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Date: 11 Oct 2010 23:52:00
Title: What a Trip

Our Epic Trip to Peru
 
 
 
 
According to the "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" Book Peru has seven entries. I have placed them in the order we visited them. On the 5th of September 2010 we entered the Manu National Park. At nearly four and a half million acres it is one of the largest wilderness preserves in South America and perhaps the most important tropical park in the world. Protecting an entire virgin watershed, the park encompasses radically different ecological zones, ranging from Andean peaks of more than thirteen thousand feet down through the cloud forest and into endless lowland rain forests below one thousand feet. No other reserve on earth can compare to it in terms of sheer biodiversity. There are an estimated twenty thousand plant species, more than a thousand different species of birds (that is more then the US and Canada together), thirteen different monkeys including the capuchin and spider to mustachioed emperor tamarin. The park's unlogged, unhunted, nearly untouched state has left the animal inhabitants remarkably unafraid of humans, we were able to see up close so many species that have vanished elsewhere in the Amazon.
 
 
 
 
The legendary inception of the mighty Amazon two thousand miles from the Atlantic is home to more primates than seen anywhere else in the New World. The Peruvian Amazon is home to so much colour and we saw so many hundreds of parrots, macaws, parakeets and birds on the 6th of September.
 
 
 
 
Cuzco is the archaeological capital of the Americas, a unique destination steeped in an age-old culture surrounded by the beauty and mysticism of the Andes. In the native Quechua language qosqo meant "the earth's navel", the birthplace and centre of the Incan empire. And everything in this colonial city eleven thousand feet above sea level leads back to the Plaza de Armas, the navel's navel. Called Huacaypata by the Inca, the plaza was the heart of the capital, which was founded in the 12th century by Manco Capac. The old city spreads in a ten-block radius around it is a colonial repository of the years following Pizarro's arrival in 1532, and the Spaniards invasion and eventual destruction of the Incan civilisation - once the western hemisphere's greatest empire. We first saw the city on the 10th of September.
 
 
 
 
Machu Picchu needs no introduction - we were there on the 12th of September. These ruins are the supreme showpiece, strategic and isolated in a high altitude setting coupled with its mysterious significance in the ancient Inca universe make this one of the world's most beautiful and haunting destinations. Abandoned by the Inca and reclaimed by the jungle, the one hundred acre complex of temples, warehouses, houses, irrigation terraces and stairs remained hidden from outsiders until American explorer Hiram Bingham was led to it by a ten year old local boy.
 
 
 
 
Lake Titicaca was in Bear's top ten personal list to visit, we floated on the legendary three thousand two hundred square mile lake on the 21st of September. Lake Titicaca is - at twelve thousand five hundred feet above sea level - the highest navigable lake in the world. But only those who visit know of the luminescence of the light and the ever-changing play of colour on its water. The lakes singular beauty supports the ancient myth that Manco Capac and his sister-consort, Mama Ocllo, founders of the Incan Empire, emerged from these magical Andean waters. We will never forget our visit to the floating island of Uros, the welcome of the people who have lived unchanged lifestyles for centuries. 
 
 
 
 
Much of colonial Arequipa - known as La Ciudad Blanca (the White City) for its elaborate 16th and 17th-century Spanish homes - is hidden behind imposing walls. Nothing prepares the wanderer who stumbles upon this lovely city's greatest secret, the cloistered world of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a miniature city within a city that was opened to the public in 1970. We visited on the 23rd of September. The few elderly Dominican nuns still living there have moved to the northern corner of the convent, but the rest of the grounds may be visited. For centuries this quiet, self-contained community was home to well-to-do women who never left the premises, as the cemetery testifies. Covering an entire city block, the original convent was built in 1580 and soon gained a reputation as a sort of exclusive club, where young girls of aristocratic families arrived for an education, a safe haven, or a spiritual vocation (some with maids, slaves, large dowries and fancy lifestyles to maintain). Of the maximum four hundred and fifty women living there, only a third were actually nuns until the late 1800's when circumstances redirected life back to the religious.
 
 
 
 
Peru's arid desert coast is the setting for the mysterious, ancient Nazca Lines, a series of geometric forms and straight lines in the earth that depict stylised human and animal shapes. Covering an astounding one hundred and ninety three miles, they can be fully appreciated only from the air. Some are simple, perfectly formed triangles, trapezoids or straight lines running for miles across the desert; others represent giant animals, such as the five hundred and forty foot long lizard or the condor with its three hundred and ninety foot wingspan. Who constructed these lines remain a mystery. We were lucky to fly over them on the 28th of September - lucky for several reasons. There is a newish rule whereby each little Cessna has a pilot AND a co-pilot as one went down recently when the pilot had a heart attack killing all on board. Just a few days after our flight a plane went down killing four English tourists and the pilots. As Bear always says You need your luck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
To accomplish this amazing journey we flew eleven thousand and ninety seven international airline miles from Trinidad, through the US, on to Colombia and finally arriving in Lima - and back again. We flew, rode, boated and bussed a further three thousand, nine hundred and four miles within Peru, meeting amazing people. The people of the floating island of Uros told us they are quite happy when tourists throw empty plastic bottles away, they get used as floatation or sinking devices.
 
 
 
 
I got to see every Twitchers dream - The Andean Condor
 
 
 
 
The Team - Beez Neez and Anne and Alan from Freya of Clyde
 
 
Alan said travelling companions entry requirements were "High and Tight". We travelled fifteen thousand and one miles with no arguments, plenty of laughs, a jippy stomach each. We were wowed by birds, saw quite a bit of poverty with very little begging amongst largely very happy people who still manage to live life to a pattern set centuries ago. Overall we were all impressed at how everything left on time, on schedule and all our connections worked.
 
Some of the classics. Anne who must be 'thanked' for organising the whole trip - enjoyed watching "Three weddings and a Funeral". Complained about the "Tinned Music" at the airport. Enjoyed the remake of Private Ryan on one of our coach journeys - when the rest of us watched a remake of Private Benjamin. But the best has to be "Guinea Pigs breed like Rabbits"........................
Alan said "It was so thin it wasn't real" ??? His pearl has to be "A very efficient conversion rate from food into energy with so little waste".
Bear was famous for the loud noises coming from the smallest room. At one point I feared for our safety when it showed up on the Richter Scale as an earthquake.
I had to be corrected on a blog when we 'had an accent to get to Sun Gate' I had meant ascent.
We learned a bit of Scottish - to Corrie Doone (pronounced Curry Doon) meaning to schooch down in bed, this was clearly invented before curries were available in Scotland.
We saw terrific scenery, amazing flora and fauna, met some fantastic people. Peru has it all - Desert, snow-capped mountains, the cold Pacific Ocean with its Humboldt Penguins. Flamingos high up on the mountain plains. Parrots in the Amazon Jungle and enough history to keep everybody interested. We took one or two photographs....................The list is endless so best summed up rather inadequately as...............
 
 
 
ALL IN ALL A CLASH OF CULTURE, COLOUR, CUISINE AND CREATURES IN AN EXTRAORDINARY COUNTRY.
 

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