News and changes.

And so the saga continues. Currently at aguas calientes. A tourist town about 2000 feet below macchu Picchu. It is part of our entire lares trek from previous blog. And I continue somewhat chronologically.

Slept in next to hot springs till about 6:15 ( usual was 5 am up). A leisurely morning the cook had made a special cake for breakfast. And a quinoa drink which was delicious but no one could figure ingredients. And remember none of us speak Spanish and for once Reuben was not much help.

Onto the bus and as soon as u boarded I knew it was going to be rough. Having spent a lot if time in small planes I was as ready as I could ever be. Discovered a new meaning of fun. Holding a leaky plastic bag full of vomit for three hours down a winding gravel mountain road. Now that is fun hog material. The cold past days developed fully. Jeanne was there trying to help and others passed more bags as none were waterproof. But no rest for the weary, had to catch a train to agua calientes. Which we did I found a trash for my extra luggage and boarded a very nice tourist train for 1 1/2 hours descending to 6600 feet. Now in jungle. I spent time in train bathroom for those interested.

Arrived and 10 minute walk to hotel. I went straight to bed thinking the two flights of stairs were harder than the pass yesterday. Went straight to bed as we had 4 hours of free time to explore the town. Jeanne went to find password for internet. Very shortly I heard crying and knew immediately.

Jeanne’s dad Joe Molitor passed away yesterday about noon. He was 91 and it was not necessarily unexpected but it still hurts. He was a simple man who lived his family, and he loved St. Louis. It did matter where we were as long as the family was together. And Bud Lites.

Jeanne’s worst nightmare came true. She was hoping to not have him gone when we were gone. We had agreed to not return if such a thing happens but reality changes things. So we got Reuben from Llama trek and 2 1/2 hours after arrival reservations on trAin to urotombo where can from llama path will pick her up and return to cusco arriving about 11 pm. Travel insurance was able to help change her return reservations to the states and St. Louis.

So my partner left in a way unexpected and not as we hoped. She is within 2000 feet of macchu Picchu, and really wanted to meet the bike people when in cusco next week. Alas one has to expect change.

So I lie here in bed others on tour, at dinner but I am not eating due to stomach. Alas. Alarm for 5 am t o catch ride to macchu Picchu and climb if wayna Picchu.

Alas I miss Jeanne it was not the departure we wanted but then departures are weird.

Thinking of Joe Molitor and the numerous stories. Loved to barbecue. rest in peace you are with the love of your life Rose Molitor.

Lares trek

Signed up for this trek as inca trail sold out six months in advance. (Reservation permit system due to numbers). This one billed as just as nice but without the hoards of people.

It was very nice 4 couples including Jeanne and I. Others Erin and Dave from Washington D. C., Dorothea and Josh from New York City, and Marta and Gisseppe from Rome but currently living in New York, getting ready to transfer to London. All fun people much younger than us but that does not take much. Turns out Marta and Gisseppe have never been hiking or camping. This was first experience. Well Llama path was great providing food, tents, warm water bowl for washing at tent on awakening. Five porters, cook, and guide. Five donkeys to carry all but our day packs. Food was amazing, not just hot but three meals inside wall tent chairs table. Start with soup usually a quinoa something and awesome then elegantly prepared main course of a variety if things. And always hot tea and clean water for the trail ;do not drink Peruvian water. And the guide Reuben. Great at helping us and telling history. ( a huge story in itself). He is one of 10% of Peruvians who follow the Andean religion. 80% are Catholic, 30% practicing, and 10% other often seventh day Adventist. But the religion has always been interesting to me. But weird. Do not get me started.

Well, turns out one of the harder hikes I have ever done. (Remember Marta and Gisseppe). Started out with bus ride of about 2 1/2 hours starting at 5 am. Great breakfast of juice pancakes coca tea rolls and other stuff I forget. Then 8 miles up starting at about 11000 feet riding to our camp at 14,100. Everyone but Jeanne and I had only two days acclimatization. Lunch it began to pour rain then hail temp about 7-8 C. Then back on trail rain stopped but a bit of drizzle. By the time we reached camp we all were pooped. But happy hour if popcorn and tea brought to tents where everyone but me was laid out. Gisseppe having difficulty with altitude the worst; severe headache , and any movement severe nausea. A bit concerning. Dinner and we collapsed. On one of my 4 trips to bathroom stars came out and saw old friend constellation if Orion, but knew no others and it was freezing. I think Jeanne and I were only ones who slept.

In morning Gisseppe was seriously thinking of going down due to feeling horrible but managed to get breakfast and felt a but better. Onward and upward. Through about 2″ of snow rising eventually to 15850 feet at pass mountains above us. That was 2 miles then down 10 miles to about 10000 feet

I thought of brother in law, Steve Penner who says “any day in the snow adds two weeks to your life”. Well I have added 4 weeks to my nursing home life.

Hiking up I ended up in front. It worked out every was there at some point not that it was a big deal. I was in front huff puffing my way up thinking I am slowing everyone down with my incredibly slow pace. Breath step breath Repeat. I looked back and others I thought I was slowing down were a hundred meters back. Finally the top and then the descent. Always fun descending from high altitude. Breathing gets easier the plants reappeared beautiful alpine lakes and gnarly steps. This trail has been used for well over a thousand years. Lunch finally about 2 at a village with llama grazing about. People beginning to plant potatoes. One potato at a time.

The about a four mike part road part trail to the lares hit springs. Arriving after dark exhausted. Reuben herding his charges with great finesse. Keeping us going. My nose is running like crazy having felt a cold coming on for several days. The hot springs were awesome with large pools of a variety of temperatures. We camped right next to them. We all were pooped.

But a note on the local kids. Obviously they have very little. I realize everyone in the United States is rich. I did not remotely say happier. But life at altitude is tough even if you are adapted to it. And now tourism is a part with Trekkers hiking through there pastures, fields,and villages. So when kids see tourists they come out to watch not necessarily expecting anything but it has become a custom. Reuben advised against candy, the usual gift, but instead notebooks and or paper and pencils. When given they thanked us profusely but again were not demanding. And ever so cute in their sandals and wide eyes. Sandals are the shoe of choice whether economic or they just like. But bare feet in the snow. Heard ing donkeys , llama, sheep, or planting crops. A delightful place.

I would include pictures but alas afraid internet is very marginal here at aguas calientes.
But more in next blog. Had to break this up.

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Strike

Bus ride back to Cusco, supposedly uneventful and a direct bus so theoretically short. But part way back a town the road went threw had a strike and inhabitants were sitting in middle of road for two hours, no one passed and the line grew longer everyone got out and walked about. Two people on our bus had a bout of stomach upset and searched for a bathroom to no avail. The locals pointed to the fields.

The bus had a bathroom but only for number one as drained right onto road.

Apparently the strike was over the government wanting to build a hydropower dam in the area. The lacks do not want it. Peaceful but Police at sideline with full riot gear ready. After an hour the sitters got up we returned to buses, cars, and trucks and on our way.

Arrived Cusco two hours late, almost as long as it took for our tour bus to get there.

Cab to hotel snd once in driver says 10 sols per person. Was 10 for both getting there. We asked before but not pet person. Alas. The when close a huge festival of some sort blocked the way. We got out to walk and it was a local dance festival. Tubas, trombones, trumpets, cymbals, bass drums, snare drums. Accompanied the colorful dancers. Several car alarms were set off due to the noise of the bands passing.

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Lake Titicaca

Tour of lake titicaca continues. Only way out here to the islands is on a tour with the masses, but delightful.

Slow boat to one of floating islands. These were made famous, for me at least with Thor Heyerdahl’s book Kon Tiki as this was where he got the reeds for the boat. These islands are floating with maybe 6-7 huts on them. The islands are as expected a bit squishy but solid lasting about 30 years when a new one is made. Boats are reed and appear very sea worthy. For10 sols (about $3.50) the head of community took us for a very nice ride.

On to the island of Amantani where we met our family we were to stay with for the night, in the village of Colquecachi. Emiliane was our host, Jeanne, myself and a couple from Columbia. Emiliane has a guest room and was very nice with numerous lama blankets. Lunch was served, a delightful soup of potatoes and quinoa. Then potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some other root crops. Very good. The guinea pigs were running about under foot growing for a future meal they are invited to. (As in they are dinner)

Then on to the meeting place for a hike to top of island for view of sunset. Awaiting others in group a pickup game of futball was started. I joined in not embarrassing myself too much and we held our own against the locals, at 13,000 feet. Then a hike of about 2 kilometers to the top where clouds were beginning to come in so we slowly made our 3 circuits of the ceremonial site Pachatata and threw a rock to the east for a wish to be granted. The thunder and lightening were seen to the west and we headed down. Waiting in our room for dinner two boys joined us and sang songs to us, trying to carry on conversation, but my Spanish is very limited as yet. Dinner was delightful, Emiliane serving us potato soups then rice and potatoes,with Mint tea freshly picked. We could then go to a local dance but opted to go to bed, as raining and the hundred meter distance was too much. Jeanne had gotten chilled so piled under 4 heavy blankets as no heat in rooms.

Today awoke to a pan of delivered hot water to our room for washing, then another delicious meal of pancakes and potatoes with mint and or coca tea. Back to the boat to visit another island of isla tacquile. Interesting to see the different cultures so close. Here the men knit and the women make the threads etc. Another awesome meal and a three hour tour back to Puno.

Met a delightful couple from Bogota, Columbia whom we came to spend time with and discovered much the same interests. Alex and Marcela. Alex attends the same church I do: the church of the rotating mass. He love mountain biking and apparently there are some great trails in Columbia. We shared our family visit and tonight had a delightful meal here in Puno. We promise to return the favor.

Doing ok with altitude. saO2 I had the opportunity to check yesterday and it was 94% so very happy with that. High at this altitude should max at about 90-92%. A doc from France had an oximetry hers was as low as 79% due to asthma.

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Puno – Lake Titikaka

Bus ride depart at 7 am via taxi to bus station, onto tour bus to Puno 380 kilometers from Cusco. Have not looked closely at bike route but began to realize this is the route from Cusco we will take. That made me readjust my thinking of traffic, and much more interesting to ponder coming terrain.

Slowly followed the Rio vilconota, eventually making it to 4335 meters. Peaks above over 5000. The valley had farmers and sheep, cows, and llama grazing..as we got over the pass much drier and flatter as it opened up. We had crossed into a different region: the altoplano or high plans. Reading about the altoplano seems this area is the widest area of the Andes mountains and these high plains are the second largest in the world. I suspect Tibets are larger.
Here is a description of our tour and sites visited:

Andahuyalillas: ‘Sistine chapel of South America’: this church is one of the most beautiful examples of Andean popular religious art.- – Raqchi (Wiracocha God Temple): This was an Inca church of monumental dimensions; 100 metres long, 26 metres wide and 14 metres high.
– La Raya: This is the half-way point between Cusco and Puno and also the highest point (4335 metres above sea level). The landscapes here are stunning and typical Andean animals like the llama, alpaca and vicunĖƒa are common. It is also the geographic border between the two cultures – quechua and aymara.
Pukara: This is the most important and oldest ceremonial centre of the altiplano. There are interesting lito-sculptures and tombs.

And apparently Peru has been hit hard with global warming: snow and glaciers are going away. The peaks above us today were five years ago completely covered in snow. Apparently the last three years have seen very strange unusual weather. Our guide pointed out when we left that it was raining in Puno which was very unusual this time of year.

Stopped at several historical Inca sites. I love how the history here is traced back to as far as 11000 years BC. The Incas who developed strongly in 1500 and 1600’s and culture destroyed but the inca were never conquered and are the driving force of Peru today, or It seems to me. The people are very proud of their heritage.

Forgot my immigration card in Cusco and hotel almost would not admit me. Oops. Finally promised to email a copy when we return to Cusco in 4 days. Now we are scheduled to take a boat out to the floating islands staying with a family and learning the culture. Apparently people become very tired on the few hundred meter hike due to the altitude 12,500. We shall see.. Feel like I have been sitting around. Need to exercise and do something.

Internet here is slow and weird, can text from iPad but iPhone is sporadic. Phone will sometimes send then says turn on wifi which is already on. Have turned off cellular due to cost and use only wifi, which is available even on the bus here.

Jeanne very excited about our hotel in Puno as lots of hot water and some heat. We have come to realize this is definitely a luxury item. Oxygen available in hotel lobby. On arrival one girl was definitely in need. Hard going from sea level to here quickly.

“I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere, than on any city on earth.” Steve McQueen

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Sacred Valley

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Sorting potatoes. Tiny little things have a week to process in the sun and cold
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Street atChinchera, notice water drainage for the wet season. ( not now)
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Terraces of ollantaytambo
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Toured the Sacred Valley today a valley which holds numerous Inca sites. All world heritage sites being preserved.

The urubambo river runs through the valley and is one of the main tributaries of the Amazon. All this water runs to the Atlantic, a long ways away.

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Cusco

Flew here from Lima on a 55 minute flight, awesome country and big mountains to the east of us. I had a glimpse of the country I will be biking and developed a sense of awe. Was pondering the airport as listed as 11000 feet long. Heck we only used 9000 feet of it, although the plane did brake very hard.

Met by a cab and taken to our hotel, we pondered every move we made because of altitude. I have never gone from sea level to altitude, although have done well working myself slowly there, to as high as 20,000 feet. Seemed Ok, started diamox in Lima, hence used bathroom a lot, but no ill effects as yet, other than slight headache. Also purchased coca leaves at pharmacy and I suppose that helped too. Slept Awesome last night, and again this afternoon.

As for Cusco it is a city of 500,000+ and another 600,000 in the vicinity. Nestled in a valley at 11,200 feet it reminded me of flying into Juneau with mountains on all sides. Juneau also has water at end and side. Cusco has houses. Only one end of runway is open due to a mountain at the end
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Walked about last night eating a superb meal at a wonderful restaurant: Chichas. Mostly we like to eat at hole in the wall places which have proved awesome. Not speaking Spanish it suits me very well to just point and see what happens. Have not been disappointed yet. But then I do that back home and have not been disappointed either. I figure “would they put something bad on the menu”? Although Jeanne did send her coffee back this morning because the waitress said the milk had turned to “yogurt”.

Went for a hike today up 900 feet in about 2 kilometers ending at Saqsaywaman, a worlds heritage site. It is a large area of religious Inca constructions built from about 1400 to 1650 when the Spanish came and destroyed the culture. Survivors went to the mountains and jungle where Spanish and their horses could not follow. The major battle was in 1638 and the Spanish refused to let the locals retrieve the massive numbers of dead, hence the birds feasted. The Spanish removed many of the towers and construction rocks to build 24 churches in the valley, which were walled fortresses and the soldiers lived in the churches. All from our tour guide.

As is often the case traffic is amazing. Helter Skelter. Drivers must know within millimeters where the edges of their car are, as that is how close it often is. Intersections without control seem to work, but it does not go slow. Streets are cobblestone and sidewalks narrow with the usual hidden steps and corners. But people seem happy, and wonderfully not overly aggressive about selling stuff to you, usually a simple “no, gracias” works. Not like India where they will dog you seemingly forever almost latching onto you. Pleasant.

Weather good temps daytime 16-18. Morning was 5. But the sun warms it nicely. And those funny hats people wear here serve a great purpose. The sun at this altitude is intense and being at about 15 degrees south it is overhead even now in winter. Hence the brim all the way around but not necessary to extend far.

So now again sleepy, perhaps the altitude is hitting me a bit. Have been awake this time 5 hours. Tomorrow we go on a full day tour to the “Sacred Valley” another Inca world heritage site. Should be interesting. Then Thursday we head for a four day trip to Lake Titicaca, the worlds highest navigable lake at 12,50 feet and over 3200 square miles of surface.
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Lima, Peru

Lima
Arrived Lima about midnight and a prearranged taxi took us to hotel, arriving about 1 am. Not as tired as expected but slept until 9am barely making the breakfast, then fell asleep again til 1:30 when we forced ourselves up. Just a day in Lima so did what we like best on short time: walk!

Lima is inhabited apparently by about 7 million people who call it home. We had been told not a lot of interest here and to just move on. And warned numerous times of the crime. So we were on guard, staying in a nicer area of town; miraflores.

Walked around what Jeanne thought was a zoo, as llamas and ducks seen through the fence in cages. Walked around and turns out it was a museum of Lima culture and an old excavated pyramid. (Museo Pucllana). The Lima culture inhabited this area from about 400 to 700 A.D. And was a maritime culture. As our guide noted the sun was worshipped in Inca culture a thousand years later but in the mountains where the sun is important for warmth and seasons. Here in Lima it apparently is always cloudy and the sun is present but not direct, thus the sun was not worshipped as it was in Inca culture, here the ocean was worshipped for its bounty.

In the building the mud bricks are still here 1600 years later, as noted because Lima is a desert and it never rains here, just a constant drizzle.

The culture worshipped the ocean as much of their sustenance came from there. A new building was often established starting with the breaking of a fancy nice pottery bowl, much as today we break a bottle of champagne for a ship. And apparently even an occasional human sacrifice was made with the same idea.

The pyramid here was 23 meters tall and theorized as a worship place for the higher ups and from there they could keep an eye on the commoners working below. The commoners paid their taxes through 2-4 months of work, often making bricks for the pyramid. As the guide noted the bricks were hand made and the walls were not meticulously straight. This allowed for earthquakes to rattle and roll and the bricks would naturally settle back into their naturally unstraight positions.

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Some of this archeology has only come about in the last 5 months. It is an ongoing discovery.

Made me think of North American history. We think as far back as the pilgrims but the history goes back much farther with Indian cultures.

After the museum we walked to the ocean. Lima is built on cliffs above the ocean, and has a great park along the edge.

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Being a Sunday families were out just strolling, the bike, skateboard, and dog parks were all busy.

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Finally the sun set (although not seen due to clouds) and 15 minutes later it was dark, and we began a search for dinner. Found a great sidewalk cafe starting with a Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru. Tried making these at home before departure and ours tasted like I imagine shaving cream would taste. Here though very different and delicious. Meal was superb and we walked the rest of way back to hotel and again fell into a deep sleep. Now onto Cuzco.