Thursday, January 31, 2013
Machu Picchu – the end of the first leg of our journey around South America, and daughter Cheryl will be going back to work – Work: a four letter word. For Maxine, once to Machu Picchu is enough. When we came here in 1999, we had magnificent sunny weather. Cheryl & I are off to Cusco and Machu Picchu for a three day trip. The first day we took it easy (11,500 foot altitude) Took in a monastery and cathedral, and wandered through the sacred valley. The indigenous Quechua people did some amazing stone work. Look at that immense fitted rock behind Cheryl and me, and look at the beautiful weather – won’t hold up! We decide to take the luxurious Hiram Bingham train from Cusco to Agua Caliente, the city at the base of Machu Picchu. The train is an amazing experience by itself. The food, service and entertainment are fantastic. Hiram, by the way, was the man who “discovered” Machu Picchu in 1911. From Agua Caliente, there is a spine chilling switchback bus ride up the hill. We weren’t ready for the rain, but for $2 got some inexpensive rain gear. You may notice that I was much more secure on the slippery, irregular steps with a lovely cane which I got for Christmas. Even with the dampness, Machu Picchu is one of the great wonders of the world.
Pisco, Peru – Namesake of the national drink of Chile (even though we are in Peru) – The Pisco Sour. Pisco is a brandy-like liquor, made from distilled Muscat wine. It is aged for quite a few days and then bottled – a clear liquid, 80 proof. I don’t think anyone drinks it straight. It is combined with lemon juice, sugar and (if you like a frothy top) whipped egg whites to make the sour. A dash of Tobasco on top completes the drink. It is also mixed with fruit juice. The “coctel del pisco mango” is really yummy. But I digress. From Pisco, Peru we took a small boat to Peru's own version of the Galapagos, the fascinating Ballestas Islands. They are covered with penguins, cormorants, turkey vultures, sea lions, many types of gulls and lots of boobies. The baby cormorants are fluffy; the turkey vultures have red heads; well. You get the picture(s). There is also a pier. Every three years they come to the islands and harvest several feet of guano – a major export of Peru. On the way to the islands we saw the famous Candelabro, also known as Candelabra, a giant figure in the style of the Nazca drawings etched into the coastal hills. They don’t believe this figure was carved by aliens. Wind coming down the mountain keeps the figure clean – they don’t need to maintain it.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
First stops are at the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao – the old Dutch West Indies. We actually only went to A & C – Willemstad, Curaçao and Oranjestad, Aruba. First stop was Curaçao – a beautiful old Dutch-like village. We took a trolley ride around the town, just taking in the sights of the old city. The graffiti is much nicer than what we have in Silicon Valley. It’s actually artful. Don’t be fooled by the next picture. I’m inspecting the texture of the plaster surface. By the time we got to Oranjestad we were more adventurous. We went to a butterfly farm, an aloe Vera factory and saw some fabulous wild seacoast. The large natural bridge (Mother Bridge) fell down last year, but the Son natural bridge is nice as well. The wind and waves are spectacular. The burial houses are quite different. Each family builds a house of their choosing, but the land is rented. Each house holds 4 to 6 “coffins.” They would fill up too quickly, so after a couple of years they scoop out the remains of each coffin into a box, putting it under the coffins, raising them up a bit, making room for new residents. When everything is full, it’s on to the next building. Next stop Cartagena, Columbia.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Successfully arrived at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Miami – Home of the nation’s largest swimming pool (According to them). Daughter Cheryl is going with us to Lima and up to Machu Picchu. We walked in town a bit and ran into a large, friendly flamingo. Enough walking – Cheryl picked up an old English Junker and we tooled around the area. First day on the ship was at sea and we were entertained by Yakov Smirnov. Dinner was with the Cruise Director Jamie along with Brad &
Successfully arrived at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Miami – Home of the nation’s largest swimming pool (According to them). Daughter Cheryl is going with us to Lima and up to Machu Picchu. We walked in town a bit and ran into a large, friendly flamingo. Enough walking – Cheryl picked up an old English Junker and we tooled around the area. First day on the ship was at sea and we were entertained by Yakov Smirnov. Dinner was with the Cruise Director Carla Sue. We have travelled `twice before with Jamie & he is great.