Thursday, April 30

Trip Report #3 Cuzco Peru

I have so much to show you that I may have to do several more posts! If you missed the first ones, here’s a LINK to the beginning.

Cuzco is wonderful. We all loved it. Not just because of Machu Picchu, but because it’s quaint, clean, people are polite and friendly, and they have great food! Cuzco was a very pleasant surprise. The gold statue in the square is Pachacuti, the ninth ruler of the Inca empire, and the guy who had the vision to build Machu Picchu.
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Cuzco is 11,500 feet above sea level. Some people have serious issues at that altitude. It didn’t bother me very much, I only had a little headache. I did not take altitude meds, but JJ did.

Hola from Cuzco! Let’s have a closer look at this llama.
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He’s a relative of the camel, can you see the resemblance? Maybe a little goat in the mix???
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And then I saw this. Honest to Pete, what is it! Turns out it’s a Peruvian Hairless Dog, and it’s a breed recognized by the AKC. Who knew!
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Apologies to the vegetarians out there. Llama tastes very much like cow. Left is slow-roasted, right is grilled with chimichurri sauce (the green stuff). A little chewy, but it tasted very good.
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This was our guide, Percy. He’s very passionate about the culture and history of the Inca; he made it come alive for us.
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This is JJ (below), waiting for us to return, conserving his energy. Oxygen is in short supply at this altitude and you tire quickly. We are at Ollentaytambo (Oy-yen-tay-tombo), where they built warehouses (out of rock of course) to store food and supplies.
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When you have no flat ground to plant crops, you must make terraces. The mountains are VERY steep here. Steep and TALL!
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The Inca cut rock like you wouldn’t believe, and they did it before iron was discovered, using only other rocks, no tools. Just look at these sharp edges and 90-degree angles! 1-IMG_2030

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The steps seem to go nowhere. We’ll see more incredible rocks later.

Some local color.
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The markets are so colorful, but these pieces especially caught my eye.
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A close-up. I loved these!
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How about these weavings?1-IMG_2053

A taxi! No lie!
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After we left Ollentaytambo we went for lunch. They made empanadas in a brick oven. Delicious! We had garden-fresh salads, grilled meats, and of course potatoes. Peru has over 3,000 varieties of potatoes!
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Of course there was a show. These horses weren’t just trotting along, they were dancing.
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And now, finally, we board the train for Machu Picchu. This is a view of the Andes out the train window.
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Outside of hiking the famed four-day, 26-mile Inca Trail, the train is the only way to get into the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Next time we’ll visit Machu Picchu.

Tuesday, April 28

Trip Report #2 Easter Island

If you missed the first report, here’s a LINK to the beginning.

Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. It’s where the white dot is.

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It is famous for its monolithic stone statues called Moai (“Mo-eye”)Specific details about their history are sketchy because there was no written language of the Rapa Nui, only verbal legends passed from generation to generation.
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I first saw these statues in my grandmother’s National Geographic, when I was maybe 10 or 12 years old. If my memory is correct, at that time they believed the statues were erected to scare people away from the island.

But the statues are facing inland, not out to sea, and they were carved to embody the deified spirit of a deceased ancestor. Their presence was to remind you that your ancestors who had passed on to the next world were near.1-IMG_1913

A tsunami destroyed many of the Moai in 1960. They have been resurrected to their original positions.
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Our guide Leo (below, right), who has lived his entire life on Easter Island, is writing a book and making a documentary about Rapa Nui.
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Of course we had the obligatory show.
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There are few trees on the island [in part] because they cut them all down to roll the Moai into position, ultimately deforesting the island and destroying many of its natural resources. Loss of large trees meant that residents were no longer able to build boats, significantly diminishing their fishing abilities.

This is Rano Kau crater. Almost a mile across, too big to fit in my camera’s lens.
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Next up: Peru.

Monday, April 27

Trip Report #1 South Pacific

We have returned, obviously. I took a lot of pictures so I will blog about our adventure in installments.

But first: We are in fine shape, no mishaps or illness, and I only put on two pounds on the cruise, which have already gone bye-bye. I pretty much stuck to my diet, but toward the end I started playing fast and loose with the bread products because they are made with flour from France and thus did not cause me any grief in small quantities. So it is true about American wheat and gluten. I enjoyed the homemade cookies on the ship and I even had a pizza in Peru. But now we are back to our low-carb lifestyle and I’m hoping to lose another ten pounds.

Let’s get to it: Our first stop was Moorea. This photo was taken from our veranda. The landscape was striking, and it’s granite, not volcanic, which surprised me. Notice there is no beach. Sandy beaches are not common.
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The fir trees are not what you’d expect on a tropical island. How did they get here!!
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We took the tender boat to shore. The water was very choppy. The orange building is a church. It was Easter Sunday and there wasn’t much else going on, so that’s where we went.
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It helps to have a big zoom lens.1-IMG_1682

I wish I had audio to share with you. The choir was simply delightful.
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I forget what island this is, doesn’t matter. What I want to show you is the coral atoll, which completely surrounds the island. You can see a white surf line on the right with darker blue water. The lighter, turquoise water is inside the atoll, and the water is calm and shallow with a sandy bottom. This is not man-made, it occurs naturally, and it’s [part of] the reason there are few beaches. The little island in the foreground and the one way in the back on the right are called Motu. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these little Motus in the region. So it’s entirely possible that there could exist an uncharted island, as in the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks.
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Another island we visited was Bora Bora. At every stop there was some kind of music/dancing to welcome us and hope for a little tip.
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Bora Bora is the most happening of all the islands. It is the quintessential tourist place. And I mean that as a compliment. 1-IMG_1740

Here we rented jet-skis and circumnavigated the entire island. I did not take my camera on the wild ride because it is not waterproof. I did not enjoy the jet-ski adventure, but I’m glad I did it so I’ll know to never do it again. We learned how to properly open a coconut, which may come in handy someday. If I’m ever stranded on a deserted island…

I did, however, take my camera on the boat when we went swimming with the rays and sharks in the afternoon after lunch at Bloody Mary’s. Rays are slippery and slimy-feeling. And big! The water is turquoise, so you know we are in shallow water inside the atoll, but you can see the deep water at the horizon, beyond the atoll. Here come the rays. There is chum in the water and it doesn’t take long for them to know it.
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After we played with the rays we went outside the atoll to swim with sharks. I did not get in the water here, not because I was afraid of the sharks but because it was nearly impossible to climb back into the boat…forget that! And I was done in by now and happy to stay in the boat and take pictures. These are lemon sharks, and they don’t eat people. My guess is this one is about six feet long.
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Of course, being that this was a cruise, we had fine dining in the evenings. We became good friends with Bill & Sarah from Dallas, and wiled away many afternoons playing bridge out on deck. We are on Oceania’s Marina, and this is in the specialty restaurant Polo, which serves steaks and chops. And whole Maine lobster, if that’s your fancy. 1-IMG_1789

Our ship, as viewed from Fakarava, with a tender (boat) next to it in the water.
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Next time I’ll show you Easter Island. But first there is unpacking and laundry to do. Mountains of laundry.

Thursday, April 2

Next Stop: Paradise

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I thought I should tell my diminishing group of regular readers that I will be gone for a while and I should not just disappear for a month. Dear burglars, there is nothing to steal. Our TVs and stereo equipment are ancient. We sold the gold jewelry years ago.

We are heading to the South Pacific for a cruise that goes from Tahiti to Peru, and we’ll continue on to Machu Picchu. I’ll post pictures and tell stories when I return at the end of the month.

My bags are packed and now I’m off to get a haircut and pedicure.

Love you!