This and That

December 30, 2010

Day 6-7 Colca Canyon-Arequipa

On Day 6, after a hearty breakfast, we left for Colca Canyon in our pre-arranged van. We had 2 more couple traveling with us. It takes about 6 hours to reach Yanque. We have to take the mountain roads to reach there. The highest elevation we see on the way is 4900m. While Yanque is at around 3200m. So on the winding roads we drove and we saw a whole bunch of wild life like lama, vicuñas, alpacas, flamingoes, ibises, Andean geese, ducks and Andean eagles.

The elevation and the winding roads causes altitude sickness to a lot of people. Friend R and utbt got sick. The driver of our van did some alcohol massage on R’s face and it helped her. The rest of us were fine chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea. The guide was very friendly and informative. At 4900 meter we stopped for some rest, bio-break and coca tea. The rest-room was really well maintained in that land of nowhere. We reached Chivay and breaked for lunch. Had an Andean lunch at Chivay while friend R rested and utbt was fasting . The food was pretty decent. We had rice, some chutneys, fruits(the bananas were yum), quinoa, potato curry, salads, banana fritters, etc since 85% of our group was vegetarians. Then left for lodge in Yanque. The lodge was very rustics overlooking the canyon along with its terraces. There were hammocks that the kids enjoyed. Since R and utbt were sick, husband, myself and utbt’s husband R left for a 3 hour hike along with our guide and 2 other guests. The guide didn’t know English and we didn’t know Spanish and we used sign-language most of the time. The hike was wonderful. Our guide’s dog, Oso also followed us. The hike took us through multiple bridges, the canyons, Inca terraces with maize, corn and beans. We were able to see the Colcas(storage bins) on the side of the canyon where the Incas used to store their produce.

After 2 hours of hike stopped at hot springs and husband had a nice hot bath while friend and I roamed around clicking pictures. Then we walked via a delicate bridge one at a time crossing the canyon and reached the hotel in an hour. Our guide’s dog Oso refused to cross the bridge, so our guide had to carry him.

We reached the hotel and had hot soup and dinner and called it a wonderful day. Next day, after an early breakfast left for Condor’s cross to witness the crossing of the Condors. We waited for an hour for the Condors and finally 1 showed up. In June, typically 20 plus Condors show up, but since it was nesting season when we visited, we were lucky to see the one. The drive to Condor’s cross was also beautiful. The kids were very patient and waited for the condor.

On the way, back, we stopped at Chivay again for breakfast. The Andean buffet lunch this time was not very veg-friendly, but we were able to manage with plain rice and fruits. We reached our hotel at around 4pm. Then utbt, my husband and I left to see the Museo Santuarios Andinos in Arequipa. The Mummy Juanita, the ice maiden is a well-preserved body of a young teenage girl who was sacrificed on top of Mount Ampato around the mid 15th century. They also have the umbilical cord preserved in corn alcohol. Wish the Incas had written it all down.

After some grocery shopping in the plaza, we came back to the hotel to hot dinner of Maggi noodles prepared by utbt’s husband and friend R’s husband. The next day, after an early breakfast, we left for Lima.

December 26, 2010

Competition can do anything!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — yaadayaada @ 8:47 pm

Microsoft store in Mall of America, Minneapolis. One of 7 in the world. Started Nov 2010 right in front of apple store.

December 25, 2010

Day 4-5 Ollantaytambo – Arequipa

On Day 4, we woke up leisurely, had breakfast and set out on the train to Ollantaytambo. We asked our hotel staff to arrange a van for us in Ollantaytambo and they did. The van was supposed to take us to Ollantaytambo ruins and drive us to the bus station in Cusco. The hotel staff tied up all our baggage in a cart and dragged it along while we walked with them on our 20 minute walk to the train station. Again, the train staff and the security in the station were very accommodating and helped us with the baggage. This train trip although a short 90 minute, had a show in-store for us along with snacks and drinks. And we were the 10 of 15 passengers in the train. So it was very exclusive. The kids had a wonderful time running around. As part of the show, one person came dressed up as Pachacamac, the creator God. Also we had a wonderful fashion parade, parading the finest of the alpaca sweaters and shawls.

Our van was waiting for us in Ollantaytambo. We somehow managed to load our boatload of baggage and ourselves in the van, and off we set towards the Ollantaytambo ruins. First we stopped a small restaurant outside of the ruins.  Had a wonderful lunch comprising of pasta and grilled veggie kebabs and rice.  Then we bought a partial ticket and hired ourselves a guide. We set off to see this wonderful ruin. The outside of the ruins is littered with souvenir shops run by the locals. Since the kids were a little tired and couple of the adults were having altitude sickness, we decided to stick to the lower area instead of climbing the terraces and upper area. Ollantaytambo was one of the royal estates of King Pachacuti.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We started with looking at the baths of the princess and the chosen girls(typically chosen for sacrifices – ouch!).  The entire water system is underground since the Incas did not want their water to be poisoned. There were lot of storage areas built in this place. Plus the mountains around has the shape of many of the typical Inca symbols. Take a look at it for yourself. The Inca God on the left of the picture. The storage unit on the right top. The Candor shape on the bottom right. Also the beautiful bath which can be stopped and started by a drawing a line and flicking water back in the water’s path. Also the operation table made on the rock was another wonder. They even had a small canal for water to flow. They mainly used it for mending the wounded soldiers. After a couple of an hour of  tour, we headed towards Cusco.
 
 
 
 
 
On the way to Cusco, we stopped in a couple of artisan markets. Since it was close to 5pm, most of them were closed or about to close. Neverthless, they were very interesting to look at. The drive back to Cusco was beautiful with its glaciers and small towns. We briefly stopped at the Cusco market, did some more shopping and were dropped off at the Cruz Del Sur bus stop at around 7:30pm for our 8pm bus which we almost missed. We had booked an overnight bus trip from Cusco to Arequipa via the internet. I was in-charge of printing the confirmation. And I gave the confirmation to the clerk and he gives me 5 tickets instead of 10. Since we can’t book 10 tickets in one shot, we had made 2 reservations of 5. I told him that and he took me to their office and they show that I have printed the same confirmation twice instead. Thus started our crazy 30 minute ordeal. we tried to explain we had 10 tickets, they tried to tell us that there is only 5 tickets and add the language barrier to the mix. The did not speak English and we did not know Spanish. A kind gentleman who had come to book tickets translated to us that we needed to get the confirmation otherwise we can’t go in the bus. He recommended that we find an internet booth. utbt and I were totally confused. We left the kids with the other adults, took a cab with the help of one of the bus clerks and with her in tow we went an witch-hunt for internet booth. After seeing most of it closed, the lady took us to her husband’s internet booth were we searched our mails for our confirmation number. The internet was so slow that we almost broke down. Finally found the confirmation number, the lady called the bus station to get our tickets ready and we hopped into the cab and ran to the bus. The bus was very nice as close to a business class flight as it can get. But it took me about an hour to get over from the anxiety. Then we had our packed theplas and retired for the night.

We reached Arequipa the next morning, our hotel staff picked us up and we arrived at our beautiful pink hotel. Again we were the only people in that small house turned into a 10 room hotel. Had a wonderful breakfast, the tropical fruit platter was the high light. After a quick rest, the 3 men and I went for a stroll to the plaza de armas and the bank. There was some demonstration going on in the plaza. The  cathedral looked lovely. We did some grocery shopping, exchanged some money at the bank and walked back. We saw some mangoes and we bought them as well. Yummy!
Arequipa is at the foothills of active volcano El Misty who is flanked by her inactive volcano husbands Chachani and Pichu Pichu. It is a beautiful city with Incan terraces at her outskirts. The bus tour took us to the various monuments in the Arequipa and also to the outskirts which included the Arequipa Founder’s house (A quaint bungalow), an ancient water mill(beautiful area, the kids were thrilled with the water mill.) used for grinding corn, a small alpaca emporium which also housed some llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos.

After about a 3 hour tour, we returned back to the plaza. Bought some water, took a cab and returned home. We ordered in some Italian food and called it a night since we had to leave for Colca Canyon the next day.

December 19, 2010

Day 2 Machu Pichu, the highlight of the trip!

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , , , , , — yaadayaada @ 10:52 pm

On Day 2, since our train to Aquas Calientes was at 7am, our hotel packed us breakfast and arranged for a ride to the train station. We arrived at train station lugging our luggage. The station master and the train staff almost fainted seeing our luggage and then started laughing. The station master, then tells us that the max limit to take in the train per passenger is 5Kgs. And we had at least 200+ Kgs of luggage. Then we explained our situation that we are staying overnight at Aquas Calientes and we are on a 10 day trip with 4 kids and long story short, they loaded our luggage for us in a different compartment and let us in. The train ride was beautiful. We traveled in the Vista Dome train, they served breakfast but we could eat only the fruits and dessert being vegetarians. But it was presented beautifully.The train passed through beautiful Incan terraces with Maize, potatoes, beans and corn. The Urubamba river was also traveling on our side.

 

 

Train is the only way to get to Aquas Calientes which is about 20 minute bus ride from Machu Pichu. The other way to hike all the way from Cusco for 5-6 days! The train takes about 4-5 hours. We packed some rotis and teplas for lunch. We reached Aquas Calientes at around noon and a person from our hotel was waiting for us to take us to the hotel. We told the person we want to go to Machu Pichu first and requested him to take the luggage and he almost fainted seeing our baggage and then he entrusted our baggage to the security of the station and left with us to get the tickets for Machu Pichu and then to put us in the bus to Machu Pichu. Tickets to Machu Pichu has to be bought in Cusco or Aquas Calientes and cannot be bought at the entrance of Machu Pichu. The hotel staff gave us the direction to the hotel and left us in the bus station after getting the tickets. We left for the much-awaited trip with out backpacks, lunchpacks and umbrellas. The bus trip was nice. We got the first glimpse of Magnificent Machu Pachu from the bus.

 

 

 
Remember, I said Cusco is built like a Puma, Machu Pichu is build in the shape of a Condor. For the Incans, Puma represents the present, Condor the afterlife and Snake represents the past.Once we reached there, we finished lunch, finished our multiple bathrooms trip with kids and hired a guide and marched off to Machu Pichu. The kids were promised ice cream at the end of the Machu Pichu tour. So they did the 3+ hour tour on foot without any problem. They were real troopers. Machu Pichu is breathtaking. It is amazing how the city has been planned with its farming terraces, area for temples, the sun, earth and other nature elements, the nobles quarters, the separate quarters for chosen women and men.  To add fun, there were lamas roaming around with cute earings. Here are the Lamas and Lama’s view of the sun temple and Machu Pichu.

 

 

 

The temples were made with perfectly cut rectangular stones while the rest of the place has irregular stones. And the stone were cut by boring holes and then inserting wooden sticks inside the hole, add some sand and water, wood expands and cuts the stone. This is exactly what was done for Tanjore Big temple rocks as well. Irrespective of the time period, geography, people were the same. And some more nice pictures of Machu Pichu. In the picture below, you can see the temple of Condor. The second from left on top. The second from bottom left is the Sun temple. The people of Machu Pichu disappeared and there are only theories as to what could have happened, no solid proof. Since the Incans had no written script, difficult to assess what happened to them. And another amazing thing is the trials that the Incans have built through out these mountains. They have built steps to climb to the top of many mountains. Huayna Picchu or Wayna Picchu is the big mountain you see in the background. If you look closely, you might spot the Incan trail with steps and people climbing those.

 

 

After 4 hours, we got the kids the promised ice cream and returned back to Aquas Calientes for a well-deserved rest. Had a hearty dinner with live Incan music at the restaurant attached to our hotel and retired for the day. The next day’s plan was to visit Ollantaytambu/Sacred Valley and leave for Arequipa that night from Cusco.

Peru Trip Day 1 and 2 – SFO to Cusco

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , , , , , , , — yaadayaada @ 7:35 pm

Utbt, her husband, kids M & C, my husband and I left SFO on a Thursday morning for Lima with our 6 baggage and 6 backpacks in tow. I had packed idlies for everyone just in case. And that was a savior since the vegetarian food served by LAN was horrible to put it mildly. We reached Lima at around midnight. Our flight to Cusco was at around 6am. So we waited at the exchanged some money and slept off in the window sill while the kids slept on baggage carts. Finally left at around 6am. The flight to Cusco was short and sweet, the scenery from up above and the landing was breath-taking.

We were greeted by our hotel staff. They took us to the hotel. A majestic statue of King Pachacutti welcomed us to the city. Our rooms were in the 3rd floor, the hotel staff managed to lug our baggage up. The altitude was slowly getting to us. Cusco is at an elevation of 11,200 ft. We had a nice breakfast with Coca tea(helps with altitude sickness) and slept for a couple of hours to catch up on lost sleep. Our friends(R, K and kids S and K) from New Jersey arrived at around 10:30am. After catching up and some more rest, we rented a van to take us around the town. First we stopped at an Indian restaurant(India Cafe I think) in Cusco. Not too bad. Then we left to see Cusco ruins.

We took the partial ticket to see the 3 ruins and hired an English speaking guide to show us Sacsayhuaman ruins. The ruin is from 11th century.

The walls are still intact but the towers were destroyed by the Spanish and the stones used to build the main buildings and the churches in Cusco. The view of Cusco from the ruin is breath-taking. Cusco city is build in the shape of a Puma. From there we were driven to Tambomachay, that is the baths/resort for the Incans.

 

After a quick view Puca Pucara which is the guard post, we drove back to Cusco at dusk soaking in the colorful city. Stopped on the way at the Cusco market and went crazy shopping for souvenirs and Alpaca woolen clothes. Came back to our room and had yummy chappathis and theplas that we had taken with us and called it a day since we had an early day next morning.

December 7, 2010

What a vacation! Planes, trains and automobiles!

Filed under: travel tips, travelogue — Tags: , , , , , — yaadayaada @ 12:41 am

Had a great time the past 10 days in Peru! More than Peru, it was a vacation with 2 of my best friends and their family!

We visited Machu Pichchu, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Ica Sand dunes and Nasca lines. It was a last minute trip. Utbt initiated it, husband and I joined in. We started planning, when I say we, mainly utbt. Then friend R decided to join us on the trip from the east coast. So it was one marathon planning. We started planning this trip 3 weeks before thanksgiving. We planned to leave on thanksgiving day and be back the next weekend. We knew where and when we were going, but haven’t done a thing other than our flight booking. The last 10 days before the trip saw us running around crazy calling/mailing every possible hotel/travel agent to get the booking done. We decided to book by ourselves instead of going with a travel agent since we thought it would save us money. It did save us money but completely drained us out. Peru is very much like India when it comes to using credit cards and internet. Add to this the language barrier. Most don’t speak English. We booked hotels via emails. Tripadvisor was very helpful in deciding where to stay. For Nasca, we booked via a travel agent, but we had to wire him 1000+ dollars before we reached there. So we were left wondering if he would show up. We finalized on the Nasca trip and Arequipa hotel only the day before Thanksgiving. Finally left on Thanksgiving day and had the time of our life! It was Utbt’s dream vacation and we lived it along with her and enjoyed it more than her! The kids were rock solid through out the vacation. Meija and Chula of Utbt and S & K of friend R. Age 3,4,5,6. They were just awesome! They held up better on the 10000 feet plus altitude than their parents!

Travelogue and Travel tips to follow soon!

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