About 4:30 we pulled into a small village with many kids to watch a soccer game. Since we still had leftover "bartering goods," I carried pencils with me. I located the teacher of the primary school in the village and gave him two packs of pencils. Afterwards, he showed me his school of two rooms, wooden desks, and a blackboard. He then invited me over to his house and introduced me to his "esposa". They appeared to have about 6 kids. They had a refrigerator and gave me a cold coke. Out back they were grilling fish for storage. Some kids in the village produced a giant Anaconda skin that must have been 20 feet long. They lined up behind it for pictures. Then for the first time, the crew, let the kids on the Rio Amazonas. They raced absolutely everywhere! I retrieved my banana chips and started handing them out. Some of the older women braided the kid's hair. As usual we saw a lot of kids but very few adults in the villages; I kept wondering where are the parents? The median age of this country must be 15! The atmosphere on the ship with the kids was like a festival! Finally, as it got darker, the crew rounded up the last of the kids and urged them off the boat. We left saddened. There are so many wonderful kids in Peru but few adults to be seen.
Next morning, we passed Pevas again and stopped at a Yagua Indian village high up on a hill with a central round meeting room. This room was perhaps 100 feet across and quite dark inside. The natives wore orange tops and bottom skirts made of palm strings. The women demonstrated making these strings by twirling three strips together on their legs. Alfredo Chavez, our guide, then explained how blowguns are made. They take two smaller lengths of wood, hollow them out, then join them together with layers of twine. The blowguns they had were about 8 feet long. The blowgun has a sight and is bent upward to compensate for gravitational pull on the dart. Each blowgun is special and it passes from father to son. Alfredo almost dropped a poison dart from the blowgun on his foot in the demonstration; he was very lucky not to hit his foot and was quite disturbed afterward. The Yagua Indians eat together in a group. they had fish, yams, and a drink from coconut palm. We traded with the Yagua for about an hour. I traded pens, toothbrush, and toothpaste for a mask and belt. After trading they demonstrated the use of the blowgun. They could hit a 6 inch square from about 30 feet away. We left the Yagua and stated back towards Iquitos and the end of our Amazon journey. We stopped once to fish at noon but I didn't go as it was very hot. All night we cruised down the wide Amazon river.
This was our last morning on the Rio Amazonas. I got up early to watch the beautiful sunrise and our entry into Iquitos. Rich deposits of black soil were on the river banks. These contrasted with the white bark of cecopia trees showing the river's high water mark. Along the way, we passed many river craft with huge logs from the jungle. Nearer Iquitos, there were half-standing buildings that had succumbed to the raging Amazon during flood season. George, our tour director showed us one place where an entire factory had been washed away during the last floods! Our arrival at the dock was scheduled at 7:00 a.m. with a quick breakfast and an 8:00 departure off the boat. Those of us not returning directly to the states (Milton and Jorge also) left for the Acosta hotel, which had HOT WATER and AIR CONDITIONING that you could regulate. It had been a week since we had a nice hot bath, so the first item on the agenda was a hot shave and shower! The AC felt great because it was not freezing like that in our cabin on the boat. The Acosta was built Spanish style with a central open area with rooms around the balconies. We went to lunch at a nice restaurant that had alligator, turtle, fish, chicken, and beef on the menu. Anne had beef and I tried the fish. It was very tasty. That evening, we went to a very crowded restaurant for dinner. The menu included: alligator, guinea pig, turtle, capybara, and even fish and pork. Again, the food was good and you certainly couldn't complain about the variety!
We got up very early at about 4:00 a.m. to catch our 6:00 a.m. flight to Cuzco, capital of the Incas. Cuzco is at 11,000 feet altitude, vertically a long way from where we were in Iquitos. It took about an hour to make the trip. We had to fly through a spectacular valley to reach the airport, there was no room for error on the part of the pilot. The terrain around the city was very hilly with few trees, and a mostly light brown in color. At 45 degrees F, it was a big contrast compared to the jungle heat of Iquitos! A Peruvian band was waiting for us at the Cuzco airport, just like the experience leaving Iquitos. Our bus at Cuzco was modern and clean as compared to the one we had ridden on in Iquitos -- in fact, Cuzco was notably wealthier than Iquitos. We made our way through the city to the brilliant white and blue trimmed Royal Inca hotel on the main town square. We immediately had coca tea and were advised to rest for a couple of hours to get accustomed to the tremendous change in altitude and temperature -- you certainly didn't need air conditioning here!
The Royal Inca is a very quaint and beautiful hotel, converted from a former President's residence. It had a classic Spanish courtyard with fountain. Murals of Inca chiefs adorned the foyer and the dining room. Ladies selling sweaters sit just outsidethe door but they can not come into the lobby. They will tell you their name and say that they will wait for you until you came back to the hotel! As one walks down the streets of Cuzco, many vendors of sweaters, jewelry, and other artifacts swarm around you. This is clearly a tourist city. Around the squares are dozens and dozens of small shops and vendors sitting on the sidewalk.
Click for map: Cusco, Pisac, MachuPichu, Ollantaytambo
At 1:00 we had a lunch of spaghetti. Afterwards, we toured Cuzco, mainly walking down narrow paved streets. The Inca walls of perfectly joined blocks are still very evident in the modern city. Many of the Inca walls are being used as the foundation for more modern, higher walls of buildings. The joints between the Inca blocks are so perfectly fit that not even a razor blade would fit between them. Sometimes they used multiangle joined blocks, where as many as a dozen angles were cut into a single block. These multiple joints were excellent for resisting earthquakes.
Our guide, Hosea, stressed very much the cruelty of the Spaniards and that the modern people were trying to relearn the old Inca ways. It became clear that he was proud of the Inca culture, despite his obvious Spanish ethnicity. However, in Lima, the capital, European culture was said to be preferred. I suppose the Lima folks must have looked down on folks from Cuczo. We saw one very large mural at least 50 to 75 feet long on a wall. This mural depicted stoneage man, Inca Chiefs, the coming of the Spaniards, then Indians being tortured by the Spaniards. A rainbow depicted the future. We also saw large statues dedicated to particular Inca leaders. We learned that the Incas had viaducts for water that carried the snowmelt right down into the central city. We saw the Spanish church where the lower wall was the exquisite Inca stonework, on top was the shoddy Spanish construction! They are doing archeology around here so the ground was torn up badly. At 7:00 we went to dinner at an Argentine restaurant that served beef, chicken, and fish. We had maize soup that not thick and was very tasty. Anne and I had a giant portion of grilled beef that was well done. For dessert, we had custard and coca tea. A Peruvian band of six played afterwards and we really enjoyed their music from pan flutes, guitars, shakers, tube flutes and drums. About 9:00 p.m., we made our way through the horde of sellers and went to bed.
We took a bus from the Royal Inca Hotel to the megalithic structure of Saxawaman. This lies just outside Cuzco. It is a giant ceremonial wall (actually 3 tiered walls) with stone blocks as large as 20 feet high that are fitted together perfectly. It is almost impossible to comprehend how the Incas were able to move, groove, and position blocks as large as these. At one time, each wall was higher than it is now and probably covered with wooden structures to make temples. The area was used as a quarry for building blocks since the time of the Spaniards. Our guide indicated that only recently has the tourist value of these remains been noted so that the removal of stones has stopped. Many smaller structures can be seen all around this valley. The modern Incas now hold ceremonies at this on special days, such as winter and summer solstice.
Leaving these large and impressive ruins, we drove towards Pisac, an Inca town high above the surrounding valleys. On the way we could see that just about every hillside was heavily terraced and used for growing potatoes and maize. The terracing was done in Inca or even pre-Inca times. We were told that the Spaniards did not realize the importance of such terracing and ordered the Indians to destroy them. Apparently, a lot have survived. The drive up to Pisac was through spectacular valleys and over switchback roads. You could look down the valleys and see the rivers and towns below. We disembarked and took a two hour walk over an old Inca trail that was quite steep in places. We passed small Indian outposts with stone towers and small stone villages. The stonework was exquisite in these little villages. Terraced walls covered the entire walkway. In many places the path was only three feet wide and if you fell it was goodbye! This walk was made at about 11,000 feet of altitude. Along the way, native women followed us, intent on selling soft drinks. If you bought one, they stayed with you until you consumed it and made certain to get their bottle back! So when you bought the coke, you only rented the bottle.
On the way back we stopped at a small roadside shop where wall hangings and other goods were sold to tourists. They even took American Express! I bought a couple of wallhangings here. Outside, they had two llamas tied up. When I tried to pet a llama, he spit at me! I really was surprised and jumped about a foot.
Later, we had a picnic beside a picturesque alpine stream. The stream flowed through a little valley with hills perhaps a couple of hundred feet high. Llamas were grazing here and a woman had several children to help her with the animals. When the llamas would ascend the hillsides for forage, she would send up a girl, perhaps 6-8 years old, to run them down the paths if they got too far. Our guides unpacked a delicious lunch of sandwiches and even a dessert for us. It was a very idyllic afternoon. After dinner that night, we listened to an archeologist's lecture on the Inca empire. The Incas had over 14,000 miles of paved roads.
This morning we visited the cathedral that the Spaniards had constructed over older Inca walls. One cannot help but be awed by the difference in quality between the Inca stonemasons and the Spanish stonemasons. The Inca stone is perfectly fitted together with smooth walls. The Spanish stonework is just thrown together. The archeologists believe that in one part of the Inca temple, the floor was covered with water so that stars could be observed in the reflection. A few portions of Inca temples had survived but most had been torn down by the Spaniards. Inside the temple were the most exquisite walls we had seen, the stonework was absolutely perfectly square with rounded edges. There were doors and windows where the lintels had been removed by the Spaniards, leaving holes. The famous gold sun disk was taken from here and melted. Outside the church, we visited an archeological dig where deep trenches had been cut into the ground to reveal old stone terraces. Shards of pottery and old Inca stones were everywhere. There was a shed where they kept the shards of pottery recovered from the dig. Later we went to a large, white colonial mansion that has been converted into a museum. It was two stories and had a huge central courtyard. Inside were many Inca artifacts including skulls, carvings, pots, pens, and desiccated dummies. There were some skulls had been trepanned for operations. No gold was in the museum as it had all been stolen.
Today was the big day! We were starting for one of the world's marvels, Machu Pichu, discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. MP is one of only a few Inca sites never discovered by the Spaniards, and therefore, never destroyed. One interesting thing about this site is that it is actually 3,000 feet lower in altitude than Cuzco, which is at 11,000 feet. Thus, the drive to MP descends from a dry region to a tropical region. But both areas are in the Andes mountains. We left the Royal Inca at 8:30 a.m. by bus, we had planned to spend two nights