I can hear the rosters crowing outside and there is a little light in the sky. I can’t sleep anymore, so I’ll grab a bit of time to update our news and upload it when we go down to the reception area of the resort for breakfast. The hotels here all seem to have a free wifi service in the public area, so I’ll take advantage of it.
We left Santiago in Chile on Monday night after filling in a day with very little to do. Our flight arrived into Lima (Peru) just before midnight and it took us an extra hour or so to get to our hotel, check in and get to bed. It was Jill’s birthday and it was nice to find that our guide had left a little Aztec doll for her and that the hotel had left a nice little tray of pastries and cakes.
.We had a free morning to explore the area of Miraflores, a commercial district where there were many silver shops and antique dealers. The highlight of our local exploration was our coming across a noisy protest outside the city hall. There were about 150 people (who we assumed to be government workers) facing of across the road from about twenty police in full riot gear with shields who were backed up by two other lines of baton wielding police. It must be expected that protests her get out of hand.
In the afternoon, we visited the area around the main square (Plaza de Armas). One side side was the impressive government palace with a strange array of flags that included Korea, Vietnam, Australia and those of neighbouring South American Countries. On one side of the square was the 16th Century cathedral and around the other sides were other impressive buildings.
Yesterday we flew to Cuzco after very extensive briefings about altitude sickness. Half the group were quite unsettled by this, expecting to struck with blinding headaches and loss of breath the moment that they `walked off the plane. The air is noticeably thinner and it does take a few extra breaths after any significant `exertion. Cuzco has an elevation of about 11,200 feet. We drove from there over a pass (12,800 feet) to a resort in the Sacred Valley (Urabamba Valley) for a couple of days of acclimatisat4ion before –moving on to higher altitudes at Machu Pichu and then back to Cusco, On the way, we stopped-off at the market in the little town of Pisac, where on Tuesdays, Tuesdays and Sundays, people- from local highland villages load up their donkeys and mules and bring products to the city square to sell.
This region is very different to any other that I have seen before My most significant observations are:
- There is a very extensive use of adobe. All the buildings and even farm faeces / walls are made from mud brick. In the main cities like LIma, the bottom floor is made of mud brick whilst upper floors are made from a lightweight timber frame and a ‘wattle and daub’ in-fill construction using reeds and mud. Once the building is plastered, it looks like any other solidly constructed building. Cusco is city of 400,00 people and the whole city has a monotone brown `appearance capped off with orange terra cotta roofing tiles
- In this area of Andean Peru, most of the people here are ethnically ‘Indian’ and some have direct roots back to the Incas. They are small people with dark skins, broad faces and black hair. I guess that they average about 5 feet in height. On a couple of occasions I have mistaken women fore young girls. The women wear multiple skirts and hats with colourful blouses and jackets
- There is a quite distinct ‘class’ system and this is denoted through one’s dress. Single women wear white flowers in their hats, while married women wear`red or pink flowers. People with direct Inca lineage wear hats with either round, or square tops.
- In the cities, there re a lot of pigeons. At the San Francisco monastery in Lima. There were hundreds of them. Perched high on the spire of the church, were a number of vultures, Some of the tour group were a bit concerned about being attacked by them until our guide explained that their real interest was in the pigeons, – not us.
- People here think that the traffic is chaotic, but I don’t think it is anywhere near as bad bas many Asian cites. There is certainly no respect for pedestrian crossings, so the best way to cross the street is to wait until a local person comes along and the walk when they cross.
- There is obviously a noticeable Spanish influence although the local people seem to have overlaid something of their culture on top of it. The churches that we have seen,for example, are very decorative, but not nearly as ornate as those in Italy.