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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Exploring the Sacred Valley

Today was primarily an educational day. In the town of Chincheros we got a demonstration of making woven goods from spinning yarn to the completed products, then an interesting talk about agriculture. Lunch at a charming hacienda (complete with llamas and alpacas roaming the grounds) was followed by dance and horsemanship demonstration and a trip to the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo.

It all added to our understanding of the Peruvian culture, but for blog purposes, photos are probably more interesting than a blow by blow of what we learned!

Enjoy!

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This is a common sight in Peru. Even walking down the street, the women are spinning wool into yarn.

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All the yarns are dyed using different plant materials.

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There are 3000 varieties of potatoes grown in Peru!

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Cuy (guinea pig) is a delicacy and is on many menus!

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Next up, our day at Machu Picchu!

The REAL Peru – Found Away From The Big City

I have a friend who just adores Peru. I never understood why. This was the day I began to have an inkling.

It started with our first glimpse of the Andes.

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Immediately after touching down in Cusco, we hopped on our bus and headed for the Sacred Valley. But before we began rolling, we were introduced to Coca tea. Yes, coca – as in cocaine. But in its benign form, in a tea, it helps reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Cusco is at 11,152′ above sea level, and over 9,000 feet is when altitude sickness can become a problem. We drank a lot of coca tea. Thankfully, it’s pretty tasty!

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The scenery from Cusco to the valley was amazing.

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We got our first looks at the terracing done by the Incas.

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We went through village after village of dwellings made out of red adobe blocks. The majority of people make their own from the clay soil. I was pretty intrigued by the whole concept.

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The driver let us know a few minutes before we arrived at our destination, and I was slightly concerned wondering what our accommodations were going to be. It certainly didn’t seem possible that there could be the type of upscale hotel Road Scholar normally housed us in located in an area like this.

Well, what a gem! Sonesta Posadas Del Inca, a former monastery, turned convent, and finally remodeled into an absolutely charming hotel was a happy surprise. Walk with me…

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Our room was very comfortable, although the thick walls kept the chilly night air out so it was a little warm for my taste. But the atmosphere completely made up for it.

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One side note here. It seems that throughout Peru, the tap water is undrinkable (at least for foreigners.) We were constantly reminded not to use the tap water even for brushing your teeth, and not to eat raw vegetables with skins, (and no lettuce at all!) because of the questionable water used to irrigate the crops. AND, no paper at all could be flushed down the toilets, so we had a lot to remember!

An instant positive was that vegetarian food was readily available, and delicious. I could almost literally LIVE on Peruvian potatoes.

Having lived in Mt. Shasta for 25 years, we thought the effects of the altitude on us would be diminished, but we did experience some. The 1st morning in the Sacred Valley I woke up with an awful headache. Our guide tested our oxygenation and I was at 92 percent, so pretty good, but there was definitely a difference that took a day to overcome.

Stayed tuned for our first day of adventures in the valley!

 

 

Peru

We flew into Lima, Peru, met our guide and went immediately to the hotel and a good night’s sleep on dry land. It was a little weird to not be rocking and rolling all night!

In the morning we ate at the hotel restaurant, and one of the first things I noticed was the hooks underneath the table where you could secure your purse. We had been warned that you really had to watch your belongings in the city, but to have it be such a problem that they devised the hooks was a little disconcerting!

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Our morning was spent on a bus tour of the city. We thought that going to Peru after the Galapagos would be kind of anti-climactic, and Lima was pretty much was exhibit A. It is a pretty typical large, crowded, poor city with an obvious burglary problem. There were bars on most doors and windows and odd deterrents to entry.

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There was a pretty big police presence everywhere.

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But looking more closely, there were lots of interesting things to photograph.

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Then it was off to the airport again and a quick flight to Cusco and bus ride to the Sacred Valley. Little did we know that we were about to get a completely different perspective on Peru.

Heading to Peru

Today was a travel day, but before heading out to the airport, we got to take a zodiac ride through the Mangroves to a quiet lagoon for a last look at the early rising wildlife. I’m still whining and sniveling about my lack of a long lens. It’s going to take a long time to get over this.

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A frigate seeing us off on our morning jaunt.

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Then it was off to the airport and a short flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We met with our guide for a tour of the city while we waited for our flight to Lima, Peru.

At apark in the middle of the city we saw our last iguanas. It was funny to see them in the middle of a downtown area.

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A few shots of architecture,

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…an interesting tree,

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…then back to the airport and off to Lima.

Chinese Hat and Back to Santa Cruz

Our last full day in the Galapagos was spent at Chinese Hat Island (no big mystery as to how it got its name!) and back to Santa Cruz again.

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We made a beach landing, then headed off to explore…

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Who knew that crabs shed their bodies and grow bigger ones?

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Lots more iguanas, sea lions and crabs, but I’m guessing those are getting a little old, now!

This afternoon we headed back to Santa Cruz Island and our best shot at seeing flamingos in the wild…

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Yeah, well, turns out our best shot wasn’t all that great. Especially without a long lens…

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I could hardly believe there was one flamingo. And way in the distance, at that.

And more short lens yuck…

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Seriously. Why bother?

But for distance shots, all was well.

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Our last sunset in The Galapagos. Sad, but true!

Disaster Strikes!

Okay, maybe not a disaster for most people, but for a photographer? Yeah disaster.

We were dismounting the zodiac with my camera firmly secured in a dry bag inside my daypack on my back. Firmly. Or so I thought. My trekking pole was sticking out the top, and between it and the water bottle hooked to it with a carabiner, it pulled the zipper flap open, and my camera fell to the dock. With the new, 75-300 lens on it. (Shades of falling off the table in London last year.) And yes, when I went to take a photo, it was completely blurry.

I was so mad I cried. Literally cried. How could I possibly be in the Galapagos and have this happen? Knowing I’d taken the last close up photo of the trip cast a pall over the day. It took me HOURS to pull myself out of my funk. I’m so lucky to be seeing all this. Not being able to document it as well as I would like is really small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

So, today is Espanola. The marine iguanas here are tinged red. And there are tons of them. The photos of them are not as bad as I had feared they would be. Of course it helps that they are totally unfazed by humans and don’t run off when you get close to them.

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Our first glimpse of an albatross was this “teenager” tucked in a nest under a bush.

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The lack of my long lens was really an issue today, because you have to stay on trails and most of the birds have nested away from the trails, and you just can’t get a good photo without a good zoom. I must have taken 100 photos of the Albatross, and this was the best shot I got. So sad…

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The Galapagos hawks were even worse…

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Up on the bluff over-looking a pool teeming with marine iguanas was another spot where the zoom would have come in handy. I had to content myself with enjoying the view without enhancement. Poor me. As beautiful as it is, you can see how silly my distress is.

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If you look closely you can see one of the amazing creatures just above the mid-line of the photo.

The Nazca Boobies, although not as flashy as the Blue-footed Boobies, were still fun to watch.

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Our afternoon jaunt was to another gorgeous beach.

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I am just so enamored of the sea lions…

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We got to witness a “West-Side Story” style turf battle between a bunch of mockingbirds. Note the line down the middle…They just screeched at each other from the sides, then all of a sudden forgot who the bad guys were and started fussing within the groups on the same side of the line. It was quite amusing.

There were lots of tiny shells on the beach, and Mr. Tattered helped me fashion a heart with them.

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I’m posting these photos in the days after we returned home. Now is as good of a time as any to confess that the lens I thought was broken, isn’t. The crash caused a setting to get off-kilter, and a simple adjustment was all that was needed. I spent the whole rest of the trip with just my short lens, just because I don’t know enough about my camera/lens. GRRRRRRR!

Another Day on Santa Cruz

We spent this morning at the Darwin Research Center. To be honest, it was a little underwhelming, given the importance of his work. I don’t know if we didn’t get a very good tour, or there just wasn’t much to see.

Our trip to the highlands was much more interesting.

It started with lunch at a really cute restaurant – open air, great food, and located in an area where wild tortoises roam around at will. Rancho El Manzanillo was a wonderful surprise.

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DELICIOUS tea!

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Lots of tortoises. Something about them being wild was even more exciting than having seen them in research facilities and breeding centers.

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After leaving Rancho El Manzanillo, our next stop was to visit the twin craters of Cerro Chato and Los Gemelos – beautiful scenery and unusual vegetation.

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After hiking around the craters, we visited a big lava tube.

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Back in town we walked by the fish market and cracked up at the lack of regulation regarding who can be “helping.”

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Tomorrow we head to Espanola.

 

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