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).


  1. Wow, what an adventure although it sure looks cold. So how was the "beef". And what do you mean "IF you can believe everything you read on the net"?

    We're having fun following along.


  2. Looks like you guys had a great time. Enjoying living vicariously through you.


  3. Did you try the coca leaves? Also, the last time I was there, we took a train up to Macchu picchu and they dropped my friend's luggage in the ravine. They were able to retrieve it but our bottle of vodka broke and saturated everything in her luggage. we're in Bahia Chamela heading for Manzanillo tomorrow. Hugs from the hoilands

  4. Awesome information, Thank you!