Saturday, July 23, 2011


We got into Miami on time and had to move quickly to get on to our next flight as Mom was able to move us to an earlier flight the night before, but was not able to check our bags all the way through to Boston on the same flight. Things went pretty smoothly, though, as our travel experienced kids knew how to move through the airport, get breakfast, etc. We actually had to wait for about 5 minutes when we got to the gate before we could board. We were in the last row on the plane to Boston, but happy to be back in the USA, if not to be on such little sleep!

We're really looking forward to Cabot's for lunch and then getting home for some sleep. We hear that it's been really hot all over the US, including in Boston, but it's supposed to break tomorrow...guess we'll have to get out the AC units and get in the's all good, after all...

Final impressions: the people of Peru were incredibly nice, the scenery was spectacular, and the trip was harder than we thought it would be on a number of fronts including San Pedro, the hiking, and the kids dealing with being in a foreign country where no one spoke English.

Bests: Dylan - backpacking and Machu Picchu; Alex - going home; Persie - riding horses over the high passes; Mom - hiking over the passes and animals in the rainforest; Dad - the high passes, hiking in altitude and not struggling.

Worsts: Dylan - the 3 am bus ride with the blaring, horrible music and the train ride back to Ollantaytambo from Aguas Calientes; Alex - San Pedro; Persie - biting llamas; Mom - the day everyone was sick except for me; Dad - the "Avocado Incident."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heading home

It was a tough night sleep for some of us...the excitement of the trip and a lot of wind, plus some howler monkeys in the middle of the night, made for a loud number of hours. We eventually got up at around 7:30, had breakfast and got on the boat at about 8:15. The boat ride was fast but really cold...we picked up a few other people at the other lodge, which was closer to the port, made it to port and then had the 45 minute bus ride to the Refugios headquarters near the airport. After repacking, we had a quick bus tour of Porto Madolnado (including their Plaza de Armas and the bridge that leads to Brazil in 200 kilometers), dropped off the California women who where part of our group (Sara, Sara, and Jamie), and then headed to the airport.

The airport is teeny, with only two gates and and not much for food. Given that, we had snickers bars, chips, and cookies for lunch, hoping for more on the plane. Alex figured out that we would be spending as much time in layovers (12 hours) as in the air over the next 24 hours...woah!

The flight to Cusco was quick and painless...just about 1/2 hour of flying time, then a quick stop on the deplaning here. We had a relatively quick turnaround and then took off for Lima at about 4:15. The views of the Andes at the beginning of the flight were pretty surprise there given what we saw while hiking!

We got into Lima and quickly realized that our flight hadn't started check in as we had 5 hours before flight time. Given that, we had dinner at McDonald's and Subway and then moved back downstairs to wait for the counter to open. We realized that a bunch of people weeded already lined up at about 7:15, got in line and eventually made it through by about 8:30. We then proceeded to the gate, charged our iStuff and Mom & Dad had a last Peruvian beer (we were disappointed that they didn't have Cusquena). We boarded the plane about about 10:15 and basically survived the Redeye with as much sleep as we could get...Dylan won as he took some NyQuil.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Amazon Rain Forest - Day 3 - Macaws

Last full day in Peru!

We woke up for a 6:30 breakfast again (it was back to Alex getting up and Dylan complaining about it today...) and then hiked down to the water to hop into a boat for a 10 minute ride down river. The place where we got off was really muddy, but we quickly hiked up and out of that and then had about an hour of walking through the jungle until we got to a couple of blinds from which we hoped to see some birds. There was another group already there...they had left the lodge at 5:00 am.

Fairly soon after we got there, a couple of Macaws flew through the air and landed in a tree near the clay lick...they just sat there for along time, and were soon joined by a couple of others. Unfortunately, the other group refused to stay behind the blinds and eventually scared them off. After a while, the second group left for the lodge and then the Macaws came back...there were three varieties, one of which Delford, our guide, had only seen once this year and not at all last year at this particular lick (they were green and blue). Another interesting fact about macaws is that they mate for life at about 3 years of age and live to be upwards of 50 years old! We definitely only saw them flying only in pairs. They stayed in the trees for the time we were there, but we were able to get some good views thanks to the telescope our guides brought. It was a pleasant morning, although I think he kids would rather have stayed at the lodge.

We hiked back to the river, took the boat back to the lodge and then all took showers and put on our only clean clothes. It felt great! Since it was only 11:30, we had plenty of time to hang out, read and talk with some of the other guests before lunch at 1. After that, we came back to our room for some reading and then nap.

After an excellent nap, we headed down to the main lodge to play some May I. We decided to blow off the afternoon hike to a mammal salt lick as the kids (and mom & dad, to be honest) had had enough...we're ready to go home and just want to rest until that long trip, which starts in the morning.

Mom & Alex did decide to go on the "cayman hunt" at 8 pm. Dylan and Persie went to bed and dad hung out at the bar with our new friends from Connecticut, Tom & Carole. The cayman hunt was successful, as they saw three of the beasts, including one that was really a "deer in the headlights." They also saw a couple of big was worth the trip. When they got back, Alex went to bed and mom and dad had one last beer with Tom & Carole before heading off to bed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Amazon Rain Forest - Day 2 - Fire Ants, tarantula, and piranhas!

We got up at 6:30 and headed to the dining room for breakfast (eggs, bread, jam, etc.). At about 7, we started off from the lodge on a hike. We wore Wellington's as the trail was really muddy. We saw a bunch of wildlife on this ants (who protect the tree they live on to the extent that it is totally free of other plants, twigs, ), a tarantula (very cool...large & hairy - there's some video of it going back into it's hole), some small, black monkeys (saddleback tamarin), piranhas, sardines, a strangling fig (which was hollow since it killed the tree that it started around), leaf carrier ants, brazil nut trees, and a capo of the largest in the rain forest. The walk included a nasty wait on a dock to cross a "lake" which was actually a isolated part of the river...another group had taken all of the boats! Or guides finally improvised by cutting down a tree with a machete and using it as a pole...they were short a paddle.

When we got back from the walk, we had lunch, then took a nap. Dad went on a "medicinal plants" walk, and mom went to see a farm across the river, but the kids just hung out, mostly swinging in the hammocks. Mom & dad hung out with the adults at the bar for a bit before dinner...there is a nice couple from Connecticut and some good folks from Canada (here through GAP Adventures), many of whom are teachers. Nice life, that....being a teacher, having the summer off, traveling all over the world....

We had dinner then Dylan sprinted for bed shortly thereafter, quickly followed by everyone else. Dad and Dylan weren't feeling that great, but hopefully it was just from being tired from the day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Amazon Rain Forest - Day 1 - Getting There

We had a nice late sleep-in (7:30 or so), a good 'ole Hotel Mabey breakfast (although dad was disappointed that there were no eggs), finished some last minute packing, and then met Sara from Amazonas Explorer at 9 for our ride to the airport. The ride was quick and we got through checking our bags (including getting Alex's staff wrapped in green plastic...that was an adventure) and headed in to our gate. Security was quick and we had plenty of time to hang around reading, writing, etc. Mom even found the colored frog that she wanted to get for someone from work!

Our flight was quick (about 45 minutes) and as soon as we got off the plane we noticed a big difference in the was hot and humid...mostly humid! The airport was tiny, and our bags were the last ones off the plane, so it was empty by the time we left. Mariana, one of our guides, and ....., the other, were there to greet us as well as a number of other Refugios Amazonas guests. We took a short bus ride to their Puerto Modonaldo headquarters and left most of our bags there. After getting some juice (passion fruit, I think), we boarded the bus again for a 45 minute drive on a dirt road, shared with many motorcycles (seemingly the preferred mode of transportation here), to the "port" on the river (the Tambopata River). We then got on a really long, narrow boat, with a big outboard motor, for a ride up the river to the lodge.

Did I mention that it was raining on and off throughout this time? First rain we'd seen, really, but when we were getting on the boat, it was coming down pretty good...enough so that the guides put down the plastic sides to keep the rain off us. We were given a leaf filled with a rice based lunch...very yummy...and told to just throw it over the edge when we were done...kind of weird, but kind of fun as well. We rode for about an hour when we had to stop to get off and "check in" to the reservation in which the lodge is located. Once we did that, we were off for another hour or so on the travel time on the boat was just under three hours. On this part of the trip, we saw capybara (some of the biggest hamster/rodents ever and one of the things Dylan really wanted to see), a couple of cayman (their word for alligators), lots of birds, and even a family of red howling monkeys...pretty neat!

Finally, we arrived at the lodge at about 5:30 or 6:00 pm. We had a five minute walk up from the river and were very excited to see where we would be staying for the next few days...our last in Peru! The initial impression was stunning, particularly since we were in the middle of the rain forest! The main building is large, has a bar right in front, a dining room in back and is very open. Our rooms we're quickly assigned and they were also very fact, one wall is just not there!

We had a lovely evening...Mom & Dad had a couple of Pisco sours, the kids swung on the hammocks upstairs, and we even got to talk to a number of other adults about their (and our) various travels through Peru. One family, who's mother grew up here, and who's father is Belgian, had a 10 year old who was happy to see some other kids...they all played Sorry! on the boat ride and swung together in the lodge.

We had dinner...excellent lasagna, and then retired to watch the Peru / Uruguay soccer game (Peru lost 0-2) with all the staff in the back of the lodge. Actually, only Dad and Alex watched the talked with folks in the dining room, and Dylan and Persie swung...after that, it was off to bed (at about 9). Dad took a cold shower before getting under the mosquito nets, which was great!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Machu Picchu

We woke at about 6:30 after a great night's sleep, got ready, had a quick breakfast and met Willow at 7. Persie was the tough one to get up today....Dylan was actually easy for once!

We hopped on a bus about 2 minutes from our hotel and zoomed right up to Machu Picchu. The crowds were not what we expected...even Willow commented that there weren't many people there. Willow gave us a long overview using a map that depicted the site as it might have been when people were living there, then walked us around a number of different areas...the sun dial, the schools, the 32 cornered stone, the temple of the sun (which turns trapezoids into perfect squares on the summer and winter solstices...pretty cool), the Condor again, the irrigation system, the many rocks that were cut into silhouettes of the mountains, the history of the Incas, etc. It was a good hour and a half tour. Willow clearly knew his stuff and was proud of his Cechuan heritage. He spent a little too much time talking at points for the kids, but overall, was very knowledgable.

We then headed back down the mountain to Aguas Calientes where we got on an 11 am train for Ollantaytambo. The ride was good except for the fact that Alex had an upset stomach and Dylan, Mom, and Persie had to sit in the hot sun the whole way...bummer! There was also a very strange dancing show and a fashion show on the train (see the videos below)! We walked up the hill to one of the restaurants we had seen the previous day (the kids didn't like the food at the river restaurant), had lunch and then got our bags at the hotel and headed out to Cusco in an Amazonas Explorer van.

The ride was longer than we thought (about 2 hours), but we did get to stop at one point to get some sweets (sugared "pop corn" that Willow and the driver ate...they only offered us one for the five of us) and to see the mountain ranges through which we had been hiking...they are quite something!

We arrived at Hotel Mabey, checked in, took a nap, and then repacked everything for the Amazon, where we can only take 10 kilos per person on the boat to Refugios Amazonas. We then headed out to dinner at Inca Fe...the kids favorite restaurant the last time we were in Cusco. We had a nice meal there (although the bill took such a long time coming that dad stayed for it while everyone else started walking home), read some of our new bookend all crashed pretty quickly.

About two hours later (11 pm), Dylan came into mom and dad's room with a stomach ache. Mom switched rooms with him and he stayed with Dad...he was farting up a storm (thanks for bringing into my bed, D!) so dad gave him some Pepto Bismal and he soon got better. At about 2 am, he went back to his own room and we all slept out the rest of the night.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Inca Trail

We had a tough night sleep as the wedding party was rocking next door until about 3 am. Ah well....can't feel badly about people being happy, I suppose. We got up at around 6:30, had breakfast, and waited to meet our guide for the next few days..."Willow." He showed up at about 7:10 and was all business, we got our things together (we actually had to leave four bags at the hotel...we were only allowed to take our day packs and one small Amazonas Explorer duffle bag to Machu Picchu) and then headed to the train station, which was only a few blocks down the hill.

The train to Km 104 took about an hour and a half. All of a sudden, the train stopped and Willow said it was time to get off...we grabbed our things and got off the train in the middle of no where...we were the only people to get off here and there was no station of any kind.

We put on sun screen, bug spray and packed our bags (Willow had arranged for the one duffle bag to be dropped at our hotel for the night) and started up the trail. This was a very different hike than those we had been doing. There was way more vegetation along the trail and it was much steeper. The first two hours was very hot and all up hill...fortunately, there were a couple of huts in which we could rest...we would have been hard pressed to make it otherwise. Willow set a quick pace for this part of the hike, which was all in the sun (as a side note, he is a former Inca Trail porter, who had, at one point, the ability to hike the entire Inca Trail in about 7 hours) as he wanted us to get through it more quickly. There were tons of stairs going both up and down, but mostly up...we decided that these were harder to hike than the other trails we'd been doing. Alex even thought they were stupid to make the stairs, but it provided the ability for the trail to be much more direct than the others.

Eventually, after much cajoling of Persie and Alex (who was still not feeling great), we made it to a waterfall. The kids had a chance to cool off here and then we headed up to Winya Wayna, an Incan site that was a farming research facility for Machu Picchu. This is a multiple terraced site that is quite spectacular to see, if only for it's size and location. After climbing the 345 or so steps to the top, we had a nice lunch in the shade and learned about the site from Willow.

We headed off after lunch and soon came to a "hiker's lodge" that services Inca Trail hikers. It's right a the bottom of the infamous 3,000 step descent from a pass high about Winya Wayna. It didn't look like much compared to the AMC huts we're used to, so we just stopped to pee and then moved on. This section of the trail was much flatter and in the trees, so the kids felt a lot better about it and moved much more quickly.

After about an hour and a half, we arrived at a spot from where Willow told us it was all uphill for twenty minute to the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu (Inti Punku). We quickly moved throughout the "oh my god" section (hand over hand stair climbing) and before we knew it, were at Ina Punta (Alex timed us in 7 minutes and 30 seconds!).

Machu Picchu is an impressive sight from high above, as you are at Inti Punku. It is a city that once housed 1000 people and it is poised at the top of a mountain. There are many terraces visible as well as houses, temples, etc. The sun was in the wrong place for good pictures, but we took them anyway and then headed down the trail to the actual site. Willow didn't really want to do much touring as our pass only allowed us to finish the trail and take a bus down to Aguas Calientes, but since it was late and there weren't many people there, we convinced him to show us some things. We toured for about an hour and saw a number of significant parts of the site including the Temple of the Sun, and the Monument to the Condor. It's amazing what the Cechuans were able to build under the direction of the Inca. The lasting impression I have is one of incredibly hard work...

We headed down to town on a bus to find our hotel, had a quick pizza dinner and then went to bed. Mom & Dad's room was right on the river, so it was a good night's sleep...the kids were a few rooms down and also slept well after a number of difficult hiking days...we figured out that we had hiked 58 kilometers (more than the standard 43 km Inca Trail, which is typically done in four days) in five days through all sorts of altitude changes. Very impressive for ones so young!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lares Valley Trekking - Day 4 - Ollantaytambo

Woke up at was nice to "sleep in!" It was really cold last night and still cold in the morning as the sun didn't make the valley where we were located. We had pancakes with caramel on top that was an individual drawing for each of us...Persie had a horse, dad had mountains and a lake, mom & Alex had faces, Dylan had a blob and Alan had a "rasta mon."

We started hiking without Jose today as he turned into the driver since Gilmar was assigned to another group. We drove for about an 1/2 hour past the village where the Inca Trail porters traditionally come from..we passed the Aussie group at the beginning of the drive and thought "boy, we're glad we didn't have to walk that whole way!"

We made the "40 minute" ascent in 10 minutes and then kept hiking up for quite a bit. The terrain was quite different from what we had been doing. There were many more trees and bushes as we were below the tree line for the first time in days. There were also a lot of bull cows! There were some really cool Incan waterways that were created so many years ago and are still working perfectly..they were really long and went through all sorts of terrain. As we kept hiking along very flat terrain, we saw many terraced's amazing how much work the people must have put in to create the walls that defined the terraces. We took lots of pictures...hopefully, some will come out!

We finished the hike in two and a half hours even though Alan thought it might take four. After about a five minute wait, Jose and Alex showed up in the van and we took the 10 minute drive to Ollantaytambo and our hotel. We got settled and then had our last lunch prepared by Alex the chef...he had a cold pasta salad that was excellent with some olive oil, salt and pepper. We then bid adios to our guides and took a rest in our was nice to be in beds1

Mom and dad took a walk around town...there are beautiful Incan ruins on the cliffs..this is where the Spaniards lost a battle due to the Incan position on the cliffs and their ingenuity (they flooded the plain to slow down the horses).

After our rest, we walked around town together and then, Mom, Dad and Persie went to the restaurant across the street, played cards, had a couple of beers and were later joined by Alex and Dylan for dinner on the river going through town. At one point there was a wedding party that had a parade that went tried to take some video with his camera, but it probably won't come out.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lares Valley Trekking - Day 3 - Huilloc

Harry Potter 7 Part 2 opens today at home!

We woke up at 6 again to some nice warm tea, as with the last couple of days. Persie slept right through it...after a breakfast of tortillas (eggs with peppers and potatoes...very yummy!) and bread and jams, we headed off on our biggest hiking day of the four on this trip.

We started climbing immediately, hiking along the side of a ridge and then right into a high valley. We noticed as we were walking by the town that there were a number of other groups camped in different spots. One of them was leaving at just about the same time as us...they were either Australian or New Zealanders, but we couldn't tell from their accents. As it turned out we passed each other a number of times during the made for some fun back and forth, particularly since one was wearing a Yankees hat and one a Red Sox hat! We made it to a first relatively flat spot after a bit and enjoyed great views as we rested and hiked. Alex was really struggling with a sore throat so we stopped regularly to get him some additional rest. We kept climbing through the valley and the views just kept getting better. Eventually Alex tired out enough that he got on a horse, and soon thereafter so did Persie. Before we knew it, we were looking at the last climb to the pass which was at an altitude of 4600 m (15092 ft)! We completed that bit and had a spectacular views in both directions, but particularly towards Mt. Veronica, which was in the clear for a few minutes after we got there.

We rested and enjoyed the views and took some pictures, the headed down to our lunch spot, which took us about 40 minutes to reach. This was an enjoyable hike that went gradually down over grassy fields. Lunch was chicken soup and then chicken with gravy and rice...Alex the chef did it again!

After lunch we continued our hike down the valley. We walked along the edge of the mountains for a good two hours and finally ended up at our campsite for the night on the other side of a pretty little town at the end of the next valley (just past Pantacancha). Dylan had a continuous spewing of words from his mouth for the whole afternoon hike and kept his brother and sister well entertained...thanks D!

After a good nap, we played another game of May I, which Dylan won AGAIN, then dinner (spaghetti, which was enjoyed by all...especially the kids). It was early to bed again to get ready for the hike out to Ollantaytambo in the morning.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lares Valley Trekking - Day 2 - Cuncani

Alex was definitely sick with the "dad bug." Had a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, beans. Oops almost forgot about the yogurt...about the only thing that Persie and Dylan will eat...

We got going on the trail at about 8 and it headed up quickly. In the first 10 minutes we were way above town. The scenery was spectacular and the weather matched the beauty. However, once we started climbing even higher, the clouds seemed to roll in a bit (it seems that the weather is dependent on the jacket that mom is wearing...if she puts on a warm jacket, the sun comes out, and vice versa). We continue to be amazed with locations of some of the houses here...they are perched on cliffs, but when you get close they clearly have some fields and places for animals to roam. Alpaca and dogs were abundant today in the high areas. Alex hung in there even though he was feeling rotten. After a while, we went over a lip and saw a large lake. Alan then pointed out where the pass was and it was a loong way up.

Eventually, we made it to the lake and took a rest. At this point, Alex decided to ride a horse, and it made a big difference! Of course, Persie started to lobby to ride one as well ("it isn't faaaiiir!"). Since we were starting some real uphill, we decided it was ok. The climbing here was difficult, but we just kept going and after a while, we took another break and looked back at the was way below us! We made the final push and the true Dylan finally showed up. He powered ahead of mom and dad and Alan to get to the pass well ahead of us. Alex also got off of his horse and climbed the last bit of the pass. We took a good break, took lots of pictures and finally moved on (side note: the climb took us from 3500 m to 4500 m, a total of 3281 ft of altitude gain! Our final height was 14764 ft!).

The views on the other side of the pass were also excellent...quite a few lakes and waaaay below us, a village. We started down and realized that it was quite muddy for the first part. Jose noted that some other companies got the opposite direction to avoid the road problems that made us get up early but with the mud and the later steepness we we glad we did it this way. We kind of meandered our way down through fields and steep areas with Alan leading and Jose pointing out all sorts of different birds. Unfortunately, after feeling better for a while, Alex started to go down hill again in terms of his stomach. He did a great job hanging in there and always chose the shorter, steeper option when asked. We finally made it to town at about about 1 pm. We lost another 1000m in altitude over this second part of our hike...woah!

The views here were spectacular...definitely my favorite village so far. There was a beautiful waterfall right into town (there was also a really neat one on the way into town) and a nice river running through as well. The sun was out and we had a lovely lunch in this spot. After eating we headed out in the van to our next camping spot, which was about an hour away. We were going to camp on a soccer field in the village of Cucani.

We played some cards (Dylan's amazing joker streak continued), took a quick nap and then played more cards while waiting for dinner. Alex, the chef, made some great meatballs with cheesy potatoes, which was yummy and even had some cake for dessert! Alex, our son, had a very sore throat, so didn't eat much, but hung in as best as he could. He went to sleep right after dinner, as did Persie and Dylan. Mom and dad had a little tea and then knocked off for the night as well. Big hiking day's to everyone feeling well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lares Valley Trekking - Day 1 - Quisuarani

We left three bags at the hotel as we will be returning in a little less than a week and eventually found someone to let us out of the building at about 4:20. The issue was that we needed to get to the Lares road before 6, as it was going to close then until 5 pm. We had our crew...Gilmar (driver), Alex (cook), Alan (guide), and Jose (also a guide). We will also have an undetermined number of handlers for the mules that will be there in case we struggle. The ride was fine, outside of the fact that dad had to fight to not throw up the whole way. We had a breakfast of bread, cheese, and tea on the roadside at the trailhead and then got started at about 7 am for what was supposed to be a four to five hour hike.

Dad felt a little better as he hiked, but the real key was the views...they were spectacular! There were snow capped mountains surround the valley through which we hiked. Our pace was faster than the guides expected and we did the hike in about three hours. We had so much time left over that we even drove up to a 4200m (13,800 ft) pass and then hiked down from there to our lunch spot, which was all set up by Alex and Gilmar. This was a point of apprehension for the kids, but it turned out to be great...boiled veggies and chicken, plainly done. Dad rested in the car as his stomach was still bad and could here the happiness emanating from the tent. As a side note...the kids did a great job of hiking today...Persie did ride a horse for a while, but mostly because she wanted to as opposed to being tired. Also, the horse handler, Marcelino, was amazing...when we left lunch, he and his horse ran all the way back...we expect to see them again in the morning.

Dad started to feel a little better on the drive from lunch to our campsite in the small village of Quisuarani, even eating a few saltines. The ride was fun as we were going over some crazy roads in the mountains (see the video below).

The crew (with help from Alex and Persie) quickly set up our camp, and dad jumped in the tent for a nap. Mom and the kids played some May I and then headed in for nap as well. When we got up (with warm water outside our tents to wash hands!), dad was feeling a little better and even had a snack. Dylan bought a hat from some local women, and there was more card playing before dinner.

Dinner was local cusquenian trout...yum yum! Persie had an omelette which she also liked. Desert was raw eggs (actually canned peaches for everyone except mom). We were off to bed quickly after fact we were in our tents by 7:30. It was cold!

While dad was feeling better and slept like a log, Alex had a tough night. He had the shivers at dinner and then in bed as well. His stomach also felt bad so he slept poorly. We decided in the morning that he had come down with the same bug that dad had the day before....bummer. Dylan didn't sleep well either, but Persie did.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cusco Day 3 - Biting Llamas!

Woke up relatively late again, and slowly made our way through breakfast...well, most of us ate fairly quickly, but the bottomless pit named Dylan started late and ate a ton...he just kept going and going and going. Finally he finished and we went back to the textiles market, bought a few more items, then walked up to what we thought was the inca ruins in the center of town. We had fun walking around these ruins, except for the fact that Dylan and Persie were attacked by an alpaca! This incident has even inspired a series of pictures by Persie about "biting llamas"!

Afterwards, we went to Plaza de Armas and a quick snack (to calm the troops as well as getting some pipes for Alex) and then went to Yuca Mama Grill for lunch (this overlooks the square). As it happens, there was a band that showed up partway through our lunch and they had a couple of pipe players in addition to a guitar, a drum and a yuekelele type instrument. It was a nice accompaniment to our lunch. However, they took FOREVER to make two Pisco sours (they finally arrived after our lunch did). When we were done, we headed back to the room for a nap. After that, we met with Alan, our guide for the next few days in the mountains. He went through the plan for the trip and then we headed out to dinner at a Argentinan Fusion restaurant that was close by.

Unfortunately, they didn't have cuy for dad (they only had one, and the guy before us got it) so he and Dylan had well done steak (ick). We then headed back to the hotel so the kids could go to sleep and mom could pack. Unfortunately, we had to get up at 3:45 and this was the time that Alex and Persie decided to freak out about being homesick. After a lot of calming down, they finally fell asleep. In general, they have been great on this trip, even though it has really pushed their limits in many ways (most obviously, food), but it all came crashing down at this point. Mom and dad got to sleep pretty late as mom had to figure out how to get all our stuff into five small bags provided by Amazonas Explorer. We made it, but the stress was too much for dad...he barely slept at all and started to develop an upset stomach. 3:45 came quickly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cusco Day 2

Woke up late again as the kids and the parents needed some extra sleep. We had a great breakfast at the hotel with a ton of other Americans. Everyone got to eat as much as they wanted and even got to toast bread. Dylan finally got the plum he's been craving, although he ate way more kiwi than anything else. Persie has decided that she really loves eggs too!

We then read some more Throne of Fire, took a half hour computer game break and headed out to explore Cusco at about 10:30. Just down the street from our hotel, we found the largest textiles market in Cusco. We wandered around isles that were full of scarves, hats, mittens, blankets, backpacks, lamas, chotchkes, weavings, painting, etc. Mom bought a hat & gloves, and a couple of scarves. Dad bought one of those heavy alpaca blankets, Persie got a small lama and Alex and Dylan perused, but held off from buying anything. It was quite an amazing scene that really emphasized bargaining as prices varied wildly and came down very quickly. Persie's lama cost anywhere from 6 to 25 soles, and Mom was able to negotiate a backpack down from 25 to about 15 soles.

We took our haul back to the hotel and then headed into town. We stopped by a grocery store to get stuff for a light lunch and then walked to Plaza de Armas and found a bench for our picnic. After that, we walked down Loreto, a narrow alley with old Incan walls on it, then back around to Santa Catalina to find ice cream. We could only find fruit gelato, though, so we continued on to Plaza San Blas which is in the heart of the artistic district. The roads were all very narrow, cobblestoned, and generally cool.

We then headed back down the hill to the central plaza and eventually made our way back home after a quick stop at the grocery store to get snacks for our upcoming backpacking trip.

We played some cards, read more of Throne of Fire, took a nap, and then walked back into town for dinner. We ate at Chez Maggie, which was a teeny room, but was recommended by the tour book. They specialize in pizza and pasta, so all were happy...even Alex, who was very skeptical at the beginning since the kitchen was so small!

On the way home, we stopped at what turned out to be the fanciest ice cream place ever...we all ended up with more extras (chocolates, cherries, etc.) than ice cream, but enjoyed it anyway as we walked. After another chapter of the book, which many slept through, it was time for bed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


We slept late at our now favorite Lima hotel....the Peru Star. The kids got to watch tv and mom and dad got to sleep late. We then went out for breakfast at the hotel restaurant and had pancakes and eggs and bacon again...yum! We left the hotel at about 10:30 and had a quick drive to the airport, which was good since the lines were really long! Some woman got us out of the line and said that we could go in the "special services" line, which was waaaay shorter. Once in that line, another person though that we didn't qualify, but let us go anyway...whew. We had lunch in the food court and then waited for our plane departure. The ride to Cusco was quick (about an hour) and really cool as the view out the window showed lots of snow capped mountains. We got out luggage and our guide, Sara, was waiting outside...she got us to our hotel, which was excellent and we took a nap walked to the main square in town to have dinner. The walk was about 20 minutes.

We had a great dinner at Inka...Fe Cafe. The kids had pasta and mom and dad had al paca steaks...yum yum!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back to Lima...

Last night on the "wooden" bed! It was even more exciting this time than it was yesterday given that we had to sleep on it again...we were up at 2:30 and got off at about 3:00 am. The bus didn't actually leave San Pedro until about 3:35 as it stopped at seemingly every house along the way to pick someone else up...even waiting up to 5 minutes for some folks! The Peruvian culture was in full force for this trip as they had LOUD music blaring with the accompanying video for the whole ride. It took a while to get used to it, but most of us eventually got about 45 minutes of rest during the 3 hour journey to Chosica. The ride wasn't as interesting as the one up to San Pedro as we couldn't see anything until we were almost all the way down out of the the mountains.

When we pulled into the parking lot at the end of ride at about 6:00 am, there was a full fledged farmer's market going on...we didn't stop to look as we were pretty tired and our taxi was waiting. We drove to Melsina's house to pick up our "lost" backpack and then headed to our hotel for the night...the Peru Star in the Isidro district of Lima. The kids were very excited to be in a more Americanized situation - we had two rooms complete with showers and eventually moved in to a two bedroom apartment for the night.

We had a great breakfast (the kids even had pancakes with real maple syrup!), took showers and a nap and then headed in to the Miraflores district where we wandered around a mall and had an American lunch (Friday's, if you can believe it) on the Pacific ocean. We then headed back to our hotel for another nap and dinner. As we were getting ready for bed, the hotel delivered hot chocolate and churros..yummy! We're excited to be heading inland to Cuzco tomorrow! Or flight has been pushed back to 12:50, so we'll get to sleep in and have a relatively relaxing morning.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Last day in San Pedro

We woke up this morning at around 7:00 and started packing for our departure.   We sent the kids down to the restaurant to get ready for breakfast at about 7:35 and finally made it ourselves at about 7:50.  Breakfast was bread, cheese, and cornflakes with the standard juice and tea.

There was no real word about when the bus would be leaving. Yesina thought it would be any time from about 1 to about 3, but said that we needed to be flexible.  After eating, we went up to the room to finish packing and then headed up to the irrigation canal to do some digging. We worked for a good couple of hours and made a lot of progress...despite the fact that Dave and Kaitlyn did nothing but clear out a junction box from the mud. Everyone of us contributed, from Persie using the shovel to Alex and Dylan using a pick to Mom and Dad using both. We wrapped up at about 11:30 just short of our goal...overall, though, we were happy that we had contributed as best we could.

We had a lunch of "hamburgers" that were just patties on top of rice and then hung out waiting for the bus...Mom and the kids played Skipbo with Dave and Kaitlyn and Dad read his book sitting on the curb. After a bit, we got the bad news that there would be no bus today and that we would have to take the 3 am bus in the morning...bummer!  We decided to go read and nap, did that, then the kids watched a movie with Dave and Kaitlyn and Mom and Dad headed back up to the irrigation canal.  This time, we got as far as we wanted, including digging up the biggest rock ever...job well done! We had dinner (basically the same meal as lunch) and headed to bed early...all out by about 8:30 or 9:00.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Early morning today! Up at 5:45, we met next to the hotel at 6 am. 8 horses were waiting for us...we mounted and headed for Marcahuasi. It took about an hour and a half to get up to the "amphitheater" which is at 12,500 feet. The entire Marcahuasi area is huge, with amazing rock formations that look like animals and people. There are also ruins from several pre-Incan villages.

When we got to the amphitheater, we left the horses and started hiking to warm up a bit. We stopped for breakfast after about a half hour within sight of the frog and turtle formations. We kept hiking to the ruins of a pre-Incan village. We crawled down into a TINY house - about 4 feet wide and 12 feet long with 1 foot square openings on the sides that lead to little rooms they used for storage and sleeping. Our guide, Walter, also showed us plants that were good for headache, attitude, asthma, and prostrate cancer!

After the village, we headed for the "Fortress" which is a 50 foot high stone formation with houses and an altar to the sun at the top. At the base, we saw caves - some were homes and others were used for burial. Some villagers, they thin, went voluntarily into these caves to die rather than being captured by the Spaniards. Some of their mummies and bones are in he museum in San Pedro.

We climbed to the top of the "Fortress" and were happy to learn that we were at 13,000 feet!we could see forever - Marcuhuasi, the Andes range, Chosica down in the valley, and the cloud of smog over Lima.

We climbed back down from the Fortress and began the trek back (it was about 10:15). The kids were really tired, probably from the altitude, so Mom broke out the twizzlers, which gave them a second wind. When we got back to the amphitheater, we thought we were done, but we just kept going! Beyond the amphitheater, we saw more rock formations - the Prophet, the Rock of Humanities - and the village of Marcuhuasi proper. The village ruins were surrounded by burial buildings - the dead were supposed to protect the village.

Finally, we hiked down and met our horses. Persie loved the riding, but Dad and Dylan swore to never get on a horse again, if they could avoid it! It was scary going down the really steep parts and was tough on Mom & Dad's legs and backs...but we made it!

Jehaira had lunch waiting for us - boy did it taste good! We didn't finish until 2:20. We had a short read, then headed back to the restaurant to help set up for the movie that YeseƱa had gotten for all the kids. Jehaira had made "Mosa morado" - a purple jello like desert made from boiling purple corn. Dad made popcorn. The movie was "Rio.". We tried to get it to play in English with Spanish subtitles, but it didn't work, so we played it in Spanish.

After the movie, we brought the DVD back to the restaurant and watched the movie in English. For dinner, we had spaghetti with this carrot and bull meat sauce that tasted just like the meat sauce we have at home!

There was no water at the restaurant, so Mom & Dad got water from the school and did all the dishes...out of the biggest pots you can imagine...