Star Date:  June 2013


Hello Dear Family & Friends!

"Care samaki"
(How are you?  Uros -indigenous- floating islands Lake Titicaca)




"Live Young!"

Funny how 2 words can invoke thoughts, smiles, tears, memories, regrets, dreams.  Get on your dancing shoes and watch this 1 minute video for a guaranteed smile: 
After all isn't smiling, loving, dancing, laughing what life is all about?

Machu Pichu.  A lone condor circles and cries out, reverberating thousands of feet to the valley below. Undeniably one of the most remarkable sites on this planet, it is hidden away in the remote mountains next to the Sacred Valley and Cuzco.   This ancient site is still shrouded in mystery.  Joseph first visited here with his Mom in 1965 and I hiked in via the infamous Inca Trail in 1999 with Mariah and Kevin.  Infrastructure has changed.  In 1999 we just jumped off a local train, crossed a swinging bridge and started on the rigorous trail, paying the $10 entrance fee when we arrived at the Sun Gate several days later.  Now you must book 2-6 months in advance to hike the Inca Trail and pay $600 p.p.  A lot of money to face Warmiwahusca (4215m) "Dead Woman's Pass" or the several hundred steep Inca steps nicknamed the 'Gringo Killers".  Tough trek but worth it.

Gone are the local trains.  A tourist train costing $120 plus the $55 entrance fee is the only option today to visit Machu Pichu.  That is unless you decide to walk in.  We were discouraged by the increased fees but not going would be a little like visiting Cairo and not seeing the pyramids.

Since we were 'in the neighborhood' we decided to take a van over a spectacular 15,000 ft pass, follow a winding river valley and  hike in to nearby Aguas Calientes to access Machu Pichu.  This adventure started out with stunning scenery, a relaxed lunch in the mountains, followed by a risky 4 hour hike as darkness descended because of poor planning by the transport company.  As often happens the 6 members of our group helped each other with flashlights to find their way along the sketchy railway bed in the pitch dark, over open rail bridges and uneven footing .  We all breathed a sigh of relief as the lights of the tiny town of Aguas Calientes twinkled in the distance.

Climbing the mountain to Machu Pichu, gazing on these ruins once again we smiled and knew that we were 'Living Young'.  The first glance, as the sun rises, actually steals your breath away. 

Luckily little has changed at Machu Pichu. This 15th-century Inca site is located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level and although other ruins are more intricate, the location of these ruins is spectacular. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (14381472). Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization.  With the people seemingly disappearing into thin air, some believe that this high energy site was an opening to another dimension for more conscious beings.

Lake Titicaca in north Bolivia and S.E. Peru is the second largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world. Clear and sparkling the water joins with the endless open sky to create a feeling of the top of the world.  Native Americans living in this treeless region make canoes out of 'tule' or other bulrushes lashed together.  Early S American voyagers also used balsa wood rafts lashed together (like we saw used in Central Africa).  Thor Heyerdahl and 5 companions built Kon Tiki (named after an Inca god) in 1947.  From Peru they crossed 8000 km in 101 days landing on the Raroia atoll in the South Pacific.  Despite skepticism, the seaworthiness of this aboriginal raft was proven and showed that the ancient Peruvians could have reached Polynesia in this manner.

The region around Lake Titicaca contains architectural remains of early civilizations, some of which date to pre-Inca times.  In time of conflict the losing side is often displaced from their land.  (Not much has changed!)  This is what happened with the Uros who began constructing floating rafts on which to live.  On our way the  from La Paz to Cuzco we stopped to visit these fascinating people.  Although more visited than when we were each here 20 to 40 years ago it was fascinating to see how they cut the blocks of roots from the buoyant 'totora' reeds, lash then together and cover them with reeds.  Voila - instant waterfront real estate property!  Several hundred Uros live on around 50 floating islands.  Friendly and welcoming, the Uros, on their 'islas flotantes' are happy to explain about their unique life and show you their handicrafts.  Smiles are free!

This remote area of Lake Titicaca has a long, interesting history.  One ancient nation after another settled her shores and islands.  Remnants remain throughout the lake.  Cultures developed and adapted their music.  Each island has a little different form of the infamous S American 'quena' or bamboo flute.  Add a 'charengo' (tiny 5 string guitar/mandolin) a 'bambo' drum (hollowed out tree trunk with a stretched goat skin) and a set of 'shajshas' (rattles made of polished goat hooves) and this traditional music has toes tapping here and in every town square nationwide.

Life is difficult here on the high altiplano.  An example of the remoteness is the oldest boat on Lake Titicaca, which is now a small museum.  The iron 'Yavari' was built in England, shipped around the Cape Horn to Africa in 2766 pieces.  It was then transported to Tacna, put on a train then hauled by mule over the Andes to Puno.  This took 6 years.  It was reassembled and launched in 1870.  During coal shortages they substituted dried llama dung to power her.  Only those who persevere survive up here.

Cuzco is a remarkable colonial city situated in a high Andean valley (3300m).  The lovely main plaza and stately cathedrals make up the center while the rest of the city climbs up the surrounding mountainsides.  Cobblestone streets and ancient rock walls blanket the hillsides.  Whitewashed walls, red tile roofs and Quechan locals in bright colors weave an interesting maze of life in the high Andes.   Baskets move in curious ways in the markets.  Only when a sale is made of a squirming guinea pig, do you realize the contents.  In small restaurants it is common to hear the squeals as the little guys run around on the floors.  They have such a great life until..........??  Many magnificent religious paintings line the walls of the churches in the Andes.  One of my favorite was the depiction of the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples enjoying a last supper of 'cuy', roasted guinea pig!

One afternoon when enjoying the warm afternoon sun in the Plaza de Armas we noticed a few indigenous people arriving in full traditional outfits.  Soon they were joined by many more groups, each wearing a different costume.  They were converging to celebrate their culture and traditions.  They enjoyed having their pictures taken and responded that they would be doing dances and playing music about 5pm.  Preparations were being made in front of the church.  I went off to buy tickets and Joseph was treated to singing and dancing about 3:30.  When I returned by 5pm nothing was happening.  Try 6pm.  At 6pm - nothing.  At 7pm - nothing.  I went off to eat and when I returned by 8pm (only 3 hours later than the scheduled time) the Plaza was full of hundreds of people.  Local groups in full dress performed on stage and circling the square.  Two large screens showed them up close to the now thousands of people.  Fireworks on bamboo scaffolding spun around and shot off.  Clowns worked the crowd.  Vendors sold food.  The finale was the golden symbol of the cathedral being carried out on a massive float, fireworks and music blaring.  Such an amazing show.  The next day the Plaza was cleaned up as if nothing had gone on.  We love when surprises like this happen - and they happen often in our journey. 

The Andes are the rooftop of South America.  Clear blue skies with wisps of clouds and circling condors are a common sight.  Flute music is heard floating between the peaks.  These impressive Andes are not quite as high as the Himalayas, though life here has many similarities. The Himalayas include over a hundred mountains exceeding 7,200 metres (23,600 ft) in height. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia - Aconcagua, in the Andes of Argentina - is 6,961 metres (22,838 ft) tall.  A warning: it is  important to research the prevention and causes of Altitude Sickness - a sometimes fatal illness. (see below) Your body will tell you that half it's oxygen has just been stolen from your lungs, at times feeling like you are breathing through a straw.  The first couple of days are the most critical because you simply feel tired, a little dizzy, unaware what is happening in your body.  Gradually the oxygen builds up and you can acclimate in 5-7 days.  If you are flattened by this illness your whole trip can be ruined.  In severe cases you must be evacuated to a lower altitude.  Slow is the key while acclimating.  We have had personal experience with friends/family in Tibet , on the Inca Trail (near Dead Woman's Pass) and in Bolivia.  Extreme sport enthusiasts are often hit the hardest.  Life constantly tries to teach us patience and to Slow Down.

All of a sudden in our ok but freezing cold colonial room in the hillside of Cusco, we decided enough was enough.  Being bonafide 'woosies' from years in Hawaii we took a 15 hour bus ride towards the Amazon Basin in the east.  Up over a magnificent pass then down, down, down we arrived fully decked out with everything from our suitcase and immediately peeled away the layers as we landed in Puerto Maldonado.  On a whim I had stopped by a travel agency in Cuzco and asked prices to Machu Pichu and the Amazon.  You need to bargain  hard to be a real traveler as in both cases we came up with a win-win agreement of half the price.  Like a lottery, I had submitted our names to 3 different dates, reduced the price by removing 'extra fluff' and 'turned it over to the Universe'.  One date filled up immediately, another had a group of 8 from Holland sign up but for some reason the 3rd date just sat there begging.  I returned several times to talk with John and finally he acquiesced and signed us up for half the price on this great trip down the river and 4 night stay in a jungle Lodge.  This area is unique because the tourists haven't discovered the miles and miles of jungle rivers and forests yet.  It is accessible by bus rather than our plan of Iquitos which requires a week by boat then you have to go days into the jungle just to get away from the big city lights.  Puerto Maldonado is a strange hodge podge of a village growing up awkwardly.  With a smile on our face and a warm breeze in our hair we headed down river to explore the Amazon basin.  We felt at home.


And so it goes.........................................Next adventures in the Amazon basin and following the north coast of Peru.   Until next month Keep Smiling and remember to Live Young!  Dance, sing, laugh, love, smile, give thanks.  Life is too short to do anything else!  We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch!  Take care!



Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph


Travel notes:

1 US Dollar equals
2.75 Peruvian Nuevo Sol


Himalayan Rescue Assoc:  Important to research the prevention and causes of Altitude Sickness - a sometimes fatal illness.  Diamox can help the first few days, available everywhere.

Check out the site:   Global nomads for close to 8 years offer an interesting and fun look into life on the road.


Mirador Del Inka, phone # 051 0 84 241804
Up behind the Plaza, basic but cold rooms.  Loved Cuzco but the cold really got us.  Kept us moving.

El Encuentro- several vegetarian restaurants downtown - Just ask

Gaia:  Calle Plazoleta  Jose will make up some yummy veggie food. Just down the hill towards the Plaza del Armas, a warm, friendly little restaurant with friendly owners and good inexpensive food.

SAP Adventures:  Phone # 51 084 234273  Walk around and compare prices for trips into the Amazon at Puerto Maldonado.  John was good to work with but be prepared to bargain hard to get the best deal.  If that doesn't happen just take a bus to Puerto Maldonado and look for a lodge and jungle trips from there.

Transport, hotel and food to Hydro Electric to hike in to Machu Pichu.  Expeditions Peru, off the main square.  Get everything in writing, bargain hard, and insist that they arrive by 3 pm to begin the hike!  We suggest 2 nights in Aguas Calientes.  That way you can spend the first day at the ruins, relax back in town, and take the train back to the hydro station to meet your van the following afternoon.



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Mysterious, stunning Machu Pichu.


Hidden in the remote mountains of Peru.


Llamas are built for this terrain.


The Lost City of the Incas.


One of the sacred ceremonial alters.

'Living Young'.


The start of our 4 hr. hike along the riverbed from 'Hydro' to
Aguas Calientes - gateway to the ruins.


Colorful flowers match the colorful traditional outfits
in Peru.


The daily train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes.(3 hours).


Our route took 12 hours but ended up being a
 real adventure over sometimes precarious, crumbling roads.


The magnificent Andes!


We went by van, others chose bikes.


Over a pass of 15,000 ft was a spectacular route.


Village women resting.

 Off to market.


Follow the squeal in a local eatery and you will find guinea pigs
 hanging out waiting for dinner - or is it waiting to become dinner?


Yes, they cook with a lot of oil!


Chillin with a street vendor getting the latest 'scoop'.


A reed boat on the floating islands near Puno.


Proud Dad.


Colorful handiwork.


This couple were real characters.  Someone from our group
ended up buying an embroidered wall hanging and they were


The Uros have certainly woven, literally, a unique lifestyle.


It was possible to sleep on the islands but it would have required
 10 wool blankets minimum in this freezing night time climate.


Everyone wrapped up to keep warm!


Plaza de Armas in central Cusco.


Cusco is built on top of ancient Incan walls. It is still unknown how
the Incans put these giant walls in place.  The fit is so tight that
you cannot put a knife between the stones.  Maybe they had help?


Pachacuti (14381472) incarnate.


Mary (Maria) had a little lamb.


   One afternoon when enjoying the warm afternoon sun in the Plaza de Armas we noticed a few indigenous people arriving
in full traditional outfits. 


Soon they were joined by many more groups, each wearing a different costume. 


They were converging to celebrate their culture and traditions.



A little lady.


The infamous S American 'quena' or bamboo flute. 


Great dancing!


 'Bambo' drum (hollowed out tree trunk with a stretched goat skin).


Love the variety of hats!


The centennial symbol of the fascinating country of Peru.




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