Peru

Weekly Photo Challenge: Jubilant

“Rejoice! It’s the end of the week” says Michelle “and time for a celebratory photo challenge.”

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What could be more celebratory than all the colour and joy of the festivities in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas leading up to Inti Raymi, the Inca festival of the winter solstice, which we had the good fortune of experiencing during our memorable visit to Peru, and of course Machu Picchu, in 2013.

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Perhaps also a moment to be personally jubilant as it is exactly three years ago when I started blogging just before we embarked on our Peruvian adventure. It’s been a great ride and long may it continue 🙂

From Bean to Brew in Peru

Did you know that today is National Coffee Day? I certainly didn’t, particularly as everyday is National Coffee Day in our house. But it really is as I discovered on my Twitter feed this morning when I saw the hatch tag #nationalcoffeeday.

And so to celebrate this important day in the life of my fellow coffee drinkers everywhere I thought I would look back to our coffee plantation visit on Day 5 of our trek to Machu Picchu with Mountain Lodges of Peru in 2013, a day on which we all enjoyed a memorable cup of strong aromatic coffee having witnessed its journey from bean to cup…

…and a great way to respond to Kristin who asked us to show “a change in progress” for this week’s Photo Challenge: Change

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Photography 101: Swarm …to move about in great numbers…

The swarming colors of the festivities in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas leading up to Inti Raymi, the Inca festival of the winter solstice: from a gallery of photos that I posted after our Peruvian adventure last year.

These Boots Were Made For Walking

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…with strength and endurance
 

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all the way…
 
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…to Machu Picchu
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The statue of Asklepios, the god of medicine, from The Vatican Museum in Rome. Round his staff is entwined a serpent, the symbol of medicine to this day.

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The perfectly circular 13th century Incan agricultural terraces at Moray in the Sacred Valley, which we visited on our Peruvian adventure last June.

Two very different interpretations of Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme:Round

Weekly travel Theme: Misty

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These misty images for Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme are from our trek to Machu Picchu in June last year. They seem to be the perfect complement to my submission to this week’s Photo Challenge: Threshold.

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The six day trek with Mountain Lodges of Peru along the Salkantay Trail to reach Machu Picchu was filled with moments of great beauty, triumph and exhaustion all experienced each day in the ever-changing magnificent Peruvian landscape seen so hauntingly in these misty mountain scenes and reflections in the turquoise water of Lake Humantay.

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If you would like to see more of our journey I invite you to follow our trek day by day by visiting the early posts on my blog last June.  Happy Trekking 🙂

Cusco Festival

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…As promised some pictures from our last two days in Cusco with all the color, joy and celebration of the festivities in the Plaza de Armas leading up to Inti Raymi, the Inca festival of the winter solstice. Hopefully the video will capture for you the sights, the sounds, the music, the dancing and the costumes and will become a final and lasting memory of our visit to the beautiful people and wonderful country of Peru…


Machu Picchu – Trek Day 7 – Machu Picchu


 
…Drum roll please! We made it; and what a day it has been. Up at 4:30, breakfast at 5:00; on the bus and up the hairpin road to Machu Picchu entering the site by 6:30, just before the sun came up.
 
It is hard to put into words the impact, the drama and the beauty of this archeological wonder, but I’ll try. It really has to be seen to be believed. All the photographs, films and travelogues cannot really replace the experience of stepping into this other world and feeling nothing but total awe at what was achieved by a remarkable civilization hundreds of years ago. They were architects, astronomers, builders, masons, priests and artists of the most sophisticated kind and what they achieved here is quite simply awe-inspiring.
 
As each new marvel revealed itself around every corner all one could think of was, “How did they do it?” How did they move those massive stones; how could they be so precise so that not even an eyelash could pass between them? As you will see this final day of our trek was a spectacular climax to a never-to-be-forgotten journey of a lifetime. Hopefully the pictures will do justice to our experience and tell the story of the day so that you are able to share it with us: the sunrise striking WaynaPicchu; the Incan terraces rising to incredible heights above us; the shadows of the tombs; the llamas strolling between the ruins; our exhausting climb to the top of WaynaPicchu in the morning and the long, long hike to Intipunku, the Sun Gate, in the afternoon.
 
Our guide for the morning, Fernando, set the scene for the first two hours telling us the story of Machu Picchu in archeological terms but after that we were on our own and able to explore in our own time and at our own pace. Because we were staying an extra night we had to say goodbye to the wonderful members of our group who returned to Aguas Calientes for lunch in the middle of the day. I will acknowledge them all at the end of the blog because each one them helped to make the week so very special for us. After we had finally reached the Sun Gate around 4:00 pm we headed all the way back down to the entrance, exhausted, exhilarated and very grateful to have had the privilege of being able to spend a day in this wonder of the world.
 
Enjoy the pictures and I will return with some final thoughts and words of thanks to complete the story…
 


…As you will have guessed I am writing this back in Vancouver having arrived home safe and sound two days ago. After we left Machu Picchu we returned to Cusco for three more nights and were able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the colorful festivities that lead up to The Festival of The Sun (Inti Raymi) on June 24th. Over the next few days I’ll post some of the pictures of the colorful costumes and the crowds dancing and celebrating in the main square. It was a memorable end to eighteen unforgettable days.
 
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There are so many people to say thank you to and I hope I don’t leave anyone out. First of all to my wonderful wife and love of my life, Hilde, who has always wanted to see Machu Picchu. It’s thanks to her that this adventure ever happened. Those of you who know her will not be surprised to hear that she was like a young “mountain goat” scampering up those trails with the greatest of ease. She says it’s thanks to thirty years of training in Ron Zalco’s gym here in Vancouver and especially to the wonderful instructors and staff there. I would also like to pay tribute to my wonderful instructor Naomi with whom I have been training for the past four and a half years. Thanks to her and Alex of Better Bodies I survived the toughest physical challenge of my life. Michele of Renshaw Travel in Vancouver created and organized the best adventure one could ever hope for. The magic she worked was seamless from the moment we left to the day we arrived home and we will forever be in her debt.
 
Condor Travel in Peru looked after us perfectly and special thanks to our guides Elise in Lima and Juan in Cusco and The Sacred Valley. Thanks to them we saw it all! Mountain Lodges of Peru have created what must be the best trekking experience in the world. Heartfelt thanks to our guides Pepe and Carlos and to all the wonderful staff at all the lodges who made us feel so welcome and worked so hard to ensure that we had the most memorable experience possible. Thank you also to our cook who travelled with us and to all the mule drivers who looked after our backpacks every day. Of course, thanks to all of you who have followed us along and sent your love and best wishes. We knew you were out there as our hidden but ever-present cheering section.
 
Finally, thanks to all the members of our wonderful group, our family in the mountains. We will never forget you all: Rob and Gretchen (who saved my life when I fell out of the jacuzzi, but that’s another story!); Jane and Dave who always had my back; Melanie whose beautiful photos we look forward to seeing; Caroline and Dennis whose 50th birthday was on a day we will all never forget; Mireille (I hope I have spelt that correctly) and Corno who unfortunately were with us for only the first two days but left a lasting memory; and our beautiful Blanca and Karlita whom we miss so much. How lucky we all were to be together to share the best time of our lives.
 
So what’s next you may well ask? Well, I have lots of ideas and will continue blogging in the coming weeks and months. Check back from time to time and I may just surprise you. Once again our thanks to one and all, family friends and colleagues, and all those of you whom we don’t know but who have been following along. Send me your thoughts if you have a moment and let me know if you have been able to enjoy the journey as much as we have.
 
And so, with that the machupicchucountdown is officially over…

Machu Picchu – Trek Day 6


…Happy Father’s Day! (Although I know when you’re reading this it will be long gone). An early start at 6:30 for a somewhat unexpected uphill trek for three hours towards the Llactapata Pass at 8,974 feet. Hilde and I left with Carlos together with Blanca and Karla to whom we have become very attached. They both work in the office for Mountain Lodges and have been with us since the beginning. They have hiked with Hilde and myself most days and on this special Sunday I have become their surrogate father for Father’s Day. They have certainly have made the trip that extra bit special and we shall miss them when we go home. The hike started in the shade but as we reached the summit the sun magically lit up the landscape and illuminated a parrot sitting high in the trees enjoying the view of the valley far below. The rest of the group, which left at 7, caught up with us before we reached the Llactapata ruins where we had our first view of Machu Picchu in the distance. I think we all had goose bumps realizing the goal of the last five days was in sight; it was a great moment. On the grass in front of the ruins, with Machu Picchu in the distance, Pepe finished his history of the Incas and described how Hiram Bingham made his remarkable discovery. I had a lovely surprise during his talk when my cell phone suddenly chimed with text messages from Natalia, Alex and Adelyn wishing me Happy Father’s Day; a moment not to be forgotten. After we had all taken our photos we continued downhill stopping for a hot lunch at the observatory before continuing on to the Hydroelectric train station. The descent was long, steep, hot and very slippery but experts as we now are!! we reached the valley floor, crossed a suspension bridge, and made it in good time to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, our final destination at the foot of Machu Picchu. Before the train left we said our goodbyes to Carlos and I presented him with my Black Diamond hiking poles as a way of expressing my heartfelt thanks for his helping me survive the week. The train journey was brief but sitting even for an hour in the rather glamorous vista car was a welcome relief. We arrived at our hotel, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu, which is quite wonderful with beautiful gardens to be explored. Pisco sours all round at six followed by dinner with Blanca and Karla. Then to bed for an early start in the morning at 4:45 to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. The countdown will soon be history…