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Entries in Peru (10)


Peru Day 7 - Puno to Lima and back home

This is almost the last post on the Peru trip. Just realized that there is a folder full of Panorama shots on the iPhone. 

Day 6 post is here..

Day 7 was the last day. We started at Puno in the morning and drove to Juliaca airport. We almost missed the flight out to Puno. The bus driver stopped at every street corner and waited to pick up passengers, not all of them going to the airport.

We were cutting it very close and a lot of airport folks said "please get us to the airport". This person was tryig to make a few extra bucks picking up people en route to drop but it could have cost us a lot more if we missed the flight. There were not that many flights out of Juliaca!

Finally after some anxious moments we made it through a traffic jam to the small airport and made it to Lima. It was almost 3PM in Lima. Our original plan was to stay in the airport till our 1AM flight back to US.

We were sitting at the starbucks in Lima airport talking to a girl and her mom who were on their way to India for a two week sightseeing tour, giving them tips when we realized we had time.

We called our tour agent and said "please get us a driver to take us around some local sights in Lima and drop us back at the airport at 9 PM or so". He quickly arranged a 4 hour block and guess what? we got the same driver who had picked us up 6 days ago when we started the tour. He was a really nice guy and we talked about his family and life history while we talked about ours.

He also volunteered to take pictures of us. We had four hours. So we decided to spend 2 hours in Miraflores, the waterfront recreation area in Lima. It was beautiful! Nice breeze, sunset, lots of people out there on new years eve coming to celebrate.

We walked and rambled on top of large stones to go into the edge of this walkway of sorts and got some great family photos!

We had to take one picture with what a Beligian couple told was "sexy llamas" the previous day in Isla de Tequile. I took a photo of them on their camera and they were doing this with their fingers. 

We stopped outside one of Lima's top rated restaurants for a few photos. Then we were on the other side of the road as we made it into Lima for the last stop. Dinner at an Indian restaurant to close out the new year. 

As we watched the sunset over the large statues of a man and a woman in various kissing holds and the bustling night life around the statues, we realized that the trip was coming to a close and this had been a lot of fun!

Dinner at Mantra was a quiet affair. There was Shah Rukh Khan hamming his way through some song and dance sequences on a big screen and an international crowd that had come in to celebrate New Year. We had a quick dinner as our driver was waiting outside and wanted to get home to his family by 9:30. 

Then he dropped us off at 9 and we were back in the airport. Lima airport is small and it has one VIP lounge. Usually they let only one guest in with my United pass, but given it was New Year's eve, they let the entire family in. We had a decent Wifi connection and an unlimited supply of orange juice and chex mix! 

So the family settled in for the next 3 hours till boarding time. Then we watched the ball drop in NYC on the big screen with spanish commentary and all the agents in the gate area did a little walk for us and we thanked them all for their service.

Next thing you know, 2017 started with a 1AM flight. 

Day 7 in video..

I am glad that Sangeetha pretty much forced me to agree to this trip. Had wanted to laze around and recharge at home during the break, but the wife and kids gave me an ultimatum. We are going somewhere!

It was a lot of fun and I did get to recharge with all the activity. This year, I am not going to fight it and instead join in the plans.

There are a lot more places to see in Peru and package tours within package tours. We might go back again in a few years to see the Nasca lines, the jungle tours and see more excavated sites in the high mountains.


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 Day 5 - Cusco to Puno by bus

Finally after another fortnight, managed to get back to the photos and videos from the Peru trip! Family thinks it will be December by the time I get to Day 6 and the last day of the trip to this blog.. 

It has been a busy two weeks with work, yoga and things happening at home, thanks to some really heavy rain. 

The previous post on the series is here..

This time we start with the family portraits.. we got two on a 12 hour day. The first one was taken at the Raqchi ruins and the second one at Raya Pass.

Day 5 started okay. No waking up early for the kids. We had a taxi waiting to take us to the bus stop and once there we waited for everyone to load their suitcases into the bus. After a 30 minute wait we were off to Puno from Cusco. 

We had a nice driver, a tour guide and a lady who was serving coca tea and coke pepsi to the folks at regular intervals. The ride was 11+ hours at least, with 6 stops every hour and 15 minutes to hour and a half. That made the ladies very happy!

Our first stop was an amazing church built in the 1600's. There was no photography allowed inside. It is the most beautiful Church I have seen to date. Maybe the sistine chapel will top this when I get to see it someday. 

Every wall, every piece of the ceiling was covered with amazing art work. There were strategically placed mirrros everywhere that took sunlight from openings high up and reflected them everywhere to create a disco light effect. Locals who visited it for the first time probably just kneeled down and bowed their heads to this magnificence. I sure did!

We also saw the amazing scenery around the church and watched the dozen or so stray dogs outside for a good 15 minutes while waiting for everyone to come back to the bus and we saw a "Bajaj Auto". I was telling the kids "that is an Indian Auto". They agreed it was an auto but did not think it was a Bajaj.. 

Then we moved on to another place with a small museum of sorts that showed the history of the region between Cusco and Puno over time. This place had some mummies of royalty who used to compress their skulls and they had elongated skulls! I thought this was a hoax. Apparently it was very much in vogue 600 years ago.. 

 The first skull had a line across it.. the second one didnt. There were lot of photographs of other mummies that showed same thing. 

Like the display of the 100's of potato varieties in a previous museum, this one had corn varieties that grow in Peru. It was impressive. 

Then there was the usual jewelry and how they make it with natural materials show.. we got used to this one after three of these show rooms. 

The next stop after this was a rope bridge in another ancient city. The wife and kids decided to stay in the bus. I walked over the bridge and got some shots with a Japanese family while the rest of the bus visited the biggest attraction after a 90 minute ride.. aka restroom at Checacupe!

Apparently this was fixed after the original bridge collapsed. Still it was a neat experience. They are still excavating the place to find more ruins..

After this we went to the ruins at Raqchi. It was made of mud bricks and stone. This time they had figured out how to make the mud bricks stronger by mixing human and animal hair and feathers into the brick. The Incas had figured out "composite materials" by trial and error and perfected it enough to have a mud brick structure that was 50 feet tall stand for 600 years! 

There are more photos of Raqchi in the galleries..While coming out of the place saw this flower. We used to have a lot of flowers in our house. Thanks to the construction work, we have lost most of them. Watching a single plant with a flower when there was rocks and ruins everywhere made me smile!

We wandered around the shops outside the little museum and bought some local jewelry. 

It was back on the bus to our next stop.. Lunch! It was a beautiful drive with farm lands, grazing alpacas, waterfalls.. just frame after frame of beauty!

After lunch we were told to take a nap. It was going to be some serious driving along mountain passes and we would stop at the highest pass... we saw some wild alpaca, llamas and vicune on the way..

and we were there! 

and the locals had set up shops ready for the buses! They added color to the scenery..

Didn't even have to edit these photos. Most of them are just cropped. Next to Manali, this is the one place that makes me think beyond god!

We were given 20 minutes at Raya pass to take pictures. Then we were off to Pukara, which was the last stop. 

This place had a civilization before the Incas in 400 BC based on the finds. It was interesting to see three layers of excavations. There was an amazing church here as well but it was closed for visitors. There was some big peacock like native birds which were far away on a window making loud calls (got it on video). 

The tour guide gave us an elaborate explanation of what was going on in Peru with all the excavations, how they are now open to tourists etc. etc.. In short it was a "Make Peru Great Again" speech. 

We saw the museum, the ruins and finally made our way to Puno. We went through another big city 30 minutes before Puno called Juliaca, where the local airport was. I finally proved to the family that the autos were indeed Bajaj autos. We saw a few hundred of them on the roads there! 

It was late in the evening when we made it to our hotel. We had a couple of hours to explore the town square.

Then it was time for a good rest before we had to get ready at 6:30 for another interesting day.. 

Day 6 was going to be Lake Titicaca and a visit to the Isla de Tequile.


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 - Fourth stop - cooperative store

Previous post on this series is here ...

There was one photo of Urubamba river that I missed in previous posts.. so here it is! We did not go back through the same route we came. It was more like a loop from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to Chinchero and back to Cucso!

The last stop on day 3 was a workers co-operative of sorts where a group of ladies do wool products, arts and crafts that are ethnic and sell it to tourists. As an added service they provide free restrooms in an otherwise desolate place.. it is a win win.

They also tried to make it interesting for the adults and kids by having a few stalls.. the first one was a display of a jillion potato varieties. Did you know that my favorite vegetable came from Peru?! For that alone, I owe these people. If someone gave me an award just for living this long and I had to give a speech, it would start with Peru for potato and move on to the folks who came up with Noodles  and that would be it.. if they gave me a three minute time limit that is..

My mouth is suddenly watering for things like sambar and soan papdi because of my recent sickness, not that I can taste a thing.. where were we? Potato! 

 Then there was an Alpaca pen.. the kids got to feed the Alpaca's

San got to pet them..

then we got to see this lady carrying a baby on her back and keep weaving the wool..

That was one incredibly cute baby..

 Then we had a demonstration of how the wool was sheared, cleaned using a local root, colored using different natural colors.. (she pulled a parasite from a cactus leaf, crushed it and used its blood as the red coloring.. that was bizzare)! 

She made some jokes about how it is too late for me to use that root to get strong hair as I have lost it already. At least that is the one thing that the kids remember from that whole stop! Showed this picture to the little one and asked "rememeber her?" and she goes "she made that joke about your hair.. ha ha!"

After the demo and some shopping we came back to Cusco. It was our second night in Cusco. The first night dinner was a disaster. We asked our guide to just drop us off at the Plaza de Arma and he obliged. We found an "Italian restaurant" and asked for Vegetarian items. There was a Nepolitano (cheese) pizza and Spagheti with tomato sauce (not marinara.. just tomato). We got that and ate what we could and crashed. It was better than the previous night, but we felt something was missing. 

The little one was pale and she barely managed to eat anything. The altitude sickness somehow hit us hard from 7 to 9PM.. we went back to the hotel room and crashed.

The next day was going to be interesting.. the most interesting.. Machu Pichhu was beconing..