Thursday, September 27, 2012

Machu Picchu (Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, Q'enqo, Qorikancha), Peru, September 2012

Cuzco, Peru

After our visit to the Peruvian Amazon we flew back to Lima and turned around and flew back out the next morning to Cuzco.  We have a beautiful view from our room where we eat a light lunch.  Rules of enjoying high altitude: hydrate, rest and eat light.

We have an afternoon tour of Cuzco highlights with Elga.  She is knowledgeable, organized, fun to chat with and keeps our walking pace slow so that we don't tire out.  She also knows what the usual tour route is and takes us 'backwards' so we don't run into any crowds-brilliant!

Cuzco was the center of the empire so it has a lot of important sites.  The philosophy is that in the beginning, everything was here, but it was chaotic.  Important Deity then takes everything and organizes it-my project management heart loves this!  This means that many things are sacred-mountains, rivers, people-and you can enhance what is already there.  They also have the aesthetic that functional simplicity is beauty and I felt the look had a lot in common with modern Scandanavian or Japanese beauty.

Tickets from the sites we visited-many have nice pictures and handy maps on the back.

This is a great site to start with because only 10-20% of the original structures are left, and it is all foundation.    These folks knew how to make earthquake proof buildings, starting with solid foundations and here it is all open to the sky.

How beautiful are these puzzle pieces?!  Note how all the edges are rounded, like a pillow, that is a sign this was a holy place, worthy of some extra work.

They keep some alpacas on site just for us tourists.

 If you can climb to the top you have a great view of the city

Q'enqo is my favorite of the sites we visit.  It is special because on the solstice the shadow of the rock is a puma and underneath is a small cave.  The cave represents the womb of mother earth, which is clearly sacred, so they, expanded the passage into the cave, carved in an alter and added niches to hold sacred objects.  I love the way they combine the natural and the man made.

Onto an important cathedral.  The most interesting items here are those that were made by locals which adds a twist.  There is a fairly famous painting of the Last Supper where the main dish is guinea pig, a local staple. The locally made statue of Jesus has a secret slot for petitions-though it is not accessible any more.

Finally Koricancha (have you noticed there are about 3 different spellings for everything?  yup, just go with it), originally the temple to the sun god, stripped by the Spanish down to the foundations, who then built on top, only to have most of that fall down in the earthquakes.  There is a neat exhibit of how the the stones were held together from the inside.  Carve a hollow that matches with the stones next to it and above, and then use metal or wood fasteners.

Everyone comes here to look for the famous stone with 14 visible corners.  One of the ways to hold up against earthquakes is to not make the individual stones meet at corners, but instead carve the corner into a single stone.  More interlocking pieces, less falling down.  These designs have lintels, no keystone for the arches, so you have to build in the sturdiness below.

Elga gets us back to our hotel where we take a quick nap before our shopping trip.  We walk around Cuzco-it is having growing pains, too much traffic on the small cobbled roads and some older parts of town torn down for newer buildings.  But it still has charming plazas and is very walkable (except for the altitude!).  We peak into a monastery that's been converted to a hotel to see the last ceder tree in the area.  They used to be common, but the wood is good to build with and now they are basically gone-so the garden with the last tree is beautiful, but sad.

I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get out of Peru without an alpaca sweater.  The trick would be to find one that didn't depict alpacas ON the sweater itself.  Throughout this part of the trip there are about a gabillion places to buy sweaters and hats, folks in the temple parking lots, a marketplace next to the train station, on the train to Peru, and individual stores.  The piles of merchandise can be overwhelming-so have a plan.  I knew that I wanted one nice sweater and some yarn.  I found this Montse Bello for the sweater, which does NOT have alpacas on it, and she directed me to a yarn wholeseller-so that was a big success!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Amazon cruise, checklist of animals, Peru, 2012

They provided us with a sweet list of animals, so after every trip you could easily note what you saw.

Food on the boat in Peru, Sept 2012

A review of the food from the first week of our Peru vacation.

At the airport on the way to the boat we want to eat local, so we try Manos Marenos (Marenos hands).   Even though we are in a food court they have people walking around with menus to take your order and deliver food. E- gets his first version of tuc tuc, beef and onions over rice and beans.  I get a chicken and rice dish which is a mixture of Peruvian and Oriental styles.

Once we get on the boat Raul the chef always manages to plate interesting food beautifully. The first dinner salad has hearts of palm and beet salad in balsamic vinegar, chicken with mashed potatoes and sweet potato sticks.  They always serve a sorbet palate cleanser before dessert, which tonight is chocolate with a sugar wafer.

Breakfast buffet has way too much yummy stuff-multiple meats, breads and fruit.  The cua cua juice is the most interesting-it is pink and bitter.  My favorite is the fried plantains, I eat them every morning!

Lunch is ravioli stuffed with palm fruit and jungle potatoes which are smaller, slightly starchier sweet potatoes.  The sauce on the side is spicy with aji berries which are bright yellow but have the flavor of habaneros. 

Dinner is hearts of palm with a creamy sauce and ginger.  Donella fish over fettuchini with Asian stir fry vegetables.  Always sorbet in the middle!  Dessert is a pear in read wine sauce.

Breakfast treat with the buffet is passion fruit pancakes.  E- likes the salty fried plantains and bacon for breakfast.

Lunch is potatoes three ways, first is mashed with beets so it is red and avocado slices on top, next with aji so it is yellow and palm slices on top, finally something that turns it green with olives, onions and crunchy things.

  It comes with a side of ceviche in a fancy shot glass (with a straw?).
The crew prides itself on having different decor-flowers, table decorations and plates-for each meal, here are some of them.  All the items were available for sale at the last port-they are handcrafted weavings, carvings and jewelry parts and of course local flowers.

We had a cooking demonstration on how to make juanes, a representation of John the Baptists head that is eaten on June 24th.  It is rice, chicken, hard-boiled egg and olive wrapped in special leaves.

Dessert is aguaje (?) ice cream with chocolate sauce and sweetly toasted bread cubes.
Fancy decor

 Pumpkin soup
 Steak with Andean potatoes

Plantain empanadas with creme Anglese.
For this next breakfast we go out on the skiffs and are served while on the water!
 Including decor!

 Cute breakfast sandwiches

and pastries!

Lunch is Donella fish with plantain chips surrounded by 3 sauces, cua cua (pink), cilantro (green), and aji pepper (yellow)
 Another version of Donella fish with hearts of palm noodles, spicy sauce and fancy rice.

 Passion fruit ice cream
One last lunch of hearts of palm salad, fried egg on beef, rice and veg.  There was a birthday on board so dessert was of course birthday cake.