Monday, November 29, 2004

Off to Peru

Hello everybody.Iam off to peru today.

I will be there for the next 10 days.Iam going to the amazon(P.Maldona), cusco, manchu picchu, nazca, ica,ballista islands & lima.

Well, i will be blogging my keep checking it.


The first thing that everybody asked me when i said iam going to peru was "Why Peru"??. Actually my original idea was to go to brazil.I always wanted to go to the amazon rainforest as a adventure trip. I wanted to go to Manaus.

Manaus is the capital of the Amazonas State and the hub of the whole Amazon Region. Manaus lies on the River Negro, seven kilometers from the point where the Negro meets the River Solimoes to form the Brazilian Amazon. But there were a few prblms.As i was trying to book it in the last minute most of the airline / lodge stuff have been booked. And the general advise was not to stay more than 3 days in the jungle as it might get very boring, no electricity etc etc. On that case i have to spend the next 5/6 days somewhere and there wasn't much to do in brazil other than rio de janiero( from what ever info i collected).

I started looking at other options. Amazon tributaries are there in peru, ecuador ,bolivia etc. so i was looking at all the options. I started researching about peru and the more i researched, the more i was fascinated.

Peru has got everything to offer to a tourist. The most spectacular and varied scenery in South America. Dense amazonian rainforest to the east, the beautiful high Andes in the middle and the desert pacific shore lines to the west.

The Amazon Basin, which occupies half of Peru, is one of the world's top 10 biodiversity 'hot spots' .It has little over 10% of worlds animals and species. home to varied species of birds(20% of world total).It has got the famous collpa, the macaw clay lick.

It is also home on one of the greatest civilizations the Inca's, the breathtaking Manchu picchu and the enigmatic Nazca lines. Archeological sites dating to 7000 BC .A line of civilizations ending with the great Incas. I will explain about these places in detail later.

So i decided to take this jungle/cultural tour.


After I decided to go to peru .I started my researches on the internet. The more i researched, the more places i found to see in peru. What started as a Amazon trip, became amazon , manchu picchu and after a lot of changes to the itinerary it became amazon, cuzco, manchu pichu, lima, nazca, ballesta islands & lima. I had to drop lake titicacca the highest navigable lake & northern peru.

When i was asking questions in the peru travel forum. some one named paola answered my questions. When i asked more questions, i came to know that she works for a travel agency. she said she can help me with the itinerary and send me a proposal to travel with there tour agency. Great way to catch clients, i thought. I started talking to her and couple of other operators. paola always quoted less than the others and was very flexible and patient with my itinerary changes. so i decided to take the tour with them.

The forums where filled with too much of information’s and scares. People have big scares regarding Latin America. I heard great mugging and theft stories. And for amazon they asked to take all kinds of vaccines.

Before starting i was talking with my friend Ezhil and we had friendly disagreement, he cursed me saying that my flights will be delayed for 5 hours and that i wont be able to make it to Peru. His words made me thinking about travel insurance. I asked for quotes from couple of agencies and zeroed in on one agency.

I checked out 20/30 books from the library and was voraciously reading information regarding peru. my attempt to learn Spanish in 10 days failed miserably. I didn't even learn 10 words. So here iam going to a latin american without any spanish knowledge. except for hi and thanxs i don’t know any word. well i can count to 3, thanks to ricky martin.

I checked the for weather in puerto maldonando and cusco.The 10 day prediction showed scattered thunder storms for all 10 days and only 3 days of rain for cusco. But the 3 days of rain in cusco was exactly the same 3 days i was supposed to stay in cusco.

I felt the whole thing as a big gamble. for i didn’t know spanish and i don’t know my tour operator that well. what if the person who turns up at the airport, takes me to some place and robs me??. What will happen if my bus breaks down in the middle of a forest? i wont be able to communicate and will be struck. I heard that accidents are very common and so are flight delays. With all these fears and loads more given by the travel forums. I took the brave decision to go ahead.

Peru history

Peru history
Peru has been inhabited from a very long time. Peruvian archeologist say that they have found evidence of cultures dating back to 10,000 BCE. Picture of ancient peru starts to be somewhat defined after the chavin culture around 500 BC.chavin was followed by other important cultures like the Huari, chimu ,moche,paracas etc till the incas.The chavins were very famous for there pottery and textile, similarly all the other cultures had there own specialties.

Inca was the last great civilization of peru. They began to expand their influence in the twelfth century and in the early sixteenth century, they exercised control over more territory than any other people had done in South American history. The empire consisted of over one million individuals, spanning a territory stretching from Ecuador to northern Chile. The height of their reign in the 15th century came to a brutal end in 1535 when the Spanish conquistadors took over their territory.

Incas are famous for there gold. Their love for precious metals was esthetic, for neither Incas nor their subjects needed to buy anything. It was said that when the spanish came to cusco, the temple walls where covered with gold and there a garden with trees and animals made out of gold. Incans spoke quechua language, which is still spoken in the andes.They didn't use wheels,didn't have a written script.

The Spanish conquistadors lead by francisco pizzaro conquered the incas in 1533. peru was under spanish rule till the "knight of andes" Jose De san martin defeated the Spanish and liberated peru. peru declared independence in 1821. After many years of military rule, Peru returned to democratic leadership in 1980,after some insignificant presidents peru elected Alberto Fujimori's as the president in 1990.fujimori ushered in a new era in peru's history. He resigned and a caretaker government oversaw new elections in the spring of 2001.Alejandro TOLEDO was elected as the new head of government.

Jose de San Martin, Francisco Pizzaro & Alberto Fujimori are the 3 people who have left a mark in Peru’s history.

Francisco pizarro was the man who defeated the incas. He defeated them, defeated there 30,000 strong army with his 200 soldiers. The audacity that he had made him the conqueror who conquered the largest amount of territory of any military leader.

Jose de san martin was one of the principal liberators of South America .He liberated peru, argentina, chile. A proud ruler, at the height of his success he relinquished his power to Simon Bolivar after a historic meeting in 1822. He could have going to head and become a ruler or joined Bolivar in the liberation efforts. But he understood that he and Bolivar are two different peoples and also recognized the need for an united army to liberate the rest of the countries. So he relinquished his power and left the liberation to simon Bolivar.

I got the same answers from everyone whenever I talked politics to anyone in peru. Everybody was disenchanted with the current president and everybody admired fujimori and wish there was another president like him, or himself again.

Fujimori was the son of Japanese immigrants who overcame poverty and prejudice to become the president of Peru. When he became president the country's economy was in a state of collapse and peru was in the midst of a guerrilla war and seemed destined to fall into the hands of the Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA terrorist movements.

Fujimori turned out to be an energetic ruler and against all expectations he defeated the terrorists, stopped hyperinflation in its tracks and transformed the economy. He reduced the inflation from a staggering 7000% to 18% . When a war with Ecuador seemed likely, Fujimori settled a centuries old dispute and made a permanent peace.

Nov 19th,Day1

Planes, trains and cars

Today is the day. I went to work for few hours in the morning. Yeah I know I have a great work ethic, I wanted to complete some important works before I leave. Things like taking print outs for my trip, making some long distance calls, sending fax etc. My flight was at 2.00pm.I had to take a connecting flight from Washington dc to Atlanta and then the international flight from Atlanta to Lima at 4.30pm. My tour operator was supposed to come and pick me up at the airport in Lima.

As usual had to be early at the airport, because of the increased security. When i was walking for the security check i remembered that even though i choose my travel insurance company and plan, i forgot to buy the insurance. I was cursing myself.

For the security check ,I had to take off my camera, my pouch with handy cam, the purse, passport neck purse, belt and the height was shoe. I was thinking, thank god the shoe bomber didn't carry any explosive in his under garments. And my Asian looks got me a personal massage from the security guy. It took me another 10 mins to pack up my things back.

Great thing about this trip was i got a window seats on all my flights, including the internal flights in peru, buses and trains. The sky was little cloudy. Looked as if it drizzled a while before.

The plane was about to leave at the right time. The pilot backed the plane a bit and don’t know what happened he parked it again. He said there is some problem in Atlanta and that we cannot fly for a while now. After 30 mins. He said we are ready to leave and went on the strip leading to the runway, just a few yards before entering the runway. He stopped and announced that again there is some problems and that we cannot take off now.
my flight schedule was like this
Washington 2.00 (pm) --> Atlanta 3.35(pm)
Atlanta 4.30(pm) ---> Lima 11.30 (pm)

But it is 2.45 and iam still in washington dc.I started fearing the worst. what if the flight is delayed for long. I wont be able to catch the lima flight and wont be able to go to Peru. if i miss the flight today and go tomorrow change of one day in my itinerary would mess up my whole schedule. I had already reserved the internal flights, lodges etc. I would have to make alternative arrangements for everything right from my pick up at the airport. I was cursing myself for forgetting the travel insurance. The image of sage Ezhil(my friend who cursed that my flights will be delayed) loomed large in my memory, his curse has come true. I was furious and it was at this exact moment that i made that decision. The decision to kill ezhil in case my peru trip gets cancelled.

But god thought otherwise. He decided not to decrease the meager population of india and save the life of ezhil. The lucky guy escaped. The pilot said everything is clear and joined the runway. The flight to Atlanta was smooth.

I was always looking at the time all the way to Atlanta. It took more than 15 minutes for the pilot to park the aircraft after touch down. It was already 4.15 pm. I had to run from one gate to the another. Atlanta airport has a internal train that u have to take to go from one gate to the other. I felt the train was incredibly slow compared to my urgency. I felt i would have ran faster than the train. I reached my boarding point. There was no one, everybody has already boarded. I was the last. I rushed in. After taking my seat i remembered my luggage. I checked in one luggage. If i made it right on time. There is no way that the baggage would be transferred from my connecting flight to this aircraft. The baggage’s were still getting loaded into the plane. i was pitifully looking out of my window at the baggage boarding looking for my bag. But I didn’t see it till the end.

I talked about my checkin luggage with a stewardess and she said that i have to complain it in Peru, if i didn't receive my baggage. She also said not to leave the airport without filling the lost baggage form. Again i started imagining the worst what if my tour operator went off before i could fill up my form. I just decided to face things as it comes.

I started talking with the girl sitting next to me. And i ended up talking to her non stop for more than 5 hours. That was veronica, a triple master degree holder in anthropology, urban planning and economics. A first generation Peruvian American, very knowledgeable person working for a non profit organization. She was first of the so many incredible peoples i met in my trip.

I reached Lima around 11.00 pm.I went to the baggage claim area to give a complaint about my checking baggage. I was in for a sweet shock, my black baggage came on the carousal, it was the 3rd bag to come out of the carousal. The baggage looked like a black knight in shinning armour , galloping towards me in a slow motion shot. I just fell in love with my baggage for a second. I thought lady luck is favoring me on this trip. I was relieved, what a great way to start the trip.

At the airport i had to stand in big lines, the most interesting thing about the lima airport is its customs checking. You have to stand in a line and at the end of the line there is a big button with 2 arrows on top of it. When you press the button one of the arrow glows. The 2 arrows are 2 different colors red and green. If you get green u can proceed forward without any checking otherwise if u get red u have to go for special checking. A pure chance checking.

There was 2 lines the in my line everybody was getting green. the next line one guy got a red. I decided the probability of me getting red is less in the other line comparing to mine. So i switched line and when i pressed the button .I got a GREEN and i was out of the airport.

The person who i was supposed to meet. Mr.Pablo was there holding a placard. I talked to him and went with him to his car. suddenly the Latin American scares came to my mind and i asked his ID card to check his name and stuff, he was all smiles when I asked his ID. Then got into his "Hyundai" and went to my lodge in downtown. Mr pablo dropped me at the hotel and said he will pick me up tomorrow for my flight to the Amazon. He gave me two letters. It was from paola the person that i was talking to on the net. She had written that letter cause Mr.Pablo's english is "so-so", she mentioned the arrangements that have been made. The other letter had all my tickets my 2 flight,3 bus tickets and all the hotel vouchers .I was impressed. I never thought tourism industry was so organized there.

Mr.pablo took me to an hotel in the downtown. there was this funny warning board on the hotel.

what are the chances or you meeting someone with a name like miguel, carlos or gloria in a latin american country.It is like john or bob in USA.

I was very tired and would have slept for 30 mins. I heard flushing sounds from my toilet. I was wondering who the hell is using my bathroom. i checked my bathroom and there was none. It was actually from another bathroom in front of my room. That bathroom is supposed to be a common one for all those people who stay in the hostel. It seemed as if somebody was distributing free beer to everybody in that hostel. The bathroom was constantly in use and that was the end of my sleep. Imagine you r tired and you r slowly drifting into sleep. You reach that point of quagmire where your spinal cord is taking over your brain activities, At that sweetest moment you hear , Bluuusssssssshhhhhhh, someone flushing the toilet. It made me crazy, but I was helpless. My only option would be to change the room. But i decided against it considering the facts that it was my first day in latin America, i can't speak spanish,it was late night and I have to be up early morning.Even though i was in my room, i felt i was sleeping in the front bathroom.I heard all kinds of converstaions,people talking about there weekend plans and bar incidents. From my observation i guess the Australians will win the liquid output race pants down errrrr hands down.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Nov 21, Day 3

Check out Day 3 photo album here

Exactly around 3.45 am i heard some sounds on top of my bed i woke up and saw some creature fly out of my room .I went to the bathroom to get ready only to step on some sticky stuff. Think they are bat droppings and probably, probably the one who woke me up was the culprit. I was wondering whether this bat is the lodge peoples way of awakening the tourist on time.

Had to wear big boots and take the boat ride for another 30 mins upriver for the lake.As we went so early it was still foggy and the sun was rising. It was called the ox-bow lake had to hike for 20 mins from the river. On the way i was able to see the essence of a rain forest.

There was symbiosis** every where. Most of the trees had a parasite climber on it. In many cases the climber grows all over the tree, reaches the top and grows roots and becomes an independent tree. And in this process they kill the host trees. One such parasite was strangler fig . The strangler fig has its seed deposited by bats that land on the tree, and the seeds begin to germinate there. Over time, the fig grows down the tree and establishes roots. Eventually, the fig surrounds and engulfs the host tree, killing it. The jungle was so dense, there seemed to be a competition for space, trees and plants were crammed together.

Lot of plants had leaves with 80 % holes in them. Thanks to the leaf cutter ants**.I was stopping everywhere trying to take pictures and examining things. I was the last to reach the lake ,everybody was already on the boat looking at my direction. I could read there mind
c’mon hurry up, Do you think you are from national geographic or what?
The boat was 2 catamarans joined together by wooden plank in the middle and it had a single oar in the back which u r supposed to move as if you are writing 8.I tried my hands on that oar and failed.

There were lots of birds in the lake. We spotted a few. Catherine asked the guide whether there are any kingfishers in that area??.The guide told there some.Somehow a beautiful kingfisher heard what she asked and came looking for her. There were lot of bushes and trees around that lake. But the kingfisher came and sat on this solitary leafless plant which was so conspicuous. It seemed as if it was asking, was someone looking for me??.

There are supposedly 6 otters there in the lake. The otters appeared and they were gracious enough to give us a family picture. I was sitting on the edge of the boat with my legs in the water. One of the guide was fishing and he caught a piranha. He showed us all the teeth of piranha. I decided to take my legs of the water.

we walked back to the river. On the way back the guide showed us a termite nest on the tree. And said that we can eat the termites and offered some. The boy who came up with the American family tried it. He didn’t show any reactions at all. I thought I will also try some. I tried some of the termites. They were so small they didn’t have any taste at all. I was told that the natives eat lot of termites when they run out of proteins in there bodies.

catherine and faulkner who were going to a lodge that is deeper in the amazon like 5,6 hours upriver left us. I later heard from catherine that she got to see a jaguar there.

Went straight to the parakeet clay lick. I heard lot of parakeets circling in the sky. But they never came down. Because an eagle was scaring them. Was waiting in the hut specially made to watch the collpa without disturbing the parakeets. There was all kinds of sounds near that place. My guide started imitating a sound that was coming from the nearby trees and he was hearing reply's. There was a question answer session going between him and some insect that was making the sound. The voice started coming nearer and nearer and in the end a grass hopper that was answering my guide, dived right into the hut. I could see the disappointment in its face. Probably it was looking for a beautiful female grass hopper and here are two advanced version of a chimpanzee. It gave one last sound and left us. Probably it was cursing us.

Rodalfo talking to a grasshopper

We waited for a while and left as it was getting late. On the way back we heard some sounds and my guide started going into the jungle away from the trail. He asked me to follow him, he kept going deeper and i was hesitantly following him. The bird that my guide was looking for flew away. But we saw some tiny monkeys and joined back the trail. Right where we joined the trail my guide showed me something, it was a big tail of a snake. The snake was on the other side of the tree. I was glad that i didn't step on it.

After coming back to the lodge, we left to a medicine plant farm. Maintained by a local shaman**. Found some interesting plants in the garden. At the first tree the shaman's assistant took a leaf of that plant, kind of folded it, but the leaf sprang back to its original upright position. The tree was supposed to be the viagara of the rain forest. Everybody started laughing when he told that they call the plant "stand up stand up" in the native language. Saw many plant which where natural dyes, all u had to do was crush them.

Saw the Ant tangera tree. The Ant tangera tree and the tangera ants are a classical case of symbiosis**. The ants crawl up and down the tree, protecting it from animals that may eat its bark, such as the sloth. The ants get shelter and possibly water. The bark of the tree was clean and it seems you can never find that tree without the ant. I came across this interesting quote when researching about the amazon. It is by Alexander F. Skutch in his book titled, A Naturalist on a Tropical Farm.

As predation, parasitism, and every form of ruthless exploitation of one organism by another are proof of evolution's tragic failure to create a harmonious community of living things, so every instance of fruitful cooperation is evolution's triumph, a sample of what it might have achieved with a different sequence of mutations over the ages, or better, if it had been guided by a wise, compassionate Intelligence- a sample, too, of what the living world may be on some far-distant planet happier than our own.

I was disappointed at the dinner. I was expecting some traditional Peruvian food or some jungle food, but instead lasagnia, salad and all western dishes were served. I was again talking to carlos the researcher .He was with a team of 4.I asked more about there project and they said they are here part of a WWF project to study the macaws. And carlos is supposed to be an expert in catching macaws and he was there for 2,3 weeks to teach the others on catching macaws. They asked me whether i was part of any group. Said no, i came alone. Then they told me that they are going upriver deeper into the jungle and that i can join them on there expedition if i wanted to. I was dumb struck, a chance to study the macaws with researchers in deep jungle. I was tempted to take that offer and dump my whole tour itinerary, forget about work. just go into the jungle for a few weeks and come out with big beards and mosquito bites. But I guess I have become old, my wise adult mind controlled the passionate young one and decided against it. I wished i wasn't working and i wasn't on a fixed schedule i would have taken up that offer.

After dinner we had an option of taking a night walk. Me and another person decided to do it. Armed with nothing but the torch lights, we ventured into the jungle at night. It was scary. It was pitch dark and there were all kinds of sounds. Creatures where running here and there seeing the lights. I felt as if i was the center of focus for hundreds of eyes in that place. And in that dark everything looked like an animal. The silhouettes of plants and trees seemed to be making the same image, an image of a jaguar looking at me. I was calculating what could be the probability of two jaguar eyes in those hundred eyes that are looking at me. I realized that I was the last of the 3 peoples walking, thought to myself that I should have taken the safer middle position.

There was a small pond in the middle of the jungle and there were two beautiful birds sitting on a tree. Those were the only creatures which were not perturbed by the torch lights we had. We returned back unscathed. And i went to bed thinking about the best part of the jungle trip, a visit to the Macaw clay lick ** tomorrow.


What is Symbiosis??

Symbiosis is a relationship between two different organisms in which one lives in, on, or near the other.
The are 3 types of symbiosis.
commensalisms, in which one organism benefits and the other different organism is neither harmed nor helped.
mutualism, in which both different organisms benefit from the relationship.
parasitism, in which one benefits and the other organism is harmed.

Leaf Cutter Ants

-Leaf cutters remove approximately 17% of the total annual leaf production in intact forests.
-A colony can eat as much as a grown cow in a day
i also heard another interesting case of parasitism. A wasp stings and deposit its larvae into the leaf-cutter ant. And over time the larvae develops and explodes the head of the leaf-cutter ant and the larvae uses it for food.

What is a clay Lick??

A clay lick is a place where lot of birds & mammals come to eat the salt, in peru it is called as collpa. The reason why the birds are eating the salt is this that the birds eat lot of seeds which have high toxic chemicals. The clay particles have a negative charge and most of the toxic plant chemicals have a positive charge and they negate each other. In simple words the salt at the clay lick are the bird's pepto bismol.

Who is a shaman & What is shamanism??

shaman are medicine man and their practice is called shamanism. The word shaman comes to English from the Tungus of Siberia meaning "one who walks between worlds." Although shamanic practices vary from tribe to tribe, from country to country and century to century, shamans are fundamentally teachers, healers, and guides for their communities. They use altered states of consciousness to effect healing and to journey between the world of matter and the world of spirit.
The whole shaman and shamanism is a very interesting one. Shamans take some hallucinogenic beverages for religious and spiritual reasons and healing purposes.
There are supposed to be some plants, unique to the jungle that when consumed increases the pshycoactivity of a person. The shaman drinks it before examining a patient to communicate with the spirit world, diagnose illnesses, determine guilt, and see the future.

Even though shamanism is another primitive medical practice. There are lot of studies going on it. In shamanism sometime the shaman is the person to take the drugs, not the patient. Sometimes the patient has already tried conventional medicine. If that fails, they will turn to the shaman for treatment believing that the source of the illness may be magical. During this treatment the shaman will imbibe in the drink and translate the visions he sees while under the influence of the drug. He interprets these visions so he can discern what caused the illness and fight it symbolically. The shaman will sing to the patient about the fight and in the process is freeing him from the evil . This is not the only way the drinks are used medicinally. In some cultures, the shaman and the patient will ingest the drink.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Nov 22nd, Day 4

Plugged again
check out the day 4 photo album here

I was supposed to go to the Macaw clay lick in the morning. This was the main purpose of my trip in this lodge. Too see the group of macaw birds that gather to eat the salt. This congregation is supposedly a riotous and colorful wildlife spectacle.
Again was supposed to wake up at 4.00 am and get ready for the clay lick. I woke up at 4.00 am only to find the meaning of a rain forest. It was raining cats and dogs. The collpa trip was cancelled. I was upset. I missed out a great spectacle.

This was the last day for me at the rainforest lodge. Had to return to the airport. Again another long journey in boat and muddy roads. The muddy roads were the same color as the river orangish brown with banana trees and all kinds of plants on both sides.

The Puerto Maldonado airport is so small. I went into the airport and walked across a room. I saw the runway the moment I crossed the room. There were two tourist sitting there. so I was also sitting there eating my passion fruit. I saw an aircraft landing and it was coming straight towards me. Some airport people came and asked us to get back into the room. The pilot had the engine in idle till all the passengers got down and everyone from the airport got it. Felt like a taxi waiting for someone .It took like 30 mins and we were off.

For my flight back to cusco I took TANS peru a different airlines than the one i came , which was LAN peru. TANS peru has old aircrafts and this plane was wobbling after take off and the plates on the top where vibrating and making sounds. There was no air condition and it was hot at high altitudes. I thought to myself that i should have listened to the safety instructions that were told at the start very carefully.

The pilot somehow managed to land us safely in cusco. Cusco valley is about 11,000 ft above sea level. I kind of started feeling dizzy the moment i started walking towards the baggage claim. I was ok for a while and then again i got dizzy. I realized then that i got altitude sickness (dizziness, headache, nausea etc).Because of the high altitude the air is thin here. Less oxygen. The natives here have huge chest and bigger lungs to adapt to the conditions here. But some foreigners might get altitude sickness. Well iam one of them. Chewing coco leaves, is supposed to be the antidote for altitude sickness according to the locals. The coco leave is nothing but unprocessed cocaine .Well you need to do certain process with kgs and kgs of coco leaves to make a gm of cocaine. so few leaves wont harm you. And is pretty much what everyone is doing to get away from altitude sickness here .but u can’t even take a single leaf to US , it is considered as a narcotic . i got to make sure that i didn’t forgetfully spill a few leaves into my baggage before returning to US.

I had to wait for a long time at the baggage claim because one of my baggage didn't arrive. I was pretty much the last guy. Then someone came walking with my luggage and showed the lock. I had safely locked the baggage and left the keys in the suitcase itself. He came there to hand it over personally and asked me to check everything. I just thought about all the robbery stories that i heard about latin america.

Everyone who comes to cusco generally take a day off to get acclimatized with the weather. I thought for a superman like me nothing is going to happen and decided to do the cusco city tour on the same day itself. I had a good ROUND trip.

plaza de armas

Most of the Spanish cities are built with a plaza at the center of the town. So did Cusco, It has plaza de armas. The cathedral there has some great spanish art works and architecture. The missionaries had customized jesus for the native. The last supper painting made me smile. Jesus was having his last supper with everybody and what was he eating. CUI or the guinea pig.

Some of the art works were ever funnier. Statue of the virgin mary with lamas and the moors fighting in the back ground, Kind of a dark skinned jesus. Guess all part of an effort to woo the natives.

Then went to the sun temple of the incas called coricancha. The spanish when they came they destroyed all the incan temples and building and built there own. but they realized that there supposedly superior architecture was not able to withstand the frequent earth quakes of the region, whereas the incan building stood its ground. So they changed there idea and started building churches and palaces on the incan foundation.


The inca's build walls and foundation on big stones. But the greatest thing was this that they didn't use any wheels. The incan civilization never used wheels and no mortar to bind the rocks. The rocks where individually polished, shaped and fitted into with the other stones. It amazing given the fact that these rocks have withstood so many earth quakes. There are some rocks with 16 edges fitting with different rocks.

NO mortar

The Sachsayhuaman fort was ever better, it had large stones on the wall endings placed over small stone foundation. The reason being that small stones can absorb vibrations more than the bigger stones.

There was an indian couple in my tour group. Mr and Mrs gupta from California.when the tour was ending i invited them to join me for dinner and said probably we can eat the famous cusco guine pig .They said they are vegetarians and they are going to a restaurant called govinda. Govinda ?? An Indian restaurant in cusco. i was awed. Think it is a not a complete Indian restaurant probably a fusion restaurant.

I ended up going to a restaurant called El traaco , supposedly the priciest in town. But it was worth it. There was entertainment all through out the evening. I got a table right in front of the stage and enjoyed the entertainment with Alpaca(smaller version of a llama) steak and some pisco sour**.

Pisco sour

When i went to the peruvian embassy for stamping the consulate general asked me to try pisco sour.I thought if the conulate genral is recomending it then there must be surely something special about it.And it was.

A small kid got excited by the music group ad he started his own music.

After 3 days i finally got connected. Cusco the inca capital is the most cosmopolitan city in peru. There is 3 internet cafes ever street. very affordable too, only 1.50 for 1 hour. well that was not $1.50 it was S1.50 that is soles, the peruvian currency. A dollar is equall to 3.25-3.50 soles depending on where u exchange it. the first site i visited was Was surprised to see South africa scored 510.I was hoping india will give an apt reply.


Who are the Incas?

Inca was the last great civilization of peru.They began to expand their influence in the twelfth century and in the early sixteenth century, they exercised control over more territory than any other people had done in South American history. The empire consisted of over one million individuals, spanning a territory stretching from Ecuador to northern Chile. The height of their reign in the 15th century came to a brutal end in 1535 when the Spanish conquistadors took over their territory.

Incas are famous for there gold. Their love for precious metals was esthetic, for neither Incas nor their subjects needed to buy anything. It was said that when the spanish came to cusco, the temple walls where covered with gold and there a garden with trees and animals made out of gold.

During the inca regime people never had to pay any tax.The citizens paid their taxes as work, certain number of man-hours for a year to build temples, fortresses, agricultural terraces, and roads- all for the grandeur of the realm.

Agriculture was tough business in the Andes. The Incas actively set about carving up mountains into terraced farmlands—so successful were they in turning steep mountainsides into terraced farms, that in 1500 there was more land in cultivation in the Andean highlands then there is today. The Incas cultivated corn and potatoes, and raised llama and alpaca for food and for labor.

Incans spoke quechua language, which is still spoken in the andes. They didn't use wheels, didn't have a written script.

Cusco was the capital city of the incas. The city was planned in the shape of a puma.cusco in quechua means the navel of the world. It was the center of the incan world. The incas laid roads to all there cities from cusco.trails run all the way to chile.

Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour is a traditional Peruvian drink. Pisco is a colourless brandy or spirit made from grapes. It is very high in alcohol and traditionally from Southern Peru.
Traditional pisco sour comes in a nazca type figurative pottery.

Nov 23rd Day 5.

Check out the day 5 photo album here

iam typing this in one of the internet café´s which is playing Eminem´s slim shady. Today I did the sacred valley tour. As the name says It was supposed to be a Sacred valley for the Incas. It is like 40/50 kms from cusco. During the inca regime, Most of the food used to be cultivated in this region it seems. The valley was beautiful. It had Andes Mountain on both sides and the river urmbamba running though it. A road goes straight from one end of the valley to other. There was these yellow mustard plant flowers on both sides. and the river urumabamba follows the road all along. From the shores of the river to the mountain range it´s all fields, mainly corns and potatoes.

The sacred valley made me think about Kashmir. Probably Kashmir must be 10 times beautiful than this. With the snow clad Himalayas on both sides. Here also I was able to see some snow cap mountains in a distance. It was a clear beautiful day and the scenery was breathtaking. Went to a local market called pisac market. Pretty much like any village market in India. women’s selling things on make shift places and platforms. Things where dead cheap if u bargained. i kind of felt guilty that iam bargaining with these poor peoples. But things are like India only.100% is the told price and 60% is the original went dead right down to 25% and then moved up. Lot of foreigners where buying as it was.

Today I saw quiet a few Indians. two guys , a couple and a whole family, grandparents parents and bunch of kids.

Went to a great restaurant for lunch, beautiful garden overlooking the mountains. Nice food. I ate this chicken dish again. It is not very spicy it was more like chicken cooked in groundnut sauce, was very tasty. Peruvians have rice porridge’s same like India which u have to mix with a sweet corn sauce. And here in most of the tourist visiting restaurants there is same kind of an environment. Mainly single person or a group playing reed quena/flute. These guys who ever is playing has some 2,3 CD´s that he has released and tourist can buy them. I bought one yesterday. The music sounded more Indian to me. Sometime i felt like it was a mid 80 illayaraaja song.I have to hear them more to figure out why it is giving such a feeling.

My camera went dead once i came out of the restaurant. I was so upset. Tommorrow is the big day .iam going to Manchu picchu and my camera is dead no display everything is blank. Well it could be just The battery. But few months before something similar happened and nothing happened even after a battery change. I had to talk to NIKON to reset the camera. well if that is the problem i cannot do that here and tomorrow is the big day .Iam going to MANCHU PICCHU. And without a camera i will be so upset.

Went to the ollantaytambo fort, supposedly built by an inca general called ollantay, who has a statue before the entrance. which is supposedly built in the shape of a llama. it had so many terraces.Our guide showed a human face on the side of the mountain.He said ,During the day of the summer solstice, the first rays falls on the face of the mountain.This is the case with most of the incan ruins including machu picchu.There will be some astronomical thing marking the summer soltice.

The view from the top was great. There were huge mountains all around a few snow clad ones in the distance and the beautiful sacred valley below. Watching the enormity of mountains i felt so small. The view of mountains from the fort overwhelms you. I was thinking what would have the incans felt seeing these gigantic mountains. This over whelming mountains for a primitive mind, having millions of questions about his existence would have definitely be looking like a god.I guess one can’t blame him for worshiping the mountains as a god.

Modern peru

On the way back went to another incan fort called chinchero, which was messed up by the Spanish. Went to the museum there, which had the incan farming and weaving equipments.

The first thing i did after returning to the lodge was changing the battery… ooolaaa.. it worked. that’s a big relief. I will be able to enjoy MANCHU PICCHU much better.

The internet guy just now switched off the lights. i thought he was going to close and told him that I will wrap up in a few minutes. he said. he is not closing but he is just playing a movie. Apparently lot of the internet center here play movie also. first when I saw a white board in the corner and a few sears before it I though they are teaching some computer courses. He just pulled a screen over the white board and an over head projector is showing a movie. It is hell boy with Spanish sub titles. Lot´s of kid from the neighbor hood just sneaked in and are sitting next to my computer. Guess it is time for me to vacate the seats for them.

Went to a restaurant called ukumari. Ukumari is supposed to be a bear only found on top of high andes. As a lot of other animals. It is also in the danger of becoming extinct. Had the famous cusco CUI (guinea pig).Imagine a whole guniea pig roasted and kept in your plate and the guinea pig eyes looking at you. They even roast the skin. I dropped the rubbery skin and went for the meat, was good. Had a side dish with it called rocoto Rellento which was nothing but south indian bujji done with the core made of potato and roccoto(peruvian chilly). Roccotto is in between a small chilly and a bell pepper but is hot like hell.

walked back to the lodge around 11.30 pm without any problems.



Peru has more than 200 varieties of corn and 1000 varieties of potatoes. It is said that potatoes originated from Peru. I read this interesting thing that potato was so much part of the inca life that, there basic unit of time was a time taken to boil a potato. They communicated time in terms of number of potato boiling time units. Probably this how they talked

“Hey buddy lets go to the sun temple in 5 potato time”.

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