To date, Peru continues as an interesting experience. The bus rides are all first class. I’ve not had to munch on my knees as was so often the case in Guatemala. The buses we’ve taken long distances here had WiFi and large comfortable leather seats. I was just slightly cramped for leg room but W/ found them to be – just perfect.
From Ica; where we toured the wine factory and hung for a day or so, we traveled to Nazca; another UNESCO site, where I flew in a small plane to see the “Nazca Lines“. Fiction writers love to infer how the lines were built for alien airports and markers for the aliens landing craft. Archeologists have a much more plausible story; the lines were built as a means of moving water for irrigation and as a way to demonstrate reverence to their gods.
As we move across the Peruvian desert one can easily see the value of water and how a civilization’s survival depends on an abundant water supply – always needed for a growing population. As the climate changed in the area the Nazca society were forced to move or die. So they abandoned their lands and were absorbed by or hunted by other cultures.
Witnessing the change in civilizations here reminds me of the almost dead climate issues that has been raging in the US for the past decade. We have one group of people that want to believe nothing changes and people don’t effect change. Those climate change deniers would do well to understand what had happened to civilizations and varying cultures in Central and South America. Their civilization is long gone. The Mayan of Tikal in Guatemala grew so large that the land around them barely supported them. Then as the climate in the area shifted and the rains didn’t come for a year or two the land couldn’t support the culture and they either moved or died. Same with the Inca’s. As the rains in the Andes shifted the little water needed for their crops wasn’t sufficient to support the population and the people were forced to move or die.
Today however the effect of climate is more a battle of power. People in general will survive our climate trends but the power groups will change. Places like Kuna Yala (On the N East Coast of Panama) will have fewer islands to live on, other nations have a high probability of disappearing entirely as well as a multitude of species on Earth.
From Nazca we again rode in luxury to Arequipa and visited yet another UNESCO site. Some may wonder why we spend the time traveling on buses when we could just as easily fly to the various places. There are two reasons: 1) we follow the axiom of “Go Slow, Sail Far, Stay Long”, and 2) we need to acclimate to the new altitude.
While we are not sailing; we would visit Peru by boat if we could, we still love to smell the roses and meet the people. However the second reason is most important for us physically. Arequipa is around 7,000 feet above sea level. We’ve been living the past 5 years at an altitude of about 10′. The oxygen in the air here is much less because the air in a a given volume is much less. Many travelers end up on the wrong site of Altitude sickness. Headaches, nausea, sleep disorder, etc. If we take our time and move up to higher elevations we minimize the potential problems. So we go slow.
Arequipa is a fascinating city, one we both would love to visit again. There are as many restaurants as Antigua, Guatemala; but Arequipa is much larger in scale. We were here only 3 days and believe a year or two would barely be adequate to experience the city. We were on one city tour that barely touched what Arequipa has to offer, then we walked, walked, and walked, actually getting lost once. However, with our limited but improved Spanish; thanks to our teachers at San Jose El Viejo in Antigua, W/ was able to ask for directions. Yeah, the app Pocket Earth on the iPhone helped but I didn’t have a direction marker and here the Sun is well N of us; not S as most of the Western world. Thus I’m slightly messed up with my internal compass. Since that walk Pocket Earth has updated their app and now N clearly shows.
What I’m most impressed: NOT, about is the influence of the Catholic church on both Central and South America. The Catholic church seems to have slave built more Cathedrals then I can count. While the Catholic church continues to be embroiled in controversy with it’s priestly conduct I think they too ought to be more apologetic to the indigenous populations of the world for their past enslavement. The enslavement was more then just the assumed trade of worldly goods for eternal love, they actively pursued a means of suppression. They forced the indigenous people from their homes and farms into cities where they could more easily exert control and provided little education, understanding that education is the road to free thinking. The Catholic Church has taken so much from these countries and I don’t see that they’ve given much back in return. Oh, they will say that eternal love is the reward received but I would be wilting to give my eternal love to any reader that wishes to commit their worldly goods to me. I doubt however in today’s world my idea would fly. But the Catholic church had sold the indigenous populations this idea, enslaving them with the idea of eternal salvation and worldly ignorance. This suppression is still felt and talked about today. I think most every Guide we’ve had in the two different countries has commented on what the Church has not done. The Catholic church is one of the Wealthiest companies in the world hiding their wealth behind schemes of religious freedom and individualized Parishes, yet when parishes need money in the third world countries we visit we find them in want. One Catholic community nun commented on how she received more support from churches outside the Catholic hierarchy than from them! And too, even within the Catholic hierarchy we’ve twice heard in two different countries about how the Jesuits were teaching the indigenous populations to read and write and the “Mother” Church put a stop to it because it was influencing their ability to control the people here. While I’m not friend of the organized Catholic Church I am much impressed with how tough and good hearted the people of Peru are.
That said, historically Arequipa is magnificent. The parks, the people, and for me the food was “magnifico”. Knowing where we were heading and the temperatures being considerably colder then we’re use to we talked ourselves into purchasing some Alpaca
wool clothing. I, a new jacket, glove and hat, W/ a new Cape, gloves and hat. The temperatures here have fallen to O° C most evenings and while we are not camping the Hotel room comes with an electric heater. That’s it. So once we rise in the am we dress warm, shed gear for midday and then add clothing as the evening progresses until we dive into bed to hide under the multitude of covers for the warmth our bodies can create.
We left Arequipa traveling across the Andean plateau where I found a new appreciation for the local people. We crossed the divide between Arequipa and Chivey at 14,000 feet. W/ was feeling slightly dizzy and I could imagine the same. However I left the bus for a brief walk about and took some pics. The Indians living on this High plateau mainly graze Alpaca; a domesticated Llama that provides meat and wool. They live in small adobe brick homes that have little or no roof. It really doesn’t rain much here. They cook with Alpaca dung, some wood that they find; trees are rare, and they heat their homes with…… nothing. They sleep with many blankets. The temperature range is from -20 thru 24° C. For those never having learned the all too easy metric system that is -4 to 75° Fahrenheit. Now the upper limit I can easily live with but the lower limit! No thank you. Fifteen to 20° C is my lower limit. Just call me a wimp. In the Altiplano I am a wimp.
Descending from 14,000′ on this road was akin to landing via light airplane. My ears kept popping and we could feel the temperature begin to rise. On the bus traveling up to the pass W/ and I actually donned our new Alpaca gear. We arrived in Chivey already exhausted from the lack of Oxygen, unloaded, moved into our hotel room and planned to follow our tour guides advice for the rest of the day. Do Nothing.
The following day however we were to rise before 5 am; is there such a time, and join our group to visit Cruz de Condor, a place where we can view Andean Condors as they soar on the thermals. These birds are big! The second largest bird in the world and among the longest living. One in captivity lived 70 years rivaling the Parrot. They have a size between 13 and 15 kg which in my book would be close enough in size to ride on. Their wing span is greater then my outstretched arms. We spend 2 hours traveling, one hour watching, and 2 hours for the return trip. Although the time equation doesn’t seem like a great deal we did stop several places on the way there and back, time for relief and another dose of how Peruvians live.
Back at the hotel we spent the afternoon exploring Chivey, taking time to continue our acclimation. The following day we stroll to a Quarry mine on the Choloco river which is at the bottom of the deepest canyon in the world; actually 3 times as deep as the Grand Canyon but the magnificence is lost in the depth and structure The Colca Canyon. The Grand Canyon has walls much more vertical while the Colco canyon is much much deeper. The following day we pack up and take a 6 hour bus trip to Lake Titicaca and the town of Puno: elevation 12,000 feet above sea level. There isn’t one city in the US that is at this elevation; the closest one; Glade Park-Gateway, Colorado at 10,560 some odd feet.
On we go, walking slow, breathing heavy and taking our time while in Peru.