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The pictures of Peru are truly amazing. I have not had a lot of time to review all of them but I have put a nice selection in a preview gallery. You can access it here.
Hit the little blue play button (the controls are in the lower right corner) to start the slideshow. Turn on your audio if you want to hear it. You will probably need a high speed connection for the slideshow to work properly. Alternatively you can turn off the audio (use the little button) and browse the images.
We spent the last day of our wonderful Peru vacation in Lima. In the morning we visited the San Francisco Monestary. The Monestary is probably best known for its catacombs (picture). Its baroque interior and art works are world famous. Since El Presidente was going to give a speech, access to the Plaza de Mayor was somewhat restricted.
In the afternoon we visited the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. The Museum features some of the finest art work of pre-Inca civilization, Inca arts and crafts, gold, spanish conquistador items and recent Peruvian historical Items.
It was certainly a vacation that I will never forget. The people in Peru are very friendly and cheerful. The country is very diverse and beautiful with so many different impressions that will always be part of me.
The flight was terribly long but otherwise o.k. Immigration took extremely long, probably because all Peruvian citizens need visas. The flight from Atlanta to San Francisco was very bumpy because of the weather.
The involuntary stay in the Hostal in Juliaca was terrible. The hotel was located on the Plaza de Armanas (generally the best area in any town). Cars with broken mufflers and people shouting across the plaza at 4am made for a night with little to no sleep. Back at the airport everything was still chaotic, but we made it to Lima with 14hrs delay (hurray). So here is an important lesson for everyone travelling in Peru. If you have a connection flight to your home coutry, plan at least one day in Lima (city tour).
Tired as we were, we still took a cab to Pachacamac (see picture). This site is located close to Lima and has pre-Inca as well as Inca ruins. We spent the rest of the day in Lima recovering. We have to get up early tomorrow for our city tour (there seems to be some confusion wether it will be tomorrow or not). This means we have to check out tomorrow morning, spent the day in hot and humid Lima and then catch a flight at night to Atlanta and then to San Francisco. This means two days of stress. Hopefully we will sleep better tonight.
What else can you expect from Day 13. We are stranded in Juliaca, because of bad weather in Cusco (where our flight was originating). Lan Peru was incapable of getting another machine and after they left us sitting for 3 hours they even failed to announce that nothing is happening today. They simply were too busy. So I am in a hotel in Juliaca now (not the most pleasant city). No refund, no money for the Hotel. Basically Lan gave us the finger. The next flight is scheduled (why do I have to laugh now ?) for tomorrow morning.
Yesterday (12-26-2005) we took a ride on the Andean Explorer in First Class. This train is traveling through the Andean mountains for 10 to 13 hours (depending on how much cattle will be on the tracks). Our ride took only 10 hours. This photo was shot from the lounge wagon at the very end. This wagon even had a little open space at the end for photography. The scenery was truely spectacular and our seats were actually armchairs. The food was pretty good too. I enjoyed this so much, that the 10 hours passed by very fast. We had one stop at the highest point of the track (around 4300m or so).
Today we took a boat cruise on Lake Titicaca. As our tour guide told us, the Peruvian side is the Titi side while the Bolivians got the Shaft (or kaka). I am sure in Bolivia they tell the story the other way around. The weather was very nasty during our cruise out and the boat smelled horribly like gasoline, so that Dani and I stood outside in the rain as the gasoline smell made us sick (Dani fed some fish). Fortunately on the way back we had a little sunshine. At this altitude (the lake is around 3830m high) the sun is really dangerous. Anyways we visited two pleasant Islands (Taquile and Urus) of which Urus was the most interesting. This is actually a group of floating islands. The islands are made of reed and are maintained by their inhabitants (as the bottom fowls away the top is replaced with fresh reed). People live their all their lives. Walking on the islands is quite interesting as the bottom is rather soft. You get the feeling that you should not stand in one spot for too long or you would sink into the lake.
Yesterday (Christmas Eve) I had no internet access due to the celebrations. We spent that morning in Machu Picchu (see picture). We had planned to stay until 2 pm to be able to catch the busride down and our train. At around noon torrential rains started and we left Machu Picchu to spend the time until the train left in Aquas Calientes. When we were finally ready to leave, the porters of the hotel escorted us to our train. We showed the tickets, jumped in and took our seats in a full train. It was only after quite a while, that we noticed this was not our train. It was the vistadome train, that arrived earlier in Cusco. Fortunately, we did not get kicked off the train, as noone noticed the mistake. When we arrived in Cusco, the train station emptied quickly and we were forced out into the cold. We couldn't wait for our scheduled ride. A nice security guard helped us to get a taxi, negotiated the price and made sure the driver was legitimate (seems like the train station is not safe at night). As a tourist, you are always taken care of by special police forces and security guards.
Today we went on our sacred valley tour. They did not visit the Pisac ruins, only the market. Fortunately, we already visited them on our own. I would not want to have missed this great site. The tour was pretty good (as good as a rather large group tour can be).
Everything in and around Cusco is set up for tourists to spend money. We visited 2 markets and even took people on our bus to sell things.
Tomorrow Morning we will take the train to Puno through the Andean Mountains. This is going to be very interesting.
I hope all of you had a good Christmas. In Peru, Christmas is celebrated almost like New Years in other countries, with private fireworks going off at midnight all over town.
Today (12-23-2005) I got my Christmas wish one day early. We took the train to Machu Picchu that left Cusco at 6:15am. When we arrived in Aquas Calientes we checked in to the hotel, got the tickets for MP and the Bus for tomorrow and hopped onto the bus. It immediately started raining and my mood dropped at least 5 points. When we arrived at Machu Picchu and everything was clear, everything reversed and I was as happy as ever. The ruins were overrun by tourists (probably due to the holidays) but we waited until the last bus and got some really nice shots of an empty Machu Picchu. During the late afternoon (shortly after this picture was taken) the sun came out one more time to give us a glorious goodbye. Everything was clear with just enough clouds to give us some wonderful shots.
We had some nice encounters with Llamas, who were posing for us in front of the ruins (not really it took some convincing). Later all Llamas decided they had to follow us and with them came swarms of insects.
After all we had a wonderful and extremely stressful day at the ruins hunting for good light and good photographs in the humidity of Machu Picchu. It was all worth it.
We wish everyone who reads this ahead of time (time zones) a wonderful Christmas Eve.Photo shot with Canon 20D and Canon 24-85mm Lens
Today (12-22-2005) finally one of us got struck down by the flu. Fortunately the pharmacy seems to be well equipped so that we are feeling much better now. So we rescheduled the Sacred Valley Tour for Sunday (Thanks to the Travel Agents this was easy) and took it a bit slower (well in the morning that is).
In the morning I managed to squeeze some really good shots out of Cusco (Cuzco, Qusco). Sometimes it really pays off to have a little time at hand.
In the evening we hired a cab to take us to Pisac. The ruins are accessible through some pretty steep steps and the altitude takes your breath away, but it was worth it. Now I know why those guys use their horns that much. Our cab driver seemed to love to let everyone know we were coming.
Although we are going to go to Pisac on our Sacred Valley tour (about 25-30km from Cusco), I still wanted to go myself to have plenty of time to do some shooting. It was almost empty in the early afternoon, an additional bonus. The terraces were very impressive. You can see about 50% of that particular one and only a small slice of the site. I was quite amazed that it was that empty.
Have to get up around 4:30 am tomorrow, since we are going to the train to Machu Picchu. Actually the train runs to Aquas Calientes and from there its a vomit bus driving the switchback up the mountains. I am looking forward to the train ride but not to the bus ride. I am quite confident that they have internet in Aquas Calientes, even if it is more expensive (I am paying about 0.50 USD / hour here ;-) .