Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 4: Sacred Vally Tour

Sunday, February 17, 2013
  • Early mass in La Cathedral de Cusco
  • Full day bus tour of Sacred Valley, Temple of Sun, Pisac Market, Ollantaytambo & Urubambo Pick up @ 8:00am, Lunch provided typical Peruvian buffet, return by 7:00pm
  • Dinner at a restaurant downtown 
The day started at 6:00am once again. Breakfast, after a quick shower, in the dining room. Eggs, scrambled, and toast. Mate de cocoa tea of course. Today we were taking a guided tour of the Sacred Valley. Mama G and Mama R joined us. Osa was already up and at the Sunday mass. We agreed to meet her at the plaza where the tour bus was to pick us up & the cathedral was also right there. (I was not getting up to go to church, call me a horrible person, but 1, I am not Catholic and 2, getting up at 3am for a church service should be considered a crime!)
La Cathedral de Cusco
 Once Chancho found the bus the lady asked if we could switch to a Spanish tour. I vetoed that real quick. I would rather listen to a horrible accent then not understand a word. We boarded the bus, but they informed us that we would have to pay to get into the ruins. We thought we already paid for that when we signed up for the guided tour, but because Chile left our receipt at the hotel, there was no way for us to show that. The bus then took us to another location where they needed to switch buses. (Not sure why) When we tried to board the bus there were not enough seats for all of us. They asked some people to leave. I was frustrated at this point and didn't even want to go, but once the bus started to leave, the tour guide Silvia, apologized and said the company was not great. So off we went to our first stop. We had a brief stop at a scenic overlook to take pictures.
Sheep Crossing

View from Scenic Overlook
 We bought some spices from a local to bring home to my mom. We then stopped in a local village to use the bathrooms and shop their tables. You could take pictures with them and their animals (for a fee). They also brought a bigger bus for us. Continuing on we stopped at the Market Pisac. Every Sunday tourists fill it up and buy fruits/vegetables and local made items. Osa bought place mats, Chile bought a rock (yes, a rock. Nothing special about it.), and Chancho bought keychains for his coworkers. It was really neat to see everything. There were different meats, chickens, cows, intestines, all on the tables to be bought. We had an hour to walk around.
Fresh Fruit/Vegetables
Local Girl

Guinea Pigs waiting to be cooked - like a lobster tank

Woman selling her vegetables
 From there we kept on moving on to our next destination: lunch. We stopped in another town to have a buffet. The food was okay. Not anything I would crave later on. I did try the alpaca, which was stir fried and I enjoyed it so much better. I really liked the fried dough, which was made with squash.
My selections for lunch

Fried Dough

Outside of the buffet
Our next destination was the Incan ruins Ollantaytambo. (Yeah, don't know how to pronounce that correctly.) I paid 70 soles and Chancho paid 40 soles because he is a citizen. These ruins weren't finished because the Spaniards came in and killed the Incans. The temples were left unfinished. The Spaniards then took rocks and brought them back down the mountain. These ruins had a sun dial as well. This was the spot where you could see the "Man in the Mountain" and storage houses. We had to climb up high along the terraces. It was slow going, as we were high up in altitude and it was hard to breathe. We also walked a trail close to the edge of the mountain, which would have led us to another mountain, but we walked down to view the sun dial. The terrain was harder than at Machu Picchu. Chancho did it, even though he was terrified of the height. He later admitted that he had to do it so we wouldn't tease him about it since everyone else made it. It was a great trek. I really enjoyed every moment.
Ollantaytambo Map
The Ruins

"Man in the Mountain" on the left. Storage House to the right.

Looking down from the top of the ruins

Our pathway

Sun Dial
 Back on the bus again to our final destination of Chinchero. We went there to see the weave houses. They demonstrated how they make clothes or really anything out of the alpaca hair/llama hair. Showed us the dyes, which are made from natural materials. i.e. corn, leaves, flowers & even bugs. The bugs found on cactus make a red color (from their blood) which can be used as lipstick (24 hours & kiss proof as the lady said). There we bought a beautiful red blanket made out of adult alpaca hair. It is one of the softest blankets I've ever felt. Some say it's comparable to cashmere. We also purchased 2 clay bulls from a little boy. The blanket was 120 soles and the bulls were 10 soles. The bulls indicate love, strength, health and work. People put them on their roofs to provide them with those things.
The community was celebrating Carnavales, which is the celebration of summer. They decorate a tree with balloons and other items. They then dance around the tree eventually cutting it down if they aren't too drunk. This is the one day of the year when alcohol is allowed in the villages. The kids play with water and silly string. We were allowed to walk through the village and witness all the dancing and music. However, we were told to be careful of thieves. On our way back to the bus we were introduced to a Mayor of a village. It was a father & son. The son would become Mayor if anything were to happen to his father. We also were able to see the highest mountain, Veronica, which has snow on the peak. Our day was complete.
Different seeds
Showing how we get beautiful colors
Dying them different colors

All natural beautiful colors

Mount Veronica

A view of Carnavales celebrations

The Mayor and his son

Dropped off at the plaza again we found a restaurant, Plaza Restaurant Grill, to have dinner. We were able to Facetime with a friend back home for a bit too. We then headed back to the hotel where we sat by a fire and read for a little bit before heading to bed.

Our fire to end the day.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Scanner Radio

I recently downloaded a scanner app on my phone.
I think this may be adding to my insanity.
I've always wondered what went on during Chancho's shifts and always wanted something to turn to when he doesn't answer the gazillion text messages from me freaking out wondering if he's ok. However, I've always steered clear of scanners. I thought that it would be too much information.
A close friend of ours who happens to be a firefighter has a scanner and a few lazy nights here and there we would turn it on for shits and giggles. Now that we've moved into the boonies, I don't have that option readily available...or I didn't, until now.
Here's the sad part. I don't recognize Chancho's voice over the radio. He has a "cop" voice. He's pulled this "cop" voice out a few times and I am not a fan of it. It scares the crap out of me. I would not want to be dealing with him if I were breaking the law. Which, I suppose, is a good thing for him to have. So while I am glued to this scanner during his shift, I listen and I listen and then I space out and then I think I hear him, but wait, oh no, not him. I can't say that I've actually heard him speak on the radio more than twice because of this "cop" voice. It's driving me crazy! Here I am thinking that it would help me ease my anxiety by filling in those gaps of silence, but no, there's even more silence because I can't figure out what call he's on either! Oy.
I need to uninstall this app.

Quote of the Day: "Live and let live. Do not judge. Take it as it comes. Deal with it. Everything will be okay." - James Frey

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 3: Machu Picchu

Saturday, February 16, 2013
  • Leave to Machu Picchu aboard the Hiram Bingham train 9:05am arriving @ 12:24pm
    • On board we will have brunch, cocktails & unlimited drinks
  • Bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu & tour the citadel by English/Spanish guide
    • Afternoon tea & hor's deorves at Machu Picchu hotel
  • Depart from Machu Picchu @ 5:50pm & arrive in Cusco by 9:16pm 
I want to punch something. The alarm is going off at 6:30am. Isn't this supposed to be a vacation where you get to sleep in and relax? Breakfast will be served at 7:00am. Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, not the real kind, but powdered. I have this thing about eggs. Maybe from having fresh eggs in my house growing up, I have to have the real thing and made perfectly to my liking so this breakfast was...below my standards. We also had rolls and kiwicha. Kiwicha is a cereal that isn't eaten with milk. It was actually rather tasty. I also drank a bunch of Mate de Cocoa tea to help with my breathing. I felt like walking 10 steps was me running. Our ride was waiting for us at 7:30am, which took us on a 1/2 hour drive to the train station. We were greeted at the train station at 8:00am with mimosas and then we boarded a bus, which took us to the Hiram Bingham train an hour later. We had to take a bus because of it being the rainy season some of the train tracks were washed away by the rain.

Local street

Mountain with clouds

Local farmers market

8am Mimosas


Clouds rolling in

More Mountains with Clouds

The Hiram Bingham train is a luxury train that travels 2 hours to bring you to Machu Picchu. It includes a 3 course meal and unlimited drinks! The views were breath taking. The railroad follows along a river, which the Incans considered to be their "Holy River".
Once we arrived at Machu Picchu we were given a guide who led us to a bus, which then brought us up a long, winding road to the base of Machu Picchu. The road was muddy and stones made up most of it. It is a narrow road so when a 2nd bus needs to pass, it's a tight squeeze to say the least. There aren't any guardrails so if you slip, you're dead as you fall all the way down.
Machu Picchu is 8,000ft above sea level. We began our guided tour learning about the Inca's life. The theories behind what they believe was done in the ruins. It is just amazing to see such ancient ruins in wonderful shape, in their true beauty. It was raining as we started the tour, but not enough to soak us. Thankfully! We walked in and out of the ruins going further and further up. No railings, just what the Inca's made. By the time we made it to the highest point, it had stopped raining. It got really hot! We saw some animals, which to me, looked like squirrels at first, but then they looked like rabbits with tails. Not sure exactly what they are. The tour guide didn't give me an appropriate response. Just said it was a rodent. (I now know they were chinchillas!) Once the tour was over we were given 10 minutes to explore ourselves. So Osa and I headed off towards the absolute highest point as Chancho headed down to the restaurant and Chile went off in another direction. Once Osa and I got to the most scenic spot we were so winded it felt like I ran 20 miles. The view was stunning, nothing like I've ever seen. It took my breath away, literally. We trekked back down to meet llamas and alpaca. Took some pictures and then headed quickly to the restaurant to have some finger foods.
Back on the Hiram Bingham for another 4 course meal. We sat for about 40 minutes watching a Peruvian band play some music until our food was ready. The plan was to go out to the bars once we arrived back in Cusco, but we were way too tired.
Our table on board the Hiram Bingham

Our Menu for Lunch

Pisco Sour

Kids playing on the tracks

Natural tunnel

Machu Picchu!

Our rings - Chancho's idea

View from the highest point

This has been by far the best day yet and it's only day 3.

New foods I've tried so far:
Alpaca Smoked with mint: Not Good
Leak Soup: Pretty Good
Duck: Good (sandwich meat)
Cocoa Leaf Tea: Good

Quote of the Day: "You'll seldom experience regret for anything that you've done. It is what you haven't done that will torment you. The message, therefore, is clear. Do it! Develop an appreciation for the present moment. Seize every second of your life and savor it. Value your present moments. Using them up in any self-defeating ways means you've lost them forever." -Wayne Dyer