Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Random Travel Update 42

Last locations: Tiwanaku BL, Lake Titicaca BL, Machu Picchu PE, Nazca Lines PE
Arrival Date: May 10, 2009
Departure Date: May 19, 2009

Current location: Lima, Peru
Arrival Date: May 19, 2009
Departure Date: May 20, 2009

Next Locations: Mancora, Peru
Arrival Date: May 21, 2009
Departure Date: May 22, 2009

Machu Picchu: √ (check). Like Disneyland but with less rides and real stones, Machu Picchu is one of those magical places that I'd be happy to never visit again. In an effort to salvage at least part of the experience, we opted for an alternative trek to the Inca Trail, which is littered with 200 tourists and 300 porters a day, few of whom care significantly about their immediate environment or the act of trekking in general.

Still, paying hundreds of dollars to trek with guides, pack mules and eight other foreigners at half the pace we would otherwise choose, is pretty distant from my idea of fun and adventure. The scenery, however, was breathtaking (as was the altitude at times), we met local indigenous people along the way, and the food, though it took the cooks hours to prepare, wasn’t half bad.

As for Maccu Picchu, it was every bit as incredible as people make it out to be and almost every bit as crowded. The photos taken cannot do it justice, and I don’t blame the hundreds to thousands of tourists who arrive each day to marvel in person at what must be one of the world’s most spectacular archeological sites.

Another cool archeological site in Peru is the Nazca Lines. We saw those today via a sobrevuelo (overflight) in a four-passenger private aircraft. They were impressive, but the three of us (me, Jon and Jon’s friend Aaron) agreed that they are much smaller than we were expecting.

Backing up a bit, our last few days in Bolivia, before our miserable overnight bus ride from Copacabana to Cuzco, were some of our best. The ruins at Tiwanaku were surprisingly calm with few tourist groups. While the city itself needs a lot of rebuilding since the Spanish plundered it in the 1500s, the stone-carved artifacts that have been found on the site are very impressive. The Tiwanaku civilization is thought to have predated the Incas by thousands of years and is perhaps the longest continuous societies in the history of the Americas. The surviving ancestors of the Tiwanaku are today called Aymara, while the descendants of the Incas are Quechua. Also present in Bolivia are the descendants of the Amazonia people, today known as Guarani.

We spent our last night in Bolivia on the Isla del Sol where the sun is said to have been born in local Aymaran folklore. We supported the local economy by taking a private boat to the northern shore which allowed us to see all of the archeological sites virtually untouristed since most visitors have to hike two to three hours up to the north shore and either spend the night or hike back down the same day. We were able to see all the north shore sites that evening, eat dinner, spend the night and wake up before sunrise the next morning to hike down to the south shore and explore our hearts out before the others were even awake. It was one of the highlights of our trip and very much somewhere that we hope to return to someday.

And return we will. In the meantime, Jon and I have decided to save the rest of our South America tour for the future. Instead of going on to Colombia and Venezuela next month as planned, we will be taking a flight out of Ecuador next week, spending a few days in Arizona to repack and upload photos (my hard drive is full again), and then catching a plane to the Middle East from where my Random Travel Update will be based for the following six weeks.
Keep keeping in touch.



No comments: