Sunday, October 11, 2015

South America – La Paz to Lima – August 2014
In the morning after my wonderful dinner at Gustu I had breakfast with the new couple from Australia who are a bit closer to me in age and seemed quite nice.  Drove to Tiwanaku, one of Bolivia’s most important archeological sites.  Our guide told us that partial excavations have revealed the remains of five different cities, one built on top of the other.  She also pointed out the most impressive monument, i.e. the 10 ton Gate of the Sun, an imposing stone believed to be a solar calendar built by a civilization that surfaced around 600 B.C. and mysteriously disappeared about 1200 A.D.  The museum nearby was also very interesting, especially the 24 foot monolithic statue sculpted out of red sandstone discovered by Wendell Bennett in 1934.  Enjoyed a nice lunch of local trout, quinoa and vegetables.

Back into town I wandered down Saganaga Street filled with shops and then back to the vegetable market I had passed yesterday but with more time enjoyed watching the local women in native dress.  Later I went to a nice little café and had apple pie for dinner…

Early breakfast and it began to snow (which supposedly it had not done in YEARS!) as we caught a bus to the ferry across Lake Titicaca.  The people go first and then, supposedly, the buses.  However, the water was very choppy so we had to wait at least an hour before the buses could safely come across so we missed the early bus from Copacobana to Puno.  Had lunch at a local café and then our guide took us for a walk around town, i.e. up the hill to the main square and the large church with a museum containing each country’s version of the Virgin Mary. 

Stopped at the Bolivian border, changed money and then drove on to Puno.  Arrived about 9 p.m. so skipped dinner and just went to bed as it had been a lonnnnng day….

After a nice hearty breakfast we took little tuk tuks down to the lake where we caught the ferry on Lake Titicaca considered to be the highest navigable lake in the world, to the reed islands (uros), man-made islands woven together with mud and totora reeds where several families live.  A few of us took a ride on a reed boat to see how the reeds are cut and formed to make the foundations the houses are built on.  Took another ferry ride to the island of Taquille, which used to be a prison.  Climbed to the top and had a delicious lunch of grilled trout before walking into the little town where we had a home stay.

First they dressed us all in traditional clothes and then we all danced to traditional music as the sun set.  We climbed up to our home stay in the dark still wearing all the heavy clothes and 3 or 4 people slept in one large room at different home stays.  The only light was from flashlights but we did have a bathroom but no running water!!!  Our family had three children and grandpa also lived with them.  Dad was working in Puno during the week.  Sat at a little table and had quinoa potato soup followed by rice with potatoes and carrots for dinner.  We had brought some food gifts of rice, lentils and fruit which we gave tothem before returning to our room for the night.

Although we had several blankets it was very cold and I wore everything I had to keep warm!

In the morning we helped make some bread which was fried and eaten along with a hard cooked egg and tea for breakfast.  We helped with some of the chores and then took a walk up to get a nice view of the lake.  Potato and carrot soup and fried cheese with rice and potatoes for lunch before taking the ferry back to Puno.  Had time for a nice walk around the main square and visit some of the shops before meeting for dinner at Mojsa.  I had trout kebabs with onion, peppers and sweet potatoes – excellent!!!

Long bus ride to Cuzco, even watched “Bucket List”, one of my favorite movies!  Arrived about 4 p.m. and took a little walking tour of the city, starting at the Plaza des Armas and wandering into some of the side streets.  Stopped for an early dinner at a funny little restaurant and I had some crispy wontons filled with different things, i.e. caramelized onion, tomatoes and vegetables and cheese, served with some dipping sauces.  Most people had enormous hamburgers.  Walked to G Adventure office for a meeting regarding the Inca Trail.  We were shown the trail we would take, told what we needed to bring and how to prepare.  Back at the hotel Dennis, our guide, gave us each a duffle bag which we could fill with 6 kilos which would include our rented sleeping bag. 

Delicious breakfast in Cuzco and a free day.  Made a reservation at Chi Cha restaurant and began my sightseeing.  Visited the Convento y Museo de Santa Catalina built between 1601 and 1610 on top of the Acllawasi where the Inca emperor sequested his chosen virgins of the sun.  There is a beautiful chapel inside as well as an example of how the nuns lived.  Visited the cathedral which dominates the Plaza with its amazing cedar choir stalls and other beautiful altars, etc. 

Stopped for lunch at Greens restaurant nearby and had a delicious sweet potato salad with beets, fennel, roasted Brazil nuts, arugula and goat cheese.  Afterwards I walked up Halunrumiyoc street, a famous cobblestone street where the 12-angled stones are and then on to see the stones that form a puma and snake.  Up the hill to Barrio de San Blas, a very picturesque neighborhood lined with artists’ studios and then back down to the Museo de Arte Precolombino exhibiting beautifully crafted gold and silver jewelry and ceramics from different areas in Peru.  I especially like the ones from Nasca.

Later that night I walked to Chi Chi and had a fabulous tasting menu, i.e. Pisco sour, ceviche with trout and mushrooms, grilled octopus with black bean sauce, llama carpaccio, pureed corn filled ravioli, pork with pumpkin puree, veal with potato gnocchi, fried ice cream, warm yam filled ravioli with cinnamon and ice cream and two tiny dulce de leche filled cookies.  My tasting menu also included a glass of wine!!!  Walked back to the hotel about 11 p.m. but it was a safe city and there were still many people about.

Drove through the Sacred Valley of the Incas and stopped at the Paneterra-supported women’s weaving co-op where we learned about traditional weaving and dyeing.  Visited the impressive Inca Pisac ruins and had a delicious lunch at the planeterra-supported Parwa community restaurant in Huchuy Qosco, i.e. tamales with salsa, pumpkin soup with tempura cheese, quinoa with peppers and potatoes and black corn pudding. 

On to Ollantaytambo where we had a guided tour of the ruins and terraces, wandered through the market and into the main square.  After such a filling lunch I just had a piece of lemon meringue pie at a little café for dinner.  Very cold in my room and no hot water so took a cold shower.  Tomorrow we start on the Inca Trail….

Nice hearty breakfast, i.e. fresh pineapple, scrambled eggs, toasted bread.  Drove to kilometer 82, the beginning of the Inca Trail where we collected our poles, got our passport stamped and began our trek through beautiful great foliage walking on uneven stones, up and down steps passing the ruins of Patallaqta on our way.  Only 500 people (including porters) are allowed on the trail each day so there were times when I felt I was walking alone.  Porters carried all the tents, our duffle bags, stove, etc. and we each carried a day pack filled with water, snacks and a parka in case it got cold.  The first day we walked about 8 miles, stopped for lunch about 2 p.m.  Porters set up a tent with tables and chairs inside and served us a delicious lunch each day, i.e. soup, rice/vegetable/dessert.  We refilled our water bottles and arrived at Huayllabamba where we camped.  Porters had set up my single tent and inside was my duffle bag.  They brought us a bowl of hot water to wash with and about 5 p.m. we all met in the tent for “tea”, i.e. biscuits and jam/popcorn/hot tea.  Dinner was served about 6:30 p.m. and was always hot and delicious.  As we got up at 5:30 a.m. most of us hopped into our sleeping bags and went to sleep pretty early…

5:00 a.m. and a hot cup of coco tea and a bowl of warm water appeared in front of my tent.  After washing up, I packed up my duffle bag and headed to the big tent for breakfast, i.e. pancakes with honey.  Today we walked uphill all day long and it was a challenge as we ascended Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,780 feet.  Camped at Pacaymayu after a tricky descent.  Once we got in our tents it started to rain heavily along with thunder and lightning.  Nice hot dinner and a cup of tea and the rain stopped…

Toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast and then started off to trek our longest but most interesting day.  We saw the snow capped Cordillera Vilcabamba, the ruins of Runkuraqay where the Inca stored products transported between Machu Picchu and Cusco, and passed by Sayacmarca stopping for our last and most delicious lunch, i.e. eggplant fritters, potato fritters, fava bean/tomato/cucumber/cheese salad, little wedges of pizza, rice and a birthday cake to celebrate Debbie’s birthday.  Reached Winaywayna campsite about 5:00 p.m.  After dinner we said good-bye to the great porters and went to bed - tomorrow we will arise very early…

Up at 3 a.m.  Met at the tent for a cup of tea and then set out for the checkpoint where we lined up and waited until the gate opened – about 5:30 a.m.  Nice clear day so we hiked quickly to the sungate, watching the sunrise on the top of the mountain.  From the sungate we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu and had about a half hour to eat our breakfast of cheese sandwiches and enjoy the beautiful view – we had made it!!!  Took about 45 minutes to arrive at the site where we relaxed a bit before our guided tour.  Machu Picchu was built around 1450 by the Incas but abandoned a century later.  It remained unknown to the outside world until it was brought to international attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.  The primary archaeological treasures are the temple of the sun and the room of the three windows.

To create the central buildings, the Incas used the ashlar technique in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar.  We had some free time on our own so leisurely wandered around passing by the Condor Temple where we saw the condor wing. Caught the bus to Aguas Calientes where we all met at Hot Springs 2.  I left my bag there and walked through the town on my own, stopping for a piece of warm apple pie and ice cream on my way. 

Took the train and then a bus back to Cusco, checked back into our hotel, took showers and met for dinner at 8:00 p.m.  Walked to a very strange but wonderful restaurant called Fallen Angel with its bathtubs filled with fish and topped with glass to make a table, cupids and angels everywhere, heart pillows and chairs, etc.  Everyone was pretty hungry so most of us ordered the duck with rice and corn which was delicious.  Also shared a couple warm chocolate nutella cakes with ice cream and caramel.  Fun!!!

Free day.  Visited the Temple of Santo Domingo and then Qurikancha, Temple of the Sun built by Inca Yupanqui.  The walls were once covered in sheets of solid gold.  When the Spanish required the Inca to raise a ransom in gold for the life of leader Atahualpa, most of the gold was collected from here.  Walked up the hill to the Temple of San Blas, said to be the oldest parish church in Cusco.  It contains a marvelously carved cedar pulpit carved from a single tree trunk.

Had the delicious sweet potato, beet salad again at Greens and then spent a couple hours in the Inka Museo which contains artifacts designed to trace Peruvian history from pre-Inca civilizations.  There are ceramics, mummies, jewelry, Inca drinking vessels carved out of wood, some jade miniatures, etc.  An excellent museum.  Did a little shopping and found a small little hand-made “purse” before  wandering around the beautiful Plaza des Armas.  Had dinner at Cicciolina, i.e. quinoa coated prawns with dipping sauce, local river fish with coconut cream sauce and sweet potato “gnocchi” with wasabi cream.

Flew to Lima after breakfast.  Our hotel was in the Miraflores area so I walked up to the ocean along one of the main streets.  All met at 6:15 p.m. and walked to Parquetito, an outside restaurant nearby.  I had delicious ceviche with sweet potato and fresh and crunchy corn and chocolate cake for dessert.  We thanked our guide Dennis and said our good-byes and everyone will go their own way in the morning.

In the morning, I took a walk to the love park which reminded me of Park Guell in Barcelona, nice breakfast and a long bus ride to Nazca arriving at 10:00 p.m.  I took some food for lunch and had a nice window seat so got to see a bit more of Peru.  Guide picked me up and after checking into the hotel I had fish kebabs with peppers and onions at Encantada as I was pretty hungry!

Nice buffet breakfast on the patio with lots of fresh fruit, cheeses and nice bread.  Guide came by and we visited a cemetery where mummies, ceramics, etc. were uncovered.  Some were buried without their heads, perhaps as sacrifices..  Stopped by the ceramics studio to watch the painter show how the pottery was made and hand painted with natural dyes.  I bought a little llama to remind me of Peru.

Drove out to the airport where I watched a video about the Nazca lines as I waited for my flight.  Called ancient geoglyphas, they are believed to have been created by the Nazca culture between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D.  Hundred of designs, i.e. hummingbirds, spiders, trees, etc. are shallow lines made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish ground beneath.  Our 6 passenger Cessna flew over the lines tipping the wings so we could see better…a pretty rough ride lasting about 30 minutes.  Stopped by Mom’s café near the hotel for apple pie and ice cream for lunch and then took a walk.  In the afternoon the guide took us to the Cahuachi pyramids west of the Nazca lines which was an ancient ceremonial and pilgrimage site.  It was believed to have existed two centuries before being abandoned about 200 A.D.  We also visited the aqueducts which are still in use.

Dinner upstairs on the patio at Mamshana where I enjoyed the music of the pan pipes and ordered arroz con maricos, i.e. rice topped with seafood and a piece of chocolate cake.

In the morning after breakfast the guide took me up on a tower where I could see the Nazca lines from the ground which was also very interesting.  We stopped at the Maria Reiche Newmann home and workshop.  Maria, a German lady from Dresden, spent 50 years studying and mapping the Nasca lines.  Her sister joined her during the last 15 years of her life and she died in 1998. 

Long bus ride to 242 Miraflores b & b where I spent 3 nights.  My room was delightful, complete with balcony and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay!  I was hungry when I arrived so walked to Parcelito where our group had met for dinner and again had the delicious ceviche with sweet potato and corn and chocolate cake.  It was a beautiful night and the Miraflores area of Peru is safe to walk around in so I walked back to the bed and breakfast where I slept very well!

Had a great breakfast in the morning, papaya, passion fruit, melon, bread, jam and then walked to Huaca Pucllana, a large adobe and clay pyramid.  It served as an important ceremonial center in the years 200 A.D. and 700 A.D.  There was a nice guided tour in English which explained a great deal about how life was during those times.
Had lunch at Central, the 4th best restaurant in the WORLD, which I had booked many months before.  It is a small, modern restaurant not far from the ocean and everyone dressed fairly casual.  I had preordered the 17 course tasting lunch and it was absolutely superb!!!  I spent about 3 hours enjoying “diversity of corn”, i.e. cold passion fruit/corn soup with dry corn cracker on top, “marine soil”, i.e. razor clams with pepino fruit slices, “los andes mountains”, i.e. short ribs with 4 types of quinoa and “green highlands”, i.e. lucuma and chocolate mousse.  All courses were served on lovely ceramic dishes, bowls and in cups made especially for the restaurant.

I spent the afternoon at the larco museum which is filled with
Pre-Colombian treasures.  It comprises a collection of crowns, earrings, masks, vases, etc.  Another gallery nearby holds the world’s largest collection of erotic ceramics.  There is a very well known restaurant in the museum but I didn’t dine there.  Back to the hotel for a rest and then walked to Tanta in the shopping mall for ceviche and opera cake later in the evening.

After breakfast, took the bus into the centro.  It was a rainy day so I had to walk carefully on the cobblestone streets.  Walked around the Plaza des Armas and then visited the Iglesia San Francisco and took a tour of the famous catacombs.  It was used as a cemetery before the church was built and approximately 75,000 people are buried there.    A few monks still live in the church.

Took a taxi to Astrid & Gaston where I had a wonderful 30 course lunch including cold little artichoke covered with crispy onions, guinea pig rillette, avocado roll, potato spaghetti, chocolate mint roll and cold coffee with warm cream.  All courses were served on unique plates, rocks, etc.  After eating for 3 hours I walked back to Miraflores.  As the plates were quite small I had a light dinner at Gaston’s Italian restaurant Los Bachiche later that evening, i.e. thin crusted eggplant pizza and oozing chocolate cake.

In the morning I visited the Barranco area and wandered around the square, walked across the wooden Puente de los Suspiros and then to the Museo Pedro de Osma, a century old mansion with inlaid floors, beautiful stained-glass windows and home of a wealthy collector of religious art.

Had my last meal in Peru at Amaz, an amazonian restaurant.  First course was pork belly and crisp bacon, second course grilled paiche fish (a very large Amazonian fish which arrives dehydrated and is reconstituted before cooking) with chorizo sauce and passion fruit puree and chocolate cake and ice cream rolled in pecans.  I will come back to Lima someday…to eat!!!

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