2000 Jungle Journal

Lima Life It's a Jungle out there! Nazca Notes
Titicaca Tidbits Cusco Chronicles Mountain Memories


June 17, 2000

Today was one of those when I just had to stop and say "I can't believe I'm actually here."  After growing up on a steady diet of National Geographic magazines and reading about the Andes, we're taking a boat out onto Lake Titicaca to visit the Uros people who live on rafts made out of totora reeds.  Each year the people add more reeds to replace the ones that gradually rot away.  

The base of reeds that make up the raft eventually reach about 4 ft. thick.  There are over 100 rafts on the lake.  The rafts themselves are a variety of different sizes.  Some may hold 3 or 4 families, while others actually have stores, restaurants and even a Post Office.  These larger rafts eventually get so thick that they actually sit on the floor of the lake.  The tops of the rafts are soft and springy, so walking on them is like walking on a waterbed.

On the island we visited, the homes were all made of totora reeds and the residents support themselves by selling trinkets and giving tours.  There was even a shaky lookout tower built on the island.  After climbing to the top and swaying on the platform, we were treated to a bird's eye view of the island and those of their neighbors. 

Later in the day we took a tour to explore an old Inca burial in funerary towers called "chullpas".  These are round towers built of impressive interlocking granite blocks, and rising up to 36 ft tall.  The ground around the towers is littered with thousands of pieces of broken pottery.

When we returned to the city we found that it was market day.  In addition to the regular daily market, traditionally dressed indigenous locals come from miles around to sell their produce, flowers and woolen items.  They set up stalls or spread their wares right on the sidewalks and streets outside the main market and bus terminal.  The women literally disappear behind piles of potatoes, corn, onions and other items. 

June 18, 2000

Today we took a bus to Cusco, the gateway for Machu Picchu.  We splurged and took a tourist bus as we were told it would stop at various sites and ruins along the road.  As it turned out, other than a stop for lunch and another at an interesting 17th century church, the only time we stopped was when we insisted on it.  The bus driver, as it happens, was in a hurry to get home to celebrate Father's Day with his family.  Peruvians celebrate both Father's Day and Mother's Day the same as we do.

The drive itself was very interesting as we crossed over a 4,335 mts. (13,000 ft.) pass and then followed the Vilcahota River into the valley above Cusco.  The Vilcahota is one of the furthest tributaries of the Amazon River.

Later in the day, we approached a town at which we were to visit another church.  But when we arrived we found a full blown festival going on.  The driver didn't want to stop, but we insisted.  The festival was Raqchi, and it only happens once a year.  Indigenous people from all over the department (state) come.  There were traditional dancers from each region.  Crowds of people sat watching the festival from their perches atop the Inca terraces. 

June 20, 2000

Today is our second day at Machu Picchu.  We're  sitting on a spur of Huayna Picchu looking out over a vista that includes Machu Picchu and the Urubamba river.  We've been here since 7:30am and have had the place pretty much to ourselves.  The tourist hordes are just now starting to arrive, but from our lookout, it is peaceful and you can hear the river and the birds singing. 

We arrived yesterday in Aquas Calientes by train.  There are only two ways to get to Machu Picchu. By train or by foot on the Inca Trail.  From Aquas Calientes we took a bus up the mountain to MP. 

Our first view of these magnificent ruins was pretty much the view that you see in all the classic photographs.  It is a massive place that one could spend days exploring.  There are hundreds of rooms.  Some have exquisite stonework, others have hidden niches and still others are maze-like.  All of it is awe-inspiring machupi.jpg (32520 bytes)

.It is built in the saddle of a huge mountain and grasses cover the steeply terraced hillsides.  It was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.  The Spanish Conquerors were apparently unaware of the city which lead to speculation that the city had been abandoned prior to their arrival.

In the center of the complex is a terraced pyramid that is bordered on one side by the central plaza.  The plaza holds the "Temple of the 3 windows".  This building is considered to include the most exquisite Incan stonework.  The huge carved stone blocks are perfectly fitted together so tightly that you can't slip a knife between them.  There is no mortar, just a perfect fit.

After a marvelous time at MP, we are off to visit the Sacred Valley.  As the Peruvians say, Ciao.

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