Sunday, July 4, 2010

Peru -- by Nathan (part 1)

As was promised by Kellie, I will recount my adventures in Peru and include many more photos than the original Peru post.

As with all adventures, this one had a beginning. Naturally, one would think a vacation far from Cleveland would begin at the Cleveland airport. As convenient as that would have been with this trip, such was not the case. In looking for the best airfare, I found flights to and from JFK airport in New York would be about $600 less than if I flew out of Cleveland. And so, my travel companion (Ben) and I opted to drive 9 hours and then fly from New York.

To make the drive worth while, we decided to enjoy New York as much as possible before our 11:45pm flight. First, we paid a visit to Lady Liberty.
Fortunately we couldn't have asked for a nicer day to be in New York Harbor -- clear skies, calm seas, etc. It was remarkable to see the statue up close and interesting to see from the inside how she was cobbled together.

Following Liberty Island, Ben and I made our way uptown, stopping at Times Square and ending up near Central Park. We had dinner at a tiny Italian restaurant two blocks away from the park -- excellent food and outstanding service. If only I could remember the name of the restaurant . . . Anyhow, our bellies full of great food, we took the subway back to the airport and began the 9½ hour journey to Cusco, Peru.

Our main objective for this trip was to initiate talks between our dental school and the government and health officials of the town of Lamay and department of Cusco so that we can return in subsequent years to offer free dental care to the people of Lamay and its surrounding communities. As a means of passing time between official meetings, we took advantage of our location and saw as many archaeological sites as we could.

We arrived in Cusco at 9:30 in the morning on June 20th. Since the Cusco airport is undergoing renovations, the Jetway was inoperable. Thus, we deplaned on the tarmac the old fashioned way. As I exited the plane, I filled my lungs with the refreshingly clean air of the more-than-two-mile-high-city. As I walked toward the airport, I couldn't help but gaze at the deep blue of the sky. The only problem was the sun. The Cusqueños probably don't know it, but their sun is in the wrong place. Instead of shining comfortably from the south, it dominates the northern portion of the sky. This alteration confused my internal compass the entire week.

From the airport, we took a taxi to the nearest LDS church just in time for the 10:00 services. After church, we talked with a member of the congregation to see if he knew of an inexpensive place for us to spend the night. He directed us to a nearby bed & breakfast that charged $10 per night per person. The room was clean and the owners of the B&B were very friendly -- we became instant friends.

the view from my room in Cusco

That afternoon, Ben and I took a leisurely stroll around the ruins of Saqsaywaman, Q'enqo, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay.

Saqsaywaman -- panorama of the site. Note it is made in the shape of a lightning bolt (zig-zaggy) -- the Inca worshiped many things from nature including the rainbow, the lightning bolt, and, especially, the sun.

Example of how precise the stonework at Saqsaywaman is.

This is the largest stone in the park. It is estimated to weigh between 124 and 200 tons!

It is important to note that all the stones used to build Saqsaywaman (including the 18 ft tall one above) were dragged several miles from the next mountain over. The uncut stones surrounding the site are completely different than those used in construction, plus a stone quarry with the right kind of stones has been found over yonder. So the evidence is pretty strong that a lot of people had to do a lot of pushing and pulling to make this site a success.

Q'enqo (the first "q" is pronounced in the back of your throat) is a place where sacrifices were made and mummies were kept. It's a relatively small site, but interesting to visit.

The sacrificial alter in the cave of Q'enqo

Puka Pukara is thought to have been a military fortress used to protect Tambomachay which lies only about a half a mile away.

The fortress of Puka Pukara

Tambomachay is thought to have been a leisure venue for Inca royalty. A spring is located on site which was diverted to create small cascades. The water from the spring is about the best tasting water I've ever drunk -- and certainly the best water I've drunk right from the source.

The royal pleasure palace: Tambomachay -- note the water feature on the left side of the complex.

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