South America Part 3.-Peru
- This is the third largest country in South America
- Population nearly 27million.
- Language-Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and various dialects of the Amazon Jungle
- Three natural regions :- The coast, the highlands and the jungle.
Another flight and we find ourselves in Guayaquil airport where we are staying close by at the Holiday Inn. An early flight the next morning took us to Lima, the capital of Peru. Founded by the great conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Our hotel was in Miraflores, 30mins drive from the airport. Most of the drive is along the ocean front. A beautiful introduction to one of the more affluent districts that make up the city of Lima. It is a town known for its shopping, restaurants, and nightclubs and popular with the tourists. That afternoon we wandered from our hotel down to the Parque Del Amor, on the water’s edge. Checked out the shopping, the fantastic views over the water, beautiful parklands and watched a picturesque sunset. The next morning, we were up early for a tour of the city of Lima which proved very interesting. The first main attraction was the San Francisco Monastery. A glorious Barrroque building known for its boned-lined catacombs( containing an estimated 70,000 remains). A spectacular cupola or dome over the main staircase was carved in 1625 out of Nicaraguan Cedar. After visiting the main square Plaza Mayor, Government Palace, and many more major sites of Lima we headed down to the Huaca Pucilano, the adobe pyramid that was ancient Lima’s ceremonial heart. This is a most fascinating place to see and with a very informative guide, we learnt the history of this massive excavation site. A more detailed account can be found on the website http://huacapucllanamiraflores.pe/huaca-pucllana-hoy/ This site was amazing to walk through and to be able see the massive works being meticulously completed to their original status.
The afternoon was free time, so we tackled the huge local markets, wandered through Spanish style buildings and colourful streets, and then investigated a local art gallery. With tired feet we headed back to our hotel for a fine dining treat after which we fell into bed exhausted.
The next morning, we are picked up for our flights to Cusco and then driven to our Sacred Valley of the Incas (8500feet elevation) accommodation. The river valley is very fertile with lush green slopes surrounded by mountains in the distance. Our hotel was very pretty and as rest was recommended at this stage, to allow our body to adjust to the altitude, we had no problem taking it easy and enjoying some much-needed quiet time.
The following morning, we headed out with our guide to visit the people of Chinchero and visit the Inca’s Balcony. We were treated to a tour of the streets, introduced to occupants in traditional dress and shown the ancestral way in which they process the wool and how they obtain the vivid colours used in their textiles. Chinchero is an ancient town and a wonderful place where you can still feel and see the Inca culture as it was in the past. The streets are tiny, the people are beautiful, and the way of life is simple. I was fascinated by the cute three wheeled vehicles known as Moto Taxi’s Of course, there were markets to wander through, souvenirs to buy and many stairs to climb. A glorious ancient church to investigate and time to watch the various breeds of Lama’s grazing.
A light lunch and back on board our bus to visit Ollantaytambo, one of the most monumental architectural complexes of ancient Inca Empire. It is well known for the terraces dug into the slopes of the mountains. The terraces were used for agricultural purposes. The terraces are quite large and high. Unfortunately, I did struggle to reach the top as the altitude and the sheer height was a little too much. I ventured maybe 3/4 of the way and promptly sat myself down and waited for Ken to return. I feared, if I was struggling with this, would I make it to the top of Machu Pichu. I would soon find out. For now back to our hotel to pack for our trip to Machu Pichu the next day.
Ollantaytambo station is where we board the Vistadome train to take us to Aguas Calientas. The trip is about 1.5 hours in a carriage with panoramic windows to view valleys and mountains throughout the whole trip. Morning refreshments and a commentary keep you entertained. When reaching our destination we are shown to our hotel with a couple of hours to investigate our surrounds. At 12.30 we had to board our bus for Machu Pichhu. We lined up with many other travellers to board the bus for the half hour trip to the mountain top. We headed out of town and started up the mountain drive. The road was quite narrow with no guard rails. On one side, in many places it was a sheer drop to the valley floor, and on the other the looming face of the mountain was close. Taking the bends was a skill known only to our driver and passing other buses on their way down the mountain was a huge challenge. My knuckles were white from clenching the top of the seat in front the whole way. Finally reaching the top safely we alighted with the many other people waiting in line to buy tickets etc. On a booked tour we were lucky enough to get entry quickly.
We had seen the pictures, heard of its grandeur from others but until you are there, you cannot really appreciate its beauty. Machu Picchu is a very special place. It was misty when we arrived which added to its mystique. A guided tour helped us to understand the lives of the priests and their servants and craftsmen who inhabited this citadel. The mystery of the destruction of this settlement remains today as there was no written records kept. Some excavation has discovered skeletons, artefacts and some woollen clothing. Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel set high in the Andes Mountains. Above the Urubamba River valley one feels like they are above the world. Even though surrounded by crowds of people the isolation of the settlement could still be experienced. Built in the 15th century it is renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar. The stonework was intricate and precise. The intriguing structure of buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views. It is not a place you can describe fully. Photo’s do not do it justice. There is a feeling experienced here that is unique.The scenery is stunning even in misty rain. The trip to get to this place is massive and the intrigue of how anyone ever lived here is mind blowing. We wandered the many tiers and walked the many levels. Our bodies were exhausted and our minds full of wonderment. Another hairy drive back down the mountain, a wander through the streets ending with dinner. Collapsed into our bed that night we slept well satisfied with what we had experienced. The next day started with blue sky and sunshine. Our tickets allowed us a further visit the next morning so Ken chose to head back up the mountain for more photographing. I decided to investigate the town a little more so headed out to discover some history, beautiful architecture, massive markets and the school and shops which the locals call home. I must say they are a very hardworking community with the town being built on the side of the mountain. All deliveries of building materials including bricks for housing, food, supplies of all types are delivered up and down the mountain on hand drawn trolleys and carts. I struggled pulling myself up. Their tenacity is remarkable. The next day we headed back to the station for our very entertaining train trip back enjoying a fashion show of authentic alpaca apparel. Most interesting experience. Overall this last few days were an incredible and unforgettable journey.
I hoped you enjoyed this post. The next leg of our trip part 4 is Cusco, Iguassu Falls in Brazil and Argentina. The final chapter – part 5 will cover Atacama Desert and a visit to Easter Island.
Please feel free to comment if you wish. If you have been to these places I hope you enjoyed them as much as we did.