Thursday, September 15, 2005

Trip to Peru

Carolina and I enjoyed a wonderful, two-week trip to Peru to take in the sites of the pre-Columbian cultures (and the newer Spanish architecture) that flourished there. The main thrust of the trip was a four-day hike along the Inca Trail, in many places the actual path that the Incas used, to Machu Picchu. We also spent time at Lake Titicaca, in the Amazon rain forest, and enjoying colonial buildings in Arequipa and Lima. A one-day layover in Mexico City also allowed us to explore Teotihuacan--the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. It was an awesome trip, despite the Peruvian quickstep that struck on the way home!

We began our trip with a one-day exploration of Teotihuacan--the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon near Mexico City. Climbing to the top of both pyramids was just a little warmup for the rigors of the Inca Trail.

The construction of the Pyramid of the Moon is extremely impressive.

Kendall enjoys the view from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun.

The view of the Teotihuacan complex from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.

This is a view of Cusco's Cathedral from the Plaza de Armas. We spent a couple of days in Cusco acclimating ourselves to the high elevation (Cusco sits at roughly 11,000 feet) before beginning our four-day hike of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.

A view of Cusco from the Plaza de Armas.

Cusco stands right in the middle of several mountains, so many of the streets are steep and winding.

The traditional Peruvian dress still holds sway with some of the people in Cusco.

Several of the Cusquenas spin thread while they walk.

A native Peruvian woman and her child in Cusco.

Carolina is standing on a street in Cusco which has original Incan walls on both sides--the stonework is amazing.

A view of the cloisters of the Church of Santo Domingo, built directly on top of the Inca's temple of the sun.

Kendall stands in an Incan doorway in Cusco--you can see how amazingly the stones are fitted together without any mortar. The angle of the doorway makes it extremely strong, so much so that it has withstood several severe earthquakes that have destroyed newer buildings in Cusco.

This building is called the Qoricancha ("golden courtyard" in Quechua)--it is a perfect illustration of what happened to the Incas when the Spanish invaded. The Spanish built a huge church on top of the Inca's temple of the sun. Of course, before they built the church, the Spanish looted the temple of the sun, which was covered in solid gold panels, had life-size solid gold figures, altars, and a huge golden sun disc. Inside, you can still see the original Inca walls, the only thing that was left standing after the earthquake in the 1650s.

A high-level view of what remains of the Incan fortress at Sacsayhuaman. The Spaniards took over a third of the stones for use in their buildings and to send a statement to the Incas that the Spanish were now in control.

Kendall on the ramparts of Sacsayhuaman.

Kendall saw this rock in the shape of Utah and couldn't resist!

Originally the Incas wanted their capital, Cusco, to take the form of a puma. Sacsayhuaman, the fortress, only a few kilometers away from Cusco, represented the head of the puma--it's jagged walls were not only excellent for defensive purposes, but composed the teeth of the puma.

You can see how massive some of the rocks are that were used for the walls at Sacsayhuaman.

Carolina stands in a doorway of the Incan fortress at Sacsayhuayman.

Due to controls put in place to protect Machu Picchu, only 400 people can hike the Inca Trail at a time, and they must be accompanied by a guide. Here is our group, ready to embark on a four-day trek that will take us over 26 miles and to an altitude of 13,500 feet before bringing us to Machu Picchu.

Our four-day trek through the Andes along the Inca Trail will take us to our much-anticipated goal--Machu Picchu. Because the Incas actually used the trail hundreds of years ago, there are ruins scattered along the way.

A view of an Incan city from the trail.

The scenery along the Inca Trail is incredible--you pass through several different climates.

Carolina in our tent during our four-day backpacking trip.

Whew! We made it to the top of Dead Woman's pass, the highest point on the Inca Trail at 13,500 ft. It was high enough that we could definitely feel the effects of the altitude.

It's cold at the top of Dead Woman's pass!

Carolina rests at an Incan fort built at a strategic point in the trail to Machu Picchu.

A view of ruins from the trail.

Kendall admires the majestic Andes mountains.

The portion of the Inca Trail we hiked is just over 26 miles long--the Incas used portions of the path hundreds of years ago.

The view from an Incan window in ruins along the trail.

Our "so amazing" tour guide Freddy. You can see some ruins in the background.

Kendall takes a breather at the top of a pass on the Inca Trail--the piles of rocks in the background represent rocks carried by people from the bottom of the valley. The rocks are placed at the top of the pass as a request for the mountains to grant the bearer his or her wish.

A view of the Inca Trail.

After four days on the trail, Kendall is happy to be getting close to Machu Picchu.

We finally made it! Our first glimpse of Machu Picchu!

The view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, a checkpoint designed by the Incas to protect the city.

A nice glimpse of Machu Picchu through the cloud cover from the trail. The Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu because of its location, the difficulty of the trail, and the dense foliage and cloud cover. In fact, the Incan king housed many of the ceremonial virgins at Machu Picchu to protect them from the Spanish invaders.

Carolina at Machu Picchu.

A guard house along the Inca Trail protects Machu Picchu from outsiders.

Machu Picchu, at nearly 8,000 ft., is nestled among several mountain peaks above the Urubamba river valley. The Incas used Machu Picchu primarily as a religious and educational center for the highest nobility--the average Inca would never have been permitted to enter the city.

Imagine the views you would have each morning if you lived in Machu Picchu.

The Incas used small agricultural terraces cut out of the mountain side to raise crops--they raised over 1,000 species of potatoes alone.

The city of Machu Picchu is perched on a mountain top.

Carolina enjoys the incredible view from the walls of Machu Picchu.

After our adventures in the Andes, we ventured into the Amazon rainforest. First we flew in to Puerto Maldonado, a town on the edge of the rainforest, and then traveled by bus and boat to our lodge, which was located on the banks of the Tambopata river (which feeds into the Amazon). On the boat, we ate our lunch out of a banana leaf.

Posada Amazonas, our lodge in the Amazon rainforest was built to maximize air circulation. Consequently, there were only three walls surrounding each room. The fourth wall was open to the jungle. This also unintentionally maximizes encounters with wildlife. On evening, we retunred to our room to find an apple that Kendall had left out, half-eaten. When Kendall threw the remains of the apple out to the jungle, it only took about five minutes for another critter to come finish it off.

Sunset on the Tambopata river.

Two of many Macaws perched in a tree near a clay lick on the banks of the Tambopata river.

These two trees are, according to local legend, married. They are located in a medicinal garden that contains various plants to treat everything from tooth aches to impotence. . .

From the top of an observation tower, we could look over the rainforest canopy. At night, we could see the Milky Way perfectly from here.

The Tambopata river at sunrise.

A caiman basking in the midday heat on the banks of the Tambopata river.

While we were staying near Lake Titicaca, we visited the ruins of pre-Inca burial towers near in the town of Sillustani. Note that the lake in the background is not Lake Titicaca.

A large burial tower at Sillustani, near Lake Titicaca.

Pre-Inca burial towers at Sillustani, a town near Lake Titicaca.

Reed boats near the floating Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca.

While the Uros people anciently traveled in reed boats, today the reed boats are only a tourist attraction.

Everything (and I mean everything) on the Uros islands is made of the Totora reeds that grow in the shallow parts of Lake Titicaca. Even the islands themselves are made of reeds and would float through Lake Titicaca on their own if it weren't for the anchors that hold them in place.

A gate marking the boundary of one of seven communities on Taquile island in Lake Titicaca.

A shepherd tending his sheep on the island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca.

The cathedral at the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, Peru.

One of the streets within the convent of Santa Catalina in Arequipa, Peru.

A well filled with bones in the catacombs below the Convent of San Francisco where 75,000 of Lima's earliest residents were buried.

A crypt full of skulls in the labyrinthine catacombs below the Convent of San Francisco.

A library inside of the oldest convent / church in Lima (San Francisco) -- many of these books date from the 1500 - 1600s.

The presidential palace in Lima--we would have liked to get closer, but the plaza was blocked off by riot police.

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