Saturday, April 23, 2011
Met our tour guide,Marcos, at 9 AM and visited the historic district of Quito, a world heritage site. Visited several churches, Franciscan and Jesuit. One was begun in 1533, just three years after Pizarro arrived, and took seventy years to complete. Visited a fair trade shop and purchased Ecuador chocolate that was wonderful. After lunch we visited the museum of archeology and saw Ecuador artifacts and art from periods prior to the Incas through the Spanish occupation to the present. The gold artifacts and other types of metal, silver, copper, etc. were beautiful and the different processes for their production was explained. The earliest known metal work was found here. Walked back to the hotel in the rain. Quito is at 9,000 feet and gets afternoon showers typical of the mountain regions.
Arrived in Lima, Peru on Sunday. The city is situated near the Pacific Coast in an arid region. We walked from the airport to our hotel, which was just across the street. It gets dark early near the equator and we flew to Cusco early the next morning, so did not see much of Lima. The streets of Cusco are very narrow, and many structures are built on Inca ruins. Many streets are the original Inca cobblestone. They were fantastic stonemasons, and their structures have survived a centuries of earthquakes. The stones are fitted together without cement, joined perfectly. I spent an hour in the morning doing a watercolor sketch of some buildings across from the hotel. Some local women who sell trinkets outside the hotel watched me paint and admired my work. We toured several ruins near Cusco, and then stayed in the Sacred Valley on our way to Machu Picchu. We visited a traditional market in Pisac, and enjoyed the colorful dress of the peasants. We stopped at a nature park where we touched and fed the llamas. There were also alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos. We rode the train to Aguis Caliente and viewed the Andes Mountains and the river gorge. The peaks are very steep and rugged, most are covered with trees and are very green, but there are also snow capped peaks. We spent the day with our guide exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu. About five hundred people lived there, we visited the condor house, the sun house, etc. Hiked to the top of the hill to get the famous photo in the afternoon, and then on to the suspension bridge. There were llama with young grazing the grass on the terraces, and I got some great photos. Spent the night at Inkaterra Hotel in Aguis Caliente. The hotel is built on a former tea plantation, and has botanical gardens, beautiful landscaping and Spanish style architecture. The following morning we enjoyed a bird walk with a naturalist, and later an orchid walk with another naturalist. We saw many beautiful birds and orchids, and saw tea and coffee plants. We also visited the tea house and learned how they make the tea and coffee. The hot tea and coffee we had for breakfast was made by the Inkaterra employees. The food has been excellent, natural and healthy with lots of fruits, vegetables and grains, and fish. Took the train back to Cusco, and then an early flight to Quito, Ecuador.