If you want to see the pics in high res 8 meg pixel go to the end and click on the links there are over 5,500 of them, Enjoy the flowers as they make great screensavers,
Thank You
Robert & Margaret

Our 15-day Peruvian Adventure
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
At 10 AM we left Englewood for Miami. We were both over the top with anticipation for this trip. We had been dreaming about it forever and seriously planning for it since January when we enrolled in a Spanish class at the library. Just outside Miami Bob spied something that he thought was "art" alongside the highway. After two u-turns, we slowed to examine it. At 60 MPH it appeared to be a statue, the remnants of a travel trailer, plus assorted junk. When the statue moved, we realized it was the home of a tall, thin black man. I told Bob he needed to get new glasses as I had two weeks ago! By 12:30 we were ravenous; a stop at Pollo Tropical assuaged our hunger. It's fast food with a Cuban twist-wraps, soups and chicken a hundred ways. Good food. After leaving the car at the off-site parking lot ($112 for 15 days), we arrived at the airport. As I studied the signs in Spanish, I felt like a little child just learning to read. The plane loaded late (medical emergency), and took off late (waiting for pillows), but we finally were in the air and arrived at the Lima airport at 10:30. A most accommodating cabby, Jose Casanova, was waiting to take us to Hotel Antigua Miraflores.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Our hotel turned out to be a good choice; it is a charming colonial mansion with hand-carved furniture, local art, free internet,WI FI,  a cozy black-and-white tiled breakfast room, and beautiful grounds. We had booked it on the web and picked a room with a rooftop patio; it couldn't have been more perfect. The breakfast was filling and afterward we set out to see Miraflores. There was a demonstration going on in the park with several hundred young people peacefully gathered with drums and flutes. There was also plenty of police presence so we crossed the street to the cathedral. We admired the interior with its beautiful stained glass windows and stations of the cross. Later we went on a ceviche quest; Bob's favorite! We finally arrived at the marketplace ("pigtown" according to the locals) where you can buy every kind of fresh item from octopus to lamb, from apricots to watermelons. A kind meat vendor led us to the ceviche stand. If you are uninitiated, ceviche is raw fish, calamar, scallops, mussels, snails that are "cooked" in lime juice. I had a fried fish dish preceded by a rather salty potato soup. Then we left to peruse the outdoor vendors. I found a great dessert of rice con leche. A woman was sitting on the ground nearby selling tablecloths, two for 20 soles ($7). Of course, I bought two before we walked further to the Mercado de Artesanos where we bought a few more souvenirs. After a short nap for me and computer time for Bob, we walked along the Pacific through several parks with dramatic drops to the ocean below. Lovers' Park has a huge statue of embracing lovers and curved, tiled walls covered with sentiments of amour. Then we went back to the hotel to get ready for our early (5 AM!) flight to Cuzco. There was a group of young women from Minneapolis who asked for a picture and, of course, we obliged.

Thursday, April 23, 2009
We were told to be at the airport EARLY-like 2 hours early. Not so as there wasn't even an agent at the Taca desk for an hour after we got there! So much for sleep. We also found out that a departure tax is charged every time you fly here, not only when you leave the country. When we landed in Cuzco, we were met by our guide, Percy Salas, whom we had hired on the internet. Percy drove us through Cuzco, a large city of 400,000, where he lives. Then we headed out of town, through mountains and valleys, past young boys leading barley-laiden alpacas, Andean women in their colorful costumes selling handmade woven items, small towns like Chinchero 3,800 meters above sea level. I began to feel the altitude, green and dizzy. After all, we live at 9 feet above sea level!
When we arrived at our destination, Ollantaytambo, we were amazed. The cobblestone streets, surrounding mountains, ruins second only to Machu Picchu, and a wonderful hotel-Pakaritampu-awaited us. The hotel is a collection of tiled-roof , modern Spanish buildings with 37 rooms. The grounds are filled with stunning, beautiful flowers and water running through channels everywhere. After depositing the luggage in our comfortable room, we had our first of many 3-wheeled motorcycle rides for two soles (less than $1) .  Percy had recommended a wonderful restaurant where we both decided on alpaca; it is very lean and very good. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed long, luxurious baths before bed.

Friday, April 24, 2009
Today would have been my father's 87th birthday. How he would have loved this trip! Bob couldn't contain himself and was up by 5:30! The high, dry air was a challenge for us; more for me than him, and I began to feel my age-66 in July-ugh!! We told ourselves we should have done this sooner, but better later than never. Breakfast was sumptious: chicken, eggs, oranges, apples, plums, rolls, toast, assorted juices and hot drinks. I especially loved the elderberry jam. After breakfast we looked out our window to see the three resident alpacas munching grass on the lawn not 20 feet away! They have thick, thick coats to protect them from the 40 degree night air, one white, one beige, one black. We felt like we'd just seen Santa's reindeer!

Then we walked less than a block to the train station where the locals hawked their wares: food, drinks, hats, shawls, etc. I had had a "senior moment" when I packed and Bob arrived with only cool weather shirts. After 30 years I should have known what he would wear, but he seemed to be handling the cool weather better than I was (he's from Texas, I'm from Minnesota, go figure). So we bought him T-shirts, also coca candies and leaves. We continued to drink the coca tea the hotel provided the whole time we were there; it helped with the altitude. There was a young girl in a beautiful long shawl and Bob remembered the toys he had brought for the children. We raced back to the room, returned with one stuffed dog, and soon learned that one would not be enough! 
So, relieved of several dogs, dolls, and balls later, we met Percy and drove the short distance to the ruins. Of course, there were souvenir stalls there, too, and word had already reached the mothers who were waiting for me. Manana was all I could say!

The hike to the ruins was hard, especially for me; thank goodness Percy turned out to be as much a coach as a guide, allowing me to rest when I needed it. He is a real find, a fount of knowledge, always pointing out formations that we would have missed, continually offering his suppositions as to what, why, how these stones ended up here. After we finished the tour, we were back in Percy's car to travel to Pisaq which is about 40 miles away, passing verdant valleys, terraced crops halfway up the mountains, workers harvesting corn, barley, potatoes, wheat, quinua. When we arrived at Pisaq, we went through the market but didn't purchase much. Andean women and children and a regally dressed Indian caught our attention, so many pictures were taken. For lunch, Percy and I had trout and Bob tried alpaca once again. All the food was good! I also had my first of many Inca Kolas-a yellowish drink with a very unique taste, kind of reminiscent of ginger ale. Next Percy drove us halfway up the mountain to the Pisaq ruins. I doubted I would be able to climb that high-14.000 feet! But climb it we all did. The quiet beauty left us awestruck; Percy said it is his favorite place and we understood when we got to the top. Bob and I agreed this was a marvelous day and if we died tomorrow, we'd already seen heaven. Saturday, April 25, 2009
After another great breakfast, we made a dash for the stalls by the train station because we had promised las madres the last of our gifts. Our load was lightened of dolls, pens, gloves and our pockets of $15 more (we were easily persuaded to buy yet another souvenir!). Percy was waiting to take us to Chinchero to see another wonderful church. Once again, the base of the church is evident from Inca times and the remainder from Spanish colonial times. Unfortunately the paintings and d├ęcor are so fragile that no pictures are allowed. Percy explained all the details of the paintings: which artists painted hands, which the faces, which the flowers. He told us about the Cuzco School of Painting and I realized that I needed to learn more.
The flowers decorating the altar, gladiolus and calla lilies, stood out as much as the statues. Outside we inspected the ancient walls. Of course, we had to investigate the small market, buy a few woven items and stop for some quinua, a kind of grain that our oldest daughter, Kirsten, uses in cooking.

Next, Percy drove us to the Moray Experimental Terraces. His driving skills became very evident as we wound round and round the precipitous curves through the mountains, even backing up at times for oncoming vehicles. I tried not to look out the window! The Terraces have been excavated to reveal huge circles that go down probably 200 feet; it reminded us of a coliseum. Bob climbed all the way to the bottom to get the "energy" but I was satisfied to venture only about one-third of the way down. There are two other areas still being excavated. Next we traveled to the Maras Salt Pans, once again on narrow, dangerous roads. But it was definitely a sight to see! From the opposing mountain, over 5000 separate plots appear, mostly salty white, some brown waiting to be cleaned. Each family can own 1, 2 or 3 plots; most of owners farm in the wet season and work the pans in the dry season. Soon it was time for a lunch break in Urubamba. Bob had a pork dish, Percy chicken, and I decided on another trucha (trout). During all of our drives, I had noticed poles extended from buildings with red plastic bags attached to the pole. Percy told us that this was the "sign" for chicha, the local beer.

He stopped at a home/business where we could sample some. The downstairs rooms in this home are devoted to raising guinea pigs in one room and making and serving chicha in the other. The process involves using corn that is sprouted, ground up and fermented. The chicha is white but can be colored pink by adding strawberries. Bob tried the white and I opted for the pink; it was surprisingly good! The proprietress' young daughter was wearing an apron with the PUBLIX logo on it. Of course, we were amazed to see the local Florida grocer displayed so far from home and had to explain what was so astonishing to Percy and the family. We drove back to Ollantaytambo once more and Percy walked us to an area where we could see real Inca homes, quite like they have been for hundreds of years. The buildings are made of mud bricks, the guinea pigs are munching on long, green rye, the corn is hanging up to dry, and the ancient skulls of ancestors are prominently displayed to protect the family. Tomorrow's agenda: what 9 out of 10 people travel to Peru to see-MACHU PICCHU!

Sunday, April 26, 2009
After our final breakfast at Hotel Pakaritampu, we said a sad goodbye and walked the short route to the train station. We had been assigned seats on the right side and, luckily, we were able to switch to the left as the ride began. The view is better on the left.