Friday, April 18, 2008

Home Again

The Overseas Adventure Travel group on the Amazon River and Rainforest Adventure. We had a wonderful time.

We are now home from Peru. It was some adventure too. So many wonderful places to see and we were able to share the experience with our friends. It's hard to ask for more. Here Chet and Larry and enjoying the Plaza de Armas (or main square) in Lima.

Our first stop was Lima, Peru, a huge metropolis of 9 million souls. We stayed in a "suite-type" hotel in the Miraflores district near shopping (The Inca Market) and the beach. Lima is on the "Ocean Pacific" as our guide, Jennifer, told us. After exploring the Plaza de Armas (main square) and the museums, we knew more about the many cultures that have thrived in Peru before the Inca.

The Astronaut

While in Lima, we took at side trip the Nazca Lines. No one knows how the lines were constructed. No one knows why they are still in the desert after hundreds of years. What they do know is they are there and they are amazing to see. We flew over the Lines in a 12 seat Fokker that Chet said was at least 50 years old. We survived to the tell the tale and I'm sure the old Fokkers are surviving too.

Our next stop was Iquitos in Northern Peru. A smaller city by far than Lima, with 1/2 million population. There are only 2 ways to get to Iquitos: fly or float. We flew. We saw our first glimpse of the muddy Amazon. We saw people in dugouts; houses on stilts and a completely different world from modern Lima.

The AquaMarina--our home for 1 week

We were on the Amazon or a tributary for 7 days looking at villages, talking to people, gawking at birds and fish and capybaras (the largest rodent in the world) and learning about life at a very different pace.

We visited a school, which consisted of 20 desks, a very used blackboard, and a couple of posters. There were no books; no supplies. Our group donated school supplies and I started thinking about getting books to the kids in the Amazon. If you are reading this and you have any extra books, please donate them to me as I'm going to be sending out packages of books on a regular basis. These kids really want to learn and they have very limited access to school. Kids in the US do not know how good they have it!

From the Amazon we flew back to Lima and then on to Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital at 10,900 feet. Since we live part of the year at 6300+ feet we did not think we would have a major problem with the altitude, but we were wrong. Life at 11,000 feet is hard. There's not enough oxygen and you do feel it. Most folks in our group had a horrible headache. I just felt compressed like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Walking that first day felt like walking through molasses. Running was out of the question and climbing stairs was hard too. After a couple of days we all got used to the lack of oxygen and that's when we headed for Machu Picchu which is at 7,000 feet. (A piece of cake by the way after Cuzco!).

Sun Temple and Spanish Church

We learned more about Inca culture. We visited Saqsaywaman and Qenqo, two large Inca archeological sites right outside of Cuzco. We also visited the Sun Temple in Cuzco. The Sun Temple was the center of Inca civilization. When the Spanish conquered the Inca, they built a church over the Temple. Thank goodness they did, as the old temple has been preserved.

We visited town with names like Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. We rode the Vista Liner train to the foot of Machu Picchu to the village of Aguas Calientes. There we boarded a bus that took us up the mountain to Machu Picchu. The switchbacks were amazing! However, once we saw the ruins we were in complete awe of the spectacle and beauty. It's hard to describe how the place made us feel. Some of our group were holding back tears; others were in open-mouthed awe just looking at the place for the first time.

Machu Picchu is one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, so it is getting a lot of visitation. To that end, only 400 people are allowed on the site each day. Ingress and egress is carefully watched. Tickets are necessary. Just look at the pictures and imagine what life was like in this secluded valley of the ancient Inca. There we had more questions than answers. No one really knows the true meaning of Machu Picchu--or how it was built--or how many people lived here--or how so much could be accomplished with stone and bronze tools. More questions than answers.

We stayed 2 days at Machu Pichhu then returned to Cuzco and to Lima and finally to the rest of the world. It was something else. I'm still processing all that happened. It was all good. I learned a lot. I'll end with keep saving books for me and help me send them to the kids on the Amazon where there is a real thirst for knowledge.
(what I saw as I looked out the plane window as we left Cuzco!)

Can you believe he received his first balloon and first book on the same day?

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