Portland Leadership Institute
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Jeanna's and Alan's Excellent Peruvian Adventure
(The blog is complete. Since we got home on Dec. 20, we've added new pictures and new entries. These include new pictures from Lima (Dec. 7 entry), Machu Picchu (Dec. 12), Lake Titicaca (Dec. 15), the Dec. 17 entry in the Amazon, and elsewhere.)
Dec. 27, along with Dec. 28, the Final Blog Entry
What a trip. For those of you reading this for the first time, let me summarize a few things.
Jeanna and I went to Peru in December 2010 for one of our annual "trips of a lifetime." These are always trips of adventure and searching. Sometimes we're on our own, sometimes with groups. Always it is not knowing what is around the next corner. That's one of the things that keeps us going.
This trip was with the Penn State Alumni group. 8 of us were on the basic trip (Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lake Titicaca), and 4 continued for the "add-on" to the Amazon Rain Forest. All the details, dates, hotel websites, etc., are at the bottom of the blog.
Pictures appear in most of the entries. Hover over the picture to get the caption; click it for a large picture in a new window (pop-ups required).
It is best to read from the first entry, at the bottom, rather than read from the top. That's how it was written.
We'd love to hear your comments and thoughts.
And we have three wonderful guides to thank.
Efrain met us the first day, and took us throughout all of the pre-Amazon areas. He was in charge of the details, our safety, and our enjoyment. Without Efrain, this could easily have been a hazardous trip; he left us with nothing to worry about. Thank you.
Carlos met us in Cusco. He grew up in the Sacred Valley, and knew all there was to know about Incan culture. He led us on our hikes, and graciously let me know when I was about to do something that I should not do. And we loved hearing about SuperBoss and the MiniDictator. Thank you.
Cliver led us through what was perhaps the most dangerous part of the trip, the Amazon. He watched for snakes and storms, and found the tiniest things in the jungle that would bring us pleasure. And he convinced the people (not part of our regular group) who didn't know any better that drinking ayahuasca was not really a good idea. Thanks, Cliver.
We returned home on Dec. 20, the night of a full moon and its eclipse. The next day was winter solstice. It was clear what we would do: Jeanna led us by doing a Peruvian despacho, thanking spirit for our blessings and sending our prayers to the heavens. The fire was wonderful; some of what burned came from Peru.
We will continue to see what there is to learn from this trip.
Dec. 28, last entry, and entry for our last day in the Amazon and in Peru, Sunday Dec. 19
Our final day started before dawn. Jeanna woke early (as she usually did on the trip), went for a walk, brought coffee for me, and I joined her. Very happy I did.
Walked the grounds for the last time, watching everything from the ants to the macaws. We watched early dawn overlooking the Amazon River for the last time. And we heard birds that we wouldn't hear again for a while.
After breakfast, Cliver put us in a small boat for the last time, taking us a short distance to Indiana; yes, that's right, named for the state where someone had gone to school many years ago. We rode to the next town and our last market, goading each other into buying machetes (no one bit). Back to Indiana, boat to Explorama, a last great lunch (usually beans, fish, lentils, corn, peppers, etc.). And, at 1:00 onto the Amazon Queen.
Continued dry weather for the 2 1/2 hour voyage back, cooling off nicely. At the end, we got our final treat, a porpoise jumping out of the water for us.
Our six legs (Amazon Queen, bus, 3 flights, cab) of the trip home took 27 hours:
2 1/2 hours: Amazon Queen
45 minutes: bus to airport in Iquitos, departing ~5:30
1 1/2 hours: flight to Lima
6 hours in Lima, back to the hotel, departing around 1:00 AM
6 1/2 hours to Houston
~2 hours in Houston
4 1/2 hours to Portland
luggage pickup and cab home, arriving 1:00 PM. With 3 hour time change, that's 27 hours.
Dec. 27, entry for the Amazon, Saturday, Dec. 18
Saturday was one of the absolutely incredible days of all time. You will see why.
Thursday and Friday were the appetizers. Fly to Iquitos Thursday, boatride to Ceiba Tops ("we're on the Amazon!"), swing from the vines, visit a native village and use the blowgun, fish for piranhas--nothing really special in that, right??!?
Cliver told us to be on the boat Saturday morning at 5:40, that we would eat at one of the other Explorama Lodges around 7:30. Jeanna was of course up early, got us coffee (thanks, Sweetie!), and we were off.
A two hour boat ride (in a covered boat) down the Amazon and up the Napo to the Explornapo Lodge. The Napo is the last of the 3 major rivers that form the Amazon, so there was no change when we joined it. Another delicious breakfast, and by about 9:00 we were off on a hike through the rainforest to the Amazon Canopy Walkway.
We walked above the trees!!!!!!
We looked down on everything. There is nothing I can write to describe the feeling. Simply look at the pictures.
We were up there for about an hour. Cliver left us alone, told us to turn left at intersections, and just enjoy. There were 13-15 different walkways, connecting at trees. Steel cables held the walkways together, kept us secure. But they still bounced.
A butterfly visited my shoe at the penultimate treehouse, and we watched bats at the last. What a way to finish.
Back to Explornapo for lunch, then went to see a shaman who described the area's medicinal plants at the Ethnobotanical garden. He worked on both me and Jeanna separately (not everyone volunteered), gave me a wonderful fermented liquid to drink (I later found out that it settles stomaches), and drew on our arms. Jeanna got a hummingbird, me a condor. When he drew, it was clear; gradually, as it dried, it became darker, and will stay with us for more than a week. Jeanna got a few potions, but forgot to get the anti wrinkle cream. Oh well.
And, in the true spirit of ceremony, the skies completely opened as we were inside the hut. It was dry by the time we finished. We had two downpours on the boatride home, so lowered the plastic tarp covering the open windows. And we walked through a downpour to return to our lodge.
What a day!
Dec. 17, north of Iquitos, in the Amazon
We’re in the Amazon!
Absolutely unbelievable! On an already amazing trip, this is the icing! And to think, in the last six days, we’ve been at Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and the Amazon.
(Schedule: Saturday is a full day, with visits to Shaman/medicine man to see his medicines, and a walk in the nets above the rain forest. WOW! We’ll leave around 5:30 AM and return at nite. And Sunday we fly back to Lima, spend a few hours in the hotel, and depart after midnight for Hston and PDX, arriving home midday Monday. We went out this AM (Friday) and will go out again this afternoon.)
There are other rain forests in the world; we’ve seen temperate rain forests at Rainier, the Olympics, etc. We’ve been (separately) in the Caribbean. We’ve been on the Nile, a river system just as long. But to be in the Amazon Rain Forest, the mother of all rain forests—it just blows our mind.
We are at Ceiba Tops Lodge (web site at the bottom of this page), the only one of the Explorama “resorts” with air conditioning and therefore no need for mosquito nets at night.
Our naturalist (Cliver) is 34, educated in the jungle, but getting his degree for credibility, and has worked for Audobon Society and National Geographic among others. He took us for a walk Thursday afternoon (we did one ourselves earlier). We got to hold millipedes (Alan) swing from the trees (me Tarzan, you Jean), and generally just gawk. We saw parrots flying, monkeys scooting, and insects copulating. Cliver coaxed a tarantula out of its hole; alas, no pictures of this.
The Amazon itself is incredible, flowing fast even though it is virtually flat, dropping only about 350 feet in its remaining 2000 mile journey. It is wide and 45 feet deep now; 75 feet deep in rainy season (May). That’s a lot of additional water. And the forest is an incredible place to walk in. I could run there except for the fact that there are vipers and other critters that I can’t see. Cliver’s eyes are constantly down!
Temp is barely manageable; no sunshine means no heat (only 90/90) and no thunderstorms. Changing clothes often (long sleeves, long pants), drinking cold water (and a great margarita), and jumping into a cold pool. Active early in the morning (8:30 start) and later in the afternoon, staying away from the midday heat (that’s when I am sending this). Don’t even think of checking Iquitos on weather.com; Cliver never does: it’s not accurate! It will rain, and it will be hot, except Thursday, when it was neither.
We are down to two couples; you may remember that this trip is through the Penn State (that’s the “other” PSU) Alumni Association. We originally had 4 couples, but only two did this “add-on” piece. We miss our friends, and hope they get a chance to see what we are doing here and now.
We actually slept the nite without the air conditioner, just the fan and an open window. The sounds were amazing. Hope we can continue that. We have heard sounds we never had previously heard. We are in a zoo, only the zoo is not Portland’s. Amazingly, the first large bird we saw was a vulture! We came all the way from Portland just to see a vulture!
I have left out one important piece in this Chatauqua. The people here are everything. We continue to learn about new cultures, new ways of living. In America and western Europe it is I-pods and Nikes, consumption. Our highly educated guides scrape together to buy a Columbia Sportswear raincoat; while I might buy mine in Portland for 1/1000 of my annual salary, he might pay a full percent of his. Yet he lives a rich life, as do his counterparts who earn $2.00 a week.
We spent this morning (Friday) with one of the tribal cultures, the Yagua, seeing them dance, learning to blow the blow gun (really easy), buying their crafts. This was our last shopping. Today we got a blowgun, rattles, masks, jewelry, etc. Jeanna gave US pencils to the kids.
Last month in Canyon de Chelley (Arizona) we saw much of the same among the Navajo. What do other cultures have to show us about life? Unclear to me.
This trip is a blessing.
Friday afternoon was another boat ride out, this time to a tributary where we did birdwatching (and got some incredible pictures, especially of a hawk with his prey, using the long lens), fished for piranhas (only the captain caught one), and spent time with some other locals. Still no significant rain during the day.
Peace and Love during this holiday season, whether your holiday has finished, whether it is to come, or whether you are not celebrating.
Alan and Jeanna
Dec. 15, Lima
Absolutely exhausted, and still gratified. This will be short, as tomorrow is the earliest morning yet. No pictures tonite, and apologize for typos.
Lake (Lago) Titicaca is absolutely amazing. We have had two days at 12,500 feet and heat, in the middle of rainy season. I continue to go hatless (the head has been in so much sun that it is not a problem) but my arms are bright red. Meantime, on Dec. 13, driving to the lake, at 14,222 feet it was brutally cold.
Lake Titicaca is where the Inca emperors arose out of the depths to rule the empire. It is the sister vortex to Sedona, where we were a month ago. We feel spirit; we feel its protections. 21 months ago, our last European adventure, all went wrong, including the light rail train near miss and the theft of Jeanna's purse/passport. This trip, we are living under a beam of light and joy. It is in part Machu Picchu, in part Lake Titicaca. Probably not the Incas; remember, for all their great building, they were the powerful warriors, defeating all in their path. It was smallpox (from Europe) and Civil War that weakened them for the Spaniards. But that's another story.
Both yesterday and today we spent time with the people of the lake; if googling, especially go to the floating (yes, that is accurate) islands of Uros, and Taquile Island. We spent much time with the people, buying their goods. I (correctly) lost all my negotiating savvy, which I had in the cities.
Today's tour guide was a local young man, eldest in a family of 10-12, headed for a Ph.D; his masters is complete. Ph. D. will be in sustainability: I gave him my card, and told him to look at the PSU site, as we are doing much in the area. Meantime, he is pushing his sister to pick herself up also, to become a dentist. He cannot marry; if he does, he would no longer be able to support his sister. The complexities of family relationships and what must be done with the minimal amount of money are incredible. I hope he keeps in touch with us.
OK, it's 11:30 and, as usual, the internet connections are terrible. Tomorrow (Thursday) we fly out at 8:30 for the rain forest at Iquitos. Absolutely excited! However, I must get to bed, and hopefully do it before I get kicked off the network.
Hope to remain in contact in the next few days. Will see.
Love to all,
Alan and Jeanna
Dec. 14, Lake Titicaca
Two things to write about today, in separate writings: Food, and the 12,500 foot Lake Titicaca. First the food.
One of the reasons we travel is for food. The joys of the nose, the palate, and the stomache drive us. We showed you a picture of a rack of lamb earlier, as well as chicken, inka cola, and coca tea; now it is time to give more.
Two foods have always driven Peruvian culture: corn and potatoes. Both come in all sizes and colors; we are learning about corn all the time. Their corn is typically huge kernals, yellow, not as sweet as modern hybrids, and wonderful. It is made by itself, as soup, dessert, beer, in salads, and, of course, popcorn. Haven't had that yet. And haven't had bad corn.
I am less thrilled with the potatoes. They are fries, chips, soups, stews, etc. But just not quite my style. Jeanna, on the other hand, thought that last night's potato chips were the best she had ever eaten. They were crispy and salty and yummy!
Ceviche (raw marinated fish with thin sliced marinated onions) has been wonderful. The stewed or fried beef or lamb is great. We've already talked about the trio of beef, alpaca, and chicken. We've had wonderful quinoa soup, and incredible desserts.
And one more food. One of the holy animals here is the guinea pig. We've had it twice as appetizers. It tastes like a small fried chicken. Delicious. And raised for their meat, not as pets. And our wonderful guide, Efrain, tells us of drinking games with guinea pigs, where the first one to find a little bone in the head gets free drinks. Will have to try that some time.
Our train ride from Machu Picchu to Cusco had typical train food, with entertainment. You'll see.
As part of our tour we had dinner with a local family in Cusco. Will show you pictures from that day. What you'll see is their typical Sunday meal (won't show you a picture of the soup, because there is a better soup picture).
And finally, our last dinner tonight with the entire group (only one other couple is going to the rain forest with us) was great. Jeanna had the trout and I had cannelloni. Each of course had a sweet potato fry on the top. Scrumptions.
Enjoy the food!
Dec. 12, Cusco (after two days at Machu Picchu)
Absolutely Incredible!!!!! There is literally nothing that can be said about Machu Picchu. It takes your breath away.
The bad news is that after two days there (including daily downpours from 11:30 until about 2:00 that left us soaked even with Northwest raingear), and then a "relaxing" day in Cusco, we are wiped out. We both started taking altitude medication (Cusco is 11,100 feet) in an attempt to get our energy back. And we leave for Lake Titicaca Monday at 8:00 AM, a seven hour drive. So this will be short, with few pictures.
(BTW, Lake Titicaca is at 12,500 feet, and the drive will take us up near the top of Mt. Rainier. 14,400 feet!)
It was a Friday train to the village below Machu Picchu, then a bus ride up 13 switchbacks (dirt road) for 20 minutes to get to the top. Greeted by rain and vendors with all kinds of raingear. And then you're inside, look for it and........ nothing. For the first 10 minutes all we saw was fog. And then it began to clear. More magnificent than any of the pictures.
The sun came out during lunch and we had an incredible afternoon. Climbed about 300-400 feet (started at 8000), watching the scenery change, listening to Carlos (who grew up playing at Machu Picchu) explain everything. Through buildings, up and down slippery steps, gawking.
An evening in the hot tub, and we met Carlos at 8:00 Saturday morning. After the bus ride, four of us joined him on a hike to the Sun Gate (8900 feet). Jeanna chose a morning to herself. Careful on the dry stones, even going up. Fog started setting in at the top, so on came the raincoats. Slick coming down; one of our party fell on the way down, and one of the "youngsters" helped me with my footing. But every step was worth it.
The group met to take the bus down at 11:30, but I hadn't had enough. Needed some quiet meditation time. Went back out and prayed amongst the ruins. Quite refreshing.
And the 60 mile train trip back to Cusco (starting at 4:00) took 3 1/2 hours. We crashed at night, had a full day today. But that's enough for now.
The weather continues to be a constant question of how much and when will it rain, but that doesn't dampen anyone. We are loving it all, and find that we are strong enough to do what we want. Jeanna is doing more than she did when she was here 5 years ago, and I find that I can go up with anyone. So we are pleased about that.
Alan and Jeanna
Dec. 9, Sacred Valley
Yesterday was a great day. Yet they keep getting better and better; today was incredible!
The Sacred Valley is where most of the Inca sites are, where spirit meets the Inca world. It is the reason tourists journey to Peru.
We started the day on a mountain (of course!) first looking at goods for sale, and then with local women showing their crafts. In between was the rainstorm to end all rains, at about 12,000 feet; the women took good care of us. Jeanna and I each got an alpaca sweater, one of the reasons we went to Peru. And then the excitement began.
Moray is at 11,400 feet. It was both a spiritual and an experimental farming center. It's a hike; it's a challenge. Alan had to go down, right. Well, Ephrain, our tour leader, said we had 20 minutes, and it is 70 meters down. At 11,400 feet! So I went down for six, played for 5, then came back up, meeting the deadline by 2 minutes. Huffing, puffing, breathing with mouth wide open, as rapidly as at the end of any race in the past 20 years. Sweating and needing water, but getting ready for the main course, Machu Picchu. Little did I know that the next entree would be later today at Ollantaytambu.
But before that, some wonderful Peruvian dirt roads took us to the salt fields at Maras. Yes, the picture is looking straight down the valley, or, as Carlos our #2 leader says, "it is one minute to the bottom." Meantime, does anyone know that salt was so valuable in ancient times that the Romans paid their workers in SALT??!? And that the word "salary" derives from "salt." And that someone you all know quite well is teaching a compensation course next month. Trivia is everywhere.
Lunch was superb, in yet another resort. Between the two of us we had the first two listed entrees, main courses, and desserts. And then we sat on the grass for a while in the sunshine (my, how the weather changes rapidly!).
Ollantaytambu. Never heard of it. It's only at about 10,000 or 11,000 feet. It was the last great Inca victory over the Spaniards, and it is straight up. I couldn't see not doing it. About 200 steps, without oxygen, and uneven footing. My guess is that 5% made it up. And was it ever worth it. The entire Sacred Valley stretches out on the other side, more structures were higher than we could go. Magnifico. The Great Wall, the Parthenon, and the pyramids. WOW.
And tomorrow is the main course. Don't expect writing until at least Saturday; it is bus and train to Machu Picchu, limited luggage, so the computer stays behind. We return to Cusco very late Saturday nite, so may be too tired then.
Oh yes, one more thing: Saturday at 8:00 AM, Carlos will lead some of us up 1200 vertical feet at Machu Picchu. Should be easy; only about 7000 feet. Ha!
Alan and Jeanna
Dec. 8, Sacred Valley
What a day. Today really was "Welcome to Peru."
Last night ended with a show with traditional Peruvian costumes. Jeanna took some great videos, but we can't figure out how to upload them. If we have an evening with some time on our hands when we are not too tired.......
On to today. An early morning flight to Cusco, elevation ~11,000 feet. It's been raining for a week (out of season), and the prediction was for more rain. So we had to work on that. My sense is that we will have to do that every day; they are still calling for rain, and our tour guide tells us to take raincoats. We will, but....... So, as of now, no rain.
Lunch was a treat, along with the Inca Cola and Coca tea. Note the heart shaped chicken! This came after a visit to Ancient Inca ruins that the Spaniards turned into a convent. We then went to the llama farm, where the altitude (our highest point today was 12,400 ft) finally got to us; we felt a bit light headed. But not the llamas/alpacas/vicunas. Jeanna spent time feeding them and playing with them; I took pictures. And we got a baby alpaca skin. Of course, by the time we had alpaca for dinner, we had come full circle.
We then got our first view of the Sacred Valley; just majestic. We went into Pisac for some shopping and pictures with the locals. Dinnertime in our wonderful hotel, and ceremony. As Yogi would say, it was similar but different to ceremony that Jeanna does. When it came time to go outside to burn the dispacho, we could see a tiny sliver of moon returning. We gave thanks for ceremony, and prayed.
After dinner, one final bit of excitement for me. Orion is in the sky here! In the southern hemisphere. About 2 hours after sunset it was high in the sky, almost directly overhead. No question, it is Orion; I know him quite well. And he is backwards. The head/shoulders are where the knees "should" be, and vice versa. So the Egyptians and Peruvians saw the same thing.
Of course, more Pisco Sours today. That keeps us going. Will try to buy some Pisco tomorrow, drink it here, and take some home. Had our first local beer tonight; not bad. Tired now; Jeanna went to bed around 10:00, and we get going late tomorrow, around 8:00.
We hope you enjoy the pictures. Pause over them for the title, and click on them for a larger shot.
So, this trip--it's what we wanted. Very sweet.
Alan and Jeanna
Dec. 7, Lima
Well, we are here. Monday was a long day, leaving our home at 4:30 AM PST, arriving in our hotel 18 hours later, around 1:00 AM EST. Doubletree Hotel, all clean and neat, just like if we were in Spokane or something like that.
Today will probably be our simplest day of the trip. We walked to the beach while the rest of our group (the took the red eye from Miami) slept in the morning, then we met them for lunch. Afternoon at a museum, with a great lunch. And we got introduced to the Pisco Sour, which will knock you on your butt. It is a wonderful little grape brandy, and then made into a sour with lemon and egg whites.
Probably off to a show this evening (it is now after 8:00), more pisco sours, then off to sleep. Wednesday is out of the hotel at 7:00, fly to Cusco, and spend time in the Sacred Valley, at about 11,000 feet.
Group is good. Four couples; two have male engineers as the male partners and Penn State alums (one of the wives is also an alum), both older than I am. The third couple is interesting, a mother/daughter where the daughter is the Penn State grad; she is a double Ph. D., one in bio and the other in statistics. It is a good thing we are enjoying them, as we will be spending the next 8 days with the group.
So, while this note might have been boring to read, we are excited to be here. Rapidly learning Spanish; more importantly, we have already begun to learn about and see the culture. Should have more to say in the coming days.
Peace to all.
Well, we're off to Peru. Not sure when we'll write, but will do it when we can. Check this space periodically. And, to remind you, this is a closed site; the link is not published, so if you are reading this it is because either Jeanna, Alan, or a friend gave it to you.
This one is the longest message, because it has the details of the trip. Assume that future blogs will be shorter.
First of course, is the question: why Peru? When we met in the fall of 2004, Jeanna already had a trip to Peru planned for May 2005 with her teacher, Mary. She went into the mountains with the queroes, had ceremony, went to Machu Picchu, learned a lot. Ever since, Peru has been on our lists; we knew that we needed to go together. And then a few months ago my Penn State alumni association (that's the "other" PSU!) advertised a trip to Peru, and the next thing we knew, we were off.
This gets us acclimated to Peru, with a day of sightseeing in the sun in Lima. It could be the last sun for a while. Lima is at sea level, on the ocean, and is cooled by ocean breezes.
This begins five days in the Sacred Valley, high up in the mountains. We have two days to get acclimated to the altitude before we start climbing at Machu Picchu. There is a planned ceremony Wednesday night
Machu Picchu in the afternoon of Dec. 10, again at daybreak on the 11th.
Cuzco is the former Inca capital, the heart of Inca ruins
The bus ride is described as wonderful, winding roads through villages, with at least four stops. Lake Titicaca is 12,500 feet, the highest point on our trip
Rain Forest near the headwaters of the Amazon. Spend time with local indigenous people, walk on a canopy above the trees, spend time with a shaman and medicine plants, go birding early in the morning.
Dec. 19, fly to Lima, and then after midnight fly home, landing in PDX around 11:30 Monday morning. WHEW!
These are the details. Who knows what adventures are in store for us. We shall see. Please check in periodically.
We are blessed, and we understand this. Since our first trip together to Greece in March 2005, we have been to North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. When asked which is most memorable, we find it impossible to compare the Nile with the Great Wall with Prague with Bali with ............. Machu Picchu. This will be wonderful as the rest have been.
On a trip like this we remember to give thanks. For us, our trips are about learning, about continuing our search, about being conscious, about being thankful. This involves attempting to answer the questions of one of our teachers:
Who am I?
Where am I?