Archive for the ‘Peru’ Category

Amazon Cruise (Mar 8-13)   3 comments

Brazil

The Amazon

Our journey down the Amazon began in the jungle metropolis of Iquitos, Peru. This is the largest town in the world you can’t drive to and is situated in the deep Amazon jungle on the edge of the Amazon basin. The streets were flooded by moto-taxis taking people where ever they needed to be for 2 pesos as well as the continuous rain that followed us. Travel tip: If a country has an entire season dedicated to rain, don’t go then. From Iquitos we took a fast boat down the river for a 12 hour ride to the border with Brazil and Colombia. Once through their jungle interpretation of border formalities we settled in a lovely hotel (probably Magan’s favorite) in the Brazilian town of Tabatinga.

Our first goal was to get a hammock and passage on board a boat that is heading to Manaus. The hammocks were no problem and we were lucky that the Voyager III was heading out the very next day. That day, however, turned out to be a long day of waiting and walking in mud and rain. Never the less we were soon in a mass rush to get through security (looking for colombian bam-bam) and on to the boat to find the best spot for our hammocks.

After our hammocks were hung and we had settled in amongst the scores of other hammocks hanging around us we began to feel relaxed. That evening we departed for a 3 1/2 day journey down the Amazon swinging in a hammock and finishing off a bottle of rum. The down side of the trip was, of course, the people. At various ports more people would join us and try to put up hammocks directly above ours. But with a little persuasion, they would move on. Despite a few annoyances the trip was great.

We spent our days gently swaying in our hammocks feeling a slow breeze blow past us keeping the bugs at bay. As we floated down the large ( at some points very wide) murky brown river we were surrounded by the beautifully green dense Amazon rain forest. The knowledge that we were floating in the largest river in the largest and least explored forest in the world gave our trip an air of adventure. At random points along the river we would see small huts miles from any town that would force us to wonder just exactly what it is they do.

The end of our trip brought us to the international port city of Manaus (hundreds of miles from the Atlantic) where two
rivers, the Negro which is a dark black and Solimoes which is a muddy brown, meet, but stay separated for miles because of their different speeds and consistency. Here we left our boat and prepared to leave the city for some much longed for clear weather.

Other Activities in South America

Potosi Mines

 

Potosi was once the richest city in the Americas thanks to its silver mines. Today, however, the silver is gone, but locals continue to mine what precious minerals are left. The working conditions (heavy lifting, toxic dust, high altitude, etc…) are such that our guide informed us that he knew only one miner in his 50’s.  Before we went we stocked up on small supplies to give to the miners as “gifts”. These included soft drinks, coca leaves and a Timothy McVeigh starter kit (dynamite,  ammonium nitrate and a fuse with blasting cap).

Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru

 

On the way to Lima we stopped in Huacachina for a couple of days and went sandboarding in the desert there.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

Before heading to Africa we spent about a week in Rio de Janeiro relaxing on the beaches and taking in the beautiful city. Above is the large statue that overlooks the city, Christ the Redeemer.

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Inca Ruins (March 1-5)   1 comment

Inca Ruins

Arriving in Cuzco, Peru, after a brief layover at Lake Titicaca, we begin our exploration of the ruins from the once vast Inca empire. They were the strongest and largest group in South America, until the Spanish came and put a molly-woppin on them.

Starting in the area surrounding Cuzco we first came to the site of Saqsaywaman (pronounced: sexy woman, means: satisfied eagle) with it´s tall walls of gigantic stones. The entire area, which is only 20% of it´s original size, is covered in bright green grass with tall gray stone structures arranged on a hillside overlooking the city. Llamas, or alpacas, graze on the terraced hills that make up the main structures. We are impressed at the time and man-power it took to move the large stones to the hill they now rest on. Moving on we came to Qénqo. This is another ruin near the city, not quite impressive as Saqsaywaman, but interesting none the less. It is a large rock formation, with stone structures built up around it. All throughout there are passageways  carved through it´s heart, the main passage has a couple of chairs that seem to have grown out of the ground, made of solid rock.

Moving on, into the Sacred Valley, we travel down winding roads and through an area that looks very similar to Tuscany. Farther along we wind into a steep valley with tall mountains into the town of Ollantaytambo. The town itself is a great example of Inca city planning, and has been inhabited continuously for over 700 years. The stone streets line the valley floor flanked by small moats for run-off rain water. On the hills surrounding the city there are multiple structures perched overlooking the city. Climbing toward the ruins the steep path forks. To the right, a series of houses and squared off stone walls, to the left a large three-tiered building still very much intact only missing it´s thached roof. After reaching this building and looking down with a great view of the valley we wonder how often the former inhabitants made this trip up to their dwellings.

That night, after considerable delays due to mud-slides, we take a train up to the town of Agua Calientas where we catch a bus to the pinnacle of Inca ingenuity – Machu Picchu. The mountains in this area are even steeper than those in Ollantaytambo giving them the look of karst peaks. After a long road of switch backs we arrive at the cloud veiled entrance to Machu Picchu. Sitting at 2,430 meters it is easy to see why this place was never discovered by the conquistadors. It was built around 1450 at the height of the Inca empire, abandoned about 100 years later due to the conquistadors and discovered in 1911, considered the most complete and best preserved ruins in the western hemisphere.

When we arrived everything was veiled in cloud cover giving it an eerie feeling and the thought that we were alone on the mountain top. For the first hour we didn´t see many other tourists at all. We walked down trails feeling like we were the first ones in hundreds of years. At one vantage point called the House of the keeper of the Funerary Rock we saw the former city mapped out below us. Although the fog hindered our ability to take good photos it enhanced the feeling of adventure.

As we walked along the path ways through the city we would turn corners and see whole new sections open up before us. The grass was a bright green and sat in stark contrast to the gray stone work or buildings, temples and terraces covering the mountain. This is truly a marvel of engineering and man´s ability to create. We sat for a long time at the Funerary Hut pondering the reasons of Cloud City. Why was it built? More interestingly, how was it built? More intriguingly, why was it forgotten after the invasion of the conquistadors for hundreds of years? Finally, where was Lando Calrissian? Regardless, it is truly an amazing site.

(Saqusaywaman)

(Qénqo)

(Odd looking dogs)

(Ollantaytambo)

(Machu Picchu)

Posted March 17, 2012 by Magan and Brenden in Peru, South America

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