Turkey 2012

Visiting Turkey; Istanbul and Ephesus in 2012

Turkey 2012 Turkey 2012

Vietnam & Bangkok 2009

Vietnam & Bangkok- 17 days July 2009

Vietnam & Bangkok 2009 Vietnam & Bangkok 2009

Morocco 2012

Morocco; Marrakech, Fez, Volubilis, Meknes and Casablanca in October of 2012

Morocco 2012 Morocco 2012

Japan 2011

Sushi, Shrines and Shinkansen; 8 Days in Tokyo and Kyoto in April 2011

Japan 2011 Japan 2011

Rome 2009

Mozzarella, Museums & Macchiato; A Week in Rome, October 2009

Rome 2009 Rome 2009

Walking Around Cusco

by wired2theworld on January 17, 2015

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We didn’t do too much sightseeing in Cusco. First, we only had about a day and a half in the city and second, I pretty much felt like I could not catch my breath the entire time we were there. I found myself really looking forward to getting back to sea level once we returned to Lima. This was a bit odd to me because I didn’t really feel this way at the higher elevations we visited in the Sacred Valley, some of them well over Cusco’s 11,800 foot elevation.

On our first day there we didn’t arrive until mid afternoon, had lunch, then had to deal with a bit of a hotel glitch so all we did was walk around the Plaza de Armas area a bit. We’d wanted to visit some of the churches but many were closed for Holy Week (the week before Easter). Also, we were a bit put off my steep entrance fees to the main Cathedral (almost $10). Fortunately, the next evening we were able to go inside during a service open to the public and part of the Easter Week celebration of the Stations of the Cross procession. We even got to hear the choir sing which was wonderful.

On day two we visited the central market and the Museo de Sitio del Qoricancha (covered by the bolleto touristico) where we could not take photos inside. Still, it was very interesting to see the history of the Inca there in the small rooms under a park in the city center.

 

 

We also walked around the San Blas neighborhood taking in its views and funky vibe and stopping for a beer in a small hostel with a fantastic view. This is a neighborhood filled with youth hostels and hippie kids who have “been out too long” trying to finance their travels by selling woven bracelets laid out on a blanket on the street. I found myself wanting to tell them to take a shower and go home to mama. Yeah, and “get off my lawn!” I kept my mouth shut, don’t worry.

 

Several times during this trip we found ourselves comparing Peru to Nepal. It wasn’t just the mountains, though yes, that’s a big part, but more of just a feeling. The same type of traveler who goes to Nepal, also goes to Peru. And with that follows the same type of tourism. There are a few streets off the main square which reminded us very much of Kathmandu, filled with travel agencies offering trekking tours, souvenir stalls, places selling hand woven goods, restaurants catering to budget backpackers. Aguas Calientes had some of this too, and in many ways is to Cusco as “Pokhara” is to Kathmandu in Nepal. The only difference is that in Peru you’re close to paying US prices for everything while in Nepal things are still much, much cheaper.

During our stay in Cusco, we spent one night at the Andenes al Ceilo and then moved to the Palacio del Inka, an SPG property. In general the Andenes is a decent hotel, but we had too many little things go wrong and decided to cut our stay short and move, using SPG points for our night at the Palacio del Inka. Our room there was quite small, but well appointed and the hotel is in a great location and in a really lovely historic palace building.

 

 

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Mercado San Pedro, Cusco Peru

by wired2theworld on October 25, 2014

Mercado San Pedro-the central market in Cusco Peru on www.wired2theworld.com

If a town has a market, you know we’ll be there.

On the morning of our second day in Cusco we got up fairly early and headed out toward the Mercado San Pedro, Cusco’s central market, where any and all manner of foodstuffs are sold. This is my kind of market; not only can you find the raw product; eggs, vegetables, meats, fish, but there are plenty of stalls selling prepared foods to eat there or take away. We were so entranced by all the chicken soup stalls that we decided to come back later for lunch (which will be covered in a later post about dining in Cusco).

Warning: if you are the type who is squeamish about things like pictures of pig’s heads you might not want to scroll down too far. Or maybe go really, really fast past them….

If you find yourself in Cusco, and are ready for something other than stones and ruins, get yourself on over there, you won’t be disappointed. It’s only about a 5 or 6 block walk from the main square.

They say a photo is worth 1000 words so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves….

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The Road to Cusco; Of Llamas And Stones

October 20, 2014
Thumbnail image for The Road to Cusco; Of Llamas And Stones

For our last day in the sacred valley we hired Percy to take us to Cusco by car with stops at various sites along the way, combining transportation and sightseeing. As I said in the post about Pisac, knowing what I know now, I would have scheduled Pisac for this day, and perhaps skipped the stops at Tambomachay and Pukapukara. That would have saved us a couple of hours in the car the day before and allowed for more relaxation. All of the entrances to the ruins were covered under our Bolleto Touritstico Pass.

Our first stop was at a cultural center clearly set up for tourists but it was interesting nonetheless. There were several large pens with all the different pack/wool/meat animals in the region including llamas, alpacas, vicunas, all of which could be hand-fed grasses. There were people demonstrating weaving and exhibits about how the various natural dyes are made and examples of the hundreds of types of potatoes and corn grown in the area. Worth a stop. No cost (unless you buy souvenirs) and they have clean restrooms.


The next stop were the sites of Tambomachay and Pukapukara which are across the road from one another. Tambomachay, also known as Los Banos del Inca (the baths of the Inca) is the home of a freshwater spring and most likely used for ceremonies by priests and royalty, rather than public bathing. Water still flows today.

 

Across the road is Pukapukara which has a stunning view of the valley from the top of the site.

Pukapukara is thought to be a fortress or a resting place for travelers on the way from the Sacred Valley to Cusco as it sits right on an ancient pathway between the two.

The next stop, Q’enqo, gave us our first look …

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Ollantaytambo and Pisac

September 27, 2014
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Percy picked us up at 9am in his car, with just him driving his personal car. David sat in front which meant a lot of the discussion was in Spanish, but when it got too detailed for me to follow he switched to English no problem.

Our first stop was the town of Ollantaytambo, in the direction of Machu Picchu. In fact, the train from Urubamba stops there to pick up most of its passengers before heading up to Machu Picchu. Many people choose to stay there instead of Machu Picchu Pueblo because it’s more central for seeing the rest of the Sacred Valley, like Urubamba. From what we saw, it’s a cute little town, definitely geared more toward tourists than Urubamba, meaning more hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Ollantaytambo Street

Percy drove through town and parked in a dirt car park which while big enough for several dozen tour buses, was thankfully empty. We walked a few blocks through the town which was very traditional at its center; cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and water from mountain snow runoff flowing down open irrigation channels along one side of the street.

Ollantaytambo Street

At the base of the Ollantaytambo ruins there are three or four rows of souvenir stands. On Monday we’d purchased the Bolleto Turistco and our tickets were checked at the entrance to the ruins. Then it was a long, long way up to the top. Make sure you bring water. And snacks. It’s tiring. In the photo below you can barely see the people and yes, we climbed all the way to the top. It’s worth it. The views are spectacular.

Ollantaytambo

At the top of about 200 steps is the unfinished Temple of the Sun and the Temple of Ten Niches. Here it’s possible to see how the stones were moved. There …

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A Day at Machu Picchu

September 15, 2014
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They say that Machu Picchu will take your breath away. It did, just not in the way I anticipated.

We arrived, after a 2.5 hour train ride from Urubamba in which we spent the first half alone in a car for 50 people and the second half squeezed in like sardines with a group of boisterous Australian tourists and their mountain of luggage.

Some photos of the view from the train:

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

 

Through the Vistadome upper window.

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

While it was clear when we left Urubamba, in Machu Picchu Pueblo it was overcast and misty. The town exists solely for the sake of tourism and every hotel, restaurant and shop to cater to traveler’s needs and desires. Want coffee, cocktails and wifi? It’s here. Cheap tourist menu lunch for $8? It’s here. Fine dining? I’m sure it’s here somewhere.

Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes) on wired2theworld.com

Finding the bus up to Machu Picchu ruins should be straightforward but somehow we managed to walk in an extra circle or two until we found the ticket window and the line for the buses. The line moves quickly and there are lots of buses lined up and ready to go as soon as they can be filled. The drive up is a bit hairy and if you have a fear of heights, I recommend you sit on the aisle and don’t look out or down as the bus winds its way up 19 switchbacks.

Once off the bus, we took our tickets to the gate and entered. We stamped our passports with the official Machu Picchu stamp which is right past the gate on a little table. Somehow I think the US government might not approve of people placing random stamps in their passports but, not thinking of that at the time, we did it anyway and so far, so good.…

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Dining Out in Urubamba Peru

August 30, 2014

We were at the Tambo del Inka in Urubamba for four nights and while our days were so busy we never really saw the town, we did walk from the hotel each night to find somewhere to eat dinner. Of course the hotel has a lovely restaurant, but menu prices were steep and there was someone there each night playing cheesy live music (picture a guy with electronic keyboard and mike). Honestly, that alone was enough to keep us from dining there. So, where to go? There are literally dozens of places within 6 blocks of the hotel, so you are spoiled for choice in Urubamba.

Please forgive the poor quality of the photos; all of them were taken with my cell phone because I didn’t feel like bringing my DSLR to dinner. All prices are in Peruvian Nuevo Soles which at the time we were there (April 2014) were about 2.8 to the dollar.

Q’anela Cafe and Restaurant

On our first night we went to the concierge recommended Q’anela. She’d told us she liked it better than El Huacatay which did not have any reservations available. Armed with a little map, we walked the 4 blocks or so to the restaurant where we were the only people dining save two women at another table. There are two small dining rooms with traditional furniture overlooking a small garden. The restaurant bills itself as having “slow cooked traditional cuisine.”

UrubambaQnela

Our meal at Q’anela included a small bowl of complimentary broad beans to snack on while waiting. I had some ravioli while David ordered our first taste of Alpaca in the form of the traditional Lomo Saltado. This came with a green tinted rice and yucca fries. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted from our long trip I didn’t write down any details …

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Moray and the Maras Salt Pans

July 28, 2014
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After a couple hours in Chinchero,  it was on to Moray and the Maras Salt Pans. The drive to Moray took about 45 minutes over a dirt road which was questionable for the vehicle we were in. But the views were spectacular. There’s a paved road too, because large buses arrive at Moray, but for some reason we took the scenic route.

Moray, Peru

 

Moray, Peru

 

Moray, Peru

 

Moray, Peru

 

Moray, Peru

Moray is a series of large concentric terraces forming a circle which gets progressively smaller and warmer the farther down you go. We walked as far down as we were allowed to go (not to the very bottom level) and down there, sheltered from the wind and yet in full sun, it was probably 15 degrees warmer. Hiking back up and out was when I really felt the 12000 feet of elevation and myself gasping for breath as we neared the top.

Moray, Peru

Moray, Peru

 

Moray, Peru

Moray, Peru

Moray, Peru

Moray, Peru

Moray, Peru

 

Moray, Peru

Our last stop, the Maras salt pans were a short drive away.  Up here, at over 10,000 feet, water comes out of the mountainside salty and for hundreds of years people have worked the land, forming shallow pans in which the water evaporates leaving the salt behind. These pans remind me a lot of the tannery dye pans in Fez Morocco in their shape and scope. However, instead of being the center of a walked city these sit high up on the mountainside.

Each pan is owned by a family and thus the $7 admission is separate from the bolleto touristico. Our time there was quick, less than half an hour, but we enjoyed it and bought several small bags of salt as gifts for friends and for ourselves.

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

 

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

 

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

Maras Salt Pans, Peru

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Market in Chinchero Peru

July 1, 2014
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While up at the church, I’d mistakenly thought that’s where the market also was for the town. So imagine my surprise when we got the bottom of the town and saw the dozens of rows of market stalls covered with open air thatched roofs, a small black pig rampaging though seller’s vegetables laid neatly on the ground, and hundreds of people doing their weekly marketing and bartering.

This was the market I’d wanted to see. Yes, there were several stalls selling local handicrafts, but most of them were food; dozens of types of potatoes, herbs, vegetables, fresh fish, cut up chickens. There were stalls selling soup which I desperately wanted to try but alas, did not. Below are the photos from our walk around the market.

The pig, above in one of his calmer moments.

Chinchero48

I’m not really sure what they were, some sort of puffed and baked flour based thing, but the treats on the left above were a bit sweet, chewy and delicious.

We saw these three wheeled bikes all over, used as local “taxis”, all with their own signature decoration. Very much like tuk tuks in Thailand.

 

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