Sushu's Travel Journal

April 13, 2012

From the Lima Airport

Filed under: Latin America — Tags: , — admin @ 12:40 pm

So I haven’t written since Chiclayo, mostly because there was a paucity of functioning wifi in our rooms in ollanta and Cusco. So on Wednesday afternoon we visited Pisac and Ollanta Inca ruins in the sacred valley with a private guide that wasn’t very good at explaining things without prompting. Then on Thursday we woke up early and made it through the chilly rain to Machu Picchu. After an unsatisfactory lunch at Agua Caliente, we made our way to Cusco. Early this morning, we took a walk around Cusco, dropping in for morning mass at the giant Cusco cathedral, checking out the mummies and khipu at an otherwise unimpressive Inca museum, visited the sun temple and Dominican church hybrid of koricancha, and bought various tchotchkes. I also tried guinea pig, but wasn’t impressed. A major hamper on our Inca experience was all the illnesses. To begin with, I was recovering from diarrhea from Chiclayo, and so was dealing with a very sensitive stomach. About an hour after landing in Cusco, Jono suddenly got hit with BOTH the diarrhea and the altitude sickness. This continued the next day in Machu Picchu and got so bad that we got medicine for Jono. To make matters worse, Jono got majorly sun burned at Machu Picchu, so by the time we got to Cusco, he was a wibbly feverish mess. :( I was slightly better, having gotten my fever out of the way in Chiclayo. Nonetheless, the altitude affects SUCKED. My heart was pounding even when I was lying down to sleep, and I was short of breath for climbing about 10 steps.

Regardless, it was stunning and beautiful and totally worth it.

Machu Picchu is absolutely amazing. The day before, we had already seen Inca ruins: Pisac that perched high up a bluff, commanding an excellent view of the Urubamba river valley. Ollantaytambo, a temple and military complex where the last Inca held off the Spanish. But Machu Picchu was at a whole new level. We took the early morning 6:10 am train to Agua Caliente, then got on a bus that took the winding switchback road up to Machu Picchu. That early in the morning, there was a light drizzle, and the mountains were shrouded in clouds and mist. As we went up the switchbacks, we alternated between views of the mountains that surrounded the valley, and the mountainside, dense with cloud forest ground cover… all I could recognize were ferns and cacti, but there was just such an intensity of green that was only broken by 2 things: rapids and streams running down the mountain, and the foot-wide staircase of the Inca trail tenuously tracing its way up. There was so much water, especially for us, who had just come from the deserts of the North coast where rain would fall about once every 11 years with the El NiƱo, where rain was so shocking that the Moche sacrificed people and our taxi driver in Trujillo still remembers the time when it rained for 15 hours straight. And yet here at every turn there are streams, Inca water channels, the mountains shrouded in mist, the Urubamba river below us… look at me, waxing poetic and we haven’t even gotten to Machu Picchu.


Ollantaytambo has been lived-in since the 1200s:

Road to Machu Picchu:

The entrance to Machu Picchu was rather unassuming… a long cabin to buy entrance tickets and 3 turnstiles. But once we got through and rounded the hill, Machu Picchu opened before us. That first look took my breath away. Sure, we spent the next two hours exploring specific areas with a tour guide– the sun temple, moon temple, courtyard, terraces, etc. But in that first view you see all of Machu Picchu before you, and even if you have never seen anything Inca before, it’s plain that this was a CITY, one that had multiple functions, one that was active in trade and life just 600 years ago. I got a similar feeling when visiting Bergama and Ephesus in Turkey this past summer, but what made this even better was the land that surrounded the city. The city was very high up, so there was a great view into the valleys below, but at the same time, it was surrounded by even taller mountains. Unlike in Turkey, the grandeur of the city can be taken in all at once upon entrance. The many different tiers also creates a more dynamic landscape. There is also a sense of seclusion… there is nothing else around except mountains. It was at once sprawling and expansive, but also neatly tucked away in the Andes.

First view of Machu Picchu:

View of the surrounding mountains:

Picture of the central plaza:

Okay, enough for now. It’s almost time for the plane.

April 10, 2012


Filed under: Latin America — Tags: , — admin @ 12:47 pm

So we got to Chiclayo last night. Chiclayo is a very different city from Trujillo. Whereas trujillo’s city Center is an old fashioned colonial plaza filled with churches and convents all within easy walking distance, Chiclayo has clearly moved on from its colonial past. Here we see many more tall buildings, apartment complexes, and the traffic is absolutely atrocious. Trujillo is spread out across a large expanse of desert, while chiclayo, though it has less people, form a denser urban population.

Today we did a tour of the tombs of the Lord of Sipan and some Lambayeque pyramids. Unfortunately, my stomach disagreed with me early in the trip, so while I persevered through two very excellent museums, I wasn’t able to go to the sites themselves. But the museums were truly excellent, and I got to see a lot of Moche bling: giant gold and tourquoise earrings, giant flappy crowns and nose guards… when in full ceremonial regalia the lord of sipan would have about 5 pounds of stuff just on his head alone, not to mention the special armorial and jingly necklaces. The lords of sipan were all buried with their 15 year old wives and at least one attending llama. That’s pretty harsh for the lady folk. Not sure if I like the Moche anymore.

El Senor de Sipan:

The guide was cool. He had to say everything twice because it was a Spanish and English mixed tour, but he did a really good job. He was also very knowledgeable about sugar and rice farming, and very cynical about the government. He said that Peru has a fine if you don’t vote, but since everyone votes, the candidate field is very poor. Ummm…. not sure what I think of that.

Chiclayo rice fields:

Voting signage:

The “X” actually means a check mark, so it means “vote for us!”

April 9, 2012


Filed under: Latin America — Tags: , — admin @ 1:06 pm

Made it to Chiclayo today after visiting two museums this morning. The first one was a small museum sponsored by the Trujillo archeology university. It was interesting but also showing its age a bit… the paint was starting to fade, etc. The other museum I was really excited to see… Museum Cassinelli is a private collection that is in the basement of a gas station but has tons of cool stuff. We tried to go the first day of getting to Trujillo, but it was mysteriously closed. Today, we went again and it remained closed. However, we noticed a sign on the museum door that announced some “poshumo ” event… and another newspaper interview from 2003 mentioned Cassinelli being 83, which would make him 92 this year…. so…. he might be dead? That might be why the museum is currently closed? :X

The ill-fated Cassinelli Museum:

Anyway, yesterday we went on a tour of the Moche temple of the moon and the Chimu palaces at Chan Chan.

The Moon Temple (Huaca de la Luna) is actually 5 temples stacked on top of each other. Every 100 years or so, they would completely bury the previous temple and build a new one on top. The Moche believed that temples had life cycles, as well.

So here’s excavation of temple 4 and temple 3:

Here’s some Moche pottery: (It’s not the best I saw, but many places prohibited photography.

The bricks were contributed by families who couldn’t pay taxes in any other way, so they put their family mark on the bricks:

Then we visited Chan-Chan, which had 10 giant palaces. We visited Palace Nik-An.

View of store-houses in the palace:

Follow the pelicans to find your way out of the storage maze:

This is a huge reservoir inside the Palace/Tomb. It’s somehow linked to the Moche River, and remains a pretty consistent water level:

I think I would prefer living as a Moche rather than a Chimu … the Chimu civilization was so advanced as to be able to support 10 mummy palaces (when a king died, his mummy retains political power and must be housed in giant tomb-palaces). The living people are kind or squeezed in between these palaces. Plus they sacrificed virgin girls aged 18-25 for various ritual occasions. The guide said that they had special virgins whose duty it would be to be sacrificed…. imagine being bred for ritual sacrifice! In comparison, the Moche only sacrificed a warrior every el nino season (once every 25 years or so), it’s part of a large competition, they get the loser high on cactus first, AND make a cool pottery showing his face. Human sa orifice is muy malo, but once every 25 years ain’t bad. But maybe I have a soft spot for the Moche because they made the coolest pottery. You should look up some better ones than what I took pictures of….they’re amazingly lifelike and natural.

The bus to Chiclayo was pretty awesome… it was double Decker, the seats were extra wide and cushy, and they leaned far back and there was even a leg rest. They played the empire of wolves, which is some French film thriller involving the Turkish mafia? And we also watched the beginning of The Darkest Hour, which is about an alien invasion where the survivors are some American schmucks in Moscow? The aliens were cool because they were invisible, electrically charged, and wanted to strip-mine earth. The humans were boring and generic.

Speaking of post-apocalyptic fiction, I’m finally making it to the end of 1491, and reading it has made me want to do post-apocalyptic historical fiction about the death and disintegration of native societies when hit by European diseases. But it’d have to be really well researched, and it’s really not my story to tell.

April 7, 2012

In Peru!

Filed under: Latin America — Tags: , — admin @ 1:16 pm

All right! We made it to Trujillo! Jono is currently reading aloud from 1493 about samurai guarding the silver caravans in Mexico and Spanish barbers in Mexico City complaining about Chinese barbers working harder and taking their jobs.

Unfortunately, we woke up too late in Lima this morning, and so couldn’t do more than admire the parrots and tortoises in the rooftop area of the hostal where we were staying, before hopping on a taxi to theairport and then on a plane to Trujillo. This is a pity because I kinda wanted to see the national museum where I hear there is a really good exhibit about the internal conflict.

Thus far various aspects of Peru has reminded me of China— the many small hole in the wall shops, the cavalier yet practical attitude toward most municipal laws, even the mixture of large fancy ads and government propaganda on the walls. There is also the variance in bathroom quality, and the sense of a burgeoning economy that is leaving quite a signifant segment of its population in the dust. There would be satellite dishes peeking out of run-down buildings and small stores ablaze with the newest gadgetry.

There have been some interesting differences. For example, the parks that I have seen thus far appear to be square city blocks that are fenced off, paved with paths and dotted with swings and see saws, and forced to be green through haphasardly cultivated topiary.

Or, for example, the buildings. Wherever we go, we see buildings with the second or third floor incomplete– only two brick walls would be up, or maybe the beams are exposed, or maybe there is a makeshift roof and no windows. When I asked the taxi driver today, he said that people would build with whatever surplus money they had, and building it piecemeal takes about 3 to 4 years to finish a floor. Very rarely would individuals have the capital to build a 3 or 4 story building in one go.

I guess in Chinese cities it would usually be the government or corporations that build the residential communities. It would similarly be the city that provides the municipal transit system. Here, on the other hand, privately run minibuses stop wherever to pick up passengers all over the city, in lieu of an official transit system. People also share taxis, so that also serves as a private transit system. I’ve seen students take combi (combination) taxis to school.

Anyway, tomorrow we will go on a tour of Chan Chan and Huaca del Sol. Tomorrow is also Domingo de la Resurrecion, but people seem to be pretty casual about it.

April 23, 2011

Brazil comics

Filed under: Latin America — Tags: , — admin @ 12:34 am

Four days in Brazil. We had horrible camera luck, so this is basically the only visual documentation we have.

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