August 18th, 2011

First day of school

Peru!

So, I haven't written in a while because I was in Peru. That's right, Peru. I've spent the last 10 days traveling with Smartours: http://smartours.com/peru.shtml.


I tried to update while I was there because we had internet. However, apparently livejournal is in Spanish in Peru. Being that my Spanish consists of asking for the bathroom, I was unable to post.

I'm going to post a few entries with a couple of the key things that we saw! :)
First day of school

Sacred Valley of the Incas!

On the first day we arrived in Cuzco, the fabled capital of the Inca Empire, perched at about 11,000 feet above sea level.

We first traveled to Pisac where they showed up how they make the llama and alpaca fur into yarn to knit with. It was really cool because they showed us how they clean it, dye it and use it. It was really neat! We also got our first taste of coca tea, which was supposed to help with the altitude sickness.



Later we traveled to Ollantaytambo, and explored the splendid ruins of this massive ancient fortress. The village below is a fine example of the Incas incredible urban planning skills. The valley has amazing landscapes of fertile land, mystical ruins and indigenous villages. It was so beautiful and the weather was AMAZING! We hiked up to the top and saw an amazing view of the city!

First day of school

Machu Picchu!

On our 4th day we took an expedition to Machu Picchu. We rode aboard the Vistadome train through the lush Urubamba Valley passing along stunning scenery.The Vistadome is the coolest train ever! It has huge glass windows on the sides and ceilings! They served us a meal going and coming and even had a fashion show with llama and alpaca clothing on the way back!




Then we arrived at “The Lost City Of the Incas” rediscovered in 1911. The beauty of its location and the genius construction make Machu Picchu the jewel of all Inca settlements. To this day nobody can explain how the Incas managed to transport the huge blocks of limestone for the city’s construction onto the mountaintop. Our guide, Harry led us through the ruins and shared the amazing story of Machu Picchu. We walked around (and hiked!) all the way up and down... let me just say - some of the 3,000+ steps are pretty steep! It was really amazing though - it actually took my breath away (and not just because we were so high up!)

First day of school

Hello Cuzco!

On our 5th day we traveled to Cuzco. It's a vibrant town, dotted with archaeological sites. In the morning we took a guided walking tour, visiting the main Inca and Colonial monuments. We saw the Plaza de Armas, the center of the Inca Empire and the impressive 16th century cathedral, built on the ruins of the Inca Palace. It was funny because it looked a lot like Venice (there were a lot of birds too!)

After our walking tour we went to the local market to buy fruit, veggies, spices, grains, chocolate, etc. You name it - they had it! It was really neat!



Afterwards we went to a factory that showed us how they make llama and alpaca sweaters and clothing. We went to a delicious lunch (that cost us $8 for three people - craziness!) and walked around town. In the later afternoon we went to several museums and enjoyed the local shopping.
First day of school

Sacsayhuaman...

On our 6th day we took a tour of the amazing ruins of Sacsayhuaman, an Inca architectural masterpiece with fabulous views of the city below. Located on a steep hill that overlooks the city, it contains an impressive view of the valley to the southeast. Because of its location high above Cuzco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Sacsayhuaman is frequently referred to as a fortress.The importance of its military functions was highlighted in 1556 when Manco Inca lay siege to Cuzco.

It was a beautiful site and really HUGE! I didn't expect it to be as large as it was!

First day of school

Lake Titicaca

On day 8 we took a boat excursion on Lake Titicaca (Sidenote: Our hotel overlooked the lake and it was beautiful!)

Situated on the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest and highest navigable lake. Our boat journey took us to explore the magnificent scenery and fascinating life on and around the tranquil lake.

First, we visited the floating islands of the Uros Indians that still practice the old traditions of fishing, trapping birds and living on the lake plants. The totora reeds, which grow abundantly in the shallows of the lake, are used for their boats, houses and to build the very islands on which they live. This way of life began over 500 years ago when the Uros built the islands in an effort to isolate themselves from the Kollas and the Incas. This was by far, one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It was actually an entire island made of reeds! I thought I was going to sink! They explained how they made the island and how they kept it afloat. The people were very friendly and really explained their lifestyle well.



We also rode a reed boat around the Lake and explored another island. The boat was made completely out of reeds!




Later, we took a speedboat to the Taquile Island, where the indigenous inhabitants are dedicated to agriculture and crafting of high quality textiles. We got to see their unique customs, traditions and unique costumes. For example, the men are the knitters! That's right, the men are the ones breaking out their knitting needles! :)
First day of school

Lima, Lima, Lima...

To end our trip we traveled to Lima! We took a guided morning tour of both colonial and modern Lima, founded in 1535 and later dominated by the Inca nation. We got to see the historical center and the San Francisco Church as well as Plaza de Armas and the Government Palace. We also saw the fashionable districts of San Isidro and Miraflores with their beautiful parks and elegant residences. It was pretty funny driving around because it really looked like Hempstead Turnpike! They had a lot of the same stores and shops that we have. The buildings were very colorful and the architecture was very similar to Spain, France and England.



There was an awesome park in Miraflores called "The Love Park" (because it had a giant statue of two people making out!) and it was based on designs by Gaudi. It also overlooked the Pacific Ocean. It was so beautiful!

First day of school

Peru Overview...

Several notes:

1. We went to lots of other places that I didn't blog about. I basically picked a few of my favorites. I have over 1,200 pictures, and I figured most people don't want to see them all.

2. Smartours is a wonderful tour group! I highly recommend them for anyone looking to go on a great trip! Everything was well organized and I really felt like I got my money's worth and saw everything.

3. This was, by far, one of the coolest trips I've ever been on.