#1 Peru, January 20, 2000

Dear Everybody,

I thought I’d catch you up on my whereabouts. I arrived in Lima on Wednesday, January 12th.

My trip is going wonderfully well so far. In Lima I visited their Museum of the Nation, which was one of the best museums that I’ve ever seen. I’m going back there when I  finish seeing all the ruins of all the old cultures. I bought a wonderful book on Andean art that explains all the political ramifications of the art. It also points out that the first large culture that influenced a lot of Peru was the Chavin from 1200 to 300 BC!

There were many more and the Incas were the latest before the conquest, and the biggest, extending, as you probably know from Quito, Ecuador to Santiago, Chile. It is amazing to read a scholar’s view of the political messages in the arts.

On Sunday, I took a bus to Barranca, a nice little town, and stayed for two nights.

 

I visited a Chumu ruin (800-1200 AD) and then went on to Huaraz, way up in the mountains. I am now in Huaraz at over 10,000 feet elevation—yes, you can feel it when you try to walk fast. (Denver is 5000, Mexico City is 7200)

Yesterday I went to see the oldest ruins in Peru, the Chavin de Huarta. These were inhabited from 1200 to 300 BC. There was quite a lot to see including many heads (there were 50 originally) that were posted on a processional wall which started with a man-like look and gradually changed to a ferocious animal head with fangs. The book said that this was meant to portray hallucinogenic illusion. One of the heads (I really think it was an original) was in my hotel in Barranca, the Hotel Chavin. It was placed on the floor of a landing right next to my room! I had already seen three of them at the museum in Lima.

 

 

I went on a small tour bus to the ruins. It took from 8 AM to 6:30 PM. At first the sun shone, but it got more and more rainy (misty) and overcast. The road was muddy and one lane with turnouts for meeting oncoming traffic, including big buses.  Not too comforting, but luckily I couldn’t see the road.

On the bus I met a Peruvian/American woman that was from this town; in fact, her sister was the tour guide. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband and two children. She met and married her husband in Peru when he was in the Peace Corp 20 years ago.

Today we went to see the Puya Raimondi. This is a very old plant that sends up a flower after 100 years, and it is 15 feet high! It’s a bromeliad, related to the pineapple.

My itinerary is to work my way north—Casma, Trujuillo, Cajamarca, Puira and then fly back to Lima. Then go south—several stops (including the Nazca lines) and end in Arequipa. There on Feb. 20th my friend, Jeanne Johnson, will join me. We will spend six days in Arequipa (second largest city and very nice, I read) and then fly to Cusco. She will fly back to Lima and home on the 7th of March and I will stay longer in Cusco, going around and about including Lake Titicaca and also a jungle trip. Then I plan to go to Ayacucho and Huancayo and back to Lima and home on April 12th. At least those are my plans now.

The coastal cities are warm, but about perfect—highs of 75-80. The mountains, like Huaraz, are cool but not cold—probably highs of 70 if it’s sunny, and lows of 50. But it is rainy, especially in the afternoon.

Yesterday I had a lovely day driving in a taxi out of town to get really good view and pictures of the Andes. They are so beautiful with their snowcaps, especially with the sun shining on them. On the way back I treated the driver to lunch and we ate cuy, which is guinea pig. It wasn’t very good, but I think it wasn’t well prepared as the skin was tough and it was cold. I think it had been prepared much earlier and sat around. Anyway, it was interesting.

When I took the bus from Barranca to Huaraz a man got on at the next town and gave a sermon–speech—about morals and health. Then he whipped out some health magazines and passed them around—I assume that he sold them, or maybe gave them away? Then he got off again.

There seem to be few Americans here, but lots of Europeans (young people into trekking) and some Argentines. Some Swiss girls told me that tourism was down because KLM was not flying to Quito, Ecuador, because of the volcano and ash. And lots of people go there first and then come here.

The city of Huaraz is not especially pretty because it was pretty much rebuilt after an earthquake in 1946. Near here they have had several disasters—called aluviums–which are from too much rain eventually causing a huge landslide (like Venezuela), which in 1970 buried 70,000 people here!

There seem to be Internet facilities in every small place, so you’ll hear again. Hope you’re all fine—I’m enjoying my trip!

Carol
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