South America

Pablo and Bernardo: Santiago

Presidential palace, Santiago #chile #southamerica

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South America trip, days 23-27

We arose early in San Pedro for our transfer to Calama. Leaving in the dark, we saw the sky lighten as we drove back through the gravelly Atacama and to the aeropuerto. Our flight was only two hours so we got into Santiago just before 1. A local guide, Manuel, met us at the airport and pointed out landmarks on the way into the hazy city.
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South America

The desert and the sky: San Pedro de Atacama

South America trip, days 21-22

After our border issue, and running behind schedule, we powered through Chile, moving through the foothills of the Andes to Calama, and then through the gravelly desert to San Pedro de Atacama without stops for food or el baño (restrooms). We arrived at the town at about 7pm, at which point the group split into two groups: Shower first, given we hadn’t showered since Uyuni, or eat first, given we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I chose the latter, so we went down the main street of San Pedro to find a restaurant.

San Pedro is a small town, about 2,000 residents, that’s very Mich set up for tourists- lots of touring companies that tour attractions in the nearby desert, and lots of restaurants and money changers. The town is also geared towards the “ugly pants” types I mentioned earlier- lots of hippie crystals, horoscopes, incense, Bob Marley paraphernalia and lots of places selling said pants.

We found a decent restaurant in the main street, had a great steak, and then made our way back to the hotel to crash- we had been up since 5!

The next morning, with no planned activities until nearly 3, Karlee and I got up to explore the town. We found the correos and I sent some postcards, then we decided to go to the Museo de Arqueologico Gustavo le Paige. Le Paige was a Jesuit priest and Archaeologist who made a number of studies of Pre-Colombian civilisations in the Atacama area, and the museum hosts a lot of relics of Atacameño cultures.

One thing that was immediately apparent is that these guys were into hallucinogens. Many of the relics were snuff trays and pipes, and the specific design of them changed as the cultures changed. Originally a hunter-gatherer society, the domestication of the llama fairly early on made them more sedentary, and were part of the Tiwanaku empire, which was based at Titicaca but collapsed in about 1000 CE (1000 AD). The Atacameños were also part of the southern Inca empire until (surprise) the Spanish came.

After the museum, we went back to the hotel to prepare for our journey to Chile’s very different and much cooler Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). This valley had once been part of an ocean floor, but the sliding up of the Andean tectonic plate pushed it up into an inland valley. Once used for salt mining, the valley has a very high salt content, and the aridity means that it forms crystals on the surface, leading to spectacular white landscapes like this:

The valley of the moon in the Atacama desert. Beautiful place. That's salt btw #chile #southamerica

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We went through the valley, our guide Frank doing double duty in both English and Spanish. He explained that the valley is mostly comprised of Salt, Gypsum, Mica, and volcanic sands from when the Andes had erupted in the past (the Andes being part of the “ring of fire”). We went to the west of the valley to see the Three Maries, a rock formation named by le Paige as they looked like three women in supplication before Jesus (there’s only two Maries now- apparently one collapsed). We also climbed to the top of the big dune (where the photo above was taken) and we could see into an oval formation known as the Amphitheatre.

We took the bus out of the valley, to the Valle de la Muerte (valley of death), which contained an old road that the Salt miners used to take to Calama and then the coast. Sunset was fast approaching, so we drove a short distance back up the road to see something truly special:

Sunset over the Andes near San Pedro de Atacama #chile #southamerica #nofilter #reallythatcolour

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Magnificent. The photo there doesn’t do it much justice.

Stray observations:
– pesos: the currency of Chile is the Chilean peso, with coins as low as 10 pesos and notes beginning at the thousand peso mark (the Chilean notes are actually printed in Australia, and have many of the security features you’d be used to). As a general rule, 10,000 pesos is about $20, and costs in Chile are about on par with Australia.

– Infrastructure: Chile is a much more affluent country than Bolivia (and even a little more than Peru) so the quality of the roads is much better. In fact, Chile has it’s shit together more generally: better amenities, more modern conveniences, better drivers (dear god better drivers)
– An interesting thing about Atacameño pottery: it’s all monochrome or two-tone, unlike the painted pots other societies had.
– the three Maries in local mythology were protectors of the salt miners.
– we also saw in the distance the base camp for the Atacama Large Millimetre Array, a giant radio telescope. We had wanted to go stargazing, but the full moon and the cloud cover meant that we couldn’t.
– Fun space fact: apparently components for Mars rovers have been tested in the valley of the moon due to its harsh conditions. The day we were there was quite pleasant, but I bet it’s hellish in summer.

Next: Santiago! Bernardo! Pablo! Valparaiso! Other words ending in o!

South America

Westerns and White Places: Uyuni, the Uyuni salt flat, and the mountains

Train graveyard, near Uyuni #bolivia #southamerica

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South America trip, days 19-21

Uyuni looks like the perfect setting for a modern day Western. We’d arrived at 10pm the night before, so we’d not had a chance to look at the town or form much of an impression other than it being bloody cold at night. We went out the next morning to hit the local market, to stock up ahead of our four-wheel-drive trip.

Uyuni is a small town, about 2000 people in the region, so the main street is full of older, low-rise buildings, some with Spanish touches. The wide main street looks ready for a high noon showdown, and the small bell tower looked about ready to chime it in. The Market was set up in the main street, and was selling all types of goods including toys (grabbed a toy dinosaur for 2 bolivianos, I’ll tell you why in a minute), electrical stuff, tourist stuff and clothing. Knowing that where we were going had a distinct possibility of being cold, I bought some warm gloves and a Columbia jacket (99% sure it’s a knockoff, but it’s a good knockoff) for 215 bolivianos (about $30) as well as some water and Pringles (also relevant later).

Having stocked up and drawn out some emergency cash just in case, we returned to the hotel to begin our sojourn. We were using several local drivers on our trip, so we loaded our gear onto the roof rack and piled in, Karlee and I travelling with the older couple on our tour for this leg. Before we could hit the salt flat, we had one place to visit: the train graveyard.

Train graveyard, near Uyuni #bolivia #southamerica

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Story goes that Uyuni was once a rail centre, receiving the trains coming from Chile, and there were still a couple going through when we were there. Back in the early 20th century, a number of railways had steam engines based there. When the transition to diesel trains occurred in the 20s or 30s, the rail companies decided not to bother driving the steam trains back to a major city, so took them a little bit outside of town and left them there. 80 years later, the steam train graveyard is a rusty but not totally ruined collection of old engines, some of which have been stripped but mostly intact.

We visited the site and clambered over the engines, taking pictures and pushing around old train wheels. Some of the husks have had swings put in by the locals, so we of course had to have a go.

In my Uyuni western, this is where the final showdown would be.

We left the graveyard and drove along to a small town called Colchani, where they process salt from the flat for sale. The salt is piled into pyramids on the flat (we visited them after) by hand before being loaded onto a truck. The salt is then placed 150kg at a time (by hand) onto an oven, which removes the moisture and burns out some contaminants. The salt is then iodised, powdered and hand-bagged for sale as table salt all over Bolivia.

Driving out on the flat, we wondered how the drivers navigate. The Salt flat is a 12,000 square kilometre white, featureless landscape, with only the distant mountains as navigational aids. I figure one of the drivers had a compass.

The Uyuni salt flat. 12,000 square kilometres of salt #bolivia #southamerica

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We stopped for lunch in the middle (might not have been the exact middle, but it was far from anything else) of the flat, which gave us an opportunity to use the landscape to take some fun pictures. Because it’s so flat and white, you can take forced-perspective photographs that look really cool. We’ve got a couple of people standing in other’s hands, walking into Pringles cans, the whole group being terrorised by a giant dinosaur (in reality about 8cm high) and one great one of a bunch of us being apparently poured out of a paper bag.

After lunch (we’d brought a cook, Gregoriah, with us, as we were far away from civilisation) we piled back into our four wheel drives to drive to Incahuasi.

Incahuasi (basically “Inca house”) is an island, for want of a better word, in the middle of the salt flat. The island had acted as a stopover for native travellers before the Spanish arrived, and the Inca had conquered the area st one point as well. What the Island is really notable for, other than the views of the area, is its cacti. The native cactus to the area is a giant variety that grows about a centimetre a year, thick and spiky. Some of the cacti on the island are over 9 metres tall, so if you do the sums there they are over 900 years old. We climbed to the top of the island, took the obligatory hug going a cactus photo, and continued on our way

After one more photo stop, we left the flat to go to our lodging for the night. A small village in the middle of nowhere, it hosted a hostel made from salt bricks (moisture proofed and coated, otherwise it’d just erode). The accommodation was basic, with only a couple hours of electricity, and we were sharing with another G-Adventures group. Still, Gregoriah did very well in the rudimentary kitchen, and we played cards and had a few drinks until the lights went out. I also took the opportunity of the clear night and the distance from civilisation to go outside and take some pictures of stars.

We took off the next morning at around 8, hoping to visit some lagoons and a lake with flamingos. Our car had started to have a problem with the clutch, but the drivers fixed it (or so we thought). We arrived at a small town called San Juan de Rosario (I was amazed to later find it on a map) to stock up on snacks, and we were to lead the convoy out of the town.

We broke down about 1 block around the corner.

The small town of San Juan de Rosario, where we were stuck for 5 hours #bolivia #southamerica

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Our driver, Alex, was swearing in Spanish, as the clutch had finally gone. The other cars had left us, so we were resigned to waiting in San Juan until Alex could fix it.

Here’s the thing: if you’re going to break down, a town is the best place. Even though there was no mechanic local, we were close to a shop, could shelter from the elements, and more importantly we had the cook with us so we could be well fed. Karlee and I realised this pretty quickly, so we sat and caught up on our journals, wrote postcards and read patiently. The older couple we were with didn’t take it as well, complaining about the state of the four wheel drives, the fact the other drivers had left, that the tour company should have done this, that or the other, etcetera etcetera.

Here’s the thing: we’re in a developing country. Cars break. Not everything can be predicted. No matter how much other tour members may go on about how this would never happen in the US, the fact is we weren’t in the US and radios and phone reception weren’t a given. For me, the only real problem we had was boredom: if the worst came to pass and the car couldn’t be fixed, we could stay in San Juan until it was or a replacement car could be sent. Some of these ideas fell on deaf ears.

After 5 hours, Alex finally got the car into a working condition (even though it needed a push-start). We headed out after the others, onto another great flat plain and through an abandoned military training camp, searching for the group. We finally reunited after about an hour at the base of a mountain, in the middle of a wind-blasted salty waste. They were pretty happy to see us.

Turns out, they’d got to the first rendezvous point and noticed our absence. Leaving everyone there with little warning, the drivers had take one of the 4WDs and left the other essentially join the middle of nowhere, unwittingly taking the food, water, and more seriously someone’s insulin with them. Lucky they only searched for an hour before coming back. When we met up with them, they were hungry, as we had the food and cook, so she quickly got out and served lunch. Now well behind schedule and getting late in the day, we decided to push forward to the night’s accommodation.

We headed on a four wheel drive track higher up into the mountains as it got dark. We want past one lagoon where we could see some flamingos, but it was too dark to take pictures. We had planned to drive to where the other G-Adventures group was staying, but the dark and cold was making the drivers nervous- Snow driving past night not being something they really wanted to attempt. We fame across an eco-hotel in the middle of we thought nowhere, and with some quick talking and an extra twenty bolivianos each we stayed there for the night.

Not really being set up for groups like us, we had to sleep three to a room, and the amenities were basic. Still, they have us full run of the kitchen and we had a couple of bottles of wine and a bottle of Singani, so we were pretty happy. The dining room of the hotel had a wood stove, so we were nice and warm. Maruja devised a plan where we would travel south in the morning to rendezvous with he other group, but the original place where we were to cross the border was closed because of the snow. Instead, we’d travel in convoy north to an open crossing. To do all this we’d have to leave at 6am, but we still had a chance to see Laguna Colorada, a flamingo nesting place.

"stone tree," high in the Bolivian mountains. That's snow on the ground! #bolivia #southamerica #fuckingfreezing

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6am, we loaded up the four wheel drives in the dark and got on our way. It had snowed during the night, so we were driving up icy hills as the dawn broke, over a white-covered landscape. We reached a place called “stone tree,” a series of freestanding rocks that were covered in snow, and had breakfast. The snow had a certain novelty value for us Australians, but some of the tour members from colder climes were less enthusiastic. The other G-Adventures group arrived, and we went back the way we came

The night before, I had wondered about the name of the hotel that we’d stayed at: Los Flamencos. As it had been dark when we arrived and when we left, it wasn’t easy to figure out where it was built- I’d kinda figure out it was on a lagoon, but got not much further.

Flamingos, high in the Andes in #bolivia. There were hundreds of them! #southamerica #flamingos #funnylookingbird

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Turns out it was on the shore of a lagoon that was a nesting ground for hundreds of flamingos. When we arrived back at 9-10 o’clock there were hundreds of the birds, all over the water. They weren’t particularly scared of is, so we were able to get quite close for photos, and the size of the flock meant we could get photos of them in flight or doing pretty much everything a flamingo does. After taking a lot of pictures, we hopped back into our cars to do the border crossing.

After driving back along the 4WD track and reaching a major road, we drove a further hour and a half or so to our border crossing at Avaroa, which is the point on the Bolivian side. Though we had to wait a bit for the border guard to get there, we passed through without many hassles. We drove into the kilometre or so of No-Man’s-Land between Bolivia and Chile, then unloaded our gear from the vehicles. After doing a quick check to make sure that we had no open food or other customs-violating objects, we got onto a waiting bus and drove to the Chilean immigration control point.

It was here we hit a snag, or at least the other G-Adventures group hit a snag that affected us. Because of the way it’s set up, the tour leaders for G-Adventures should really be allowed in on a tourist visa-they use local guides and basically pay everything that a regular tourist does in these countries. The countries should just wave them through, but immigration can consider them in the countries as workers, which would require a work visa. When we got into Bolivia, we just pretended not to know Maruja and she came through as a tourist, which worked fine. We did the same thing at the Chilean border, and even though they asked her a few pointed questions they eventually let her through. The tour leader for the other group, a Bolivian national, wasn’t so lucky and was refused entry to Chile. This meant that Maruja was in charge of two tour groups on slightly different tours with less than a half hour’s notice.

After going through customs we boarded our bus for San Pedro de Atacama, eager to see what else Chile would have in store for us. Goodbye Bolivia – you were fun, and you threw up some crazy issues!

Stray observations
– Water: South American water isn’t safe to drink for those of us with delicate western stomachs, so we’ve been relying on purchasing agua sin gas (non-carbonated water) everywhere.
– The salt flat lends itself to many lame jokes. Memorable: eating lunch, someone asking for salt for their meal. Someone else asking when we’d get to the pepper flats. Me, after sitting on the hard ground, claiming I’d been As-salt-ed.
– Singani: Singani is a Bolivian spirit distilled from white grapes. It’s very easy to drink, even though it’s got an alcohol content of 40%. We bought a bottle off a lady in the tiny village we stopped in the first night for 50 bolivianos (about $7) and got through most of it. As you can’t take it across the Chilean border if it’s open, I gave the remnants to one of our drivers with a “Feliz navidad”

Next: Deserts! Ugly pants! Another lunar landscape!

South America

Strikes, bikes, and TNT: Sucre and Potosi

 

Crossing guards in the main square of Sucre #bolivia #southamerica

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South America trip, days 15-18

After our adventure leaving La Paz, we touched down in Sucre around midday. Strikes are apparently not only a La Paz thing, and we had to walk a distance out front of the airport to get to our bus, which was operated by a local affiliate company.

I should digress here for a second to talk about tourism. Peru, where we came from, has got this tourism thing down pat- it’s a key part of the economy. Bolivia’s is not as developed, so you’re not guaranteed the same level of tourist-friendliness in all places. Even things like Wi-Fi are less common the further you venture from the cities.

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South America

San Pedro Prison blues, witches and strikes: La Paz

¡Hola Bolivia! ¡Adios Peru!

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South America trip, days 13-15

Another bus, but this time a short trip. Leaving Puno at 7:30, we got on the top floor of a doubledecker bus to drive around lake Titicaca (I’ll say one thing in favour of bus rides: I’m getting a lot of reading done). After about two and a half hours we reached Yungayo, a town that rests on the Peru-Bolivia border.

For Australians, crossing the Bolivian border is a simple exercise. You hand in your visa and get your passport stamped on the Peru side, walk 200m up a hill, hand in your visa form and get your stamp on the Bolivian side. If you’re American, it’s a bit trickier, involving copies of documents and $135 in crisp, new American bills. I’ll explain why later in the post.
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South America

Coca and reeds: Puno and Lake Titicaca

South America trip, days 11-12

We had an early start to catch a public bus to Puno, a town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The bus was your general greyhound/stateliner double decker job, quite comfortable. From Cusco, we wound up through gently curving roads until we reached the Altiplano.

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South America

Ruins of body and stone: Putucusi, Machu Picchu and back to Cusco

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South America trip, days 8-10

We rose early to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, which is the main tourist town near Machu Picchu. The rail runs from Cusco-Ollantaytambo-Aguas Calientes, and is a great way to get to the town. We had to show our passports to get on, but once on the train is a comfortable glass-roofed affair, definitely worth it for the 1hr 45 min travel time. The train followed the river through the mountains, past some snowy peaks, some with cloud pouring over them. We made one brief stop to drop off passengers doing a leg of the Inca Trail, and arrived at Aguas Calientes shortly after.

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Aguas Calientes (literally, “hot waters”- I’ll explain why in a while) is a very touristy town, 2000m above sea level, with one main purpose: get people to Machu Picchu. The best comparison someone made was a ski town. We walked up to our hotel (A rabbit warren of a building) and then had the whole day to kill, so we decided to have a nice and relaxing fucking dangerous climb up a mountain.

Our tour leader, Maruja, had shown us a picture from one of the Inca trail guides of a track near Aguas Calientes that is supposed to give a great view of Machu Picchu from another angle. Sure, we thought, a 2 hour hike up, a ladder or two, it’ll be great.

Wrong.

Putucusi, as the mountain is called, rises 5-600m from Aguas Calientes. It is the hardest walk I’ve ever been on. That’s it in the top photo up there as seen from Machu Picchu.

Let me explain why. Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu are lower than Cusco, meaning it is wetter and more jungle like. This meant for the first half of the hike every step is slippery. The hike itself is a former Inca track, so it is stepped, but half of those stairs have eroded away and the rest are either slippery, steep, or a combination thereof. In the areas where there has been a rock slide or a significant chunk of the track is missing, the Peruvian authorities have installed wooden ladders.

The first of these ladders, encountered 15-20 minutes in, is about one hundred rungs going up about 30 metres, with a 40 rung and 60 rung ladder not too far after. Did I mention that we’re in a rainforest? That makes all two hundred rungs damp and slippery. If we’d had a rainy day, the walk would be impossible. If you fell off, especially on the first ladder, that’s pretty much it.

Splat.

(This video, not mine, gives you an idea of the first ladder)

About halfway up it gets if not easier, then a nicer kind of hard. You exit the rainforest and enter a dry section, where you can see back down to Aguas Calientes. And into a neighbouring valley. It’s still steep, but you no longer feel like you’re going to die if you fall. There’s a point where you begin to see into a neighbouring valley, and you can hear different parts of the river around each turn.

After Pisaq and Ollantaytambo I had begun to fell sorry for the Inca, but trudging up those stairs all my sympathy was lost. Any civilisation that willingly builds trails like this and even entertains such bollocks deserves everything the Spanish did to them.

I kid. Mostly.

After climbing for what seemed like forever, I reached the top of Putucusi in about 1hr 40min. I’m pretty happy with that, given that the mountain goats in the group did it in about an hour 20 and the stragglers in over two hours.

The view from the top was pretty incredible. We could see the whole Machu Picchu complex, from the Sun Gate to the top of Wayna Picchu (I’ll discuss this later in this entry). I took a number of great pictures (on my camera, so not shown here) and we took a few group shots at the top. After eating our lunch, recovering our breath, we began our slow descent.

The ladders on the way down are a lot harder, especially when you’re sore and jelly legged. I did only slip once, and it was a slow fall in a safe area, so we all made it back alive. Not intact- we were all bruised and sore for several days after, but alive.

Aching, most of the group decided to find the Hot Waters the town is named for. Aguas Calientes is the site of natural hot springs, and these have been tapped for some public baths. For 10 soles, we walked through a pretty path to the main baths, which were warm but not hot. There were cold showers to heighten the impact of the baths, and they were quite soothing after our unexpectedly difficult trek.

I do not want to speculate, given the colour of the water, how many people use the springs per day.

Out to tea at a Mexican restaurant, which was pretty terrible and we’re pretty sure has lead to the crook stomachs of half the group (myself included), then an early night for our trip to Machu Picchu.

We woke up at 4:30 for a 5:10am departure to the Machu Picchu buses. Legs, very sore. The way the system works is that there’s no access to the site other than through the bus system or walking up the hill; there’s no carpark at the top. We got on one of the first buses and began our climb up the switchbacked road (that we could see the day before, except the buses looked like matchbox cars from where we were). We arrived at the gate to Machu Picchu just as it was getting light in the sky, and met with our G-Adventures guide, Andre. Andre led us up a set of stairs (not actually that steep, but hellish after the day before) to a vantage point where we could watch and photograph the sun rising over the ruins.

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The “discoverer” of Machu Picchu was Hiram Bingham, a Yale scholar who in 1911 was looking for the fabled city of El Dorado. Story goes that when he was close to the site he paid a boy to show him the way, and there were two families actually inhabiting part of the site. Bingham’s original photograph show the site in a high state of decay, overgrown and partially collapsed in places. The vegetation has of course been mostly cleared, and some of the buildings have been partially re-assembled to get the site closer to its original state.

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This copy of the Bingham photo I found here

We walked from our vantage point into the site, to an area where we could see the Temple of the Sun. I mentioned in the previous entry that Inti was the number one god of the Inca in their heyday, and the temple of the sun was very important. This is evidenced by the nature of its construction- smooth, precisely chiselled stones that form a curve, rather than the still well-built but less uniform buildings present in much of the rest of the city. We went up to the top of the site, where the Inca have a stone representation of the Southern Cross.

Chakaya, as the Southern Cross was known to them, is a central part of Inca philosophy. The actual Chakaya figure is this:

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Forgive the crudity of my drawing

The figure has multiple meanings. First, the three steps on each side represent the three Inca worlds: the underworld, Uku Pacha (represented by the snake), Kay Pacha, the material world (represented by the Puma), and Hanan Pacha, the heavens (represented by the condor). The 3 steps can also signify the three Inca laws, which are: don’t kill, don’t steal, and don’t be lazy. If you draw a line through the middle of the cross, you get the duality between night/day man/woman yin/yang, and the cross is sometimes seen in quarters each quarter representing one of the four Inca kingdoms (Machu Picchu perhaps being the capital of one of them) and the capital, Cusco, in the centre.

We walked through the observatory and down again, near to Wayna Picchu. Wayna Picchu is the mountain behind the city site (that you can see in the photo above- the actual “Machu Picchu” mountain is where most of the photos including that b&w one are taken), and from there we could see a sacred stone that the Inca had carved to match the profile of a nearby mountain, who were worshipped as protectors. You can climb Wayna Picchu, by the way, but it a) costs money, b) is limited to 400 visitors a day and c) was never going to happen the day after Putucusi.

We continued through a residential district to the temple of the condor, which has a condor carved into the floor and walls behind it. We also visited the King’s house, which is a bit better built than peasant quarters but not near the quality of the temples. The king’s house had something special that no other residential quarters had: a draining toilet (most Inca were stuck with latrines).

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We ended up spending about 5 hours at Machu Picchu. It’s truly an amazing place.

We caught the bus, the train, then another bus back to Cusco, glad to be at a place where we could get our washing done. We ate at a simple Chinese restaurant next door to the hotel (deciphering a Chinese menu in Spanish is an interesting exercise) and collapsed into bed.

The next day we had free to look at and do all the stuff we didn’t do the first time in Cusco. Karlee and I decided to do a souvenir run in the tourist market, where the prices are always “special for you senor” (sure) and “all genuine Alpaca” (yup). We wandered up to the main square of Cusco to look at the Cusco cathedral. The cathedral, like most buildings of note in Cusco, was built on the foundations of Inca sites, but has been a Cathedral since about 1600. The Cusco people have a local relic they call the “lord of the tremors” (also the “black Jesus” due to its discolouration) which is said to have protected the cathedral from destruction in the 1650 earthquake.

The article in the cathedral is all of the “Cusco school,” religious pieces painted by Peruvian artists. While many of the pieces followed the lead of Spanish and Italian artists of the time, there are some local touches: in a painting of the Last Supper, Judas looks suspiciously like Pizarro, and Jesus and the Apostles are sharing a guinea pig as their meal.

Speaking of, we went out to tea that night to celebrate our last night in Peru:

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Tastes a little like duck.

Stray observations
– Peru are big on passports- you need to show one to get on the train, into Machu Picchu, a couple of other places. I did get a cool souvenir passport stamp from Machu Picchu.
– Apparently our tour leader has been getting looks of disbelief whenever she mentions that she took a group up Putucusi.
– Tour Joke: in most countries, when you sneeze, you say the equivalent of “good health!” In English, it’s “bless you.” So, whenever anyone sneezes, “health!”
– More Quechua: I mentioned in the last entry that Incas called themselves Tawantinsuyu. What it actually means is more like “four kingdoms under Inti.” the four kingdoms are Chinchansuyu, which is northern Peru and Ecuador, Cuntisuyu, which is between Cusco and the coast, Antisuyu, Northwest of Cusco in the high Andes, and Qullasuyu, which covered chunks of Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador.
– Fun fact: the Inca never invented the wheel. They had rollers, but no wheels.

Next up: Lake Titicaca!