Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saved the Best for Last

Machu Picchu...there are no words to adequately describe this place. It is truly amazing. I'm talking blow your mind amazing. Just how in the world was this place built?? Mike and I both agree that this is by far the most amazing thing we've had the privilege to see in our limited travels.

The trip to MP from Cusco was brutal. We left the hotel at 5:45am. The following was the journey:

Waiting at the train station

- shuttle from hotel to bus station
- 2 hour bus ride to train station
- 1.5 hour train ride
- 30 minute bus ride to MP

The train and bus ride to the park was beautiful. The mountain range by itself is worth the trip, much less MP.

This was from inside the train. The bus ride up to MP was a long, tight, twisty road and we were in a large charter bus. The cost of getting into MP was about $150. Peru makes quite a bit of money off of tourism at MP.

Ok, here are some pics... We were very lucky that it wasn't raining. Nuno said that he'd been there about 7 times and this was only the 2nd time that it was not raining.

You see that mountain in the back?? That's called Huayna Picchu. Believe it or not, there are ruins up there too. You can walk to the top and that's what some in the group wanted to do. So we thought, what the heck. At the start of the trail you had to sign in. They only allow 400 people on the trail each day. You have to sign out when you make it back too, to make sure you did indeed make it back. Trust me when I tell you that this trail would never ever be allowed at a National Park in the US. I didn't do the best job of capturing the steepness of the trail in pictures.

It was very steep with limited hand rails. If you fell, you'd get hurt, if not worse. The steepness was made doubly hard by the altitude. MP is about 8,000 ft above sea level and this made it hard to catch your breath. It took about one hour to get up to the top.

This was looking down. This is a true look at just how steep some of the sections were.

We conquered the trail. That's MP in the background.

This was at the top.

We saw this lady at the top. She carried this kid all the way up!!!! You can not imagine how hard this had to gave been. No way no how could I have done this.

It is almost impossible to imagine how the Incas built this place.

We made it back down and spent some time looking around the rest of the ruins.

I'll never forget visiting this place. I hope that it will forever be preserved and not ruined by too many tourists.

One last picture. We rode along this river on the train ride to MP. This was the roughest river we'd ever seen. It looked like chocolate milk.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vacation Posts Interrupted

Yana, my sweet, sweet baby...I took some pictures of her this weekend playing with her new favorite toy. The Kong has been replaced as the love of her life. Her new obsession is, well, I don't know what it's called. She can only play with it for a while and while supervised. This new obsession's not Yana proof and I end up buying a new one at least once a month.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Lake Titicaca

We visited Lake Titicaca on a guided tour from our hotel. Like I said in the last post, there are people that live on floating islands out on the lake. This sounds really neat but I have to admit that I was disappointed. The place had lost it's authenticity. There are a number of different islands on the lake. And the charter boats rotate daily which islands they visit. The inhabitants wave at you as you arrive and they are very eager to see you. They are so eager to see you because they want to push their wares on the gullible tourist. The tourist trade is the way these folks make a living and is really the only reason they continue to live on the islands.

Don't get me wrong, it's still neat that they live on these floating islands and it is not an easy way of life. The islands are made of reeds that grow on the lake. The roots of the reeds are the base for the islands and the part that grows above the water is used as the floor of the island. They have to continuously replace the reeds that serve as the base of the island. It is also used to make the houses and even some boats. The houses have small solar panels that are used to create electricity for some homes. We were warned to not eat the fish or drink the water as the waters are polluted from sewage.

We sit around and listen to some history of the islands. Then, as soon as the guide is finished, the locals pounce. The were like assassins, we didn't even here them coming. They just appeared right behind you. They wanted to show you inside their houses. Once you agree to go into their house, they've got you. They are clever, they know enough English to tell you their name and ask you what your name is. Then they keep calling you by your name. After you look at their house, they try to sell you stuff. And don't try to buy from someone else, you are their dumb tourist.

OK, enough words, more pictures.

As we're making our way to the islands, we pass these islands that have pigs on them. This was cause for another memorable Fukundo quote: " There's a pig in the water!" We thought it was funny.

They're saying, "here comes another boat load of suckers".

The islands are large enough to support some large buildings. The kids go to school on the islands and there is a hospital too.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sights Along the Way

We are in Peru now.

It took like 3 hours to cross the border. They had you going all over the place to get paperwork stamped by various people. Most of these people seemed to have jobs created for no other reason than to give people a government pay check. We went to two people on a row to get stuff stamped and they didn't look at a single thing on the paperwork, just stamped us and we moved on.

Once we got over the border, within 30 miles we'd had to stop at two checkpoints. Good grief!!! At one stop, the cop made us go into the building and he took his sweet time recording our passport info in a manual ledger. There was a little store at the checkpoint and we surmised that his wife probably owns it. Peru was not impressing so far. The main difference was the sand looked gray rather than tan.

We were headed to Lake Titicaca the next day. It was a bit rainy and we got separated from the group as everyone stopped to put on rain gear. We saw this motorcycle cop as we headed out for the day.

The ride was pretty nice.

We saw this swinging bridge and had to stop. It doesn't look very big but it was still kinda scary. It moved a bit and I was ready to get off.

We stopped at this little town to wait on the group. This truck went through the town yelling something on a load speaker. I guess it was advertising food for sale. The lady carrying something on her back is actually carrying a baby.

We drove though the poorest, saddest town we'd ever seen. It's hard to explain without you actually having been there. The conditions were just decrepit. The roads were terrible, the air was filled with diesel fumes and it was very trashy.

There were tons of these little tuk tuks running around town.

This is a blurry picture but I think you can get the gist. There were dogs going through the trash. Unfortunately we had to come back through this town the next day and there were people going through this same pile. Very, very sad.

We did finally get to Lake Titicaca and it was beautiful.

The lake is famous for being the highest navigational lake in the world. Furthermore, there are people that live on floating islands on the lake.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Flying High (continued)

I know that everyone has been anxiously awaiting this post (ha).

Mike decided that he wanted to go hang gliding. So, the hotel called someone for us. This person said that the winds weren't good for hang gliding so we settled for hang gliding with a motor. Basically, the guy is strapped to a big fan.

Everyone knows that heights are not my favorite thing. We got out to the dunes and Mike goes first. They start to take off and the chute gets tangled. That was all it took, I told Mike he should take the camera to take pictures because I wasn't going. That was that. That's the reason there aren't too many pictures of Mike.

Maybe you can tell how high he was. They did a few aerobatics which were impressive. They landed at the same spot they took off from. It was a bit of a crash landing but they lived.

So, based on the fact that Mike lived, I said what the hell, I'll go for it!!!!!

Me before takeoff, making sure I listen to every dang thing this guy has to say. Surprisingly, I wasn't really nervous. My stomach wasn't churning, I was pretty calm really.

He says run so I run like my life depends on it!

The hard part was that you didn't really have a seat. You were
strapped to the pilot and basically had a harness holding you up. Not to give TMI, but it was a bit rough on the nether regions. Not to mention that it was quit the workout on the abs. I held onto the harness straps for dear life. The pilot kept rubbing my arms and telling me to relax and enjoy the ride. I did enjoy the ride but there was no relaxing to be had.

It was enjoyable and I'm glad I did it but I won't be signing up to do it again.

As for the landing, I'd give Mike a 2 and I'd give me a 10!!! It was perfect. The pilot said it was a fast landing because there wasn't much wind. I rock!!

The pilot wanted us to write something in his client book. I wrote, "I prayed the whole time that I wouldn't die and I didn't".

Our trusty pilot and girlfriend and two very relieved people.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Flying High

This day Mike and I rode by ourselves to Arica. It was a short ride and so the group wasn't going to leave until about 11:30. We just wanted to head on out and see what there was to do. The road was pretty interesting. It looked to me like we were surrounded by big mounds of sand.

I didn't like it one bit as it seemed like we were riding just at the edge of this big mound of sand with no guard rails and lots of wind. I just wanted down.

Once we got into Arica we just drove around the town checking out the locals. It is amazing just how poor they appear to live. I say appear because you'd see kids getting out of school wearing their uniforms (which indicates a private school) and then they'd walk home to houses that would have been razed in the States.

We drove to a high point of the town to get a good look down.

Then Mike gets a wild hair that he wants to go hang be continued.

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