Summary in Finnish

I wrote an article about my Peruvian expreriences into the Finnish textile craft teachers┬┤ publication “Tekstiiliopettaja”. It was published recently in the issue Tekstiiliopettaja 4/2015, pp. 24-25. Also available on the web page:

http://www.tekstiiliopettajaliitto.fi/toiminta/lehti/andien-kasityokulttuuria-perussa/

Still having good memories about the journey; nice to memorize it now that its getting so dark and cold here in Helsinki, Finland. Time to make plans for another journey… somewhere…preferably to South America ­čÖé

Summing up my experiences in Peru

Now that the journey to Peru is over, its time to look back and sum up the experiences. The very first thought is gratefullness about this possiblity to learn so many interesting things about the Peruvian and Andean culture as well as the textiles. It would not have been possible for me without the grant that I got from the Finnish Textile Craft teachers association ┬┤Aino-koti -s├Ą├Ąti├Â┬┤. The grant covered all my journeys from and back to Finland. The other expences and the journeys during the weekends I covered myself.

For me, it was a good combination of work and leissure. Studying Andean Culture and Textiles in Apulaya Center in Calca followed a daily routine of work. Another thing is that Calca (the town where I studied) is not that fascinating place for a foreign person since it is not touristic at all and lacks nice restaurants, cafes, artesan markets and wifi connection. However, it was a good experience of living in a more ┬┤real┬┤ place. I chose to stay in the hostel because of the price. This was also a good experience for me to adapt to more modest circumstances, since often nowadays, I prefer to have some more comfort (and appreciate more things such as hot shower, at least for a while)

The studies in Apulaya Center were planned very well to meet my expectations. I liked the way there were lectures over the Andean culture and also practical work with textiles almost every day. I think that I got a good overall understanding of the Andean worldview, Inka and Pre-Inka culture and learned also some aspects about the iconography and the meanings of textiles. The practical textile work was essential to get a deeper understanding of them.

During the first week of studies, we attended the Mamacha Carmen festival in Pisaq (also written Pisac) which gave a good overview of the rich Andean culture. All the arrangements and the infrastructure for the studies were good. Only, it would have been nicer if there were more students around, since the last two weeks I was the only one. On the one hand, I had a priviladge to get individual teaching, which was great. On the other, if there were some – or at least one, as during the first week – more students, I would have had a company of them during the evenings, and we could have shared our views.

I was mainly using Spanish in my studies and during the everyday life. This was, of course, very important for me to have the chance to improve my capabilities to communicate with this language. I felt good about having put an effort on studying Spanish before, since that helped a lot in all the situations. I recognised that the Peruvians didn’t speak English very well, and most of them almost not at all. However, I met some tourists who had managed with whatever their language skills were to cope in Peru. Also, it is possible to study in the Apulaya Center without knowing any Spanish. Emerita and Valerio will help in translating the teaching of the practical textile work, and they both can give lectures in English. Quechua is widely spoken and people tried to teach me some words of it, but I gave up since it was enough for my poor brains to cope with Spanish. Compared to Spanish, using English was a relief for me. I didn’t speak a word of my mother tongue,Finnish, during the whole month (no problem though in starting to use it once again:)

I’m so happy of all the excursions that I managed to make during the weekends. They showed me the beauty of Peru and how magnificent it is. Peru is such a huge country that I could see only a small part of it, but that was according to my plans; not to concentrate on the quantity but on the quality. There are so many interesting places that I couldn’t visit during this journey; I definately would like to visit Peru once again. For example, the Amazon and the rain forest would be an experience that I would like get.

The Peruvians are, on the whole, very nice and friendly people and I never felt myself unsecure. Saying that, I must admit that I am always rather careful during my travels, especially when travelling alone, as this time. However, I was hardly ever alone as such. Often, Emerita from the Apulaya Center followed me as a guide, or when I was on my own, there were plenty of people from all around the world to talk to. I met such nice people who had an open attitude to life and other people. This is what I often miss in Finland where there often is the attitude of ┬┤minding your own business┬┤. As a tourist, I recognized that sometimes there is this attitude of getting as much money from you as possible. I could not rely on the prices that were first mentioned since they seemed to be negotiable. Some places, especially Machu Piccu are definately overpriced. I didn’t buy much souvenirs, which were available in all the places (except Calca). This was mainly due the lack of time. I had decided to buy what I need during the last day in Cusco to be able to pack them nicely to my suitcase before the home journey, which I did, and luckily got the lost luggage back in Finland.

I’m satisfied that I started to keep this blog – for the first time in my life – although it was most of the time very problematic because of the bad internet connections, especially in Calca where I stayed most of the time. Probably, they will get better connections and also wifi in Calca in a couple of years. Writing the blog has helped me to put together the experiences of a period of one month. Without this, I would have forgotten many occasions and also places. It has been a learning process for me to enter the Andean culture – and also glimpses of other cultures while meeting people from different places. The advantage of travelling alone is that people approach you more easily.

I managed to gather a small data by interviewing some people. I will see how much I can get out of it for possible research and publications. There seems to be a lot of undiscovered areas in the Peruvian textile culture, and I’m hoping to get some idea to continue with my studies on it. If you are willing to cooperate, please contact me.

I was all right throughout the journey; no health problems. The only minor problem was to adjust to the high altitude during the first days, but it went over in a couple of days and didn’t prevent me from being active. I didn’t prctice any hard physical excersice though, since I seemed to loose my breath very easily. The biggest efforts were made on the hard walks in the mountains. I didn’t have any stomach problems, which people usually get in Peru, as I’ve heard. Maybe the probiotics that I started eating already in Finland, and continued daily, helped. My skin was very sore due to the dry season, I guess.

I can sincerely recommend travelling and studying in Peru for anyone interested. Look forward to getting back there myself, one day. We never know!

Safely back at home in Finland: blueberries & luggage found!

I arrived home safely on Wednesday evening, August 5. All the flights were on time, and I was travelling light since I lost my luggage already in Peru. I was chatting with a nice English woman on my way from London to Helsinki. She was just starting her trip to South-Korea; I never thought that someone would travel somewhere through Helsinki, as she did. I needed to make a claim of my lost luggage at the airport, but then again, it was good to get back home just using the local train. If I had a big luggage with me, I would have needed to use a more expensive taxi.

On my way home, I bought all the nice things I could imagine from the local supermarket and heated a sauna to wash away the dust of the journey. It was a pleasure to watch tv as well, since I had only one chance for that during the whole month in Peru. My good friend Marru had taken care of my flowers and they were blossoming in my terrace. I admired the nice sunset in my terrace after having the sauna, and felt that I was really back home. Below a photo from my terrace and from nearby my home the following day, when I went out for a walk.

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The last couple of days have been adjusting to the Finnish time and the nice weather that was waiting for me. It has been a very rainy summer in Finland until now, but luckily, the weather has changed and it is now very sunny and warm (day + 22-25c, night around +15-19c). Great, since I wanted to go out to pick blueberries, and now is the time for that. With my friend Marru, I managed to pick up a bucket in a nearby forest: see the photos below.

20150807_164900 20150807_164847 20150807_150257 20150807_141950 IMG_6497 Strawberries

I also bought about 10 kg more of them to store to my refrigerator (just in case I wouldn’t have more time to go out fo picke more of them after I will start working this coming week), as well as 10 kg of strawberries (the last photo above). I really like the Finnish berries and consume a lot of them during the winter. Now its time to get prepared for the long, dark and cold winter, which will inevitably come… but luckily only after some 2-3 months.

On Saturday morning, I got the good news from the airport: they had found my luggage and would bring it to my home. It was great to see all my wornout clothes, my toiletries and, more importantly, all the small souvenirs and books that I had bought. Happy end with the luggage, after all. This is about the end of my Peruvian experiences. I will only wrap it all together by writing a summary soon.

The last day in San Blas, Cusco & luggage lost on the way back to home

I spent the last day in Cusco by exploring the San Blas area where my hostel (Casa de Cama) existed. It is a fancy area in Cusco with lot of small art galleries and artesan shops. Also nice cafeterias and restaurants along its narrow, winding and climbing streets. The center of this area is Plaza de San Blas where there is, of course, a church. I didn’t visit almost any church in Cusco since I didn’t like the idea that there was an entrance fee for almost each of them.Some photos taken from San Blas area in Cusco:




However, I did some shopping during my last day and went to plenty of artesan shops and markets in all around Cusco. I bought some small souvenirs as gifts and memories for me and my friends. I must say that most ´artesan´ shops were selling very low quality products. The textiles were mainly factory made of synthetic materials although the sells persons claimed that they were handmade, and made of naturally died natural materials. Some of them actually were, but it is not always easy to see the difference. Some photos from the Artesan shops below. Most of them were small stands, some on the street, and some big market places: 



In addition to the textiles, there was a wide variety of cheap jewelry available in the artesan shops, as well as products made of calabas: see below. The more expensive, mainly silver, jewelry was sold in the jewelry shops.




In these photos below, you can see the difference on the quality of the ┬┤chullus┬┤. The picture above is taken in an artesan shop which sells low quality synthetic factory made chullus cheeply. The second photo below is taken in the Center of Andean Textiles in Cusco, where they sell high quality handmade products made of natural materials – with high prices.



The flight back home was scheduled to leave from Cusco to Lima at 5.25 a.m. on Tuesday, July 4. I had ordered a taxi to pick me up from my hostel at 3.10 a.m. and so it did. This was about the only successful thing in the morning. After getting my boarding pass in Cusco, the policeman asked me to follow him to his office where he checked all my luggage. Of course, everything was ok and I could continue to the gate. After waiting for about an hour to get into the plane, it was announced that the plane would be half an hour late. I got a bit worried since that would leave me only one hour in Lima, where I would need to re-check my luggage and get through the security once again. However, the luggage never arrived to Lima and I decided to continue my journey without it. This has never before happened to me and during the flight from Lima to Miami I was thinking about what to do if I never see the luggage again. Perhaps the travel insurance would cover some of the value, but of course not the emotional value of especially the things that I was going to bring with me from Peru.

I had four hours in Miami to wait for my connecting flight to London, but after the security check, I couldn’t find the desk of the American Airlines where I could have asked about it. The desks were before the security but I saw them only after queueing for the security for such a long time that I didn’t want to start once again. It is really complicated to travel to and through the USA; so many checking points, changing of the terminal etc. And terribly expensive: a half a littre bottle of water almost 4 dollars.

I am writing this posting in London, Heathrow airport, where I was adviced to report about the lost luggage when I arrive in Helsinki. Let us see…. The advantage is that I will have only my rugsack with me and can take a local train back to home when I arrive in Helsinki.

Now I look forward to getting home safely. The first thing to do would be possibly to go to a sauna in my apartment. Yes, I have a sauna, as most Finns do. It is not considered as a luxury; more as part of the basic things. And I’m a real Finn in that sence, that I sincerely miss our rye bread. In most other parts of the world, the bread is mainly white, which I can tolerate but don’t really like. All in all; wonderful to be out in the world, but also good to get back home to digest all the experiences…. before starting to plan the next journey.

Lake Titicaca, Uros islands / floating islands and Taquila island

The following morning, Saturday 1st of August, I needed to be ready at 7 for a trip to Lake Titicaca, Islas de Uros and Isla de Taquila. The guide from the company of Peruvian Confort came to take me from my hotel with a bus to the harbour. We took a small covered boat to first reach the Uros islands and to visit one of them. We were given an introduction to the way of life in the Uros by the guide and the chief of the island. They showed how this floating island is made from the bricks of mud and covered with reed later on. To construct an island is a long process lasting for almost a year. And an island made this way can exist for only about 30 years, and needs continuous care. In this photo, our guide is explaining the construction of an island with the  “chief”:

  

I learnt that there are about 40 islands like this with the total population of 2000 inhabitants. They fish and make handicrafts, but today the tourism is the main means of livelyhood. Here are some photos of the island I visited and a boat trip that I took in one of their self-made boats. The visit to this island was very touristic but anyway nice. 

  
  
  
Late in the afternoon, on our way back to Puno, we passed this same island and it seemed isolated. There were no people to be seen. From this I concluded that this small island is only for touristic purposes. The tourists are not taken to most of the islands, and maybe they have reserved this one for touristic purposes only.

The journey to the island of Taquila took about two hours. I spent most of it on the deck admiring the huge lake which is the larges navigable lake in such high altitude, 3,810 metres above sea leve. It covers an area of 8,550 square kilometers and a maximum depthe of 283 meters. IIt belongs to both the governments of Peru and Bolivia.  Here is a photo of me together with fellow passangers from Austria and from Peru on the boat on the Lake Titicaca.
  
The island of Taquila was beautiful.  The population of the island is Quecchua origin. Thi island is 5.5 kms long and 1,5 kms wide. We landed on one site of it and walked for about an hour to get to another side of the island. The views were beautiful and it seemed to be a quiet and nice island. Here are some photos that I took during the walk. I wouldn’t recommed this trip to anyone with bad legs since we needed to climb  high and walk a good distance, and also to walk down back to the boats later.

  
  
  
  
The agency had the restaurant where we were served food for extra cost of about 7 dollars, including the first and second course which were good. We enjoyed the lunch with a beautiful view. 

  
After the lunch, we had very little time to visit the local rather big market. Below some photos from there. Unfortunately, we had very little time: I could have bought more of the nice artesania with a reasonable price.

  
    
In the island, the men and the women wear they traditional cotumes. I’m not sure if it was for the tourists or if there was a special day of festivity. None of us was staying there, but I read that they offer home accommodation. 

    
On the way back to the boat, there were some children making handicrafts for sale. This little girl, whose name was Eva, was very clever in weaving the bracelts. I bought a couple from her: three for one dollar. 

  
I didn’t aske the name of this boy who was knitting a chullu. When I asked if he had learned knitting from his father, he said that he didn’t have  one. 

  
On our way back, I admired the beautiful views on the deck and discussed with several other passengers. Luckily, I had a lot of clothes with me to keep me warm enough in the deck. Fellow passsangers from Austria  and South-Korea in this photo on the way back. We had nice discussions together. We arrived just around the sunset back to Puno.

  
  
One of the fellow passangers had given me a hint that there is traditional music and dances performed every evening in a restaurant nearby my hotel. I decided to have my dinner there and tried to take some photos of the performances. The name of the restaurant was Balcones de Puno. They served very nice food, and the performance is every evening from 7.30 to 9 pm. I realize that these are the only photos that I took in Puno, which is more a place to pass by on the way to Lake Titicaca and the islands or Bolivia. 

  
  
  
All in all, it was another wonderful and full day. I’m happy that I managed to include visit to Lake Titicaca in my journey. For this journey, I hadn’t any exact plans, but they all developed nicely along the trip. Luckily, visiting Lake Titicaca wasn’t like visiting “Disneyland” as Emerita had warned me. 

There were some interesting aspects, though, conserning the prices for the tourists. I found out that the trip agencies have different prices for different passangers. When I asked about the price of the boat trip from the other passangers, it turned out that we all had paid a slightly different amount, between 10-20 dollars, including or not including the lunch. Also the price of a hotel room was very changeable. Since I had decided to come back to Cusco one day before my flight back to Finland, I needed to book a room in the same hostel, Casa de Campo, for a night between Sunday and Monday. Now they wanted 5-10 dollars more than I had paid for the night before leaving for Puno and for the night between Monday and Tuesday (50 dollars). However, it was very convenient that I could have left my big suitcase to this Cusco hostel during my trip to Puno. And finally, now that I’m uploading the photos and editing this posting  in Cusco, the hotel night cost  only 37 dollars. 

I was writing this during my bus drive back to Cusco from Puno. I used the bus of the Tranzela company which is giving a smooth drive. My seat was on the second floor of the bus right next to the window. Good views and surprisingly easy to write. There was an air condition and a toilet in the bus. They also showed two movies with English and Spanish language, but I chose to concentrate on writing instead. The journey started at 8.15 a.m. and was to be in Cusco between 2-2.30 p.m. (was at 3 p.m.) The other good bus companies that I was recommended to use are Huayruko and Turismo Mer. 

Inka Express bus from Cusco to Puno with several stops on the way

Again early in the morning on Friday July 31st, I begun my journey to the southern part of Peru, to reach the Lake Titicaca in Puno. I had read about its beauty and speciality as well as its island, and wanted to spend my last days in Peru by visiting it. I took the Inka Express bus which included several stops along the road to see some places of interest. The bus was of a good quality with air condition, and the price of 50 dollars included the hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks during the journey. Emerita had phoned the office of the bus company to reserve me the ticket which they kindly brought to my hotel in Cusco the previous night. What a service!

There was an extra cost of 15 dollars to enter the places of interest, which I chose. The first stop was Andahuaylillas, where we visited the ┬┤Sistine Chapel of America┬┤, the church of San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas, in the altitude of 3122 m. The church was built by the Jesuits in the 16th century on top of huaca, a sacred place of the Inkas.It was an interesting church which had murals dating back to Inka times, but no photos were allowed to take inside it. All the walls were covered with paintings and the front of the church, the altar, was covered with gold and silver. Since it had turned to a Catholic Church during the Spanish conquest times, there was a lot of catholic symbolism in the decoration. However, the effect of syncrotism was visible; for example, on the ceiling there were big symbols of the sun and the moon, representing the Andien spirituality. Also the next stop with the bus was to visit a similar church, the Temple of Checacuce. Here is a photo taken from outside of the first church. As often, there was a small market on the square right beside the church, where they sold artesania and other local products, mainly for the tourists.  

  

  
  
The main attraction on the way was Raqchi, the Temple of Wiracocha. Our guide told that it was one of the oldest and biggest Inka temple in Peru. Of course, nowadays we could only see the ruins of it, but the remaining walls and other constructions were huge. According to the old chronicles, it was built by the Inka Wiracocha in honour to the Superior God visible to the Andean people: Apu Kon Titi Wiracocha. Beside the temple, there were the ruins of round storage houses (the last photo below). And once again, an artesania market beside the site. This archelogical site was impressive. Here are some photos taken from the area where we spent about an hour.

  
  
 
   
We had a buffet lunch in Sicuani, 3552 meters altitude. It was a nice combination of food accompanied with the Andean music. I was seated in a table with a family from the Netherlands. Unfortunately, their teenage daughter suffered from a very bad altitude sickness. Here is a photo of the music group.

  
Then we stopped in La Raya Pass just for about 15-20 minutes to take photos and to buy souvenirs in the altitude of 4335 meters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy anything since I was travelling only my rugsack with me. The products seemed to be cheaper than in many other places. Lots of them were made of alpaca fur.

  
On our way to Pukara, the next stop, I was resting and almost fell asleep, when the bus suddenly started to shake and move from one side to another in a very scary manner. When it stopped, we found out that an old local man with his bike had been crossing the road in front of the bus unexpectantly. If our bus driver didn’t try to avoid hitting him, most probably he would have been killed. Unfortunately, the van behind us was just trying to take over our bus, and tus hit the back of the bus. The front of the van was damaged very badly but fortunately all the people were all right. Our bus had only a little hole in the back, but we couldn’t continue our journey until the police had come to check the situation. We were allowed to continue the trip to Pukara with this bus, but needed to wait there for two hours for another bus to come to pick us up. In the last photo below, our guide is busy coordinating the situation and the poor old man with his bike is relieved but quite in a shock.

  
  
   
 The time went quickly though in Pukara. The guide introduced us the museum where they had some interesting Pre-Inka statues, sculpture and other stuff found in the nearby. Here is a photo of a Capitador; he has another head in his hands which represents human sacrifice in those times.

  
I chatted with the other passangers from diffferent countries, and the guide arranged me a trip to Lake Titicaca for the following day. I decided not to try to get into the Bolivian side and risk getting back to Cusco in good time before my home journey on Tuesday morning. We arrived in Puno at around 8 p.m., almost three hours late from the plan. First, I bought a bus ticket back to Cusco for Sunday, which cost 50 soles: third of the price of the touristic bus from Cusco to Puno. Then I took a taxi to my hotel, Hotel Hubo, nicely situated in the center. The hotel was good and the personnel very helpful. 

The third week of studying Andean Textile Art and Culture: knitting and dyeing

The third week of my studies in Apulaya Center (July 26-29) concentrated on the famous Andean knitting. This time my teacher was Pedro from Acha Alta, who had been knitting, and also weaving, all his life. He is actually the father and the husband of the family that I had previously visited in Acha Alta. Pedro introduced me the chullus that he had made. Chullu is a knitted woollen hat that the Andean men wear. You can see if the man is single or married by observing the amount of bonbons hanging on the chullu. The single man has many colourful bonbons and the married man only one, which is red. The beaded decoration is added onto the chullu after the knitting. I followed the patterns of the last one of these in my own knitting. Here are photos of some of the chullus that we were looking at more closely before starting the knitting excercises.

  
  
  
  

Typical to the chullus of children in Acha Alta is to use a knotted yarn for decorating them. Pedro was all the time making this knotted yarn for the chullus. He said that he is all the time either knitting, spinning, weaving or making the knots to the yarn, as well as other people from his community. Here are photos of the chullus that are decorated with the knots. This technique seems to be very old since Emerita found a picture of a pre-inca hat decorated with the knotted yarn: see the second photo below.
  
  

Pedro introduced me knitting with the Andean style knitting needles which have hooks in the other end. Since I realized that I wouldn’t go far with my work using so thin alpaca yarn, I chose to make just a small ┬┤chullu┬┤ as an example and for practicing the knitting. I also practiced making knotted yarn, but I’m afraid mine was of an uneven quality. However, I could use it in my small practice. In this photo you can see the knitting needles which I used to start my own practice.
  
It was most interesting to practice this knitting technique. I think I learnt it rather quickly, since knitting is probably my strongest activity among textile crafts. Also, Pedro was a good and patient teacher. In these photos I am learning the Andean knitting with Pedro, who was always wearing his beautiful traditional clothes. He had made all the clothes himself and wore a different self-woven poncho every day. In thes photo you can notice that Pedro is making the knotted yarn while teaching me.

  
  
The Andeans have developed a clever style for knitting different colours in one row. They turn the knitwork from knit-side to purl-side at the end of a row. They bind the yarn used for the colour patterns always with the base colour; it is the base colour yarn that is put around their neck. I had always thought why on earth they put the yarn around the neck, but now that I learnt to knit in this technique, it was obvious. This way the base yarn doesn’t get confused with the many other coloured yarns in one row. You can see the amount of different colour yarns that I myself used in my little practice. 

  
  
Although I learnt the technique quickly, my knitting was very slow with the hooked knitting needles and the very thin yarn. I was just thinking that the Andean people never seem to try to make it simple and quick – as we do in the Western world, including Finland. On the contrary. they make it very fine and detailed – and time consuming. Maybe a lesson for me to be learnt: why should everything be that easy and quick? Why not to concentrate and appreciate more what you are doing.

I spent one whole day, Tuesday, with Pedro and Mamacha dying the yarn with natural colours. The yarn was from the many sheep they have in Apulaya Center. The plants for the colours had been collected from the surrounding nature. Only the mordants had been bought from the pharmacies. Anais, the daughter of Emerita and Valerio, had dressed herself in the same costume as her grandmother, Mamacha. Also Aidee, the jewelry maker and artist, a friend of Emerita, joined us. In this photo Anais and Mamacha are taking the leaves out of one of the plants, ch┬┤illka, that we used for dyeing.

  
They have a nice place for dying in the back of the garden in Apulaya Center. In the photo below you can see the place we used for dyeing. Pedro, Aidee and Anais are working here.
  

We experimented to use the following plants: ch┬┤illka-broom, flower of  Quiswar, cochinilla, sauca, molle and beetroot. We also used some mordants to fix or to change the colour. Here are some photos of the process and the results. Most of the colours came out nicely, but some were not that succesful. 

  
  

  

  

  


During the last week, I had a couple of lessons about the pre-Inka art, Andean cosmology and semiotics of textiles with Emerita and Valerio. I decided to find some of the reference books while I be in Cusco, before my flight back to Finland. I also continued my weaving practices with Mamacha. Finally, I think that I started to understand the logics of this complicated technique. Here are photos of my humble weaving experiments during the course:

  
  
On Thursday, July 29, I left Calca to get into Cusco. The plan was to visit Lake Titicaca in probably the Bolivian side, since Emerita had warned me that it is a “Disneyland” in the Peruvian side. But first I needed to get into Puno on Friday morning.  For that reason, it was necessary to leave Calca on Thursday evening. After spending about three weeks in Calca, I felt a bit sentimental about leaving it, but that is life. 

Machu Picchu on Sunday, 26th of July

I left Ollanataytambo on Saturday afternoon to catch the Inka Trail train to Machu Picchu. I had needed to buy the tickets to enter Machu Picchu and the train well before the excursion. In fact, with the help of Emerita, I had bought the tickets while I was still in Finland. It is better to do so since Machu Picchu is so popular and they want to keep the amount of visitors at a certain level. Also the hostel was booked ahead which is advisable during the hight season. The train journey was beautiful since the trail followed the river. We were coming closer to the rain forest which could be seen in the nature. Unfortunately, no photos taken from the train. The journeyd took only one hour and fourty minutes and it went quickly. They served some snacks and drinks which were included in the ticket.

According to the information I got, Machu Picchu was inscribed in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1983. The most important monument inside the Sanctuary is the City of Inka Llaqta of Machupicchu, which was planned and built around 1450, during the reign of Pachacuti Inka. The construcion of Machu Picchu responds to the need of the Inka State to have a religious, political and administratibe center within a sacred space that is considered the link between the Andes and the Amazon. For some reason, it was abondended and the Spaniards never found it. It was discovered by Professor Hiram Bingham in 1911, and has ever since attracted more and more interest. It represents a masterpiece of art, architecture and engineering in perfect harmony with nature and is the most important legacy the Inca civilization left to mankind. 

I had a privilage to visit the Sanctuary with a private guide, Yanira, which Emerita and Valerio had arranged for me. We started the excursion early in the morning by a bus that would take us up to Machu Picchu in around half an hour. We needed to queue to get to one of the busses for about 15 minutes. When we got the the Sanctuary, we started to explore it from the top. First we visited the storage houses which the Incas had been building in a very clever manner for storing the food up near the roof in a room in which there was a good air condition.  Here are photos of some of the guardhouses, which are very alike the storage houses, beside the agricultural terraces.

   
I was so astonished about the first view over the “City” which was excactly as I had seen in the photos. But of course, a photo can capture only a part of the whole experience, and now I was really there myself to see it all. Sometimes the things that I have dreamt about come true. Often I had thought that it would be great to get to Machu Picchu but at the same time had doubts about it ever being possible. And there I was this Sunday ­čÖé

  
We walked around the upper end for a while and decided to follow the trail that would take us to the Inka bridge. This was a good choice since the trail was very quiet and went through a nature. We had wonderful scenery on the other side facing the mountains, and on the other side facing the forest which resembled a rain forest. The trail took us only about ten minutes one direction. It was an old Inka trail built by them in their time. I wonder how they had been able to cover the edge of the trail that went straight down. 

   

 
On our way back, we were sitting up there and enjoying the views before going down to the “City”. 

   
We entered the City through the Main Gate which was higher than the gates usually are because it had been used as a gateway for carrying the king in his royal chair to get him inside the walls. 

  

 We explored the whole area along the route that took us to all the places of interest. I’m not going to write about the details about their history or meaning; in case you are interested, there is plenty of information available in the internet and other sources. Here are photos of some of them.   

Temple of the three windows:

 

Temple of the Sun:   

 Temple of the Gondor: 

  
  

The water mirrors on the ground for watching and following the movements of the stars and the moon, that were reflected in the water:   

There were lots of constructions which had been used for several purpses. You need to know the way since it is a kind of a labyrinth and you easily end up in a dead end.

 

My guide explained that there were several reasons for constructing Machu Picchu in this area. It was important that there was the possibility for irrigation, the possibility for getting the water for cultivating the land. The high mountains were important for protecting the city and also for ritual and spiritual purposes. But probably the most important reason was that in this area there was plenty of “raw material” for the constructions available.  Here is a photo taken from the center of city showing that there was plenty of natural stone for the constructions. It helped a lot since the Inkas didn’t need to carry all the stones from somewhere else.

 
It was rather chilly when I started the visit it the morning but around mid-day it got really hot. I left the place with my guide after the mid-day which was good since we needed to queue to get into a bus for about half an hour. This time there were enormous amount of tourists from all around the world. Iis so famous place, and it is a high season. If I had known how long it would take to get into a bus, I may have wanted to walk down to the village instead.  I tried to capture the feeeling of the crowd queuing for a bus in this photo:
 
It was a wonderful day in this spectacular and monumental…. beyond the words… place. I’m so happy I have now experienced the famous Machu Picchu myself. However, it may well be the only time in my life since, on the one hand, it is extremely expensive to get there. The entrance ticket was 128 dollars, the two-way train ticket about 120 dollar + the hotel + the bus drive… On the other, it is really touristic, and later during the day I sometimes needed to walk in a line which is very unpleasant. Kind of a once in a lifetime experience, I guess. But never say … probably never again. 

Exploring Ollantaytambo, Saturday 25th of July

This posting is about last weekend, which was very special since I visited such intersting places of Inka Culture. I started the journey from Calca early on Saturday morning with Emerita and her daughter Anais. We were heading to Ollantaytambo, a village with huge area of Inca ruins. We were accompanied with Aidee, a jewelry maker and artist who lives nearby Ollantaytambo. It was still morning when we reached Ollantaytambo and there were not that many tourista around yet. Ollantaytambo is placed at the northern end of the Sacred Valley, and the chronicals say that it was important also in military sence. This is actually the place where the famous Manco Inca almost defeated the Spaniards first, but was then forced to flee to Vilcabamba where he finally got killed.

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Emerita knows very much about Inka culture and shared her knowledge generously. Again, her special interest was to explore how the Inkas have been utilizing teh movements of the sun as a clock and the calendar. She had taken a compass with her to check the position of various Inka ruins against the sun, and always they were in line with north-south or west-east angle. Astonishing indeed.

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Until now, I have learned that there is a certain difference between the consturctions of pre-Inka times and Inka times. Pre-Inka constructions use stones and mud and the stones are naturally shaped. Inka constructions use also stones but they are put together geometrically. In the first photo below, I and Aidee are standing in an Pre-Inka construction up in the mountains. It was planned for the Inkas to stand and experience the sunrise. The second photo below gives an example of the detailed stone work of the Inkas.

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We explored several temples and places for offering. I’m afraid I don’t remember most of their names. One of the temples is considered to be of special interest, the so-called Temple of the Sun, an unfinished construction in front of a wall of enormous boulders. There are speculations over why it didn’t get finished. Anyway, in all these Inca ruins I always wonder how they managed to carry all the stones from far away to construct the buildings and the roads.┬áIn this photo, I am standing in front of the Temple of the Sun and Aidee is hanging around in the front.

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On the other side of this wast area, there were the terraces for cultivating and an enormous system of watering the area.This photo is taken from the terraces in the cultivating area.

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It was a full day with interesting and beautiful sites to visit. We spent the whole day exploring the interesting area and climbed up the mountain to have lunch outdoors in peace and quiet with, once again, spectacular views. Fortunately Emerita had planned the visit to take place in the morning, since the place was crowded in the afternoon when we left it.

In the photo below, I am having lunch up in the mountains together with Emerita and Aidee. Anais was hiding in the shadow of one of the ruins.

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All the experiences in Ollanataytambo would have been enough for me to digest for some time, but no: the journey was about to begin. Around 4 p.m. I took the Inca Trail train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu village on my way to visit this most important archeological site of Peru.