Peru and Bolivia Trip with Michael Ellis
June 26 to July 7, 2001
Tuesday, June 26.
Here we go, earthquake or not. Mina from NYC decides to cancel so we are now 11. Alex, Loralee, Linda, John, Elin, Grace, Liko, Jean and me fly to Dallas. I meet David Moore from Adventure Associates and we rendezvous with our KC friends- Kala and Donna. Off to Lima where we are met just outside customs and whisked to our hotel – San Antonio in The fashionable district of Miraflores. Whew to bed after long day of travel.
Wednesday, June 27.
Our first breakfast. Lima is overcast with high fog and smoggy. Manual and Luis show up and introduce us to Betty- The one with 3 kids. First thing she tells us are the two most important phrases in Peru are – mañana and mas o menos. We begin our city tour with a drive through the fashionable residential district of Miraflores. It began as a beach resort for wealthy Limians or lemmings or lemons or whatever they are called. Great view of the Pacific and the beaches. 43 districts in Lima with 43 mayors! 8 million inhabitants (40% who live in shantytowns). 24 million in the country. Lima founded in a desert. La Paz Street is full of antique and jewelry stores. Betty gives the whole soap opera run down of Fujimora, Alan Garcia, Alexandra Toleda (indigenous, shoeshine boy, Stanford, Harvard, World Bank) and the “CIA- like buddy of Fujïmora – Montecino. He just returned to the country with the help of the FBI from Venezuela! WOW who could invent that story? First stop is Casa de Aliaga, a most impressive colonial mansion occupied by the same family since 1535. Oldest private home in the Western Hemisphere, built on an Incan temple site by a good buddy of Pizarro. 15 generations here and they drive a Volvo. The wood of the house is from Central America. Lima the most important city in SA for 300 yrs. Viceroy of Peru run by Spanish until revolution of 1824. We see examples of the Lima School of painting (more Europe and done by the Creoles) contrasted with the Cusco School (similar to the Quito School) uses gold. Sons of gentry in Spain – 1st inherited property, 2nd joined the military, 3rd became a priest. We cross through The Plaza de Armas (new name Major Plaza) to the National or Lima Cathedral built on the site of the Inca Sun temple in 1535 by Pizarro. A quake in 1746 destroyed the ceiling, which was rebuilt using bamboo. In 1974 the last big quake exposed the real remains of Pizarro. A sanctuary built in 1925 was celebrating the wrong mummy. Great carved chairs. Church = power= death= slavery=gold. 160 men and 130 horses defeated 8 million Incas.
Next we walk to the San Francisco Monastery past the train station with no trains. Police, military tanks and water cannons abound, setting the tone for things to come in Bolivia. School children are here on field trips. Down to 30 Franciscan monks from 300, where did the other 270 go?, that is the question. Built in 1546 great paintings cover up even greater frescoes (from the Italian literally means fresh- to paint directly into plaster) In 1947 The catacombs were ‘discovered”, though The monks knew about them. Maybe 50 K common people buried here, and down we go into the depths. Weird bones stacked by anthropologists. Be here now, ashes to ashes, we all end up dead eventually. Elin’s therapist philo. for the last couple of years has been to just show up and you are where you need to be. Up out of the darkness and stuffiness to light and good air and back to the bus. Next we head north to the Larco Herrerra Museum we quickly travel through 3,000 years of the history of Peruvian cultures.
Totally cool and especially overwhelming is the warehouse full of ceramics we stroll through. Grace and others are falling asleep standing up. And finally a very quick unguided tour through the world famous erotic pottery collection, with hundreds of ceramic pieces on display. The uptight text was the best- the “solitary vice” was a hit for Donna. In the ceramic pieces no one looks like they are having too much fun. It is 2 already and we haven’t eaten so off for lunch at Brujas de Caciche. Loralee and Alex defy me and have a Pisco Sour. The food is (yummy!)
And next the remarkable Gold Museum of Peru, a private collection belonging to Mr. Miguel Mujica Gallo- a very old rich man who has collected all his life. The most visited museum in Lima. The exhibit has gold pieces of the Pre-Inca cultures, especially Mocha, Chimu and Nazca. On the 30 ‘ drive back to the hotel I give you a brief overview of the trip and then we decide to forego a big Welcome Dinner and meet at 7 on the second floor for introductions and a quick, lighter dinner. Too bed early, a big day tomorrow!!
Thursday, June 28.
After breakfast Luis and Manuel come to take us for our flight to Cusco. Whoops Donna lost her ticket, nearly karma for being 10′ late while fiddling with the internet for our gathering last night. And she didn’t make a copy of her ticket – bad girl – but at least she gets on the flight albeit $120 later. 55′ to Cusco smooth and easy on a 737. Transfer to Posada del Inca. We move slowly to adjust to the altitude (11,000′ !) and drink some coca tea. Elin rapidly recovers and goes on the first of many shopping sprees. After lunch we begin our tour with Maria Nunez and Wilbur, our driver. Cradled in a high Andean Valley, Cusco (pop 300K) seems to surge up from the earth. Houses made of orange-hued adobe bricks with pottery shingles (bulls on the roofs) match the deep red clay tones of the soil; Cusco means bellybutton and was the center of the Inca Empire. Up we go to a hill overlooking The City, to the monumental Sacsayhuaman (literally means satisfied falcon but we all remember as sexywoman) fortress. Called fortress by the Spanish, it was actually a temple- The Plaza of Happiness. The conquerors tried to destroy it and sent many rocks tumbling down below into Cusco used to build the church we will see later. Incas are here by 12th century, no one knows from whence they came. 800 BC Chavin Civ, then Nazca, then Mochi. Oldest man found is 20K old. 1100 AD Cusco founded. Polylepis trees are here, members of the rose family and they grow at a higher altitude than any other tree in the Andes. Budlejas are also growing here. Broom eukes, lupines, and pampas grass. gee it looks familiar. Linda feels the altitude but adjusts quickly for the rest of trip. Cusco shaped like Puma, the sacred animal of the Incas. Alpacas and one llama arrive. They shear them to get the wool; OK they don’t kill the babies for your nice sweaters. Vicuna wool now being sold, very expensive. I looked at a scarf for $1800!
3 is a special number. We live on 2nd level when we die our soul goes to 3rd and our body goes to 1st. Repeat the cycle. Pachya= world or dimensions. At peak, greater Cusco had 200k. The royalty had the best spots and the people living in the surrounding area supported them.
Next stop Blanco Cristo- given to the people of Cusco by Christian Palestinians who lived here from 1925 to 45 and then left (Whoops they thought they had a Homeland). Someone needs to pee so we stop at a shop that Maria knows and the shopping begins anew. Whew altitude certainly doesn’t slow this group down. At Q’enko we see the phallus site buried by the embarrassed Spanish and just uncovered in 1935. Down into the temple of the Earth where the preparation of mummies took place. Big gold reflecting circle, long gone plundered by guess who? and melted down and shipped over the Atlantic. We leave and wind down the narrow, cobblestone streets to the cathedral of Cusco. One main Church and two chapels on each side. It’s being restored right now. On the right is The Church of Christ and Mary with School of Cusco painting, then main cathedral with major restoration work being done. Highlight was the large painting of The Last Supper with guinea pig as the main course and chicha (corn likker, as we say back home). Carved furniture with pregnant Indian women showing the Church and the future what those fine Spaniards were doing with the local women. Finally the Church of Triumph with the Black Christ- Patron Saint of Cusco. Supposed to be a native but looked more Moorish. Major e-quakes about every 300 yrs, in 1650 this place was hit hard.
Off we go for a brief look at Temple of the Virgins, now a nunnery and restaurant/bar. Then to the most important building in Cusco- the Temple of the SUN. The Dominican Church was built on this site. Until 1950 no one knew that the original Incan walls were hidden under the plasterwork of the Spaniards. Great architecture. What engineering. 6000 k of gold was removed from here by the conquerors, they reported that it was even better than their fantasy. Gold = The sweat of the sun, Silver = The tears of the moon. This place was also an astronomical observatory. Three tenants of Incan rule- don’t lie, don’t steal and don’t be lazy. And, yep just as Betty our Lima guide said, we passed right by the Sacrifice Room with Maria not mentioning anything about it. And they didn’t have slaves either! We stare through several windows by standing on a rock (all except John who doesn’t need to). Whoa another long day back at the Hotel at 5:45 or so.
Dinner on your own, many go to the Piatitti for the Andean music and good food and an exposed Incan wall. Lotsa activities on the streets, the rainbow Inca flags everywhere because tomorrow is a holiday.
Friday, June 29.
Today is the Festival of St Peter and Paul. School is out and some things are closed. We are off at 8 after some very successful shopping. There is a blip upward in the Peruvian GNP. I am looking for Condors, The Incan Messenger of the Gods, from upper world to lower. The Puma was at our level (2nd) and the snake at the lower- associated with wisdom. Incas had 25,000 kilometers of roads but no wheel. We stop briefly and stay in the bus, looking at one of the 4 gates that controlled access to the City. You had to remove your sandals and walk in barefoot. It is called Puca Pucara means red fortress. Next stop is the Temple to Water, for ceremonial bathing. The water just springs to the surface, faces east. Birds- Andean Lapwing, white browed chat, Giant thrush, Peruvian sierra finch, mystery hawk (puna hawk?), rufous collared sparrow, Andean swift. We continue on the same winding curvy road toward Pisac and The Sacred Valley of the Incas this valley of Urubamba (9170’) was where the wealthiest Incan families had their country estates. Terraced fields cling to the mountain slopes as Wilbur does a fine job on the road. We stop for a quick look at the Quinoa plant. Quechua words we now use in the English language – cocoa, condor, gaucho, guanaco, guano, Inca, jerky, llama, maté (tea made from cocoa leaves), pampa, puma, quinine, totora, vicuna. See http://www.krysstal.com/borrow.html.
Cruising along the Urubamba River we stop at Colonial Pisac for a pee and market stop. Large flame tree (not Ceiba!) in the middle of the market is festooned with Spanish Moss which isn’t Spanish and isn’t moss. Bakeries are id-ed by baskets hanging in front. We drive up to the Pisac Astronomical Observatory and go for a long walk, more or less downhill hill. Haunting flute music flows through the valley, timeless. Many butterflies out- painted ladies, sulfurs, bluets and others. Mormon tea (Ephreda), many members of the composite flower group. I give a brief talk on Lichens and solstice celebrations. Across the hillside were many buried Incas who appeared to have died at the same time, maybe from small pox. Tombs looted nothing but bones. Great look at 2 American Kestrels- one snags a lizard. Sundial with Phallus destroyed by those uptight Conquerors. Pisac means Tinamou and the overall shape is that of the bird’s head. There is a parade and marching band in the village below. We see the National Flower of Peru, Cantuta or Cantua buxifolia – A bush of 13 feet high. Its red or yellow flower is the National Flower of Peru. It grows between 7,540 and 12,460 feet a.s.l. It is not commonly found in the countryside but can be appreciated as an ornament in city squares and gardens. This flower was dedicated to the Sun God. The Incas used the pattern of this flower on their pottery, textiles and ceremonial vases.
Back to The bus at 12:50. Good hike, puff puff. Heading toward lunch, 1 hour away. We go down through the small village that was having the parade, colorful costumes and whirling dancers.
In 1968 a military coup leaning left, broke up the large haciendas and redistributed the land among the peasants, it was partial success. Casa Orihuela beat the military to the punch and did it early therefore they got to keep their hacienda and we have a delicsio lunch there. YUMMY and what a garden. Chez panisse of The Sacred Valley. In defiance of my warning – pisco sours abound and no illness. 40 minutes away is the village and the ‘fortress’ of Ollantaytambo. We pass right by our Posada del Inca in Yucay. The bags hanging at the end of long poles indicate that chichi is for sale. We parallel the unused RR track, which parallels the River, and down the magnificent deep, deep valley we go. The weather is perfect. The sky blue. We are now 2,600 feet lower than Cusco and well on the way on Macchu Picchu. But first this unfinished temple in the most remote and difficult corner of the Incan Empire. We just missed the reenactment of a 16th century European- inspired play. Much chichi is being drunk on the street. And there are more steps for us to climb. We see the granaries perched high on the opposite hill. The Spanish conquered this area last. It was easy for the Incas to defend but eventually they ran out of food and had to retreat to Villacumba. They used a different road, hiding the road to Machu Picchu, so the Spanish never found that ruin. In 1572 the last Inca was killed in Cusco. The officials of Incan royalty were married into the Royal families of the Spanish. At the height of the Empire here were 16 million people, at the end there were 6 million. This is one of my favorite ruins. Maybe because it is unfinished and you can see how it was constructed. Maybe because of the difficulty of getting the granite rocks from the quarry on the opposite side of the River up this large hill. Maybe it just because the Incas were so very sophisticated. The idea of crop research, not putting houses on the rich Ag land, ensuring all citizens have enough food, charting complicated astronomical events, They were remarkable. Sunset is glorious and we all buy little bags for 1 sol from the persevering little boy, Andres, who followed us the entire time. Donna loses her Travelers Checks here but she assures me this is not normal behavior for her.
We backtrack to Yucay to another Posada del Inca. We can get used to this comfort.
Another great dinner, poor little alpaca eaten by some, but she doesn’t feel the least guilty. After dinner we view a few sky objects- the bright Mars, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Alpha Centauri (Proxima Centuri, one of the three stars in this star system, is closest to us at 4 light yr.), Vega, Altair, Arcturus but the half moon and Hostel lights make it hard to see more.
Saturday, June 30.
After breakfast we finally have our gold and Andes origin talk in the dining area. You need coffee to take all this info in. Then it is off to the train station at Ollantaytambo station for train (about 1 hour 10′) trip down to Machu Picchu (varies from 6500′ at the river to 9000′ at the Gate of the Sun). Train built by Brits beginning in 1915, finished in 1930. Our one car tourist “train” left promptly at 930 arrived 1040. Great vistas and plenty of room on the train to move around. Had food/beverage service!! Veronica Mountain on left side rising to 17k ‘, called Weeping Mountain by Incas. Torrent ducks, white capped dippers, tropical kingbirds, oropendulas, pale eyed thrushes, blue and white swallows. The vegetation gets lusher and lusher as we approach the upper Amazon basin. Flame trees (Erthyina sp.) are blooming. More bromeliads in the trails. We see the Inca trail and ruins on the opposite side of the sacred river. Just before arriving at the Aguas Caliente station we pass the hydroelectric project. We arrive and begin to peel off our clothing. Hop on the bus and journey, up up up up the winding road climbing high above the dramatic jungle covered granite spires. WOW what scenery. Oh and a peregrine falcon with a bird in its talons.
To our delightful hotel for check and rest. They try to put Alex and me into a matrimonial but we will have none of it and kick poor Linda and John out of their nice room. Another Jimmy Buffet lunch and we meet Maria for a full afternoon of exploring. We are off at 1. Wow is it crowded! What are all these other people doing here? I prepare you with the following reading –
“To visit MP you must prepare your soul and sharpen your senses. Forget for some minutes, the small and transcendental problems of our lives, of tormented modern man; and with its vision and its example, come back to our world to shape it, freeing the human being, that is the future of the people and of human fulfillment.
Fascinating, kaleidoscopic, gigantic chaos, apocalyptic, impossible place, chilling, drunk with transcendental vertigo, with cosmic ecstasy, raised upon the mountain as though to capture the essence of the Cosmos.”
By Napoleon Polo Leon (Maria’s teacher)
Hiram Bigham from Yale University “discovered” The “lost city of the Incas” but a nine yr. old boy led him there so of course most of the Indian residents knew about the site and it wasn’t lost just overgrown. He thought it was pre-Inca. Wrong, he was wrong alot. MP was a flourishing ceremonial, astronomical and religious site built by the 9th Inca ruler. His name meant “he who transforms the earth” and under his guidance the Empire flourished. 1450 AD MP was built it was especially important for growing coca, which was only used by the privileged Incan royal family and priests. Spiny whorltail lizard doing pushups. MP means Old Mt, Huayna Picchu means young mt, back to that duality thing. Probably the gateway to the jungle outposts of the Empire. We look to the east and see The Gate of the Sun, the main entrance to MP. At the summer solstice the sun rises right there and shines in The temple of the Sun. At its peak 800 people lived there, though Alex’s book says less than half that. Due to civil war and the ravages of diseases from the Spaniards, the City was abandoned. The virgins of the Sun were brought here from Cusco with only a few male guards. When Bigham excavated he found 160 skeletons and 90% were female. He didn’t find any gold, where did it go? The big fire in 99 that burned all around but not on the site, is hard to even see now. It grew back quickly.
At the temple of the Sun we see how the sun at the Winter solstice shines directly into the lower area- representing mother Earth. That male and female essence mingling again. Great one holer bathroom in the Royal House. Blue and white swallows flying around. Veronica the big Mt is visible. A corner of the Sundial was damaged by the making of a beer commercial – Cusqueno. I will protest by not drinking of it when I get to Santa Rosa. There is the rock monument of the Southern Cruz. When the one in the sky is aligned with this one it is time to harvest. That is in May. You say that it is better than my drawing- ha. We have fun talking to the windows in the temple of Resonance. What more steps?? We keep climbing and it keeps getting better, The vistas and the crowds are thinning. Can see the Valley of the Turbines, The sacred generation of electric power. 2 yrs ago a major avalanche wiped out the train tracks below the turbines so that is now the end of the line for the train. The llamas finally get out of the guardhouse, we take our postcard photographs and then we have some free time until dinner at 730
Sunday, July 1.
Rise and shine or sleep in. Alex, Kala, Linda, John and me (escorted partway by Donna) leave at 630 for Huanapicchua. Possum tracks. Into the gate at 650, first on the register. up up up we go. Steep but worth it. Many flowers. Alex and I arrive in 50′, John shortly after and Kala and Linda are the sweeps. We have 10 minutes of blessed silence before the next wave of trekkers arrives. On the way down we stop and visit another ruin near the top for some more quiet time. Bromeliads clinging to the cliffs. We go slowly back down looking a flowers and birds. Violet ear hummer.
Meanwhile Elin is quietly meditating by the temple of the Sun. And the female expedition led by Maria including Loralee, Grace, Jean, Liko are ascending the Inca Trail to the Gate of the Sun. They actually get higher than we do!!! They see an Andean guan among other delights. Poor Maria has to hightail down for lunch so we have our meal tickets.
Afternoon – some rest, some write, some hike. There is some weather coming in, the peaks are covered with clouds. It is cooler, not so many people as yesterday. Many go to the Inca drawbridge, more jungly over There. The fire caused a family of spectacled bears (mom, dad and cub) to move into the area. They now live at little HP, Maria has seen them! A very rare event because they are so shy.
At 6 PM we all gather for our foray into the ruin at night. We pay our $5 but alas there is no guard to pay and the gate is open. Oh well, so in we go. Scatter into the site and make plans to reconvene at 730. Alas the guard tells us that we haven’t paid enough money and he wants to kick us out. It takes a while to find all of us so we manage to get in just about the same amount of time as planned. Maria feels bad but we don’t. It was beautiful.
Monday, July 2.
Some are up early; others [me] sleep in. Last looks at this amazing place. Donna says it is the most beautiful place she has ever been. Hard to argue with that! At 10 we board the bus, down we go with a yg boy following us down. He expects to get paid, but the teachers among us want to know why he’s not in school. Into town, half go shopping, half walk down the tracks [our highlight is a russetbacked oropendla, theirs are placemats]. We meet at 1130 for our stroll through the gardens of The El Pueblo hotel. That is where I stayed before and would be a good 2nd choice. Great hummers at feeders and a male Andean cock-of-the-rock lands right above our head for a perfect look by all, even the onithologically-challenged. Blessed are those who wait.
We lunch at the hotel and listen to nice live Andean music. Then free time until 145 for more shopping. We meet at train station for our 1 1/2-hr. ride to Ollantaytambo. But where are John, Linda and Grace??? Waiting at the other train station!! But they arrive in the nick of time. Off we go at 205 and get to Ollantaytambo, where Wilbur is waiting by 335 we are heading to Cusco. Giving a few others a ride. We turn right (south) at the city of Urubamba going back a different way. Red volcanic tuff lining our curving path. We stop for a photo op of Chacon at 16K’ mountain. Veronica at 18k is in the clouds. Through the highlands we go. Over a 13k’ pass. Red red dirt. Wheat has been harvested, burros are threshing, and beans are drying in the sun. Best tater-growing place in the area. Most of the work is still done by hand or bull. Timeless scenes of people working, or calmly sitting in the fields watching The livestock, timeless, circle, goes on forever. Then through Chinchera, an ancient Inca village and pass the lake that supplied and still supplies the water for Cusco. Down down down we go through the “young towns”, which actually look pretty good for squatters to me. Back to our same hotel. We say goodbye to Maria or at least some of us do, others she leads on a jewelry shopping frenzy. Including me. Maria Antoineta Nunez, POB 1041, Cusco, Peru. 51 84223886. email@example.com. We like Maria.
Tuesday, July 3.
At 830 we leave with Wilbur and Edgar to the Airport. We do the wait-in-the-bus-and-not-pee EST thing. Edgar handles the confusion for us. 10 bucks to get out. The nearly full 727 take 50′ to get to LaPaz. We arrive and make it though customs. And there is Marcel waiting for us with an Adventure Associates sign which no one recognizes but I. It takes a while to get the van loaded (what’s this plastic for?). Finally with our military escort to protect us from the striking farmers we leave in convoy 2 vans and 1 bus on plan B. Fortunately while we see the evidence, the soldiers have secured the road and cleared it of debris. Normally my sympathies are with the lower classes but in this case I am glad the military is with us. Gregory is our driver. 13300 highest pass. We pass through El Alto, a suburb by the airport with 800 K people. ugly ugly ugly. Mt. Illimani, 22285 dominant peak over LaPaz. Quinoa, taters, corn, barley, alfalfa, favas grown here. 35-40 people per sq. mile. one million Bolivians live in Argentina. 8 Million in Country. 70% INDIG, 25% MESTIZO, 5% EUROPEAN. Mt Caracara, Andean lapwing, Andean flicker. Aymara= 2 million, Ques = 2 million, Huan less 1/2 million. Total distance we will travel is 125 miles today. We pass by the village of Laja off to the left which was the first LaPaz but they moved it three days- too cold and windy. We pass through a military camp right here and pay a toll. Some black ibises “distract” me and birds are wont to do to birdwatchers. Ahem. Lago Titicaca = Puerto Rico. We are on the Pan American hiway,. Average ht is 21200 of the Royal Range to the east, The other range is west in Peru and we are in the middle great valley. In 1953 there was a major land reform, that sort of worked.
Get to Guaque, once a major port, as we pass the 9th cent ruin Tiawanku off to the right. We will return on Thursday and visit it (Ha! no we won’t) The ‘port’ obviously has seen better times. They exported tin from here but the market collapsed in the early 80’s. Also soya now taken by trucks. Bolivia 6th exporter in the world now of soybeans. #1 export is Nat gas. Rusting hulks, steam locomotives, cranes. Through locked gates in abandoned buildings- would make a good Hollywood set for a future world collapsed – we go, still escorted by the truck full of soldiers and guns. The type A’s carefully have organized the extra food, which we give to the soldiers. Onto the Hydrofoil with the Travelcoa group and a few others.
LT is 120 X 50 miles= to Puerto Rico. 891′ deep. Pleistocene lake 1 million yrs. 2X normal salinity of fresh water. NW 65% in Peru, SE 35% in Bolivia. Largest lake in SA, 12th in world. 60 temp in summer, 38 in winter. 46-50 Ave, never freezes. 2 ‘lakes’, big and small. Big = 891′, Ave. 353-400, little 125′, 20-30 ave. Lake rises 5′ in summer. Arch sites under lake. Source of water- 5% snowmelt, 45% rain, the rest is springs or streams. 5% flows to SW to another lake which is saltier, no outlet for this one.
Giant frog dwells on bottom, breathes through gills, 20″ long!. Introduced fish- rainbow, salmon trout, kingfish [pejerrey] by Peru and US. 3 native SP- small catfish, 2 small others. Have to farm trout because kingfish eat the young.
Surprisingly there is no wind in the PM, LT is flat calm. Giant and white fronted coots, Andean gulls, ruddy ducks, Puna teal, grebe sp. [large one]. The nearly full moon rising at 5 PM over the glaciers in the Royal Range and the Lake goes into sky with no boundary. At 515 we arrive at Huatajata. Our hotel Inca Utama is right on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Quite a complex w/ few tourists. Good for us, bad for Bolivia. After quick check-in, we meet for a tour of their local museums. First one is a Walkman tour of the pre-Incan [Tiwanacu], Inca to Colonial and modern times. Ekeko is the God of Abundance with all the ‘stuff’ to make you happy. Next – a 15′ slide show about coca healers, shamans AKA the Kallawaya [word means that they carry medicine on their back]. And then a visit into the museum dedicated to them. The men collect many botanical plants as they wander through all of Bolivia’s different ecosystems. Hard to find them at home except during Festivals. Traveling medicine men.
Pachamama = time-nature. Titicaca= ocelot poop. SHOWMANS vs. SHAMENS. Which do we get tonight? We exit through the tin mine with the excited devil alter. The final visit is with Tata Lorenzo, a mystic healer. I ask him if I will be a father again. And Grace asks if she will get married. We aren’t sure what he really said because it was interpreted by Marcel. But I will be a father again and Grace will get married. So there you have it. It could have been the Astrology Hot Line.
Ok, so dinner is next. There are a few headaches and a couple of oxygen hits helps. After dinner, it ain’t over. To the astron observatory for a slide show of Andean and Greek constellations. Then the roof slides back. Wow! way cool. In fact some of you are quite cold. Through the telescope we see the binary stars of Alpha Centaurus [eyes of the llama], Mars [nothing to see] and most cool – the moon. Back to our cozy, warm rooms. Some of us are disturbed by barking dogs.
Wednesday, July 4.
Happy Birthday USA! Another perfect day. Linda is out taking photos in the golden light. We visit the brothers who helped Thor Hey. build Ra II and we see their handiwork and buy some examples. We are promptly off at 830 as scheduled. Through the Strait of Tiquina, the narrowest pt in the lake, 1/2 mile across. We stop opposite St. Peter Village where the Bolivian Navy (with 20 Admirals) has a HQ. We blow our sirens, they lower the flag to half-mast and back up and then we proceed. Guess everyone needs a job in the “Navy”. Now we are entering the big part of the Lake and it looks like the ocean. Little Lake is called Lago Winaymarka. Marcel is droning on and one with only our group interested. We pass the Isla de la Luna. and after about 45′ total we arrive at Sun Island, birthplace of the Incas or so we were told. We all get off for about a half-hour and learn a bit about the pre-Incan/Incan edge. Which this “palace” represents. We get Marcelo and Augusto the other guide arguing, boring and very unprofessional (where’s Maria?) Off the Island at 1040 and then to Copacabana (means viewpoint of Lake?). It is very quiet due to the blockade. Normally there is alot of tourist and commerce moving from Peru to Bolivia passing through but it has been very quiet for about 2 weeks now. There are daily car blessings in front of the church. The priest comes out with Holy Water and blesses the engine, the owner, his friends and relatives. Beautiful Moorish influence on this structure. We go to the popcorn market for some sugar pops and to buy yet some more goodies. Very inexpensive here. Grace looks good in her new red sweater.
Back to Isla del Sol for our soft trek with Llamas. Your overnight bag stays on the boat and we just go with our daypack with llamas. Also oxygen if you like. It’s high. Off we go slowly slowly. There are burros too, just for Grace to ride but she declines. Cute baby llama with cute little boy. It looks like the Meditterean Sea except for those pesky large mountains in the distance. Group photo by power lines with Juan and friends. Andean flicker, Sierra finch, Andean gulls, rc sparrow, White winged dove, giant hummingbird, hornitos, flower piercer. Check in to the Posada del Inca, nice place- an old hacienda. Then a late lunch. Rest for a couple of hours then 5 of us go with Marcel to the very top of the Island for the sunset and moonrise (very close to full). At 13,150′ we watch the sun set at 618. Moon rises over Isla de la Luna. Twilight goes quickly at this latitude. A little girl has lost a lamb and is very upset. Dinner in the cold room and we go to Plan B again tomorrow. Waiting for our military escort at 2 PM. 40 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 PM. and no wind.
Thursday, July 5.
Sleep in. Breakfast at 8, a Continental one and we walk down the boat at 9. Bar winged cincloides, flower piercer. As we travel 10′ to Isla de La Luna we get blessed with water from Lake Titicaca dripping from the National Flower of Bolivia, the Cantuta, and we repeat the Aymara words for Don’t lie, Don’t cheat and Don’t be Lazy. We take the moving sidewalk on a rail to get to the dock and immediately have more opportunities to buy stuff from the few ladies who live on this island. Up the hill we go to the site of a very ancient ruin of the Tiawankun. The foundation was built in 370 AD and later added to by the Incas. In the 1930’s it became a Bolivia concentration camp for political prisoners known as Devil Island. They destroyed the Incan walls to build a prison. In 1971 in a soccer game ploy, 89 prisoners managed to escape to Cuba. The Tiawankun Empire peaked in 900 AD, expanded and then for reasons unknown collapsed in the 1300’s, like many other civilizations throughout the world…. Abrupt climate change?? More buying, I even get some placemats at $1 a piece that Elin paid $1.20 for, so I feel good about beating the ace shopper. Off at 1040 and we get our shoe-fly drink. No ice in it, so I have one, pretty good. Our plan is to go to Isla Kala Huta. and have lunch and then meet our military escort at 2 PM. There is a bit more trouble on the road we came in on. We heard a gunshot last night from the lighthouse at the top of the Island. Disturbing.
16% of Bolivia is the altiplano, and 65% is the Amazon, Tropical Lowlands, and Chaco (hot dry). 84 ecosystems. Poorest of the poor are in the Southwest where the economy was mining, now gone and they can only grow quinoa and a few taters. Mostly self sufficient in and around Lake Titicaca. 9 states in Bolivia.
We arrive at Isla Kala Huta via a small boat because it is so shallow. Through the reeds we go Puna teals, white fronted coots, gallinule, puna ibis, white tufted grebe, Andean swallows, Ruddy (Andean) Duck. The site had 280 houses and a bunch of mortuary towers where they buried their mummified dead. Lived here 1300-1400 AD.1300 people lived here. Great birding- American Kestrel, Red-backed hawk, Andean lapwing, eared dove, harrier ?, Black siskins. Great lunch laid out on a blanket- old-dried taters (called chuna remember not to order them), good chicken, cheese, and fava beans Alex is squirting all over. John is continuing to eat his quota of eggs for the next 2 years. Back on boat by 230 and then a 20′ boat ride to Puerto Perez and climb on another small boat to go to shore. The wind is actually finally beginning to blow a bit. A dreary depressed town as we wait for our military escort to arrive. We go back a more direct route, one hour and 15 minutes to LaPaz.
The bus arrives with tourists heading out and the escort arrives as well. Transfer of goodies, luggage and people goes well. Alex takes my photograph up on the truck holding 2 rifles surrounded by army guys. We left at 334, drive through another poor community, Batallas. Many mountain cara-caras scavenging around the towns. Puna ibises. Soldiers are all along the road. We see many people stepping on the potatoes. Just before we enter El Alto we see many men riding bicycles toward us. The farmers often ride them, they are going to some sort of gathering. We witness a disturbing site of a soldier in our escort tossing an empty coke bottle and hitting a man on a bike. A convoy of about 6 tanks comes toward us as well. Something bad is going on in Bolivia and I am glad we are not part of it.
We join the Pan American Hiway and then begin our descent into LaPaz. One stop for an overview there are clouds on Illliman so we won’t see the full moon of July rise over it. Dropping 1500′ down to 11800′ in the City. We get to our Gran Paris hotel right on the Main Plaza (don’t ask for The Plaza de Armas). Fine old lady of a hotel. Everyone scatters for dinner on his or her own.
Friday, July 6.
Hey nice hotel and we have it to ourselves. It rained last night. City tour begins at 9. We are churched-out and ruined. We drive to the Miraflores section where there is the “outdoor” museum with a 28′ monolith taken from Tiawanka. Pigeons are pooping on it, no respect for the past. Built of sandstone, 500-900 AD. Winding down to the southern part of the City where the rich folks live (warmer and easier to breathe). Poor average $60/ month, high govt. get $8000/month. Democracy (sort of) since 1982. Town of Santa Cruz has 1 million, leading the country in exporting Natural gas. Has pop of 1 million people. A tour through the rich area, similar to Miraflowers in Lima. Then to the Mts. of the Moon for nice flute music and a brief walk through the badlands. A highly eroded old lakebed??? Part of it was illegally sold by one of the mayors and many houses were built. Bummer. Pecano or Pecana is a citizen of La Paz. We then move back up hill to The Radisson for a pee stop. Thank you Marcel. Then a sweep up through the market area. Past the witches market with the llama fetuses, past all the vegetables, past all the things for sale that everyone needs to survive on small little roads with a big bus. Green tents sell coca leaves. They sell by the pound not kilos. We are released into the market for more buying frenzy. Back to the Hotel and then lunch on our own and many walked back and spent the afternoon in the market trying to improve the Bolivian Economy. The challenge is trying to get all this stuff in our bags! We meet at the Hotel in a private room for dinner and wine at 730. What a timely group. We all share what the highlights of the trip with each other. It was a great trip with a fine bunch of folks. Now to bed.
Saturday, July 7.
Wake up call at 4 AM!! But don’t whine the guys who made our breakfast had to get up earlier. Off at 5 to a long line at the American Airlines. Our plane is late and Donna and Kala already miss their plane in Miami and we haven’t left. The men in the group get patted down but we finally make it through. Plane flies to Santa Cruz for one hour and then we continue to Miami. Many kids on the plane. Movie is Thirteen Days; Kevin Costner wasn’t so bad. The KC ladies make their connection and all the SFO’s get home safely. Until we meet again.. adios amoebas.