Monday, January 31, 2011

Study Abroad Peru, Part 4: The Andes

After our second week in Lima, we departed for a 9 day trip into the heart of the Andes. We visited Arequipa, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. We flew into Arequipa early Friday morning and stepped off the plane onto the tarmac to view an airport surrounded by the peaks of dormant (?) volcanoes. Because Arequipa is about 7,500 feet above sea level, we went directly to our hotel to rest and gradually acclimate to the high altitude. At this point some of us started taking Sorojchi pills to help prevent or alleviate any altitude issues.

Airport in Arequipa

Arequipa: View from the Tarmac

Our hotel courtyard through the front gate

Interior hallway of hotel

One of several hotel courtyards

One of the highlights of Arequipa is the Santa Catalina Monastery. While part of the property still operates as a monastery, the majority is available to the public to view the historical and cultural past of this part of the Andes.

Santa Catalina Monastery

A rooftop view at the monastery

Santa Catalina Monastery

One of the kitchens at the monastery

Students dinning out in Arequipa

I think alpaca was on the menu this night (seriously)

More students dinning out in Arquipa

Plaza de Armas in Arequipa; the old town main square

Plaza de Armas
Public Spaces in Peru seem to be heavily used by people of all ages

Street vendors in Arequipa

After one night in Arequipa, we departed by bus for Puno, a village on the banks of lake Titicaca; at 12,500 feet, the highest navigable lake in the world. Along the way, we passed vicuna grazing in the wild. This relative of the llama is prized for its fine hair, but does not do well in captivity. The Uros people make floating islands from reeds growing on the lake. Our visit involved a presentation by the some of the Uros people illustrating their life on the islands followed by a chance to dress in local costume. A few students also took advantage of the opportunity to take a dip in the lake.

The floating islands of Lade Titicaca

Sitting on a floating island

Several students decked out in the traditional garb of the Uros

The Accounting majors with Professor Westort

(Seriously. Trying to hold class?)

How many people can cay they went swimming in Lake Titicaca?

We were on the road again the next morning and as we passed from the Puno region to the Cusco region, we made a brief rest and shopping stop at 4,335 meters (over 14,000 feet) above sea level. This was about our highest altitude of the trip (and it felt it). We made a few other stops along the way to see more Inca ruins and an early Spanish church.

4,335 metes, that's over 14,000 feet

Across the street from our hotel in Cusco there exists a former Inca temple over which a Catholic church was built by the Spanish. This was the first stop on our tour the next morning. It was interesting to note that the buildings built by the Incas were more earthquake resistant than those built by the Spanish.

Santo Domingo in Cusco across from our hotel.

Built on Inca ruins

Inside the church the Inca ruins can clearly be seen

View of Cusco through an archway of the church

Plaza de Armas in Cusco from the hillside

Cusco from further up the hillside

The class and lady with llama; Cusco in the background

Traditional Weaving

What they weave

Students evaluating their shopping haul

During our third day in Cusco, we took a bus tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Moray are circular terraces that the Inca built to experiment with growing a variety of crops in different soil altitude conditions. Stone steps facilitate going up and down Once at the bottom, it’s a long way back up.

The circular terraces of the Moray

Diagram of how the Moray were constructed

Stone steps built into the terrace

Students walked to the bottom of the level...

And then had to climb back up

Next stop – Salt flats. A salt water spring pours out of the hillside and is caught in hundreds of terraces so the water can evaporate and the salt can be collected.

Descending to the salt flats

Walking through the flats

Pisac in the Sacred Valley

Contemplating the terraces at Pisac

Feeding llamas at the llama farm

The trek to the Inca Trail started at 6:30 with a bus ride to the train station and then a train ride into the heart of the Andes. We had one car just about to ourselves and everyone was pretty excited anticipating the hike and the visit to Machu Picchu. The train cars had overhead windows so that we could appreciate the mountains that loomed over us as we rambled on. Students disembarked at Kilometer 104 where there was absolutely nothing by a footbridge across the Urubamba – the start of the Inca Trail.

The train to Kilometer 104

Windows in the roof allowed us to appreciate the views

Getting off the train in pretty much the middle of nowhere

The footbridge across the Urumbamba is the beginning of the hike

Beginning the ascent

Measuring progress

Enjoying the terraces along the way

Break for a photo op

Another progress check

Approaching Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

Machu Picchu

In Aguas Calilentas at the base of the mountain at the end of the day

Mostly smiles at the hotel after the hike

After their first view of Machu Picchu, the hikers descended to Aguas Calientas for the evening. Very Early the next morning we would take the bus back up to Machu Picchu for a guided tour and, for some, a chance to hike up Huayna Picchu, the large peak overlooking the ruins.

Waiting in line to reenter

The following is a series of photos from the day we spent touring the ruins.

Our students checking out the ruins

Back in Cusco we decided to check the local market for a less touristy shopping option.

They're not dressed this way for the tourists.

All good things must come to an end and we returned Lima on Saturday. The upside was that we found a place to watch the Packer game and it was good to be able to cheer them on even while we were in Peru.

One entertainment option in Lima is the water fountain park. It is best seen at night when they a Disney style light show:

Watching the packer game in Lima:

We arrived back in the states on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.

Great Trip!