Archive for the ‘Peru (5/22/07 – 6/2/07)’ Category

Day 7 – 5/28 – Cusco

Monday, May 28th, 2007

7:00AM – After waking up at 5AM two days in a row, 7AM sure felt like sleeping in. The included breakfast was nothing to write home about. We’ll probably just skip breakfast tomorrow. A Cliffs bar will suffice.

9:00AM – Natalie and Ganita picked us up for a city tour of Cusco. Qorikancha was our first stop. Qori means gold, and Qorikancha used to be ornated with gold before it was stripped by the Spanish. It was a place of worship for the Inca before the Spanish conquisition. It wasn’t until an earthquake in the 1950s that the Incan walls were revealed. The Spanish had actually plastered over the Incan walls and built on top of them.

10:00AM – Our next stop was the Catedral Basilica. It’s a Spanish cathedral that took one hundred years to build. A lot of Incan blood and sweat was spilled during its construction. It houses more than 300 oil paintings. The altars are usually carved from cedar wood with intricate details and then coated with a layer of gold or silver.

11:00AM – Next, we visited Saqsaywaman. Yes, it sounds like “sexy woman.” It was most likely a temple but could have also been a fortress. The most impressive part about it was the enormous size of the rocks used in its construction. Every year, during the winter solstice (June 21), the festival of the Sun is held here. One thing we saw here that most visitors do not get to see was a live condor. We even got to take pictures with the three-year old condor.

12:00PM – Then we proceeded to Q’enko. It’s kind of like a labyrinth because of the way it was hollowed out. Religious rituals probably occurred here. In one of the caves, there was an altar where priests would perform the mummification of the deceased.

12:30PM – Our last stop was Puca Pucara. It was most likely the very first hotel in Cusco because of the number of rooms in the structure.

1:30PM – The guided tour portion of our day ended, and we returned to our hotel. Climbing up the stairs to our room, I was getting pretty winded. Maybe it’s the altitude or the lack of food. Or maybe it’s because I’m so out of shape.

2:00PM – Based on recommendations from Frommer’s, we decided to have lunch at Pacha Papa. One of their house specialties is guinea pig, so we had to have a taste. We ordered half a guinea pig. Not much meat on the thing; so it’s kind of like eating squab in that sense. But the crispy skin made it taste like fried chicken. It’s not bad; I’d like to try it again.

3:00PM – After lunch, Alice and I roamed the streets of Cusco. We tried to find a few sites listed in the guide book, and soon discovered how much we missed having a tour guide. On top of that, it began to rain, but it only lasted for maybe thirty minutes. Then we met this young local named Ruben. He began acting as a tour guide and began spitting out facts about the Inka Wall that was in front of us. And he showed us where the 12-angle stone was located; which Alice and I were having a difficult time finding on our own. Finally, here was the catch. He was selling postcards and wanted 20 soles for four postcards and to be compensated for his time. I was going to tip him approximately that much anyways, so I ended up giving him 15 soles (US$5) for two postcards and his time.

7:00PM – We had dinner at the Inka Grill. Alice had the aji, which was shredded poached chicken in some kind of light cream sauce. I had the tuca tuca, which was probably the best meal I’ve had in Peru so far. It’s a breaded alpaca patty with a fried egg on top. It’s definitely a must try if you go to the Inka Grill.

10:00PM – There was no hot water to our shower! It was finally fixed, but it delayed our bedtime. Good thing we are sleeping in tomorrow.

Day 6 – 5/27 – Machu Picchu

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

5:00AM – It was another early day for us. Our train leaves st 3:30, so we had to get an early start. We checked out of our room and had our luggage transported to the train station. Then we were off to Machu Picchu. This time we decided to explore the lower parts of Machu Picchu, and we made our way to the Wayman Picchu checkpoint. They only allow 400 people per day to climb Wayna Picchu, and we made it there pretty early. It would have been a difficult hike, so we decided not to do it.

8:30AM – We got back to the hotel just in time for breakfast, since they stop serving at 9:00AM. We ate and rested up before returning to Machu Picchu once again.

11:00AM – We finally made it to Intipunku after a 1 1/2 hour hike. The view from up here is pretty amazing. We can see our hotel and the entrance to Machu Picchu from here.

12:30PM – That’s it for Machu Picchu. There’s still so much we wanted to see, but we ran out of time. We went back to Tinkuy Restaurant for their buffet again. This time we had to pay. It was US$29 each. Apparently we were supposed to have eaten our box lunches yesterday, and then use the meal tickets for lunch today. It was much more crowded today than it was yesterday.

2:00PM – We boarded our bus to Aguas Calientes. Local merchants had set up a marketplace outside the train station. After some negotiations, Alice was able to buy a clock for 26 Solis (~US$9). It had a llama on the face of the clock.

3:00PM – Boarding began at 3:00, and we left the train station on time at 3:30PM. It’s a three hour and 50 minute train ride to Cusco.

7:30PM – David picked us up from the train station and took us to the Casa San Blas Hotel. After getting settled, we went to the hotel restaurant (Tika Bistro Gourmet) for a quick bite to eat. I had the beef tenderloin and Alice had the zucchini and eggplant ravioli.

10:30PM – It looks like I’ve figured out how to connect via WiFi, so I’m back online.

Day 5 – 5/26 – Machu Picchu

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

5:30AM – Once again, we had to wake up early. After breakfast, we took a two minute walk to the train station.

8:00AM – We boarded the Vistadome train, and we were on our way to Aguas Calientes. After an hour and a half on the train, and then a thirty minute bus ride, we were finally at the entrance to the famous Machu Picchu. We then checked into the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, right outside of the entrance to Machu Picchu, dropped off our luggage, and met up with Hector, our tour guide.

10:30AM – Hector took us on a 2 1/2 hour tour through Machu Picchu, but you really need two days to see the entire place. At this time of day, it was already beginning to get crowded, and we had to wait our turn at the primary photo spots. Hector took us to see the most notable sites such as the Rock Quarry, Temple of the Sun, Royal Tomb, Temple of the Three Windows, Sacred Plaza, Temple of the Condor, and the Principal Temple. Oh yeah, if you ever visit Machu Picchu, don’t forget your bug repellent. There are a lot of mosquitoes!

1:00PM – We had a buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge’s Tinkuy Restaurant. Alice and I tried another Peruvian dish, ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in lime and chile. I liked it a lot. Also, Live local music was being played while we ate.

3:00PM – Alice and I re-entered Machu Picchu and revisited most of the spots that Hector showed us. We also trekked on up to the Caretaker’s Hut. Since most of the tourists had already left at this time, we were able to move about freely around the ancient site. We stayed until closing (5:30PM) where they literally kicked us out and escorted us off the premises.

7:00PM – We had dinner at the Sanctuary Lodge’s Bar Tampu Restaurant. Both dinner and lunch was included with our stay, but it was a little weird to see the pricing on the menu even though we didn’t have to pay for it. I had alpaca, but it wasn’t as good as the one Alice had the other day. Alice had the grilled trout. Then we both split dessert, four scoops of ice cream.

Day 4 – 5/25 – Maras

Friday, May 25th, 2007

10:00AM – Natalie and Luco picked us up after breakfast and took us to Maras, which was about an hour’s drive away.

11:30AM – We first stopped at Moray, an Inca experimental farm. Upon first glance, it looked like a stadium. However, it was designed in such a way that each tier was at a different temperature, so that a different type of crop could be raised on each level.

1:00PM – We arrived at the Sal Natural y Ecologico (Salt Mines) and had boxed lunches in the car. There were over a thousand salt beds, and Alice tried to take a picture of each one. 😛 I bought a couple bags of salted beans for 1 solis (approximately 33 cents) each. They tasted especially good when fresh.

4:00PM – We arrived back at the hotel and decided to look for the alpacas that lived at our hotel. There were two of them. I fed them while Alice took pictures. Afterwards, we wandered around the little shops outside of our hotel.

6:30PM – We decided to eat at the hotel again, since we wanted to be able to sleep early. We’ve got another early start tomorrow.

9:00PM – I tried to use the public computer to post today’s travel blog. I was almost done when the computer froze. Frackin’ Microsoft! We’re checking out of this hotel tomorrow. Hopefully the next one will have WiFi.

Day 3 – 5/24 – Sacred Valley

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

I´m going to make this short and add more details later, since I´m on public computer at dialup speed.  Also, I posted some photos of Lima in my photo gallery. 

3:30AM – We had to catch a 6.40AM flight to Cusco, so it was another early day for us.  Our travel guide was supposed to arrive at 4AM, but was a no-show.  At 4:30AM, Alice called the travel agency’s 24-hour number and woke Maricel up. She called the driver and verified that he would be there shortly.

5:00AM – Kuzy and William finally arrived to take us to the airport. There was a mix up in the schedule where our itinerary had the wrong pickup time. We could have had an extra hour of sleep!

6:40AM – Alice and I took our altitude sickness medication when we boarded the plane, and when we arrived in Cusco, we didn´t feel any different.  So maybe the medication worked. 

7:45AM – Natalie and Ganita picked us up from the airport and took us from Cusco to Sacred Valley. As the name would suggest, Sacred Valley is at a much lower elevation than Cusco. This should help Alice and I to get acclimated to the elevation.

9:00AM – Our first destination was a weaving factory where they had live llamas and alpacas for us to feed and pet.  We also got to see the native Peruvians at work. They would dye the baby llama wool using only natural igredients. At another station, there would be a Peruvian woman weaving the wool into blankets and clothing. Each item would have intricate designs that were indicative of their tribe.

10:00AM – Our next stop was the ancient Incan ruins at the town of Pisac. A hike to the top offered a nice view of the valley. On the hillside on the north end of the ruins was a gravesite. Holes that grave robbers dug could be seen from across the gorge.

11:45AM – We got dropped off at the Pisac market. We were only supposed to stay for half an hour, but wound up staying for an hour and fifteen minute. Alice went to town and bought a whole bunch of souvenirs, including a little llama, STUFFED. 

2:00PM – We had lunch at a Peruvian buffet and drank Coca tea for the first time.  Coca tea is supposed to help with altitude sickness, and it tasted pretty good. 

3:30PM – Our next stop was at the Ollantaytambo Ruins. On one side of the fortress ruins sre agricultural terraces. On the other side of the gorge are storage houses where food would have been stored. The high mountain winds served as a method of refrigeration for the Incas.

5:00PM – We checked into the Pakaritampu Hotel and finally got to take a nap!  Boy were we tired. 

7:00PM – We had dinner at the hotel restaurant.  Alice tried alpaca, and I decided to order tenderloin and chicken kebabs (just in case the alpaca wasn´t what we expected).  The alpaca wasn´t bad at all.  It actually tasted like lamb chops, but without the aftertaste. 

additional information added on 5/29/2007