Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes – Monday, October 31, 2016

This morning we caught the train from Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes the town at the base of Machu Picchu. The train followed the Urubamba River through the Sacred Valley of the Inca. The terrain and vegetation changed dramatically as we moved lower. Aquas Calientes is at an elevation of 6700 ft and the fauna is high jungle. 

Aquas Calientes doesn’t have any cars and is pretty much all hotels and restaurants. We bought our bus tickets and entry tickets for Machu Picchu tomorrow. Then we went for a walk down the road and train tracks that we will take tomorrow. The canyon and jungle are beautiful. 

When we got back from our walk we shared beer and fries overlooking the river. The river is a lot lower here because they have taken a lot of the water out to use in a hydroelectric plant down stream. 

This afternoon we checked out an exhibit of 1911 and 2014 pictures of Machu Picchu. Very interesting. 

As we were walking to dinner we saw lots of princesses and Spider men. It seems that Halloween is celebrates here too!

I think I’ll end with this sign we saw today. I guess we will have to keep our clothes on tomorrow!

We had a wonderful dinner in Aquas Calientes at the restaurant El Albergue. 

Ollantaytambo – Sunday, October 30, 2016

This morning we explored the fortress of Ollantaytambo. The ruins are built into the mountain right on the edge of town. There are massive stone terraces and structures. Ollantaytambo is at the junction of two rivers and this fortress is the site of a battle in which the Inca beat the Spanish at least initially. The water system is prett impressive too. We climb up to the top on one side and then back down on the other. 

This afternoon we climb up to the ruins on the mountain  opposite the fortress. In this picture you can see the three big buildings we climbed up to initially. Duke wanted to climb from there up to the ruins you can see above the three buildings. I initially said no but then agreed to go along   There was a pretty amazing view from the top.

The La Union to Huánuco – Tuesday, October 11, 2016

This morning we started out early and got a taxi to the Pampa de Huánuco also known as Huánuco Viejo. It was the ancient capital of the Northern Inca Kingdom. The ruins are surrounded by grassland. We got an early start so we were  the only ones there. 

After we were done exploring the caretaker told us that if we started walking back to town someone would come along and give us a ride. We ended up walking about 5 miles or three quarters of the way back to town before we finally got a ride. 

When we got back to La Union Duke arranged a shared taxi to take us the 130 kilometers to Huánuco. It turned into quite an ordeal. There were five of us in the taxi. I was in the middle in back. The taxi had essentially no cushions or springs and the road twisted and turned and was full of potholes. The 130 kilometers trip took three and a half hours. My behind may never be the same again. 

But now we are in a very nice hotel in Huánuco  ( The Grand Hotel Huánuco) and we’re looking forward to resting for a few days. We just finished a great dinner in the restaurant. 

Cusco to Ollantaytambo – Saturday, October 29 2016

Our plan this morning was to take a taxi to the collectivo station and then catch a collectivo to Ollantaytambo.  But we got in the taxi and he offered to drive us to Ollantaytambo for 120 soles or about $35 dollars. The collectivo plus taxi ride would have been about 30 soles but what the heck!  As far as I am concerned it was totally worth it. It was about a two hour ride and the taxi was vastly more comfortable than a collectivo would have been. 

Upon arriving we discovered that today is the annual town birthday fiesta. There were people everywhere and dancing and a parade and military units and school kids and representatives from every local town. We got a table and a beer and people watched for a long time

There is going to be music and drinking and dancing all night. Luckily the hotel we are staying at, Hostal Samanapaq is a ways from the main square. 

There are ruins on the side of the mountain right on the edge of town. We will explore them tomorrow. 

Cusco – Friday, October 28, 2016. 

This morning we visited the Museo Machupicchu Casa Concha. The museum is  organized around the pieces excavated in 1912 at Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham. It includes all the pieces returned by Yale University in 2011. The videos about Machu Picchu and the scale model were especially interesting. I learned a lot that I think will make our visit to Machu Picchu more interesting. 

Cusco was the capital and center of the Inka empire. This afternoon we took a bus tour of Cusco. Our first stop was Qorikancha, the Inka temple. The temple walls were gold plated when the Conquistadors arrived. The Spaniards built a church on top of the temple. When that church was badly damaged in a 1953 earthquake. the Inka walls were revealed and are now on display.

Inka walls are amazing. There is no mortar. The stones are cut so perfectly that they fit incredibly tightly. They are beautiful. 

We also visited other Inka ruins around Cusco including Saqsayhuaman, Q’enqo, and Tambomachay. 

Tomorrow we head to Ollantaytambo. 

Puno to Cusco – Thursday, October 27,2016

This morning we caught an 8am bus for the six and a half hour trip from Puno to Cusco. It is nice to be a bit lower and have a bit more atmosphere. Puno was at 12,580 ft and Cusco is at 11,500 ft. 

Our hotel here in Cusco is Los Apus. After checking in we went for a walk and explored for a bit. We are only a couple of blocks from the main square. 

We had dinner at Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse. Tripadvisor must have really changed restaurants in places like Cusco. Uchu is highly rated on tripadvisor.  We had a fabulous dinner. We shared ceviche. 

Then we shared soup followed by meat (beef, lamb and alpaca) on the stone. For desert we had a decadent chocolate treat. 

Islas Los Uros and Isla Tequile – Tuesday and Wednesday October 25-26, 2016

Tuesday morning we left at 7 am for the trip  to Islas Los Uros and Isla Tequile in Lake Titicaca. 

Our first stop after about a 30 minute boat ride was one of the Uros Islands. There about 100 of these floating islands constructed of reeds. Four to ten families live on each island. We got a demonstration of how the islands are built. I also got to try on some local clothes. 

The reeds used to build the islands are highly buoyant.  The white bottom part of the reeds is edible and apparently contains fluoride which means the Uros people who live on the islands have very good teeth. 

We bought some embroidered cushion covers and had fun exploring the island. The ground felt kind of squishy when you walked. 

Next our boat took us another two and a quarter hours to Taquile Island. Everyone else on the boat was on the island for about an hour but we had decided to spend the night in a home stay. Duke stayed here on his last trip and remembered it fondly. The island has about 2,500 residents and there are no cars or other motorized vehicles. It is a beautiful peaceful spot. We had to climb up over 500 stone steps to get to the main square where the people in the restaurant arranged a family for us to stay with. 

Staying with Silvano and his family was a wonderful experience.  He visited the U.S. five years ago as part of a group promoting indigenous crafts. We enjoyed a great dinner and conversation about life on the island. His two boys played chess while we talked. 

This morning Silvano’s wife showed us how she weaves textiles. On Tequile the women weave and the men knit. Silvano and his wife showed us some of their work. 

Duke has received some comments about his new hat looking a bit battered so he decided to do an upgrade with a woven hat band. 

Tequile has wonderful flagstone paved paths. We spent time both yesterday and today exploring the island. Everyone was friendly. These kids asked to have their picture taken. 

Puno – Monday, October 24, 2016

Today was a rest day in Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca. We are staying at the Terra Viva Hotel. This morning we went down to the artisanal market on the lake shore and did some shopping. Duke bought an alpaca sweater vest and we also bought a table runner. 

We also bought tickets to go out to Isla Taquile tomorrow. We are planning to spend the night in accommodations on the island and return on Wednesday. Which means we probably won’t have internet tomorrow night. 

This afternoon we napped and did a bit more shopping. I bought some baby alpaca yarn. 

We had an excellent dinner at Restaurante Giorgio Eirl. We started with shrimp soup. Then Duke had alpaca and I had trout. 

Chivay to Puno – Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday morning we got a taxi from our hotel into Chivay. While we were waiting in the square for our bus a couple of cute young boys asked if we wanted pictures with their lamb and baby llama and baby alpaca. We said no but then Duke got into a conversation with them and we decided to take a picture. 

To get from Chivay to Puno we took a tourist bus. It is the first time we have done that on this trip. We had a guide and we stopped for a snack, a sandwich and coca tea. 

The trip was six and a half hours. We went through the Aguada National Park and saw lots of wild vicuña. Back in 1976 vicuña were put on the endangered species list. They were hunted for their wool. There were only 6,000 left. Now there are 350,000. 

Tonight we are in Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca. I think this is the highest altitude we have ever spent the night except perhaps on the hike up Mt Whitney many years ago! We are at 12,580 ft. 

Colca Canyon – Friday and Saturday, October 21-22

We made it! Friday we hiked down 3,500 ft to the bottom of Colca Canyon. We stayed in a small cabin, had dinner and shared a beer by the pool and Duke went swimming. You have to buy tickets to hike in the canyon. Each ticket costs $21. 

Saturday we hiked back up again. We spent the night in a hotel near Chivay. The hotel clerk warned us to let the water run for five minutes to let it get hot.  When the water got hot the showers sure felt good.