Sep 8, 2008
Abelardo was waiting for us at the bus and we were on our way to Chinchera, a small community where weaving is the main industry. On our way there, we stopped at an open-air market. Women were just arriving to set out their blankets, hats, purses, dolls, etc. I looked around for a few minutes and decided not to purchase anything until Chinchera. Abelardo said we’d find better deals there. I did, however, take time to snap a few pictures of some llamas!
Chinchera was more than I imagined. It was a busy little town, full of beauty and tradition. I had noticed that on top of each roof were a couple of bulls and a cross. Abelardo explained that they were put there to ask for fertility, good luck, and blessings from God. For years, it was common to have 7 to 10 children. Today, the average is 3 children per household.
Chinchera was charming. Abelardo arranged for us to have a private demonstration of how the alpaca and llama wool is cleaned, spun, then dyed and made into yarn. The yarn is dyed using all natural seed pods and locally grown plants. The weavers demonstrated how they take the yarn and make beautiful woven designs. This traditional way to weave has been passed down for generations and continues to be a vital part of life in Chinchera. After the demonstration, we walked to the open-air market. Tourism is the number one industry so selling what they make is their main goal each day. Children begin as soon as they can walk and talk. “For you, Miss Jenny. I give you special price.” Saying, “No thank you,” over and over became more and more difficult, especially to the children.
I could have spent all day in this village. I noticed a man sitting in a doorway. I offered 5 sole in exchange for a photo. His photograph became one of my very favorite photos. At first, I wondered why he looked so perplexed… yes, almost grumpy. I felt uneasy when I looked at his picture. And then, my husband pointed out the lines in his forehead. They looked like a condor with it’s’ wings spread open in front of a backdrop of Andean mountains. Look for him in the photo montage and see if you can see Peru in this man’s expression.
Another favorite photo was of a woman walking down the street in Chinchera. She’s the oldest woman in their community, estimated to be 112 years old. She is blind, but graciously accepted coins in exchange for photographs. She was such a delight!
That wrapped up our morning tour of a small town in the farming and weaving community of Chinchera. We headed back to the hotel to freshen up and have lunch before heading out for the rest of the afternoon.
Jul 15, 2008
I was fascinated with all of the history. As I listened to Abelardo tell us stories, I was intrigued by the blend of two distinct civilizations… the Inca and the Spanish. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire. The translation (in Quechua language) means “naval of the world.” Everything the Incas built was in accordance with the sun gods, measuring light from both the summer and winter solstice, and the sunlight of the fall and spring equinox. We saw a fountain that was carved from one piece of stone and used to mark what the Incas believe is the exact center of the 4 corners of the earth.
Let me bore you with some fascinating history: The Inca nation, called Children of the Sun, began its expansion in the early 1400’s, one of the greatest and most rapid expansions that has ever been recorded. After the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500’s, the city was transformed. We could see this influence mainly in the architecture. Inca temples became Spanish cathedrals. Inca masonry sat next to Spanish-style archways. Spanish language harmonized with Quechuan (the language of the Incas). During the Spanish Inquisition, one would be murdered if caught speaking Quechuan, yet somehow, the language survived! We walked through the small community of San Blas, and spent time learning of the Inca’s fascination with astronomy. It is speculated that a city boundary was warped to make it coincide with the mid-point in the Milky Way! Everything we saw and learned about had some relevance to astronomy. Definitely Children of the Sun!
We walked through and toured cathedrals and plaza squares. I sensed the ancient beliefs and noticed ancient traditions. The past and present all speak their own languages and tell the own separate stories. I learned the importance of the serpent, the puma, and the condor; past, present and future. While Christianity is the primary religion today, the Incas still believe in worshiping the earth, sky and the sun.
The history was expansive, extensive, and far too much to include here in my blog. What I can tell you is that upon completion of our tour… it hit me… altitude sickness. Oh my gosh! Here’s my recipe for disaster: 7 hours of sleep over the course of 48 hours; no coffee (I wasn’t sure the water in the coffee was considered ‘safe’ so I skipped my morning cup of java); an altitude of almost 11,000 feet above sea level, and an afternoon of serious tourism. The word ‘headache’ does not even begin to cover it. My new best friend, Curtis, bought me a nice hot cappuccino, but I was too far gone. I excused myself and opted out of our late-night welcome dinner. Instead, I soaked in a very hot… and I mean extremely hot bath. After an hour of hot bath-therapy, I crawled into bed and fell sound asleep. By the next morning I was feeling great - eager and ready for another full day of adventure!
Jul 6, 2008
Soon we arrived at our hotel, the Picaoga Hotel in Cusco. A bellman took my bags and welcomed me to Peru. Another bellman escorted me through a beautiful courtyard and inside the hotel to a gathering room where the rest of my group awaited! Almost as quickly as I sat down, I was served a cup of water with leaves floating in it. I looked at my brand new travel buddies for guidance! This is PERU! This is coca tea! “It helps with altitude sickness and many other things.” So, I drank it! It had a most unusual flavor, and it became a part of my daily ritual. Anytime we went into the lobby, we drank another cup of coca tea! Soon, I’d learn even more about the use of coca tea in Peru… Coca tea consumption is used by many indigenous tribes of the Andes mountain range who also use the tea for medicinal and religious purposes.
Our first walking tour of Cusco would not be until that afternoon so after freshening up in my room, I ventured out of the hotel and through the streets of Cusco to take in my first impressions of Peru (without distractions from riding in the back seat of a fast little car)! I took in as much as I possibly could! I noticed textures – from brick walls and stone walls, to brick streets, cobblestone courtyards, and narrow streets. I noticed the housing on the hillsides and how poor everyone seemed to be. There were artists and jewelers and children selling everything from hats to water-bottle holders. “Please, Miss Jenny (I learned that morning not to wear a nametag on the street). I give you special price, Miss Jenny.”
I noticed the cars and how they were all little rectangles that didn’t appear to need insurance. I noticed their faces, from youth to elderly. I noticed a spiritual culture that combined ancient Inca beliefs and Christianity. I noticed an ancestry of Inca and Spanish cultures interwoven into a community of families, of spirituality, and of art and history. I could hardly wait for our afternoon tour to begin!
Jul 4, 2008
As the sun rose, we were flying over the mountains. It was so beautiful! I looked out and saw a sea of clouds nestled over the valleys; mountain-top islands sprinkled across the horizon. Glaciers were perched at the top of the mountains, sitting like royalty overlooking the kingdoms... and immediately, I sensed the mystical, powerful, spiritual energy of the ancient
My face and camera were pressed against the glass like a child looking at a Macy’s window display at Christmastime! I couldn’t believe it! We were actually flying right through (and in between) glaciers! I witnessed the sun greet these ancient mountains with morning kisses. The moment the light touched the face of the glaciers, they lit up – and so did my soul! Excited? No words could capture how I felt. My heart was beating fast and my breath was accelerated! It felt as though my body was adjusting or recalibrating to another place and time… to a new rhythm… to the drumming of an ancient culture. How could I feel so at home in a place I had never been before?
When we approached
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