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Entries in HDR (52)


Peru Day 6 - Lake Titicaca

The little one saw me editing this and said "Seriously, we went to Peru between Christmas and New Years! and you are still not done with this?"

The short answer is yes. It takes time to go through a 1000 photos, select a few, edit them, post them etc. The good thing is I am disciplined enough to do it. The bad thing is that things like work, dentist appointments three days in a row, jet lag etc. come in the way. 

Day 5 post is here..

If Machupicchu was the first highlight of the Peru trip, Lake Titicaca was the second highlight. At 7000 feet above sea level, a navigable lake, with floating islands of reed and villages built with reed and a tribe that has been living like this for thousands of years!

We left early in the morning to reach the dock and went on a boat ride to the Uro villages. There were went on a reed boat ride, followed by demonstrations of how the islands are built, how the people live etc. They did not welcome visitors till recently and now they have solar power and their kids are going to school. Soon this way of life as we see it might be over. Technology is leveling everything! 

The reed villagers were very nice and hospitable. Their kids were adorable! 

There are lots of pictures that capture this experience. Here they are in a slideshow.

Then we had a long ride on the boat to Isla de Tequile, which is one of the larger islands in the middle of the lake. We started on one side of the island, went on a steep and long hike to the top to have a lunch to remember facing the lake.

This island was relatively empty except for our group. The locals were not around trying to sell us stuff like we were used to over the last 5 days. It was quiet, just us and the scenery.

Then it was another long hike to the other side of the island through the church and square. It was a hot day with perfect views. We got a few family portraits on the island..

Another slide show with views from Isla de Tequile and lake Titicaca


Finally we walked back to the boat. They have built a beautiful dock on one side with amazing views of the lake. We got to goof around there for a good 30 minutes before the return journey to Puno.

Puno has a nice plaza with lots of restaurants. We found one where the owner was nice and we got custom vegetarian food. 

A slideshow with only the HDR shots. If you go to Peru, do not miss this! Something you don't see everyday!

Our day 6 in video!

At this point our trip was pretty much done and we were packing our bags that night. We had to make our way from Puno to Juliaca airport the next morning, fly to Lima, spend 10 hours in the Lima airport and board shortly after the ball dropped in Times Square..

Little did we know that our plans were subject to change for day 7!

As promised to the little one, I will post day7 later tonight.. 


Peru Day4 - Machu Picchu

Peru Trip day 3 last stop post is here..

On day 4 we were asked again to get up at 4AM. We were to leave the hotel at 4:30AM on a 2 hour car ride to Ollantaytampo train station. Get a short restroom and breakfast break there and leave on a 7AM train to Aguas Caliente, the small town at the base of Machu Picchu. The train ride was almost 2 hours. 

So off we went. It was a scenic drive early in the morning with snow covered mountains for backdrops.

A slide show of pictures from the taxi and train rides..



Once we got into the train after that long drive, we settled in to enjoy more scenery along the way.

It was a Mystic experience, alright! To add to the mysticism, they kept serving coca tea to help with the altitude sickness. 

The train winds its way along the banks of the Urubabma river and the Andes mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop..

Eventually we started seeing terraces and Inca housing and we knew we were close. 

Once at Agua Calientes we were in for a rude shock. Everyone on the train made a mad dash to the bus station. We knew we were to take a bus to the top and meet our tourguide at the entrance to Machupicchu. San and the little one decided to take a "restroom break" in the train station before going on the bus. By the time they came out of the restroom, we were standing in the bus line somewhere in the next town. I was not in a talking mood at that point. It took 5 minutes at a minimum between buses and we were going to be in bus number 15 or so.. Then all of a sudden more buses showed up and after waiting for only 45 minutes, we were on our way up. 

A funny thing happened while we were in line with Jr. debating the merits of taking a break on the train as opposed to on the ground. She suddenly said "there is a guy asking for your name". We all said "seriously, there is a guy saying sundararaman ?" and after a few minutes we had a face palm moment when a guy actually was reading out my name. Turns out jr. was right. The tour guide was also late and he had not made his way up and was trying to find us at the base! Always listen to your kids and take them seriously, especially when they tell you things that sound ridiculous!

We made our way up on an interesting bus ride into the clouds! You can see it in the video below..

Once up there, it was a steep hike from the entrance. I was completely drenched in sweat by the time I made it up on that trek with my camera bag. It was worth it though. The view of Machupicchu just makes you take a deep breath and go "how the hell did they do this up here?" It is truly a wonder of the world!

For a few minutes on the hike I was thinking 'there is a reason this place is on the bucket list for a lot of folks.. but it would be better to put it on the end of the list.. one might hit the bucket just going on this hike!"

Kept clicking photos from every vantage point. Here are some of my favorites..

The rest are in the slide shows below..

We did get two family portraits thanks to our tour guide.. 

After that sweat drenching episode, things took a good turn and my body finally adjusted to the altitude and the hiking. Eventually I put on my new Alpaca sweater that had been purchased the previous day at Chinchero.. 

It started raining after we had spent close to two hours up there. We stood in line for the return bus again for a good 45 minutes and made it down to Aguas Calientes. There were a lot of restaurants on the bus stand but we did not find anything Vegetarian with good quality. Had to settle for some fries and some Mexican food that was too oily. The kids were not happy, but we had cookies, chips and other snacks to fill up and got some Gatorade to go. 

I ran in the rain to get this picture just before heading back to the train station. This small base camp of sorts was beautiful. 

Finally at the train station, we met a lot of our previous tour buddies from before and sat together and chatted for a good hour. Then we said our byes and made it back to Cusco via train and car. When we first boarded the train we were wondering why our tour operator had booked us in the expensive Inca Rail train intead of the cheaper Peru Rail. We found out why on the return. Apparently the government owned Peru rail is cheaper but not reliable. They cancelled the previous train and the train station was packed with folks from two trains scrambling to make it into one! After a 30 minute delay we were on our way back..

That night was going to be our last night in Cusco. So we found a real nice Andean food place, but this time the owner was standing outside the restaurant trying to get customers. He saw me and asked "you are looking for good vegetarian food?" and I said "yes!" and he says "we will custom make whatever you want. just come inside". It was called Ama Lur Restaurante and they made us really good food that we picked from the menu. He even gave us rice and Yogurt! Finally the kids came back to the hotel all happy. 

When we reached the hotel, we got one more piece of good news. We had to get ready only by 5:45 AM the next day instead of 4 something! We were going on a 12 hour bus ride with 5 or 6 stops... that will be the next post!


Peru Day 3 - Third stop - Chinchero

Previous post on this series is here..

When we left Ollantaytambo, it was already getting late. So it was a race with the sun to get to our next stop, Chinchero. Our guide told us that this was a relatively new excavation site where more things were unearthed every day!

We were treated to some really rural sites on the way throughout the journey..

Here is also a video of day 3 from the bus..


We were up in the mountains again and on the way we saw some scenery that was breathtaking. It was also getting chilly..

Finally we reached Chinchero. It was a beautiful place on a hill with another Church built on what was originally an Inca Sun temple. The church was beautiful (gold as far as the eye could see, paintings that would rival Renaissance art done by local artists) and so was the view from the sun temple.. 

There were little shops that were opened for our bus and folks were going about their daily lives of farming and closing out chores. This dog kept barking at us as we walked past it.. Did I mention that Peru has even more street dogs than we see in India?! stray dogs everywhere.. at least a dozen in every street corner!

The view of the street(s?) in Chinchero..

Every street has that drain in the middle.. very well done given the sudden rains! They have lasted hundred's of years!

The Church and Sun Temple.. 

The views from the edge of the hill into the Andes mountain range was spectacular.. My pictures don't capture them well enough.. 

We wrapped things up with a family portrait and were off to our last stop... a workers cooperative store of sorts that sold handicrafts, woolen things etc. . another engineered rest room stop from our tour operators to encourage shopping.. 

I did buy a nice Alpaca sweater at Chinchero to wear on the reminder of the trip just before heading out of the square.. 

Tomorrow.. the cooperative store..


Peru Day 3 - Second stop - Ollantaytambo

Previous post on the series is here..

Day 3 started with Sacred Valley and Pisaq and after the lunch at Tunupa restaurant, we went on to Ollantaytambo. It was a long drive and the scenery on the way was just amazing. There were little waterfalls everywhere from the mountain sides. The Andes are really beautiful. 

Once we stopped at Ollantaytambo, which literally means the place where Ollantay parked his ass, (rest stop apparently), our tourguide Jason, who was now practically family (we couldn't do diddly squat without him, so he was family.. he spoke English, Spanish and Qechua which is the local language and the name of the local people.. turns out the King is called Inca, the people are Qechua) guide our group yet again!

We finally figured out why half the group was not returning. Apparently the train station to Machu Picchu was at this place. So most folks simply avoided the 2+ hour return drive back to Cusco and continued on from here.. we had no idea or we would have opted for it!  

We went through some narrow streets which were beautiful and had a neat drainage system and folks were using this to cool drinks to sell to the tourists! 

 after we went through these "gallis" we were just awestruck by the view of the site! One minute you are looking into shops in narrow lanes and suddenly you are in a valley and you see a majestic terrace and settlement with temples on the hill tops including a giant face carved on the mountain!

Did I mention that by now we had a "group" and we knew some family histories? We met a couple from Mexico with a baby and the kids loved the baby! We met a Journalism major from Lima who was making a trip with his cancer survivor mom as a treat for surviving! We met a Kiwi student who decided to show up on her own in-spite of her new hubby being sick with altitude.. two ladies from Taiwan, three students from Lima.. an interesting bunch with us thrown in the mix!

The view of Ollantaytambo from the entrance..

This thing was huge and everything was made very bigly! We were told by Jason that we had exactly 40 minutes to hike to the top of the Sun Temple and back and he would come with us. A few folks including the little one came up halfway and said they were going to sit there.. I was disappointed and kept moving.. then at the next stop, she made my day! She walked it all alone! Given how much she was suffering from altitude sickness, it was big of her to climb! 

We got a "family picture" by giving the camera to Jason's assistant.. He didn't know how to zoom is my guess. You can tell that it is our family! 

Finally we made it up to the Sun Temple. This thing was biglier! Each stone which was part of this thing was 200 tons or so and was taking from an adjoining mountain! They rolled it down with wood and stone rollers and hoisted it up 1500 feet using stacking. Apparently done by a 1000 folks who were an average 4 1/2 feet tall. Just amazing! Wonder what it would have been like to watch these stones go up! There were three Jaguars, condors and snakes on them to represent the sky, earth and underground.. they are mostly chipped off by the invaders.. same sad story again! You can see the outlines of some of the animals on the walls.. 

Got some shots of the whole place.. Here they are!

It was difficult to hold the camera steady as there was a heavy wind. 

The building that looks like it has windows carved in is actually a granary. Apparently there are three mountains that meet in this area and the wind channels through the valleys and hits this mountain face all the time. So it has a natural air conditioning effect. So they put the granary there! 

Also they would keep their meat stored there as it would be dry and cool. They carved a large face to thank the person who taught them how to do all this. His name was Tunupa.. turns out the restaurant we visited earlier was named for him. 

Tunupa's face and granary, up close and personal!

 we got gorgeous views of the valley and the settlement below (which is modern.. the old settlement was on the plateau) with some farmers and out of towners living below..

and before you knew it, our 40 minutes was up and we were back to the shops again.. 

We were walking back towards the bus when San saw these cute kids dressed in local gear. She had that same look the kids have, when we go to buy fish food at the local Petco and they eye a puppy or kitten. It is a look that says "can I please bring that dog or cat home?!".. I was worried San was going to make a request like that with one of these kids!

So I did my usual, "okay... let me take some photos of these kids to make you happy!" and the minute I turn my camera on them, they all open their hands and go "uno sol!". Gave them what we had in my pockets and took a few shots! 

They did do a good job of posing still when requested! It was already dark in the alleyway and I had no flash. 

There was a fifth boy who came late to pose and we were moving on. He started crying.. so gave him a sol. His smile was priceless.. (okay, it was uno sol) but my camera was already off and everyone had moved on.. so that picture will stay in my head!

Off we moved to our next stop.. Chinchero!  


Peru - Day 3 - First stop - Sacred Valley, Pisaq

Peru Day 2 post link is here.. and Peru Day 1 post link is here..

Day 3 started again early for the kids. We went on a long bus ride with a few stops for "restroom breaks"! The restrooms were all paid ones with 1 Sol per person per use and they hand you two sheets of toilet paper as part of the service. No soaps or hand sanitizers in the restrooms, so recommend you grab your own. They were also reminding me of the duty free shops at airports. You have to walk through them to reach the gates. You had to walk through the shops selling local stuff before reaching the restroom. Same concept! Let's just say we bought some stuff! We also had fun trying stuff and taking pictures..

We then were told about the two cows (bulls?) on every rooftop.. Apparently they are for good luck and they have some symbolism which is Christian mixed with Inca.. the animals and rooster signify prosperity, the ladder for upward mobility and the cross is self explanatory.. 


 Finally after a few stops, we were on our way to the sacred valley. We rode along the Urubamba river which is the heart of the valley and everything else around the place. It starts in the high Andes between Cusco and Puno and eventually comes down the valley, goes into the amazon and ends in the Atlantic! Almost goes from Pacific to Atlantic. The river with many names was in full flow..The views were amazing!

Then we reached Pisaq after climing back up. We were getting glimpses of the terraces on the mountainsides which we knew were made by the Inca. The ones on the side looked eroded and not well preserved. We were in for a surprise after reaching the entrance to the site.

 This was again built in three levels across the mountain slope. Everything was stone walls, perfectly aligned stone walls and tatch roofing, nicely designed for water flow. Not as advanced as what was going on in other parts of the world at the same time, but given these guys were isolated in harsh conditions, what they built was amazing! Here are some pictures.. 

They found some gold in one of the holes on the mountainside and realized they were tombs. They dug out everything and found a lot of mummies. However it was apparently beginners luck and the first mummy was that of the important person and the rest were common folk. Now we have a mountainside riddled with desecrated remains! This also reminded us of the same thing on Cook point in Hawaii! 

Kept thinking of Ozymandias!

We got nice views from the top of the settlement as well as on the way out.. 

By the time we were done with this place it was early afternoon. We were on our way to the next stop, which was Ollantaytampo.. we had no idea what it was about, other than it had an interesting name and a lot of the folks on our bus were going to get down there and not coming back to Cusco.. 

The entire bus got off at a restaurant for lunch enroute as they had a different "coupon". For everything you hand over coupons given from your tour company. We had a special coupon for "vegetarian food" at a restaurant 10 minutes away called Tunupa. We were dropped off separately. The driver said "you get 40 minutes to eat. I go get the rest of the group and pick you up on way". 

So we rushed into the restaurant and were not disappointed. They had enough veggie options including bread and Chole (Peruvian version!). It was delicious. We finished lunch in 20 minutes. The back of the restaurant had steps that led to the Urubamba river. It was gorgeous. We got to pet some Llamas and Alpacas in the lawns and this kid was selling us stuff under her mom's watchful eyes. Apparently it was school holidays so this was part time for the kid!

We got one family picture with the river in the background, a few more shots at the entrance to the restaurant and were reunited with our "group".

We had bonded with some of the folks in the group over the previous days and by now we were talking in a mix of English and Spanish. 

Then we drove on to Ollantaytambo!