walked right down to the bottom and back up again. We are certainly getting plenty of exercise. These are old Inca steps. Can you imagine climbing a mountain using steps like this.

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We then continued on a very narrow, windy, dirt road to the ancient Inca salt pans.

We rounded a corner and nearly ran over this boy and his donkey.

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As the bus rounded a corner and we got our first view of the salt pans, the whole bus went "WOW". They are amazing. They sort of remind us of Pammukale in Turkey, but they are calcium ponds.

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There are three varieties of salt - white, pink and brown.. Anyone can harvest salt from the salt pans but they must be members of the local community. If you are a new member of the community, they must use the salt pan furtherest from the community.

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Since pre Inca times, salt has been obtained from the Maras by evaporating salt water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels so the water gradually runs down to the several hundred terraced ancient ponds. We tasted the water out of the spring and it was extremely salty. It was awful.

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What a great excursion that was. It just keeps getting better and better.

The bus ride back to the hotel took about 40 minutes and we had a light sandwich lunch on the terrace and then went for a walk, back to Carlo's gallery to buy a Columbian angel. Interestingly, they are the same price at the hotel as they are at the gallery. It is amazing that everything seems to be open and it's Good Friday in a predominately Catholic country. Apparently, all the festivities start this evening.

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We all congregated on the terrace at the hotel for some entertainment and a tapas dinner. We were entertained by a wonderful band called Expressio a Nadine. They were two guys who played pan flutes like you have never heard before. They really were fantastic. We danced and sang and of course bought a CD.

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Early to bed as we have an early start tomorrow.

Some photos of our lovely hotel.

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Posted by gaddingabout 11:16 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Sacred Valley, Peru - Thursday, 2 April 2015

Walking tour of Ollantaytambo, where the Manco Inca defeated the Spanish conquistadors. Visit the community at Urubumba, a community supported by Scenic Tours.

semi-overcast 19 °C

Had a pretty good night's sleep, though woke up several times during the night. I think I went to bed too early.

Phil was in bed very early with his cold but when he woke up this morning and started checking through his medication he realised that yesterday, instead of taking an altitude sickness tablet, he had taken one for a urinary tract infection (which he doesn't have)! Good grief! Some people need watching like a hawk.

Re the altitude sickness thing, I am feeling fine and quite normal. I'll see how things go today. Lol had a tightening of the chest last night and some people have had headaches.

Breakfast was held in an "architect's delight" room. It is quite unique and reminds me of the National Arboretum in Canberra.

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On the bus at 9.00 am and drove a short way to Ollantaytambo where the Manco Incas defeated the Spanish conquistadors. It was quite an amazing place and when Amparo said we were going to climb to the top, the whole bus groaned. However, she said we would do it slowly and have stops along the way, so off we went. It was important to go slowly and breathe steadily through your nose and out your mouth. After the first section, I was a bit breathless, but the rest of the way was fine. We all made it to the top and had a group photo. The climb certainly wasn't as bad as the Galapagos one, but the Galapagos one was longer and steeper and we did it in still, hot and humid weather.

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The views were stunning from the top and the Incas were certainly a race ahead of their time.

But of course, everything that goes up, must come down! So we proceeded to walk very carefully down the mountain. The steps were very rough and uneven, but we all took our time and made it to the bottom without any mishaps.

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Then we visited the school at Urubumba, a community supported by Scenic Tours. When we arrived, we helped the staff pack up the lunches for the children into plastic bags and then distributed them. There were about 70 children there - all differing ages. Scenic sponsors this school and community. A lot of the families in this area have about seven plus children and they are put to work and don't attend school. With the help of Scenic, the school provides breakfast and lunch for the children, so with so many mouths to feed, the parents are quite willing to send the children to school, and while they are there, they are taught.

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Some of us had bought gifts for the children - pencils, papers, pens, hair clips, bouncing balls etc. It was chaos handing them out but I think everyone got something.

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Actually, it was quite heart wrenching to see these poor little kids with dirty faces, runny noses and dirty clothes. It was very emotional. Australian kids have no idea how lucky they are!

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This little girl was eating her lunch and some bigger boys came over and tried to pinch her food. I shooed them off and then her brother came to protect her, or that's who I think he was. I don't speak their language. Maybe after I got on the bus, he pinched her lunch too.

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We went back to the town for lunch and had a nice vegetable and quinoa soup up on a balcony of a local restaurant.

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Then we had about an hour to explore the town. We bought a few things. Everything is so colourful and so cheap.

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And we finally found the elusive red banana!

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On the way back to the hotel, Amparo took us to a famous sculptor's home and gallery. His name was Carlo Seminario and he has pieces in New York and Lima museums. His work is very unique and changes all the time as he evolves. We went into the shop and there was some really nice stuff in there. I bought two little bowls and an Inca sun for my Icon Wall. My real favourite was the Colombian Angel and Lol and Tony bought her. I AM SO JEALOUS!

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Back at the hotel having a G&T and a rest before dinner.

We sat with Ingrid and Elfie and Tony and Lol for dinner. Ingrid, Phil and Lol had guinea pig for their main course. Elfie and I were disgusted. Tony had Alapca. None of them enjoyed it very much.

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After dinner Byron showed us a short video he had put together of our Amazon adventure. It was really good. He is so clever.

This hotel has some lovely things on display.

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Posted by gaddingabout 03:44 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima, Peru - Sacred Valley - Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Fly to Cuzco. Visit Hacienda Huayocarri. Andean lunch and see weaving techniques by the Chinchero Village women

semi-overcast 23 °C

The alarm went off at 4.45 am, bags out by 5.15 am, breakfast at 5.30 am and on the bus by 6.15 am.

It took about an hour to get to the airport and the traffic was pretty free flowing at that time of the morning.  It was all going the other way!

Check in went without a hitch and our bags combined were 38 kgs.  Yah!

On the way to the airport, Amparo gave us quite a big talk about altitude sickness. She explained what it felt like and told us what we could do about it. A lot of us have tablets for altitude sickness from our doctors and some are using them and some are not. Phil had one but I decided to see what happened - if anything. Also oxygen is available at the hotels in this area and if we really get sick, we must phone Amparo immediately and she will arrange for medical treatment for us. The Scenic rep for South America told me to take an aspirin every morning I was at altitude and that should help. Well, so far, so good.

As soon as we landed, Josh became very pale and had a bit of a turn. Mary stayed with him on the plane and Amparo organised medical assistance for him. His blood pressure was very low. He was starting to improve but they kept him there for another two hours and they caught up with us at lunch time at the Hacienda Huayocarri.

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As we were leaving the plane, Annie said she felt a bit light headed. I felt fine, however, once we started on our bus journey from Cuzco to the Sacred Valley, I just fell asleep and couldn't wake up. It could have been the early morning or the fact that every time I get on a bus I fall asleep or possibly a bit of altitude sickness. But if that's all I get, then it's fine by me.

We stopped a couple of times along the way to photograph the view, and of course, there were local ladies there selling their wares. So far, I haven't been attracted by their merchandise but in Peru it is colourful and appealing. I bought a small wall hanging and Phil bought two small pottery dogs that are replicas of what people in this area have sitting on their roof for good luck and to keep the evil spirits away.

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There is a baby under this tea cosy!

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At about 3pm we arrived at the Hacienda Huayocarri for lunch. It was the most stunning place and the lunch was delicious. After lunch we went out on the lawn and watched the Chinchero Village women weaving. Their clothes are so colourful and they look great against the mountainous background.

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It was only a 10 minute ride to our hotel, the Avenida Ferrocarril, in Urubamba, Cuzco and it is so lovely. Lots and lots of wood and woollen wall hangings. Our room is huge, with a dressing room, huge bedroom and lounge area and a bathroom, shower and toilet area. We are on the ground floor and have sliding doors that open onto a terrace. It is gorgeous.

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Due to our late lunch, we decided not to have any dinner. Phil has gone to bed not feeling too well with his cold. My mozzie bites are driving me crazy. They are so itchy!

Posted by gaddingabout 18:25 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima, Peru - Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Tour of Colonial Lima

semi-overcast 30 °C

The bed in this hotel, Swissotel, Lima is really great.  Everyone was raving about their comfy bed.

After breakfast we were looking forward to meeting the last 10 people to join our group but only three were there.  The others were still delayed somewhere and Amparo didn't know where they were or when they would be turning up.

We went on a tour today of colonial Lima.  We just love Lima.  The old buildings are so lovely and painted in bright colours.  Our guide told us it was because Lima always has grey skies because it never rains and dust rises along with the pollution and the fog comes in from the sea because the sea is cold and the land is hot.  They get their water supply from the surrounding rivers.

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The traffic is quite incredible but it moves along eventually.  Our bus today was the Rolls Royce of buses.  The seats were huge, even bigger than First Class airline seats.  And the leg room.  We all just loved it.

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We saw the Presidential Palace, the old train station and lots of other beautiful old administrative buildings and we toured a Franciscan Convent.  We weren't allowed to take photos in the convent which was such a shame because it was quite stunning.  We went into the library and saw books on display from the 1600s.  It was incredible.  The open verandahs displayed rows and rows of oil paintings.  How they survive in the humidity and daylight,  I just don't know.  There is a lot of restoration work going on but there is no financial support from the government.

We went down into the catacombs and saw lots of old tombs and stacks and stacks of bones, that were piled up 10 feet deep.

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There are always police everywhere in South America.  Apparently, peaceful protests occur on the spur of the moment all the time, so they seem to just hang around waiting for something to happen.  I asked these guys if I could take their photo and they beckoned me over.  Very friendly!

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We drove down to the beach and were suddenly engulfed in fog and mist.  This happens all the time because the sea is so cold, 12 degrees and when it combines with the warm land temperature and the dust of Lima, it produces this fog. Our guide told us that because there is hardly any blue sky in Lima, the people paint their houses bright colours. They are really bright and happy. These fantastic looking things are chimneys.  Great design.

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We went for lunch at this lovely restaurant called Amoramar.  It was really nice and the Peruvian food was lovely.

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After lunch we went to a lovely part of town to the Bridge of Sighs.

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We had a few hours back at the hotel before dinner, so we packed our bags and rearranged our things and left a couple of bags at the hotel. We all met in the foyer for dinner and the missing nine had turned up. And you wouldn't want to know it - one of them had been a work colleague of Phil's in Immigration back in the 80s and apparently had been to our home for dinner and then we played Trivial Pursuit. Small world. I don't remember that at all but after all, it was 30 years ago. He heard Phil's voice before he saw Phil and recognised him from that. Apparently their flight from Adelaide to Sydney had to be diverted to Newcastle because of a storm in Sydney, so by the time they got to Sydney they had missed their flight for Santiago and had to be rescheduled onto a flight the next day. Hence they arrived at the hotel at 5pm . They were all very glad to finally be here.

We sat with them at dinner, John and Jenny and had a lovely chat.

Posted by gaddingabout 20:02 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Amazon - Lima, Peru - Monday, 30 March 2015

Disembark boat. Visit the Manatee Rescue Centre. Fly to Lima.

semi-overcast 34 °C

Alarm went off at 5.00 am, into the shower, dressed, gathered our things and were down on the dinghy by 5.45 am for a 6.00 am start.  We were going to see where the Amazon River actually commences at the confluence of two rivers - the Ucayali and the Maranom.

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The Amazon from its source is over 7,000 kilomtres.  At its delta in the Atlantic Ocean, it is 320 kilometres wide - the distance from Paris to London!  It truly is one of the greatest rivers in the world.  It is in flood at the moment and has risen about 4 metres.  We were unable to do a jungle walk, because at the moment, it is all underwater, but we were able to enter lots of different areas in the dinghys.

We then sat for a long time in the middle of this huge expanse of water, watching the sunrise and were surrounded by heaps and heaps of beautiful pink dolphins.  In the beautiful morning light, these magnificent animals looked so beautiful.  We took a million photos but the dolphins are so hard to photograph that none of them were any good.

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THIS is what a pink dolphin looks like!

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We then sailed around a bit more looking at birds and were back on board for breakfast by 7.30 pm. Mary in her cabin.

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At 8.00 am we went upstairs for a debrief of our trip, then at 9.00 am we went ashore to a local village.  It was very hot and humid.  We haven't been feeling the heat much here because we have been in the dinghys twice a day, whizzing along the river with the wind blowing in our hair.

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On landing we met the matriarch of the village, Isabella, and through our interpreter Julio, she told us all about village life.  Children come from other villages to attend school - primary and high but they have to go to the larger cities to attend university.  As these villagers are very poor, they can't afford the university fees and hardly any scholarships are awarded to village children.   They are all given to the rich children in the cities.  What's new?

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We watched a sugar cane squeezing demonstration and then they showed us how they dye the materials for the weaving of the handicrafts.

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We went inside Isabella's house and several different ladies showed us how to cook and prepare different local foods.

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Then it was our turn.  Sharon and I had a go at folding a packet of stuff to be put into a pot to be boiled.  For some reason, it is called John the Baptist.  It was harder than it looked.  I tried to tie it so hard that I broke the rafia on my first go.  Meanwhile, Phil was standing on the sidlines shouting instructions which was ridiculous because he doesn't even know where the kitchen is in our house!

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We then went to the Round House, where the village women displayed their handicrafts for us to buy.  This is a good source of additional income for them, so we all bought something.  I bought two female Sharmons to hang around my neck.  I think they are pretty nice.

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The children of the village.

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Back on board and started the sad job of packing.

Lunch with Annie and Byron.

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After lunch we left the MV Aria

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and hopped on the bus for the two hour drive to Iquitos Airport.  Just outside Iquitos, we stopped at a Manatee Research and Protection farm and saw how they are rehabilitating and protecting the Manatees and then releasing them back to the wild.

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We had to wash our hands and then we were allowed to feed them.  They are such weird looking creatures and are so gentle and lovely and feel quite nice too.  How anyone could kill them, I don't know, buy they do, and then they eat them.  They only have babies approximately every four years and usually only one.  No wonder they are in trouble.

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Arrived at the airport, said goodbye to Julio and Daniel, and checked in.  Our combined bag weight is 38 kilos, which is good but we collect our extra luggage tonight at the hotel.

Had a good flight and were given the mandatory snack - crackers and a chocolate bar.  Phil chatted all the way to an American sitting beside him.  He was from Durango in Phoenix and won't get home until tomorrow afternoon.  His company digs wells for Amazon villagers to provide them with free water.  He raises money in America for this and digs the wells gratis.  His name was Tom Reading.

We arrived at the hotel at about 9.00 pm and now have a room on the 15th floor.  When we entered our room, the bags that we had left here when we went to the Amazon were waiting for us in our room.  Nice touch.  It was great to have free wifi so I spent a lot of time catching up with Facebook and emails.

Hopped into a lovely bubble bath only to immediately start scratching my legs and feet.  A few of us got attacked by mozzies at the Manatee Farm today and as soon as they got warm, they itched.  I hope it wasn't a malaria or dengue fever mozzie that bit me!  Time will tell.

Posted by gaddingabout 15:50 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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