River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Peruvian adventure Part 3

April 2005

Anne continues with her great Peruvian adventure.

A coach, brought in by rail, took 25 mins. to zigzag 5 miles up to the entrance of Machu Piccu. We then climbed steep steps up to the vantage point to look over the ruins. If the climb did not take your breath away the view did. Just like the picture that sold me the holiday.

Hiram Bingham, discovered it about 100 years ago while looking for somewhere else (still not discovered) The Incas started building it in 1430, and covering 10 acres it would have taken several years. In 1532 the Spanish arrived in Peru and followed the Inca Trail to the city and did their best to demolish it. This is about all the historians know, as the area was cleared by the slash and burn method, any artefacts going to the U.S.A., never to be returned. It surprised me that there is no recorded history for Peru before 15c; as writing was not used here until then. No one knows for sure where the Incas came from, unless you believe that the three brothers arose from Lake Titicaca.

We climbed 88 stone 'staircases' and saw the sun temple where at midsummer, in December, the first rays of the sun light the altar, a room with two stone bowls carved in the floor (no-one knows why) and a sundial which also told the seasons by the length of its shadow. Alpaca kept the grass mown. Lots of tourists were also walking on hair-raising paths; at home Health and Safety would have closed it long ago! One bridge, where a tourist had fallen to their death, was closed. Next morning we returned to watch the sunrise and see it all again with very few other people about.

At the bottom of the valley, as I ate asparagus soup with stringy cheese floating in it and free garlic bread, I watched local children practicing for Independence Day; the band needed to practice and the rest did goose step. We caught a train nearly to Cusco; as it takes, with lots of shunting, 10 mins. to go over points, we took a bus a bus the rest of the way.

Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy-woman) were the next set of ruins; a really large Inca fortress which took 70 years to build. The largest stone weighs 125 tons (this was on the bottom layer of the construction) no mortar was used, the stones being locked together to withstand earthquakes. Lunch for me was cold mixed vegetables in mayonnaise, topped with avocado (remembered to keep knife and fork for next course) then a warm roll with thinnish soup with whole potatoes, cheese and broad beans floating in it; followed by beef, rice and yellow mashed corn. With coffee and tip £2.50.

I met up with rest to see the cathedral quite spectacular, an enormous golden altar and a silver side altar. The paintings here, and in the rest of the country were either Spanish, or copies of European pictures, by the Peruvians with everybody having white skin. Except 'The Last Supper' by Zapata who depicted Judas with a brown face and evil eyes. The 13 were sharing a bowl of fruit, a few peppers and one guinea pig. Photography was not allowed so I bought more postcards from enterprising schoolboys. As school was in 2 sessions 7am till noon and 1pm till 6pm there were always children earning money by cleaning shoes, even trainers, selling cards and girls wearing national costume to be photographed. I had a drink of Inca Cola; I think it tasted like our coke but was bright yellow.

A whole day to myself so I explored the back streets; being invited into a wool wholesalers and had to mime I do not knit or weave; I suppose I am different to Peruvian ladies. And I saw the equivalent of a Cash & Carry, all in one room and I then knew why our hotel always served blackcurrant jam. Two museums containing almost nothing did not hold my interest for long, so lunch on a balcony overlooking the square. Spinach soup with dried herbs and more stringy cheese; spaghetti with smoked ham and cheese: a banana with honey and a mug of tea £2.00 but I gave a 'deaf' man a coin for a trinket and a passing band, who set up shop in the restaurant, another coin.

In the afternoon I watched traditional weavers, each area has its own traditional designs and the tourist industry thrives on this. The roads were busy with Daewoo taxis and a few old U.S.A. cars, also taxis. The locals rode motorbikes, the drivers with crash helmets, but the wife on the pillion and the 2 children on the petrol tank did not.

Our group had our last meal together, I was off to jungle, and they were going home. I chose vegetable soup with croutons followed by a crispy pastry shell filled hot melted chocolate served with ice cream. We said our good byes. I will miss them all as we got on well and no one moaned, not even he who lost his camera and was taken to a police station to be fingerprinted.

Taken to the airport to fly to the "richest rain forest in he world". I had to wait for 2 girls from another group and found someone had checked in for me, so I went through scanners etc with nail scissors and file in my hand baggage with no problems. When we alighted the humidity met us, but the taxi did not. This is an adventure holiday. So mimed telephone, and with help and more mime a three wheeled motorbike arrived. We squeezed in and the bags were tied on the back with string. Next we were in a truck (some had thatched roofs but not ours) for a bumpy ride through jungle to the river. Then a 90 min. boat ride to our lodge. I saw side necked turtles and dugout canoes. We had to scale a steep bank and walk to the clearing in the jungle; which would be home for 4 days.

In the middle of all this I had an en suite room to myself; the shower was warmest at mid-day and matches were provided for the candle which I lit with care, as every thing was constructed from wood or reeds. The dining room seated 64, with long tables and solid wood chairs (too heavy for me to lift). Flasks of hot water and dried milk were always on hand for tea and coffee; also bananas. A bar served real drinks and chocolates; at a price, but every thing had quite a journey to get here. There was solar power in the kitchen - for fridges and freezers - and enough to light the dining room in the evenings. All the buildings were on wooden stilts to prevent the snakes entering.

After a lunch of cold cauliflower, carrots and peas in mayonnaise topped by an olive; beef stew with sweet potato and rice, followed by banana and condensed milk, (No choice but I enjoyed everything), a guide and the three of us went off into the jungle. It was not really a walk, as mud had to be crossed and banks climbed up and down; remembering not to hold onto anything as it was probably home to something which would bite you. Our 20-year-old guide was very knowledgeable; she knew all the medicinal properties of the plants and trees. Doctors are only need here for premature births and bad stomach upsets. Fortunate really, as very few doctors or hospitals in the country. I think some of these plants are the basis of some of our medicines. One leaf was guaranteed to remove wrinkles over night. I was the guinea pig...next morning I was asked, "well did you try it?" The walking willow trees were fascinating, the trunk starts six feet from the ground, and the roots in the shade die and new ones grow on the sunny side; this moves the tree up to two feet a year. There were blue butterflies the size of my hand and large moths. Also ants of very, very many types and lots of other insects. We were taken to see the sunset over the river; looked good but I was more excited by the caiman (a small crocodile). Back to base for supper, take no notice of the tarantula on the ceiling, spaghetti soup; chicken with rice, sweet potatoes and cucumber, followed by a sort of blancmange. I was in bed and asleep by 9 pm.

Anne Brown

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