Monday, May 7: To Peru

 The adventure began from Pearson Airport in Toronto.  We met Cathy a few hours before the flight and got our bright red GATEWAY TOURS suitcase straps.  Then she motored off to the Biz Class Lounge and we make our way to the gate.  It seemed we walked halfway to Lima!  Cathy joined us there just before the flight time bearing goodies from the lounge.  We took off on time, just after 7 PM and settled in for a long flight.


Tuesday, May 8 - Lima

We landed at around 2am local time and waited a long time for Larry's and Cathy's bags ( mine was one of the first off) [ Larry and Cathy were rewarded for heavy luggage !! ].  That gave us a chance to pick up some soles (SO-LAYS), the Peruvian currency, from an ATM.  Customs and Immigration were uneventful and, once out of the customs area, we were quickly spotted by our escort ( thanks to those suitcase straps ).  Her name is Maritza Tarezona and she's very nice and efficient.  On our way to the hotel she outlined our itinerary and gave us some advice.  

The Hotel Melia Lima is gorgeous and we were greeted very warmly.  Larry upgraded our room to one that included high-speed internet and it is really a luxurious suite.   

  Very nice - like a honeymoon suite.Very nice, like a Honeymoon suite.  Of course, we discovered ( at 7am after 3 hours sleep ) that the internet connection was not yet functional. By 8 we were in a different suite.  We went to the buffet for a very nice breakfast and our first real chance to practice Spanish.  Then we decided to go for a walk and got advice at the desk.  Lovely area, obviously upper-middle class, but crazy busy streets.  Found a bodega and bought some bottled water, coke and mystery booze -- looks like rum, but who knows??  Cathy suggests it's a local brandy.  She slept in and we make plans to meet just before we go on our tour this afternoon.
The afternoon tour of the city of Lima was very impressive.  We began at the Plaza Major, after a bus tour of several other parks and public buildings.    We walked across the Plaza, meeting a few vendors and watching Cathy negotiate with some of them.  From the plaza we could see city and federal buildings as well as the cathedral and commercial areas.  Lima is wonderfully clean and open.  We then entered the cathedral, which is amazing.  We saw Pizzaro's tomb and many works of art.  We then headed through several side and back streets to the Franciscan Monastery of San Francisco.  It is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Lima and still has a small cadre of monks.  I found the library particularly interesting.  We toured the beautifully tiled cloisters, and descended into the crypt, known as the catacombs.  Quite claustrophobic and grisly, but impressive and thought-provoking. .  We then took the express highway to the Love Park on the edge of the Pacific. 
It's beautiful, with mosaic walls and a large statue of a kissing couple.  Finally, we went to a large supermarket and then back to the hotel, cocktails and dinner, over which we lingered until after 11pm.  A lovely day.
Photos of 8 May Lima


Wednesday, May 9: Panamerican Highway to Pachacamac

 This hotel is marvellous! Candies on our pillows last night, friendly great service.  Another delicious buffet breakfast.  Then out along the Pan American Highway, beside the Pacific Ocean to Pachacamac.  This site was inhabited for over 1000 years until the Spanish Conquest.  Each succeeding civilization used it as a meeting place and centre for worship.  The Incas built their Temple of the Sun on top of earlier temples.  The archeological site is so big that we drove to various strategic places and walked from there.  It had all been covered by sand and overgrowth, but the dig and investigation continue.  Hopefully the photos show the story.  We shopped there for some souvenirs and then back to the hotel for lunch in our room.  After a bit of a rest, we headed out to the Museo de Antropologie, Arquologia y Historia. 

It didn't look like a museum.  It's laid out on one level around a couple of courtyards and seems more like cloisters.  The displays are uncrowded, attractive and very informative.  They cover the history of civilization in all areas of Peru since human's first arrived.  We saw similarities to Chinese and West Coast Canadian  cultures in terms of art and technologies but unique features as well.  Like in so many other areas,  when Europeans arrives they rode rough-shod over existing, thriving local cultures.  After a rest at the hotel we went to the absolutely amazing La Rosa Nautica Restaurante for dinner (This remains my favourite restaurant in the world - still by 2022).  We enjoyed a 3 course seafood Peruvian dinner with lovely local wine, terrific service and great conversation while looking down on the Pacific Ocean.  A bit of shopping brought us back to our car and home to the Hotel Melia Lima.      

Larry & Cathy at ruins     

Photos 9 May Lima & Coast


Thursday, May 10, Cusco

 We were up very early in order to catch the plane from Lima to Cusco. During the flight we had some amazing views of the sharp pointy peaks of the Andes. Once we landed a porter met us to carry the bags and he connected us with our local guide, Fabricio. On the way to the hotel he gave us the rules to fend off altitude sickness - drink coca tea, eat lightly, rest and get a small amount of exercise. So we went our rooms for a rest, had a light lunch in the hotel and then walked to the main square. All effort was difficult and Larry and I both developed headaches. The hotel is lovely: part 17th century and part modern. The modern part is modeled on the older part. There are courtyards, high ceilings, old looking wood, good meals and attentive service.

Cusco is a lovely old town dating back to the Incas. The streets are at odd angles and slopes, very narrow and full of traffic. After a second rest Fabricio took us to an Alpaca Factory and a Silver Factory. Of course we shopped [ while the driver was arrested for driving tourists without a licence ]. Then back to the hotel for dinner and early to bed. We have to be up at 04:30 tomorrow for the train trip to Machu Picchu. 

Photos 10 May Cusco


Friday, May 11, 2007: Machu Picchu

( Happy Birthday Nicole ) We all had a rough and largely sleepless night, so our "wake-up" calls at 4:30 weren't all that welcome. Larry and I both had headaches and I had a roiling tummy. But we managed to be packed up and ready to geo at shortly after 5:30.

Fabricio took us to the train station and handed us over to our guide for the day, Andreis. The 3 hour, 45 minute train ride was interesting, with a great change of scenery from the high, dry area of Cusco to the lower, jungly area around Aqua Calientes and Machu Picchu. There were many people walking on around or across the tracks, so there was much blowing of the train whistle. 

When we arrived a porter from the hotel met us and took our overnight bags, and we boarded the bus up to the site. It's a rough road with many switchbacks and the first glimps of Mach Picchu take you by surprise. 

We decided to climb first to a fairly high vantage point and then work our way down. It was rough for some of us whose climbing stamina wasn't up to snuff, and one lady had serious problems with the climb. She made it to the vantage point and heard the description of the site, but ended up going straight back down to the base and spending a few hours waiting for the rest of us. One other man was ill for the whole time and we had to wait for him a few times as he disappeared behind rocks. 

But the place is amazing! The workmanship and the design are so impressive. And the site is vast. Of course the pictures don't do it justice. We walked through the principle areas, including the climb to the Sundial, the Condor and the Mother Earth temple, right below the Temple of the Sun. By early afternoon we were all tired, and had had enough sun, so we went to the restaurant and had a really nice lunch. Eventually we caught a bus back down to the town. Our guide escorted the 3 of us to our hotel, the Ikatena Machu Picchu Pueblo - and suggested that we had seen Machu Picchu at its best and should check out the hotel's programs. It turns out to be a great place. It's spread out over area, has lovely gardens and walkways and is an ecological preserve. Although we were too tire to do anything right away, we realized the wisdom of looking here for tomorrow's activities. 

We all rested for a couple of hours before going to happy hour. On the way we stopped and registered for a bird watching hike at 0630 tomorrow. Then we went to the bar for our complementary Pisko Sours and met a charming young man named Graham from Cornwall, UK who completed the Inka Trail this morning. We also discovered Hilda, from our group this morning and she joined us for a drink. She had later dinner reservations but Graham joined us for dinner. It was a lively meal and we learned lots about his fascinating around-the-world trip. Finally we made an early night of it. This was a once-in-a-lifetime day for certain. 

All Photos May 11


Saturday May 12: Machu Picchu.

 We delayed breakfast until after the bird-watching walk.It was great - we saw many different kinds of birds, most spectacularly the Cock-of-the-walk, and several butterflies and hummingbirds. The interpreter was good at seeing and pointing out the various varieties and we all had or were provided binoculars. The breakfast was amazing and we all ate heartily. Then we all went our separate ways. Larry headed back up to Machu Picchu to climb the path to the Sun Gate. 

He said the hike up was taxing but manageable; well worth it though: the view was stupendous as you get a complete panorama of the valley, the road up and Machu Picchu itself. Plus, he said there was the experience of walking the last 2 km of the Inca Trail that supplied Machu Picchu with all their needs in the 14th and 15th centuries. Cathy was off to the Spa for a hot rocks massage and I was off to the hot springs in Agua Caliente; that's Spanish for hot springs. 

Cathy emerged refreshed and happy from the spa. I enjoyed the walk to and from the hot springs but found it a disappointing experience. The hottest tub was not very hot and the water was not moving very rapidly. However, back at the hotel, I had time to sit and watch the birds around the feeders and enjoy the tranquility of the Hotel. I did pick up some insect bites in spite of using the natural citronella repellent provided. 

Over a cup of iced tea, Larry regaled us with the stories of the entertainment provided on the bus. On the way up a native-dressed musician played sand pipes and something resembling a mandolin. Then on the way down a young boy in native garb met the bus at every switchback, and uttered a distinctive native cry. He ran barefoot on the direct trail between the switchbacks. Then at the bottom he boarded the bus and uttered his cry again and collected lots of tips. 

We walked on to the station, stopping in the market for Larry and Cathy to buy matching bush jackets (I must find one in another market after I find a cash machine ). Then onto the train for the trip back to Cusco  with Larry typing my blog as we rode.

Of course for the first hour or two the scenery was great, but once it got dark we had nothing to look at. The train crew solved this by staging a showl First a traditional dance by a white-faced "clown" in a big square hat ( traditional but I don't know what it is called. Then there was a fashion show of alpaca garments, which of course were for sale afterwards. We were met by a driver at the station and Fabricio caught up with us at the hotel to arrange tomorow's pick-up. Then a leisurely dinner at the hotel ( Casa Andina, again, same room and our stored bags were already there ) and off to bed.
Photos 12 May Machu Picchu


Sunday, May 13, 2007: Ollantaytambo Chinchero

 ( Happy Mothers' Day to all of you mothers ) 

The day got off to a civilized start when the bus picked us up at 8:45. It was a mixed group, who turned out to be great to tour with. Everyone was enthusiastic and positive. And a big bonus: we had Adriel as our tour guide once again.

 Our first stop was a roadside overlook with fantastic scenery.

There were vendors there in costume, accompanied by animals. So we took photos and gave them money for posing. Then on to Picac market. It was particularly interesting because on Sunday it's a local market as well as a tourist market. There were interesting foods offered for sale as well as trinkets, blankets etc. As well a group of costumed musicians were entertaining in front of the church. 

The down side was that Cathy and I were separated from Larry and he got lost in the maze of the market, delaying our departure by about 20 minutes. It was a worrisome time for everyone, so thank goodness it ended well. We were still in good time for lunch at a great place surrounded by gardens and facing the river. Such a wonderful spread! Then on to Ollantaytambo, Adriel's hometown, where we climbed high into the ruins of an unfinished Inca temple. It was amazing. There are still large stones scattered along the route from the quarry. It was abandoned so suddenly  as word of arrival of the Spanish reached them]. 

By then, Adriel decided it was time for a beer, so we went to a private residence displaying a red plastic bag on a pole by the front door. That means there's corn beer available: called chicha. After a traditional blessing ceremony, we were seated in a room and the process of making the beer was explained to us. then we were given samples of 2 varieties of it. Finally there was an "international" competition of "Frog". A representative from each of the nationalities present on the tour tossed coins at a complicated board, trying to drop them though holes. The Canadian won! Hooray! 

As if we hadn't had enough climbing, the next stop was Chinchero, the highest of the Inca cities: 3762 meters. We climbed steep streets and came out at a lively market, where we also visited a lovely church with a hand-painted ceiling. 


We had a couple of very nice encounters with young girls who were bright and determined. One befriended us in Pisac, and eventually sold us about 17 finger puppets. The other was at Chinchero. She asked where we were from and when we said Canada, she shot back "Ottawa"! We congratulated here on knowing the capital of our country and she said "Will you give me one dollar in your money for my education? Larry offered her $5 Canadian for 2 of the water bottle slings she was selling. She was very hesitant until Cathy got out the money conversion chart and she saw the value in soles. At that point she hugged and kissed us and happily wished us everything good. 

We went back at the hotel in time for Pisco Sours before dinner. Once again we closed the dining room. Tomorrow it's off to Puno (altitude 3872 meters) by bus.

Photos 13 May Ollantaytambo Chinchero


Monday, May 14, 2007: Puno and Lake Titicaca

  [ As always click the link at bottom for photos ]
Another pretty early morning, as Fabricio was picking us up at 7am. He delivered us to the bus and we said good-bye, and told him that he had to see a dentist about a tooth that was really bothering him. Then we set off towards Puno.

The trip took 9 hours, including 4 or 5 stops and a nice lunch. We all felt at a loss about the names of the places.

The first was a colonial Catholic church, which is also known as the American Sistine chapel because of its beautifully painted ceiling. It was pointed out that many elements of the Inca religion are also incorporated into native catholicism.

Next we visited a site that the guide claimed rivals Machu Picchu in archeological importance. It is called Raqchi. It is certainly impressive, but doesn't have the same atmosphere and sense of mystery that Machu Picchu has. 


There are high standing walls and many round storage buildings, as well as houses for all levels of society.  We stopped for lunch at a rustic place. The food was quite good and of course there was a small tourist market.

The highest point on our route was La Raya and when we got off the bus to admire the view, we were caught in a snow storm!!

Our final stop was at a museum of pre-inca artifacts. We didn't have long there but what we saw of stone carvings was very interesting.
Finally we arrived in Puno and were met by Caesar and a driver who brought us to the Libertado Hotel. It's rated 5-Star but fell short of our expectations, considering the outstanding digs we had had!. It was also very isolated from the town, though that may not be a disadvantage, since it is on an island in Lake Titicaca facing Puno, and we take our tour by boat from a marina on site.

We ate in our room and talked for a while, then Larry went off to find a "Hot Spot" to do his computing and posting of all my account.

Photos 14 May Puno Lake Titicaca


Tuesday, May 15: Puno and Lake Titicaca:

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca!!! Oh, My!!!

We left the drapes open last night and about 5:20 I woke up, realized it was light out and jumped out of bed. The sun actually appeared over the horizon at about 5:50, so we had a long time to enjoy and photograph the brightening sky. Just amazing ! We couldn't have had better [cloud positions] view or a better morning for it. Sunrise at Lake Titicaca is a widely known spectacular show.

A few hours later we had a lovely breakfast, then our car took us to the dock in Puno to leave for Uros Islands. Puno is really not a beautiful city but no one has pointed out anything of interest except the rather pretty central plaza. 

The Uros Islands; however, are a whole other world, its almost magical to be among and on them. Our guide gave us a very good overview of Lago Titicaca and the surrounding area during the 45 minute trip out. We also saw interesting flora and fauna.

Then we were among the floating islands and were welcomed onto one of them. The islands are constructed of blocks of reed roots tethered together and anchored to the lake bottom, then covered with layer after layer of reeds. Every month or so a new layer of reeds is added. Holes are left for fishing and fish farming. Reed houses are built on the structure. They use fires for warmth and cooking, but now have a few solar panels for power. 

 Their clothing is very colourful and attractive and their handicrafts are first rate. We all did quite a bit of buying. After sampling the reeds which are a major source of food, we boarded one of their reed boats and were rowed to another island. The inhabitants sang goodbye to us in their own language.
On the second island we found a small museum and bought a few more handicrafts. Then we took the boat back to Puno.

We had lunch at the bar and then a siesta before going for a walk on the island where our hotel is. We had hoped to encounter a heard of alpacas we saw in the morning, but didn't.

We watched the sunset from the bar, then had a great dinner in the dining room. The maitre d', Carlos, was very friendly and shares some of his stories with us. He has 2 daughters in Lima, and only sees them every 6 months. This was another wonderful day.

Rumours have been circulating about a strike tomorrow that may make it hard to get to the plane in Juliaca.  

Photos 15 May Puno Lake Titicaca


Wednesday, May 16: Puno


 We were treated to another beautiful sunrise and so had time to repack our bags for the rest of the trip. After a very pleasant breakfast, Larry and I decided ago for a walk. We had heard that there was a

restored 19th century ship at a dock behind a nearby hotel. It turned out to be about 1 1/2 miles away, but worth the walk. It was manufactured in Britain and brought to Peru on mules across the Andes, in something like 1892. It was used until the 1960s, fell into disrepair and has been undergoing restoration since the 1980s. 

When we got back to the hotel, Cathy met us with the news that our departure had been moved up and we needed to leave in 20 minutes. We had difficulty checking out, but we still got away in time for one tour before the airplane left. 

The tour was very interesting. It was to Sillustani, the site of pre-Inca and Inca burial structures. We climbed quite high to see the structures and our guide, Cesar, gave us quite a bit of the history and the symbology of the people buried here. 

Then back to Juliaca, to the crazy line-up at the airport, and on to Lima. 

We were happy to see Maritza, and get to the hotel. We got to the dining room at about 9 so will get very little sleep before our 2:45 wake-up call.
Photos 16 May


Thursday, May 17,2007: Iquitos & The Amazon.

( Happy 1st Birthday, Chloe!!! )
Today it is off to the Amazon Jungle part of our tour.  We are on our own on this part as Kathy decided to stay and visit more of Peru around Lima.  

2:45am is not a really pleasant time to be awakened, but we managed. Maritza picked us up on schedule at 3:30am and then we were whisked through mostly empty streets to the airport. By the time we checked in, paid the airport tax and found the departure lounge, we were ready for a coffee and the yogurt we picked up at the hotel. The flight was uneventful, though those on the other side got a spectacular view of sunrise over the Andes.

 Landing at the Iquitos airport we were met by the Explorama representative. We drove through the outskirts of Iquitos, then to a huge market area which featured everything from jeans to live chickens. 

On the road there are thousands of motorcycle-driven 3-wheel cabs. No roads come this far so everything comes by air or river.

We checked in at the company headquarters and boarded a power boat for the fast 45 minute trip to the resort. It was a bit alarming since the Amazon is full of debris ( mostly natural...no shoes like the Yangtzi River in China ) but the driver seemed to know his stuff.

The Ceiba Tops resort is lovely and serene, right in the jungle. We had a briefing about services and activities and then were shown to our cottage. It's rustic but comfortable. It was still a couple of hours before lunch so I caught up on sleep while Larry tested the internet connection. We were amazed there was one and it works very well. 

Lunch was a delicious buffet of local dishes. Then we had a bit of rest before going on a jungle walk. We had gone only about 100 when it started to pour. We quickly dawned our ponchos and headed back to the lodge.

After 15 minutes or so it stopped and we headed out again. Our guide, Percy, pointed out a lot of interesting things. We saw monkeys cavorting in the trees, a couple of centipedes, a tarantula, several kinds of birds, termites and many kinds of plants, including the Ceiba tree, for which the resort is named. We were hot and muddy when we got back so had to immediately wash our pant legs.

We were happy to climb into the swimming poo,l and both tried the water slide. A macaw came and perched on one of the tables by the pool.

Photos 17 May


Friday, May 18: Ceiba Tops on the Amazon:

 Breakfast at 7:30 - nice variety of fruits, cereal, eggs etc and the fun of watching the staff luring the macaw out of the rafters. and through the door. using pancakes as a lure. It obviously happens almost every day.

 Then 8:30 meeting with our guide, Cesar, and a couple from Portugal and Spain for a boat trip on the Amazon. It was an open 18ft boat with an outboard motor. Unlike the trip from Iquitos in the larger boat yesterday, we weren't asked to wear life jackets.

 At one point we pulled into an inlet, walked across a short distance to another flat-bottomed boat in a small lagoon.

There we saw hugh water lily pads with beautiful flowers.





On the way back to our boat we were met my a local family and their pets - a 3-toed sloth and a red-tailed boa constrictor. We had fun with the sloth - I swear it smiled at me - but the boa didn't seem too happy and we gave it wide birth.



 From there we went to another small inlet where we spent time fishing for piranhas. Among us we caught 11 - Larry, the other lady and I each got one, and the guide and boat driver got 8 between them. The Spanish man was unsuccessfu,l so is supposed to buy a round of pisco sours.

Much of this took place on a tributary of the Amazon, perhaps the Nanay. Its water is very black from the tannin in the leaves that fall into it at its swampy source compared to the brown Amazon. Where they meet we could see a marble effect of the 2 colours.

Along the way we saw many local people paddling boats, their houses along the shore, several very interesting kinds of birds, and some gorgeous flowers.

We returned wind-blown and hungry for the piranha catch that will be part of our lunch. The piranha were very good - cooked and delivered personally to our table.

At 2:30 we're off to an Yagua indian village. The first activity at the village was to paint our faces with a fruit that was like paint. We had stripes that were most attractive. Then we went inside a large thatch TP-like structure and danced a ceremonial dance with the villagers.


Finally the elders demonstrated the use of blow guns and we both got to try. I actually hit the target some 50 feet away!! Then we shopped for local handicrafts
On the way home we stopped in the river to watch pink dolphins. We were lucky enough to see them several times as they surfaced for air.

The other people on our trip were a young couple who lived very near Laura & D'Arcy in Oakville, and a woman who is a medical secretary on a French Island [ RĂ©union ] just off Africa. Back at the cabin we had to spend some considerable time scrubbing the face paint off ourselves and our clothes. 

All Photos 18 May


Saturday, May 19: Ceiba Tops on the Amazon


Well, today we certainly found out why they call it the rain forest!! It was our excursion to the canopy walkway, so we had to be at the meeting place at 5:30am. The weather look great, but as always we took our ponchos for insurance. I really wished I'd worn Cathy's raincoat.

 We boarded one of the larger boats for the trip to Explorama Lodge. Less than halfway through the 1 3/4 hour trip the rain began. We put down the side curtains and many of us slept for much of the trip. It was pouring by the time we got there for breakfast.

Then we hit the trail through the jungle. It was deep in water so several of us rolled up our pant legs. It took about 45 minutes to arrive at the bottom of the Canopy Walkway. Then we began climbing by stairs and suspended swaying walkways to the highest platform at 116 feet. It was too bad that we were wet and cool.  Our views were hampered by the rain, but it was still an incredible experience to be in the tops of these giant trees.

We gradually came back down to earth and slogged across more wet jungle paths to the ACTS station. There we got a small boat, which took us through a tiny creek back to Explorama. Along the way a giant Blue Morpho butterfly suddenly appeared and flew over us and then trailed us for a few minutes. How beautiful!

It was still early, so we visited a Shaman in the medicinal garden. He explained and demonstrated a number of herbs and mixtures, then performed a ceremony for Tony, and one for Annie to protect them from evil spirits. It was the most relaxing thing. 



Then the Shaman gave each of us a tattoo - the design of our choice. Larry got a scorpion and I got a hummingbird.

While that was going on, an anteater wandered in; I guess seeking shelter from the rain. He was fearless and approached all of us. Cesar warned us of his sharp claws, so we tried to keep him at a distance. Both Cesar and the Shaman let him cling to them.

Back at the lodge we had lunch and then looked around at some of the features - Charlie, an example of the world's largest rodent,
a capibara, some parrots, tucans, some odd kind of chicken things, and so on.

We relaxed in hammocks for a half an hour or so before boarding the boat to return. The rain had let up, finally, so the curtains stayed up. We were all chilly, but had had such a good day that it was worth it.


After dinner we had terrific entertainment by the dance group from the high school from the nearby town of Indiana and the White-Bellied-Frogs, the Explorama staff musicians.

All Photos 19 May

Monday, May 7: To Peru

  The adventure began from Pearson Airport in Toronto.  We met Cathy a few hours before the flight and got our bright red GATEWAY TOURS suit...