|George Olah – PERU (Part 3)|
This time George Olah says goodbye to TRC and leaves the rainforests of Southeastern Peru behind to get an insight into the Inca civilization in the Andes.
2nd August, 2008 – Goodbye TRC, arrival in Cusco
Once every good things comes to an end… :( But the last days didn`t pass uneventfully. On the 28th of July we celebrated the Independence Day of Peru with a big dinner with the staff and of course with Pisco sour (their national drink) and Cusqueña beer. The next day Caty, the field leader had her birthday and because of this event everybody had a day off and we went to play football with the locals and to swim in the Tambopata River :) The high point of the day was the dinner: we helped in the kitchen preparing pizza, lasagna and birthday cake :)
It was really-really hard to leave TRC behind, since I got on really well with everybody: staff, researchers, guides, boat drivers, tripulantes (boat attendants), cooks, the whole group was like a big family which I suddenly left. :( I didn`t leave alone that day: Carlos, the manager of TRC so far finished his period and Kaiti, another volunteer from New York also said goodbye to the research station. In that morning the rainforest said goodbye with a heavy rain, Carlos said that it was crying for us.. :)
The last pick-up by boat at the collpa
Normally, there is no direct boat every day to Puerto, but we were lucky because at Posada Amazonas we managed to hitch-hike another boat on the river, which brought us all the way to Puerto Nuevo. Fortunately Carlos came with us, so we didn`t have to stay one more night in one of the other lodges, however we stopped in Posada to say goodbye to everyone there too.
Since tourists didn`t come with us, there was no bus waiting for us in Puerto Nuevo. The boat driver, who we hitchhiked with his boat, fortunately had a motorcycle too and he transported us one by one to Infierno, the village of the local community. Here we could catch a taxi, which is really rare here, and finally we got to Puerto Maldonado, all the way to the Rainforest Expeditions office.
At night we took mototaxis with Kaiti and went to the center. In the Hornito pizzeria we met with Carlos for a goodbye dinner. He brought his daughter, Micaelita with him, who is just 2-year-old and very cute.
Today we had to say goodbye to many people in the office too, at noon we went to the airport with the tourists where it rained again, surprisingly. After the last photos with the guides, who were waiting for their next groups, we took off over the clouds. We wanted to stay so badly that with Kaiti we were thinking seriously that we won`t board to the plane but instead we go back to TRC… It was so weird to sit in an airplane again, even just for 30 minutes, and then I arrived in Cusco, alone.
Cusco differs from Puerto in all means. It`s so cold and dry, with 19 °C (66 °F) during the day, and 2 °C (35 °F) in the night... brrr.. But at least there is hot water. I haven`t seen too much of the city so far, just looked around in the Plaza de Armas, shaking.. After the tropical climate it feels like a punishment... :) In addition, the air pressure (and therefore oxygen concentration) dropped because of the high altitude. It`s hard to get use to it, so I obey the local tradition and drink the coca tee and chew the coca leaves, which is absolutely legal here... :) The city is quite impressive; most of the houses have an original stone base built by the Incas, standing firmly the test of time.
I will spend the next few days in and around the city an later I`m up to go to the Sacred Valley (aka Urubamba Valley) and Machu Picchu.
07th August, 2008 – Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, Peru
Welcome from the “navel of the word”, as the Incas called the capital (Cusco) of their past empire, Tawantinsuyu. I`m quite in a high altitude at the moment: 3310 m (10.860 feet) above sea level. At the beginning I had some shortness of breath indeed, but I acclimatized quite fast in the past days (the coca leaves helped a lot). But at least there are no mosquitoes and other blood sucking insects here :) By the way, for now all my bites are healed, which means that I probably didn’t get the Leishmaniasis (or as they call here “uta”), which is quite widespread in TRC. This is a sickness caused by a meat-eating protozoa and transferred by a tiny mosquito called utero. These are usually active in the night, so the sunset in TRC also meant to take on a long sleeve shirt. You can recognize the epidermal Leishmanisais (which can be found in TRC) by its symptoms, because the mosquito-bite doesn`t close but it grows bigger and bigger, and doesn`t hurt. Many people caught this disease in TRC already. In that case the person has to go to a hospital in Lima for a 20-day-long intravenous drug treatment, which also contains heavy metals and weakens the body pretty much, so it`s better not to catch it… :)
It`s a bit unusual to walk around like a normal tourist without robber boots and machete. There is a lot to see in Cusco, you can find “some” museums (I feel like I will get museum poisoning :) ), cathedrals, chapels, etc. In many places it`s possible to get an audio guide, which is a really good invention, I think.
"Santo Domingo Convent was built by the conquistadors over the building of Coricancha" />
I have already discovered the Inca ruins around Cusco, using local buses of course. These don`t really differ from the Mexican ones, and that`s why they weren`t so scary anymore. I visited the following sites:
Pisac (fortress and city);
Tambo Machay (the bath of the Inca, the spring cult);
Puka pukara (the Red Fortress);
Q`enko (the universe scratched in the rock);
Sacsayhuaman (giant temple with a defense system and astronomic observation point).
The Inca fortress of Pisac stands on a rocky peak 3500 m (11.483 feet) above sea level and can be recognized by its terraces on the hillside. I visited this place on Sunday, when the biggest market is held in the village below the ruins, gathering people from all the neighboring villages selling their goods. The previous night in Cusco I just saw a film about the Sunday market in Pisac on the Travel Chanel; it was interesting to see it in live the next day. I managed to buy some clothes made by alpaca fur in the market, which proves to be very useful in this chilly environment.
It was quite adventurous to get to Machu Picchu. I left Cusco yesterday in a taxi with 4 persons more, so it was quite cheap but went only to Moray. It was also built by the Incas, thought to be their herbs garden. It`s all very interesting, there are concentric buildings sank into the ground like craters. Supposedly, in this way they created microclimates and planted each herb to the most suitable level. Some people thinks that this place also has some magical power, well I don`t know… :)
From here I managed to ask for a ride in an air-conditioned bus of a French tourist group all the way to Salinas. This is a huge salt distiller that was also initiated by the Incas, taking advantage of the water of a salty spring.
Walking an hour from here I reached the Urubamba River and the Sacred Valley. Here I took a collectivo minibus, full with local people (I thought after the mototaxis this shouldn`t be a problem :) ), and got to Ollantaytambo, a very ancient village. You can find here the ruins of an Inca fortress, which was very important once. According to the chronicles, from Ollantaytambo and Pisac they could successfully control the traffic of the roads of the empire leading to Cusco. This site is also full with terraces, lower in the valley the ruins of an Inca village can be found; they built the modern village over this one.
The view from the ruins of Ollantaytambo
In the night I continued my trip to Aguas Calientes (got its name from thermal springs), which is the nearest village to Machu Picchu. The train was not an Orient Express, however I was travelling in a tourist class and not in the Hiram Bingham first class (which was named after the person who discovered Machu Picchu); that would have cost 550 USD return ticket from Cusco. It was raining heavily when I arrived in the night, this wasn`t a promising sign and continued all night.
I woke up at 4:30 next morning (just like in TRC) and went to see the ruins of Machu Picchu. Luckily there was an amazingly clear morning and I watched the sunrise already at the ruins. It was quite a fascinating feeling standing on the “top of the world”. Unfortunately the problem with these wonders of the world is that they are too popular and many tourists come to visit and that`s why they lost a lot of their original spiritual value, but this is only my opinion…
The view from the House of the Guardians, Machu Picchu
Looking at the mountains around Machu Picchu from the Intipunku (the Gate of the Sun)
Tonight I go back to Cusco by train and tomorrow I will be headed to the Titicaca Lake and Bolivia. Next time I will write from another country, hopefully…
10th August, 2008 – The Titicaca Lake, at the border of Peru and Bolivia
From Cusco I went by a tourist bus to Puno, so the journey took a whole day, but at least we stopped at some interesting places like the Temple of Viracocha in Raqchi. The highest point of our travel was 4335 m (14.222 feet), this is the border between Cusco and Puno region, and it was snowing when we got out from the bus. 2 weeks ago I was in the rainforest and now it`s snowing… :) Passing by this point I arrived to the high plateau of Altiplano, and here is the Titicaca Lake, the border between Peru and Bolivia. This is the highest navigable lake on Earth, and if we see its map upside down it has a shape of a puma which tries to catch a rabbit…
Let`s study some geography. 3 climatic regions can be distinguished here:
Yunka (between 1200-2500 m; 4.000-8.200 feet) contains mainly cloud forests, like in the vicinity of Machu Picchu;
Qeshwa (2500-3500 m; 8.200-11.500 feet) the people living in this area were named after this: Quechua;
Puna (3800-4300 m; 11.500-14.100 feet) is a very bare region already.
Puno is situated on the Peruvian side of the Titicaca Lake. Quechua, the language of the Incas, is spoken from here to the north all the way to Columbia; while to the south until Chile they speak the Aymara language which is a more ancient one.
Not far from Puno on the Titicaca Lake I visited the floating islands of the Uros, the indigenous people of this area. They make their islands as well as their famous boats of the totora reeds. They also speak Aymara.
On one of the floating islands of the Uros, Titikaka Lake, Peru
Near to Puno I also visited the ruins of Sillustani, which is a cemetery used by the ancient people of Colla who buried their bodies in a fetal pose in towers. These Towers are called “chullpa” in Aymara language. Later the Incas conquered this region (too) and buried similarly here. Our guide told us many other interesting stories, e.g. about the connection between the situation of the ruins and constellations, but I shall not deep in this topic here.
Using the fur of llamas and alpacas
From Puno I traveled to Copacabana, Boliva and took a ferry to the Sun Island (Isla del Sol) of Bolivia, which is a very spiritual place and it is considered sacred from the ancient times. Maybe that`s why it is surrounded by many mythologies, probably the most important is about the origin of the Incas.
Just in summary: the children of Viracocha, their Creator God (and Sun God as well), were Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (the first Incas), and they rose from the Titicaca Lake at the northern part of the Sun Island where the sacred stone is found (the lake was named after this stone). In Quechua language titi=puma (that lives in the nearby mountains) and caca=rock, and the mentioned rock has the shape of a puma.
Other legends speak about underwater roads and lost cities… Who knows what hides the beautiful deep blue water of the lake.
The northern part of the Sun Island with Inca ruins, Bolivia
The island is still not affected too much by the civilization, there are no roads or motorized vehicles, they only use llamas and donkeys on the trails. Originally I planned to stay here just one night but on Sunday a referendum was held in the country (about the re-election of the Bolivian government), and because of this nobody worked, there were no ferries back to the mainland so I trapped one more night here. I didn`t mind it after all, because at least I had an entire day to walk around the island, which was really necessary. At night it is really cold here (the island is over 4000 m; 13.100 feet) and there is barely any lighting. So it`s a truly rustic place; at night it`s possible to see the stars really well (there is no such light pollution) and the constellations of the southern hemisphere, like the Southern Cross, that is reflected by the water of the lake.