We arrived in Lima, Peru after midnight and went through immigration and customs with no problems. The next day we took a city tour and passed through several of the city’s districts. Our first stop was at the Museum of Anthropology. It was fascinating but we were there for too short a time. We went down into the catacombs and saw thousands of bones that had been stacked from burials that had been lost and forgotten for a hundred years before they reopened the catacombs in the 1960’s. By that time the coffins had disintegrated, so they collected and sorted the bones and put them into bins and wells. We visited the Catedral de San Francisco de Asisi, it was ornate and magnificent. There were statues in every nook and nave. There were fresh flowers everywhere. We walked from there to the Plaza Mayor surrounded by the Presidential Palace, the Mayor’s Palace, and a cathedral with the Palace of the Archbishop. The Plaza was heavily guarded and fenced off to prevent it from being used for demonstrations. That night we were treated to a dinner show down by the beach that showcased dances from the various cultural areas of Peru. The food was great and we were introduced to a yummy drink, Pisco Sour.
Day 2 began with a trip to the Lima Fish Market. The colorful fishing fleet was moored a short distance from land. Experienced fishermen handled the “catch of the day” and the variety of fish on the tables was surprising. The market was full of activity yet the workers were willing to stop and show us the fish they were working on. We had free time this afternoon so we had lunch on our own at the Miraflor district and then walked around Lima to take in the sights and sounds of the city. A group of hang gliders provided some entertainment. After dinner we prepared for our morning flight to Cuzco.
The next day we spend traveling. We arrived at the Cuzco airport, loaded onto a bus and headed for the Sacred Valley. The bus stopped at the lookout point at Christ the Redeemer statue from which we could see the ruins of Sacsayhuaman and the city of Cuzco below. During this trip we ended up crossing over 14,000 feet then descending into the valley below. We stopped at Pisac. Here we saw terraces, ruins and burial grounds in the cliffs that had all been raided. We drove into the Sacred Valley and to our hotel.
The morning of day 4 we went on a rafting trip down the Urubamba River. Sights along the river included family compounds, people hiking the Inca trail, ancient ruins, and the train that would later take us to Machu Picchu. The rafting trip ended with a picnic lunch with local school children who treated us to wildflower bouquets and their favorite songs. In the afternoon we visited the weavers’ co-op where we shopped for items made from alpaca and feed the llamas, vicunas, and alpacas that are kept on the grounds. The place was overflowing with yarns of various colors and we watched as some of the weavers worked their magic on their looms.
Day 5 started with a bus trip through Ollantaytambo, an Inca archaeological site. We saw the Inca fortress around and above us but didn’t get to explore it. We saw a wedding in the main square and the bus stopped so we could take pictures. We also visited a private home to get an idea of daily life. The house was full of guinea pigs and there was a “horno” (oven) in the corner with a smoke hole in the roof. It was like being in a museum. We had lunch with school children who were out of school due to a teacher strike. For dinner that night we had our first taste of cuy (roast guinea pig).
The next day we were full of excitement as we got ready for our trip to Machu Picchu! We took a train ride to Aguas Calientes. We checked into our hotel, had lunch, and headed up to Machu Picchu in the late afternoon. It was a hairy bus trip up several switchbacks. The first glimpse was overwhelming! We toured the city—Temple of the Sun, Hitching Post of the Sun, Condor Temple—and saw the ceramics area, the numerous terraces, energy spots, and stepped aside for llamas to make their way past us.
On our 7th day of the trip we spent the morning exploring Machu Picchu. I climbed to the Guard Tower and sketched while Tina went on to the Sun Gate. That afternoon we were on the train trip back to Ollantaytambo, followed by a bus ride to Cuzco. We did a city tour of Cuzco and saw Plaza de Armas and the cathedral. We went through the catacombs. We saw the Incan Sun Temple and the cathedral that the Spanish had built on top of it.
The next day began with a very long and very bumpy van trip into a rural area where we had lunch with Quechua Indians. They treated us to a family meal that included quinoa soup, fava beans, and potatoes roasted in rustic earth ovens fashioned from dirt clods that were smashed down at the end of the cooking process. We had a chance to check out their newly planted fields.
On day 9 the van dropped us off at the edge of the floating Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca. We had a whole day to explore the islands and interact with the Aymara Indians. We were treated to lunch of fish and vegetables and played “dress up” with clothes they brought out for us to try on. They also showed us exactly how the islands were created and how they are kept in good repair
Visiting Bolivia the next day was a special treat. After a long ride, we went through customs, had lunch at a local restaurant, went on a boat ride, smashed a bottle of wine on a rock frog (local tradition for good luck), scrambled over rocks at water’s edge, and browsed local shops. All too soon, the vacation was over.
We boarded a late night flight from Cuzco to Lima. In Lima we were taken to the airport to catch our flight home. This was one adventure we would never forget!