Cucso, Inca Trail, Lima

Suzan Standing in Front of One of the Many
Beautiful Churches in the Plaza de Armas

So many beautiful historic monuments to explore here in a city that allegedly had inhabitants three thousand years ago. The Spaniards came in the 1500's (as conquerors) - then built around and added to many of the  ancient Inca structures. One must keep in mind to walk in this city requires much climbing (it is steep) and it is also at an elevation of 11,000 feet so deep breathing and many rest stops are necessary. Everyone here drinks Coca tea (it is filled with B Vitamins and also the coca plant (where Cocaine is derived from) so yes, people here work hard and long hours and don't even seem to mind. They also encourage visitors to drink the tea to help adjust to the elevation. Our host family greeted us with coca tea and sugar (as it doesn't have a  lot of taste without it). It helps with a lot more than the elevation so we did enjoy many sips of the native brew.

The Plaza de Armas is the Central Tourist Area
in Cusco and Home to Numerous Churches
Carlo and Anny, Our Host Family for Our First Week
in Cusco. Very Wonderful Couple and Great Hospitality.

When enrolling with the San Blas Spanish School (via the internet), we requested a home stay with a Peruvian family. What a treat awaited us. When we arrived at the home of Carlos and Ane - residing in a modern condominium in the residential part of town - Ane said, "Here's the key for your condominium." (in Spanish, of course, no English is spoken at all) - part of the immersion experience. They owned another condo in a separate building and we could stay in it for the seven nights that we'd signed up for (including three meals per day). So we stayed in a three bedroom, two bath condo (with kitchen) and had our meals next door. Such an interesting and kind couple (so very patient with OUR Spanish)...Carlos had owned restaurants in different Latin American countries and had been the Chef (an extraordinary one we must say)--we sure did not expect our meals to be so delicious and the presentations to be so artistic - we took many photos of the food. Ane was a multi-talented Artist - a ceramics maker - a chocolate maker (had a warehouse and sold them in many stores) - a jewelry maker (I kept buying it too).......the only adjustments were for Peruvians lunch is the BIG MEAL - served about 1 or 1:30 p.m. yet breakfast was 'pan' (bread) and so was dinner (though at dinner one also had desserts). Also, in Peru, in general no one seems to heat places and there really isn't such a thing as 'hot' water - lukewarm at best. And it was so icy cold in Peru -especially in Cusco where it would dip into 20's and 30's in the evening (as we were walking home from school). I had to buy another jacket - a down one with lots of padding to survive. Lovely area and an unforgettable experience -- just need to dress warm in many layers and keep them on at all times!

Palta de la Rellena, One of Our Favorite Dishes
and a Specialty of Carlo, an Extraordinary Chef
Typical Side Street in Cusco, Cobblestone and
Very Steep. At 11,000 Feet, a Great Workout
Our Teachers From the San Blas Spanish School
Where We Took Individual Lessons Our First Week

We each had our own instructors (what an experience to have 1:1 instruction)! Jim had Gustavo as his teacher. I had Ricardo as mine - Jim in the Beginner Class and Suzan in Intermediate. All of the lessons were in Spanish - no English allowed - now imagine Jim in this class on the first day coming in only knowing 'cerveza (beer)' -- well, by the end of the week he could even put together a full sentence (in the present tense of course yet still quite an accomplishment). Now Suzan hadn't practiced much in the last ten years so it was no cake walk for her either. As she was the only one who could communicate with 'the family' she did get a lot of practice along with the lessons - which were about five hours a day Monday - Friday. The design of the classes was so stimulating - a couple of times I was able to listen to top recording salsa artists songs - then fill in the blanks with some key words I heard. Then the best part - I could sing a long and loudly with my instructor. My instructor would hold up cards with various scenes and I'd then have a discussion around the impact of the cards. By the end of the week - I remembered 'some' of my many years of former study (and there is a lot more there waiting to reconnect - I just know it).

The Church Steeple of Inglesa de San Blas, the
Local Church for the San Blas Neighborhood
Ladies of the Local, Outdoor Meat Market. We Did
Not See Too Much Refrigerated Meat in Peru.
The San Blas Neighborhood Where We Stayed Our
Last Few Days in Cusco, Overlooking Plaza de Armas

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Suzan in Front of an Ancient Inca Wall Which Shows
The Intricate Stone Cutting Capability of the Incas

We Discovered This Great Local Cebicheria Where
We Were the Only Tourists Amongst Many Locals.
A Peruvian Peasant Woman and Her Pet Llama

Passing By a "Highlander" on the Inca Trail as We
Make Our Way to Machu Picchu

Jim Stopping For a Little Trail Side Refreshment
of Mountain Beer. Almost as Good as Coca Leaves.

The Inca Trail Passed Through Many Varieties of
Micro Climates, Including This Section of Rainforest

At Various Places Along the Inca Trail, Villagers
Sell Drinks, Snacks, and Coca Leaves to Trekkers

Our Small Trekking Group Having Lunch. From Left,
Rachel, Lucy and Becka, Who Where From England.

Hiking Machu Picchu engrained memories for our lifetime! We could feel the spiritual energy embrace us as we climbed step by step along the ancient, sacred pathways of the Incas. Beauty surrounded us - above us, below us - all around us - so much so it felt overwhelming. The porters were truly amazing - all not much taller than me carrying 50 pounds (the tents/food supplies, etc.) - and running the trails in sandals. Everytime porters approached we'd yell, "Porteadores" and get out of their way promptly to the left of the trail (if to the right we may fall a long way off the ledge if bumped by their goods on their backs). The porters work so hard and are so kind. Each morning we'd have a wake up call (some earlier than others - our earliest was at 4:am for our final day where we'd descend into Machu Picchu. They'd tap on our tent  and give us a choice of instant coffee or teas including the Coca Tea (now that is a real wake up call - has cocaine leaves in it); we'd take what we wanted off of trays and then get ready for the day. The bathrooms now they had a lot to be desired - often a tin shed with a squat toilet with flies buzzing about....
We'd then go to our breakfast tent where the porters (led by head cook - who by the way is fully trained as a chef and takes courses every year) - they'd serve up pancakes with caramel sauce or omelettes, etc. During our treks they'd set up a lunch tent - and it was as good as any grand cafe although we were a bit of a cozy fit in the tent. Prior to dinner we'd have happy hour - no alcohol though we'd have hot chocolate, tea (yep coca), pastries and popcorn. Then we'd have a 4 or 5 course meal to follow for dinner. We were fed so well that in spite of the fact that we'd climbed for many hours each day (usually 6-8) --- I think we gained weight on this venture!

We were so fortunate that we were only a group of five with two guides! What a blessing as we saw countless groups of 20 plus in single file (sticking together like white on rice). We, on the otherhand, could roam freely as is the true nature of the nomads! Our companions who walked much faster than us had just finished college (which in England means high school) and were taking a year break before the university to travel. In England young people are encouraged to take off a year prior to attending the university to either work or travel. The University holds the places for these individuals. These young women were a lot of fun to be with with their youthful vigor and energy (we hope some of it rubbed off - we did finish the trek (us older folk) so that says a lot!

Near the Dead Woman Pass, at 13,780 Feet. This
Was Our Highest Pass and Required Coca Leaves.

Suzan Climb Up The Stairs to the Inca Ruins of
Runkuracay, One of Many Along the Inca Trail

The Inca Ruins of Runkuracay

One of the Many Unique and Pretty Flowers on the

Our Hiking Party and Porters on the Night Before
We Hiked to Machu Picchu,With Beer Courtesy of Jim

A Statue That We Actually Saw in Miraflores, Which
is a Beautiful Coastal Area of the Capital, Lima

We had a lengthy layover - arriving at the Lima Airport from Cusco around 4:00 p.m. with our flight departure to LAX scheduled for 1:00 a.m.  We decided to store our carry-on bags, hop in a taxi and endure the peak traffic to experience more of Peru. We went to Largo Mar in Miraflores a beautiful area near cliffs along the ocean (like Malibu in L.A.). Yet this area had many parks - each one with different statues and art work - one had winding tiled benches (with inspirational sayings and so colorful) along the perimeter. We watched the sunset behind the immense statue of two lovers embraced.  Then we found a seafood restaurant along a cliff over the ocean to share and enjoy our favorite dishes - Palta Rellena with prawns and Mixed Ceviche. After dinner, we perused the Peruvian handicraft stores - stimulating to see - too pricey for purchases. Our night cap then consisted of ice cream (the same language in any country)....and we met our same taxi driver at 9:00 p.m. for our return to the port! Such a fun excursion (a lot more fun than hanging out at the port with everyone else). Little did we know that our flight would not depart this evening. We did not find out until 1:30 a.m. that the earlier flight in had a bird fly into the engine and to be precautious they chose not to fly it. So...after many paper work lines we checked into the Lima Sheraton - along with all the other passengers - and arrived in our room about 5:00 a.m. When I found out there was a tub AND REAL hot water - this became more important than sleeping for me - I took a tub instead! Only a few hours later the busses returned for us to take us back to the port so we could go through the horrendous process once more of international check-in. Yet this time we did take off and had a very smooth flight - all 9.5 hours of it! Watched some great movies though. When we arrived in Los Angeles we missed our connecting flight. After standing in another two hour line - a bus whisked us to the L.A.X. Hilton for our next free stay - we checked in at midnight. Finally two days after we'd originally departed - we were at the airport for our San Diego flight check-in. Only thing is they had not put us in the system - so we waited until we could board a flight and that afternoon our plane did land on San Diego soil. Yet we then remembered that we had to call AAA to change our tire on the truck/camper. Our tire had burst as we pulled into our storeage unit - not much we could do about it then with a taxi waiting to take us to the port. We cannot tell you how happy we were to finally pull away with tire fixed from AAA - free at last! We've learned that most traveling adventures occur in transit!!!

Statue of an Inca Leader

Miraflores by Moonlight

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