Sunday, May 30, 2010

Photos of Cultural Parade, La Paz, Bolivia

Here are some photos from the Cultural Parade we saw in La Paz.
Luckily Tana had her camera along.

Great costumes.  We saw several groups with this style.

Brass band.  Note policeman in foreground trying to talk on the phone.  It was LOUD.

Andean women strutting their stuff.

Some of the groups were huge.

More great costumes.

La Paz, Bolivia

     We have spent the last few days in La Paz, Bolivia.  Claim to fame - highest capital city in the world, at 3600 meters above sea level.  Luckily this is a slightly lower elevation than lake Titicaca, so no problems with the elevation (climbing stairs is a chore, though).
     We find La Paz to be reasonably nice, by South American standards, but not full of historic buildings such as Quito or Cusco.  There is an interesting mix of odern high rise buildings ane crumbling adobe wrecks.  What you get, more or less, is a fairly prosperous city going about its business.
  We spent (at least part of) most days walking around, visiting the fruit and veg market, which was huge and very colorful with the locals in traditional dress.  We visited the Coca Museum, which was very interesting, and of course the artisan shopping areas.
     Our biggest score was on Saturday, when a shopkeeper told us there was a cultural event happening in the center of town.  We walked down there just after noon and found the main street lined with grandstands,  with a parade going on.  We got some seats, and were treated to a procession of costumed dancing groups being backed up by brass bands.  The costumes were quite varied and spectacular, and moany of the groups had about 200 members, some of the bands had up to 10 sousaphones.  We watched for about an hour, and the groups just kept coming.  We then wandered back to our hotel, the street was full of vendors selling food, drinks, and many other items.  Amazingly enough, we turned on the TV at 9PM, and the parade was still going!  Were the marchers just going around in circles, or were there really that many participants?
(We heard later there were 30,000 people in the parade!)
Next stop, the city of Sucre.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Photos of Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia

Floating Islet of Uros, made of reeds.

Woman on floating island, traditional buildings in backround.

Man rowing traditional reed boat.

View of harbor and lake from top of stairs, Isle of Taquile.

Isle Of Taquile, note agricultural terraces.

Tana and Nikki make way for local transport, village of Yumani, Isla Del Sol.

Local agriclture, shore of Lake Titicaca.

Extensive terracing on Isla Del Sol.

Woman walking her sheep (and pig) up the trail, Isla Del Sol.

Walking the trail, Northern Isla Del Sol.

Village of Challa, Isla Del Sol.
Palacio Del Inca, Isla Del Sol.

The high road across Isla Del Sol, going straight uphill off into the distance.

Terraced Isla Del Sol with Cordillera Real (Mtns) in background

Descending Inca Staircase (easier than ascending!!), Isla Del Sol.

On the boat from Isla Del Sol. Note steering technique.

Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia

     After leaving the Sacred Valley we headed south towards Lake Titicaca and Bolivia. Lake Titicaca, also known as the “Sacred Lake”, is located at the ridiculous altitude of 3800 meters (12,350 feet). We first explored the lake from the Peru side, taking a day trip from the lakeside city of Puno. From here we visited the floating islands of Uros and Isla Taquile.

     Nowadays the floating islands are primarily a tourist attraction, although the local people do actually live there. We expected the worst in terms of “dog and pony show” but our visit was actually reasonably enjoyable and informative. We were given basic demonstrations about how the islands and buildings are constructed from reeds, how the locals hunt and fish, etc.
     We continued to the Island of Taquile, which is a “real” island (not floating) inhabited by approximately 2500 people. Most of the island is covered in terraces built long ago to improve the agricultural situation, and there are only footpaths and many stairs, so no vehicles of any sort (exception: Donkeys). The people here have unique and colorful clothing, and we saw several men knitting their stocking-type caps. After climbing to the top of the island where the main plaza for views and shopping, followed by lunch with a great view of the lake and the western shore. We then walked back down the million steps, got on the boat, and returned to Puno.
     We continued south by bus, crossing into Bolivia, transferred to a boat in the town of Copacabana, and headed for Isla Del Sol (Island of the Sun), the largest island in Lake Titicaca. Historically this island is important to the people of Bolivia and Peru, as legend has it this was the birthplace of the first Inca, and even the sun. Somewhat similar to Isla Taquile, this island has about 2500 residents, and donkeys are the only vehicles. It also features some nifty Inca ruins, and pathways and stairways built by the Incas are still in use today. Also, the scenery is great.
     After arriving at the island we hauled our gear up 382 steps (yes, we counted) and some uphill as well, to the village of Yumani, where we 1) caught our breath 2) tried to stay out of the way of the donkeys 3) found lodging and 4) enjoyed the great views.
     The next morning we set out on a walking tour of the island. As we followed the Inca road north, we were passed by ladies with their flocks of sheep, typically accompanied by a pig or two. We also people with cows, and of course donkeys. Most were very friendly. After passing by a couple of villages and some nice beaches, we arrived at the northern village of Challapampa in time for lunch. Here half the party took the boat south, the other half continued north to visit the ruins and return south by the high road. The ruins were interesting mostly for their spectacular setting high on a peninsula with great views of the lake. With regard to the high road, let me point out the the Incas' favorite direction to go is up, straight up. The road took us directly over the highest parts of the island, which literally takes one's breath away at approximately 4000 meters above sea level. The scenery was not bad, which provided a nice distraction. The next morning it was down the 382 steps with our luggage for the return boat ride. We all appreciated how much easier it was going down than up.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Photos of Ollantaytambo, Peru

Inca terraces and ruins overlooking the town of Ollantaytambo.

Urubamba river valley near Ollantaytambo.

Local bridge built in Inca foundation.  Modern pilings are unused.

Edge of old town Ollantaytambo.

Beautiful Inca stone doorway.

Woman washing her clothes in the water channel.

This woman was watching the parade.

This donkey knew his way home and did not need any help getting there.

The ruins at Ollantaytambo.

Gateway to temple area of ruins.

What is left of the temple of the sun at Ollantaytambo.

Finely fitted pieces in the temple of the sun.

More whimsical Inca stonework.

Temple located higher above the main ruins.  Unusually, this faced the setting sun.

Stairs and terraces.

The side of the mountiain itself was sculpted.  The horizontal line on the face of the rock was a lipped channel that carried water far across the face of the rock to a fine fountain.

Beautifully intricate fountain.

Oxen decorated for blessing.

Priest blessing farmer and his oxen.

Procession leaving the Catholic church.

Costumed statue bearers.

More costumed statue bearers.

The start of the parade, which almost turned into the running of the bulls.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

     After leaving Machu Piccu we spent some time in the small town of Ollantaytambo, located about 50km up the Urabamba River in the Sacred Valley. The Inca fortress ruins located here are probably the next most significant in the area after Machu Piccu. This was the site of the only battle defeat of the Spanish by the Incas. The old town itself was originally built by the Incas, and has been continuously inhabited in more or less the same configuration since the 1300's. The original town was organized in blocks, each block is surrounded by stone walls with a single impressive Inca doorway for access to the internal courtyard and buildings. Some appear to be in near-original condition (filled with near original trash, too). The town also has an interesting system of channels that distribute water through the streets, something the residents find very handy for washing clothes, sidewalks, etc. The town and fortress are surrounded by large areas of Inca terraces, still in use by local farmers. In small villages outside town (and actually some people in town) life continues fairly similarly to the way it was hundreds of years ago. Many people in the area speak primarily, I not exclusively, the Quecua (Inca) language, and not Spanish. All in all a very interesting and scenic place, we wish there was more time to explore the area.

     In addition to vitisiting some of the sites in the area, we were treated to a small bit of local culture, as on Saturday there was a ceremony and celebration to bless the start of the agricultural season. (I am not sure how this works, as the dry season is just starting and essentially no rain is expected for 6 months). First, there were a couple of small parades that ended at the Catholic Church. Then some local farmers gathered outside the church with their teams of oxen, whose heads had been decorated with produce and ribbons. The priest came out and sprinkled holy water over the animals and the men, after which the men and their teams started to parade through town. At first some of the animals were not cooperative and it looked like we might also see a local version of the running of the bulls. Then a procession started from the church, with the priest out front followed by three statues, each on a platform surrounded by cornstalks, being carried by festively costumed men, and finally the brass band. They went around town, joined up with the blessed oxen, and the united group took a few laps. It was all quite festive and fun, and we were sure to be extra careful where we stepped as we walked around town for the rest of the day.


Photos Of Machu Picchu, Peru: Animals

Even with the many people visiting Machu Picchu every day, there were a surprising number of animals around.
White-Bellied Hummingbird, and Orchid

Green and White Hummingbird.

Rufous Collared Sparrow.

Blue and White Swallows were nesting in the ruins.

A Chinchilla enjoying some early morning sun.

This llama seemed to be playing King of The Hill.

Not sure what type of lizards these were.

The resident llama herd was popular and entertaining.