July 2010 Archives

Peru - Lake Titicaca Floating Islanders

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(click to enlarge) The little girl seemed to enjoy helping the adults with the tourists.

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(click to enlarge) That's a dried duck she's holding.

We're leaving early tomorrow morning for the North Shore of Lake Superior, so I'm posting tomorrow's blog tonight. I'm not sure about internet access for the next week, so please be patient if a blog doesn't show up every day.

Peru - Floating Island Women

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(click to enlarge) Vivid colors and distinctive hats are characteristic.

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(click to enlarge) The hills around Puno, across the bay, are in the background.

"Each step on an island sinks about 2-4" depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added to it. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands. Because the people living there are so infiltrated with tourists now, they have less time to maintain everything, so they have to work even harder in order to keep up with the tourists and with the maintenance of their island. Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle." (Wikipedia)

Peru - Floating Islands in Lake Titicaca

We boarded a boat to go to Taquile Island, several hours out into Lake Titicaca, where we would stay overnight with a family. Shortly after leaving Puno harbor, however, we stopped for a couple of hours on a floating island, inhabited by the Uros people. From Wikipedia:

"Uros are a pre-Incan people that live on forty-two self-fashioned floating island in Lake Titicaca Puno, Peru and Bolivia. They form three main groups: Uru-Chipayas, Uru-Muratos and the Uru-Iruitos. The latter are still located on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca and Desaguadero River.

The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas mats), and to make the islands themselves.[1]

The Uros islands at 3810 meters above sea level are just five kilometers west from Puno port.[2] Around 2,000 descendants of the Uros were counted in the 1997 census,[3] although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The Uros also bury their dead on the mainland in special cemeteries.
Uros children before going to school

The Uros do not reject modern technology: some boats have motors, some houses have solar panels to run appliances such as televisions, and the main island is home to an Uros-run FM radio station, which plays music for several hours a day.

Early schooling is done on several islands, including a traditional school and a school run by a Christian church. Older children and university students attend school on the mainland, often in nearby Puno."

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(click to enlarge) Almost everything is made from reeds.

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(click to enlarge) Demonstration of how the island base is constructed

Peru - Puno Cathedral

Puno, on the shore of Lake Titicaca, is a city of about 100,000. Its cathedral was built in 1757, so it has distinctive Baroque architecture and decoration.

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Peru - La Raya

The highest point on the train trip to Puno and Lake Titicaca is La Raya, 14,176 feet above sea level. The website go2peru.com has an extensive, if sometimes slightly off-key, description of the route of the Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno. Here's what it says about La Raya:

"The train continues to climb for another 27 Km, past the thermal baths at Aguas Calientes to La Raya, 210 Km from Puno. At 4,321 meters above sea level this is the highest point on the journey, a cold, remote place whose surrounding snow-draped peaks are often shrouded by mist or fine rain, and whose eerie silence is at least partly attributable to eardrums blocked by the dizzying altitude. Crossing this great watershed, the train travels across a sea of seemingly-endless coarse grassland through villages lost to time for all but the Coca Cola company and local breweries."

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(click to enlarge) A church next to the market

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(click to enlarge) Mother and child

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(click to enlarge) Alpacas seem to serve the functions of both sheep and dogs.

Click here to see my Blurb books.

Peru - The Altiplano via Andean Explorer

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(click to enlarge) We took the Andean Explorer on a ten hour journey from Cusco to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This train seems to be modeled on the Orient Express, with its elegantly luxurious interior. The trip is rated as one of the top 25 train rides in the world, according to PeruRail, by the International Society for Passenger Rail.

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(click to enlarge) The Altiplano, where the Andes are broadest, stretches high, flat, and seemingly to infinity. It's the most extensive area of high plateau in the world, aside from Tibet.

Peru - Ollantaytambo Scenes

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(click to enlarge) Flowers on a stone wall in Ollantaytambo

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(click to enlarge) Walking toward the Andes

Peru - Ollantaytambo Storehouses

High on an impossibly steep hillside across from Temple Hill in Ollantaytambo are some structures that, when seen through a telephoto lens, turn out to be grain storehouses.

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According to Wikipedia: "The Incas built several storehouses (Quechua: qollqa) out of fieldstones on the hills surrounding Ollantaytambo. Their location at high altitudes, where there is more wind and lower temperatures, defended their contents against decay. To enhance this effect, the Ollantaytambo qollqas feature ventilation systems. It is believed that they were used to store the production of the agricultural terraces built around the site. Grain would be poured in the windows on the uphill side of each building, then emptied out through the downhill side window."

Peru - Ollantaytambo Temple Hill

"Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru some 60 kilometers northwest of the city of Cusco. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 meters (9,160 feet) above sea level in the district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, Cusco region. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays it is an important tourist attraction on account of its Inca buildings and as one of the most common starting points for the three-day, four-night hike known as the Inca Trail." (Wikipedia)

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(click to enlarge) Stairway on Temple Hill, leading to the religious center at the top.

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(click to enlarge) Finely cut and fitted stones (with lichen embellishments) in a structure at the top of Temple Hill.

Click here to see my Blurb books, including one on Peru.

Peru - Hotel at Machu Picchu

We stayed at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel while visiting Machu Picchu. It's a lovely place, with nicely situated bungalows and a garden with 372 native types of orchids.

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(click to enlarge) Tile roof on a bungalow

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(click to enlarge) Perhaps the most shapely and intensely colored of the orchids

Peru - Facing the Mountains from Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu faces the mountains across a deep valley. Food was probably grown in the valley and on the opposite slopes. The vistas are impressive and beautiful.

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(click to enlarge) Large stones were carved to mimic the shape of the mountains in the background.

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(click to enlarge) I like the way the clouds follow the shape of the mountains.

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(click to enlarge) For once, a vista without stones!

Peru - Machu Picchu Images

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(click to enlarge) Like so much of the Inca territory, Machu Picchu is steep and terraced.

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(click to enlarge) These buildings once had thatched roofs. They look more striking unroofed, I think.

Peru - Llamas in Machu Picchu

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(click to enlarge) Several llamas have been brought to Machu Picchu, presumably to make the site more picturesque. Left to their own devices, we were told, they would live several thousand feet higher in the Andes.


(click to enlarge) Here's one overseeing our guide, Juan Carlos.

Peru - Machu Picchu Stonework

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(click to enlarge) The Inca stonework at Machu Picchu is amazing - among the best the world has ever seen.

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(click to enlarge) Up close, the best of the stonework, found in the districts where the nobles lived and sacred rites were carried out, is incredibly tight and fine. Large walls and buildings are built of stones without mortar --- which actually makes them more earthquake-resistant.

Peru - Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu

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From Viva Travel Guides:

"Once used as a solar observatory, this unique complex is the only round building at Machu Picchu. At sunrise during the summer solstice, the sun's rays flood through the window and illuminate the tower with a precision only the Incas could have executed. Also known as the Torreón, the temple presents a spectacular, semicircular wall and carved steps that fit seamlessly into the existing surface of a natural boulder, forming some sort of altar. Although access inside the temple is not permitted, the outside architecture is spectacular in and of itself. The temple displays some of Machu Picchu's most superb stonework, and has a window from which the June solstice sunrise and constellation of Pleides can be observed. In Andean culture the Pleiades continues to be an important astronomical symbol, and the locals use the constellation to calculate the arrival of the rains and to determine the best time of year to plant crops."

Peru - Good Light at Machu Picchu

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(click to enlarge) The Watchman's Hut in late afternoon, as we were descending from the Gateway of the Sun

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(click to enlarge) We awoke at 4:30 in the morning to get up to Machu Picchu to see the sunrise over the Andes.

Peru - First Glimpses of Machu Picchu

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(click to enlarge) My first view of Machu Picchu, looking down from Intipunku, the Gateway of the Sun, after nine tough hours on the Inca Trail.

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(click to enlarge) The shining ribbon is the Hiram Bingham Highway, the road named after the "scientific discoverer" of Machu Picchu. It leads to the site from Aguas Calientes (formally Machupicchu Pueblo), the town below.

Peru - Inca Trail

A couple of pretty scenes along the trail.

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Peru - Water on the Inca Trail

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(click to enlarge) A pretty waterfall near Wiñay Wayna

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(click to enlarge) Machu Picchu lies just beyond the Andes, on the Amazonian cloud forest side. Increased moisture is evident as we approach on the Inca Trail.

Peru - Wiñay Wayna

From a Stanford University web site, which has many detailed diagrams of the site:

"Wiñay Wayna is an Inca site, neighbor to Machu Picchu, on an elevated perch overlooking the Urubamba River. It was discovered by the Wenner Gren Scientific Expedition to Hispanic America, which investigated both archaeological sites and native Andean peoples in 1940-42. Paul Fejos and his team documented a number of sites on or near one of the Inca roads leading toward Machu Picchu, a road now known as the "Inca Trail" by the thousands of trekkers who pass across it annually. The name Wiñay Wayna was subsequently given to the ruin by the eminent Peruvian archaeologist, Dr. Julio C. Tello, which Fejos reports as meaning "Eternal Youth."

The ruins consist of upper and lower house clusters, interconnected by a long, precipitous staircase with accompanying fountain structures, often referred to as "baths." A large area of presumably agricultural terraces lies just north of the house-staircase complex. The site is not unusual for those in this region: compact formations of architecture that conform to, and often take advantage of the local topography. The stonework is variable in quality, but significant portions are of high quality cut stone assembly. The site's lookout nature, its positioning near the important Inca access road, and the investment represented by it's architecture suggests it a place of some importance during the Inca occupation of this segment of the Urubamba drainage."

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(click to enlarge) Winay Wayna seen from across a large valley, perhaps 1/2 mile away. The site is big!

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(click to enlarge) The classic view from the top after climbing about 400 steps.

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(click to enlarge) Close-up of one of the terraces

Peru - Chachabamba on the Inca Trail

There are two versions of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: the long one and the short one. We did the short one, which goes about 9 miles, rises 1500 feet, and took me about 9 hours. This website has a good description.

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(click to enlarge) Start by hopping off the train, crossing the bridge, and registering at the checkpoint. (The number of hikers per day is limited.)

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(click to enlarge) There are many Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley. Chachabamba, just after the checkpoint, is relatively small but very attractively situated.

Peru - More Patacancha School Kids


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(click to enlarge) Country Walkers brought drawings from school kids in Vermont (where their offices are located) to the school kids in Patacancha. They're comparing who got what.

Click here to see my Blurb books.

Peru - Patacancha School Kids


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From a post in Changemakers by Sonya Bradley who works for Country Walkers, the company that arranged our Peruvian trip:
"For six years, Country Walkers, our guides, and our guests have supported the small Andean community of Patacancha in Peru. The primary project goal was to construct a dormitory for the children who attend the local elementary school. To date, the project has raised more than $13,000 and continues to grow. The school children of Patacancha are enjoying a two-story, five-room dormitory with facilities for 20 students. Complete with a kitchen and electricity, the dormitory also serves as a Community Center. The project began in 2001, when a Country Walkers tour visited with the people of Patacancha."

Peru - More Patakancha Kids

The kids tend to have red, irritated cheeks: it's cold up there in the potato fields.


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Peru - More Kids

After the fireworks, we return to the children of Patakancha in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Their hats are traditional; the shapes, patterns, and colors have meaning within their society.


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Even More Fireworks

The last couple of enhanced-by-camera-jiggle fireworks photos.

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More Fireworks

A couple more images with the shake-the-camera effect:

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Taking a break from Peru to show some 4th of July fireworks, photographed from the roof of our building in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Moving the camera yields some surprising images.

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Peru - Kids

Kids in Peru seemed self-possessed and not camera-shy.


(click to enlarge) In a Cusco handicraft market


(click to enlarge) In the hills of Patakancha in the Sacred Valley. Our guides brought some bread from town to the farmers.

Peru - Dinner Party in Yucay

We stayed for a couple of days at a hotel in Yucay, a small town in the Sacred Valley conveniently located to prime sites. We were invited one evening to dinner at a family's home, with four generations in attendance. Guinea pig was served, along with many other goodies.


(click to enlarge) The man at the left in the front row is the grandfather, 93 years old. He is a lively dancer. The man at the right in the black and white vest is the maitre de at the hotel where we were staying.


(click to enlarge) One encounters talented Peruvian musicians on street corners all over the world. At home they're even better.

Peru - Ollantaytambo

From Wikipedia: "Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru some 60 kilometers northwest of the city of Cusco. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 meters (9,160 feet) above sea level in the district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, Cusco region. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays it is an important tourist attraction on account of its Inca buildings and as one of the most common starting points for the three-day, four-night hike known as the Inca Trail."


(click to enlarge) As we were waiting to change buses, I wandered up the street and came upon this scene.


(click to enlarge) Suddenly a boy ran around the corner.

Peru - Maras Salt Mines


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According to peru-travels.com:

"The picturesque town of Maras is home to the most important salt mines in the region. The city is located 29 miles from the city of Cuzco in the province of Urubamba.

Also called Salinas de Maras, these salt-mines have been used since the Tahuantinsuyo. The salt mines have been exploited since Inca times and during the Vice-regency, it was the largest salt producer of the southern highlands.

The people channel the salt water that bubbles to the surface from a spring called Qoripujio towards men-made wells. From the exposure to the sun, the water evaporates and the salt remains on the surface to be transported later to the market to be sold. The view of this complex of nearly 3000 wells is spectacular."

Walking on the ridges between the wells is a stringent test of balance.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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