Aquas Calientes and Machu Picchu

The train from Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calietntes was nice, especially after spending so many days hiking. The train ride was about an hour-long, just enough time for a quick bite to eat and drink which was complimentary on Peru Rail.

Arriving in Aquas Calientes there was a lot of commotion, being a heavy tourist area. I made may way through the crowd of people from all over the world speaking a myriad of languages to my hotel which was located in the center of town.

Aguas Calientes is a town in the Urubamba River Valley, in southeast Peru that sits at an elevation of around 6,700 feet. It’s known for its thermal baths and as a gateway to the nearby Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. The town center is full of eateries and shops, anchored by the central Mercado artisanal, and a craft market.

After checking in I headed up to my room. It felt good to have some time to relax, unpack, get a shower, and take a nap. My room had a nice view of the mountains surrounding the town. I collected my laundry and headed out to find a laundromat and explore Aquas Calientes. While looking for a laundry mat I ran into the most beautiful Napoleon mastiff. The local people assured me he was taken care of. After dropping off laundry I headed to town square.

The local church was beautiful depicting the negro Jesus on a cross and many non traditional catholic ornamentation which was nice to see the diversity. After inserting quarter to light a bulb and saying a prayer I headed to local restraint to meet some of the group for dinner. Some of us were getting up extra early to catch the first bus to Machu Picchu so we needed to get up early. My grandmas use to say early bird catches the worm and for the most part that has been true in life.

after dinner and a few drink I walked around Aquas Calientes awhile longer exploring the markets and shops. It is a very lively town with a lot going on and endless variety of entertainment. I stayed out later than I should have but it was my only night in Aquas Callientes and I wanted to take full advantage of it. I eventually made it back to my hotel and passed out. Luckily I had previously gotten my pack and everything ready for the next morning so when I woke up O was ready to go.

Next morning I got up around 4:00 grabbed my things and headed downstairs. The group was waiting so I grabbed some coffee and we headed for the bus. When we got there around 5:00 there was a line about 50 yards long but by 5:30 it was around 200 yards long. The energy in the atmosphere was electric considering that for most people It is a lifelong dream to visit Machu Picchu.

Once the bus arrived we all huddled in. The bus was cramped and the ride consisted entirely of switchbacks up the side of the mountain for about 30 minutes. Once at the top buses are dropping people off as they exit and get in line to enter Machu Picchu. Since we were one of the first busses the lines were not long and when we got into Machu Picchu we decided to hike and hour up to the Sun Gate were the view of Machu Picchu is amazing. Hiking along the ancient trail we ran into hikers and Alpacas. When we got to the top you could not see the ruins because of the dense fog. At the top many people were sitting along the wall of the sun gate waiting to see a glimpse of Machu Picchu, praying that the fog would dissipate. Eventually as the sun got brighter the fog moved on and we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Machu Picchu. everyone cheered and stared in ah at the magnificent view.

After taking some Pictures and absorbing the energy we hiked back down to the ruins to meet the rest of the group and Hugo who would be giving a tour of the ancient Inca ruins. Once back down at the ruins many more people had arrived and it was getting crowded. After making my way to Hugo along with the rest of the group he explained everything he knew about Machu Picchu.

Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Binghambrought it to international attention in 1911.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared.[15] By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored[15] and restoration continues.[16]

Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site in 1983.[12] In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.[17]

What fascinates me is that the older pre-inca structure which existed there before the Inca civilization is far more complex and advanced. You can clearly see in the pictures the distinct difference between the two. Even with today’s technology we would have a very hard time replicated what the pre-inca civilization maybe thousands of years ago,

We spent about 4 hours at the sight and once you get into the line they sort of force you through. I have to say Machu Picchu is a magical place with an energy I have never experienced. Words really can’t describe the experience and picture don’t do it justice. In all honestly if your interested go and visit Peru and I promise it will be an experience of a lifetime.

After getting many more picture we exited Machu Picchu loaded on the bus to go back to Aqua Calientes and then the following day onto Ollantaytambo and then onto Cusco but not before celebrating a little too much the last night in Aquas Callientes and I imagine stories of the wild and wonderful fellow from West Virginia will be told for some time to come.

I will be back to Machu Picchu without a doubt and hope to eventually hike all trails leading to the ancient Inca ruins and even onto Choquequirao. Maybe March 2019 anyone interested in going let me know you will learn more about yourself and find answers to questions you never thought to ask. Little did I know at this time I would return to Peru two months later.

GoPro Video coming soon……

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The Inca Quarry Trail Hike

After drinking my coca tea I met with the group and we loaded up in a van. We then drove for about 30 minutes to the start of the trail. Hugo was full of energy and from the start I could tell we would get along very well. Most of the other guides and members of the crew did not speak English so it made it difficult to communicate for some of us. We approached our starting point unloaded the van and loaded up our backs. Hugo explained the first section would be flat at the beginning but long and steep at the end and should take around 8 hours to get to the first camp.

As I loaded my pack onto my back I had an overwhelming feeling of anticipation, excitement, and anxiety. I had waited this experience for a long time and it felt surreal at that moment.

Breathing at these altitudes is difficult and can make even the seasoned athlete keel over but I was looking forward to the challenge and needed the escape. Looking down one foot in front of the other I began the hike. The atmosphere and scenery are amazing and the sense of oneness with Pachamama (Mother Nature) was undeniable. As we hiked along the trail Hugo was very knowledgeable about local flora and fauna. He also knew the history, practices, and most of the previous ancient civilizations that occupied the territory in the past. Every once and awhile we would stop rest and Hugo would tell local legends and stories. As we progressed up the mountain the breaks became more frequent as the oxygen in the air got thinner. After a few hours of hiking we came across a few villages of local people living similar to the Qutchua. He explained how many people in this area still live the same as they did generations ago.

As we continued to walk the terrain got steeper and we could begin to see an immense waterfall in the distance. We continued to hike until we came to the base of the Perolinyoq waterfall. The power and presence of the waterfall was all encompassing and it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever had the privilege of being in the presence of. Hugo told the legend of a mermaid like creature that lived behind the waterfall and would come out at night to scavenge for hikers food and equipment.

After spending some time at the waterfall cooling off, we continued to hike up the side of the mountain. Eventually we could see an ancient Inca ruin across the valley on the side of a mountain and above that our first base camp. We continued for another 4 hours or so until we reached the ancient Inca ruins of Q’orimarca which is believed to have been used for food storage, worship, and a resting point for Inca messenger. From here you have an amazing view of the valley and the trail that we had hiked this far. We rested as Hugo talked about Inca culture and how they would build food storage sites throughout the valley and how they knew how to preserve foods like potatoes for hundreds of years. How messenger would run different trails to locations like Machu Picchu and needed these places for food and shelter. Once Hugo had finished we continued hiking another 30 minutes until we reached our first base camp. All the tents had been setup and Hugo let us know which tents were who’s and a brief explanation of where to use the restroom, when we would eat, and other basics. I walked over to my tent pretty exhausted and took off my backpack which felt really heavy by that point. It felt so good to unload and relax. I got my sleeping back and gear situated in my tent and then laid down in front of my tent and did some yoga stretching. As I sat back up and looked out over the valley the sun began to set. I felt really good about my strength and endurance and more alive than I had in a long time. I thought about mom and could feel her presence around me and smiled with a tear in my eye as I knew she was enjoying the moment with me.

In the background I could hear Hugo letting us know that dinner was about ready and for everyone to come to the main tent to eat. I strapped my headlamp on my head as it was almost dark and walked over to the main tent. Evenings in the main tent were a lot of fun and many great conversations with Hugo being the organizer. He also liked to play name that tune. We always had an assortment of teas and hot chocolates as well as bread and cracker, sometimes popcorn. Then we would have soup followed by main dish which was usually rice, potatoes, some vegetable and chicken, fish, or beef. That was followed by desert and more conversation. After we had all had our fill it was time to sleep which was not a problem because all of us were tired. After once more cup of coca tea I walked over to my tent and managed to work my way into the sleeping bag. It was cold at night between 30-40 degrees and the oxygen in the air was thin. As I began to close my eyes I could not help but think of the mermaid creature lol and thanked god for the amazing day and fell asleep.

I walk up the next morning around 4:30 and got my boots and jacket on and headed over to the main tent for breakfast. A few people were having altitude sickness and did not sleep well so they took medication which helped them some but Hugo insisted not to take the medication that the side effects were bad and to drink coca tea. After breakfast, coffee, and conversation consisting of what the days hiking would consist of everyone went back to their tents to load up. After getting everything situated and water bladders filled up Hugo handed us all a bagged lunch and we began our hike around 6:00.

Hugo had let us know that day 2 would be the hardest with the steepest accents and longest distance. I felt good and was excited for the challenge. After hiking about two hours we were at a very high altitude about 14,500 feet and breathing became even harder. So our paces slowed and our breaks became more frequent. The landscape was so dynamic yet peaceful with a wide range of sights and smells. After another few hours we stopped to eat our bagged lunch. By this time the temperature had warmed up and the sun was intense. I re-applied sunscreen and striped a layer of cloths. While eating my lunch and conversing with the group, Hugo answered question about local culture and wildlife. Explaining that the Condor was one of the most sacred animals to the area and much of Peru. As we came to one of the steepest climbs Hugo asked if everyone was ok and that the next 1000 yards would be challenging but rewarding. We all shook our heads, some more sure than others and pushed on breaking frequently as my heart pounded out of my chest. As we reached the top we were rewarded with an unbelievable view of the snow capped mountains of the Andes. It was literally breathtaking not just because of the hike and lack of oxygen but the power of the view. I sat down and took it all in. It’s points like this in life I realized that you learn the most and grow. Along the mountain range we were on you could see rocks stacked randomly everywhere. Hugo explained that they are placed for various reasons; trail marking, prayer, wish, memory, and I’m sure various reasons for other cultures in different regions. I gathered a group of rocks stacked them with the intention of a memorial for mom and said a few prayers. We all had our moments and then we got together for a group picture before continuing on our way. The rest of the hike was pretty flat with slight up and down small hills until we reached camp.

At camp it was routine of taking off boots, backpack, getting tent situated, and relaxing a minute before going to the main tent for dinner. By this time I felt really acclimated to the altitude and my breathing was not as labored. My feet and back where a little sore as well as my knees but overall I felt good. After eating another delicious meal Hugo played name that tune which consisted of 80’s and pop music which surprised me that he liked it and I knew most of it. We all had some good laughs that night about the hike and our adventure this far before heading to our sleeping bags and passing out.

The next morning I got up feeling a bit stiff but good overall and excited that today I would see the sun gate. Ate breakfast, loaded up, and headed out. Todays trek would be challenging with a steep accent followed by a rocky switchback decent and the a gradual slope upwards toward the sun gate. The up hill accent was very challenging and at that altitude was much more difficult than it looked but once at the top I was rewarded once again with an amazing view of the mountains and valley. Once everyone had reached the top we had lunch and listened to Hugo talk about the Qutchua and Inca people’s traditions and culture. He then explained that the next section would be dangerous and we would need to use hiking poles to ensure proper stabilization while hiking down the steep boulder and rock filled switchbacks. As we continued on the hike Hugo spotted a Condor far up in the sky circling the mountain top and I must say it was quite a majestic experience. As we got toward the bottom we rested a bit and talked about how technical that section of the hike was and how fortunate we felt to see a Condor flying in the Peruvian Andes.

The next section would be to the Sun Gate and would take a few hours on mostly even terrain. It is somewhere in this section of the hike that I lost my headphones which at the time I was frustrated but feel in the end it was a good thing because they can be isolating. As we got about 30 minutes out you could start to see the sun gate in the distance and the amazing Andes mountain peaks behind it. It felt like something straight out of the Lord of the Rings. My heart beat faster as we approached and walked along what seemed like the mountain giant backbone.

The Sun Gate Inti Punku on the Inca Quarry trail which in Qutchua, means ‘Sun Gate’, and the Incas built structures like these throughout the Andes to honor the sun god. This intriguing archaeological complex overlooks Ollantaytambo and the valley below – which was a fantastic reward on the challenging second day. We all took pictures and then hiked downhill toward the Sacred Valley and base camp for the last night.

As we approached base camp we stumbled upon another group which was camping 100 yards above us. The nice thing about the quarry trail is it is not crowded and this is the only other group we came across during the entire hike. We stopped and talked for a while shared experiences and continued on. Once at camp the same routine of unloading, getting everything situated, freshening up, and most importantly taking off my boots. By this point my feet were sore but no blisters thanks to good smart wool socks and Salomon boots. I rested for a moment and then headed to the main tent for dinner. At dinner as usual Hugo had a funny story to tell about a group of girls that came on the hike a few month back and how the porters and guides where going out of there way to be nice to them because they were very attractive. Well apparently on the second day the porters stumbled upon the girls peeing standing up and were shocked, They could not believe they where transsexual. So Hugo said from then on the porters no longer hit on them or went out there way to help. So one evening one of the so called girls said to Hugo what is wrong with the porters they seem to be shy and no longer interested in us. Hugo said honestly they saw you pee standing up and were surprised to find out you are men. They started laughing and said we are not men we use a “She Wee” a devise that girls use to pee standing up. They all got a good laugh and the porters could not believe it.

After more stories and plenty of food and tea. I headed to the tent for the final night sleeping on the trail. As I walked to my tent I had a deep conversation with the gentleman Robert from Scotland. We both looked over the valley as the sun faded and the sky turned black. I can say the stars were absolutely amazing that night and although I felt one with the universe at that Monet I felt very small compared to the depths of time and space. I headed to my tent got in my sleeping bag and passed out completely exhausted mentally and physically.

I woke up around same time and same routine. Todays hike would be the easiest of all the days as we hiked through the Sacred Valley down into Ollantaytambo. Since we had descended so much yesterday and would continue today the weather got warmer and the oxygen was more available in the air and my lungs were appreciative. As we continued hiking Hugo had mentioned to me previously about ancient tombs up into the mountains that was far of the trail but he would take me when we got to that point if I was interested and had the stamina. Robert and I were game so we left our bags with the rest of the group who were gracious enough to wait and hiked up the side of the quarry mountain to the ancient tombs.

The hike was hard and took about 45 minutes but when we got close you could see mounded stones and underground entrances to tombs. This was amazing and almost seemed like a childhood fantasy of living out an adventure of Indiana Jones. The entrance was very narrow but as you climbed down in the rock quarry tomb you could see the remains of skeletons. The feeling in the tomb was eerie and I was very respectful of the environment and of the loss of life especially considering I had just lost my mom, dad, and grandmother. I was very emotional as I excited the tomb and said a prayer. We each took a turn going down into the tomb as Hugo explained he rarely ever takes anyone to these tombs and assured me that death is just the beginning of something new and that life soul energy never ends.

We hiked back down to the group shared our experience and headed toward the trail. We hit a few rough patches of mosquitos which were happy to see me but I cannot say the same. Hugo explained rubbing leaves from the peppercorn tree would repel then and sure enough it worked. We saw some amazing plants including San Pedro a local medicine that produces hallucinations similar to Peyote. We also started seeing animals, small villages and farms. After a lunch break and a few more hours we crossed the bridge back into the town of Ollantaytambo. At this point if felt aqward and strange to be around civilization and so much commotion. My senses were very heightened and I really just wanted to hike back up into the mountains. I did enjoy a beer as we headed to the train that would take us to Aquas Callientes the gateway to Machu Picchu.

Journey from the ancient city of Cusco to Ollantaytambo

Flying from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco is only about an hour or so and the flight this time was smooth and I would learn in the future on other flight that is not normally the case. I was excited to experience the ancient city of Cusco.

Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. In 2013, the city had a population of 435,114 and its elevation is around 11,200 ft.

Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO with the title “City of Cuzco”. It has become a major tourist destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. The Constitution of Peru designates it as the Historical Capital of Peru.

Finding my way from the airport gate to ground transportation was easy and eventually I found my to the van that would be taking me to the hotel Casa Andina Koricancha in the heart of Cusco.

The street in Cusco are mostly made of brick and are extremely narrow with steep hills, the drivers can be crazy so you have to be aware. You can see a wide range of ancient architecture mixed with some more recent buildings. When I arrived at the hotel a parade was going on in the streets  many of the catholic schools and soldiers were celebration a catholic holiday specific to the region. I made my way to the front desk and checked in. I inquired about getting my laundry done as most of my cloths were dirty by this point and we would be leaving for the Inca Quarry Trail in a few days. The gentleman at the front desk told me it would be charged by weight which equaled about $3.00 a pound. Arriving at my room I found a very comfortable bed actually three LoL, nice bathroom, and general accommodations. I unloaded, took a hot shower (which had never felt better), gathered up my laundry and headed to the lobby. Once at the lobby I dropped the laundry off, met some friends in the lobby and headed out to dinner. Walking through Cusco is surreal, the ancient architecture, the energy, diversity, and history are all consuming. The city is full of tourist from all over the world as well as locals who still mostly practice there traditional trades. We decided to eat at Nuna a fairly newer restaurant which was recommended by a local. The atmosphere was comfortable and service was great although communication can be difficult is you are not fluent in Spanish. I indulged in some local craft beer which was pretty good. I also decided to try Alpaca, which I have to say is delicious and is better in my opinion than beef. After having a few more drinks we decided to head back to hotel because we would be having a meeting with our guides early in the mourning about the Inca Quarry Trail hike to Machu Picchu.

After a good nights rest I made my way down to the lobby to have breakfast, pick up my laundry, and went to attend the meeting about the Inca Quarry trail hike. I met with other travelers that would be going on the hike as well as the guides. The main guides name was Hugo and he was a funny and intelligent man. He explained the route we would take, the length of time, altitude, dangers, precautions, as well as what to be sure to bring. I would be the only American on the trek but would be joined by a Scottish gentleman, a 60 year old experienced Aussie bloke, a 33 year old versed traveler from Portugal, and a 23 year old girl from the UK as well as a host of porters, and guides. I felt good after the meeting but a bit nervous as I knew it would test my endurance. We parted ways as we would be meeting him and the rest of the team in Ollyantambo the following day.

I spent the remainder of the day exploring Cusco, trying different foods, shopping, chocolate factory, and coffee shop. I also explored many beautiful churches including Cusco Cathedral and San Blas Temple. After exploring for awhile longer I met up with some of the group for dinner and then we decided to go to an alpaca clothing factory and market.

Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is light or heavy in weight, depending on how it is spun. It is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca fiber is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite. Huacaya, an alpaca that grows soft spongy fiber, has natural crimp, thus making a naturally elastic yarn well-suited for knitting. Suri has no crimp and thus is a better fit for woven goods. The designer Armani has used Suri alpaca to fashion men’s and women’s suits. Alpaca fleece is made into various products, from very simple and inexpensive garments made by the indigenous communities to sophisticated, industrially made and expensive products such as suits. In the United States, groups of smaller alpaca breeders have banded together to create “fiber co-ops,” to make the manufacture of alpaca fiber products less expensive.

I have decided recently to start importing Alpaca clothing into the Ohio Valley. So if anyone is interested please let me know.

After dinner and a few drinks I decided to walk around for a little while and soak in the vibe and the sights of Cusco at night before venturing back to the hotel. I needed to get up at 5:30 to be on a van heading through the Sacred Valley on our way to the city of Ollantaytambo to start the treck to Machu Picchu.

I got up the next morning feeling a little altitude sickness but nothing a little coca tea would not relieve. I went down stairs, met the group and had breakfast. Our first stop on the way to Ollantaytambo would be Sacsayhuamán, which was a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100; they had occupied the area since 900. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca from the 13th century; they built dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. The site is at an altitude 12,142 ft and has a beautiful overlook of Cusco. The shear size and magnitude of these structures is amazing and to think only about 30% of the original structure remains today.

After leaving Sacsayhuamán we headed back to the van to continue our drive through the Sacred Valley on the way to Ollantaytambo. Along the way we stopped to visit with a family that made pottery and hosted travelers. I was excited to experience this because I had taken pottery in high school and collage so it interested me. The family were gracious and prepared a delicious meal consisting of potato soup made from dried potatoes, avocado salad with bread, and chicken with rice. Also served with the meal was Chicha not the beer but the purple non-alcoholic drink made from corn. The meal was delicious and the hosts could not have been more genuine and kind. After talking for awhile we followed them to there studio were the created there pottery and to watch them work. As they began to work I could immediately tell how skilled there technique was and that it had been perfected by generation. It maintain its tradition from the way they cultivated the clay from the local mountains to the kick wheel they use to spin the pottery, the technique of decoration and the kiln they used to bake the pottery.

After leaving our hosting family we continued on our way to Ollantaytambo along the way stopping at a local bar to have some Chicha the alcoholic drink fermented in a pot from corn mash and sometimes mixed with strawberry juice. We also enjoyed a drinking game called Sapo which consists of tossing coins into a stand containing various slot with different points and a brass frog in the middle as a bullseye not to different from cornhole. We played a few games and had a few drinks and continued to Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru which is about 45 miles northwest of Cusco. It is located at an altitude 9,160 ft above sea level. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered the region and built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays, located in what is called the Sacred Valley of the Incas, it is an important tourist attraction on account of its Inca ruins and its location en route to one of the most common starting points for the four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail

The ruins in Ollantaytambo are amazing and climbing the huge stones to the top is literally breathtaking. After exploring the ruins I headed to my hotel to check in and relax. Once I had checked in and unpacked my things I walked to the center square to get some dinner and have a few drinks. The stone streets in Ollantaytambo are ancient and open water ways are running down either side of the streets.  After exploring the stores, alleyways, and bars for awhile I met up with some members of the group for dinner at a local restaurant. We talked about the beginning of the Inca trail hike our diverse backgrounds and what had lead us to this point of wanting to visit Machu Picchu and hike the trail. After one to many drinks considering I had to be up at 5:00 AM to meet with the rest of the group, Hugo my trail guide, and his crew so our group could begin the Inca Quarry trail hike bright and early.

Woke up the next morning feeling great so I went and grabbed a quit coca tea and went to the lobby to meet the group to start the hike to Machu Picchu.

Puerto Maldonado: Amazon Jungle

Flying from Lima to Cusco and Cusco to Puerto Maldonado took about 5 hours. Puerto Maldonado is about 55 miles west of the Bolivian border with a population of around 75,000 people but has had a recent influx of Venezuelan refugees.

Once at the airport I took a bus for about two hours into Inferno were I boarded a boat for a cruise up the amazon for about two hours while stopping occasionally and spotting Cayman and various other wildlife.

I did not know until later in the trip but I would learn that Inferno literally meant hell and for a long time they had a horrible problem with disease and a certain fly that would lay eggs in you and cause massive infection and death. Luckily I only suffered Mosquito bites.

I arrived at NAPE an Eco-conscious Amazon lodge, were I was met by Shirley the manager whom also did various other jobs, my guide Ederson and numerous other people from the lodge whom explained what we would be doing, rules, and things to be mindful of in the amazon; for instance very limited electricity, no hot water, no putting toilet paper in the toilet but in the garbage can next to the toilet (that takes some time to get use to) no phone, no WiFi, no Internet, no TV and all the other modern gadgets we rely on for communication and entertainment. I was actually thankful its one of the reason I came to Peru was to unplug and listen to my mind and nature. I was given keys to my hut and proceeded down the pass to go check it out unpack and relax a bit before lunch. The hut was really amazing crafted from beautiful wood resourced from trees that had fallen in the jungle. It had three walls with and small bathroom, nice bed with mosquito net, open porch with a roof, and a hammock,

After relaxing, taking a refreshing cold shower, and unpacking some gear I heading back to the main lodge to meet the crew for lunch and to go over the plan for the day. The food was always really good and fresh. For lunch it was a very nice selection of chicken or local catfish, vegetables, rice, pasta, quinoa, potatoes (by the way there are over 1000 types of potatoes in Peru) various fresh juices, teas, beer, passion fruit pisco, coffee and water,

Ederson took us a short walk around the ground talked about the history and culture in the amazon as well as some of the local flora and fauna. He was extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of the Amazon and many other things, He introduced us to the local Shaman whom I would get to spend time with the following day. They were great men and I respect them both very much.

I Had some free time before dinner so I relaxed in the hammock and listened to the jungle while digesting my trip to that point. I came to some realizations about life, happiness, and felt blessed to me there.

We met for dinner before we headed to the observation tower in the middle of the Amazon. The observation tower was about an hour hike and stood about 100 ft high. I felt it was safe and proceeded to the top. It was quite a trip up the steps as the tower swayed and wobbled considerably. Once at the top you could see for miles nothing but amazon jungle as far as the eye could see. We watched the sun set and saw Macaws, parakeets, many other birds, and wildlife.

I headed back to hut to prepare for the night Trek through the Amazon. Loaded up my backpack put on  Long sleeves shirt with hood, pants, mosquito repellent, hankechirf, buff, headlamp, hat and went to meet Ederson and the crew. We Headed out into the jungle headlamp blazing. Ederson was extremely aware and knew exactly what to look for as we begin spotting nocturnal animals in the dense jungle. We spotted tarantulas, orb weaver spiders, various rodents, bats, and amphibians. The shear sounds and intensity of the Amazon jungle are overwhelming for someone whom has never spent time there. We walked for a few hours until it was time to head back to camp as you walked down the trail you could see thousands of eyes as Ederson explained they were mostly all spiders and stopped and used a stick to coax a tarantula out of its den

When we got back to the Lodge we decided to have some drinks before bed although we had to be up at 5:00AM to head out onto the Amazon? Shirley made me my first passion fruit pisco which I must say was the best and we talked as for a while as she explained about the lodge, the problem with plastic in Peru, and about her hometown Puerto Maldonado.

The next morning I got up and headed to breakfast before trekking through the jungle getting on a boat and heading out onto the Amazon. As we motored out we spotted black Cayman, white Cayman, turtles, Capybara and went to watch Parakeets and Macaws feed on the salt clay.  We headed down river for about an hour before docking and jumping of to head to Tres Chimbadas lake to see wildlife. We trekked through the amazon for about an hour passing local villages until we reached the lake. We boarded a pontoon boat with no motor because they are not allowed due to a protected family of otters on the lake and other wildlife. We spent about 3 hours on the lake spotting a variety of birds and other wildlife. We also got an opportunity to fish for Piranha which is challenging. I did not catch any but Ederson did. We headed back to shore as the sun began to approach full intensity.

Once back at the lodge I walked to my hut and got ready to meet Ederson. We once again headed out into the jungle for an education on plant medicine and an opportunity to spend time with the local shaman. We spent time walking through the jungle looking at different plants and learning about their healing properties, how they are prepared, and what they are used for. We headed back to the Shamans hut were we did various plant medicines and had an opportunity to experience the healing properties of these jungle medicines and meditate.

After dinner and I prepared for the boat ride up the amazon at night. After hiking through the jungle and getting to our boat we headed out. With Ederson on the bow handling the spotlight and another guide in back steering the outboard motor we took off. The skill and instinct they handled the boat with in pitch black was incredible. We spotted various Cayman and other wildlife which was absolutely amazing. But the thing that touched me the most was the sky. I have never in my life seen stars like on the amazon at night it was breathtaking you could see the milky way and it seemed like a million stars with a darkness behind them I have never experienced..

The Amazon Jungle was an adventure I will never forget and one of the highlights of my trip . I plan on going back very soon. I met a lot of amazing people with vast knowledge of the Amazon.

Lima, Peru

Landing in Lima and getting through security was a bit crazy, especially when you don’t speak Spanish. After getting my bag and heading out of the airport there were hundreds of taxi driver and finding the one with my name was interesting but eventually it happened by some miracle. (Thanks mom!) My driver spoke little English but after showing him the address to my hotel in Miraflores he thankfully knew were I was going because I didn’t.

Let me tell, I have never in my life experienced anything like traffic and driving in Lima, Peru. It is literally constant horns, speed bumps, fender benders, people cutting each other off, but to them its normal and they all seem to drive standards which makes it even more interesting. Got to my hotel unpacked some gear, thanked god, and headed out for a bit.

Lima is an amazing city so much energy and activity. The population of Lima is around 10 million people. The weather averaged around 62 during the day and 45 at night. It was noticeable there that is cold because they all were wearing jackets and i was comfortable in a t-shirt. I went out to dinner the first night, had my first pisqo sour, explored Kennedy square, had few more Pisqo Sours and headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

The next day I got up had breakfast at the hotel Casad Andins Select and headed back out to Kennedy square were Paroquia Virgen Milagrosa church was having mass. I was drawn into the church were mass had just started. It was emotional because catholic mass always reminds me of mom, grandma, and pap. Considering the death of my mom and granma recently I was understandably emotional. Even though mass was in Spanish I felt the spirit of the sermon and was thankful for the opportunity. I lit a candle for mom swallowed my tears and headed back out to Kennedy square. As I walked around and I saw many beautiful pieces of art work, the smells of local Peruvian food, the music of a band playing in the distance, and a lot of Ferrel cats which I guess is a problem. I went out for dinner and met some locals who offered to take me to clubs dancing and why not. I had alot of fun that night dancing at the clubs in Locamar and soaking in the nightlife in Lima. They played a mix of modern Peruvian dance music, other Latin music, American hip hop, and electronica.

The next day I went further into Lima and visited some beautiful churches, various vendors, government building, changing of the guard in Plaza De Arms and went through the catacomb at the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco (sorry no pictures allowed) but 25,000 bodies were laid to rest in the catacombs; the crypts, built of bricks and mortar, are very solid and have stood up well to earthquakes. The catacombs served as a burial-place until 1808, when the city cemetery was opened outside Lima and contain thousands of skulls and bones. The catacombs were rediscovered in 1943. It is also believed there existed secret passageways that connected to the Cathedral and the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition.

Funny Story: A kid sitting outside the catacombs was selling artwork so he saw me looking and approached me (see picture). Nice enough kid but I could tell the artwork were prints except for a few I could not tell for sure. He said it was his artwork I admired it and asked how much, he said 60 soles and your hat. I was wearing an Under Armour hat I had just bought for the trip and said I’ll give you 60 sole but your not getting my hat. I bought the painting and he said I would look into my heart and change my mind and he would wait for me to leave the catacombs. So after over 2 hours in the church and Catacombs as I came back outside there he was. He came up and said I have a gift for you my friend and handed me a red hat that said Peru. Of course I took my hat of and gave it to him.

Later when I went to Cusco I would learn it was not his artwork and was also a print. The lesson I learned about the willingness to give up material possessions for an experience with another human being that has developed his craft out of necessity was more valuable than my hat or 60 soles.

Tomorrow’s the Day

My flight for Peru departs tomorrow it’s going to be a long day but I’m excited. I am appreciative of my mom, sister, stepdad, niece, nephew, Chad and many other friends and family for being supportive. I have had a few hiccups along the way, one major one being that my passport was going to expire within 6 months of my departure date which I was not aware could keep me from being able to enter certain foreign countries.

By coincidence I was at the post office mailing some certified letters and happened to see the passport application poster and mentioned to the postal worker I was leaving for Peru in August but my passport did not expire until February. He advised me that some countries will not let you travel if your passport expires within six months of your departure date. So after checking I had to expedite a new passport which arrived yesterday, thankfully.

I believe mom was looking out for me on that one. If I had not “coincidentally” mentioned the passport to the postal worker I would have got to the airport and been denied boarding.

Lesson: If you are traveling outside the country you may be denied boarding if your passport expires within six months of your departure date.

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The Federal Reserve is keeping us indentured servants!

I wish we had more time to take an interest in our monetary system considering we work so hard for our money and pay so many taxes.

The Federal Reserve is the biggest cartel of all time and its control over us is immense. I can’t believe more people are not up in arms with what our elected government official allows the federal reserve to get away with. They have never been audited, answer to no one, have unlimited power, are not affiliated with any government institutions, and are a completely private organization.

Take a look at what fractional reserve banking is! The banks can loan out 10x the amount of money they have and collect interest on money that does not actually exist, which guess who pays?

Please take the time to watch this video:

The last president to try and do anything about the federal reserve was JFK and well….. you see what happened to him. I think we need to take a closer look at one of his last speeches of which he was trying to warn us about what was going within our government. Only lately have the mainstream heard the term deep state or shadow government but these entities have been behind the scenes for a long time and the only reason you are hearing about them is because they want you to because they also control all mainstream media.

We wonder why we have to work longer hours for money that has less value. Well look no further than the federal reserve and the banking cartels. If you really want fare wages without being taxed to death and forced to work ridiculous hours just to keep your head above water than maybe disbanding the federal reserve is something you should get behind.

Ever wonder why we are not educated about anything to do with the federal reserve, fractional reserve banking, or fiat currency in school. It’s not by mistake, the powers that be don’t want us to wake up to the scheme that keeps us in servitude.

How are we ok with nearly 30%+ of our wages going to taxes with the majority of it going to things we do not even agree with. Maybe it’s because the government in coordination with corporations have done such a good job at keeping us distracted, subdued, and uninformed.

Packing lighter and Final Dates.

After getting all my gear together and starting to pack I realized everything I had was not going to fit into a 55 liter Osprey Fairpoint and a 32 liter Osprey Skareb. Since I’ve decided I am not going to check any luggage in at the airport because I will be talking far to many modes of transportation to be lugging around a suitcase. So….. I am going to have to pack lighter.

Day 1: Flight to Lima

flight departs Pittsburgh Aug. 24, I have a layover in Miami and then off to Lima.

On arrival at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport, I’ll transfer to my hotel in the well-known coastal suburb of Miraflores.

Flanked by streets of ornate mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is where I will start my exploration of Lima. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral of Lima, which houses the remains of Lima’s founder, Francisco Pizarro.

I’ll visit the nearby San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains. Continue onto the Central market where I’ll take a walk through the markets which have a huge variety of fresh produce to offer, including fruits, vegetables and even guinea pigs. i’ll also have the opportunity to try some local Peruvian fruits and street foods.

Back to the hotel then perhaps head out for dinner and check out the night life.

Day 2: Amazon Jungle

I’ll take a flight to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Jungle, where I’ll be staying for two nights maybe three A representative from the lodge will welcome and pick me up at the airport. I’ll then make a trip to the lodge’s in town by van. Here I’ll be able to pack the gear I’ll need for the next few days and leave the rest, securely stored, behind as I travel deep into the amazon. I’ll Travel by motorized canoe to the Amazon lodge (approximately 2 hours). Once I arrive, there It will be time to unwind before a meeting with local tribe. Either tonight or tomorrow night, I’ll venture into the jungle for a night jungle excursion.

Day 3: Amazon Jungle

My full day in the jungle starts with another boat ride (approximately 30 minutes) followed by a hike (between 35 and 45 minutes). I’ll arrive at an oxbow lake in the middle of the rain forest – the habitat of a family of giant otters. Along the way I hope to see a variety of jungle fauna – perhaps hoatzins, monkeys, macaws, black caimans, flying parrots, and, if I am lucky, a family of endangered giant river otters (pteronoura brasilienses). In the late morning I will head back to the lodge, on the way stopping to see the parrot clay lick. Every morning the macaws and birds come here to feed on the salt in the clay. The macaws begin by ceremoniously circling the cliff area. Usually the feeding frenzy lasts 20 to 25 minutes. The salt from the clay is thought to detoxify the birds’ fruit diet. After lunch back at the lodge, I’ll head back out to the jungle to take a short walk and learn about the medicinal properties and practical uses of the plants in the jungle. Return to the lodge once again to freshen up, then of to enjoy some fishing and hopefully eat the catch of the day,

Day 4: Amazon/Cusco

This morning I will travel back to Puerto Maldonado before taking the short flight to Cusco (approximately 35 minutes).
Take the time to acclimatise to the city’s 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. I’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, the local San Pedro market, the main square, past the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. Finally I’ll visit the Chocolate museum where there will be an opportunity to sample a hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. Tonight, perhaps I’ll head out for dinner and then get some rest.Notes: Due to the high altitude of many of the places I’ll visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer from altitude sickness. The locals recommend drinking tea made from coca leaves.

CAFÉ DARIA
:
I’ll visit Café Daria, This café & pizzeria which opened in its now permanent home in the tourist area of Cusco city in April 2018, is Cusco’s first vocational training site for young adults with special needs. Manos Unidas core purpose to improve the quality of life for people with developmental & intellectual disabilities though vocational training, education and parent advocacy, leading to successful inclusion within a society in which they had traditionally been ostracised from.
The food is all natural and is prepared and baked by the students on site and students are trained across all aspects of hospitality so this is a great way for our travellers to interact with locals and in doing so, give a young adult who would normally be isolated from society the opportunity to meet people from all over the World and hone their skills.

Day 5: Sacred Valley/Ollantaytambo

Travel by bus for around two hours through the Sacred Valley, on the outskirts of Cusco. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, this fertile valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. At the Sacred Valley, I’ll visit the stone fortress of Sacsayhuaman where massive stone blocks that form the walls of this site give you a clear image of how highly developed Inca engineering was.
I’ll Venture to a local community in the valley to learn about the lifestyle. Spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm lama ponchos. Eat Lunch with the local community. Continuing on, drive 20 minutes to Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo’s archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of this site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below. Tonight I’ll spend the night at a hotel in Ollantaytambo town .

Day 6: Inca Quarry Trail

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon.

Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq’a, and meet the porters who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, I hope to reach the small community of Socma.

Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3,700 meters above sea level. We should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q’orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.

Day 7: Inca Quarry Trail

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A four-hour hike will takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4,370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a two hour hike before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4,450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, which is only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.

Day 8: Inca Quarry Trail

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
Today’s hike will all a lot of downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek.
Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon.
I’ll Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s hike to Machu Picchu.

Day 9: Machu Picchu/Cusco

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5:30 am along the winding road to Machu Picchu (30 minutes). At Machu Picchu, enjoy spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.

Day 10: Back to Cusco

I’ll head back to Cusco by train and continue to explore the cities culture, food, and ancient ruins. Not sure how long I’ll stay in Cusco before heading back to Lima for a few days and then make my way North back to the U.S.

Jaguar in the Peruvian Amazon.

I feel blessed to call her grandma.

I feel blessed to call Lula Hull my grandma. She was the most amazing person I have ever known just like my mom. They were so much alike and were completely selfless and kind hearted in everything they did. You could always depend on them and you never had a doubt that they loved you unconditionally.

Growing up on the farm was a blessing, so many great experiences, adventures, and memories. My cousins and I were always grandmas sidekicks and we went with her everywhere. I could not imagine there being a better grandmother in all the world. She was never to busy to take the time to teach us and had a genuine ability to make people better. Her work ethic was unbelievable and everyone struggled to keep up with her on the farm even when we were much younger than her.

I remember working in the garden with her and asking if it was time for a break (because I was exhausted) and she just smiled and said go ahead and get us a drink as she continued working. She had unlimited patience and generosity which she blessed everyone with. Not only that but everyone and I mean everyone was welcome on the farm.  You could guarantee you would leave grandmas with a full stomach, a smile on your face, words of wisdom, and a warm heart.

I am so thankful mom and grandma got to reunite before mom passed away. They were so close and mom spent almost everyday with grandma before mom got sick with cancer a year ago. It’s comforting to think of them in heaven together with pap looking down on us all with love and protection but boy will we miss the physical presence of such amazing women.

Weighing the Heart? From an Egyptian perspective

The Egyptians viewed the heart as the seat of intellect and emotions; as such, it played a central role in the rebirth of an individual in the afterlife. The heart of the individual was weighed against the feather representing the goddess of truth, Ma’at, in a judgment process overseen by Osiris, the lord of the underworld. The judgment was a frequent subject for funerary art, especially on papyri and coffins. Central to the scene was a large balance, with the heart in one pan and either a feather or a tiny figure of Ma’at, in the other pan. In most scenes, a demon called Ammit, “the Devourer,” crouches below the balance, anxiously awaiting the outcome. Should the heart of the deceased prove to be heavy with wrongdoing, it would be eaten by the demon, and the hope of an afterlife vanished. Oddly enough, the Egyptians never seem to have depicted the negative outcome of the weighing, only the joyful individual being received by Osiris and presented with offerings.

It was crucial that the heart remain with the body during the mummification process, in order to be present for the judgment. A protective amulet or heart scarab was typically wrapped with the mummy, in case the heart should be damaged or removed. Such amulets were frequently inscribed with a spell to prevent the heart from bearing false witness against the deceased before Osiris.