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Lima, Peru - February 1996

Vicky Blitz

We left Santiago, Chile on a four or five hour trip and arrived in Lima and were taken to a very nice Sheraton Hotel. There were armed guards in the lobby and outside because this Sheraton was also a gamboling casino. But there was another reason. We were warned not to venture out of the hotel for even a block down the street to purchase bottled water, because this hotel was on the boarder of a rough part of town and visitors were targets.

In the afternoon was were taken on a city tour. However, when the tour group left to do a bit of a walking I opted to stay on the air conditioned bus as I had been suffering from a persistent cough and I don't handle the heat too well (and it was a very hot day). Rather than just sit and wait for the others the bus driver took me on a private tour in the bus so I could see the people (I love to get pictures of native faces).

What a contrast between the old city and the new part of town. The "old" is quite dismal, dusty, dirty, air pollution, odor pollution and with garbage littering the streets -- even in the river. The newer section of town is clean, odorless, beautiful homes with flowers & trees, parks and modern shops and they even have free concerts in the parks or clown shows for the kids. The beach is even there in the new section, with cliffs and a high bridge where they do bungee jumping. Along the freeway, instead of the usual gray cement walls with graffiti, they are beginning to cover them with mosaics. The only advertising permitted here is in the arrangement of flowers in the trimmed grass lawn, showing a company logo.

Cuzco - Peru - February 1996

Vicky Blitz

Our fifty-five minute flight from Lima to Cuzco was short, sweet and beautiful with the mountains peeking through the clouds. Our local guide met us and took us to our hotel where I would have used a whole roll of film (if I had an extra) just taking pictures of the antiques, wooden carved chairs, Peruvian dolls, etc.

The altitude of Cuzco is 11,400 feet, so we all sat down in comfortable leather chairs and sofas and drank our cocaine tea, which was supposed to help us with altitude sickness. I had two cups. we were then told to rest for a couple hours, eat light and not over exert .I had no problem with that since we had been up at 3:30 am, for breakfast at 4:00 am, and to leave for the airport by 4:30 am.

I found myself huffing and puffing, walking down the hall to my room on the second floor and without any problem I was asleep by 10:00 am. About 11:30 am I got up and was feeling OK but went back to bed for another hour. This time, when I awoke and got up, I was quite disorientated so I went downstairs for more coke tea.

At 1:30 pm our guide arrived and by the time we piled into the van I was very disorientated, huffing and puffing and had a slight headache. We spent the rest of the afternoon seeing the Sun Temple, the Fortress of Sacsoyhuaman, and Kenko Amphetheatre. Then on to Puca Pacara which is at 12,500 feet where I thought my head would explode. We couldn't get back down to the hotel fast enough for me and when we arrived I went back to bed. Another member of our group was throwing up. Fortunately, the matriarch of our little group was a physician and, having been to this area in her youth, was prepared with medicines. We were grateful.

Machu Picchu, Peru - February 1996

Vicky Blitz

We had wake-up calls at 4:30 am (I was already up at 4:00) so that we could have breakfast and be ready when our guide arrived, getting us to the train in time to leave at 6:15.  The train moved along at a moderate rate of speed, and for most of the way,  paralleling a river and mountains on both sides; waterfalls, meadows, and forests. Occasionally, we stopped briefly in little towns with people selling things such as rugs, sweaters, caps, mittens, etc. on the platforms.   

We arrived in Macchu Picchu after a three hour ride at 9:15 am.  We got off the train and onto a bus. It was then we learned that there were fourteen hairpin turns to get us up the mountain to the ancient cite and in December there had been an avalanche that started at the top and wiped them out. The good news was that all of the road had been repaired except the last turn and we would have to walk the last half mile.

This was not very good news for me, as my knee was already giving me trouble and by the time we got up to the visitor's center, I was almost crippled. I had just enough strength left (in my knee) to make my way to a cite where I could look up at the ruins and get a couple pictures but not enough to walk through them. I was heartbroken. This was the reason for the entire trip to Argentina, Chille and Peru ... to stroll through Macchu Picchu and now all I could do was look at it from a distance.  I thought of how disappointed the people touring in December and January must have been when the avalanche first occurred.

Soon it was time to make our way back to the bus.  As it was departing and going back down the mountain for our return trip, this determined and courageous young man (perhaps  ten or twelve years of age), yelled something at our bus as it went by.  He then ducked into the forest, ran down to the road below meeting our bus there, again yelling something and again running into the forest. In this manner, he raced our bus all the way down the mountain. At the bottom of the mountain, the bus driver picked him up and brought him with us to the station so that he could walk down the aisle of our bus and let us tip him for his effort. He had given us quite a show and most everyone tipped him something, with admiration and respect for what he had accomplished.  Could he be a future Olympian?