A Travellerspoint blog

Machu Picchu; Exploring the Ruins

Two Months in Peru--May 24,2015; Day 56

sunny 82 °F

We finished the Waynu Picchu hike, a bit tired, but elated that we had accomplished it successfully! We both said almost simultaneously “Want to climb to the Sun Gate now?” So we had a plan.

First, though we needed the bathrooms. There are no toilets in Machu Picchu proper. One must exit the site, use the facilities outside the entrance, then re-enter. The toilets cost half a Sole (US$0.17), but that includes an inadequate bit of sanitary wiping paper… To re-enter the site, you present your ticket and a piece of photo ID. the ticket is re-stamped and you are back in Machu Picchu. It is important to note that you are only allowed 3 stamps on your ticket. After that you are not readmitted. This of course results in important strategic planning regarding your allotted bathroom visits!
Back in the ruins, we navigated our way around the people and up the pathways that led to the Sun Gate Trail. It was about 1100, and there must have been 1000 people on the grounds and trails. A bit different from our 0630 entrance. Even with all the people, Machu Picchu is still unbelievably incredible. It is a very different vibe though, than Kuelap where there were only 25 visitors the entire day we visited. House of the Guardians

House of the Guardians


The Sun Gate trail was a wide path of steps and platforms that climbed the 951 feet to the pass. The elevation gain was the same as the Wayne Picchu trail, but as the starting point was lower, the pass was a couple hundred feet below Waynu Picchu’s summit. We walked at an easy pace, passed some folks, and were passed by others. We stopped often to turn around and take in the views of Machu Picchu, appreciating the effects of the changing elevation. Guardian House View

Guardian House View


Bromeliad Cliff

Bromeliad Cliff

There were a lot of people sitting and resting at the top, chatting and enjoying the vantage point. We lingered a while, ate our snack and drank in the view from the opposite perspective of the morning climb. When folks heard that we had climbed Wayne Picchu before the Sun Gate climb, they were astounded! One young woman told Karen that she was her new inspiration! I’m wondering if they thought we were old and exceptional, or just exceptional? I hope the latter."The Sun Gate"

%22The Sun Gate%22

The Sun Gate

The Sun Gate


Looking North from The Sun Gate

Looking North from The Sun Gate


Machu and Waynu Picchus_

Machu and Waynu Picchus_


We were tired when we arrived back at the main ruins, but elated at our accomplishments. We inquired about a guide to show us the ruins but at US $35 a piece for a group tour, or US $90-120 for a private guide, we decided to go it alone.Agricultural Terraces

Agricultural Terraces

"Factory" Ruins

%22Factory%22 Ruins


Although the guides talk about what you are seeing, no one really knows much for sure about the ruins. The proper Inca name for the City is unknown. There are educated guesses about what the structures represent, but they are still speculation. So going without a guide and the made up explanations is not such a bad thing.
Machu Picchu Ruins

Machu Picchu Ruins


More Ruins

More Ruins


Ceremonial Rock

Ceremonial Rock


The royal/sacred building and walls were amazing works of masonry. It seems that a family would be assigned to produce one stone of a wall or building. That family might work on the stone for several generations, shaping and polishing it, ensuring the proper tight fit.
Temple of Three Windows

Temple of Three Windows

Sacred Temple Wall

Sacred Temple Wall

Sacred Ruins

Sacred Ruins

Sun Temple Ruins

Sun Temple Ruins

The more common walls and buildings showed a rougher, less finished quality, but the masonry was still incredible, the nearly perfect fit of the stones without mortar. The Inca doorways and windows were all trapezoidal, narrower at the top than the bottom. They had not discovered the wheel or the arch, and their building style and methods reflected this.
Main Square

Main Square

Trapazoidal Construction Example

Trapazoidal Construction Example

Wall Detail 1

Wall Detail 1

Wall Detail 2

Wall Detail 2

Stonework Detail

Stonework Detail

Permanent Resident

Permanent Resident


A stone called the “Astronomy Rock” or the Intiwatana is located in the observatory area of the site. A similar stone was located in every Inca city and seemed to be a sacred element with special powers. This intawatana is the only intact, undamaged one ever discovered. During the Spanish conquest, the Spaniards destroyed every intawatana they found. Intawatana is translated as "Hitching Post of the Sun,” and it is believed to be an astronomical calendar or clock.Astronomy Rock

Astronomy Rock

Intawatana

Intawatana

Observatory Wall

Observatory Wall

We tried to see all the nooks and crannies that comprised the ruins, and found as the day progressed, that it became more difficult to ascend the many steps and stairs between levels of ruins.
Waynu Picchu, Framed

Waynu Picchu, Framed


Another Portrait

Another Portrait


Finally we decided to visit the “prisoner area” to view the Condor inscribed there. The head was carved on a flat rock, with a white rock arch around it, representing th white neck collar of the male bird. Stained walls behind the rocks represent the outstretched wings of the bird. Whether this is Inca art, or guide interpretation— who knows?!
Prisoner Area

Prisoner Area

"Condor" in Prisoner Area

%22Condor%22 in Prisoner Area


Finally we walked to the exit to find a 200 meter line-up of people waiting for busses back to Aguas Clients. The transport folks were very good at mobilizing the busses and getting people back to the pueblo with a minimum of waiting. River Below

River Below

Machu Picchu looking North

Machu Picchu looking North


We had a celebratory drink and meal while waiting for the long return journey to Cusco by train and bus that evening.
Waiting for the Train

Waiting for the Train

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 08:41 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Exploring Machu Picchu; Part 1 Waynu Picchu

2 Months in Peru- May22 to May24, 2015; Days 54-56

sunny 80 °F


May 22- day 54 - Back in Cuzco
A catch up day - laundry, finding the bus station for buses to Ollantaytambo, visiting the SAE club. At the club we met a lovely couple from Nelson, BC, exchanged emails and hope to meet up again someday. Dinner at another gringo type pub, Norton's. Great burgers, beer still tasted weird. Sigh.

May 23- Day 55 - Off to Machu Picchu!
Well, we have been waiting for this trip a long time! Left our big packs at the hotel, and took our small packs to the collectivo station and caught one to Ollantaytambo at around 10am. Cost us a big S/.10 each and the trip was almost 2 hours. Pretty decent value.
Ollantaytambo is a pretty little town set on the hillsides in the mountains below the massive Inca ruins we visited before the jungle. It has numerous water canals running throughout the towns streets. This weekend they are celebrating the Fiesta del Señor de Choquekillka, a local saint. This involved the usual roving bands and groups of dancers in costumes similar to those we saw in the Paucartambo museum on our way to the jungle.
Dancing Festival Performers 1

Dancing Festival Performers 1

Dancing Festival Performers 2

Dancing Festival Performers 2

Festival Art 1

Festival Art 1


Seems many areas partake in the same customs which seem to be a blend of ancient and Spanish cultures. We had to hang out till 4pm when we could board the train to the small town of Aguas Calientes (also called Machu Picchu Pueblo now) which is the closest town to the ruins. We had lunch on the plaza where we could view the bands and the ruins of Ollantaytambo above us.
Link to the Modern World

Link to the Modern World


Finally it came time to board the train, which is a narrow gauge railway. For the price we paid we thought we might get free alcoholic drinks - but no, a small packet of cookies and tea or juice was all. There was a very loud group of Mexican tourists in our car, so the trip was lively to say the least. The scenery was majestic - steep mountainsides and some snow capped peaks, with the Urubamba River far below. After 1 1/2 hours we arrived at the station and a girl from the hostel guided us to our home for the night. Aguas Calientes is lower than Cuzco at 7832 feet or so (compared to 11,200), so a little easier on our bodies. Agua Calliente 1

Agua Calliente 1

It is in cloud forest really, and the streets climb up the hillsides on both sides of the river, with several bridges crossing along the way up. The guidebook didn't have much good to say about the town, but we found it pretty and clean, albeit overrun with tourists!Agua Calliente 2

Agua Calliente 2

Just outside of town there are some hotsprings, but we just wanted an early dinner and sleep because tomorrow was a full day. First, we purchased our bus tickets for the ride up to the ruins tomorrow - walking up would have taken hours and involved a steep trail up at least 1000 meters. Next, we found excellent food and service at Totos, a two tiered restaurant by the river.
Aguas Calientes Main Square 1

Aguas Calientes Main Square 1

Aguas Calientes Main Square 2

Aguas Calientes Main Square 2


Our waiter even gave us tips for our excursion tomorrow - buy water and food in town because everything is expensive up at Machu Picchu. Then it was off to sleep.

May 24- Day 56 - Finally, Machu Picchu!
We were up at 04:10 as the hotel said to be early for breakfast which starts at 04:30 to accommodate all the tourists who want to catch the first buses up to the site. Unfortunately, the night clerk was still sleeping and we had to search for some buns in the communal kitchen and find some hot water for tea and the ever present instant coffee. We found some bananas and buns, gulped everything down along with a German tourist who had been touring South America for months. We headed out to join the long line of tourists waiting for the buses. - we mean long line- a football field or so. We chatted with tourists in line - a couple from Wisconsin no less - there were many gringos but a lot of Peruvians as well which was heartening to see. They get much reduced prices for entry and on the train. We left at 05:45 on the bus which was a short affair due to the steep, winding switchback road we had to climb. Encountering other buses coming back down we often had to back up on is perilously steep and narrow road. We made it safely at 06:10 - plenty of time to cross the ruins to arrive at the easternmost area and wait at the Ceremonial Rock for our chance to climb Waynu Picchu (Quechua for "Young Mountain") at 0700. We weren't sure we could make it but we would give it a try.

Machu Picchu was “discovered” by Hiram Bingham in 1911. He was a lecturer in Latin American history at Yale University (having received his PhD at Harvard), but much preferred being a South American explorer. Hiram had made several previous excursions in South America, the first to following Simon Bolivar’s journey throughout the north, and the second to follow old trade routes throughout the continent. In 1911 he organized a small expedition to look for rumored “lost Inca cities,” (those that the Spanish conquerors had not found and destroyed) particularly Vitcos, in the Vilcabama region, the city in which the last Inca ruler ( Manco Cápac II) took refuge after their conquest by the Spanish conquistadors.Karen at Trailhead

Karen at Trailhead


From Cusco, Bingham’s party set out for the Vilcabama region. Reaching a small settlement near Aguas Calientes, a local farmer (Melchor Arteaga) mentioned extensive ruins located on a nearby mountain top. Melchor recruited the son of a farmer working that land to lead them to the ruins the next morning. No one in the expedition was interested in the ruins, so Hiram, Melcor, Hiram’s interpreter and the boy climbed to the ruins the next day. The local Quechuan name for “Old Mountain” was Machu Picchu! Bingham incorrectly believed he had found the refuge of Manco Cápac II, and made several subsequent expeditions exploring and photographing the ruins. Of course other people claimed that they had seen or “discovered”the ruins before Hiram, but he was the person who recognized their significance and announced them to the world.
Rick at Trailhead

Rick at Trailhead


At 0700 the trail to Waynu Picchu was opened. Only 400 people are allowed on the trail daily, 200 at 0700, and another 200 at 1000. We had to sign in and out (I guess they wanted to know if we became condor food the cliffs below), we were numbers 25 and 26 on the trail that day. We certainly did not keep that position as we climbed the trail to the top! It was steep, though actually well built by the Incas! there were many steps, either carved out of the rock, or built with shaped stones.
Waynu Picchu Heights trail

Waynu Picchu Heights trail


There was a lot of exposure, looking over the trail edge, perhaps a thousand feet to the valley bottom below! Occasionally the plants and bushes growing at the edge of the trail gave a false sense of security.
Cliff Hanging Ruins

Cliff Hanging Ruins


It was a beautiful, clear morning and the views were spectacular, beyond description. The photos do not do justice to the scenery that surrounded us!
Waynu Picchu, looking West

Waynu Picchu, looking West

Urubamba River

Urubamba River


Up we climbed, pausing as necessary to rest and regroup. We passed some hikers, and many passed us on the way up. The hike was actually easier than we expected. We had been at 11,000 feet elevation for most of the last 20 days ( except for our time in the jungle) and Manchu Picchu was at a modest 8,000 feet! Along the trail we encountered steel cables at a few particularly steep, exposed areas, definitely a welcome addition. Near the top, we came to a flat patio-like area that afforded a wonderful view to the south of Manchu Picchu in the morning sunlight!
On Waynu Picchu

On Waynu Picchu


On Waynu Picchu 2

On Waynu Picchu 2


Continuing on we crawled through a tunnel passage, up a crude ladder, and reached a jumble of large boulders at the summit, populated by about 50 tourist/hikers sunning themselves, talking, enjoying the views and eating their snacks. We lingered there a while, then looked for the return path.
Waynu Picchu Tunnel

Waynu Picchu Tunnel


The return path entailed crawling scrambling or jumping from boulder to boulder down a rather steep slope for 30 yards or so until a discrete path appeared. A slip or loss of balance carried the risk of a quick descent to the River way below! Of course, that was only the beginning of the challenge.
Only Way Down Waynu Picchu

Only Way Down Waynu Picchu


Waynu Picchu Cable Assist

Waynu Picchu Cable Assist


There were several courses of STEEP stairs to negotiate, with little to stop a slip or tumble. Another opportunity for a very long rapid descent! We did well though, and were back to the trail head by 1030 or so, with time and energy to explore the main Manchu Picchu site!
Climbing Waynu Picchu

Climbing Waynu Picchu


On Waynu Picchu-3

On Waynu Picchu-3

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 17:15 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

More Jungle, More Jungle...

2 Months in Peru-May 18 to 21, 2015; Day 50-53

semi-overcast 68 °F

[Karen has been doing an awesome job, writing the jungle blogs!! I (Rick) have been having trouble with the computer and hard drive where I store the photos I take. I had a memory card full of Giant Otter photos. Transferring it to the hard drive through Lightroom ( photo management software) I managed to lose the photos. In my haste (the days are full) I erased the card before I was sure the photos were properly saved to the hard drive. I used photo recovery software to try and recover the images, but they are gone! Sorry we can't share some of the otters with you, but they live on in our memories!

Monday, May 18th Day 50
Pre dawn was misty and fogged in. We were off in the boat by 05:30 for a short journey to the lake trail, then a 1 km hike to the lake. We were on the Salvador Lake catamaran by 0600. Our river boatman and his deckhand paddled the craft around the lake. We quietly approached the Giant Otter feeding area, and saw many of the group, adults and pups, swimming and fishing close to the shore. There were about 9 otters in the group. Pups crying for fish or their mothers, adults eating the fish they caught, all the while keeping a wary eye on us! There were, of course, lots of birds and black Carmen in the lake too.
Riva, our guide, told us he was one of the paddlers for the cameraman shooting David Attenborough at Salvador Lake for his BBC segment on Manu Park!

For the afternoon we crossed the Manu River in our motorized canoe and walked down a jungle path occasionally used by the "uncontacted." We were instructed to wear bland coloured clothes, and not take photos, make loud noises, run, or act excited or frightened if we encountered any of them! We were actually looking for two types of monkeys that were only on that side. The Manu River seems to be a formidable monkey barrier, what with caiman, piranhas, and a swift current! We heard and saw the sought for monkeys on the walk, and no "uncontacted" crossed our path. Then back to the Salvador Lake catamaran to look for the glowing caiman "night eyes" before a final night walk (we do mean DARK) back to camp. There are lots of very large nocturnal spiders in their webs waiting for prey, and even an occasional tree snake!
A late dinner and off to bed in preparation for a 0530 departure in the morning.

May 19--Blog Day 51

An early departure at 0530, headed back to the Madre de Dios River and then to the Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, about 8 hours away. Two or three hours into the journey we stopped at the ranger station to check out of the park, and be inspected for contraband. Last year a guide tried to smuggle out about 200 turtle eggs! An hour later, a 20 minute stop at the village of Boca Manu, then on to the destination.
The distances are large here. The park is about the size of Wales, or New Hampshire! It took us two and a half days from Cusco to get in to the park, we got to spend about one and one half days there, and it's about three days, with stops to get back to Cusco. The last day will be a 14 hour journey, the river canoe, a taxi, another boat and then a long tour van ride over the Andes, topping out at 5000 meters before descending to Cusco! Whew!
Today we settle back enjoy the jungle scenery from the canoe (it's all the same after a while), look for birds and caiman on the shore, look for monkeys in the trees, and doze a bit.

We arrive at the lodge at about 2:30 and get shown to our rooms. It's a nice place. The sun came out today during the travel, and it has warmed up quite a bit. Riva says this is typical jungle weather. The plan is to climb a 140 meter tower in the jungle, next to an ancient Kapok tree, and get a view from above the tree canopy, perhaps watch the sunset from there, then take a night walk back to the canoe for a ride back to the lodge.
The lodge and grounds are very nice. The dormitory has individual 3 bed rooms, common flush toilets and solar hot water showers, 4 each for up to 30 guests. It is early in the tourist season, so we are the only ones here! There is even a bar/lounge, but it is closed. It takes us several minutes to identify the eerie deep rumbling/ scraping sound as that of the Howler monkeys. Hearing that for the first time when alone at night in the dark jungle would definitely raise the hairs on the back of your neck!
After settling in a bit, we head, by canoe, for the jungle tower. It was built about 10 years ago, and is amazing. You don't realize how high 140 meters is until you climb it. At the top there was a large platform placed on the branches of the kapok tree. The views were amazing, clear in all directions, nothing but jungle trees and marshes. We spotted an occasional bird, a toucan and a couple parrots.
Kapok Tree

Kapok Tree


Kapok Tree and Tower

Kapok Tree and Tower


Platform View

Platform View


Down from the tower it was dark and we did a night walk, looking for jungle tarantulas. We found several, they were all substantially larger than Karen's garden tarantula! They were coal black, and one chased Riva when he coaxed it out of its den! Then, on the way back to the canoe, we spotted, not one but two boa constrictors denned up in a crosscut end crack of a large log! They appeared to be 1-2 meters long, one a yellow boa, the larger a rainbow boa.
Then back to the lodge by canoe, in preparation for tomorrow's big day.

May 20 - day 52
Up at the crack of o dark thirty (05:30) to get in a boat and go to the clay lick, down river a short ways - 10 minutes or so. The clay cliffs go a long ways but the Tambo lodge has set up a huge viewing area with an attached photography area as well.
Clay Lick, sans Aves

Clay Lick, sans Aves


We were the only group there - we set up our breakfast stuff and had it there in the cool of the morning- there were chairs and there was even a bathroom (#1 only please).
Clay-Lick Blind

Clay-Lick Blind


Other than the bugs we were quite comfortable until Karen sat on a bee and was stung on the thigh. Not badly. We saw an amazing assortment of macaws and parrots in the trees -at one point we saw at least 31 macaws - but none ventured to the clay lick. :( Rick got some good pictures anyway. It was kind of interesting as every time a great white egret or cocoi heron flew near these large macaws scattered. I actually didn't realize how many different types of macaws there were - and their brilliant colours are amazing.
Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Blue Headed Parrot Flock

Blue Headed Parrot Flock

Blue and Yellow Macaw

Blue and Yellow Macaw

Capped Heron

Capped Heron

Scarlet Macaw 2

Scarlet Macaw 2

Scarlet Macaw Pair

Scarlet Macaw Pair

Spider Monkey

Spider Monkey


After this wonderful outing we boated back to the lodge, had some down time, and headed out to another oxbow lake in the later afternoon. On the way to the boat we all got to check out a green snake in a tree the staff had spotted - it was not poisonous but according to Riva, very aggressive.
We hiked past the Kapok tree platform on the other side of the river and took a catamaran on the oxbow lake. It was so peaceful and pleasant and bug free. We saw a lot of birds - the ever present Hoatzins - 3 to a group - always two males and one female ( she requires 2 males to help raise their broods-they both mate with her - it's anyone's guess who's kids they are). But many other birds and caiman were to be seen-jacanas, cocoi, and a beautiful orange bird whose name I can't remember.
Rufescent Tiger Heron

Rufescent Tiger Heron


We hiked back in the twilight and Riva teased out more tarantulas for us ( smaller ones this time). Back across the river near the lodge we had to exit the boat early due to the shallowness of the river and we hiked back a short ways to the lodge grounds.
Jungle Sunset

Jungle Sunset


Dinner was lovely as usual and the cook, Ciro, had baked a goodbye cake for us.
Perfect end to a great day.

May 21- day 53- leaving the jungle
We were all up at 04:30 to leave by 05:10 to hike with our packs down to a deeper place in the river so we could load up everything and head back out of Manu park. We had seen lightning and now heard thunder and it was starting to rain. It took them awhile to get the boat down to us and we finally got started downriver out of Manu park to Madre de Dios river. It was raining off and on but not as cold as it had been, and there were always lots of birds to see. We checked out at the ranger station and carried on.....
We joined up with the Madre de Dios river, and far down, with it still spitting rain, our boat captain, Boa, started yelling something and turned the boat about. Quickly our guide started exclaiming - jaguar - and sure enough, there on the rocky beach, in the spitting rain, was a magnificent specimen. Over 2 meters long, yawning at times, striding on the beach - he was a site to behold. None of us could get a picture as we didn't have our cameras out due to the inclement weather - we all savoured the sweet moment.
Riva had not seen a jaguar this year - so he was excited as we were. Fabulous.
Next stop, the port of Colorado, where we changed to a taxi and drove overland for about an hour to another river port where we took a quick boat across (20 minutes) in the rain to then get on the small Mercedes van which would take us back to Cusco. This port had many tankers present - it was clearly a significant supply port for the jungle.
We travelled about 3/4 of an hour on a crummy dirt road before we reached the Trans-Oceanic Highway - still a two lane affair that was curvy and winding up up up to the first pass - 4,725 meters ( about 15,000 ft, give or take)- where we got out in the sleet and snow to view the surrounding peaks (and to take a bano break ). Then it was down to 3500 m, up again to 4100 m and down to Cusco which is at 3500m. We passed many small mountain towns and remnants of old Inca or other archeological sites on the way.
Trans-Oceanic Highway

Trans-Oceanic Highway

15,000 ft Pass

15,000 ft Pass


It was freezing in Cuzco! We got settled back in our hotel and then it was off to Paddys pub - we noticed that the beer tasted funny.....and it had been so good before. We were experiencing first hand the side effects of diamox which we had started the day before to see if it would help with altitude problems. All it did for us really was make carbonated drinks (ie - beer) taste bitter......bummer.
Off to bed - it had been a really long day.

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 11:47 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Into the Jungle- Manu Park

2 months in Peru-May 15-17,2015; Day 47-49

overcast 80 °F

Blog entry for Manu - May 15, 16, 17
Up at 0445 to pack up and leave for Manu park. The Pantiacolla van arrived promptly at 05:30, we picked up two more couples and then we were off! One of the couples, Ann Marie and Marco, were from Malta, and the other couple, Guthrie and Natalie were from Durban, South Africa! As well, we had Ciro, the cook, our guide Reva, and Freddie, the guide for the three day tour the Maltese couple had booked. Jungle Group

Jungle Group

It took awhile to get out of the city, and we stopped at a suburb famous for its bread- in fact the many bread shops there supplied all of the Cuzco area, and even Lima! Then it was up, up, up to cross the Andes. Our first stop was at 3700 meters at the Lupucos (?) Funerary Towers, of the Nina Marca people, a pre-Inca culture that came from the Lake Titicaca area. These tombs contained the mummies of the important elders. Most faced West - the drier side - the better to preserve the bodies. And naturally, all the bodies were dried in the fetal position which was the custom, so they could be reborn at a later time. FuneraryTowers at Lupacos

FuneraryTowers at Lupacos


Then it was down, down, down, to Paucartambo by the River of the same name, for breakfast and a town tour. They actually had and excellent modern museum with artifacts from the surrounding area. Paucartambo

Paucartambo

Perhaps the most interesting fact about this town is each year from July 15-19 they celebrate the Virgen del Carmen, an event that sells out all the hotels a year in advance. Twenty teams of dancers participate in this fiesta that dates back to the Spanish conquest of the area. Most astounding are the masks and costumes they wear, which the museum displayed grandly. Many beaded and richly decorated affairs - and each group represented various aspects of the society- bread making, bull fighting, hospital workers and the ill, the slaves the Spanish imported, and so on. They were beautiful, and each had historic significance. This Catholic festival was imposed by the Church and Spanish on the local people. The people accepted it, but made it their own, with many of the dance group's dances, costumes and masks parodying and satirizing the Spanish and their subjugation of the locals!Paucartambo Dancer Costume

Paucartambo Dancer Costume

Dancer 2

Dancer 2

Dancer 3

Dancer 3

When we left this town the road became a dirt road, narrow, bumpy, and winding up to the entrance to Manu Park - the usual Peruvian road really! There we had a walkabout and a large lunch at 3550 meters. Manu Park Boundary

Manu Park Boundary

Down again, past many mini slides and small washouts on steep cliffs to stop at a Cock of the Rock lek. This proved very fruitful - we saw many males flying about or lounging - we had seen a female and juvenile earlier, but of course, none were at the lek today as it is not mating season. Even so, the males gather there daily to practice their calls and dance moves ,and clean their branch perch, all to be prepared in case a female shows up!
Female Cock of the Rock

Female Cock of the Rock

Juvenile Cock of the Rock

Juvenile Cock of the Rock


Male Cock of the Rock

Male Cock of the Rock

Male Cock of the Rock 2

Male Cock of the Rock 2


From the lek, we walked to Paradise lodge, our first stop for the night. It wasn't far, but it was great to get out and walk. The lodge was quite decent, our own bathroom and hot shower. Dinner was lovely - fresh river fish and the excellent soup Peruvians usually serve as the first course - we even were able to buy a beer! Natalie, from South Africa, had been suffering with a bit of a stomach bug since she and Guthrie had done the Inca Trail. It was a 4 day hike, that they completed the evening immediately before starting this adventure. We all had a lively discussion about world politics. Then it was off to bed, as the lights go out at 9pm when the generator is shut down!
Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest


We slept like logs till 0500 or so, and were up at 0600 for hot showers and breakfast at 06:30. From the balcony of the dining area we watched a plethora of different hummers - violet fronted brilliants, little wood nymphs, yellow booted racquet tails. And across the river we saw a band of wooly monkeys frolicking in the trees. After breakfast we started our journey on foot to bird watch a bit, then the van picked us up to take us on down the road. It runs alongside the Manu Park boundary in the area that is called the Cultural zone. This is where people can still own land, log, farm, or raise animals. We made three stops along the way to Atalaya where we would start our boat journey into Manu Park proper. We visited a property with beautiful gardens - ginger and basil and fruits - but most interesting was of course the coca plants which are legal in Peru.
Riva and Coca Plant

Riva and Coca Plant


Our next stop was a "supposed" animal rescue place, which we learned was basically a tourist trap according to our guide.
Black Spider Monkey

Black Spider Monkey


Rick and Friend

Rick and Friend


Guthrie and Black Spider Monkey

Guthrie and Black Spider Monkey


They had several monkeys and some peccaries, and even a boa, but it was somewhat sad to see the baby monkeys. One glommed onto Karen and had to be forcibly removed later - the poor thing screamed and screamed and tried to crawl back up - it was heart wrenching. Karen and baby Howler

Karen and baby Howler

Infant Howler

Infant Howler


Natalie and Capuchin

Natalie and Capuchin


Peccaries

Peccaries


Jungle Settlement

Jungle Settlement


Sharing the Road

Sharing the Road


Our last stop was an orchid garden that was lush and gorgeous, in a very rustic way. The stops were also a great relief from the hours of bumping along a scary dirt road ever winding deeper into the jungle!Jungle Orchid

Jungle Orchid

Jungle Orchid 2

Jungle Orchid 2


Bugs on a leaf

Bugs on a leaf

Atalaya - Freddie's home town, was a bustling port town. We picked up last minute supplies (a six pack of Dorado Cusquena for Rick and Karen), said goodbye to the Maltese couple who were doing the 3 day tour with Freddie, and then we were off on the motorized canoe down the Upper Madre de Dios River. This canoe was piloted by a Machiguenga native and his helper, held an extra motor, and stowed all our luggage and supplies under tarps.
The Magnificent River Craft

The Magnificent River Craft


River Village

River Village


On the Rio

On the Rio


True to our luck, it was cloudy, and eventually rainy! Still, our cook Ciro rustled up a great lunch on the boat. We wore our coats and hats (Karen actually wore here smart wool toque for the first time in Peru, in the jungle for heavens sake) and pulled a plastic tarp around us to keep relatively warm and dry! The cold, wet weather is rare for the jungle. It only occurs 2-3 times a year, and lasts for about a week. It was a long trip to Boca Manu where we stopped to contact the Pantiacolla office for the last time and get anything else we needed.
Boca Manu General Store

Boca Manu General Store

Baby Emperor Tamarin

Baby Emperor Tamarin


The river is powerful, fast, and muddy, and teeming with life. We saw a myriad of birds and some black and white cayman species. It's hard to describe how this all felt. Kind of like we were going back in time. Most places seem to run on generators, and our stops for the night at Reva's lodge was no different. His rooms had private showers and bathrooms - these were cabins all on blocks above the muddy ground. This year he had to move all his lodge buildings further inland on his 60 hectares as the river had carved, and was still carving, away his riverfront! This was a costly venture for him. We had a lovely cold beer before dinner and Ciro managed a hearty dinner again chopping and cooking often with only his headlamp. These guys are amazing. The jungle gets dark earlier than Lima or Cuzco - around 6pm really, and if you are walking in the forest it is even earlier! Lights out at 9 of course, as we were leaving by 05:30 the next day for our long boat ride to Casa Machiguenga Lodge!
Riva's Hummingbird Lodge

Riva's Hummingbird Lodge


Our sleep was a little fitful as we were worried we wouldn't wake in time. At one point we were awakened by an alarm sound - but it was only some jungle insect that sounded remarkably like a distant gentle alarm. We were in the boat between 0530-0545 and off up the river back to Boca Manu, turn right and there we were on the Manu River, and very soon we were truly in the protected area. Another half an hour and we stopped to register at the ranger station.
Manu Park Ranger Station

Manu Park Ranger Station


There is no commercial activity allowed in the park reserved zone, but tourists and scientists are allowed to stay at the few lodges that exist - no camping anymore. It is forbidden by the Peruvian government to have any contact with the "uncontacted natives." Reva, our guide, explained the difficulties with this policy. The "uncontacteds" have been increasingly coming closer and closer to the river communities and indicating they want machetes,cooking pots and utensils, and even clothes. The government is worried about the spread of disease to them but have not tried to vaccinate the tribes. Reva states many of the river community people, like the Machiguenga, can communicate somewhat with the tribes but the government hasn't tried to enlist their help as they want to keep the people in their pristine primitive state. But it sounds as if some of the primitive tribes want to advance - it is a troubling situation at best with no clear cut solutions. In the recent past, one of the Machiguenga people was murdered when he tried to harvest his food. Uncontacteds were camped on his farmland and as they had found the crop, they believed it was theirs to defend. In the past few weeks, this happened again. So far, there has not been out and out war between the Machiguenga people and these nomads, but the day may come.
The ride upriver was very long, but we saw amazing amounts of birds and lots of cayman - the weather was still iffy and a little rainy but warmer with very brief sun breaks. No self respecting jaguar could be found roaming the muddy banks in such inclement weather. In total we travelled at least 8 hours - we saw a very large black cayman, other smaller white and black by cayman, and even a large, dead one.
White Caiman

White Caiman


Yellow necked turtles abounded, as did wood storks, all types of egrets, macaws, herons -tiger and cocoi, swallows, kingbirds, skimmers and terns, Hawks and even a swallow-tailed kite.
Wood Storks on the Beach

Wood Storks on the Beach

White-winged Swallow

White-winged Swallow

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Large-Billed Tern

Large-Billed Tern


We finally stopped before 2pm, and walked overland to Cocha Salvador where we would be going to see the otters the next morning. We hiked alongside the lake for awhile and saw long-nosed bats and some toucans, and monkeys of course. Then it was off again towards Machiguenga Lodge on the river, where we would be staying two nights. On the way we saw great examples of the Strangling Fig tree- one which had completely destroyed its host tree and one still in the process. Fascinating.
Capuchin Monkey

Capuchin Monkey


This jungle is totally alien to us. It looks like a mix of the planet landscapes depicted in the movies Avatar and Jurassic park. It is dark and mysterious and full of bird and insect sounds and mammalian rustlings. The paths are thick with mud and roots and we are very thankful for the gum boots we have been loaned for the journey. While the accommodations are albeit, rustic - thatched roofs, wooden structures with half walls and screening the rest of the way, single beds with mosquito netting, a separate hut with actual flush toilets and cold showers, and only candle light in our rooms.......well, it is astounding they have accomplished this much in such a remote, pristine wilderness. One wonders what the future will bring to this place. Money always talks and there is money to be made off the tourists for sure.
There were many groups here for the night. We managed to grab a cold shower before dinner and did a little night walk after dinner and then early to bed as we were off to see the giant otters early in the morning.

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 08:25 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

First 4 days in Cusco

2 Months in Peru, May 11-14, 2015; Days 43-46

Monday May 11, Days 43
A leisurely morning with HOT showers and a breakfast which was buffet style in a lovely dining area with ornate colonial wooden chairs - tablecloths but the usual "one small square" napkins. The hot dishes were cold but there was plenty of fruit and bread and ham and cheese. And strong hot coffee. Heaven. Then the morning was spent organizing the wire transfer to Pantiacolla. Day 43- On the Way to Plaza Armas_

Day 43- On the Way to Plaza Armas_


After lunch we decided to head to the hilltop fortress of Sacsaywamán (pronounced similar to sexy woman), a steep climb 2 km up from the central plaza. We opted for an 8 sole taxi and didn't hire a guide, just toured the place ourselves. Day 43- Sacsaywamán from Below

Day 43- Sacsaywamán from Below

We had purchased a 130 sole ticket at the tourist information office ( where they, incidentally, didn't speak any English) which gave us entrance to 16 different sites within a 10 day period which was the most economical option. True to our luck, the clouds began to gather as we began our walkabout. The long Quechua name means "Satisfied Falcon" (according to Lonely planet) and unfortunately we only see 20% of the original structure, as the Spaniards tore it down after they conquered the Incas and used the stones to build their houses. Day 43-Rick at Sacsaywamán_

Day 43-Rick at Sacsaywamán_

In earlier times the shape of Cusco resembled the body of a Puma, and Sacsaywamán was its head with its 22 zigzag walls being the teeth. Day 43-Sacsaywamán Fortifications

Day 43-Sacsaywamán Fortifications

Day 43-Sacsaywamán Fortifications 2

Day 43-Sacsaywamán Fortifications 2

These walls were really impressive with many large stones weighing tons.Day 43-Sacsaywamán Battlement Walls

Day 43-Sacsaywamán Battlement Walls

Day 43-Large SacsaywamánWall Stones

Day 43-Large SacsaywamánWall Stones

This place housed about 5000 soldiers at one time - but from what we understood from our pathetic Spanish translation is this place was also used for worship and no doubt the obligatory sacrificial rites as well. At this point we were starting to contend with a water issue of our own. Rick had to get some llama/alpaca pictures and it was starting to rain with some thunder and lightning. Day 43-Llamas in the Rain

Day 43-Llamas in the Rain

We decided to head back to town with some directions from an English speaking Peruvian - go there, turn right, you can't miss the road back to town.....Day 43-Cusco from Sacsaywamán_

Day 43-Cusco from Sacsaywamán_

Day 43-Campasinos at Sacsaywamán_

Day 43-Campasinos at Sacsaywamán_

Day 43- Trail from Sacsaywamán to Cusco

Day 43- Trail from Sacsaywamán to Cusco


We visited the large white Christ statue on the next hill over that we could see at night from the plaza (think Rio de Janeiro Christ statue - they are everywhere in Peru) and then plied the cobblestone streets and steps back to the plaza. It was a good outing but walking anywhere at this altitude takes a toll on ones energy.Day 43-Plaza Armas, Cusco

Day 43-Plaza Armas, Cusco

Day 43- Plaza Armas Cathedral

Day 43- Plaza Armas Cathedral

Day 43- Incan Ruler Fountain

Day 43- Incan Ruler Fountain

Day 43- Cusco Lightpost Puma Decoration

Day 43- Cusco Lightpost Puma Decoration


The plaza is beautiful at night - it's fountain all lit up and the two Spanish colonial churches flanking two sides, central gardens, cobblestone sidewalks, and as clean a city as we have seen in South America. Of course, if you leave the historic/tourist area, that all changes. Still, it is lovely, albeit full of more gringos than we had seen in quite a while- mostly European and some Aussies. Tomorrow- off to the sacred valley!

Tuesday, May 12, Day 44 Sacred Valley
Up early to catch our bus for the tour. Our lovely guide was Regina - Regi - who spoke fair English. Waiting to board we met Katie from Hillsboro, Oregon. It's a small tourist world here in Cusco.
Day 44- Pisac Entrance

Day 44- Pisac Entrance


Our first main stop was Pisac, an Incan citadel high above the actual village. We certainly got a bit of a workout climbing these steps to the main citadel area. It's temple was built in the shape of a condor, and it had remarkable terracing all around where the Incas experimented with different crops at altitude (the site is at 3550 meters).
Day 44- Pisac Wall

Day 44- Pisac Wall

Day 44- Pisac Terraces

Day 44- Pisac Terraces


Then it was down to the town to learn about jewelry making with plenty of work available to purchase!
Day 44- Pisac Ruins, Condor's Head Section

Day 44- Pisac Ruins, Condor's Head Section

Day 44- Pisac Ruins From the Condor's Head

Day 44- Pisac Ruins From the Condor's Head

Day 44- Pisac Ruins and Terraces

Day 44- Pisac Ruins and Terraces

Day 44- Pisac Dwellings

Day 44- Pisac Dwellings


Day 44-Smiling at Pisac!

Day 44-Smiling at Pisac!


Next stop, lunch at Urubamba, then on to the fortress of Ollantaytambo, which was incredible!
Day 44- Ollantaytambo Complex

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Complex


Massive, it sits at around 2800 meters and seen from afar it resembles a llama. You climb numerous steps up many terraced levels to the top where the wonderful Temple of the Sun sits, awaiting the winter solstice sunshine which illuminates its rock edifices perfectly. Day 44- Ollantaytambo Water Race

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Water Race

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Terraces from Below

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Terraces from Below

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Terraces and Ruins

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Terraces and Ruins

The Incas brought these rocks from a stone quarry 6 km across the Urubamba River. If you gaze across the valley there are several natural stone formations that look like Inca faces, the prominent nose being a prevalent facial feature in their race!
Day 44- Ollantaytambo South-west View

Day 44- Ollantaytambo South-west View

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Lots of Visitors

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Lots of Visitors

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Karen and Katie near the Top

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Karen and Katie near the Top

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Incan Ruins

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Incan Ruins


Storage Building

Storage Building


Day 44- Ollantaytambo Inca Noble

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Inca Noble

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Half-way Up the Ruins

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Half-way Up the Ruins

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Could Climb Higher, yet

Day 44- Ollantaytambo Could Climb Higher, yet


We wandered about for awhile then it was off to our last stop - Chinchera, a town renowned for its textiles. There we climbed up another set of terraces to view a very ancient Incan temple and place of sacrifice, at 3850 meters. Up at the top we crawled through narrow passageways to the sacrificial sites and later wandered in the twilight on the large grassy square where a church had been built in later times. Soon it was dark and we headed back into the village to watch a demonstration of the processes involved in preparing and dying the wool from the animals to be spun for clothes and for weaving textiles. It was fascinating.Day 44- Sacred Valley from Pisac Ruins

Day 44- Sacred Valley from Pisac Ruins

Day 44- Sacred Valley Scenery _

Day 44- Sacred Valley Scenery _

Day 44-Ollantaytambo- Crowded!

Day 44-Ollantaytambo- Crowded!


We were all pretty tired on the bus back to Cusco. Rick and I headed for dinner at Paddy's Pub and had a good pint of beer brewed here in Cuzco which cost the same amount as our dinner entrees. But it was worth it to finally have a good beer. It was a full and educational day!

Wednesday, May 13, Day 45
We spent the morning playing catch up, organizing for the jungle and Puno, doing laundry, etc. Pamela and Ega were back from Machu Picchu and related their adventures at breakfast. We met up with them later and toured around the city at random. First we had lunch at an excellent restaurant where Ega and Karen had alpaca in a sauce with quinoa risotto which Karen will try to recreate at home. We stopped in a lovely cathedral - Pam and Ega bought us entrance tickets. It was quite amazing - many baroque era paintings done by Peruvians for the Spaniards (the paintings depicting biblical scenes often had the Roman soldiers in Spanish helmets - ha!) and gold foil on so many of the fixtures. The place had been damaged severely by an earthquake in the sixties but had been lovingly restored.Day 45- Plaza Armas from Iglesia de La Compañia de Jesús

Day 45- Plaza Armas from Iglesia de La Compañia de Jesús

Day 46- Qorikancha

Day 46- Qorikancha

Day 46- Rick at Qorikancha

Day 46- Rick at Qorikancha


Then it was off to explore the San Blas area with its cathedral and fountains and plaza, and many shops for gringos and tourists. We wound our way back down to the Avenida el Sol where we found the Spanish church built on the ruins of the main Inca temple in Cuzco, called Santo Domingo/Qorikancha - take your pick, the Spanish or Incan Quechua name! Cuzco is spelled with a "z" or an "s", and means center of the empire, but literally translates as belly button of the empire or world. It is getting hard to navigate the streets as the maps have Spanish street names but the actual street signs are often in Quechua - a process of changing them to the true native language which is ongoing so the maps are not keeping up. The Peruvians take great pride in their heritage and especially in historic Cuzco they want to celebrate this by preserving the sites and the ancient culture. The Qorikancha site was beautiful at night - well lit and with many benches to sit and enjoy the area.
We ended our night at Paddy's pub where Pam and Ega treated us to good beers - we had IPA (!) and we, as a way of introducing them to Irish food, all shared a shepherd'Day 45- Karen and Friend

Day 45- Karen and Friend

s pie!

Thursday, May 14, Day 46 - preparing for the jungle!
We spent a lot of today organizing for the jungle but we took some time out to go to the museum at the Qorikancha site that was also included on our tourist ticket. This was a small museum housed beneath the grounds of the temple site (they call these "in situ museos" here in Peru). Perhaps the most fascinating part of this small place was the intact mummies displayed complete with skin and hair and teeth. As well they had many skull displays showing the trepanning techniques the Incas practiced - this involved removing pieces of skull or drilling holes in the skull to ostensibly relieve pressure - they did use some sort of anesthetic and some of the people survived. There were also skulls displayed that were abnormally shaped - formed by a process the Incas started on noble children from birth to alter their head shape to display their higher status. They bound the babies skulls in such a way as to cause the skull to elongate. One wonders why they thought this shape was so special - it eerily resembles our modern day depiction of alien heads. Coincidence? Ha!
Back in the street near the tour office for our jungle trip we ran into some Aussies we had met on Monday while searching for the South American explorers club. As I have said before, it is a small tourist world in Cuzco. We hit it off and all went to try Peruvian Chinese food together. It was actually quite good and we had a lovely time with Mimie and Rod. We hope to meet up with them in Oz someday, or even in Vancouver BC as they are planning on visiting Canada next year.
Tomorrow -off to the jungle!
Day 44- Rick's New Souvenir

Day 44- Rick's New Souvenir

Day 46- New Incans

Day 46- New Incans

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 15:58 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

Huembo-Colibri-Hummingbird (then a side of Petroglyphs!)

2 Months in Peru—May 8-10, 2015—Day 40, 41and 42.

semi-overcast 71 °F

Day 40-Huembo!
Today we decided to sleep in and have an easy day. Breakfast at 0800, then we got most of our bank issues from the lost wallet straightened out quickly. We decided to see the hummingbirds at Huembo along with Pamela and Ega. Huembo is what the locals call a conservation area for the marvellous spatuletail hummingbird.

This bird had previously been hunted mercilessly for its heart as it was considered a source of great power if ingested (eaten). Day 40-Marvellous Spatuletail Colibri

Day 40-Marvellous Spatuletail Colibri

Day 40-Short-tailed Woodstar(?)

Day 40-Short-tailed Woodstar(?)

Day 40-Violet-Fronted Brilliant Colibri

Day 40-Violet-Fronted Brilliant Colibri

This had reduced the population to about 1000 and it is now endangered. East of Pedro Ruiz, this small area has a couple of caretakers who keep feeders filled and protect the few breeding pairs that are left in that area. Day 40- Huembo Entrance

Day 40- Huembo Entrance

Day 40- Green Violetear Colibri (?)

Day 40- Green Violetear Colibri (?)

Day 40- Female White-Bellied Woodstar Colibri

Day 40- Female White-Bellied Woodstar Colibri

Day 40- Bronzy Inca Colibri

Day 40- Bronzy Inca Colibri

Day 40- 2 Chestnut Coronet Colibri

Day 40- 2 Chestnut Coronet Colibri

We hired a driver to take us up there and back for 130 soles - about $35. Pretty good deal for the four of us. We left at 10:00 am and arrived at around noonish and had to pay 28 soles each to get in. All of this supports the conservation of the Marvellous spatuletail hummingbird, so we felt it was worth it.
Day 40-The Road from Chachapoyas

Day 40-The Road from Chachapoyas

Day 40-Clearing the Recent Slide

Day 40-Clearing the Recent Slide


Day 40- On the Road to Huembo-2

Day 40- On the Road to Huembo-2


We ended up spending almost three hours enjoying the 11 different species of hummers flitting around the two different areas with feeders and viewing benches.
Day 40- Perching Marvellous Spatulatetail Colibri

Day 40- Perching Marvellous Spatulatetail Colibri

Day 40- Huembo Flowers

Day 40- Huembo Flowers

Day 40- Huembo Visitor Center

Day 40- Huembo Visitor Center

Day 40-Andean Warbler sp

Day 40-Andean Warbler sp

Day 40-Huembo Flowers

Day 40-Huembo Flowers

After the noise and bustle of the city, it was tranquil and serene, with beautiful views of valleys below. Day 40- Huembo View

Day 40- Huembo View

Rick got some wonderful pictures! Santos, the main caretaker (who can be seen on videos of this place if you google it on You Tube) pointed out all the different species to us and obviously loved his hummers.
Day 40- Huembo Caretaker Santos with Group

Day 40- Huembo Caretaker Santos with Group


He stated their were 3 breeding pairs of spatule tails nesting in the preserve at present, but we could not view them for fear of disturbing them. At the small information area later, he showed us some additional hummingbird videos he had on his computer and allowed Karen to download a small compilation of the birds of Peru on her camera card to be placed on her computer later. Karen had to purchase a t-shirt to further support their efforts! It was a lovely place.Day 40- Marvellous Spatuletail Colibri_

Day 40- Marvellous Spatuletail Colibri_

Day 40- Unidentified Colibri

Day 40- Unidentified Colibri

Day 40-Andean Emerald (?) Colibri

Day 40-Andean Emerald (?) Colibri

Day 40-Chestnut-Breasted Coronet Colibri

Day 40-Chestnut-Breasted Coronet Colibri


On the way back to town our driver stopped at an incredible rocky overhang that Rick had wanted to photograph. Further on down the road he stopped again at a cliff area that had numerous petroglyphs. Day 40- Petroglyphs Here

Day 40- Petroglyphs Here

Day 40- La Pitaya Petroglyphs

Day 40- La Pitaya Petroglyphs

Day 40- La Pitaya Petroglyphs 2

Day 40- La Pitaya Petroglyphs 2

We all climbed up and Edgardo was thrilled to see these carvings which seemed to indicate hunting information and also seemed to be from different periods. They also contained some of the ancient peoples sacred symbols such as spirals and Inca crosses, and some had traces of red and white paint. A piece of history literally at our fingertips with no other tourists around. Wonderful.
Back in Chacha, we purchased a decent bottle of Chilean wine and shared it with our lovely friends who left on the bus that evening for Chiclayo and on to Cuzco ahead of us. We said our good byes - but we were not sad. We would see them again as we were staying at the same hotel in Cuzco in two days. It was a full day.
Day 40-Casa Vieja Courtyard

Day 40-Casa Vieja Courtyard

Day 40- Huembo Visitors

Day 40- Huembo Visitors


2 Months in Peru - Day 41 and 42 - May 9 and 10
Two days of catching up and traveling. Saturday was spent writing, emailing, blogging and of course eating!! Our hotel recommended an excellent restaurant El Tejada, with an inner courtyard and fountain - very peaceful and very good food. We took it easy as Karen was having a stomach issue and was now on antibiotics in the hopes it would help.
Day 40- Casa Vieja 2

Day 40- Casa Vieja 2


We packed up and headed to the bus depot for 6:30 pm - we didn’t want any surprises we couldn’t resolve early in the evening. At the depot we were entertained by a group of passengers who decided to do a traditional dance in the outside waiting area. We are not quite sure what it was all about - one of the fellows said it was Movil Tours anniversary but we believe something was lost in translation…..
We were ushered on the bus by a lovely senorita all dressed in red (with a cape even) but we barely saw her the rest of the trip. We were seated on the bottom deck, the chairs were wide and comfy and there were only two other passengers - the bulk of them were up top in the cheaper seats. There was the requisite blaring TV screen with a B-grade movie dubbed in Spanish. The bus turned and lurched up the mountainsides and Karen was thankful for the anti-nausea pill she took. A small dinner of chicken and potatoes and rice at 9:30 or so helped both our stomachs. And we basically slept till our arrival at 05:30 at the very familiar Chiclayo bus station. They would not let us catch a taxi to the airport till 06:15 - so we waited, and waited.
Finally we got to the airport - we were the only people other than security and a cafe employee. Slowly people trickled in and the counter line opened. We went through preliminary security here - the gloved official took a few things out of each of our bags and replaced them and waved us on. Unfortunately, at the counter, the woman was unable to contact anyone at Lan by phone to help change our tickets. She advised us to do it, which entailed Rick on the phone for over an hour off and on to no avail! Aargh. Finally Rick went up a staircase following some Lan employees as it was 08:30 and the counter was closed. There he found a woman who seemed to be in charge. She reassured us that at 9am she would call and straighten everything out (she spoke some English). We went off to have a quick breakfast in the cafeteria upstairs. By now we had been traveling for almost 14 hours and we were a little frazzled and in need of food.
True to her word, the woman did straighten things out and by 10:20 or so we were motioned up to the counter. Hurrah - we were on the 11:00am flight to Lima and the 4pm flight to Cuzco. This cost us $60 but we were just happy we would get to Cuzco. Our booked hotel room would have charged us one night if we hadn’t made it!
Day 40- Over the Andes

Day 40- Over the Andes

Day 40- Valley Town at 10,000 Ft

Day 40- Valley Town at 10,000 Ft


The flight was beautiful over the Andes - towering snow capped peaks with green valleys and numerous settlements with terraced hillsides above them. Spectacular. And Cuzco looked beautiful in the twilight as we landed. All of the taxis at the airport wanted to charge us 40 soles for the trip to town but our Chilean friends had warned us of this - we insisted on less and paid 17 soles to a lovely man who described some of the sights on the way in - he spoke slowly and carefully in Spanish and Karen understood most everything he said. Our hotel was in the historic district, all dark wood and tile and scrupulously clean.
Day 40- Cusco Jungle

Day 40- Cusco Jungle


The room was small but lovely and the water was HOT! We dropped our stuff and headed to the hotel bar for a beer. After all, at this point it was almost 7 pm and we had been traveling 24 hours! Julio, the bell boy equivalent told us the bar wasn’t really open but he led us upstairs to a rooftop area with a wonderful view of the city with its lighted hills and we enjoyed a liter beer between the two of us. Fabulous.
Then we headed out to see a bit of the city before sleep - which of course in every Peruvian city means heading to the Plaza de Armas. Walking towards the plaza we came across Pamela and Ega! Off we went for beers and pizza and a chat to catch up on their adventures on the Sacred Valley tour. We had some laughs and good food and then it was back to blissful sleep!
Day 40- Cusco Jungle Rooftop Bar

Day 40- Cusco Jungle Rooftop Bar

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 16:33 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

Gocta Cataract-A Way High Waterfall!

2 Months in Peru—May 7, 2015—Day 39.

Rough night, after losing the wallet, but in the morning we got onto the tasks of canceling the lost bank cards and making arrangements to transfer money to the last accessible account. We had planned to go to Gocta Cataract (Falls) today, but had given up on that plan, even though many of the Kuelap group had agreed to go there together. Ega and Pamela had encouraged us to go to Gocta later in the morning after we finished our financial tasks. They were very kind in saying they would wait for us and we could go together! Well, that’s what we did.

The other big issue last night and this morning was the Hostel we were at. The showers were cold last night and luke warm at best, this morning. Further, they said that no eggs were available to purchase for desayuno, even though we had seen them for sale all over town yesterday. Ega was very fed up with the treatment they had received and decided to move to another hostel! We said the slow internet, cold showers, and poor breakfasts made us ready to move too. So, we checked out and walked our packs up to the Casa Vieja, a hostel Karen had marked as a good possibility in our guide book. They had rooms for both couples, and the entire experience was wonderful! HOT showers, fast internet much of the time, and a fine desayuno in their adjoining cafe. The rooms were even warm, with a down comforter on the bed. This move helped balance out the lost wallet.
Day 39-Interesting Landforms

Day 39-Interesting Landforms

Day 39-More Beautiful Views

Day 39-More Beautiful Views


Day 39-Karen Saw it First

Day 39-Karen Saw it First

Day 39-Poinsettia Shrub

Day 39-Poinsettia Shrub

Day 39-Surrounding Scenery

Day 39-Surrounding Scenery


We were on the road by 10am for Gocta. The 4 of us had been joined by a sweet couple from the city of Huarez in the Cordillera region of Peru. The drive to Cocachimba, the trailhead for Gocta Falls was 1.5 -2 hours long. At Cocachimba we made our choices, as before, for the post visit meal. Then to the visitor center to pay the trail fee and be assigned a guide ( no one gets on the trail or to the falls without a 30 sole ($10) guide)!
Day 39-On the Trail to Gocta

Day 39-On the Trail to Gocta

Day 39-Local Flora

Day 39-Local Flora

Day 39-Falls from Afar

Day 39-Falls from Afar

Day 39-Gocta Falls 1

Day 39-Gocta Falls 1

Day 39-Fossils in the Rocks

Day 39-Fossils in the Rocks

Day 39-A Little Closer

Day 39-A Little Closer


Gocta Cataract is a new tourist attraction in Peru. It was “discovered” in 2005 by a German traveller hiking in the hills around Cocachimba. No one except the locals knew about it, not even the Peruvian Government! This is somewhat surprising because it is likely the third highest water fall in the world ( although some others with different affiliation dispute this)! The falls were measured by a survey team and returned a total height of 741meters! The upper falls are 201 meters high, and the lower falls are 540 meters.
Day 39-Getting Closer

Day 39-Getting Closer

Day 39-Continuing Down the Trail

Day 39-Continuing Down the Trail

Day 39-Group Shot

Day 39-Group Shot

Day 39-The Entire 740m Falls

Day 39-The Entire 740m Falls

Day 39-Trail Goes Up and Down

Day 39-Trail Goes Up and Down

Day 39-Sugar Cane Pressing Hut

Day 39-Sugar Cane Pressing Hut

Day 39-Mountain Stream

Day 39-Mountain Stream


Local lore believed that Gocta Cataract was enchanted and evil. The folks of Cocachimba believed that there was a golden vase at the bottom of the falls, protected by large serpents. A mermaid guarded the pool and enchanted anyone who came near, then the serpents would devour him (or her, but mostly him)! No one ventured near the falls, no one talked about it. The German adventurer who hiked to the base of the falls had to beg the town folk to provide a guide to accompany him. Finally a local hunter with a good reputation agreed, to lead him via old Inca trails to the falls. They returned unscathed, and the town was amazed!
Day 39-Rick and Gocta Falls_

Day 39-Rick and Gocta Falls_

Day 39-Karen,Ega,Pamela, Gocta Falls_

Day 39-Karen,Ega,Pamela, Gocta Falls_

Day 39-Karen at Gocta

Day 39-Karen at Gocta

Day 39-Karen and Gocta Falls_

Day 39-Karen and Gocta Falls_


We hiked a newer, easier (Ha Ha) trail built by a group of Italians, and now maintained by the local people.
Day 39-Workers on the Trail

Day 39-Workers on the Trail


Day 39-Closer, Yet

Day 39-Closer, Yet


We started a bit higher in elevation than the base of the falls, but the trail was relentlessly up and down. About half way to the falls we came to a hut that could be rented out for groups of up to 22 people who wanted to be there early in the morning to see the birds and monkeys that reside in the area.
Day 39-Suspension Bridge

Day 39-Suspension Bridge


Day 39-Ega Plays Tarzan

Day 39-Ega Plays Tarzan

Day 39-Pamela Tries Out for Jane

Day 39-Pamela Tries Out for Jane


A bit farther on we came to a structure that sold snacks, water, cerveza and shots of liquor! Ega bought the 4 of us cervezas and we drank them as we hiked! As we got close to the falls we met most of the group from the day before at Kuelap. They were pleased to see us and said they were sad when we were not on their morning tour.
Day 39-Steep Cloudforest Hillside

Day 39-Steep Cloudforest Hillside

Day 39-Karen and Rick at Gocta

Day 39-Karen and Rick at Gocta


The hike to the falls was challenging, due to the altitude, 1900 meters at the start of the hike, 1700 at the base. The falls were amazing up close, the wind generated by the falling water, impressive. The free-fall of a drop of water from the top of the lower falls to the pool, by the way, is about 20 seconds! By the way, the falls are named Gocta after the sound the local monkeys make - goc - and the sound of a drop of water hitting the pool below the falls - ta. We lingered a while at the base of the falls, celebrating our accomplishment in a variety of ways, then started our return hike.
Day 39-The Gocta Pool

Day 39-The Gocta Pool

Day 39-Rick Heading Towards the Pool

Day 39-Rick Heading Towards the Pool

Day 39-Lower Falls, 540 meters

Day 39-Lower Falls, 540 meters

Day 39-Karen Heading Toward the Pool

Day 39-Karen Heading Toward the Pool

Day 39-Insect at the Pool

Day 39-Insect at the Pool

Day 39-Karen Above the Pool

Day 39-Karen Above the Pool

Day 39-Rick Above the Pool

Day 39-Rick Above the Pool

Day 39-Ega (32 Anos) Celebrates

Day 39-Ega (32 Anos) Celebrates

Day 39-Rick (65 Anos) Celebrates

Day 39-Rick (65 Anos) Celebrates

Day 39-Candelario, our Guide

Day 39-Candelario, our Guide


It was even more difficult than the approach. The same up and down trail, but we were tired and hungry, and the daily afternoon downpour did nothing to make it easier.
Day 39-Karen at Trail Portal-Rain Shelter

Day 39-Karen at Trail Portal-Rain Shelter


At Cocachimba we were happy to sit, dry out, and enjoy a warm meal.
Day 39-Lower Falls, Another View

Day 39-Lower Falls, Another View

Day 39-Post-Hike Meal Celebration

Day 39-Post-Hike Meal Celebration


Then the long ride back to Chachapoyas, where we finished the evening at the Fusion Cafe with a celebratory Coca Sour!
Day 39-Celebrating the Hike with Coca Sours

Day 39-Celebrating the Hike with Coca Sours

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 21:21 Comments (3)

Kuelap- INCREDIBLE!!

2 Months in Peru—May 6, 2015—Day 38.

overcast 65 °F

We were up early (about 6:30) as usual, and jumped in the shower. The promised “hot showers” turned out to be “about 2º warmer than the cold water showers!” This situation turned the experience into the infamous PTA type of shower. We met Ega and Pamela for desayuno, and their morning ablution experience had been the same . They did report that the last evening’s shower had been a reasonably warm affair. We attributed the cold morning shower to perhaps a solar hot water heater. We had seen quite a few solar heaters of the type manufactured in China , on the roofs of the Campasino’s adobe homes, while traveling over the mountains.
Day 38-The Road to Kuelap 2

Day 38-The Road to Kuelap 2


The tour bus arrived promptly at 0815, and we recognized several other people who had been on yesterday’s bus from Celedin. We drove several blocks to the Plaza and picked up our guide for the day, Hernando. It was a 2 hour drive to the Fortress, with a 15 minute stop in a pueblo to order almuerzo, to be served on the return trip.
Day 38-Common Garden Flower

Day 38-Common Garden Flower

Day 38-Kuelap Trail Rock Work

Day 38-Kuelap Trail Rock Work


The route to Kuelap used to start at a place called Tingo Viejo, and followed the old trail with an elevation gain of about 1200 meters, and a distance of 9.8 km.Day 38-The Road to Kuelap

Day 38-The Road to Kuelap

Now we can drive to within 2km of Kuelap, which leaves only a 100-200m gain in elevation to reach the ruins. Within 2 years the Peruvians are scheduled to complete an aerial tram across the deep valley that will put tourists at the same elevation as Kuelap, and only a couple hundred meters from it’s entrance.
Day 38-Kuelap Path

Day 38-Kuelap Path


Day 38-Kuelap Fortress, First sighting

Day 38-Kuelap Fortress, First sighting

Day 38-Approaching Kuelap_

Day 38-Approaching Kuelap_


Kuelap itself is an awesome ruins, built by the Chachapoyan kingdom starting in 500AD, and under continuous construction until 1493 when the Incas conquered and absorbed the “Jungle Kingdom” into their empire. The Fortress city sits on top of a 3000 meter (9952 ft.) limestone mountain with good views all around. Some “authorities” have claimed that more stone went into the building of Kuelap, than the building of the Cheops pyramid in Egypt!

Day 38-Kuelap Greeter 1

Day 38-Kuelap Greeter 1

Day 38-Kuelap Greeter 2

Day 38-Kuelap Greeter 2

The ruins consist of defensible walls enclosing an area 700 meters long and 300 meters wide with over 400 circular living structures built on two levels.
Day 38-Fortress Wall

Day 38-Fortress Wall

Day 38-Along the Wall

Day 38-Along the Wall


Day 38-Main Entrance

Day 38-Main Entrance

Day 38-The Way In

Day 38-The Way In

Day 38- Narrow at the Top

Day 38- Narrow at the Top

Day 38-Ega and Pamala at Kuelap_

Day 38-Ega and Pamala at Kuelap_


Day 38- Interior Wall

Day 38- Interior Wall


Day 38-Growing Wild

Day 38-Growing Wild


Day 38-Wild Bromeliads

Day 38-Wild Bromeliads


Day 38-Communal Building

Day 38-Communal Building


Day 38-Dwelling Foundations

Day 38-Dwelling Foundations

Day 38-Dwelling Interior

Day 38-Dwelling Interior


The living structures were topped with steep grass-thatched roofs. Most had a partial second level for sleeping, and a corral or area to contain Guinea Pigs (Cuy). In addition using the Cuy for food, the Chachapoyans also used them to keep warm while sleeping ( how would you like to cuddle up in bed with a few Cuy for warmth?) One guide told me that the dead, eviscerated Cuy were used as pillow when sleeping, but I failed to ask the follow-up questions like: “Exactly how did that work? “
Day 38-Re-Constructed Dwelling

Day 38-Re-Constructed Dwelling

Day 38-Foundation Window

Day 38-Foundation Window

Day 38-Foundation Decoration

Day 38-Foundation Decoration

Day 38-Rhombus Art

Day 38-Rhombus Art

Day 38-Nobility Level

Day 38-Nobility Level

There are also work areas and religious structures that have been identified. The group followed the guide as he meandered through the ruins for about 3 hours explaining the purpose and significance of the various areas and objects.
Day 38-Chacha Temple

Day 38-Chacha Temple

Day 38-Chacha Temple 2

Day 38-Chacha Temple 2


Day 38-Karen at the Edge

Day 38-Karen at the Edge

Day 38-Karen at the Edge 2

Day 38-Karen at the Edge 2

Day 38-Midwest Backpackers

Day 38-Midwest Backpackers

Day 38-Kuelap Watch Tower

Day 38-Kuelap Watch Tower

Day 38-Kuelap Wall

Day 38-Kuelap Wall


Before we left the Fortress Rick found the 3 resident llamas!
Day 38-Resting Llama

Day 38-Resting Llama

Day 38-Standing Llama 2

Day 38-Standing Llama 2

Day 38-Standing Llama

Day 38-Standing Llama

Day 38-Standing Llama  and Pamela

Day 38-Standing Llama and Pamela

Day 38-Standing Llamas  and Ega

Day 38-Standing Llamas and Ega

Day 38-Road View

Day 38-Road View

Day 38-Rick at the Edge_

Day 38-Rick at the Edge_

Day 38-Rick at Kuelap

Day 38-Rick at Kuelap

Day 38-King's Crown Watch Tower

Day 38-King's Crown Watch Tower


We returned to the parking area at about 4pm and headed to the pueblo restaurant that was preparing our much needed meal. Then Back to Chachapoyas where we shared a few beers with our new friends Ega and Pamela from Chile.

We started to pay the bill, and Rick could not find his wallet! He checked his clothes and pockets multiple times to no avail! Earlier in the evening he had left the bebida cafe to book two tickets on the Chiclayo bus, because we had just found out the road was cleared of landslides and it was again running on that route.We really do not know what happened to the wallet, but the best guess is that it fell out a shallow pocket in his rain coat while walking back to the cafe, somewhere on the Plaza.

Day 38-Chachapoyas Town Center

Day 38-Chachapoyas Town Center

Oh well, another personal donation to a Peruvian in need. The biggest problem is now we are down to one bank card for automatic teller withdrawals!
Day 38-Rick and Karen at Kuelap

Day 38-Rick and Karen at Kuelap

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 15:59 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Cajamarca to Chacha on One of the Most Dangerous Roads

2 Months in Peru—May 4 & 5, 2015—Day 36 and 37.

all seasons in one day 58 °F

Day 36
The day started at 0600 - showers for the both of us, breakfast, then drop laundry off by 08:30 and back to the room to blog and write for awhile to catch up on our travels. It is really hard to remember all the stuff when there are so many different experiences and places coming at you so quickly.
We got packed up for the trip north and went out for a last walkabout in Cajamarca. This city is the first time since Lima we have seen some evidence of a strongish middle class even though there are campesinos everywhere. It’s quite a country of contrasts, this Peru.
We managed to find Silvia’s (whom we met at the hotel in Chiclayo) brother Frank at his salon on the square and chatted a bit with him. He was happy to see us and greeted us with hugs and smiles.
Then it was off to the streets again. There was a mobile health clinic in the square with a government soldier band playing and booths set up to educate people on different diseases and cancers. I guess they are trying hard to educate the people about improving their health. They even had girls with painted faces passing out balloons and directing people to the booths. Fascinating.Day 36-El Complejo de Belén

Day 36-El Complejo de Belén

Day 36-Military Band

Day 36-Military Band

Day 36-Rick on Stairs

Day 36-Rick on Stairs

When it was time to leave, we said good-by to Tanny’s 1&2, and took a taxi in the rain to the bus depot.

Day 36-Good-Bye Tanny 1 and 2

Day 36-Good-Bye Tanny 1 and 2

Day 36-Afternoon Rain

Day 36-Afternoon Rain

And then it was off on the scary road, which, it turns out, wasn’t!!
Day 36-Good-Bye Cajamarca

Day 36-Good-Bye Cajamarca


Day 36-Into the Hills (Mountains)

Day 36-Into the Hills (Mountains)

Day 36-Switch-back road

Day 36-Switch-back road

Day 36-High in the Andes

Day 36-High in the Andes

Day 36-Highway Wash-Out

Day 36-Highway Wash-Out

Day 36-Terracing at 9,000 ft

Day 36-Terracing at 9,000 ft

Day 36-Trash-Burning near the Pass

Day 36-Trash-Burning near the Pass


It was very winding and tortuous with many switchbacks. The highest pass today was around 10,500 ft according to the GPS. We descended into Celendin at around 5:30 pm. It is a largish town (though not as big as Cajamarca) and decidedly less upscale.
Day 36-Celendin Centro

Day 36-Celendin Centro


After tagging our bags for Chachapoyas, the bus driver walked us down the block to catch a moto taxi to the plaza. There we looked at a couple of hostels and chose a homey looking place, the Mi Posado about one block off the square. It was neat and clean, with just enough room for a double bed, and bench, and a teenie shower, and only 35 soles a night, with breakfast - about $11.50.
Day 37-Mi Posada Entrance

Day 37-Mi Posada Entrance

Day 37-Mi Posada Hostel

Day 37-Mi Posada Hostel

Day 37-Mi Posada Proprietress

Day 37-Mi Posada Proprietress

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.


We spent an hour looking for a handmade straw hat (to replace the one Rick lost) which Celendin is famous for. After visiting several shops, we found the perfect fit - one with a less wide brim than most. It looked great and could be worn with a backpack. Then off to dinner where the waitress was rather surly and the drinks arrived after the meal - no cervezas at all, pisco sours! Then off to bed!

Day 37 - The scary bus ride!
After the bus ride yesterday, Rick was convinced this whole “second most dangerous road in the world” designation was over-hyped. Boy was he wrong. Karen wisely took an anti-nausea pill prior to embarking. The bus we boarded was smaller than the bus from Cajamarca. It turns out this was necessary as the larger bus would not have been able to maneuver the route at all.
Day 37-Bus to Chachapoyas

Day 37-Bus to Chachapoyas


The road absolutely lived up to its billing. It started out steeply from Celendin, quickly became one lane with many switchbacks and steep grades - but at least it was paved - only recently. Day 37-Good-bye Celedin

Day 37-Good-bye Celedin


Day 37-A Long Way Down

Day 37-A Long Way Down

Day 37-A Bit Steeper!

Day 37-A Bit Steeper!

Day 37-A Bit Steeper, yet!

Day 37-A Bit Steeper, yet!

Day 37-A Relentless Climb

Day 37-A Relentless Climb


Two years ago this was still a dirt road in many places. The views were astounding, the slope of the mountains varied from 45-60 degrees, and you could see all the way to the bottom. The shoulders were virtually non-existent and guard rails were few and far between. The driver honked the horn before entering each corner, and if another vehicle was encountered, one or the other had to back up to a wider place in the road.
Day 37-Even a Small Car's a Challange

Day 37-Even a Small Car's a Challange


Day 37-Our Fearless Driver

Day 37-Our Fearless Driver

Day 37-Narrow Shoulders

Day 37-Narrow Shoulders

Day 37-The Road Ahead

Day 37-The Road Ahead

Day 37-Traffic at 10,000 ft

Day 37-Traffic at 10,000 ft


Day 37-Just a Little Washout

Day 37-Just a Little Washout

Day 37-Lets Take Another Chance

Day 37-Lets Take Another Chance


The day before we had been seated on the less frightening side looking at the upside of the mountain rather than the downside. Today when Rick saw the back row seats were empty he moved there so he could slide from side to side to take pictures. A true tourista gringo. Everyone in the bus noticed of course. In fact after a stop between passes, the drivers invited Rick to sit in the shotgun seat in front to take photos from that vantage.
Day 37-Farming at 9,000 ft

Day 37-Farming at 9,000 ft


Day 37-A Bit Steeper!

Day 37-A Bit Steeper!

Day 37-A Bit Steeper, yet!

Day 37-A Bit Steeper, yet!

Day 37-A Long Way Down

Day 37-A Long Way Down


Day 37-Greasy Spoon at 12,000 ft

Day 37-Greasy Spoon at 12,000 ft

Day 37-Restaurant View

Day 37-Restaurant View

Day 37-The road to Chacha

Day 37-The road to Chacha

Day 37-Those are the Mountain Tops

Day 37-Those are the Mountain Tops


The first pass was 12,320 ft high (GPS info) and we then descended to the town of Balsa at 2,855 feet.
Day 37-Balso at 2866 ft

Day 37-Balso at 2866 ft

Day 37-Another View of Balso

Day 37-Another View of Balso


It was noticeably warmer there! Then back up to the second pass where we would top out at 10, 200 ft. Partway up the mountain, the bus came to a stop just before a switchback turn. The passengers were asked to leave the bus and start walking.
Day 37-Everybody Walk!

Day 37-Everybody Walk!


As we turned the corner, we saw a relatively small landslide that was blocking the road. The highway dept was working hard to clear it with one man on a shovel and the other four watching. As the bus came around the corner with the second driver guiding the first, they decided they needed to widen the track and put stones in the ruts to give the bus better traction. Interestingly, the highway workers watched as the bus drivers prepared the road to their own satisfaction using a borrowed pick. The bus made it through and we all cheered.
Day 37-Just a Little Slide!

Day 37-Just a Little Slide!

Day 37-Looking Kinda Tight!

Day 37-Looking Kinda Tight!

Day 37-Drivers Clearing a Path

Day 37-Drivers Clearing a Path


Back on the bus for the harrowing ride to Chachapoyas.
Day 37-A Relentless Climb

Day 37-A Relentless Climb

Day 37-Amongst the Mountain Tops

Day 37-Amongst the Mountain Tops

Day 37-Descending to Leimebamba

Day 37-Descending to Leimebamba

Day 37-Forgot to Mention the Wood Plank Bridges

Day 37-Forgot to Mention the Wood Plank Bridges


Day 37-More of the Same

Day 37-More of the Same


Day 37-The Down Just Keeps Going!

Day 37-The Down Just Keeps Going!

Day 37-Urobamba River

Day 37-Urobamba River

Day 37-Not Home Free, Yet!

Day 37-Not Home Free, Yet!


We arrived safe and sound and in our hurry to get off the bus, Rick left his new hat behind, a gift to some lucky Peruana (Peruvian). We began chatting with Edgardo and Pamela, a couple from Chile we had seen on the Ventanillas tour the day before. They had been on the bus with us today. They invited us to share their taxi to the hostel they had booked as a good value place. Naturally, we got a room there and joined them for dinner - the beginning of a lovely friendship. After cervezas and good food we all booked a tour to Kuelap together for the following day. We all retired for a good nights rest.

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 07:16 Archived in Peru Comments (5)

Two Tours Today to Ancient Places

2 Months in Peru—May 3, 2015 Day 35.

semi-overcast 62 °F

Cajamarca is perhaps the most important town in the Northern Highlands. The town has a long history, first as the Capital of the Cajamarca Kingdom, the “mountain kingdom”, one of three Pre-Inca civilizations. The other kingdoms being the Coastal (Mochi, Sican, Chimu), and the Jungle ( Chachapoyan Kingdom). The Incas conquered the Cajamarcans in about 1460, and it evolved into an important Incan city in the mountainous highlands, linking Quito and Cuzco.

Cajamarca is the place where Pizarro met, then captured the Incan ruler Atahualpa in 1532. Atahualpa filled his prison room once with gold and twice with silver as ransom to buy his release, but was eventually killed in the town square. This stands as perhaps one of the most significant and darkest moments of the Spanish colonial period.

We opted not to tour the ransom room and Spanish conquest sites, but rather focused on some of the earlier pre-Inca sites.
D 35-Cumbe Mayo 1

D 35-Cumbe Mayo 1

D 35-Cumbe Mayo 2

D 35-Cumbe Mayo 2


The first place we toured was Cumbe Mayo, which was 20 km southwest of the city. Cumbe Mayo was a sacred place to the pre-Incan Cajamarcans, and means (more or less “well-made water channel” in the Quechua language. Leaving Cajamarca on a tour bus, we climbed one of the hills/mountain that surround it. We passed many Campesinos (Quechuan people) and their dwellings as we headed toward Cumbe Mayo.
D_35-On_th.._2__1_of_1_.jpg
D_35-On_th..yo__1_of_1_.jpg
D_35-Mud_a..on__1_of_1_.jpg
D 35-Working the Land (1 of 1)

D 35-Working the Land (1 of 1)


We also passed eucalyptus trees imported from Australia by the Spaniards, and a variety of conifers imported from North America, New Zealand, and South Africa in the ’60s or ’70s by the Military government in power then. The local people were ordered to plant the conifers, the intent being that they would be economically profitable to export. The people were reluctant to plant the conifers, but did so, and we passed by “tree-farm” looking stands of them!
D_35-Old_Inca_Trail.jpg

D 35-On the Continental Divide (1 of 1)

D 35-On the Continental Divide (1 of 1)

D 35-On the Continental Divide 2

D 35-On the Continental Divide 2


We saw remnants of the old Inca road that passed through Cajamarca on its way from the coast to Chachapoyas. We travelled for a while on the Continental Divide at an elevation of 3550 meters (11,537 feet! ) above sea level. From here, water flowing west travels 150km to the Pacific Ocean, or 5500km to the Atlantic. The mountains are different from those in most of North America. Even at 11,000 ft of elevation, there is no snow, because of the nearness to the Equator. the mountains are not glaciated or deeply sculpted by ice and snow. They are more like rolling or gently sculpted hills.

Cumbe Mayo is located at one of the extrusions of volcanic igneous rock that dot the landscape. this rock was sculpted during the last ice age, when the climate was much cooler, and glacial ice covered most of the area. The forms are different from the rest of the landscape, and the ancient people imbued them with special meaning and significance. D 35-Terra Boca, Sacred Pool

D 35-Terra Boca, Sacred Pool


D 35-Terra Boca, Petroglyphs

D 35-Terra Boca, Petroglyphs

There is a shallow cave that is called Terra Boca (mouth of the Earth). A sacred pool was built to hold the sacred water that collected there. Petroglyphs were visible decorating the cave. We followed a trail around the rocks, through a narrow tunnel and down a small valley. There were rock formations that looked like tall priests or friars, called Friarlones, and according to legend, were bad people that tried to steal gold and silver from the locals, so were turned into stone by Pachicama, their god.
D 35-Friarlones_

D 35-Friarlones_


D 35-Friarlones Face

D 35-Friarlones Face

D 35-Cumbemayo View

D 35-Cumbemayo View

D 35-Cumbemayo View 3

D 35-Cumbemayo View 3

D 35-Cumbemayo View 2_

D 35-Cumbemayo View 2_

D 35-Cumbemayo Trail 1

D 35-Cumbemayo Trail 1

D 35-Cumbemayo Frairlones 2

D 35-Cumbemayo Frairlones 2


Also on the tour were three other Gringos from the US who had been in Cajamarca for three months, associated with a Bible College there. It was fun to chat with them, Mario, Esther and Char!
D 35-Mario, Esther & Char

D 35-Mario, Esther & Char

D 35-Manuel our Guide at Cumbemayo

D 35-Manuel our Guide at Cumbemayo


D 35-Preparing for Tunnel Passage

D 35-Preparing for Tunnel Passage

D 35-Karen enters Tunnel

D 35-Karen enters Tunnel

D 35-Tunnel Exitel

D 35-Tunnel Exitel

D 35-Tunnel Exit, Cumbemayo

D 35-Tunnel Exit, Cumbemayo


We saw an ancient aqueduct built to carry the sacred water to priests who used it in religious ceremonies. The aqueduct was an amazing feat of engineering that dropped one meter per kilometer. it was absolutely straight, except where a series of right angles were incorporated, representing their symbol for the stairs to the afterlife. It is pretty amazing! We also saw the circular ceremonial alter (and were asked not to stand on it). It was used for religious rituals, including animal sacrifice (and perhaps occasional human sacrifice, too).
D 35-Cumbemayo Ancient Wall, pre-Inca

D 35-Cumbemayo Ancient Wall, pre-Inca

D 35-Pre-Incan Irrigation Canal

D 35-Pre-Incan Irrigation Canal

D 35-Pre-Incan Irrigation Canal 2

D 35-Pre-Incan Irrigation Canal 2

D 35-Irrigation Canal Symbolism

D 35-Irrigation Canal Symbolism

D 35-Sacred Altar 1

D 35-Sacred Altar 1

D 35-Sacred Altar 2

D 35-Sacred Altar 2

D 35-Pre-Incan Cross Petroglyph

D 35-Pre-Incan Cross Petroglyph

D 35-Petroglyph, Incan Cross

D 35-Petroglyph, Incan Cross

D 35-Petroglyph at Cumbemayo

D 35-Petroglyph at Cumbemayo

D 35-Peruvian Paso Horse

D 35-Peruvian Paso Horse

D 35-Cumbemayo Wild Potato

D 35-Cumbemayo Wild Potato


D 35-Cumbemayo Campesinon Belt Weaving

D 35-Cumbemayo Campesinon Belt Weaving

D 35-Campesino boy, Cumbemayo

D 35-Campesino boy, Cumbemayo

D 35-Campesina, Cumbemayo

D 35-Campesina, Cumbemayo

D 35-Campesina Weaving

D 35-Campesina Weaving

D 35-Campesina girl, Cumbemayo

D 35-Campesina girl, Cumbemayo

D 35-Campesina Girl 2, Cumbemayo

D 35-Campesina Girl 2, Cumbemayo


Back in time for a quick lunch, and taxi trip to buy tomorrow’s bus tickets to Chachapoyas. Wen we got to the small terminal the questionable agent made a couple of calls and said the bus did not run tomorrow! He referred us down the street to the Virgin del Carmen bus line, when he saw our panic-stricken faces. Virgin del Carmen was the bus line we were trying to find, so we were happy! The choice was a 0500 departure or a 3pm departure. We decided if we left at 3pm, we could stop in Celendin, two and a half hours away, for the night and catch the Chachapoyas bus at 8am the following morning.

In the afternoon we took a tour to Ventanillas de Otuzco, a collection of burial crypts carved into a soft volcanic cliff. They were interesting, but not at the same level as the Cumbe Mayo site. Most of the crypts had been opened and plundered by grave robbers.

D 35-Ventanillas Info Sign

D 35-Ventanillas Info Sign

D 35-Ventanillas Info Sign 2

D 35-Ventanillas Info Sign 2

Burial Crypts 1

Burial Crypts 1

Burial Crypts 2

Burial Crypts 2

Burial Crypts 3

Burial Crypts 3

Family Complex of Crypts

Family Complex of Crypts

Family Crypt

Family Crypt


Afterward we stopped at a large Hydrangea garden, then at a small cheesemaking shop on the way back to Cajamarca. Definitely a full day!
D 35-Rick & Karen at Cumbemayo

D 35-Rick & Karen at Cumbemayo

Posted by Rick-n-Karen 10:04 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

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