Monday, June 6, 2011

Coming Home...

Phew! It has been almost a month since I last wrote in here. Things have been crazy. Also, Charlie has been home so I have less time to be introspective and sit down and write. I stay a lot more busy when he is around.

We've continued to work on our garden and landscaping, and it is pretty much done now, which is really exciting. I wanted to get most of it finished before we left for vacation so that things didn't get out of hand as far as weeds and stuff went while we were gone. We finished the little raised bed in the back and Charlie decided to plant some vegetable plants there. The only thing he has ever really wanted in a garden is a vegetable garden. We have tried in vain at each house we have lived at, including this one. I agreed to let him have one more shot at it this year - we raised the bed so there is better soil and more sunlight, and he took a chainsaw to George's honeysuckle tree/bush that was covering a large part of our patio. We'll see how it goes. He's got basil, jalapeno peppers, green and yellow peppers, zucchini, cucumber and tomato plants. Meanwhile my basil, cilantro and parsley are doing well in pots, and I have some tomato plants in pots on the side of the house as well. If all these turn out we will have tomatoes out the wazoo. That is OK, maybe I'll learn how to can them. I'll post pictures of that later on...

We also just got back from Peru. I love coming home after vacation. One think that I think travelling really does do is help  you to appreciate how much you like living where you do, at least for me. We spent 10 days in Peru, it was awesome, but I'm happy to be home.

We flew in on Friday night, late and stayed in Lima, Peru for that first night. That night we went to the hotel bar and had a few pisco sours (sort of tastes like a margarita) and met some interesting people. A Mexican man that had been living in Germany for the last 30 years and worked for Siemens. A lawyer from Nepal, and a Chicago businessman who I quickly realized had a prostitute with him. We had fun talking and then went to bed. Saturday we flew to Cusco, Peru, which is at about 11,100 feet above sea level. We stayed at a place called WalkOn Inn, and spent two days enjoying Cusco. They had a lot of very pretty churches, and in general a fair amount of history, as it was the capital of the Incan empire waaaay back in the day.
Our friends our first night in Lima
The courtyard at our hostel in Cuzco
Plaza de Armas in Cuzco

Inside the Jesuit church and cloister

The local beer

Cathedral at night

This is a sort of blurry picture of the altar at the cathedral in Cuzco

Charlie in the Plaza de Armas

Inside the San Pedro market

Me in my llama sweater at Los Perros

On Monday at 5:00AM we were picked up from our hostel and taken by bus to Ollantaytambo to start the Inca trail. Charlie and I were the only two who elected to carry all of our belongings on the trail, and our packs seemed huge compared to everyone else's. Anyways, the first day was an easy 5 miles, not too much up hill not too much down hill and plenty of rests stops to learn about the different cacti and wildlife that were around. We had porters with our group to carry the food, tents, etc. These little men were amazing! They carried at least their own body weight in supplies and the would literally RUN by us. They went so much faster than us it was incredible. But the local people were the same way. They would wrap up whatever they wanted to carry in a colorful blanket, tie the ends of the blanket around their shoulders and off they went.
Our whole group on the first day

the porters and their bags

This is where we camped the first night. The roosters started crowing at about 2:30 am
The food they served was actually really good. Three hot meals a day, made by the cook, who used to be a porter but then went to culinary school. We had pizza, cake, pancakes, eggs, rice, quinoa, pork chops, you name it. All very good, especially after a long day of hiking. 

On the second day we climbed to the highest point along the Inca trail. At over 14,000 feet in elevation, Winay Wayna was not an easy climb. We started out OK, but then the higher you get the more breaks you need. It was like every 10-15 steps you'd have to stop and catch your breath. After that we went down, down, down, down to about 11,000 feet again and camped for the second night. It was COLD that night. Very cold. It gets dark there at like 6:00 PM, so we would usually eat dinner and then go to our tents and go to bed. I usually couldn't sleep that early, but it was so cold you didn't want to be anywhere but in your sleeping bag anyways.

At the highest point along the trail

The third day was the longest at 10 miles. We had two smaller climbs, but it was mostly downhill which got REALLY old by the end. However, we did see several Inca sites along the way that day and by the time we got in around 5:30 we were absolutely exhausted. However, at our campsite that day there was a restaurant that served cold beer (for S/.15, which is like $5 each, which is a HUGE rip off in Peru, however enjoyable) and had bathrooms with a toilet! Woohoo!!!!!

The last day was an easy 3 miles, mostly downhill (which sounds nice, but by this point my quads were so sore I had to go down sideways). We got up super early in the morning so that we could see the sunrise over Macchu Picchu. Our guide took us around the city and showed us all the important parts. It really was fascinating. The Inca's only used the city for about 50 years, and it took about 30 years to build. When they abandoned it they were still adding more and more to it. It was considered a sacred city, as it was surrounded by the four glacier topped mountains that they worshiped as great protectors of the Inca people. Their religion was based on a trinity, similar to Christianity, but they had the underworld where you went after you died (represented by a snake), the present world (represented by a puma) and the heavens where the gods lived (represented by a condor). They also worshiped the sun, moon, and stars, and worshipped the mountains around them as great protectors. Mother Earth was called Panchamama, which was also very important to them. When the built the city, they built it around the big boulders, as they never moved them out of respect for Panchamama. Their stone work is incredible, I can't even imagine how long it would take to build temples with such intricately placed stone.

Our group at the Sun Gate overlooking Macchu Picchu

Llama inside Macchu Picchu

When the Spanish conquistadores came, the women and children left Macchu Picchu for Vilcabamba, the last Incan stronghold, and the men stayed behind. They burnt all the bridges leading to it. However eventually they ran out of food and also deserted the sacred city. Hiram Bingham found it in 1911 with the help of a local farmer, and it has been a tourist attraction since then. It's amazing, really, that it was kept a secret for so long. They continue to find Incan ruins in the jungle, the last big discovery was two years ago. As our guide told us, "The jungle, it has many secrets."

The stone work. Incredible.

So, after four days of no shower, no toilets, and no bed to sleep in, we were back to Cuzco. And our hostel did not have hot water. None. Ugh. But the following day (Friday) we flew into Lima, and the Doubletree there DID have hot water. And comfy beds. And I don't think I have ever been so dirty in my whole life:)

Friday afternoon in Lima we went to the Larco museum. They had a ton of pottery as well as textiles from the  various people that have inhabited Peru. One thing that was really interested about the Inca's is that as they conquered other people, they really assimilated their knowledge and their strengths and used them to their advantage. Some of the peoples were really good at medicine, others astronomy, others pottery, etc... And you could really see how things evolved as time went on, it was pretty cool.

Saturday we went to Central Lima and saw some more churches, plazas, etc. In churches all over Peru they have an obsession with Mary. She is at the center of most of their churches, religious artwork, etc. They had a correlation between her and Panchamama or Mother Earth, which is really quite evident in some of their works. But it is interesteing. You have Mary, dressed to the T with these elaborate gowns (real cloth!), fake hair, and the like. Not a statue made entirely of marble, but more like a big expensive Barbie doll. They have statues of her, and lots of pictures that depict her life and death, as well as a lot of stuff that focuses on the Holy Family and Joseph, which I feel like we don't see much in North American Catholicisn.

Inside St. Dominic's in Lima

In the courtyard at St. Dominic's cloister

Plaza de Armas in Lima

St. Dominics

Blurry pic of Mary dressed to the nines with her wig on. Best I could do with no flash

Cathedral in Lima

Outside the Larco Museum in Lima

Blurry again, but this is baby Jesus in his military garb
We left that night and made the long flight home. Luckily I slept most of the time. And we are now home, I'm back at work today. It is good to be home. Our gardens didn't look too bad, I did do some weeding yesterday after I got home. The comforts of home are nice, and it is the best part of summer in the midwest - not too hot, but warm enough that you can sit on your back patio all night without a coat or sweater on. Soon enough it will be too hot:)

Charlie goes back to work on Wednesday. It has been nice having him home, but with him gone I'm sure I will update this more, so I guess that is a good thing:)

"You got here...
All the way from your beautiful country...
It is a huge accomplishment...
Once in a lifetime...
For some...
Enjoy it in the full...
This is just one of the tasty moments your
Life will give you. How luck we are!!!!!"
- This was on the menu at Los Perros, 
the restaurants we ate at the second night we were in Cuzco


Tammie said...

OH MY GOODNESS! The pictues took my breath away...I love them. I want to go and see it for myself, although I don't think I will carry my own bag. I laughed out loud at military baby Jesus, and Mary with, a blonde wig? Please tell me it's not so. I love the quote at the end from the menu, how sweet is that?

Augusta said...

Wow, thanks for sharing all of those. It looks like something from a dream.