Lovely Lima

We’ve been in Lima now about three weeks and I can’t tell you how much we’ve enjoyed this portion of the trip. There are several possible reasons: one, we had very generous native guides , the delGustos, who squired us around for several days.   We were wined and dined and treated to a home dinner with 19 of their extended family. It turns out that our companions for this portion of the trip, had previous history with Gloria delGusto. Sharon’s family hosted Gloria as a high school exchange student for one year and other than a brief visit years ago Sharon and Gloria hadn’t seen each other for 45 years. It was wonderful to be a tag along on that reunion.

The second reason for our comfort here in Lima is that Santiago was a bit too boisterous for me. Too much activity, visually too loud and a lot of history to sort out. To take sides is impossible in some of the Chile stories. It was hot and sweaty and I find the siesta in the middle of the day confining. American work ethic drives the 8+ hour workday; Chilean ethic drives a 4 hour morning, 3 hour siesta and another 4 hours in the evening. I might get used to it someday, but not on this trip. Another factor is that Peru is the last stop. We’re winding down, getting ready and anxious to get on with the next horizon. Chile was just the lead up to the swansong; we leave one week from today and can finally hear the fat lady warming up.

For all my fellow adventurers I would put Peru on the bucket list. You already know about Machu Picchu but there is so much more. There’s the Nazca Lines in an area of the Peruvian Desert. In this area are an assortment of lines and geometric forms carved into the valley—suggested age of these lines is from 200BC. They weren’t discovered until the 1930’s when air travel became common. Imagine something that birds knew about before humans did. Additionally, there were 4 distinct indigenous tribal peoples before the Incas. And then the Incas… oh my!

Part of the intrigue for me was spending Holy Week in a very Catholic country; the days between Holy Thursday and Easter are national holidays. We went to church on Palm Sunday only to discover crowds of women outside the church selling palms woven into designs: stalks of corn, fish, florals, and of course the usual braided crosses. These were beautiful creations selling for 50 cents apiece. We happened to spend Holy Thursday in downtown Lima where on that day it is customary make a pilgrimage to several churches; our guide for the day told us that his mother would visit 10-14 different churches on Holy Thursday. Good Friday meant there was a crucifix procession where one carries another palm creation cradling a ceramic Christ crucified. Holy Saturday is spent in a candle lit church.   Peruvian Catholics know their ritual; Easter Sunday was almost anticlimactic, simple without all the Easter bonnet finery.

Machu Picchu was a life highlight. We flew to Cusco, the jumping off point for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. While we did a 7 day walking pilgrimage in Spain several years ago, trail-ing at 11,000+ elevation for 4 days wasn’t even a consideration. We huffed and puffed our way through Cusco and would lie in bed at night trying to get enough oxygen to get to sleep. From Cusco, we rented a car and driver for the 2 hour ride to Ollantaytambo where we then boarded a train for the 2 hour ride thru the Sacred Valley to Aguas Caliente. We spent the night in Aguas Caliente and then took a 20 minute bus ride to the Machu Picchu entrance (we even got a special stamp in our passports). For those considering, that is the only route to get to Machu Picchu. There the Incas began about 1400 AD, spent 50 years building the complex of rock carved homes, spiritual sites, irrigation paths and tiered farming areas. They remained there for 40 years and then abandoned the area in the mid 1500s. We were told that it was unlikely that the Spaniards ever drove them away from their community. More likely that the demon was malaria, many were dying, they discerned that their sun god had abandoned them and it was time to move on. It was fascinating; one of those picturesque places that define where you are on the earth. If you are interested in the amazing story of its discovery read Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams who recreated Hyram Bingham’s original journey. Finding Machu Picchu was a National Geographic Society coup.

We had another visitor couple that we accompanied to as far as Cusco; they went onto Machu Picchu by themselves so we had 3 full days in Cusco–fascinating by itself. We were cut short one day; we flew to Cusco but wind condition sent us back to Lima for the night. We made it the following day. I researched Cusco airport facilities and found that before 2009 flights to Cusco were only available during daylight hours since there were no runway lights for night landings. WOW! Cusco has a population of about 400,000—about the size of Colorado Springs. I know CSprings had night landings prior to 2009.

So I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. We have our return flight to real life slated for 10 April. A week in Texas with the Gagnons and then into Colorado Springs where we establish home sweet home fondly referred to as Lasting Delight. One more blog and then I sign off. You’ve been kind to listen to my blather. Blessings!

Photo legend: Machu Picchu x 14, train to Aguas Caliente, Palm Sunday x 3, Liz herding alpacas, Cusco from atop, John on the way to 11,000+ elevation.

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