Friday, June 09, 2006


What a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday.. in the mountain valleys of Peru, and not just any valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The only downside of the whole day is that we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to be to the train station by 5:25 a.m. Ugh. Oh well, we're getting used to early mornings.

Once we were back in Ollantaytambo, we hit the KB Restaurant for the largest breakfast either of had seen in ages. We had french toast and pancakes with honey. We also got a large mug of Chocolate con Leche (Hot chocolate with Milk) and some juice. It was awesome. We then hunted down a guide to go for a horseback ride of the valley. We were quickly on our way with Mario to see the Puramaca ruins. The ruins were a combination of the Incas and the people conquered by the Incas.

The horse ride was absolutely wonderful. It was Kevin's first time on horse back and I told him he would never get a ride like that in the States. YOu'd have to sign your life away for such an incredible ride. We rode up the mountain sides, sometimes in some pretty sketchy areas. I tried not to look down. Kevin's horse was always testing him as he tried to eat grass most of the way up. I had to constantly heel my horse and smack him on his rump to get him to keep up. Once we reached the ruins, Mario gave us the low down on the rooms uses (or what their speculated use is!).

Mario's dog, Negra, was not the dog you want to have in a huge stone ruin from the Incas. She LOVES to play with rocks, large rocks. SHe kept trying to pull the rocks out of the stone walls. Negra was a sweet dog and would have loved to play with ASpen. She was so comical, playing with the rocks and barking at them if they didn't move the way she wanted to. She also ran all over the mountain side chasing the birds and calves.

Before heading back to town. Mario told us to tell the caretaker that we didn't have any money. Apparently, he has a bad habit of asking for money as a "fee" to see the ruins. There really isn't a fee, he just tries to sucker tourists into paying him. Sillly man. The ride down was pretty nice. ONce we got back to the road, we trotted-galloped most of the way down. I have NEVER been on a ride in the States where they actually let you run your horse. WE had so much fun. The horse I was on often times had to lead in order to get the other horses to run. It was grand!

We ended the day by having a wonderful meal at the same restaurant we had breakfast. Two glasses of wine, two meals, two great brownies, and great garlic bread for a whopping $15!

I had a wonderful birthday, thanks to Kevin! :)


We spent a wonderful week in the town of Ollantaytambo which is one of the last stops before you HAVE to take a train to see Machu Pichu. It is a wonderful little town and we were even fortunate enough to be there during their Señor de Choquekillca celebration. Señor de Choquekillca looks suspicially like Jesus, but isn't. They spend four days, essentially day and night, dancing, playing music, and drinking. This year there were fifteen different dance groups, each wearing a different costume. At one point, Kevin wasn't at my side and three masked men started to shake my hand, kiss my hand, sit down next to me and kiss my cheek. I told Kevin they almost took me away with them! I found one website that had some old pictures from the 2003 (scroll down to Sacred Valley) festival, I, unfortunately, wasn't as picture happy. The masks and costumes were incredible!

On Monday, we tried our luck by using expired tourist tickets to see the inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. I think Kevin's good looks charmed the wonderful peruvian lady to let us pass. The ruins were, as usual, absolutely amazing. It is awe inspiring how this mountain people built up their communities on the side of steep sloped mountains. The rocks weren't tiny stones either.

Tuesday, we tried out some rental bikes from a guy from Minnesota. He came down here three years ago, loved the biking, and decided to open up his own adventure shop. It was nice to have someone give us tourist information in english.. rather than having to decipher what is being said to us! We were happily on our way up the valley and enjoying the warm day. Kevin shouted, watch out, and last thing I knew, I was swerving around his pedal. He managed to put the pedal back on with a rock, but the screw was definately gone. Should have had them check out that squeeky noise a bit more before we started. After about another 20 minutes, his seat was trying to come undone. He fixed that with my trusty army knife, too bad about five minutes later the seat was loose again and the pedal fell off. All of that uphill riding and we had to go back down. We had them switch out bikes and started off again. After about two hours riding up the valley, we took a break before heading back down. I think I should have just stayed on the bike rather than having to re-numb my butt all over again. It was a rough ride down. Kevin was just screaming down the valley as I continued to test my brakes the whole way. It was a great way to pass the time. On Tuesday evening, we headed up to Aguas Calientes via night train. We saw the Machu Pichu ruins on Wednesday and then got the extremely early train back to Ollantaytambo on Thursday.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Attempted Thievery on Election Day

Last Tuesday through Thursday we had what I would call a typical trek into the Colca Canyon:

We did get to see some of the famous Andean Condors which are a major attraction in the area:

The tour was quite cheap through an agency so we decided to go that way partly to avoid another Misti experience. The first day was spent seeing some of the sights on the way to the canyon. Second day we hiked down and through and the last day we got up at 3am to hike straight up for 3 hours and then took the bus back to Arequipa. The bus ride back was amusing. We took a public bus at 7am from Cabanoconde and arrived at the bus minutes before expected departure. It took us 15 minutes to cram 8 more people onto the bus – it was full of local people who were bringing their handicrafts to the Cruz Del Condor to sell to tourists. Despite having reserved seats we remained standing for the half an hour ride to Cruz Del Condor and became somewhat intimate with some of the locals. When we reached Chevy (approximately 3.5 hours from Arequipa) many more people got on, and quite a few remained standing throughout the entire trip.

We took an uneventful night bus back to Cusco on Friday. Actually, we did get to watch V For Vendetta which had clearly been videotaped off of a movie screen and transferred to DVD. It’s difficult to find original media down here.

Today (Sunday) we’d hoped to buy either a bus or train ticket into the Sacred Valley:

but almost everything is closed because of election day. Everyone in Peru is required by law to vote and will be fined $120 if they do not. Today they have the choice between a crook who was president once before and destroyed the economy and a man who wants to legalize cocaine, start war with Chili, and do a little ethnic cleansing. He actually wants to get rid of people who have too little indigenous blood which is backwards considering the history the of Americas. A local man joked with us in Spanish that today was the “bandito” election.

On our way to the local bus station we walked along some crowded sidewalks. Everything was fine until I felt some water splash across the back of my neck. Surprised, I looked back. The locals on the sidewalk (many were women) crowded in around me and pointed upwards to indicate the water came from above. I was confused momentarily, but my hackles were raised. People were pressed up against me. I quickly moved my hands to my zippered pocket on my pants to find the zipper mostly open and then without thinking shoved the man who was closest to that pocket. He gave me an innocent look and showed me his hands. The others backed away after my aggressive action and we walked quickly away. About a half block later a passenger in one of the taxis stopped at the light indicated to me that I was being watched. That was enough fun for today. We got some sandwich fixings at a touristy supermarket and then headed back to the hostel to wait out election day. Will try to keep to the touristy venues for the rest of the week.