SOUTH AMERICA – CHILE, PERU, BRAZIL, ARGENTINA
ADVENTURE WORLD EDUCATIONAL 20 JUNE, 1997
Educational trips (or Familiarisation’s) are the avenue for which travel agents are lucky to be able to see the world, and see first hand and learn about different cultures. So it was no different with this brilliantly put together itinerary by Adventure World. I have got to say, it only seems like yesterday we did this trip, it was one of the best.
Our lovely knowledgeable escort Nia Carras (Perth manager) Caroline Oriani, Kirsten Doman and Angela Smyth the three lovely girls from AW Sydney reservations whom I did bookings with often afterwards, Robbie Dery (Lan Chile Airlines rep.) Pierina Dalle Cort (a real trick from Ayr HWT) Pauline Rushton, Janice Clay, Weytek Lasek, Geneveive Pashula, Audrey Lanza, and myself.
Our group left Sydney, and flew via Easter Island (Rapa Nui) commonly known as the “belly button of the world” is only very tiny, the north-south air strip runs the entire width of the island, guarded by the strategically positioned stone heads. The outdoors transit lounge consisted of a large fig tree at the front of the terminal. Coincidentally one of my clients Anne, a teacher from Canowindra, was actually on the same flight as me coming back through Easter Island and all the locals flock to the departure gates to entice and whisk the tourist to their homes, and to show them their island with a great deal of warm hospitality.
It was magic flying in over the Giant stone statues, a relic of a bygone time that nobody knows the origin of, except they were carved around 1250AD in quarries in Rano Raraku which appeared to be abandoned abruptly and inexplicably with a litter of stone tools and many completed moai outside the quarry awaiting transport.
SANTIAGO – CHILE
I loved Santiago at first sight with the city nestling in a huge valley with the majestic back- drop of the mighty snow capped Andes mountains. Any city that has a mountainous back-ground does it for me, must be the feng shui. We stayed at the Crown Plaza, on Avenue Lib. Bernardo O’Higgins so named after the national hero who was the liberator in the war of independence in 1810 defeating the Spanish royalist forces.
Our local guide, a very dry Patrick, a Chilean born, bordering Argentina, of Irish parents, American accented gentleman, whom I will refer to as ‘our man in Chile’. This because he had a distinctive BBC type character and way of presenting things, be it at all times, very descriptive and interesting, but in a very detached way.
We visited all of the major attractions Santiago had to offer….. Plaza de Armas (the main square) 16th century San Francisco church, City Hall, the Cathedral, then on up to San Christobel hill for a 360 degree view.
We did a full day tour to the unusual main commercial port of Chile Valparaiso. It was very old and everything looked a bit dilapidated and rusty in contrast to the residential area of Vina Del Mar (the Garden City) which was very salubrious.
We also did a visit to one of the wineries, very nice dry white wine, not far distant from Santiago, but this day it was rather daunting as after three days of flooding rains caused by the El Nino affect, that brought down huge mud slides which rendered many thousand Chileans homeless, and 14 reported deaths, the roads were almost impassable going from Santiago to the winery region.
From Santiago we flew over the enigmatic Nazca Lines (remarkable from the air) up to Lima in Peru, a very clean city. It is perched high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean.
PERU – LIMA – CUZCO
Lima a sprawling metropolis of 8 million people, the capital of Peru. The population made up of indigenous South American Indians has a strong Spanish influence, which shows through in the culture and architecture, and tangibly evident. It was founded by Spaniard Pizarro in 1535 and was the seat of Spanish rule for 300 years before Independence was proclaimed in 1821.
Although politically stable now, for years there were Dictatorships and revolts and up-risings, but the current President of Peru and Mayor of Lima have really cleaned the city up, and appear to be running it very smoothly. The large plazas are quite beautiful, especially Plaza de Armas the main square surrounded by Government Palace, City Hall and the Cathedral de Lima.
Not so far away is the magnificent San Francisco Monastery with its Moorish cloisters and wooden ceilings and well preserved authentic Seville tiles dating back to 1620. The whole complex was built over catacombs used as cemeteries during the colonial period. These are still the resting place, for thousands of skeletal remains which ominously lie inwaiting for the intrepid tourist, walking through the eerie galleries. I found them more nauseating than the catacombs just out of Rome on the Apinine Way, as there were chambers of skulls, chambers of femur, vaults of leg and arm bones, all disjointed and placed in rows. Even in death, these early Peruvians did not lie in peace.
We stayed in the modern Miraflores district, surrounded by beautiful parks, and squares and from our hotel high floor could see the Pacific Ocean. The beachfront has a
charming Parque Del Amor or Park of Love, dedicated to lovers everywhere, and featuring a large sculpture of Andean coition. This on a large scale of what we saw in the Museo de Oro, the fascinating Gold Museum depicting ritual, and ceremonial copulation in every format, in every medium be it gold, silver ceramic or clay, all pre-Columbian. Those early native Indians certainly had a leaning towards things sexual, and obviously did not have a lot else to pre-occupy their minds with. Maybe it was because they didn’t have television!
It was funny, I brought a strange, lewd clay mug of a couple entwined in love-making home and because it was too naughty for human eyes I put it up high behind a photo which was fine, until along came my cleaning lady Mavis to dust everything, and I heard from the other side of the house a piercing scream. Mavis had found the clay statue and nearly dropped it in fright. She refused to dust it.
The early cultures going back to 1,000 BC and the Chavin era, have influenced other cultures – the Mochica, Paracas and Nazca (where those inexplicable lines are) through to the Chimu, a north coast culture developed about 1200, and the museums have uncovered many well preserved artifacts depicting life in those periods. However, the Chimu were already in decline when the conquering Incas came along and settled in the Cusco area. There a whole network of roads reached out to the farthest centres of this empire. The Incas were skilled astrologers and physicians, and produced fine ceramics, cloths, and artefacts in gold and silver. Instead of writing, the Incas used a system of knotted cords, for keeping accounts and records. Their skill as master builders can be attested by the still standing structures at Sacsayhuaman on the out-skirts of Cusco and on an even grander scale, in the Sacred Valley and at Machu Picchu.
TO CUZCO ON TO MACHU PICCHU
To get to Machu Picchu we first had to fly up to Cuzco. Flights only depart early morning because of the thermals caused later in the day, and the unique flight path to be followed through the mountains.
We flew down to Cuzco, when John and I took our group to Cuzco later in 2004 when waiting for our plane to take off from Lima airport to Cuzco, over the loud speaker came a message that out particular airline Aero Continente was broke. We thought they meant the aircraft was broke (broken), but it was actually the last flight this airline flew that we took to Cuzco on this bankrupt airline!
Flying into Cuzco is the most unusual flight path around and around the city which is like a big amphitheatre with red tiled rooves, and an airstrip in the middle of ‘the bowl’ looking like a cricket pitch to touch down on.
You have to be warned that when you get out of the aircraft when it eventually touches down after soaring like an eagle, that the minute you alight you start to feel heady and short of oxygen owing to the height 3,395 metres (11,203 ft) above sea level. As soon as you arrive at the Hotel they give you coca tea leaves to chew on, which helps your breathing but also makes you very light headed and tranquil. All the hotels we visited in high altitude places provided a basket of coca leaves to either chew or make tea with, as it helps the body to utilize the limited oxygen there. The locals use it for headache, toothache, a panacea for anything virtually. We were told on checking in at about 11.00am to go to our rooms and rest for several hours to acclimatize to the high altitude. Well I did this for about an hour, (that was enough for this little black duck) and then was anxious to look around Cuzco so two of us did not obey orders to rest but went into the square the Plaza de Amas, to be rewarded with a religious procession of a statue of the Virgin Mary through the streets. We just walked slowly and followed this around the streets which was interesting.
Cuzco is a fascinating city with its colourful people, stirring music everywhere from the woodwind flutes, bustling city square and its 16th century Baroque styled Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas, with its solid silver alter, and “black Christ” crucifix blackened by years of heavy smoke candles burning in the interior. On the first visit I was taken aback to see the black Christ thinking that was another interpretation of Jesus by a sculptor/wood carver, not realising it to be of outside causes.
KORICANCHA TEMPLE & CHURCH OF SANTA DOMINGO CUZCO
Our guide took us to see the “Temple of the Sun” at the centre of Koricancha, the “uncovered navel-stone” in the courtyard of the cloistered Santa Domingo church in Cuzco. This was a most amazing place, one of the most amazing of all the sites we saw down here. It still stands almost unscathed by what nature and man can throw at it, even the 1953 earthquake that did do a lot of damage, but because of the way it was built virtually earthquake free without mortar, trapezoidal shaped doorways, curved walls, which you can actually see from the main street, and the ingenious usage of male/female fitting blocks. You see even builders took note of the gender connection to build and grow. How interesting.
At one point there were more than 4,000 priests and attendees living in these confines and it was also an astronomical observatory with many graphics on the walls of the sun and moon and stars worshipped, a lot of these etched in gold, as Koricancha means “courtyard of gold”. In fact when the Navel-stone was first discovered it was covered by 55kgs of gold and surrounded by symbolic cornfield of gold. This tied up with the myth that the children of the Sun had thrust the golden rod of Viracocha fully into the earth there as commanded. Thereby hangs another tale, see our group trip to Sun Island for that story below.
The sun still shines directly into a niche in the summer soltice, and the original inhabitors utilized better light by the sun shining and reflecting on the gold sun disc inside.
Story of how this Navel-stone came to be in this picture that I took (above), not realizing the significance. Unquote from Graham Hancock and Santha Faiia’s book ‘Heaven’s Mirror – Quest for the lost Civilization’
“The Temple of the Sun – After they had adopted Cuzco as their capital, the Incas took over an earlier sacred site at the very centre of the city, on top of which they built Coricancha, their great national Temple of the Sun. At the centre of the Coriancha, in a courtyard open to the sky, was a symbolic field planted with symbolic ‘corn’ fashioned out of pure gold.
And at the centre of this field, marking the spot known as Cuzco Cara Urumi (‘the un-covered navel stone’) where the myths said that the children of the Sun had thrust the golden rod of Viracocha fully into the earth there was an octagonal grey-stone coffer which was at one time covered with 55 kilograms of gold.” unquote. The church of Santo Domingo is built around this courtyard.
Just behind the Cathedral about 2kms from the city is the very stirring Sacsayhuaman ruins,this monumental complex is considered the first of the new seven wonders of the world. This huge construction was planned and built by Andean Man. The Incas called it the House of the Sun and the Spaniards called it a fortress because of its zig-zag shape (also likened to lightening) and the 1536 revolution. The construction is made up of three platforms one on top of the other. It was one of the most significant religious complexes of its time.
MACHU PICCHU HERE WE COME
Now on to one of the most remarkable train journeys in the world, the Cuzco to Machu Picchu rail following the Inca trail through the valley and up to the village at foot of Machu Picchu.
I had always wanted to go to Machu Picchu so was no mere whim, or chance happening. It was meant to be. I BELIEVE EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. The person that cancelled out of the Adventure World Chile/Peru Educational did so by some ordinance, to enable me to go follow up the Celestine Prophecy, seek the truth, and learn. And learn I did! This was on my first trip there then John and I took a group back later on.
First seek out those people who may be there to show you the learned way. You will find the path to take, and direction from a certain look in their eyes- a special knowing look, that is one of the most powerful forces, that tells you they are exactly on the same ‘wave length’ as yourself. The coca tea leaves handed out on arrival I think may have added to the euphoria.
Anyway, I know that ending up in Peru is a direct result of my friend Michelle, a South African born Greek recommending I read “The Celestine Prophecy” based in Peru, and coincidently I received an invitation to go to Peru, to go searching for an answer to the “Prophecy” or perhaps just trying to prove whether James Redfield was writing from some inspired ramblings, or if there was more than “met the eye”. It had to happen amongst the ruins of that fabulous “Lost City” at Machu Picchu – stumbling amongst the ruins, but how?
Meantime, I went up to Machu Picchu with the express purpose to find something, a revelation, keeping an open heart and open mind that something will manifest itself in the strangest and most profound ways, opening up as it were, the secret of the missing Incans.
On arriving up at the rail siding at the base of the Machu Pichu ruins, another steep winding climb takes about half an hour by bus. It is no wonder that these ruins were not discovered until 1911 by Hiram Bingham a Yale graduate, because they are so secluded and inaccessible. For centuries the Lost City was the most alluring myth about ancient Peru, in the search for Vilcabamba, and El Dorado, and many Spanish explorers tried in vain.
It’s speculated that Machu Picchu was built in the 1400’s as a fortress, and that it only ever had a population of about 1,000 inhabitants. It was obviously the site of spiritual and ceremonial significance, with important agricultural functions. Climatically, it is situated in a bowl of sunshine surrounded by clouds.
We wandered around the ruins, clambered up past the Temple of the Sun and climbed the harrowing steps to the Watchman’s Hut, all the while looking back at the magnificent views afforded over the agricultural terraces. Back past the Temple of the Three windows. It really helps if you have a local guide to explain the meaning of all the different sectors. The names Palace of the Princess, Royal Sector, Funerary Rock, Sacristy etc. all conjure up an image of a past religion and empire. There is a real awesomeness about the place. There were archaeologists digging amongst the ruins, every piece they find, another link to the missing pieces of the great puzzle.
They say only the skeletal remains of women and children were found there, where were all the men? They had probably all gone to defend the area. The heat of mid-day beat down, and the rarefied air, made everything look so clear. You could even see the Amazon river in the distance from this height, to the west.
There was nothing strange till descending down to the grassy centrepiece where lay recumbent a lone piece of rock in a hole. This we discovered was a fallen obelisk. Although the air was very hot and still, a strange breeze kept flapping at my loose green shirt. I felt very light, almost transparent, quite a different feeling from that induced by the high altitude which one, could now recognize and cope with (along with a bit of heavy breathing!) Most of the other remains of that Inca civilization were still intact, as built but, by modern man’s folly, it had been moved, and now can’t be placed in its rightful position because modern man, does not know where to put it! Anyway, even in a fallen state this obelisk, sends out so much energy, more so than the sun rock……………..at the top where a compass proved the magnetic forces therein,
The missing Incas I feel, (this is my theory anyway) reached a point in time where they could maybe look into eyes and souls and vibrate at such a high level to maybe levitate into thin air. If they could move mountains, and they could move the mightiest rocks at the bottom of a massive valley to one of the highest points in the whole world, it was proof as a light to show the generations to come, what they had achieved. But we don’t seem to be able to ‘get it’.
Then we come along and say, we have no idea how these structures came to be, how they were cut and made. Same thing being again for the Temples at Delphi, the Pyramids and Temples and Obelisks in Egypt, Mycenaen palace, etc. They were placed there by man, as a form of worship to a higher being. All uncanny in their similarity of building style.
Oh, yes, the answer is all so simple….. you almost have it at your fingertips but it slips into infinity. You either pursue it further, or wait till another opportunity arises to try and find the answer to learning the complete, ultimate truth about our deified existence, and reason for existence.
The Incas, I think, having achieved their mammoth efforts of construction in the Sacred Valley, completed for the betterment of their very existence plus obviously for religious purposes in their worship of all things given by nature or God.
These Inca constructions similar to those at Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco were of the highest standard in both architecture, positioning, lay-out, and the way the terraces were laid out, for seasonal cropping, and the water was channelled from higher altitudes from melting snows down through channels, and man made water-falls was just simply phenomenal for an early civilization. The religious significance is also there, as shown in rock indentations (or hieroglyphics) as steps down to the under-world and up to the heavens. The theory was, the higher the mountain top, the closer one was to God and the Sun.
This race of people, having reached their pinnacle and gained the knowledge of the universe – the sun, the moon, the stars, the seasons, very important to the planning of their daily lives, measured, calculated by virtue of rock formation, watchfulness, meditation by virtue of the heavens, needfulness for subsistence, by seasonal programming. None of these things for greed or lust but for mere existence, but praise.
When these peoples were confronted by either pestilence, fire, famine, or marauders, something quite beyond their control, my theory is they have en-masse raised their vibration, energy levels to elevate to a higher plateau again – not on the side of the mountain, but higher than human kind today, perhaps, where neither space probes, or laser searches, or radio telescopes can find, out into the almighty vast, created for all to search and find, for all the right reasons, but that is only my theory, mind.
Love is the force to be reckoned with, one of the mightiest forces on earth if applied for all the right reasons. It is that purest form of love seen, in the light of eyes, especially the seeing eyes “the windows of the soul” as the Tibetan Monks established, they with the “third eye”. This is a strange phenomena also, as the Tibetans or course, live in high altitudes, so perhaps, it is the heights that leads to the height of human transition.
But maybe as history has shown us the Machu Picchu Incas left there because of marauders forcing them to withdraw back to the fortress of Ollantaytambo which had been there to protect them from assailment.
Following this path, we came back down through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo where we walked around the town still in its original format of a trapezoid shape, and visited the market. Ollantaytambo was a pivotal place to defend Cusco against incursions by the jungle tribes to the north, and then later a great battle took place here in this massive fortress in 1536 during Manco Inca’s rebellion. Pizarro and the Spanish had tried to capture or kill the Inca, but was forced to retreat, but returned later to drive the Incas out.
We climbed to the top of these massive ruins of the fortress, Not an easy climb by any manner of means to reach the top even harder than the Great Wall of China by my reckoning. Right to the top to the “Temple of the Sun” but the view from up there was worth the weary limbs back over the town of Ollantaytambo and further up the Sacred Valley.
In Graham Hancock and Santha Faiia’s book “Heaven’s Mirror – Quest for the lost” civilization” they point out right at the top the scattered megaliths of between 100-200 tonnes are of different proportion and conformation, being polished, jewel-hard pink granite blocks from a different quarry than the terrace rocks (see above behind our group Nia and Robbie). Geologists identified this quarry 8km away and 900m higher on the opposite side of the sacred Vilcamayu River. This means a super-human task to drag them down the valley floor, across the river, and then steeply up again to the summit of Ollantaytambo. They resemble those beyond Lake Titicaca. How? And why?
We stayed overnight at the beautiful Posada del Inca hotel which had such a peaceful feel to it, with its own beautiful monastery, for private prayer in this most sacred valley and very spiritually moving place. We stopped at the Pisac markets on the way back to Cuzco.
THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS.
The wind whips tall Eucalypts this day,
Begging us please stay
Along the Sacred Inca Way.
The snapdragons wink and sway,
Absorb the beauty, o’taytambo and Yucay.
Amidst the ruins of Machu Picchu,
Positioned there insitu,
Asking from its peaks, “Well did you,
Ever see anything of such exotica”?
Bordering on Inca intoxica,
From the coca leaves as a panacea.
They built here to worship sun
And moon, and won,
The accolades of the Gods for all eternity run.
THE MACHU PICCHU REVELATIONS:
If you have read James Redfield’s “Celestine Prophecy” it will all make sense, but, having read it the first of many times, it so captivated my imagination, hence the invitation to join the Adventure World trip to South America, was just too good to refuse, even though it was not my turn to take a trip. John was very understanding of my need to go. The book “Celestine Prophecy” is actually all about a missing manuscript written in Aramaic in 600 BC and found in Peru, hence my desire to go to that country, to seek and find if this was merely fictional or factual. The same book, is so intriguing, that you feel compelled to share it with other people, and I think I have now purchased 5 copies and given them all away.
Also there is that unquenchable thirst to obtain answers to the ontological. Also of course an Educational is the avenue for which we, in our industry, are so lucky to get the opportunity to partake in. and be shown insights into aspects that many ‘normal’ tourists do not see.
I am always impressed by the apparent joy and vigour and enthusiasm of a guide showing you their small piece of the world, probably for the thousandth time, but making it all seem so fresh and new and exciting as if newly discovered. I think this is the essence of being a good guide or tour escort, to impress upon the tourist that this is a startling new discovery.
I was very excited about visiting Machu Picchu with its ‘Footprint of the Gods’, like the inexplicable ‘Stonehenge’ and of course the mysteries of the place which we were soon to visit in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
These places always intrigue me because, even though we smugly think we are so highly technical today and presume to be a so clued up, intelligent generation, there are so many questions not answered staring us in the face on this planet. And they will be unanswered for a long time distant. All part of the gestalt (I really like that word, it is so descriptive, meaning a whole which is more than the sum of its parts, a puzzle in itself) of the universe.
Travelling around the world, one is confronted with these puzzles all the time, peering at the remnants of a past eon, and we are lucky enough to be able to see remnants back to the Taurean Age in Egypt, and I recently read in ‘Edgar Cayce On Atlantis’ the interesting theory by Ignatius Donnelly in 1882 that the similarities between the culture of ancient Egypt and the Indian cultures of Central and South America, the region we were about to to embark on, may have originated, and come about from the legendary Atlantis, When Atlantis was destroyed, the culture thus spread to the east and the west, an Atlantean heritage. It is strange the number of similarities in the hand crafts, figurines, pyramid building, embalming techniques, legends, names of cities in Asia Minor and Central America – all coincidence? Maybe once they were all part of the same land mass. Also Aramaic in Peru as our manuscript is said to be written? I rest my case….
Even with all our massive knowledge of technology, far and beyond these primitive peoples, we cannot at this stage promote to such a high level of unknown creativity to allude to this state. Therefore we still need to find this force of energy and I think I have found some of the answers up there in those Machu Picchu ruins.
MY SYNOPSIS OF “THE CELESTINE PROPHECY”
Written by James Redfield on a manuscript written in 600BC in Aramaic, and found in Peru! I must admit the author writes so graphically well it is hard to tell fact from fiction. Having been to both the Egyptian Museum and now the Museum of Gold in Lima, the similarities are staggering, especially of trinkets, and ornaments. Deep! Once again it is purely coincidental that I purchased this book in Sydney just before I left for Peru, which throws a perfectly reasonable assumption on this theory, in light of what we saw.
THE SEVENTH INSIGHT – FROM CELESTINE PROPHECY
The process of consciously evolving yourself, of staying alert to every coincidence, every answer the universe provides for us. Do this, by focusing on the environment around us. Taking in the unique beauty and shape of everything. Especially plants and the glow of their colours, some will really “cry out” to you. Like the snap-dragons at the Posada Del Inca Hotel at Yucay – because they were surrounded by beauty, all around, they out-shone most flowers of the same species and waved majestically in the pure clear air, as if to make a statement. Just like the tall eucalypts in the Sacred Valley, at Ollantaytambo, being blown by sacred winds whipped up between the glorious Andean mountains. There was so much beauty in that region of Peru.
No wonder the author felt this in the “Celestine Prophecy” – we were only a few kilometres from Calca, where he attained highest energy levels. From the moment we got off the coach at Yucay, beauty transcended like a mantle, and will live with me for the rest of my life. The little chapel within the grounds was a beautiful adjunct to give thanks for such beauty. Like that lone tree in the centre of the Monastery at Cusco, now one of the most mysterious hotels anywhere in the world, with its Moorish architecture and beguiling allure.
Having experienced first hand this impression of Peru, I know that for the rest of my life, I will be able to connect to this beauty, breath it in, be almost close enough to touch those misty mountains of Machu Picchu and find an irreversable energy force and love. Even the bird sounds were the more beautiful and unforgettable. This is total involvement with your environment and energy of the universe, that energy of course emanating from God. You get so focused you can almost count every leaf on a tree.
You will get a hunch about the next step, so follow your intuition, and be always alert and watchful for coincidences.
Jesus Christ opened up to this energy until he was light enough to walk on water, and then transcended death on this earth, his body transported from earth to heaven. At some point of time, the promise is, that everyone will eventually vibrate highly enough, to walk into heaven, in our same form. Which explains why the lost race, the missing Mayans crossing over together.
This world is one of such incredible beauty and energy, and it is up to us, to increase our connection with these things. The more beauty we can see in things and people, the more we will evolve and heaven will open up to us here on earth.
* Author’s note: I am a ‘free range bird’ when it comes to theories and ideas about things in general, in this case on Peru, but the source of the data re Cusco, the Incas, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley etc, comes from James Redfield’s book ‘Celestine Prophecy’ which can be taken as fact or fiction depending on the reader (I feel), Peter Frost’s excellent book, ‘The Essential Guide ‘Exploring Cusco’, and Graham Hancock and Santha Faiia’s book ‘Heaven’s Mirror – Quest for the lost civilization’, so thanks to those excellent providers of information.
HWT COWRA GROUP TOUR TO SOUTH AMERICA 1999
Following the Educational to South America with Adventure World, we took a group back with the same tour company, departing Sydney on 1st March, 1999 flying on Aerolineas Argentinas (in leather hide seats of course) via Auckland direct to Buenos Aires Ministro Pisterino International airport. Then when we flew on to Iguazu we went to the domestic terminal Jorge Newberry airport.
In this group we had many regulars Ernie Idiens, Ron & June Fisher, Jan & Stan Munday, Gail Blowes, David Biggs, Max & Barbara Tomlin, Anne & John McMonigal, 2 ladies Jan and Zina from Orange, one from Canowindra and Paul & Helen Simeon
This is a beautiful city “The Paris of the Americas” as it is called with fantastic wide streets like the 9th July avenue which we went to the top floor of the Hyatt at the end of this avenue to take a photograph. It is about 16 lanes wide so take quite something to negotiate a crossing with a group which we did do to go to dinner at a memorable beef restaurant.
You know you are in for a treat when you see a very large bull in the entrance and see in the front window the fired up barbecues cooking whole sides of the most tender beef in the world, it just literally melts in your mouth.
A funny one, our friend Max chose from the menu a T-bone steak thinking it would be safe in size, but turned out to be a wopper about 5cm thick, and 30cm long. We all had a little piece of it to prove how tender it was, apart from trying to attack our own huge serves.
Our lovely guide Graziana took us to see all the sights of Buenos Aires, down 9th July very wide avenue, to the coloured houses at La Boca, then to Plaza del Mayo focal point of political life and Presidential residence Casa Rosada home of “Don’t cry for me Argentina’ President’s wife Eva Peron. This square has seen many mass demonstrations and protests, especially by mothers of thousands of children who forcably disappeared in the ‘National Reorganizational Process’ (“Dirty War”). We looked inside the Opera house ‘Teatro Colón’, then past the Obelisk of Buenos Aires. On to Recoleta burial place of Eva Peron. We saw the changing of the guard at Government House, the Obelisk a replica of the one in Washington DC.
Our guide said back in 1999 the population of Argentina was 33 million, just looked and 13 years later it is 40 million! Population of Buenos Aires is 2.8 million of which 80% are of Italian or Spanish extraction.
Then for more beef, live and dead, off to our Gaucho Day tour to Santa Susana Ranch with yes, another barbecue this time barbecue half chickens as well as beef, and big fat beef sausages, and black puddings. Then time for a ride for anyone game enough on the prairie. Ernie hopped on a horse easily as he used to ride on his property but David Bigg who of course, had to have a ride, (or Forest Gump as our guide called him because of the way he ran everywhere, she used to say “you are a bad boy Forest” when he queried her comments. David despite his saddle slipping sideways, managed to stay on board. The two lads with their Aussie fashion long white sox prompted a comment from our guide “Is that a uniform they are wearing”?!
When we got back we went to a dinner and Tango show with front row seats, which was riveting. The Tango is a very romantic dance, but strangely enough it was initiated in Argentina by male immigrants from Europe, mainly Italian living there, and the men actually learnt the Tango initially together, and once steps perfected then could the male take on a female tango partner.
We then flew from Argentina to Iguassu Airport, transfer to the lovely Sheraton Hotel on the Argentinian side, where we could all see the Falls in all its glory, puffing out a great cloud of spray from our rooms. We spent a day at the Iguassu Falls which are the most spectacular (having seen Victoria and Niagara Falls) to my mind.
On our way from the airport to the hotel we were taken for a small boat ride to the bridge walking out over the Argentinian side Falls. Up close and personal.
After an early morning pick up from our Sheraton hotel, on the Argentinean side of the Iguazu Falls, going tothe visitor’s centre, with its colored parrots, taking a ride on the Rainforest Ecological train before exploring the upper and lower circuit footbridges. The footbridges, which are raised off the jungle floor, provide panoramic views from above and below the falls. A visit to Devil’s Gorge one of the most spectacular falls, is one of the day’s highlights.
This took us down to the launch pad for the fast, and I mean very fast boat trip up to the very base of Iguasu Falls, so unbelievably close we all got drenched and had to put our cameras in a plastic bag.
Iguazu falls are I think morre beautiful from the Brazilian side where you see the magnificent Bridal Veil Falls
RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZIL
Then a flight to fabulous Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This place really has vibrancy and pizzaz. Although it is very dangerous with a lot of petty crime, as long as you are wary about what you are carrying with you, don’t look to touristy, you are fairly safe if not going to the poorer favelas. These are actually being cleaned up now I have seen on TV in readiness for the Olympic Games in 2016.
We were shown where the annual Carnivale is held every year just before lent begins, which was just past when we were there, 5th March, and is in a surprisingly very small venue, always looks larger on TV, It was all still set up as we just missed it by a day or two. Then we went to a very colourful and entertaining evening Plataforma Samba Show with fantastic costumes and dancers who had appeared in the recent Carnival.
We went right to the top of Corcovado mountain by 20 minute cog train car up through the Tijuca forest to the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, which appeared eerily in and out of the clouds for us, now you see Him now you don’t, the face on the statue is quite something to behold.
It stands 30m tall and 28m wide arm span, and on top of the 700m Corcovado mountain, and seen from all over Rio, and also at night when lit up.The scenery in the cable car climb up and back is spectacular, and second to none in the world, looking down at the race-track and beaches, etc.
Then another high, highlight was the cable car to Sugar Loaf mountain, it is breathtaking. You see the full stretch of Copacabana beach from up here and 360 degrees of Rio.
From there we went down the coast past Ipanema beach, we looked at the girl crossing the road “but she looked straight ahead not at me, tall and tan, and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema came walking”,,,,,then to a barbecue on a spit lunch with every perceivable piece of meat on skewers being carved off at your table. It is a meat lovers paradise.
Then back sightseeing the main CBD of Rio to include stopping and going inside the Metropolitan Cathedral with its unusual pyramid shape, saw the historical buildings in Cinelandia square the Municipal theatre and National Museum etc.
It was sad to have to leave colourful Rio de Janeiro after our lovely Samba evening and dinner at a restaurant where each table was serendaded to the haunting rhythms of Brazil
I like Lima, it is clean, and safe, scenic, the capital of Peru. I love the Plaza de Armas, the centre and very core of Lima surrounded by the Government Palace, house of the President of Peru, the Cathedral of Lima, and adjoining Archbishop’s Palace, Peruvian Place of literature. Back in the time of the Inca’s the place had strategic and spiritual meaning, like most places in Peru.
Not too far from the square just a short walk is the San Francisco cathedral. Drive down to where we stand on a cliff in the Park of Love Parque Del Amour) and look out towards Australia over the Pacific Ocean.They say the water is far too cold to swim here, as the Gulf Stream sweeps right down from the North Sea.
To get to Machu Picchu we first had to fly up to Cuzco. Flights only depart early morning because of the thermals caused later in the day, and the unique flight path to be followed through the mountains.
We flew down to Cuzco, when John and I took our group to Cuzco later in 2004 when waiting for our plane to take off from Lima airport to Cuzco, over the loud speaker came a message that out particular airline Aero Continente was broke. We thought they meant the aircraft was broke meaning broken, but it was actually the last flight we took to Cuzco on this bankrupt airline!
Flying into Cuzco is the most unusual flight path around and around the city which is like a big amphitheatre with red tiled rooves, and an airstrip in the middle of ‘the bowl’ looking like a cricket pitch to touch down on.
You have to be warned that when you get out of the aircraft when it eventually touches down after soaring like an eagle, that the minute you alight you start to feel heady and short of oxygen owing to the height 3,395 metres (11,203 ft) above sea level. Judging by the stalk above, I don’t think I had slowed down that much, at that stage.
We transferred to our hotel, one of the best anywhere The Monasterio where we were handed the mandatory coca tea to chew or make tea with to alleviate the altitude sickness. A few of our group needed to sit with the oxygen cylinder attached for a while to get used to it. Not then, but now if you stay at the Monasterio all of the rooms and restaurants have piped oxygen into them, which is a real plus, as I can recall trying very hard to pack my bag to travel and the thought process would not allow me to think of doing such a menial task.
We visited all of the sites in Cuzco including the Cathedral, Sacsayhuaman, then caught the very interesting train journey from Cuzco to Machu Picch, following the Sacred Valley. A real plus on arrival and being met by the coach at the base and taken up to the top to stay at what is one of the most amazingly position, position, position hotels in the world. At the top of the world the Sanctuary Lodge Machu Picchu.
You are blessed to stay here as you just look out of your hotel window and it is all there around you. The early morning swirling mists around the peaks and valleys yield a real spiritual closeness to nature and the earth. The restaurants also have great views, I think it is almost imperative that people stay there not down near the station.
When it comes time to leave this magnificent place it has a sadness, but you soon forget this as a young Peruvian boy comes into our coach when we are all loaded ready to go with a plastic container held out for tips, and we wondered what for. Anyway he yelled out goodbye to everyone and took off down the steep slope. Now the road winds back and forth about 20 times, going slowly to negotiate the devil’s elbow bends, and each time the young lad running straight down, would run in front of our coach yelling out goodbye again, till eventually 20 minutes later at the bottom, and 20 goodbyes, he was at the door of our coach with a big grin on his face and you could not help but put tips in his held out plastic container.
We trained back to Cuzco for another night and next day the second fabulous train trip then began after our checkout and departure from the lovely Monasterio Hotel in Cuzco.
The train trip took us from Cuzco to the highest point of any train track in the world at La Raya 4,417 metres 14,417 ft) above sea level. The train trip was memorable both for scenery along the Andes, with the very attentive train attendants providing the local drink ‘Pisco sours’ which were very tasty and the more you had the better you felt, you could even almost forget about the altitude sickness.
I looked up the recipe if you care to try: ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, (make a syrup and let cool) then add ½ cup lime juice, 1 ½ cups pisco (local Muscat grape distilled brandy) 1 ½ cups ice, and blend in a blender, then whisk 3 egg whites till stiff and add all together then add a dash of Angostura Bitters in middle of the foam.
Whilst on the Machu Picchu to Punto train in South America, our friend Max had altitude sickness badly and just wanted to go home. Of course there were no airports or way of getting home from Lake Titicaca so to try and allay his fears we told him we were on the descent. He looked at the running river alongside the train for some minutes before saying water doesn’t run up hill to which we replied “Oh yes it does but only in Peru”! He believed us, just because he wanted to and we had him convinced, and we gave him quite a few Pisco sours to help him forget.
We got off the train at Puno on Lake Titicaca to stay right on the Lake at Hotel Libertador. After an evening on the lake at Puno, next day we bussed it to Copacabana to catch the catamaran to Sun Island.
Picture at right Sun Island looking toward Moon Island all part of the Kallawaya zenith culture.
It is the largest island in Lake Titicaca and has a surface of 14.3 sq km so not very big. It has a mountainous terrain with many terraces, the vestiges of the advanced agricultural knowledge of the Incas. This island was a sanctuary with the temple of the virgins, dedicated to the Sun God Inti. Now the island is inhabited by Quechua and Aymara indigenous people, who base their economy on crafts and grazing animals. They still very much speak the Quechua and Aymara ancestral languages. In the island several archaeological sites can be seen, like the “Sacred Rock” or “Rock of Origin”.
According to the chronicles Isla del Sol was the place from whence emerged Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the parents of the Inca’s culture. Legend has it that they went out to found the city of Cuzco by plunging the rods into the ground here and finding water. Other buildings are the Chinkana or Labyrinth, the Pilkokaina Palace (unique for its constructive characteristics). The staircases of Yumani, with its holy water source, supposedly it will make you younger, to drink from the source.
There is a legend which says that when the Incas knew that their fall was inevitable, they decided to throw all their jewels and gold in the Lake Titicaca, so good luck searching.
We climbed up the terraced gardens, growing both grain and vegetables to take place in a Pachamama ceremony (offertry to mother earth), this was at Apus and Achachilas authentic alter. It is a Kallawaya ceremony from Tiwanaku era.
The ceremony is quite something, the Kallawaya dressed in a red poncho begins he ceremony offering things purchased at the Witch’s market in La Paz, each item having a special significance he then went along our group an performed a blessing and then sought peace and prosperity for the Lake and its people.
The views from Sun Island have to be seen to be believed, the way the clouds are reflected upon the water I have not seen any phenomena quite like this anywhere else in the world. In the backdrop are the snow-capped Cordillera Real and Nevada Illampú. It is a very spiritual place, where ones spirits are lifted to great highs.
We disembarked from Lake Titicaca at Guaqui just on dark, we bussed it in the middle of the night to La Paz, Bolivia, but had a nerve-racking breakdown in the middle of the highway or should I say on the side on the edge of the road at a precarious angle and another bus had to come from La Paz hours later, and drivers transfer luggage from on top of our bus to on top of the new one. Max and John both mechanically minded took a look at the engine and just shook their heads. The only thing that kept me sane worrying about our group out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, was the bright southern cross in the sky, looking like the galaxy from home. When we did eventually arrive in La Paz, it is quite a lovely city, modern high rise in CBD but very different I must say. So is the Valley of the moon landscape that we did a tour to just outside of the city. You would swear you were on the moon there. It is still a very high altitude 4,058mtrs, 13,313 ft. (half of Mt. Everest )
Our hotel was in a nice clean square in town Plaza Murillo, with lovely large rooms overlooking the leafy square. When I went to reconfirm our next flights at the airline office I strolled down the Shaman’s markets on Mercado de las Brijas where stores displayed anything from llama foetus to dried frogs and all sorts of animal parts and skeletons for sale for potions. I felt very safe walking on my own here, not like a lot of cities in the world. Actually I could say that for all the places on our South American itinerary except maybe Rio.
A fitting end to a visit to South America is going to Bariloche in the south, one of the purest and most pristine places I have ever visited. This is the Swiss of the South Americas even to the chocolate making shops and beautiful scenery. You smell the chocolate as you walk down the street, which is a bit off-putting.
Whilst there, couldn’t have happened to a worse person, our friend Max was put in hospital still suffering the dreaded altitude sickness legacy. He is the one and only group member we have ever had hospitalised on our trips, but at least his oxygen deficiency had stabled.
We visited the lovely 1936 wooden chapel San Eduardo near Llao Llao, and went inside for a short while. Another memorable church is the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi, which is beautiful both inside and outside, like a mini-cathedral.
We took a coach right around Lake Nahuel Huapi de Bariloche through the most beautiful scenery, very European in feel, to San Carlos de Bariloche where we took a chairlift to the top at Cerro Campanario where winter ski-ing is all the go, and a view like you are in heaven looking down at one of the prettiest untouched places in the world.
So on that note we will leave Argentina and South America after a wonderful, uplifting time.
POST SCRIPT ON PERU: We have received some favourable comments from a company Wayna Peru Expeditions AND having reseached it, I can recommend the following tour on their website…..
The Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek normally takes 7 days and has become popular with trekkers wanting to combine a quieter less trodden route with a visit to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. For the first 4 days you will be surrounded with magnificent scenery and rarely see other groups of trekkers. On the fifth day you join up with the Inca Trail at Wayllabamba and continue to Machu Picchu arriving early on day 7.
The trek is only a little more difficult than the Inca Trail, and horses can be used for the first 4 days to carry food and equipment. Since horses are not allowed on the Inca Trail, you’ll swap over to using human porters for this final section.
A remote and ancient footpath, in the same region as the Inca Trail, but less travelled and offering more spectacular views, providing a magnificent wilderness alternative for those who wish to escape the more popular trekking routes is the Salcantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We pass through an amazing progression of ecological zones, from sparsely vegetated alpine meadows flanking two spectacular 20,000′ glaciated peaks, down through subtropical forest into the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, to arrive later the “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu. Suggested from May through October, dry season
DAY 1: CUSCO – MOLLEPATA – SORAYPAMPA
Early in the morning we pick you up from your hotel and transfer you in a bus to Mollepata passing picturesque and traditional towns like Iscuchaca , Ancahuasi and Limatambo, as well highlands plateaus and landscapes with great views of snowcapped mountains that belong to the cordillera Vilcabamba. The bus trip will last 3.00 hours and then the hike is for 6 hours. The trail climbs up from Mollepata sharply to Marqhok’asa pass through the pastures, farming lands, afterwards descending until the campsite through the high brush down to Soraypampa (3750 mtrs).
DAY 2: SORAYPAMPA – COLLPAPAMPA
Early in the morning you leave Soraypampa and keep going up the beautiful valley walking just below the majestic snowcapped mountain named Salkantay (6271 masl) after 1:1/2 hours the trek becomes steep zigzagging for a while after that we get the pass named Salkantay pass, 4600 mtrs from where you will be rewarded with superb views . The trail descends through an old moraine passing great pastures down to the
camp of Huayroqmachay located at 4000mtrsl. This campsite is subject to change according to the guide’s criteria and the evolution of the group.
DAY 3: COLLPAPAMPA – LUCMABAMBA
Wake up with lovely mountain scenery and a good morning tea. Continue to the north down to the lush jungle through different ecosystems watching birdlife like hummingbirds, trashes, finches, tanagers, sparrows, guans, parrots, etc It will be a long descending day towards the cloud forest where people live taking advantages of nature, also you will pass great waterfalls. At the end of the day we will see passion fruit fields. The hike will last approximately 9 hours; the campsite is at the community named “La Playa ” (2400 mtrs above sea level).
DAY 4: LUCMABAMBA – AGUAS CALIENTES
Leaving la playa the trek continues through plantations of coffee, banana, and tropical fruits. Afterwards the trail climbs up to Patallacta from where you descend until Hidroelectrica ( 1800 mtrs) and continue to Aguas Calientes where we will set up camp just below Machu Picchu Inca sanctuary , this afternoon you can go to have a bath in the natural hot springs a great place to relax after this challenging trek.
DAY 5: MACHU PICCHU – CUSCO
Our last day we wake up very early to visit the Inca fortress of Machu Picchu. We enjoy the magic view over Machu Picchu as the sun is rising, about 6:30 am. We will have a guided tour during 2 hours, then you have spare time to walk around. For example you can ascent to Huayna Picchu, that is the high mountain close to Machu Picchu, where you can have an amazing view of the complex. About 2:30 pm, we get back to Aguas Calientes, to have some meals (by passenger own) and then we take the train back to Olantaytambo and bus to Cusco.
- Transportation to Mollepata on the 1st day.
- Bilingual guide of high mountain.
- Cook and cooking equipment.
- Entrance fee to Machupicchu.
- 1 night hostal in Aguas Calientes.
- Nutritious meals (vegetarian option).
- Mules for the transport of camping equipment, and the passenger’s luggage (Max. 10 Kilos).