We spent much of September in Peru travelling on an aggressive schedule. The update was not quite up to date through the month for all of the usual excuses plus altitude sickness and a tight travel schedule with little downtime. Iffy wi-fi connections were made worse by when we had downtime most other guests did too.
I used a laptop I replaced a few years ago. We brought it along because it would be less of a loss if stolen than our Surface Pro 4. Every time I used it I was reminded why we upgraded. It has excellent battery life because the Atom processor is not working very hard. Other than that its challenges are legion. Like it stayed way too late at the Legion and is now just kinda waking up and trying to figure out where it is.
Most of the preparations for the Peru trip happened months ago with Juanita spending hours on line doing research, presenting choices and making arrangements. She was packed a week before we left. I was mostly packed few days before departure which is a new record for me.
We puttered around the property and particularly the fifth wheel trailer.
When we get back from Peru the weather could be nasty so we wanted to get as much done as possible and to close up the trailer slides before they got snowed on. The particularly dire thing with the early snows is that the temperatures usually warm up and melt the snow and then freeze and you get a build-up of ice making it challenging to retract the slides.
So that got done and some greasing and pumping up tires and on and on. Found a broken wire on a tank sensor and fixed that. While greasing the suspension I discovered that the people who replaced the spring on the axle ty-rapped the power line to the electrical brakes to the square tube that synchronizes the gears on one of the slides. That tube revolves about ten times each time that slide goes in or out. It had been strapped for about twenty operations but loosely enough that it was still intact electrically, but that wouldn’t have stayed okay for long and suddenly there would have been no brakes. It’s better now.
Labour Day weekend we went to Edmonton to celebrate Ansel’s third birthday. Monday morning everybody went to an indoor playground. Except Sonja and I went to Chapters bookstore. It wasn’t opened yet so she treated to a tea and a scone at the attached Starbucks. Delightful time. When the Chapters opened we looked at some books together. I bought a hard copy of Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” and took it out to the car and started re-reading it. Sonja browsed until the texts from her mom and grandmother began arriving and we went home Becky’s. Then all the Saskatchewanians drove back to Meadow Lake.
Did the annual cleaning of wood stove chimney and smoke pipe cleaning. Probably wouldn’t want to do that in October.
The next weekend we celebrated Deborah’s 40th birthday on Saturday. On Sunday we drove to Edmonton and visited with Rebekah and the kids. Nick is working on a shutdown at CNRL north of Fort McMurray.
Then we checked into a hotel near the airport which has a shuttle and long term parking for our car while we are travelling.
The electrical power in Peru is 220 Volts 60 Hertz compared to 120 Volts 60 Hertz in Canada and the United States. The electrical outlets have round pins slightly further apart than the flat prongs on North American plugs. Most electronic devices can accept either voltage if you could find a way to plug them in. Adaptors are available. In addition, some clever people came up with an outlet design that accepts either flat prongs or round prongs. They are common in hotels in Peru.
Like many things that serve two purposes they do neither particularly well. The tolerances are sloppy enough that most of the dual-purpose outlets we encountered in our travels barely gripped the prongs whether they were round or flat. This meant the outlets had a tendency to flash violently when the plug inserted (220 Volts gives a juicier spark than 120 Volts). A while later the plug falls out of the outlet.
I make a lot of references to curved illusion tracts. They are available from www.livingwaters.com and are explained here.
Day 1 - Monday, September 10
Edmonton, AB to Houston, TX to Lima, Peru
We stayed near the airport, paying for parking behind the hotel until our return. Juanita went to bed at a sensible hour. I stayed up late trying to get the nasty little laptop up to date and eliminate files causing it to run soooo slowwwly.
We had a comfortable huge bed and I slept well but not nearly long enough. We were up at five, on shuttle at 6. I had checked in before leaving home and we travel with carry-on luggage only so we skipped the airline counter. The interview at US Customs and Immigration went smoothly. I said we were in transit to Peru and she asked about the usual stuff. I got a smile when I said we were carrying well under ten thousand dollars.
The flight take-off was delayed by the flight crew arriving late last night and needing rest time. Much of time was made up in the air. We boarded with “those needing assistance”. First time in my life I’ve played that card, but it came in handy. Was able to hobble at own pace and not slow down anybody behind us. Were able to get carry-ons stowed. They had been asking for volunteers. They got some takers but not enough. A couple of passenger’s carry-on bags had to be checked after the plane was loaded and there was no place for them.
The layover in Houston went well. Time passed so quickly I was almost late getting back to the gate with my food and had to shovel it in while Juanita rushed to the washroom. Played helpless card again and I had time to use the onboard loo while rest of plane was boarding. Leg has improved a lot over the summer, but I am looking forward to the “all healed in six months” the doctor predicted. Only a couple of months to go. Rather not have to walk slowly than to have advantage of pre-board.
767 aircraft. Lots of room. Free movies. I watched 3. Juanita watched 1. Maybe later I’ll fill which ones. Racing against clock now to get as much stuff on web site as possible in narrow window.
We arrived in Lima and went through long line-ups to get passports stamped. Went out and hooked up with the pre-arranged shuttle to the hotel.
Lima looked uninspiring at night.
Hotel check-in went okay. Paid key deposit and bought large bottle of water. Confirmed taxi pick-up for morning and went to bed. About 1:30 tomorrow.
Day 3 - Tuesday, Sptember 11
Lima to Cusco
We were up early after probably about three hours sleep. The continental breakfast included was some kind of juice, strong coffee and almost sweet rolls. I take a bite of a roll and drink my coffee.
Our taxi arrives and off we go to the airport through the morning rush hour traffic. We line up and check-in and get our boarding passes. There was no printer available at the hotel. You can’t complete Avianca’s online check-in unless you can do the “now print boarding passes” step.
At least for Paul. I ordered an omelette and a juice. Juanita had had more to eat at the hotel and is more sensitive to the right side of the airport food priced menu. I managed to convince her to order a coffee Americano then pressed her to finish drinking the vile nectar so we could head to the gate. Hope I don’t run-up an emotional overdraft with some of the withdrawals I’m making.
The plane (737) took a long time past official boarding time to load. It’s hard to load an airplane when it hasn’t arrived and the passengers and previous crew are still to be unloaded. But load it did with the helpless person and his long suffering companion early in the process. It is a quick flight to Cusco and the cabin crew barely have time to hand out drinks and collect trash before we come in for a bumpy approach to an airport in a deep valley.
On the way through the airport we passed a booth that said it could print out boarding passes for the train trip to Machu Picchu. Boarding passes? We have tickets. Isn’t that enough?
Out we went to a waiting person with Juanita’s and a few other names on a sign. She tells us to wait a minute. I wandered away to hand out a number of curved illusion tracts. Juanita comes to find me and bring me back. The minute we were waiting for was not for the other names. It was for the sign person to summon our individual cab. The bags are already in the trunk. Madam can’t you control your child? Apparently not.
Off we go to the hotel and check in. I am trashed with altitude and with lack of sleep and lay down for a nap. Juanita goes out and buys some water and bananas around the corner.
Before dark we go down the hill two blocks to a main street and try to buy glucosamine. It is not available in pill anywhere we tried. One pharmacy offered some arthritis pain killers. Later I looked those up on line. Lots of side effects. You’d have to be in big time pain to take those. I just want to keep taking a preventative. Should have packed some but I don’t like taking loose pills across borders and I buy them in enormous bottles.
Another pharmacy had some packets of powder for the price of a local cab fare. I buy one packet.
We go into a roast chicken place and buy and eat a quarter chicken combo each for a reasonable price.
We climb two blocks up the steep hill to the hotel. I have to stop four or five times. I hang onto a lamp post for a few minutes at one intersection. It reminds me of a buddy story of a co-worker who stole some ¼” copper tubing by wrapping it around his chest under his clothes. He ended up hanging on to a signpost trying not to pass out one block uphill from the paper mill gate.
We go to bed to sleep very poorly and intermittently with strange dreams.
Day 4 - Wednesday, September 12
I stop trying to sleep early and just lay there. Juanita got up and went for breakfast. I got feet on deck and eventually got my act together and showered and got dressed. Head ache and pain all over, like the kind of killer hangover that I started to get just before I decided I was doing things all wrong and accepted Jesus. That led to stopping drinking alcohol except for the occasional toast to the bride and the rare communion that serves real wine. No hangovers for forty-four years but this morning was an unpleasant reminder. Ghost of mornings past.
Eventually I had breakfast as well and we headed out to find a cab to take us to Tambomachay and Sacsayhuaman. As we got to the door of the hotel the driver from yesterday’s airport taxi was just leaving. We negotiated a price to the ruins and back with him waiting for us then to drop us at the Plaza de Armas at the end. He handed us off to another driver parked across the street and off we went.
On the way to the ruins he took us to a cooperative where we could feed the different kinds of local quadrupeds – alpacas, vicuna, llamas and, of course, a souvenir shop where we could buy things made from their wool and hides.
At the ruins we each set our own paces. Juanita pushed on ahead up hill. I stopped to take frequent pictures and check out the comfort level of most of the benches on the slope. I made it to the top walking the last hundred feet with Juanita who came back to meet me. At the second set of ruins I stayed on the lower, level section and beat off the offers of guide services. She went to the top.
We came back to town and went to buy bus tickets up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. Then the driver dropped us off at the hotel. After unloading off some fuzzy treasures we got a cab to the Plaza de Armas. We walked down the street checking out displayed menus until we picked a place and had lunch.
At lunch a family came in while we were eating. The three kids were all around eight to ten years old more or less. They each ordered these rich looking cubes of pastry and icing. Not one of the kids finished her portion. One left well over half. That never would have happened in the family I was raised. The chances were low that any one of us did not clean our plate in the first place. If it had happened in a restaurant my father would have played the you-ordered-it-I-paid-good money-for-it-you-eat-it card. If at home my mother would have asked if we didn’t like it in a hurt voice. That family leaving stuff uneaten was skinny. Every one of them. I sense a pattern.
We went to the Peru Rail station and determined that boarding passes would not be needed for tomorrow. Then back to the Plaza de Armas for sight-seeing and then a cab home.
I crashed. Juanita went out later and bought chicken and brought it home.
I slept fine for a few hours and then wide awake. Just as well. The dreams I was having were garbage. Apparently it goes with adapting to high altitude.
Day 4 - Thursday, September 13
Cusco to Aguas Calientes
Set alarm for an hour and a half before pickup by taxi for train. Woke up with only like a moderately bad hang over. Things are improving. Woke Juanita at the forty-five minute mark. I took every minute I had to get ready. Even so, feeling and moving better than yesterday.
The prearranged ride to the train took about thirty minutes. On the way I arranged with the cabby for us to be picked up at the train station when we come back tomorrow. He takes a picture of our train ticket for tomorrow so he has the details.
The train leaves on time. The narrow gauge railway is too rocky for writing unless one has foolproof way to remove vomit from a keyboard so I sit back and enjoy the view and visit with the couple across the table from us. They are newlyweds from London, England on their honeymoon. She announces that he wanted to honeymoon at the beach and she wanted to go trekking. So here they are trekking. She snuggled into her blanket and rode most of the trip with her eyes closed if not sleeping. We visited a fair bit with him.
It was a pleasant train ride through farmland and towns and mountains. About halfway to Aguas Calientes we stopped for a few more passengers at another town in the Sacred Valley. We had looked at booking a side trip there, but settled for a light schedule in deference to altitude adjustment. Maybe next time. Everyone says it is interesting.
In the mountains we saw the start of the Inca trail, a suspension bridge across a river. It is the four day hike manner of getting to Machu Picchu. I think it is limited to two hundred people a day. You won’t find me elbowing anybody out of the way to get one of those spots. I watched a YouTube video. That was a pleasantly vicarious way to experience the mud and rain and to see images of ruins along the way that I’ll never get to.
We saw Sky Lodge on a cliff high above the railway. Links here and here. It is a collection of transparent bubbles attached to the cliff. The videos I watched show guests rappelling down to their unit. A pretty repellent idea if you ask me, but nobody did. I wouldn’t mind looking out and seeing condors flying by, but have no desire to look down through my transparent bedroom floor to the valley floor hundreds of feet below. Nope. Nope. Nope.
The train arrived at Aguas Calientes. We were met at the station by the owner of the hotel. The honeymooning couple from London across from us on the train ride ended up at same hotel. On our way to the hotel he joked that we were going to be all together in a four bed dorm. No. But we were next door. They are doing Mach Picchu tomorrow.
There is more on today below after the section on Machu Picchu.
We checked in. In the room we pared down our stuff to carry and left the excess in the room. The hotel owner walked us across the river and down the hill where we joined a block-long line of people waiting to get on the buses. A bus drops people across the street, does a three point turn further up the hill and comes back down to the front of the line of waiting people. A bus line person came along and checked that everybody in line had a ticket, stamping the tickets as she went. At the rate the buses were filling we figured we had over half an hour wait, but it was only about twenty minutes.
At the bus there was a person scanning tickets which gave an instant count down of remaining seats. A larger group got held back. Juanita and I got on and one couple behind us. We got to sit together on the back row of five seats. The other couple got split up and she sat next to me in the middle seat of the back row with the empty aisle in front of her. At one of the switchbacks on the steep road up the mountain we came face to face with a downhill bus. Both buses stopped in time but she grabbed the backs of the seats in front of us and cried out. That gave an in to start talking and we learned we were both Canadian. They were from near Toronto.
On the way to the bus stop the hotelier asked if we would be interested in a personal guide. I said “Maybe. Depending on the cost.” He said it would be fifty US dollars for the both of us and called his friend to see if he was available. He was, but wanted forty dollars each. No. Thanks anyway. The hotelier went back to the hotel and we stayed in line for the bus.
I certainly didn’t want to go in a group and be dragged along faster than I wanted or hold anybody up but had felt that a personal guide would be okay. It wasn’t worth that much to me, however. The site was “discovered” in 1911 or so after hundreds of years with nobody knowing about it. So they cut away the jungle to see what was there and started explaining to each other what everything was for until TPTB arrived at a common explanation for most of the stuff. Some of it is too obscure and nobody is willing to bluff with a described purpose. Who knows if the agreed upon stuff is accurate, but at least it sounds educational.
At the top we got off the bus and joined the line to the gate with all the other people.
There were also long lines for the bathrooms as well since there are no washrooms once past the control point. We decided that we were okay without the bathroom lines so we got at the end of the line for the gate into Mach Picchu. A guide approached us and said he had another couple and would go really slowly and only twenty dollars each. It was the couple from Toronto. I said sure.
In hardly any time at all (eye roll) we got to the check point, had our passports examined and tickets scanned and the four Canucks assembled in a wide spot and tried to spot our guide who was standard Peruvian height in a sea of North Americans and Europeans. He appeared from out of the crush and said he had made a deal with another guide who would take us through in a group of eleven (seven additional people) for only so many Soles each and they would go “really slow”. I didn’t pay attention to the price point. It didn’t matter. All four of us said, “No. Sorry. Bye.” And joined the stream of people to the ruins. At first the line was all together, but soon there are wide spots where people stop to take pictures and guides stop with their groups to tell their stories. There start to be some choices of which paths to take to explore this full blown Inca city. The crowds thin out as you go deeper and it is easy to travel at your own pace. It may still be a problem getting a desired picture without some other visitors arm, head or selfie-stick in the frame.
From an e-mail home:
“We and a couple of thousand others wandered up and down uneven stone staircases today. Can’t speak for anybody else but Juanita and I enjoyed it.
Legs and knees worked fine.”
There were alpacas and lamas wandering around the site. A bunch of us were watching a visitor getting close to one. Then he fed it a banana peel. A global “oh” spontaneously erupted from the obviously disapproving spectators. There were a few mutters.
When we had seen all we wanted to see we headed to the exit and got in line for a bus. On the way down on the bus we passed a number of people walking to save money. It is said to take an hour. Our honey mooning seat mates from the train are planning to walk up in the morning. Their tour guide told them to allow an hour and a half to walk up and an hour to walk down.
Back at the town we wandered around and stopped for some tea and a smoothie before going back to the room. The table across from us ordered an interesting drink. I asked the young woman. She said it is called a chicha morada, a smoothie made from purple corn and pineapple.
Back at the hotel we arranged for a late check-out. Our train leaves around three in the afternoon and standard checkout time is nine in the morning. I also asked where to buy a battery pack. He asked the lady standing there and she said she had some in her shop downstairs. She came back with a couple of samples and I bought one.
We went for a walk and ended up at a restaurant overlooking the river. Well, looking out at the tarp hung along the edge of the walkway while they are doing work on the river. It was dark anyway.
We both ordered grilled alpaca with chicha morada to drink. The alpaca was fine. We couldn’t really tell the difference from tender beef cooked the same way. Maybe it was beef, but both seem equally priced. I remember some travel article from years ago about dining in Hong Kong. It said not to worry about being served dog in place of beef. Dog commanded a premium price and would never be substituted for beef. The chicha morado was okay if nothing to rave about. Maybe the other place did a better job. It looked a little different. Maybe the Chilean lady at the other restaurant has different tastes. She had also encouraged us to try the loma saltado saying it was a wonderful way to eat alpaca. Any restaurants I have checked since say it is a beef dish.
Day 5 - Friday, September 14
Aguas Calientes to Cusco
Woke up feeling like normal after eight hours sleep. I usually sleep out at the six hour mark. Juanita at eight. Last night she slept ten. While she is adapting to the altitude better than I adaptation still takes time.
While sleeping the blood oxygen levels may drop too low which wakes you. You breathe a bit and get comfortable again and with mixed success go back to sleep. She wakes up fewer times and goes back to sleep quicker. Probably because she is not fat like me. I’ll deal with that when we get home. Might be easier to fatten her up than for me to lose weight, but probably healthier for me to lose weight. Decisions. Kept my weight level all summer but no losses. Here the carbs are just about the only thing easily available so that doesn’t help.
I had planned a peaceful morning writing and updating web site. Spent it in digital heck instead.
This laptop has limited space on its digital “hard drive” but it has a micro SD card in a dedicated slot as extra memory. It doesn’t quite access it the same as a hard drive, but it works fine once you get used to how it works. In the hotel in Edmonton I freed up space on the hard drive by moving about ten gigs of pictures to the SD card. It means that you can’t scroll through them with a photo editor app. It also meant the laptop works a lot faster with 12 gigs free space compared to less than 2.
I took the micro SD card from Juanita’s camera and put it in the laptop slot. The laptop spent forever looking for the SD card and then said the laptop was disabled and had gone off to repair itself and then there were a lot of other time consuming bizarre problems. I never did succeed in accessing the data on the card. Putting back the original SD card the laptop acted like it was happy to see me.
I went down stairs to the battery pack shop and bought an SD to USB adaptor and put the camera card in it. It didn’t work in the available USB slot. I pulled the mouse plug out of its USB slot and tried the SD card adaptor. Success! Then forever to upload the pictures to the web page over a flaky Wi-Fi connection and using a touchy touch screen to direct the process. Mouse adaptor doesn’t like the second USB slot either and the track pad doesn’t work in many applications including the web site development app I use.
Then came time to transfer pictures from my iPod. The computer knows the iPod is there. The iPod asks if it should trust the computer. Then a box pops up on the laptop screen asking what I want to do with the iPod and then disappears and the laptop is frozen. None of the ways I tried sneaking up on that worked for me. I chose the best of the best pictures and e-mailed them from the iPod to myself and opened them and saved them to disk.
It was a pleasant morning. It was a frustrating morning. Nice room. Great food. Nice view. Pleasant pedestrian traffic in the street below the room. A lot of time wasted in overcoming technology and very little time writing and actually getting stuff onto the web site.
Last night the hotel owner had asked us when and where we wanted breakfast. We decided on a time and in our room. Breakfast arrived on time on a cart delivered to our room. There was an abundance of food which we quickly consumed.
I bought a power plug adaptor from downstairs and continued on writing and doing digital battles. Juanita went exploring while I “wrote”. I had arranged a late checkout of noon with plans for lunch on the way to the train station.
I arranged an even later checkout of two p.m. Juanita went out to buy lunch. It was delicious. Large puff pastry buns with ham and cheese inside. One each. Don’t know how Juanita managed to get herself around hers. I was happy and full.
When we did check out of the hotel we went to a spot that Juanita discovered so I could admire it too and take pictures as well. On our walk I tried to buy AA cells for Juanita’s camera, but no success. Most places just had AAA cells.
We went to the train station. Ours was the third of three trains being boarded in under an hour. The first two had four to six coaches. Their passengers went through doors to the platform according to the letter of their coach. A through D and A through F.
When the time approached for our train to board the room filled up with people. The letter signs at our end of the departure hall were “G” and ”H”. That meant our door must be at the far end of the hall. The only way to get to our door was to push our way across all the lines of people. We got to door “A” just as the last of the people for coach A were exiting the hall and we joined them. Once all the A coach people had exited, they opened the door for the B coach people to follow us around the end of the train to the other side of the train and so on. They scanned our tickets and checked our passport names against the tickets as we boarded.
I managed to briefly chat with the honeymooning couple from London. He said they took the bus up and down Machu Picchu. She was too sick to hike. She looked pale and a bit ghastly. Wonder how the beach vs. trekking choice will shake out in their long term narrative.
We sat across the table from a couple from Houston. This was his first vacation since starting a concrete pumping business two years ago. We shared a few stories. We had a very pleasant train trip mostly in the dark.
At the train station we looked for somebody with a placard with my name on it. Nobody. There was a cabby with a placard for somebody who was a no show. He quoted me a price. I said “too much” and countered with a price ten soles lower. He agreed. We left. On the way to the city he called a few people. He claimed that Alejandro had forgotten about picking us up. He had back calculated that by knowing the name of our hotel and phoning around.
On the long drive back to the city the driver insisted on the original rate he quoted. I was still having visions of him taking us somewhere dark and dangerous, but wasn’t going to accept the price change quietly. I said he had agreed to the lower value. He said that was to the Plaza de Armas. I said it was only five soles from the plaza to the hotel. We settled on that amount. Amazing how much a buck fifty can affect my mood. Grumpy old so and so.
Back home we packed for tomorrow. Juanita went to bed. I stayed up. There is one working plug for computer or the electric heater. I froze half to death uploading pictures to the web site and went to bed and shivered for the first hour or so.
Day 6 - Saturday, September 15
Cusco to Puno
We got up early and got ready to leave. I managed a bit of posting to the web site and fixed the broken link to this page on the home page. After many unsuccessful attempts to edit it I just wrote a new line, linked that and nuked the old line.
Last night when we got back it was too late to buy bottled water in the neighbourhood so the night clerk gave me a pitcher of tap water that had been boiled then cooled. Vile tasting, but safe. I went to the kitchen early to return the empty pitcher and that got us into breakfast early. We ate.
I got the change from when we checked in. They didn’t have change at the time. The desk clerk found the amount folded in a piece of paper in a drawer at the reception desk. He called us a cab which arrived close to the appointed time. Only four or five minutes late. Pretty good for here.
The bus has an upper deck and a lower deck. The lower deck has five rows of two plus one seating. The seats are like business class airplane seats. They fully recline and have swing down leg rests and tables that fit into brackets in the armrests. There is a blanket and a pillow at each seat. The door onto the bus is at mid-ships. Entering onto the bus you are at a landing. From the landing you can turn left into the door to the lower deck, go straight into the door to the lower bathroom or go up the stairs to the upper deck. The upper deck has two by two seating in economy class style seating with economy class spacing between them.
The seats may be first class but the restroom is third class. The metal cover for the giant roll of toilet paper is swinging free. One has to be careful not to impale the side of one’s head on the cover’s lock bracket when sitting on the toilet. There is an airplane style sink. Sunk into the face of the cabinet below the sink is a stainless steel conical recess. I take it to be a hand drier. Nope. It is a urinal. I wash my hands a second time.
The bus ride is a comfortable six and a half hours with a ham bun and juice for lunch near the midway mark. I read parts of the New Atkins book, slept a bit and listened to podcasts. The couple in the seats in front of us are from Montreal. While we were standing next to the bus waiting for luggage at the end of the trip I gave her a curved illusion tract in English. At the station I negotiated the cab fare with a taxista and we went and booked into our hotel.
We walked downtown. Downhill is easy. We ate at one of the first restaurants we found on the pedestrian mall starting kitty corner from the Plaza de Armas. Juanita had trout and I had guinea pig. It tasted closer to rabbit then chicken. The breaded outer layer was tough and crunchy. There are apparently several way to prepare guinea pig. The others might be better but I’m fine with stopping at this one.
We grab a cab back uphill to home where I write a bit and we go to bed at nine. There is no heat in the room. Days are warm here, but it gets cold at night so there are several layers of heavy blankets. You stay warm but each breath takes some effort. With not much oxygen in the air at this altitude you need a lot of breathes as well. Bert Penny told me about a cabin at Powell Lake he overnighted in once. They had made blankets out of paper machine wet end felt. Think of a double heavy Hudson’s Bay blanket. He said you wake up tired. Yep.
I dug out my camera with the removable SD card and charged the batteries. I will start using it tomorrow.
Day 7 - Sunday, September 16
Puno (Lake Titicaca)
We slept intermittently. At 12,420 feet elevation Puno is about 2,000 feet higher than Cusco
Yesterday on the bus I was reading The New Dr. Atkins Diet book (proper title later). It is much the same as the old Dr. Atkins. In summary - eat meat and select veggies to keep your carbs below 20 grams a day initially. I focussed my reading on the areas on how to manage to do that in restaurants.
Last night during one of the frequent periods of non-sleep I read some low carb web sites. All good stuff.
This morning we went down to breakfast at the appointed time. The table was set for the two of us. Pure carbs! A basket of six slices of toasted white bread. Strawberry jam. Margarine. Orange juice, or as the book calls it, “liquid sugar”. I ate it ALL, including the slice of toast Juanita didn’t want.
Back to room. Upload all available ramblings from Word to web page. Go down at 9 o’clock, the appointed time to meet the tour. Visited with the hotel owner until the tour bus showed up. It was a mid-sized new bus with about a dozen passengers. It stopped a couple of blocks from the dock. We walked from the bus to the dock and walked across the backs of several tour boats rafted together to our tour boat. The boat pushed off. The tour guide introduced himself, asked where everybody was from (Canada, Columbia, Brazil, Peru near the Chilean border, Belgium). We could go up on the roof after ten minutes. The guy from Columbia had been born in New Jersey and lived there until he was 11.
About twenty minutes out from the dock the boat stopped by a small floating island with a grass hut on it. Two Uro indian women in traditional dress got on board the boat and we went to their larger floating island. The islands are made of reeds anchored in a bay in Lake Titicaca. We disembarked. Hugs all around.
The woman in charge explained how the islands were built and a bunch of their traditions and practices. We got dressed up in traditional costumes and had our pictures taken. Then there was an intense sales session of souvenirs that they had made as well as all the stuff available in every tourist shop and market stall in the country. We opted for the optional ride on a reed boat to another island where we could buy snacks. Then we all got back on the launch and went back to dock in Puno. A totally enjoyable three hour tour. A bit of a scam, but a fun one. Besides it’s not every day you get hugged by somebody fatter than I am.
We had the tour bus drop us off at the Plaza de Armas and went for lunch. On the way back to the plaza I tried to exchange a hundred dollar bill for soles. It was new but had a tiny tear of about 1/16” on one edge. The guy gave it back to me, but took a couple of fifties from Juanita. We went back to the hotel to relax for a bit. We rang the bell and the neighbour appeared from uphill and let us in. She said the owner was out for a while.
At two o’clock we went out on the sidewalk to wait for our afternoon tour bus. The owner was back and waited with us. After a while the tour guide from this morning huffed up the hill. This bus was too big to turn onto this street. We walked down and got on when it got to the corner.
On the way out of town we stopped briefly at an overlook of the city and the lake to take pictures. Back on the road for half an hour to Sullistani, an Inca cemetery.
We got off the bus at the parking lot and then walked up the hill through a village of newish houses. There were souvenir tables lining the street and covered benches on alternate sides of the street. I made it through the town checking out every second bench and stopping to take pictures frequently. I caught up with the group at the entrance to the interment grounds. Then they left on the path up through the grounds. I rested on one of the rocks in a row at the entrance. I joined a red faced man sitting on another of the rocks. Between gasps we determined that I was from Canada and he was from the Czech Republic and it is no longer proper to mention Czechoslovakia.
We leap frogged up the hill together after I lost ground to stow my jacket in my backpack.
I got close to the group a couple of times when the guide stopped to give a spiel, then near the top I caught up and stayed with them. Basically the people that interred people here thought that burying dead people would interfere with them being resurrected do they put them in stone towers. There are three sizes of towers. The biggest we saw was twelve meters high and eight meters in diameter. It held six to twelve high status people. The perimeter was made from large dressed, fitted stones. They had indentations in the parts that mated with the next stone. The indentation was occupied by a third stone to interlock the structure. Originally the tower was covered with gold, but the conquistadores made short work of with that.
The two smaller structures were used to inter lesser folk.
On the way back to Puno the bus stopped at a “traditional” small farmyard. They had llamas, guinea pigs and, go figure, souvenirs.
The bus dropped us off at the plaza and we found a wonderful restaurant which will get a good review in Trip Advisor.
Back from supper. Copied the pictures off SD cards for both our cameras. Managed to get the iPod and computer to talk and copy pictures. Very slow communications between iPod and laptop. Got bored waiting. Started using e-mail app on iPod. Crashed data transfer. Looked at what had been copied and decided to start over and created new folder for iPod pictures. Deleted old folder. Oops. That was the folder with all the SD pictures. Finished slow process of copying all the iPod pictures. Did the ones from the cameras a second time. Opened Word to write about the day. Stared at page stupidly. No words coming out of brain. Looked at time. 10:30. Shut laptop down and went to bed.
Day 8 - Monday, September 17
Puno to Arequipa
Up early. Wrote a bit. Uploaded to web page. Went downstairs for another all carb breakfast including Juanita’s unwanted slice of white toast.
Back to room. Finished packing. Headed all the way downstairs. We have not reserved transport to the bus because the innkeeper said he could call one and it would be there “in two minutes”. He tried his landline. No luck. He went to his quarters and came back with his cell phone. No luck. We went out into the street. Lots of cross traffic on the street two blocks down but nothing on our street. I said we would walk down to the street and hail a cab. He said “No, no, no” and hiked downhill and stood on the corner watching the already occupied cabs stream by.
Seemed like a long time, but time is relative. It can be hard to just stand there two blocks up the hill with no ability to get hands-on.
Early in my supervisory career I was finding it hard to remain hands-off and asked my boss how he dealt with it. He said he learned to “just walk away”. I learned that too. Mostly. Sometimes too well in the opinion of nervous managers in other departments. People often confuse motion over action (hat tip to Mark Twain). Witness the TSA.
Never did learn to stay hands-off it perfectly. I responded in anger one time after people had had all night to troubleshoot an ongoing problem in the power distribution system and were nowhere close to finding the problem. It was something that could only be worked on with a total outage which happened once a year on a planned basis. It had been worked on in previous years with no success. If we didn’t solve it then we would live without the ability for the system to switch between grids automatically for another year. I walked into the substation and lost my cool and started opening and closing load break switches and asking the techs to measure values at various points. In about five minutes the problem was narrowed down. I announced “There’s your problem. You’re missing that jumper. It’s on the drawing but not on the terminal strip. Put it in.” and stomped off overhearing the contract technicians say to my techs, “Oh, he’s good.” Kind of humiliating for them. Unfair of me and I rightfully got payback for it in the weeks and months to come.
Fortunately these days I have Juanita to restrain me. I am just twitching to go done the hill and hail our cab. Juanita wisely says, “Just let him have the victory.” She’s right, of course. She usually is. Just don’t let her know I said so. This is just between us.
In about five minutes the innkeeper had succeeded and a cab came up the hill. We loaded up. The cab did a three point turn and we headed down the hill and waved to a pleased looking innkeeper as he puffed his way back up the hill.
The cabbie dropped us off across the street from the bus terminal. We bought a couple of buns with avocado and cheese from a lady with a cart and headed into the terminal. The Czech guy from yesterday was on the street. He smiled and waved and yelled “Hey. Canada.” I answered back. His face was normal colour today not the shocking red of yesterday. I wonder how my face compared.
In the bus depot we line up at the Cruz del Sur counter to check in our luggage for the 8:30 bus to Arequipa. It is about 10 to 8. There is a Cruz del Sur bus departing for Cusco at 8. Every once in a while a bus line person yells out if there is anybody for Cusco. The call ripples down the line resulting in a couple of people the first time, but only then.
The girl from Montreal from the bus a couple of days ago comes up alongside us and holds out a curved illusion tract and asks me which is bigger. It took me a second to realize who she was. This morning she is in a puffy warm jacket and a hat. The other day she was bareheaded in a tee shirt with her tattooed arms on display. It disturbs me to be so unobservant, but I am not abnormal. I have read of experiments where people were talking to somebody and the person ducked under a counter to get something and a different person came up and hardly anybody noticed. Or where there is a person talking to somebody on the sidewalk and a couple of workmen carry a door or sheet of panelling between the conversationalists. While their direct vision is interrupted one of the people is switched and the other usually does not notice.
The people in front of us get their luggage weighted. The weight is in kilograms. The guy mansplains to his wife and her sister that the conversion factor to pounds is “2.5 approximately”. I ubermansplain that it is 2.2 but they fortunately do not hear me or ignore me. Either works.
We get our luggage weighed and our baggage tags.
Listening to the people in the line we learned that there is an exit tax to get out the terminal so we go find that booth and pay the tariff. We get a sticker on our tickets in return. In the yard when we line up for the bus somebody checks to be sure we have a sticker. We and our carry on get wanded. The metal detector wand goes crazy and we get waved on to the next processing station. See above about motion vs. action.
We get videoed and our tickets are checked. We get on the bus and find our seats and get settled. Somebody comes on and videos us again where we are seated. There is an announcement in Spanish. There is a video on the seatback displays in front of us with various safety and marketing messages with English subtitles. The stewardess walks through and makes sure we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.
The bus rolls.
Fairly soon in the journey the attendant hands out sandwiches and a tetra pack of juice then comes through with cups of hot water and things we can put in them. We settle for herbal tea bags.
The road is usually too rough or winding to type on the laptop so we content ourselves with reading, pod casts and looking at the passing countryside. I do fire up the laptop and we look at the pictures uploaded last night. We realize that they tend to jump around a bit depending on whose cameras took the picture. I synchronize the clocks on both cameras to the iPod.
The bus ride is six and a half hours. About two hours short of our destination the bus stops and an official sticks her head into our compartment and makes an announcement in rapid fire Spanish. I catch the word mochila and make the leap of logic that they want us to get off the bus with our backpacks. So I do and Juanita does and eventually so does everyone else. They x-ray our carry-ons and we line up to get through the bus which has moved forward to the exit door of the security building. There are vendors there shouting out their wares, but nobody buys anything. I hand out a bunch of curved illusion tracts to the vendors and control point workers. The Czech guy yells to me. I yell back. He is lined up too but it is for the bus behind ours.
The bus has a scrolling LED message board above the door to our compartment. It displays time, outside temperature, bus speed and when the bathroom is occupied or becomes unoccupied. It also starts flashing if the bus speed exceeds 90 km/hr displaying in Spanish “maximum velocity exceeded” and then the actual speed. The safety messages said the bus was not to travel over 90 at any time and that any passenger had the right to ask the driver to drive more slowly. There must be a tattle tale system that rats out the driver because the 90 was exceeded only a couple of times and very briefly. I seem to remember being told an Alberta employer’s pick-up truck GPS system allowed only 10 km/hr over the speed limit and only for a minute before it told on you. Makes it hard to pass safely.
One over-speed happened on a long downhill section. Near the bottom of that run there was a highway bus like ours only from a different company. It was upright and very crumpled on the front and side like it had hit something then rolled. We stopped once and waited to get around the police dealing with a crumbled freight truck laying on its side. In the downhill stretch into Arequipa there was another, very damaged highway bus off to the side. The upper front was a skeleton. All this is very reassuring, of course.
The last couple of hours approaching Arequipa the countryside looks like Arizona.
We arrived at Arequipa bus depot and got off and went inside and crowded around the counter as the bags from the luggage compartment randomly arrived and passengers shouted to the harried bus line people as they recognized their bags. I saw the couple from Montreal and asked them how the upper compartment compared to the lower. They said it was okay. Better, in fact, since with the window in front you can see where you are going.
We went out with our bags and on the way out accepted the offer of a cabbie. I raised my eyes at the price, but he said it was regulated from the terminal. It wasn’t that bad and I had read of cabs taking people to robbers in Arequipa. The suggestion was to book cabs through hotels or restaurants. This seemed secure enough and I had no intention of going out on the street to save a few soles. Must be a tie in with saving your sol and losing your stuff, but that is a digression too far.
On the way to the hotel I asked the driver how long it would take to get to the Sabandia mill, a restored grist mill originally built in 1785 and restored in 1973. He said about forty minutes. We talked about a price there and then a price there and back with him waiting for us. He said the usual tour takes thirty minutes to an hour. We came to an arrangement.
When we got to the hotel the driver stopped the cab in one of the two lanes of traffic. He opened the trunk, left the trunk open and carried our bags across the working lane of traffic and pushed the button for the bell at the hotel door. Eventually the door buzzed and we pushed it open. A rumpled man met us in the courtyard. We went into the receptionist’s office and he shuffled papers looked for any information about us. The receptionist was out apparently and he was a less than competent substitute. I pointed out our name on a whiteboard that showed our arrival and departure dates and that we were in the “deluxe” room. I also said we had a cab waiting to take us to Sabandia mill and could we just leave our stuff in our room and go now and sort things out later. We put our stuff in a room. I used the bathroom and on our way out pointed out that the trashcan in the bathroom was full. In a country where you put the used toilet paper in the trashcan you want to have it empty when you start. And emptied every day after that preferably, but you don’t always get that.
Off to the mill. Nice city. Arequipa has a population of two and a half million people according to the driver. The guide book said that traffic is a challenge. Yup. Wouldn’t want to drive here. The driver did fine. We arrived where we were headed. Alive and uninjured.
The driver had said the place closed at six. It was twenty to five. The sign at the locked gate said the hours were nine to five. I pulled the rope on the big brass bell and a woman showed up after two or three pulling sessions. I asked if we had enough time and she said sure and took our money and gave us tickets. While we were there people started arriving for a private event.
The mill has two grindstones. There is an adjustable weir that controls the level of the stream above the mill. Any excess water goes over the weir and then over a water fall and into a channel around the mill building. Either side of the stairs going down into the mill are raceways for the water that turns the mill. Each raceway has a gate. One gate was closed.
We walked down the stairs and into the mill building. The millstones are horizontal, driven by a vertical shaft powered by a water wheel turned by the water exiting the raceway. The mill with water flowing down the raceway was turning. Later we went below and could observe the operating water wheel and the details of the water wheel that was dormant.
Half an hour was enough and we headed back to the parking lot. There were double decker buses arriving, but it seemed like they were for some sort of amusement park across the driveway.
On the way to the hotel I learned the traffic control strips across the roads in Peru are called “rompi muy” or something close. Rough translation is “breaks a lot”. In Mexico they call them “topes”. In Nicaragua “policia descansando” translated sleeping or laying down policeman. Seems like something too long to scream out in panic. “Tope!” sure alerted me to stomp on the brakes when towing our fifth wheel through Mexico.
Back at the hotel we settled our bill and went to the room where they had moved our bags. We arranged for breakfast at eight in the morning and went out for a walk around and supper. We are in a very tourist area. Very safe, but tourist shops with tourist prices. Eventually we succumbed to the restaurant prices before we succumbed to hunger. Walking around later, we discovered some busy eateries with lots of locals. Locals means more reasonable prices. Busy hopefully means food doesn’t have time to go off.
On our way home we buy some bottled water. Back at the room it isn’t long before we go to bed and very quickly to sleep. There is a double bed and a single bed in the room. The double bed is lumpy and the single has a comfortable mattress. Lumpy doesn’t matter. With over a 4,000 foot drop in elevation from Puno to Arequipa we are feeling and breathing a lot better. It is a little warmer too so it is only a normal weight blanket. We have no trouble getting a full night’s sleep here.