Thursday, February 23, 2012

Machu Picchu or I love stone steps

We left Ollantaytambo on the PeruRail train for Aguas Calientes, the staging city for Machu Picchu. The town’s only purpose is to deal with the tourists heading to the old site.  It doesn’t have a lot of charm, although it is nice that the only motorized vehicles are the busses that run up to the Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is a place that Chris has always wanted to visit. She’s intrigued by the old, indigenous cultures. Me, I just wanted to get the damn thing off my bucket list.
We bought our tickets to Machu Picchu and Huayna (or Wayna) Picchu in Cuzco. They only let 2,500 people a day enter Machu Picchu. Huayna Picchu is the mountain peak that you see in the quintessential pictures, rising up behind Machu Picchu. One side is the Temple of the Sun and the other is the Temple of the Moon. The hike up to Huayna Picchu is limited to 200 people at a time (twice a day). The hike is pretty much straight up. At the top of the mountain is supposed to be the residence for the high priest and the local virgins. We only saw shear cliffs and tired hikers. The hike up was in the rain. It took us an hour and forty minutes to the top. We didn’t get a lot of pics going up because both our Canon and Meghan’s Canon succumbed to the rain washing. Tyler’s cell phone camera was the only one that made it fully functioning to the top.
Staring out along the Machu Picchu walls in the rain.
Meghan and Tyler trying to add some color to the photos with their rain gear.
Huayna in the clouds behind Machu Picchu. Trust me, it is lot taller than it looks, and you go down before proceeding up.
The view down onto Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna. It would be a long, straight trip down, if you slipped on the trails. The trails are mostly setup for personal responsibility mode, i.e. no hand rails or signs telling you should be careful.
Temple of the Sun, sans sun
Hiding from the rain while desecrating the temple.
Drying the cameras out after the hike back down from Huayna after the sun came out. A 1/2 hour in the sun and the trusty Canons came back to life.
Panoramic of Machu Picchu with Meghan and Chris gazing into the void (on the right- click to biggerate).
Looking at Huayna Picchu in the sun from the starting gate
The Andes are incredibly rugged mountains. Pics just don’t do them justice.
Looking a few thousand feet down to the river valley from Machu Picchu.
The well bonded hikers in a self-portrait: Paul, Chris, Meghan and Tyler
High altitude mountain flowers
A sleepy chinchilla
If you blow this pic up you will see the little, tiny people who are walking among the ruins.
We were all dragging a bit by the time we got to this spot. Then we saw the llamas at the very top, center – enough inspiration to carry on.
Llama making sure she is in the pic.
It is really hard work being a tourist. Its nice to be back on the boat with the normal list of things that need fixing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cuzco and the miracle drug

cuzcoDSC_0056  Cuzco, Plaza Armanas, panoramic – courtesy of Tyler Baker
After a night in Lima we flew off to Cuzco to meet up with our daughter Meghan and her boyfriend Tyler. Found a great little hotel (Corihuasi) about 2 blocks off the main plaza in Cuzco. That would be uphill from the plaza. Cuzco sits at around 11,000 feet. There is a distinct lack of oxygen in the air. We all felt it, but Tyler and I got hit the hardest. I was down for the count for a whole day feeling like I needed to sleep 14 hours a day, could not get warm, had zero appetite and my headcuzcoIMG_9279 hurt. Other than that it was OK. Our hotel had a large bottle of oxygen in the lobby, just in case the guests needed it. Then along came the miracle drug, Diamox (Acetazolamide). This stuff changes your blood chemistry just enough so the brain thinks there’s too much CO2 in your system. It then subtlety decides to breath a little deeper and a little more often. The next 3 or 4 days using it I could actually walk uphill again. Without it, the trip would have sucked for me. It took me 6 or 7 days to acclimate.

We did a number of trips to towns and ruins near Cuzco. Most are Quechua names. The locals up here in the Andes mostly speak the Quechua that is derived from the Inca language; some 8 to 10 million people speak it. Except for the youngest rural kids, they all seem to know Spanish too. When you are tired, the place names seem to become somewhat of a cruel tongue twister, Ollantaytambo. I know at least one Quechua word, wasi. It means casa in Spanish, i.e. house. Pretty impressive, ah. OK, enough verbiage, here’s some Andean pics (click to biggerate them), not necessarily in anywhere near the order we took them.
Cuzco Plaza at night from the hotel room
Headed home after a hard days work
Celebration of comadritas, or god-mothers
Dying raw alpaca wool
The dye choices, all from natural ingredients
Meghan and Tyler dressed up in traditional matrimonial garb. They both looked a little scared when they found out it was matrimonial.
You have to click on this panoramic to see much. Here’s Meghan at the street corner with Chris and I trying to catch up on the right in, where else, but downtown Ollantaytambo.
One of the more stylish alpacas. The Andes have llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco. The llama are the large pack animals with long necks. The alpaca are for meat and fine wool. The vicuna and guanaco are smaller and not domesticated, they are rounded up annually for wool. And yes, I did try alpaca, inadvertently. It was in a nice sauce at a local buffet and they call it ‘beef’. Seemed kinda tricky to me.
Rasta alpaca
Chris and I hiking into the cave at the Pisac ruins.
While a hawk hunts overhead
And a hummingbird hums
Meghan trying to fit on with the little locals as Tyler gives up.
Dressed for the day
Even Mom was sneaking a smile
Condor in mid-flight at the condor rehab center.
This is the cover shot for the new book Tyler and the Tortoise, or How I beat the system without breaking a sweat.
Andean river valley filled with maize, or corn
Paul, Chris and Meghan filling in the stone wall panorama
The Incas made scale models of their building projects to determine how to cut the stones and what hardware needed to be ordered from Home Depot. The stones are cut precisely and put together without mortar. If you can believe everything you read on the web, then this is how they cut the monster blocks:
“The Incas cut the stones, by cracking it and introducing slim pieces of wood. Then, they pour water in the wood, the wood absorb the water and expand. When the crack in the stone gets bigger, they repeat the steps with bigger pieces of wood. The method was enough to crack the stones in large rectangular shapes.”
Andean flowers
Here is scientific proof that 3 out of 4 tourists smile when dressed up in local garb.
Next up is Machu Picchu (Old peak) and the singing of Pacha Mama (Andean goddess, Mother Earth).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Peru Bound

We left the San Blas Islands and started a light air sail toward Isla Linton, where we planned to spend the night and then move around the corner to Panamarina to put Jeorgia on a mooring while we spent a few weeks in Peru doing land travel. On our way out we sailed past Chicme – more about this island later. It was an OK day sail up. We had a few hours of sailing, then a few hours with the spinnaker up, then a few hours of motoring and then a little sailing on the anchorage approach. After we got settled I checked the Digicel 3G connection - it was way fast as compared to the San Blas. So we slowly downloaded the 48 Hours Mystery Dark Side of Paradise. This is about a set of murders that took place last year in the San Blas among cruisers. Pretty well done. A little spooky as we had just passed Chicme in the morning, where the murders most likely took place and we were now anchored in Linton where a number of the onboard interviews in the show are done. Spoiler alert, they caught the bad guy.
48 Hours, Dark Side of Paradise
We got Jeorgia settled in the morning on a Panamarina dual mooring. The entrance was pretty narrow and there were enough reefs and swell to make for stay a focused entry. The guy that was supposed to help us navigate on the way in couldn’t get his dinghy engine started. We grabbed a cab for the 2 hour ride into Panama City. We had to stay at a hotel to catch our morning flight to Lima. That night we went to a grown up restaurant and had a nice meal. I convinced Chris that this was a date.
Next morning we were off to the airport. At the start of the twisting security line is a guy sitting on stool checking passports. He got to mine and found my original Panama entry stamp. This caused him some grief as it was past the 6 month limit. For awhile it looked like I would be in that line for a long time. Then I showed him the page of passport that had a Tripulante visa. This is a Panamanian mariners crew visa. Once he saw that he was a happy camper and we off to the take your shoes off and empty your pockets greetings to modern flight.
It was a decent flight into Lima. When we went through customs in Lima I pressed the magic button and the random green light showed up. This means no further inspections and we were off to our Lima boutique hotel. Pretty nice place. We got a room on the 3rd floor and I was way proud of myself that at sea-level plus 3 stories I didn’t get altitude sick.
We grabbed a cab and headed to the Museo Larco: “Features the finest gold and silver collection from Ancient Peru and the famous erotic archaeological collection”. I went to see the pottery and pre-Columbian gold and silver. Chris wanted to see the famous collection.
Angry feline gold breast plate
This place had an unbelievable number of pre-Columbian pots. The picture above is not really part of the museum display. It is a small part of the racks and racks of pots stored in a side building.
Since this is a family blog I didn’t think it was too appropriate to display my new photo collection of Peruvian pre-Columbian erotic pottery. But I couldn’t resist showing the smile on this couple’s 2,000 year old faces. The museum was very educational. I learnt that the dead spend a lot of time masturbating underground, hence the good fertile valleys of Peru. It kind of gives me a something to look forward to in the afterlife.
This Peruvian Hairless is the shy museum mascot and guard. These dogs were getting close to endangered before an effort was made to breed them. They were hanging around in Inca culture with the Jefes and date back to Pre-Inca tribes. The hairless gene also ends up creating a dog with less teeth. They look like they’d be really cold up in the Andes, but their body temperature is 104*F.
Next stop, Cuzco and Macchu Pichu,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Italian Cruise Ship Humor

"Late in his life, Sir Winston took a cruise on an Italian ship. A journalist from a New York newspaper approached the former prime minister to ask him why he chose to travel on an Italian line when the Queen Elizabeth, under the British flag, was available.
"Churchill gave the question his consideration and then gravely replied. 'There are three things I like about Italian ships. First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed. Second, their service, which is quite superb. And then — in time of emergency — there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.'"
(Reportedly a quote by Sir Winston Churchill, or more likely a joke by Noel Coward, depending on what part of the Web you want to believe nonsense-first)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Kuna Yala Pics

Ahhh, life in 80 degree crystal clear waters tooling around the reefs, which we try not to hit with the boat. This somewhat irate eel who really wasn’t pleased about getting her picture taken. She came out of her hole to scare off the shiny camera.
sanblasDSCN9187A big Anglefish strutting her colors. They’re very curious, will swim right up to check you out.
Portuguese Man-of-War. Must have gotten blown in with the heavy trade-winds we’ve been having.
You really don’t want to get tangled up with the under side of a Man-of-War. Seeing these reminded me of my surfing days in Florida. The welts from these things look like pink whip lashes.

Ok, just to set the record straight, these howler monkeys aren’t really Canadians, they’re Panamanian. These are located on Linton Island just before you get into Kuna Yala territory. The story we heard was that if you go ashore with some food they will come up and be all nice cuddly with you. One photographer went in and stood on the pier. The monkeys climbed up on him and acted all nice. When he ran out of food and tried to leave they started scratching and biting him. He ended up jumping in the water with his camera gear to get away. He had to head to Panama City to get patched up and start a rabies shot series. Bad monkeys!