Friday, May 10, 2013

LIMA AND PANAMA CITY ..back to the 21st cnetury

Bus, planes, trains and automobiles is a good description of our last few days in Peru. After 3 weeks in the Peruvian countryside we flew into Lima and the 21st century.
Our home base for a couple days of sightseeing is the upscale area of Miraflores, a Lima neighborhood perched on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean.
  Lima is entering the time of the year when the fog rarely lifts for 6 months.  The housing density of this region reminds me of Vancouver, BC. but on a bigger scale.  Lima is a city of apx. 3 million and a lot of them live in the high rises that form the impressive skyline along the bluffs above the ocean.
We had read of Lima's reputation for extremes between the very poor and the very rich. On our tour of Lima in a open air bus the driver did a good job of only showing us the "charming" side of Lima.  We traveled down wide boulevards and cute narrow streets, from the modern glass towers of the coast to the clean well kept Colonial Center.
After visiting the many diverse areas of Peru for the past few weeks, ending our odyssey in Lima was fitting.  Life for the residences of Lima are about as far removed from the  life in the Amazon as one can imagine.
Panama City and the Canal
We  arrived in Panama just as night fall began and was amazed by the skyline.
This trip to Panama was planned as a week of the pool and cold drink with only a quick city tour and a visit to the Miraflores Locks and Museum planned.
The Gamboa Rainforest resort sits just several hundred yards from the shipping channel on Gatun Lake with its heavy canal traffic.
 With in several hundred yards of the heavy noisy canal traffic I was able to snap a picture of this Capuchin Monkey.
The locks and the museum were very interesting.  The men in our  crowd could have stayed at the locks all day.   The museum features a simulator that lets you pilot a freighter through the lock.  Now that was fun!
This is our final day of this trip and I must say it was a rewarding trip.  The Amazon experience was amazing and our choice of doing a lodge instead of a ship was at least for Ron and I a good one.
To have the time to leisurely explore the beautiful villages and historic sites from our rental house in Urabumba was a blessing.  The staff at Villa Runa took very good care of us.  You can check them out at
Our location on the Plaza de Armas the main square in the beautiful and historic city of Cusco was perfect.  We could walk just about anywhere we wanted or  grab a bench on the square and soak it all in.  The all female staff at the Loreto Boutique Hotel also went out of their way to take care of us.  From fixing Ron his unique breakfast eggs to that delightful mad dash for our luggage mentioned earlier,  we couldn't have ask for more.  We found the  Peruvians to be very kind, quite and reserved.  But that polite reserved demeanor never hid the twinkle in the eye or the quick grin.
To post this blog I have been lucky to have traveled with 3 who know their way around a camera.  The photos I choose for this blog is a mixture of my own photos and those of Pat, Patsy and Helen.  Thanks friends.
I hope you have enjoyed sharing our travels.


Orient Expresses Andean Explorer
         Over the top of the Andes in style.

We were starting our 10 hour rail journey on the Andean Explorer from Cusco to Puno on the shore of Lake Titikaka.  We arrived at the station and were ushered into a waiting room resembling  a hotel lobby.  We were greeted by a live band and folkloric dancers.  Go ahead pamper me....
The train was posh indeed, with wing back chairs and real linen table cloths on which was placed a elegantly presented 3 course lunch.

The train also had a lounge car and ......
At the end of the train was a partial enclosed observation car, a fun place to watch the passing scenery.
The Andes snow covered mountains provided a backdrop for our first glimpse of the Llama and Alpaca herds.

We went up to Puno on the train and returned to Cusco on the bus and both ways I was surprised at the abundance of family farms and the absence of unused land.
The highest elevation of 15,000 ft above sea level is at the small village of El Raya.
As the train approached,  the vendors  rushed about to set up their booths. At El Raya we were offered our only chance to get off the train. At 15,000 feet  Ron celebrated being able to move at altitude by promptly buying matching Lama sweater for both of us. was predicting 40 degree weather so the sweaters and the knitted Inca hat Ron bought in Cusco should keep us warm, if not fashionable.
It was dark by the time we were dropped off at our hotel. Again we choose to be right on the Plaza de Armas.  The balconies on the left are off our rooms on the 3rd floor.  I must take a minute to celebrate....yea!...  elevators for the first time .... We tried hard to book only "charming " hotels which until now translated into "no elevator" hotels.  At nearly 12,000 ft. to not lug luggage up 3 flights is a blessing.  I guess since this trip is the high part of our trip in elevation at least, I can safely say that at least for the 6 of us the prescription for altitude medication has worked.  We have huffed and puffed up and down hills and stairs, but none of us required the extra oxygen all hotels trains and buses carry.
Walking on Islands of reeds.
This water way was busy with boat loads of tourist in the channel out to Isla Los Uros Islands.  A group of 64 islands made by hand and grouped to form a community.  The islands have their own school, church and hospital.
 This greeting station is the first stop into the floating islands.  Our guide is given the name of the Island who will be hosting us today.
The ladies were waiting to greet us to their homes on the island Summa Willjta.  They represent all the women on the small island made of reeds, which I would guess are about 1/2 acre.
We were given a very interesting demonstration on the building and maintaining of the islands.  Most islands are similar to family compounds, but they don't have to be.  Anyone can start their own island or live on any island, although I suspect you have to get permission to move to someones island.  This island's base of reeds is eight feet deep and is anchored in water that is 45 feet deep.
The risk of fire is great, so all cooking on the island must be done on this community stove.
Most of the ladies of the islands wore their hair in braids decorated with these unusual tassels.
Each of us were invited to visit the home of one of the ladies.  Each lady makes textiles for sale telling the story of their family.  We all ending up buying one from our hostess.
The ladies dress was colorful and distinct to their part of Peru.
Currently there is one baby on the island, do you think he is spoiled?
This young lady was Helen and Skips hostess.  She is the mother of the baby. Helen said she was very proud to show off her tidy home to them.  Mercedes hosted Ron and I.  She did not seem to have the same pride in her home, so I choose not to take pictures of her house or yard.  I guess on the islands as elsewhere in the world there are tidy people and some not so tidy people.
The end to our visit was a cruise around the islands on this reed boat.
The old reed boats would only last 6 months, but today they are filling the pontoons with as many as 3,000 plastic bottles and the use nylon lashing has replaced reed lashing.  These improvements have increased the life of the boat to 3 years.

We had a delightful time on the floating islands.  I have wanted to visit since I first read about them in a 5th grade geography text book.  The islands of those geography test book were a real and hard way of life.  Today, generations later these islands are definitely more tourist geared than subsistence geared.   Tourism puts bread on their table, so better preserve the ancient ways for  tourists like me than let their heritage fade away.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Capital City of the Incas

Rosalia our feisty young driver for the past week almost swore when she arrived at Cusco's Plaza de Armas where our hotel was. In the above photo our hotel is down a pedestrian passageway between  two churches.  All entries to the plaza were sealed with police barricades, blocking  access to our hotel. It was nothing serious just another of the many parades and demonstrations that happen here weekly.
This group of Kindergartners weren't demonstrating on the day we arrived but they were out in force 2 days later. 
Rosalia called the Loreto Hotel explaining that she had a van load of senior citizens and she couldn't get anywhere near the hotel.  The directions she received from the hotel must have been great because in just a couple of minutes we had turned around, dashed up a alley or two and came to a stop.  Before we knew what was happening 4 young ladies in navy blue uniforms had our bags out of the van and were rolling them down the street indicating we were to follow.  I have never seen a flash mob, but wow.....those young women were there and gone  before we knew what was happening.  Remember we are at 11,000 ft above sea level and the limbs and minds alike weren't functioning to full capacity!
The Hotel Loreto is a small hotel with a capacity of 30 people.  Like most of Cusco it has a strong history.  During Inca times it served as a dormitory of sorts for young female virgins and their chaperons.  The wall behind Skip is the original Inca wall. 
We checked into the hotel, made sure our bags got to the correct room and dashed out to the plaza to see what the excitement was about.....but quiet and serenity had been restored.  We would have to wait 24 hours before another demonstration appeared.
What we did find was a Double Decker open air tourist bus picking up passengers.  We paid our fare and found a seat on the top deck, suddenly we were on a impromptu tour of Cusco!

A delightful part of the architecture of Cusco is the variety of  balconies, a lot of them offered out door restaurant seating.
We found the people of Cusco dressed in jeans, business attire or in their traditional costumes.
As in any city  commerce must go on, so the young lady waits for buyers for her bread.
The weaver threads her spindle to spin the yarn for her loom.
The nuns leave the Cathedral  preparing for their next duty.
The Violinist warms up his instrument at the Folkloric Dance Performance.
 Cusco is a historically rich country.  When the Spanish conquistador's marched on Cusco in the 15t  century, all the temples and important buildings were covered in gold.  Almost all the gold and silver was striped and shipped via Panama to Spain.
Then began the Spaniards need to destroy all things Inca.  Temples were razed and Catholic Churches and Spanish Mansions put in their place.   
As a result all over Cusco you are able today to find Inca stonework and walls supporting the Spanish Architecture.
The Cusco of today is a proud new democracy and its youth seem happy to pass out as many free hugs as they can.