A Travellerspoint blog

Sacred Valley

Ruins Everywhere

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After returing from Machu Picchu Mike and I relaxed for a couple of days and then journeyed to the Sacred Valley Area of Peru. Our first stop was Pisac about an hour from Cusco. Pisac has a colorful tourist market three days a week. We visited on an off day due to the Peru Independence Day celebration. Neat to walk through the market. I ended up buying some paintings from a father and son who were both watercolor artists. The son just finished the painting I bought the previous day. After purchasing I realized I don´t have a home to hang these up. Something will work out.....

Pisac has some impressive ruins up the side of a mountain. We hired a taxi driver to take us up and wait while we explored.
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Stayed in Pisac for a night. The next day we hired a taxi driver to take us to Ollantaytambo which is at the end of the Sacred Valley. Francisco our driver stopped at all the ruins along the way for us. He very much liked Americanos and thought that all Europeans were stupid. (His words) I´m sure he reverses his opinion depending on who is paying him. Very nice and safe driver. Me with Francsico.
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Our first stop was Moray, an impressive depression in the ground covered with terraces.
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Modern day researchers think this was an agricultural research station. A different terraces they discovered different seeds and soil types. Pretty amazing research station.

Next up was the salt mines of Salinas.

Posted by timtheis 17:55 Comments (0)

Machu Picchu

WOW!!!

My last update left off at Aguas Caliente, Peru. The following day we headed up to Machu Picchu, which was absolutely incredible.
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Our visit started at 4:30am to eat and catch the bus at 5:30am up the mountain from Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu. I strolled out to get in line at about 5:15 and was shocked to see that the line was at least three blocks long. I couldn´t understand how that many people managed to stay in such a small town. Luckily my friends, Rob & Naomi from the trek, had gotten in line before 5am and saved us all spaces. After riding up the mountain for twenty minutes in a bus, we all got out to wait in another line to get into Machu Picchu. All the waiting and getting up early was worth it. Spectacular. Our trekking guide Marco was also our tour guide inside Machu Picchu. It was great having him share his knowledge with us as we visited all the major areas for the next couple of hours.
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Our trekking group said our goodbyes. Many great shared memories and lots of new friends from all over. We were all then free to explore on our own. There are guards spaced out every so often to keep people from throwing things at the llamas, tearing down the walls, etc but you can go just about anywhere you want in the ruins without having a docent or guide. Very cool to just walk around exploring all the ruins. Walked to the Sun Gate.
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Then hiked to the Inca Bridge
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Luckily Mike and I had arranged a second day at Machu Picchu. We got up early again and stood in line to hike Huayna Picchu. Which is the big mountain connected to Machu Picchu, extreme left in this picture. TJT_4017_JPG_Web.jpg
The park only lets 400 people a day onto Huayna Picchu. The hike is extremely steep. We climbed up using ladders, steel cables and our hands. Many sharp dropoffs but the views from on top were worth it.
At first we couldn´t see anything since we were in a cloud but the sun eventually burned off the haze giving us some awesome views down on Machu Picchu. Me with Flat Stanley...

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Getting up at 4:30am two days in a row took it´s toll on me. I found a shady spot on one of the terraces and used some of the many steps like this to climb up.
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I laid down in the shade and took a nap. Cool to wake up at Machu Picchu looking at all the surrounding mountains. That evening we headed down to Aguas Caliente, took a train to Ollyantaytambo and then bused back to Cusco. Long, Long Day but some great memories.

Photo just for laughs from my buddy Michael. I could have used this during our trek to stay warm.
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Lots more photos located HERE.
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Posted by timtheis 17:25 Comments (2)

Saltankay Trek

Heading to Machu Picchu by trekking, bus and train for the next five days

Its been a couple of weeks since I´ve updated my blog, I´ve just been having to much fun.

I arrived in Cusco in late July and hung out for a couple of days to meet up with my friend Michael Letson. Mike was flying in from the states to do the Saltankay trek with me to Machu Picchu. Cusco is a very beautiful city with cobblestoned streets, narrow alleyways and tons of great picture spots.
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There are some cool ruins above Cusco called, Sacsayhuaman. The pronounciation sounds just like "Sexy Woman" As you could image every t-shirt place in Cusco had a shirt playing off some sort of "Sexy Woman" theme. I refrained from purchasing a t-shirt and just took some pictures. It gave us a good taste of the upcoming ruins we would be seeing.
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We met up with our tour group for a quick briefing and the following day we were off on our five day adventure. Our group of twelve started our trek at Sayllpata. Lots of pretty views of the Saltankay peak as we headed up into the mountains.
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Here is a view of our campsite for the first night. It was unbelievably cold. I put on a balacalva (ski mask) and wool hat on my head before climbing into my sleeping bag. Still shivered off and on all night long even though I was wearing almost all my clothes.
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We all survived the cold night and started up to Saltankay pass the next morning. Just one hill to climb for the next two hours but we all made it to the top of the pass.
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Our guide Marco performed a blessing ceremony for us in Quechua at the top of the pass. His grandfather was a shaman and passed some of his knowledge down to Marco. He offered up coca leaves to the sky, mountains and earth as a blessing for our journey. We all followed along with his motions. This is Naomi from our trekking group holding the coca leaves.
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As Quechuan people walked through the mountains for the past 1,000+ years they have been doing this same ceremony at the highest point of their walks. Very special to be connected with all that history.

The rest of our days trek took us downhill into the high forest.
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It was amazing to see the scenery changes as we walked down, down, down for the next several hours. Our camp for the second night was in the town of Colpapampa, which thankfully had cold beer for sale nearby. The beer was cold not from refridgeration but because the air was so cold. It tasted so good after all that walking!! Thankfully it was much warmer the second night, yeehaw.
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The third day found us heading downhill to Playa. The weather continued to get warmer and warmer as we headed downhill. Funny how 40 hours earlier we were all freezing and now everyone was shedding layers. After lunch in Playa we grabbed an hour combi ride to Santa Theresa for the evening to stay in a hostel. A combi is a minivan that drives a route between towns or areas. They are generally meant to hold about 12 people so in Peru that means it is doubled. I´ve been on combi rides with at least 25+ people in them for two hours. Quite an interesting way to travel with people passing babies, produce, animals, etc in and out windows. People sitting/standing everywhere.

Santa Theresa is a very, very small town. Our hostel was located on the only paved block in the whole town. The rest of the town roads were dirt including the town square. Our hostel was super cheap. For $3.33 US we each had a well used bed to sleep in and shared the bathroom/shower with the family of six who ran the hostel. They had an electric shower in the bathroom which I used since I was so filthy dirty. Managed to not get shocked and the water was surprising hot. Nice to be cleaned up and sleep in a bed. The family was very, very nice and friendly.

We were awakened the following morning at 6AM by a rooster crowing on our roof and a man testing the PA system for the Peru Independence Day Parade. He was playing loud music between announcing there would be a parade later that day. Only in South America. After drinking some strong coffee and wiping the sleep from my eyes we went down to see all the festivities. This is a photo of Melagros Rondan, she is the daughter of the owner of our hostel. She is all dressed up for Independence Day.
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It was quite a colorful parade to watch during the morning hours. Lots of marching around and speeches. The Mayor of Santa Theresa even gave a speech. I knew he was the mayor because he was wearing a shash across his chest just like Mayor Quimby on the Simpsons cartoon.
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Rode another combi for about an hour to the train station in Hidroelectrica. Thankfully there were only 14 people in this combi. All of Hidroelectrica station is in this photo and apatly named for the nearby Hydroelectric Plant, how original.
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Got on the train and zig-zagged up the mountain side. Backwards & forwards we went several times to gain elevation and then we were off to Aquas Caliente for the night. Next up Machu Picchu.....

More photos available here!!!

The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends

Posted by timtheis 09:42 Comments (0)

Arequipa and Colca Canyon

The Wind Beneath Condor Wings

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Well I have spent part of the past week in Arequipa, Peru which is in southern Peru and part of the Canyon Country of high desert. The main plaza is very picturesque with lots of people any time of the day hanging out, feeding the pigeons, eating ice cream, etc. The church on the plaza is framed on each side by volcanoes in the distance.
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I took some time to see Juanita while I was in Arequipa. Juanita is a mummy that they uncovered in 1995. She was frozen solid in the ice for the past 550 years or so. Her skin was perfectly dehydrated from the ice. The ice also preserved her clothes in amazing condition. The wrap she was wearing is on display and it looks in almost perfect condition. They only display Juanita six months out of the year. I was fortunate to be able to look at her in her frozen storage unit.

Took a 2 day side trip to Colca Canyon which was amazing. We saw lots of llama, alpacas & vicunas on the way into the canyon. During our lunch buffett I sampled llama and alpaca. The alpaca was very good and a very lean, healthy meat. Even better it didn´t make me ill!!
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We stayed the night in Chivay, Peru which is the background of this photo.
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The next day had an early start to Yanque the adjecent town. We arrived in the middle of a five day festival celebrating La Virgin de Carmen. It´s a big deal with a marching band, street dancing, folk dancing and lots of drinking. We got to the town at 6:30am and it was already in full swing. Guys were passing around a bottle of pisco and had clearly been at it for some time. Quite an amazing sight while I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes. Very colorful folk dancers as well.
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We left the residents of Yanque so they could party on and headed down the road to La Cruz del Condor to look for Andean Condors. We didn´t have to wait long until the sky was filled with several of these giant birds flying and soaring all around us. They flew so low over our heads that you could hear their wings cutting through the air. Very impressive.
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Back in Arequipa I visited the Santa Catalina Monastery in town. It is like a city within the city and still a monastery. Small streets running everywhere almost haphazard. The walls are painted vibrant colors and lots of flowers scattered around everywhere. I spent several hours here taking tons of pictures as the evening light faded. Serene place.
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More photos of Colca Canyon and Arequipa at the following link:
http://timtheis.exposuremanager.com/g/peru

I arrived in Cusco early this morning (Saturday). On Tuesday, I will be leaving from Salkantay on a five day trek to Machu Picchu!!

Posted by timtheis 01:00 Comments (0)

Trujillo and Lima

Ruins Everywhere you Look

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I was originally going to stay in Huaraz for a little longer last week and do a trek but a transportation strike was scheduled for later in the week across all of Peru. This created a problem for the trekking companies. None of the operators could commit to treks because they couldn´t guarantee the trekkers would get back to Huaraz with the strike. So I decided to scram Huaraz while I could. Took a nine hour night bus from Huaraz to Trujillo.

Visited several great ruins near Trujillo with a day tour group on the morning I arrived from Huaraz.

Chan Chan --- this figure is actually four and a half feet tall
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Huaca de la Luna Ruins. This temple is over a thousand years old. Excavation began just forty years ago.
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This is a view from the top of Huaca de la Luna towards Huaca del Sol, which is the big mound in the distance. All in between these Huacas was a vast city that still lies underneath the sand. You can see ruins sticking up everywhere you look. Huaca del Sol has not been excavated as of yet.
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Huaca Arco Iris
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While in Trujillo I visited the fishing town of Huacachaco. Fisherman still paddleout on the reed boats to catch fish, others fish from the shore line with nets.
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The transportation strike kept me in Trujillo for a couple of days more than I had planned but it worked out since I was sick. At some point I got some sort of stomach bug, bound to happen at some point. It was either the fish that I had one night or the local, once a week special stew that the waiter talked me into having for lunch. Found out later the special stew contained the lining of a pigs stomach. Guess I should learn to ask what specific parts of the pig they use when they mention a pork stew. The only redeeming quality of my rundown hostel room was that it had a television. I managed to learn some additional spanish through subtitles while laid up in bed. Spanish soap operas are pretty informative, I can now say ¨El nino es nada mio¨ (The baby is not mine), hopefully I won´t have to use that phrase.

Took another nine hour bus ride south on the Panamerican Highway to Lima, Peru on Thursday. Some views of the desert in Peru. The scenery is really spectacular, at some points the highway runs right along the beach.
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Overall the buses here are much nicer than in Ecuador. Luckily I´ve been able to travel on a first class line on almost all of my trips so far. Reclining seats, movies, meal service, bathrooms and a stewardess. Haven´t had to pull any of these buses out of a ditch yet...crossing my fingers.

This is my second time around in Lima. Just here until tonight (Sat) when I grab a night bus to Arequipa, Peru...13 hour trip, hopefully I´ll get some sleep.

The Road Goes on Forever in Peru!
Tim

Posted by timtheis 19:31 Comments (1)

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