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Monday, April 27, 2015

6th Post - The Sacred Valley and the Incan City of Cusco

After Mach Picchu we returned by train to Ollantaytambo and explored the Sacred Valley and Cusco for a couple days. Here is where it really starts to hit home, how incredible the Inca Civilization was and how much the accomplished in just 100 years before the Spanish destroyed them.
Cusco was the royal city and many of the buildings today are still built on solid Incan foundations. What an experience to stroll down little alleyways, with impressive Incan walls, and Spanish architecture on top of them.

As we stopped very briefly on the train ride, this lovely woman was hoping to sell a bouquet of flowers to someone on the train. Dave leaned way down out of the window and grabbed them and gave her some money. Everyone in the train applauded!

Carolyn was happy with her flowers as well!

Ollantaytambo Incan Ruins - the second most important after Machu Picchu.

Our guide, Marcial, describes the Incan ingenuity.

The huge blocks fit together perfectly without any mortar!

Incan foundations and Spanish architecture on top in Ollantaytambo.

A comfortable ride

A farmer feeds his alpaca.

Bright colors in the Chinchero Market Place

We bought beautiful table runners from this man.

This is just a small part of the big market

Cusco Main Square by night

Brightly colored balconies on Cusco's Main Square. The far left is our Hotel!

Incan foundations in Cusco

Incan engineering

Dennis and Leora at Qorykancha

Saqsywaman - the Citadel above Cusco City

Hold it up Liz!

Walking past the gigantic walls at Saqsywaman

The Jesuit Church on Cusco's Main Square

Our farewell dinner at Retama Restaurant with wonderful musicians and dancers.

On our 6-hour layover in Lima, we went downtown and wandered the pedestrian zone between a couple of the beautiful plazas.

The Lima Cathedral on the Main Square.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

5th Post - MACHU PICCHU!

Ahhhhh, Machu Picchu!! Truly the highlight of our trip!
Friday we flew from Lake Titicaca to Cusco and then took a bus through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo where we boarded the InkaRail Train for Aguas Calientes, our home for 2 nights in the village below Machu Picchu. The train ride itself was spectacular.
But Saturday we spent the day in Machu Picchu. You just always expect clouds and rain there, but we awoke to blue skies and a gorgeous day. We took the bus way up the mountain on switchback after switchback and arrived at the site. Wow! It's such an amazing place.
We took photos for about 45 minutes and then had a tour with our guide Freddy for 2 1/2 hours through the site. It was fascinating to hear him explain the history of the Incas and Machu Picchu.
In the afternoon some of us hiked up to the Sun Gate for incredible views.

First view of the Sacred Valley and the town of Urubamba

Beautiful cultivated fields enroute to the Sacred Valley

Our InkaRail train to Aguas Calientes

The Andes here have real glaciers!


The wild Urubamba River

Climbing up the path into Machu Picchu

Lora is so excited to actually be here!

Our first views and photos

3 Siblings - Vaughn, Kent & Twila

Group Photo above Machu Picchu

The Sun Temple - an astronomical wonder

Vaughn framed in a doorway with Huayna Picchu in the background

Dennis and Leora head down through the ruins

Paul takes a rest on the way up to the Sun Gate

Beautiful wildflowers along the way

Even giant orchids

Approaching the Sun Gate after over an hour of climbing

These are the switchbacks we took by bus - Machu Picchu on top of the hill

Ruth, Lora, Breann, Dave & Carolyn at the Sun Gate

The hardy hikers!

Breann enjoys the view from the Sun Gate

Machu Picchu from above, in the late afternoon sun

Far less people in the late afternoon

One more close-up view of the ruins, with Huayna Picchu in the background

Farewell shot with a nice llama in the foreground!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

4th Post - Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands

The wonders continue! This is a lot of photos for one post, but we have just seen and done so much it's hard to cut things out!
Wednesday we retraced our steps from Colca Canyon toward Arequipa over the high pass and then took the turn-off to Puno and Lake Titicaca. This time we stopped up at 16,000 feet elevation for photos. It's incredible to be able to drive to that elevation. There was new snow on all the high mountains from the night before so the drive to Lake Titicaca was spectacular!
Before arriving in Puno, we visited ancient Incan and pre-Incan tombs in Sillustani.
Thursday was a most colorful days, as we took a boat out to the floating islands of Uros and visited the people there. It's remarkable how they build their islands using compact blocks of reed roots, then place many layers of reeds on top of that. Their whole life is out in the middle of the lake.

New snow on the high Andes. This massif is the continental divide between the Amazon drainage going to the Atlantic, and the Colca drainage going to the Pacific. 

Our hardy group at 16,000 feet above sea level!

Mountain Panorama from the top of the pass

Volcano Sabancaya continues to spew steam.

Dave's watch shows the elevation...... 16,040 feet above sea level!

Picnic at a glorious spot above Lake Lagunillas

Lots of Tuk Tuks (moto-taxis) in Juliaca

Shepherd lady with her herd of alpaca

Ancient Incan tomb at Sillustani

Wendi above a beautiful vista at Sillustani

Valeta gets to hold a baby vicuna.

Heading out of Puno harbor for Lake Titicaca

Arriving at the Floating Islands

Our guide, Zulema, explains the culture of the islands

How cute is that?

The people display their handicraft (extremely high quality!)

The locals learned each of our names and clapped for each one to welcome us.

The ladies on the island wanted to keep Valeta as one of their own!

Vaughn, Lora, and Breann didn't do too badly either!

Our ride on the "Mercedes Benz" boat made of reeds and plastic bottles!

Bidding us farewell from the island

Walter, the artist, rows us over to the other side.

Later we arrive on Taquile Island for a very different cultural experience. 
The people here are Quechua, and descendants of the Incas.

View of Lake Titicaca and Bolivia from Taquile Island

One of the island Elders

Paul demonstrates the hair outfit used in the island festivals.

After a wonderful lunch we get a display of local dance.

The dancers say good bye before we exit through the gate and head down to the boat.