Saturday, August 23, 2008

Trek, Machu Picchu, and Arequipa

Well this post has been delayed for a while. I began it a couple of days ago and was able to add a few more pictures of our early exploits, but then became too fed up with the slow internet connection to continue. Therefore, there are still no pictures of Mach Picchu, for which I apologize, but I will post them as soon as I get back to the States on Saturday and don´t have to share bandwith with 20 other people!

Here begins the original post, above will be an update:



We visited this Inca site (pronounced very similarly to ¨Sexy Woman¨ the same day as Pisac. It´s about a 30 minute walk outside of Cusco and was one of the last strongholds of the Inca. They used it as a base from which to attack the Spanish in Cusco. After the Inca were finally defeated, some of the stones from the site were removed to use for new Spanish buildings in Cusco. The last photos is sunset over Cusco as we walked home.


As I said, the trek was awesome: great guide, beautiful views, and friendly locals. Unfortunately my camera also took a bath in the hotsprings where we began our trip, so it was out of commission for the first two days. Luckily, it dried out just in time for an adorable song from the local school children in the second night´s village. Our tour company donates 5% of its profits to support local causes, one of which is providing a school teacher for the children in this village. In return for their song and their patience at our desire to take pictures of them, we gave them oranges and bananas since fruit isn´t particularly common in the highlands.


W e made it into Arequipa early Saturday morning (5:30am) after another pleasant experience on a night bus. The seats reclined even further than on our bus from Lima to Cusco and even more valuable, this company decided NOT to play movies the entire night. We have one more long bus ride from Arequipa to Lima before we fly home and I have to say, I´m almost looking forward to it.

After trying three separate hostels, we found one in our price range and with an open double. We then proceeded to crash for about two and a half hours (no matter how comfortable the bus, you don´t sleep well) before rallying to see the two biggest tourist sites in Arequipa: the Monastery de Santa Catalina and Juanita, the Ice Princess. Eric was not a fan of the monastery, which was actually a convent, but I thought it was rather beautiful in its simplicity. There were tons of different colors and beautiful plants throughout the city-block complex and although somewhat repetitive, I thought it was interesting to see how these women lived for about 400 years. Apparently, back in the day, they threw parties and generally kept up the noble lifestyles of their pre-nun days until some party-pooper of a bishop decided to crack down. Oh well, at least they still had God I guess.

We then headed to see Juanita, a girl of 12-14 who was sacrificed to the Gods by the Inca about 500 years ago on top of Mt. Ampato. She was discovered about 15 years ago when the ash of a nearby volcano melted the snow of Mt. Ampato, uncovering several burial sites. It was one of the best-run attractions we´ve been to in Peru and we both found the history of the discovery and the archaeological extrapolations about the sacrifice fascinating. The guide was also informative and took us through all of the different items found with Juanita and the two other children found on the mountain including the small replicas of everyday items like pots and llamas to the amazingly well preserved weavings and Juanita herself.

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