CHUCK'S TRIP TO PERU - JULY 12-28, 2003
In July of 2003 I spend two weeks in Peru, attending an international psychology conference in Lima, then sightseeing in Cusco and Machu Picchu. I will describe my what I learned and experienced based on emails that I had written on the trip.
JULY 12-18 -- FIRST WEEK IN LIMA
The conference I attended in Lima was the Congress of Inter-American Psychology. There were professors and students from all over Latin America plus a few from Europe and the U.S. Most of the presentations were in Spanish but a few were in English and a few in Portuguese. When there was a talk in English there were translators for Spanish, but in sessions where there were no papers in English there were no translators! I could understand some speakers, and not others, but if they showed slides I could read the slides in Spanish and follow along! About sixty came to hear my talk on self-esteem based on my 25-year follow-up of the Boston Couples Study and there were many questions. About fifty came to my talk on Ethnic Identity which also generated much interest.
I met many professors and many students, from Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and other places. I also saw a professor from the Netherlands that I had met a previous conference, and a professor and a student from Mexico that I had also met before. At the opening ceremony I met a Peruvian professor who uses theater, music, and dance to help teach psychology. He led a cultural event the following night, and invited me up on the stage to teach me a dance! Every night there was a cultural event with music and dance performed by different groups.
I stayed in a youth hostel in an area of Lima called Barranco where there are pubs and discos. After the closing ceremony for the conference, two Peruvian students came up to me and said that they had seen me at a disco in Barranco. They invited me to go with them to a pub near the university where the conference was held. About 20 of their friends were there. We talked and danced to salsa music for six and a half hours!
JULY 19 - SIGHTSEEING PLANS
Today I flew to Cusco, at 11,000 feet high in the Andes. Tomorrow I will take a day-long tour by bus of the Sacred Valley. We will go to several towns to see Inca ruins and local markets. On Tuesday I will take a four-hour train ride to Machu Picchu, the beautiful royal retreat on a mountain ridge. There is a great exhibit on Machu Picchu at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles this summer, which I was able to see before I left. I will stay overnight at Aguas Calientes just below Machu Picchu, before returning to Cusco for two more days then two more days in Lima before returning to LA on July 28.
JULY 20 -- SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS
Today I took a day-long tour of the Sacred Valley on the other side of a mountain ridge near Cusco. I usually avoid tours so I can spend as much time in each place as I want, but this was an efficient way to go to many places over a large distance in a single day. And it only cost $20 including lunch! The Sacred Valley is along a river that winds through tall mountains. The valley floor is at 9 thousand feet, while the mountains are at 18 thousand feet. Cusco is at 11 thousand feet. We rode for an hour to Pisac, which has a market with the most diverse handicrafts in Peru. I had waited to shop for textiles and souvenirs until then. We then drove another hour before stopping for lunch which was a great buffet.
Along the way we saw people with llamas (which are related to camels but smaller). The funniest sight was a guy who had two llamas loaded with chopped wood while he was carrying a chainsaw! We also saw cattle grazing, herds of sheep, pigs running around, and dogs sleeping next to or even on the road! In several places groups of young men were playing soccer. At lunch the glasses had the familiar Coca Cola logo, but instead of the full wave underneath there was half a wave and a soccer ball!
Most of the buildings we saw were made of adobe (clay mud and straw). In several places there were bricks of adobe drying in the sun. Houses usually had white plaster over the adobe, but farm buildings and fences were left plain. I was surpRised to see so much adobe, given that there are eathquakes in Peru. A big quake in 1950 leveled most of Cusco.
We also stopped to try some chicha. That is beer made from corn, which tastes like corn. The incas made it hundreds of year ago, and drank it at all of their rituals. Outside the pub was a stick with a red plastic bag tied to it like a flag -- that indicates that chicha is for sale there! Later we saw similar red flags in a number of places.
Most impressive were the agricultural terraces high up on steep mountain slopes. Many of the terraces were made by the Incas hundreds of years ago. Actually the term Inca refers to the ruler. The Incaęs subjects spoke Quechua then and many indigenous people still speak Quechua now. About 35% of the people of Peru are indigenas while 50% are mestizos (a mixture of indigenas and Spaniards). The remainder are from various European countries as well as China and Japan. Although some slaves were brought from Africa, they have intermixed over the centuries and are not considered a separate group now.
After lunch we went to Ollantaytambo, which has impressive Inca ruins on the side of a mountain. There are terraces leading up to the ruins of a sun temple. The walls of the temple were huge granite slabs which had been dragged there from a mountain on the other side of the valley. The Incas worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, and other forces of nature such as the rain and lighting. They celebrated the solstaces since they were important for the agricultural cycle.
The Spanish came in the 1500s looking for gold. They defeated and killed the Inca ruler. Many more indigenas died from European diseases to which they had not been previously exposed. While many indigenas today are poor, the tourist trade provides a way for some to make money.
Although my tour guide spoke in English, I kept responding to him in Spanish since Ięve needed to speak Spanish most of the time this past week. Whatęs more, I found that Ięve been talking to myself in Spanish! I also heard other languages on the tour. There was a couple from the Netherlands, a couple from France, another couple from Switzerland, and a couple from the west side of Los Angeles.
On the way back to Cusco we saw jagged moutains with glaciers and fresh snow from last night. We also stopped in Chinchero. We visited an old church and market there, and I ran into two people from Mexico and two people from Los Angeles whom I knew at the conference in Lima. Earlier, at the market in Pisac, I saw a grandfather from Lima and his smart 11-year old grandson from Miami whom I had chatted with during dinner last night in Cusco. It is useful to swap stories with other travelers. I learned about the day tour of the Sacred Valley from a couple I sat next to at the airport in Lima while waiting for my flight to Cusco!
JULY 21 -- INCA GOLD, CORN, AND POTATOES
This morning I walked to the huge covered market across from the train station. There I found vegetables, fruit, meat, and clothes for sale. The meat included a side of beef, plucked chickens with heads and feet, fish, and llama heads! Outside the building on a side street there were shoe repairmen using heavy duty sewing machines which were powered by turning a wheel by hand. On other side streets there were more fresh ingredients, plus small barbecues and pots containing food for sale. I took many pictures, but some people wanted to be paid for having their photo taken, usually 1 sol which is about 27 cents. Then my camera stopped working. The battery was okay, but the lens would not extend. Fortunately I had brought another camera, which was back at my hotel room several blocks up the hill. To save time I took a taxi there for a dollar. It is tiring walking uphill at 11,000 feet, especially when you are in a hurry. I walked back to the market to take some photos that I had not been able to take!
After lunch I took a guided tour of some towns very close to Cusco, which also included two important stops in Cusco. The first was Qorikancho, the site of an ancient Inca sun temple, upon which the Spaniards had built a church. Several of the Inca walls and rooms still exist, including a set of rooms with windows through which the sun would shine during one of the solstices. The Inca walls were made of large stones fitted together without mortar, while the Spanish walls were made of smaller stones using mortar. The Inca stones were carved using flint utensils and were fitted together with interlocks and offsets to keep them in place.
We then went to the huge cathedral on the main plaza. I believe that it is the largest cathedral in the western hemisphere. It is the most impressive cathedral I have seen outside of Rome, and I have seen many cathedrals across Europe and elsewhere around the world. The main altar has a huge wall with intricate goldwork in a rococo style, which is very ornate and busy. The gold had been taken from the walls of Inca sun temples, which were intended to reflect the color of the sun. There also was a huge altarpiece made of silver, which had been taken from Inca moon temples.
We rode the bus a thousand feet up a mountain overlooking Cusco to Sacsayhuaman, which is pronounced something like sexy woman! There were some of the best-preserved Inca ruins besides those at Machu Picchu. It had been a fortress for protecting the city from other indigenous groups before the arrival of the Spanish who defeated the Inca there. After a big earthquake levelled 80 percent of Cusco in 1950, people used the ruins as a rock quarry for rebuilding the city. This was continued until 1985 when it became protected as a national monument.
Our next stop was Qenco, which means zigzag. It was a temple which is thought to be shaped like a puma. It has caves below, and rocks above with zigzag groves thought to be for chicha corn beer and the blood of animals sacrificed at the site.
Further down the road was Tambomachay which was used for ritual bathing. It has fountains containing water that was channeled from springs. The Incas developed irrigation systems to create more productive farming. We had seen some of the stones used to channel water when we were in the Inca rooms by the church at Qorikancho. The Incas had used diamonds, flint, and other minerals to carve channels in the rocks. The Incas domesticated many kinds of corn and over 200 kinds of potatoes. We hear about Irish potatoes, but potatoes were introduced to Europe from South America.
On the way back to Cusco we made the shopping stop that often occurs on commercial tours. While there were many kinds of sweaters, I did not like them as well as the ones I had seen in Pisac!
While on the tour, I met three men from Malta. When I asked what language they spoke there, they explained that the Maltese language was developed by Semitic people who had spoken Arabic and lived in Sicily before moving to Malta. While in Sicily, many Italian words were added, and the script was changed from Arabic to Latin, basically the same script used for English and other European languages. I also met a couple from England, and chatted with the couple from France that I had met on the tour yesterday. After the tour when I had dinner in Cusco I was seated with two guys from Israel!
I need to go to bed early tonight so I can get up at 5 AM to catch the train to Machu Picchu. It goes early in the morning and returns in the late afternoon since many people go only for the day. But I plan to stay overnight near the train station in Agua Calientes to have more time.
JULY 22 -- CIPRO, COCA, AND SWITCHBACKS
When I travel outside the US and northern Europe, I always drink bottled water, not tap water. For the first three days in each country, I avoid fresh vegetables and cut fruit. Then I begin to eat salads so that my body will adjust to the local bacteria. That allows me to eat food from street vendors, which my guidebooks advise against. But street food is often delicious, convenient, cheap, and fun! Occasionally my system does get upset, especially when it is hot. Then I take lomotil to turn off the flow and Cipro to kill any germs. My system was upset Monday night, so I took lomotil and Cipro on Tuesday to avoid any urgency during the tour, and by Wednesday morning my system was okay again.
However, I was tired and excited. The hotel was very nice, but the bed was too hard. So every night I would wake up after every 90 minute sleep cycle with a sore side, flip to the other side, and try to sleep again. The same thing happens when I go camping! But this morning I was concerned about oversleeping and missing my 6 AM train, so I had trouble going back to sleep after waking up at 3 AM. But like the start of other adventures after sleep-deprived nights, the excitement of something new would keep me awake during the say.
The train went forward and reverse several times as it zigzagged up one of the mountains overlooking Cusco. When we reached the crest, there was a beautiful view of snow-capped mountains in the distance, one a triangle and the other jagged peaks. As the train descended from 12,000 feet to 8,000 feet we passed agricultural fields coated with frost and hillsides blanketed with early morning fog.
I ate some bread and peanuts that I had in my pack, not knowing that they were going to serve breakfast on the train. They offered coca tea, which I declined this time. The locals drink it to prevent altitude sickness. It's also given to new arrivals to Cusco, so my hotel gave me some when I checked in. However, it kept me awake that night since I am no longer used to drinking stimulants after becoming allergic to coffee and chocolate. Coca tea is made from coca leaves, which contain tiny quantities of cocaine. Street cocaine is extracted and refined from large quantities of coca plants. You can buy coca leaves in stores in Peru, including chocolate covered coca leaves in the gift shop of a church! But it is illegal to bring them into the US. Coca Cola originally contained cocaine, along with the flavor extracted from cola nuts. But when cocaine became illegal, the cocaine was replaced by caffeine extracted from coffee beans. Street cocaine is not only illegal and addictive, it can stop the heart of some people, so I donęt recommend it!
WOW! I am riding on a train in the Andes as I am writing this! After descending via additional switchbacks, we rode through a narrow river valley lined with trees and low terraces on steep mountain slopes. The train stopped at a station and vendors came by. I saw a doll with panpipes that I decided to buy. But the train was starting to move. The woman tried to throw the doll up to the window that I had opened, but it fell short. Further down the valley we passed by the snow-covered peaks, and stopped at an entry point for the Inca Trail, which is a four-day hike to Machu Picchu. You can hire porters to carry your gear if you wish. They are used to carrying heavy loads in the mountains from harvesting crops on mountain terraces. A friend who had hiked the trail recommended taking the train all the way and spending the extra time in Cusco.
The river valley became narrower and the mountains taller and steeper. They also became covered with greenery as we entered the selva or forest zone. After a 4 hour ride we arrived at the small town called Aguas Calientes, which means Hot Waters due to the hot springs on the top of the hill. I carried my heavy pack past many stalls selling souvenirs and trudged up the hill to my hotel. After checking in, I walked down the hill to catch a shuttle bus to Macchu Picchu. For 20 minutes we sped around hairpin turns on the side of a steep mountain up to the entrance gate.
JULY 23 -- GODS AND MACHU PICCHU
When the Spanish conquered the Incas, they tried to destroy the Inca religion, which they considered pagan. The Incas worshipped the sun god Inti, the earth goddess Pachamama, the moon goddess Kill, lighting, various mountains, and other elements of nature. These are powerful forces which have been worshipped by many cultures. The sun, rain, and earth are especially important to agricultural societies who are dependent on them for crops. Since these elements grow the plants that sustain all life, they have been revered as the source of life. The Inca rulers, like the Japanese emperors, claimed to be descended from the sun god.
The Spanish destroyed Inca temples and often built Catholic churches on the sites. But sometimes elements of Inca culture remained. Besides the Inca rooms in the church in Cusco, there are two Inca elements in the main cathedral in Cusco which were incorporated by Quechua craftsmen who built the cathedral for the Spanish. The wooden seats for the choir have armrests supported by carved statues of the Inca earth goddess Pachamama. Given Catholic modesty, it is surprising that she has bare breasts, which are an Inca symbol of fertility. The other Inca element appears in a famous painting of the Lord's Supper, the final meal Christ had with his disciples before he was crucified. In front of Christ is a guinea pig, which was served as a special meal in Inca rituals and is still eaten on special occasions by Quechua today!
Fortunately, the Spanish did not discover Macchu Picchu or they might have destroyed it as well. The site was known only to Quechua until it was shown to Hiram Bingham by two Quechua in 1911. At that time it was overgrown with vegetation, which he cleared. At the present time 30% of the site is restoration.
When I arrived at Machu Picchu late Tuesday morning, I saw people from Mexico and Los Angeles that I had met at the conference in Lima (later in the day I saw two others as well). After hiking up the hill to the Guard House, I rested for a while to catch my breath, and chatted with a guy from Maryland who had hiked up Huayna Picchu, the mountain directly north of Machu Picchu. He said that it had Inca steps at the top that were like climbing a ladder, which made his knees tremble when he came back down!
From the Guard House I could see the city of Macchu Picchu spread out before me. My reaction was WOW! What an amazing accomplishment it was to build this large city of many carved stones clinging to a mountain ridge. But even more impressive to me was the incredible beauty of the mountains surrounding the site. Photos of Macchu Picchu usually show only the mountain directly behind it, and maybe other mountains in clouds. But they do not reveal the magnificent jagged peaks with steep slopes up from the river that surrounds the city on three sides. WOW!
The city is huge, with many buildings on the site and terraces which extend down steep slopes. Behind the guard house are agricultural terraces to provide food, but additional food was gown at lower elevations as well. The site was a royal retreat for the Inca ruler and his entourage, so there were not many permanent residents when he was not there. That is why few human remains were found at the site. Servants were unceremoniously buried under the foundations, while dignitaries would have been taken back to Cusco for proper burial rites.
On the left across from the guardhouse is what appears to be the royal compound. It has the first fountain, which would have had the purest water. The fountain is fed by channels in rocks which lead from a spring half a mile away. The royal rooms also contain a bathroom, with a drainage channel.
In the next complex of buildings below the royal rooms is the Sun Temple which has a smooth circular wall. Beyond the royal rooms on the left is the sacred plaza which has a temple like a stage with a huge altar stone. It lies at the foot of a natural pyramid called Intiwatana. It is the scariest place in the city proper, since it has a 2000-foot cliff instead of terraces on the outside. On the inside it overlooks a large grassy plaza.
On the right side of the plaza, at the back, is a large sacred rock in the shape of the mountain behind it. There are several smaller rocks elsewhere in the site which are in the shape of mountains behind them. In front of the sacred rock is a hill with several residence compounds, which extend down the slope to the right and in front. In one of these complexes is the Temple of the Condor. There is a flat rock which looks like the head and body of a condor, while the rocks behind it form the wings.
From the bottom complex there is a long stairway leading up to the Sun Temple and Royal Complex. Alongside it are most of the 17 fountains which flow from one to the next, with curved grooves in the rocks directing the water flow.
I spent the rest of Tuesday exploring three-fourths of the site, then stayed overnight in Aguas Calientes. When I got up this morning the sun was illuminating mountains above my hotel, but was not yet illuminating the town. As I rode the bus up to Macchu Picchu, the sun was peeking around mountain peaks, sending streams of sunbeams diagonally across the mountains and valleys. When I reached Macchu Picchu, it was already illuminated by the sun, but there were still misty morning shadows on the mountains. It reminded me of the misty mountains in Guilin, China, that I love so much, but these peaks are more jagged.
I am writing this at Maccu Picchu, looking across at the sun temple, which was used for astronomical observations. In Inca sun temples, windows and edges of rocks are aligned so that certain places are illuminated during the winter or summer solstaces. Similar artifacts have been found in other cultures around the world. Solar observations were important for determining when to plant, irrigate, and harvest crops.
WOW! A small cloud has just appeared above a notch in the mountains, accenting the descending gorge between misty mountains on both sides. I just walked across a terrace and saw a snow-capped peak appear behind the craggy peaks behind the city on the right side.
It is surprisingly warm (85F, 29C) as the sun shines down on the site. Resting on the grass are backpackers from the Inca Trail, who got up to climb the final mountain pass to view Machu Picchu at daybreak. You can tell the male backpackers by the 4-day growth of beard! They also need a bath, but the cool breeze keeps the smell from lingering!
I spent some time exploring the remaining buildings around the Temple of the Condor, and now I am making one last visit to the Temple of the Sun. Beneath the Temple is a cave with platforms and niches carved out of the natural rock. I can image some Inca priests performing rituals here. Nearby someone is playing a flute. I gave a goodbye look to the site and walked back to the bus to Aguas Calientes. After some final exploration of the town, I lugged my heavy pack to the train station and took the 4-hour ride back to Cusco.
JULY 24 -- MUSEUMS AND UNUSUAL PAINTINGS IN CUSCO
Today I explored six museums and a church in Cusco. Now I've seen everything in Cusco that was recommended by my guidebook Let's Go. So I wonęt mind leaving tomorrow even though I like Cusco.
The first was the Museo Inka, which was excellent. It described various pre-Inca cultures in Peru, and various aspects of Inca culture. While I was looking at a huge wall photo of Machu Picchu a couple from England was reminiscing about sitting on the grass in the plaza there last week. I mentioned that when I relaxed on the grass there I got 8 bug bites on each arm. They said that they got them too, and were told that they were sand fleas. Their red spots went away after a few days. That saved me a phone call to my doctor in Whittier. I knew that the bites were not mosquito bites or poisonous, since I did not have an allergic reaction, but I wanted to make sure that they were not tics since tics carry a serious disease. Since I had not been in forest vegetation I didn't think that tics were likely anyway.
The Museo Inka had some dioramas of Inca life, depicting the herding of llamas, the harvesting of corn, and other activities. It inspired my imagination, and made me realize how hard work their life would have been. They did not have horses or oxen (until the Spanish imported them), so they had to do all of their farming by hand. The couple from England were commenting that it was surprising that the Incas did not develop a written language. I suggested that three factors may have made it less necessary. They did not have money and did not tax based on percentage of goods, as they did in China, which required careful accounting. Chinese characters began as scratches on bones to count goods. Instead, Inca subjects had to devote a certain amount of time working on projects for the Inca. Secondly, they used knots on strings and scenes on pottery to record events. Third, they had a strong oral tradition as did many societies without written language.
The next museum was the Museum of Pre-Inca Art which had exquisite examples of pottery, textiles, and jewelry made of shells, gold, or silver. The third museum was in a Catholic convent which previously had been the site of the Inca house of Chosen Women, who either served the Inca ruler as concubines or served the sun god Inti as virgin priestesses and made chicha corn beer. The building had an interesting interior balcony with porticos. Among the various religious paintings, the most interesting one depicted Christ stomping grapes to make wine, with his blood dripping into the vat. In an novel way it symbolized the belief that during Mass or Communion the wine becomes or represents the blood of Christ.
The fourth museum was the Regional History Museum, which had paintings of the Cusco school, which were painted by mestizos (mixed Spanish and Quechua). The paintings were religious, in a European style, but sometimes had Quechua elements such as settings or people in the background. The museum also had some interesting photos showing the damage caused by the 1950 earthquake in Cusco.
The fifth museum was in the convent of the Merced Church. In addition to paintings which depicted the baby Jesus being nursed by the Virgin Mary, there was an unusual one in which the adult Joseph and baby Jesus were both suckling at Maryęs breasts! The sixth museum was the Archbishop's Museum, which had a large painting of baby Jesus lying in the manger, but instead of Bethlehem the city was in medieval Europe with turrets on castles! It also had a painting of baby Jesus being circumcised with a long knife!
I took a taxi up the hill of San Blas to see the church there. It had a wooden pulpit which was intricately carved. It also had a gaudy gold altar! By then I had had more than enough museums and churches, so I sat down and had a glass of sangria at a little cafe overlooking downtown Cusco. While I was there two boys came up trying to sell postcards and they sat down to rest too and we had a long chat in Spanish. They sell the postcards to pay for school expenses (such as uniforms) since their families are poor. Whenever you go to the main plaza or any tourist sight in Cusco you are accosted by boys selling postcards, boys or men shining shoes, and women selling textiles. But if you already have had your shoes shined and bought many postcards, you donęt need anymore!
I had dinner at a Peruvian Chinese restaurant. The Chinese restaurants have their own style of cooking and flavors here called Chifa. It was very good! Tomorrow I fly back to Lima, where email is not as accessible where I will be staying. On Monday I will fly back to Los Angeles.
JULY 25 -- DELAYED FLIGHT AND MEETING PEOPLE
On Friday morning I walked down to the main plaza in Cusco and discovered that many school bands were parading around the plaza. It was part of the celebration of Peru's Independence Day which is on Monday. While taking photos in the plaza I ran into the two postcard sellers that I had chatted with the day before.
I took a taxi to see the older and larger of the two universities, the National University of San Antonio of Cusco. After studying the campus map, I noticed a group of four professors talking and walked up and asked them if there were any psychology professors at that university. They said that the university did not have a degree program in psychology, but that there were psychology courses offered for students in other majors. One of them said that she was working on a thesis in psychology at the other university in town! She already had a degree in journalism and had been teaching in the communications program here for twenty years. Her psychology thesis is on the effects of mass media on the self-esteem of college students, for example the effect of seeing primarily blond models in Peruvian ads. When I told her that I had just presented a paper on self-esteem in Lima last week, she invited me to go to a cafe and chat. My Spanish is limited, but I was able to communicate with her about our mutual research interests for another half an hour before I had to leave for the airport.
When I got to the airport, there already was a long line for my 4:30 flight, and it was moving incredibly slowly. When I asked another passenger what the problem was, she said that the flight had been cancelled and they were trying to arrange alternate connecting flights for each passenger. After waiting two and a half hours, I finally was able to check-in. My flight had been cancelled due to high winds, so they scheduled another flight for 6 AM the next morning so people could make other connections. Since I didn't have a connecting flight, I asked to be put on a flight at 9:15 AM, so I could sleep and not have to get up at 3:30 AM to catch the other flight!
The possibility of not making my flight back to Lima and missing my flight back to LA is why I had scheduled returning to Lima two days ahead of my flight home. I learned to do this after an experience in Egypt eight years ago. We couldn't get on our flight from Luxor to Cairo due to overbooking, and missed our flight from Cairo to LA. Fortunately an Egyptian friend was able to get us on a flight on another airline the following day.
My airline in Cusco, Lan Chile, took all of us to hotels, gave us free dinner, free breakfast, and free transportation back to the airport. Before dinner I explored some shops nearby. During dinner I sat with a guy who works for the Peruvian government. I also chatted a guy from England who is with a group from his school who have been hiking around Bolivia and Peru. And I talked with a guy from Texas who used to be deaf until he had an artificial eardrum and inner ear bones implanted a year ago -- amazing! I had a bad cold so instead of running around anymore I lay in bed and watched Peruvian television for two hours.
JULY 26 -- RETURN TO LIMA
Saturday morning, I rode to the airport with a family in which the father is Belgian and works for the World Bank, the mother is Pervuian, the daughter attends the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and the son is younger. At the airport, I ran into the guy from Maryland that I had met while resting by the Guard House at Machu Picchu! He was on my flight to Lima!
After arriving in Lima and taking a taxi to the youth hostel in Barranco, I took a taxi to the National Archeology Museum. It had some interesting pottery and jewelry upstairs, where grade school kids visit. Then downstairs hidden away from the school tours was the erotic pottery. It is pre-Incan, from the Moche culture, and has explicit depictions of all kinds of activities! There are postcards of it for sale in all the tourist shops in Lima.
I took another taxi across town to the Museum of Gold. It had gold headdresses, breastplates, figurines, knives, and earlobe plugs. Men in the royal Inca families wore gold plugs in their earlobes that were about an inch in diameter, with a two-inch disk attached. The museum also had a huge collection of weapons including knives, guns, European armor, and Japanese Samurai armor, which were all after the Spanish conquest while all the gold items were before the Spanish came.
Then I took a taxi to Larcomar in Miraflores. It is a new shopping complex built in three levels on the side of the cliff overlooking the sea. From the complex I could see the waves on the shore, and two groups playing soccer on the dirt next to the ocean. There is no sand along the beach in Lima. Part of the shoreline has rocks, and the rest has dirt covering refuse landfill! On my way back from the airport earlier I had seen garbage trucks dumping trash by the shore.
Among the various fast food restaurants I found one selling French crepes! I had a chicken and mushroom crepe which was delicious! While exploring more of the complex I ran into the guy from England that I had met at dinner in the hotel in Cusco the night before! There was a cineplex and I decided to watch a movie. Most of the movies are in English with Spanish subtitles, except for children's movies which are dubbed in Spanish. The only movie that looked interesting to me was Sinbad. I couldn't follow all of the dialoge in Spanish, but with an animated movie you can still follow the action anyway! It was better than the time we saw Dances with Wolves in Denmark, which had Danish subtitles for the English speech and also for the Native American speech so we had no clue about the latter.
I took a taxi back to my hostel, and explored more of the area nearby beyond the pubs and discos. I discovered that there were two Internet places within walking distance! Hence I was able to write this sooner than expected.
After leaving the Internet cafe on Saturday night, I walked to the hostel and dropped off the books and postcards which I had bought at museums that day. I then went to the best disco in Barranco. I had gone there last week when it wasn't the weekend, and it was quiet. But this night there was a good crowd. I chatted with a waiter that I had talked with the week before and had a beer while waiting for people to start dancing. Eventually 3 couples started dancing, and I thought that maybe only couples danced here, which was true of the salsa dancing at the pub with the university students last week.
When I was in college, only couples danced. But now in the US and in many other countries, not only couples dance but also individuals and groups, at least at discos (with salsa dancing being an exception here too). At my favorite dance club in the LA area, usually a group of women will start dancing first. The guys need a beer or two for confidence to dance or to ask a woman to dance. After several groups of women are on the floor, a few couples will join in. And then individual guys or groups of guys will enter the dance floor and try to dance with women already there. Sometimes they are rebuffed and slink away or continue dancing with their friends, but other times they are successful. Sometimes they later exchange phone numbers in the parking lot! However, I usually I get impatient waiting for the dancing to get going and therefore start dancing by myself first, and then others start dancing too, sometimes imitating my dance moves.
At the disco in Barranco a group of women started dancing in addition to the 3 couples, so I knew that the new rules applied. So I started dancing, and then many people joined in. It was fun. Two different groups of Peruvians gave me beers. I danced from midnight until almost 3 AM then went to bed since I still had a cold. But the discos there don't close until 5 or 6 AM, while they usually close by 2 AM in Los Angeles since alcohol can't be sold in California after 1:30 AM.
JULY 27 -- MORE SITESEEING IN LIMA
Sunday morning I took a taxi to the main square of central Lima. It is surrounded by Spanish colonial buildings. There is a huge government building on one side of the square, and the main Cathedral on another side. I explored the cathedral just as Sunday Mass was about to begin. The cathedral was very elaborate in a baroque style.
I then walked two blocks to the Convent of San Francisco. It had a wooden altar which I liked better than the gold altars I had seen! In the inner courtyard there had been canvas paintings hung high on the walls, and some had fallen down during an earthquake. This revealed that there were frescoes (paintings on wet plaster) underneath the canvases! In one room there were paintings of Christ's passion (final days) which had been painted by the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, which were beautiful, with bodies that were very life-like. In the basement of the church were catacombs, where the bones of thousands of people had been found! When they dug up the crypts, they removed the dirt, and put the bones in piles sorted by size! In a large well they had arranged skulls in a rosary design. In the courtyard of the church I ran into a woman from Mexico whom I had met at the conference and seen again in Machu Picchu!
On the way to the Convent I had noticed that the old railway station had a special exhibit on Amazon tribes, so I went back there. The exhibit was titled "Serpent of Agua" which refers to the Amazon river because it weaves back and forth like a snake. The exhibit was geared for all ages, including activities for kids. It had feather headdresses, clothing, herbal medicines, houses, and other artifacts. Of special interest to me were watercolor paintings illustrating the cosmology beliefs of various groups, some of which included a person in the sun to represent the sun god! There are about 50 different tribes, each speaking its own language, which can be grouped into 15 language groups.
The exhibit noted that the Europeans have considered the tribespeople to be uncivilized, yet they had self-sustaining cultures for thousands of years. Some laws have been passed to grant property rights to some of the tribes, but not all. The rain forest habitat is being destroyed by mining, petroleum wells, pollution, and other problems. The goal of the exhibit was to encourage respect for the tribespeople and support for legislating more rights.
I did not explore more of downtown Lima on foot, because my guidebook and my Peruvian friends said that it was not safe. That is true of parts of many cities, including Los Angeles. I had lunch at a small cafe, then took a taxi across town to see some pre-Inca ruins at Puruchuco, which means feathered helmet, which is what the rulers wore. The ruins included the restored house of a local ruler, with walls made of adobe (dried mud). Nearby were adobe-lined burial crypts stepping up the hill. On top of the hill was a partial wall of additional ruins.
By that time all of the museums were closed, so I took a taxi back to Miraflores for dinner. I wanted another delicious crepe! I also saw another movie --this one in English with Spanish subtitles! I noticed that some of the subtitles were not exact translations of the English, but then some expressions are different in the two languages. The movie was "How to lose a guy in 10 days" which turned out to be better than I thought it would be.
After checking my email in the complex, I took a taxi back to Barranco to get my luggage and go to the airport. At the airport I ran into the friend from Mexico that I had seen earlier in the day! I had gone to the airport early so I could request a seat in front by the bulkhead so I would have more legroom -- I am too cramped in a regular seat! Since they like to save the bulkhead seats for passengers with young children, I ended up sitting next to a 4-year old Peruvian boy who slept most of the way.
We didn't board the plane until 1 AM, and I was having trouble staying awake until then. On the plane, I figured that a glass of wine with dinner would help me sleep. But it gave me a headache and other symptoms of mild altitude sickness, which had happened when I drank alcohol in Cusco at 11,000 feet. That is the first time that has happened to me on an airplane and I assume it was because I still hadn't recovered from being in Cusco. The headache continued until the plane landed in LA and then it went away. But I was tired since I hadn't had much sleep.
I must say that the service on the flight was excellent. When I checked in, the airline personnel were very friendly and very accommodating of my seat request on each of the four flights on this trip. Sometimes I have to battle with airline personnel to get a bulkhead or exit aisle seat. I was flying on Lan Peru which is also Lan Chile. I have found that many airlines of other countries give excellent service, and often are cheaper or have better connections than US carriers. I had an 8-hour direct flight from LA to Lima, while all of the other airlines had layovers which extended the total travel time to 15 hours. In addition, terrorists may be more likely to target US carriers than others.
I took a shuttle home, and now have four days to get my photos developed and catch up on sleep, laundry, mail, bills, grocery shopping, lawn mowing, newspapers, and other things before my wife and I spend a 3-day weekend in San Diego at a reunion of some professors who taught on Semester at Sea last year. As I decompress and integrate my Peruvian experiences into my identities and perspectives, what I will remember most about Peru is the friendliness of the Peruvians. My most important souvenirs are the email addresses that I gathered which will enable us to keep in touch.
Hasta luego, Carlitos (see you later, Chuck)