Tuesday, February 21, 2012

amazon jungle

The boat motor was loud and the smell of exhaust was strong in the air as we started our four hour boat ride from Iquitos to the very remote jungle lodge on the Amazon river. Not really knowing what we were in for, but knowing this was going to be a very different experience than we have ever had before. We knew that the lodge was an Eco lodge far into the jungle, where we would be able to experience the real amazon. This was going to be great.

 And it is!

We have been in the jungle now for 4 days. We have tried to experience everything that this lodge has to offer. What it doesn't have to offer is a menu of foods to choose from. They cook one food for meals, and that is what we eat. They don't have hot or warm water, but one tap in the shower with river water to wash the sweat off before crawling into our screen enclosure room for the night. No A/C, no T.V. just chirping birds, bugs and other amazon jungle creatures to lull us to sleep at night.

A typical day in the jungle for us has started at 5am. We awaken to people getting ready for the day and once again, the loud jungle creatures that are starting their day. We get dressed, wash the sleep out of our eyes and get into the waiting boat that will take us deep into the river jungle to see if we can spot the early morning creatures that live there.
  Breakfast was prepared for us by the lodge. One day it was peanut butter and jam and star fruit juice, another day it was fried egg, cheese and ham on bread with another fresh tropical fruit to drink.
   As we hiked through the dense primary jungle, we are always on the lookout for something new to see. Some of the creatures we have seen are, poison dart frogs, leaf frogs, Pygmy marmoset, wholly monkey, squirrel monkey, black monkey, 3 toed sloth, jungle tree anaconda, yellow viper snake, jungle rats, tarantula, camen, many, many spiders as big as a mans hand, big bugs, little bugs, swimming spiders and my favorite,  pink river dolphins. The other ways we have been exploring is in canoes. Everywhere we go, there is water.
The amazon region in northern Peru in very different than I was expecting. It is the rainy season now, and everything is under 12 feet of water. Something like 1/2 a millions square miles are partially under water.  So when we first arrived, I was expecting to see mountains, and a very distinct river. But everything is flat and under water. So much so that the huge trees that we pass in the boats, really don't look that big because we are boating up in the canopy instead of down by the base of the trees. All of the buildings are built on stilts and there is very little dry land. Everywhere we go is by boat or canoe. Very odd to spend a week without seeing or walking on much dry land. Though today we boated an hour and a half to hike in the jungle. Felt good to stretch our legs and do some hiking.

Another fun thing we did yesterday was go fishing. I caught a piranha!! We ate it for supper.

It is no wonder why this is one of the 7 natural  wonders of the world.

                                                                       My piranha!!

our room at the lodge

                                                               the view from our room

                                                           a pink dolphin splash

We visited a nearby village. One of the only places with dry land. Very friendly people!!

                                                                     The village kids

                        One of the walkways around the lodge and my jogging path

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Peru people

As we drove from Cusco to Machu Picchu, we stopped at a few places where I was able to get these shots

Machu Picchu pictures

                                                               The Inca trail

                                                                       Machu Picchu

                       The mountain behind us is Waynapicchu. Looks pretty intimidating. But we did it!

                                                             A side view of Machu Picchu

                                        The view from on top of the sun gate mountain

                                         The Hike down Waynapicchu. Watch your step!!
                                                                     Machu Picchu

This is the view from on top of Waynapicchu. It was quite the hike, but well worth it.

Machu Picchu

Its been a crazy last few days.
It started in Ollantaytambo, the town we needed to catch the train from up to Machu Picchu. When we arrived at the train station, we were told there had been a mud slide along the tracks and the train would be late leaving while they cleared the tracks. Maybe an hour....
We know that in most countries, maybe an hour could mean maybe an hour or maybe not today. So all we could do was hang out and wait. This was around 7am. We had to get up that morning at 6am, so we could catch out ride from our hotel to Ollantaytambo. So needless to say, we could use a place to hang out while we waited. The lady who met us at the train brought us to a nearby hotel to wait. She said she would come back in an hour. She of course came back in an hour and told us that she still didn't know anything, but it should be soon. Maybe another hour. Ya right...
  We finally left the station around 1:30-2:00. It was an interesting boarding process though. We had tickets with assigned seats, but because of the train delay and the mass of people who were waiting at the station, some since 5am. It was a cattle call. Ticket numbers and seat assignments meant nothing. We had to get on the train, this train or we would not make it up to Machu Picchu that day. So the 6 of us formed a line holding onto each others backpacks and tried to stay together in the mass of people who also wanted to get on that train. There were a few crazy moments with some very rude people, but we all got on that train and off we went.

1 1/2 hours later out vista dome train reached the town of Aguas Calientes. The town at the base of Machu Picchu mountain. Our guide was there waiting for us!! He quickly rushed us to the bus that would take us up to the ruins. The bus ride was another 25 minutes of switchbacks that carried many people up and down that mountain every day.

Finally, we arrived!! Our first glimps of the ruins was breathtaking. It is so hard to describe. It takes a while to walk up the hill and around the bend and then there it is, in all its majesty. It is no wonder that the world has named this a Unisco Heritage site. Set at 8000 feet above sea level, it is hard to believe why anyone would think to build a city up here in the clouds. As we listened to our tour guide tell us about the amazing engineering and arcatecual feet in building this city. You realize who special this experience really is. The Incans carved out this mountain and built up the base and the homes to make a safe haven for its most important Kings and high priests. Protected by the surrounding mountains. This empire was kept strong and protected from the Spanish, who never did conquer it, unlike most of the other Inca temples in Peru.

After our 1 1/2 tour it was getting dark, so we took the last bus off the mountain to our hotel back in Aqua Calientes. By the time we checked in and ate supper it was time to get into bed so we could get back up at 7 and take the bus back up the moutain for our second 1/2 day to tour.

Our second day we were on our own in terms of touring. We decided that we wanted to try to hike up Waynapicchu, which is the huge mountain on the back side of Machi Picchu. This mountain looked very intimidating. Towering straight up behind the ruins. It looked almost impossible to climb. But here we were and we could no9t pass up the chance to at least try. As we waited for the gate to open at 10am. We could see the 7am crowd up at the top of the mountain ruins. Every day only 400 people are allowed to climb Waynapicchu. There are two times to go up. At 7am or 10 am.

Dean and I got signed through the gate at 10:15. Our goal was to start climbing and see how far we could go. We also really wanted to make time to hike the Inca trail up to the Sun gate, so we knew our time to make it up this mountain was short. So we didn't waste time. We started at a good clip while the grade wasn't to steep and we could make some time. When we looked at the mountain before we started, it was very intimidating. It is just over 1000 feet straight up. Would all the training on the treadmill at home the last 5 months really help me now?
But as we went, we both just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Passing a few people that were slower and kept our feet firmly planted on the built up rock steps. Stopping when we needed to to catch our breath, then pushed upward and onward. We were told the hike up was around 1-1 1/2 hours. After about 15 minutes into our hike up, some people who were headed down from the earlier group told us it was only another 20 minutes more. What!! This was doable. If we had made it this far already, than surly we could finish it up to the top and still make it down in time to hike the Inca trail before 1pm!! So we gave it a little more, and pushed on to the top. What a sight we had when we looked up from the stairs and saw the majesty of Machu Picchu from 1000 feet above. This was a sight that was worth the climb. But we couldn't take to much time to sit and rest. We needed to make it down and across the ruins to the other side. So that we could climb the 1000 foot inca trail to the Sun Gate on the other side of the valley.
 Going down was so much easier and so much faster. Other than a few places that were so steep that I had to go on the bum or go backwards it was a great trip down. When we arrived at the check point gate on the way out. The lady asked us "what happened"? Why, I asked? Nothing happened. She was very surprised we had gone up and gotten back down in an hour and ten minutes. That was very fast. But she didn't know we had another challenge ahead of us and could slow down. We had to climb to the sun gate and we had very limited time to do it. So we booked it across the ruins and up the other side to the Inca trail that would bring us up the the Inca Sun Gate or Intipuncu.
Intipuncu is nestled in a narrow notch 1000 feet up on a mountain overlooking Machu Picchu. It is along the ancient Inca trail that is a long narrow stone path made by the incas to get up to their sun gate. The Sun Gate was just one more awe inspiring feet that these incas did. The sun gate was cut with stones in perfect configuration and placement so that the sun would perfectly hit in precise spots in the city. The sun gate was used to tell the incas the perfect date for the beginning on planting or harvesting.
As we stood at the top overlooking where we had just come from we couldn't help but amaze at the beauty  before us. It was amazing to think that we had walked along the same stone path that the Incas used to walk along every day. Amazing!

When we reach the sun gate we got a panoramic view of not only Machu Picchu, but of the endless mountain peaks stretching into the clouds above. We could also see the river that runs through these mountains all the way to the amazon river and the switchbacks that brought us up from the bottom of the mountain this morning.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sacred valley

Today after 2 days of rest in Cusco, we started our tours of the sacred valley and tomorrow machu picchu. Our day began in Cusco, with a bus rude up and over the one side if the Andes mountains. I had heard the roads could be really bad, but we found them great. Our tour guide made a few stops along the way so we could learn about the different wools of the alpaca and llama. We also stopped along the way to take in the breath taking views. Mountains are always fun to photograph and the Andes are no different. The views of the Sacred Valley as we came to the crest of the mountains and looked out over the valley with the headwaters of the amazon running through the center....breathtaking. In the afternoon we made it to the town of Ollantaytambo. This is where there is an important archaeological site that we spent a couple of hours learning about the inca history and helped us to get some insight for touring machu picchu tomorrow. It was great to be able to walk and even jog up the steps to the top of the site and look out over the valley and amaze at the work it must have been to build this military fort that protected the sacred valley. We had a really good guide that was a very scollared man who we could tell was passionate about Peru. I hope to be able to post pictures tomorrow!

First tour

I'm working on getting some good pictures up on the blog. Should hopefully get them up tomorrow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Big breath

Things are feeling much better for our whole crowd today. The weather started out sunnyish, with a few clouds. We thought it would be a great day to explore the town. Everything in cusco is either up, or down. We started up. A few steps and stop. Deep breath and up a few more steps. The streets are very narrow, as we walk up the 18 inch sidewalk single file, we occasionally have to stop and let locals pass us as we stop, take a rest. Deep breath and continue are slow walk uphill. Today was a good day. Feeling stronger and ready to go to the sacred valley tomorrow. I bought a really nice alpaca scarf and sweater!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Resting in Cusco

Its 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I'm lying on bed and my heart is beating hard. I can feel it in my head as its thumping. I have just walked up the flight of steps into our hotel room in Cusco, south America. The altitude is around 11,000 feet above sea level, and we can definatly feel that we are not getting as much oxygen as what we are used to. We were told to expect shortness of breath, getting easily dehydrated and numerous other side effects. They say to spend the first day testing do that we wouldn't get sick. Which could feel kind of like the flu. Which we are really trying to avoid. So after arriving and a long lunch. We walked half a block to see a few sites and I immediate could feel that we needed to go back to our room and rest. My head felt a bit like u was getting a sinus infection. It felt stuffed up and just.... Not right some how. What a unique feeling. So we rest, drink lots of cocoa tea. Which is very similar tasting to green tea. It is supposed to help with the side effects of altitude sickness and also good for digestion and everything else that ails you. Our itinerary has today a day of rest, and that's what we will do.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Peru bound

This will be the start of my blogging for our trip to Peru, south America. We leave in 5 days! Getting the last of our stuff organized so that we can focus on packing and finishing up our work week early.
Friends of ours are in Peru right now and put a picture on Facebook of some really interesting food. Makes me wonder what we may be eating for 3 weeks.

We hope to try to keep up with the blog as we travel. Trying to figure out a way to post pictures from my iPhone onto the blog. So far it is not working.