Friday, May 30, 2008

Cuzco Part II and Lima

After we came back from Machu Picchu we spent some more time in Cuzco where we went to the huge artisan market and shopped and haggled our little hearts out. I always feel good about my haggling skills until someone else tells me they got a better deal, so we are not revealing prices for anything. Then I can continue to be happy with the prices I got. We also visited some museums in Cuzco and the ruins right outside the city.Chillin' in the WHEAT field! Look at all the Wheat! There were four sites outside the city spread over a few kilometers. Instead of hiring a taxi to drive us around we opted to walk it all. This field was on the way.
The military fortress of Saqsawaman, aka. sexy woman (say it out loud), outside of Cuzco. I like the big bricks, they were cool.

After three more nights in Cuzco we flew back to Lima. Lima is a big, ugly, city. Really, I think I could get used to it, but I am not a big fan of living in any big city, and Lima just isn't very pretty. Luckily the sun came out while we were there (a rare event) so it wasn't quite as bad. We first tried to go the the National Museum, but pulled up and the place looked deserted. Turns out it is closed for two weeks! Just our luck. We were kind of stuck on what we should do next and finally ended up going to the much smaller Archeology Museum (located in the house Bolivar lived in for a while). They had some cool things, but we were still disappointed that we couldn't go to the National Museum.

Next we had some McDonalds and headed over to the Gold and Arms Museum. This was definitely the highlight of our Lima stay. It was an incredible museum. Unfortunately we couldn't take pictures inside, so you can check out their website for pictures of their collection, The Gold Museum is the biggest draw for most people. They have gold artifacts from all over Peru, ancient golden earrings, headdresses, tools, cups etc. It is hard to believe it really is all gold!This piece was at the archeology museum, where we could take pictures. Image rooms full of this for the gold museum.

The arms museum is pretty awesome too. They have weapon from all different times and have some pretty cool ones. They have a ton of guns, swords, samurai outfits, saddles, helmets, etc. I thought the coolest part was that they have swords that belonged to Napoleon, the Marquis de Layfaette, and Bolivar. Daniel has recently started collecting replicas of historic guns, and I think he was in heaven here. He had to take it all very slowly to digest everything.

The next day we went to some ruins outside the city, Pachacamac. These ruins were built mostly out of mud bricks, so there isn't a whole lot left there. It felt like we were in Egypt or something because the place it is at looks like a desert. The site has been an important ceremonial site for thousands of years and has been used by several different cultures, right up to Inca times. This was a temple that was actually reconstructed. Most of the buildings at Pachacamac didn't look this nice.

We also got to see the "changing" of the guard at the Presidential Palace (they didn't actually change the guards, the guards just left after the band played, which was really confusing for us.) And finally, Robert also got measured for two suits which he will pick up when he comes back to Lima. Next stop on our trip, Iquitos, the entry to the Amazon.

Machu Picchu Day 2

The boys are out riding motorcycles today, so I have plenty of time to catch up on trip updates. Unfortunately the computer I am on isn't letting me upload pictures, so I will try to figure that out soon and add pictures to these posts. Posts are always more fun with pictures.

Update- Obviously, we have pictures now. I've posted a few here, but there are so many good ones! It really is impossible to take a bad picture at Machu Picchu, it is so gorgeous all around. I may just have to do a slide show once I find the time. Enjoy these for now!

The lone mountain in the background there is Puticusi, the mountain we climbed the first day, with all the ladders. That was such an awesome hike!

So, after our last post we spent another day in Machu Picchu. It was also Daniels birthday, and although he was a little beat up from all the hiking the day before, I think he still enjoyed his birthday at one of the new seven wonders of the world.A lesson for everyone- wear pants or wear bug spray when you are outdoors. These are Daniel's legs. Can you see all the bug bites?

Robert is so adorable in this picture! He is dancing. This platform was, according to our book, used for theatrical purposes. So Robert got up to demonstrate.
We climbed up to the Gate of the Sun above Machu Picchu, a resting point on the Inca trail where travellers would get their first view of Machu Picchu. The only other hikes left to do were climbing up to the top of Mount Machu Picchu (for a different view of the ruins) and hiking up from the town to the Machu Picchu ruins (to save the six bucks on the bus ride and just for the fun of it) , neither of which we felt was worth the extra effort after so many other hikes, especially since all the hikes in the area are straight up and then straight down. We left the area loving our time spent there, but totally exhausted.
Notice how the shape of the rock mimics the mountain behind it. There were a ton of rocks that did the same things with the various mountains around Machu Picchu. Obviously, the mountains were very important to the site.Robert examining the wood. "Yup, in my professional opinion, this is really wood. Yup." (To be fair to Robert, he didn't really say that, but he does look like he is very intrigued by the wood.)

BTW, we were expecting Aguas Calientes (the closest town to Machu Picchu) to be really horrible and touristy, but we actually really enjoyed staying there. It was like an old wild west mining town, kind of ramshackledly put together, very isolated, and very targeted. Walking down the street was basically hotel, restaurant, Internet cafe, hotel restaurant, Internet cafe, bodega (small store). There was plenty of competition among all the places so prices and service were decent. We got our hotel to go down $15 from the price they quoted us in email because we told them the hotel next door was offering us the same thing for $10 less. Yay for competition! Up next, Lima.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day 5 - Waynapicchu and the Western Urban Area

We rose early in the morning on Wednesday and got onto the third bus up to Machu Picchu. We arrived at the entrance at 5:55, just before the park opened. We ran into the park and took a few pictures before sunrise then walked across the site to the far end were you can climb up Waynapicchu (the mountain in the picture above). Since we had not climbed enough the day before we decided we needed to do another one. This climb was steep but not quite as long. We got some really good pictures from the top and then continued to the Temple of the Moon which is located on Waynapicchu. These hikes took a lot out of us and beat Daniel up pretty bad. We tried to take it easy and not hike as much after this.
The view from the top of Waynnapichu.
Coming down Waynapicchu to the Temple of the Moon.
Temple of the Moon

The second part of the day was spent walking through the western urban sector. This included the royal palace, sacred plaza and the pyramid. We walked these slowly and read a book about each section as we went since we did not want to hire a guide. Ill just post a few pictures below instead of trying to explain what we saw.

In front of the front gate to Machu Picchu. Everyone who entered the city had to come through here.
With a little llama above the city
Robert washing his hands in one of the many fountains.
Taking a nap in one of the temples

Day 4 - Aguas Caliente and Putucusi

We are a little behind on posting because we have just been having too much fun and have not had the time to stop and write everything down. Now we will see how good my memory is of the past 4 days events. On Day 4, Tues May 20th, we rose early in the morning to catch a train from Cuzco to Aguas Caliente. It was a slow, slighlty bumpy trip with the car rocking back and forth often. Cuzco is located in a steep valley so the train had to go back and forth along switchbacks inorder to get out of the valley. Once we left Cuzco, we journeyed accross farm land to Ollyantambo and then followed the Urumbamba river to Aguas Caliente.

We arrived in Aquas Caliente around 11:30 in the morning. We bargained for a hotel room and had a quick lunch. We did not want to go up to Machu Picchu then because we would have to pay the 44 dollar entry fee plus the 12 dollar bus fair just to see it for a half day (The ruins close at 5:30). We decided instead to climb Putucusi, which is a mountain that faces Machu Picchu and Waynapicchu Mountain but is located on the opposite side of the Urubamba river. The hike was very steep and frightening for me (fear of hights). Several times we had to climb wodden ladders because the trail was so steep. We made it to the summit of Putucusi in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The entire climb was from the back side of Putucusi so you never had a view of Machu Picchu until you reached the summit. It was an amazing and rewarding hike.

Melarie and Robert in front of the PeruRail train in Cuzco

All three before the hike up Putucusi. The first half of the hike was in jungle as seen in this photo.

The first of the ladders. This one was the smallest and at the time we thought they were just a novelty to add to the experience of the hike.

Here we realized that the ladders were more than a novelty to add to the experience. This ladder was the steepest and longest that we had to climb. My legs were shaking the whole way up but I made it. We have a video of us climbing down this ladder as well but the computer I am using is too old so I cant upload it.

Melarie climbing a smaller staircase up to Putucusi.

The group, at the summit of Putucusi. You can see Machu Picchu in the background.

Melarie and Robert at the base of Putucusi. This is where the climb began. Putucusi is the round top mountain on the left.

Update: We now have video

Monday, May 19, 2008

Days 2 and 3: The Sacred Valley and Cuzco

For days 2 and 3 we have been staying in the city of Cuzco, the former Incan capital. Day 2 we did an organized tour of some of the major archeoligical sites and towns outside of Cuzco, in the Sacred Valley, such as Ollantaytambo and Pisac. We didn´t orginally plan on seeing all those sites because we didn´t think we would have enough time to travel around to all of them. So, we did the organized tour (and felt very very touristy) and got it all done in one fast paced day. Speaking of feeling very touristy, Cuzco is so packed with tourists, and Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Machu Picchu) will probably be worse. Coming off the plane in Cuzco we were bombarded with hotels, tour agencies, taxi drivers and a live band all vying for our attention.

Day 3 we spent in Cuzco, looking around all the museums they have here and shopping in the market. We checked out the Cathedrals but didn´t go inside because we didn´t want to pay the $5 entrance fee just to walk around and see. Since when do churches charge entrance fees, and how do they get people to come to church if there is an entrance fee? Actually, they do allow normal church services and prayer every morning so we may be temporarily Catholic next time we´re here so we can see what the inside of the Cathedral looks like.
Robert sliding down the water drain at Ollantaytambo

The ruins at PisacDaniel and Robert´s Andean band

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Peru: Day 1

We made it Lima! It wasn´t much of an exciting day, just travel. Daniel (Robert´s cousin), Robert, and I took off from LAX at about 2:00 a.m. this morning, which means we didn´t sleep at all before we left. I tried to sleep on the plane, and succeeded in making it through the first two hours or so sound asleep. Then I woke up and was wide awake. Uck! (The picture above is probably the coast some where in Mexico)

After the six and a half hour flight we switched planes in Panama City for another three hour flight to Lima. Tommorrow we leave our hotel at 3:30 a.m. to fly to Cuczo, where we will finally start to really site see. This evening after we got to our hotel we went out for dinner and had the very Peruvian dish of chicken, french fries, and Inca Kola. Daniel said it brought back memories (he served his mission in Peru). Our hotel is about two blocks from the ocean so after dinner we walked down to a little youth park they have by the ocean (there was really no beach, just dirt) and looked around. Now we just get to relax and go to bed early.So, highlights of the day: Daniel getting pulled aside and stripped searched through security at LAX (just kidding, they let him keep all/most his clothes on), first time in Panama (it looked nice, but humid, from the airport. We´ll have to go back one day and do a trip there) and getting to see the all the dozens of ships waiting just off the coast to get into the Panama Canal, getting to see the John Lennon statue at the Pope John Paul II park.
P.S. Our hotel has internet access so it is very convienent to be able to post today even though we didn´t do anything too exciting, i mean, besides travel to a different continent. Hopefully I´ll have some more exciting things in my next post.

Friday, May 16, 2008

We're Off!

Our trip is finally here! We'll be in Peru starting Saturday (redeye flight very very early Saturday morning) until June 1. Stay tuned for trip updates.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Our First Catholic Wedding

This actually happened last weekend. I have been a little slow to blog about it, but I thought it was interesting enough to still blog about a week later. Last weekend Robert's boss got married and we were invited to both the ceremony and the reception, both of which were a lot different from what we were used to.

The ceremony was at Saint Monica's Catholic church (in Santa Monica). It was both Robert and I's first Catholic ceremony, and our first mass in English (Robert had attended mass on his mission, I had gone in Guatemala.) We weren't expecting a such a long ceremony. At an LDS wedding there is like twenty minutes of waiting, twenty minutes of ceremony, and then more waiting for pictures. The ceremony at this wedding was an hour and a half long, but on the plus side, not much waiting around.

The reception was held at the Adamson House in Malibu. The house was built in 1930 and is right above the beach. When it was built you could look down the coast and not see any other houses. Now it is in Malibu Lagoon State Beach, is owned by the state, and is open for tours. It was a beautiful place for a reception.
This is the Adamson House, a pic that I took from their website. I didn't even think to take a picture of the house while we were there, I was too impressed with the view.
Where we had the dinner. When guest first arrived they we all went into a patio area where they had appetizers and an open bar and we socialized for a while. Then we all went to the dinner area for dinner and speeches. Then we went to another area for dancing and cake.
The gorgeous view!

Twilight Movie Trailer

Friday, May 09, 2008

Just Some Old Photos

Thanks to Emily for her post on the photo oldifier from this strange site. I have no idea what the site says, but upload your picture, push the blue button and you too can have cool pics like these. So, who do you think looks better oldified- Robert, Me, or Joe?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Book Tag

"Our willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord's work reminds us that this is the very essence of the Atonement, the ultimate sacrifice made by the Son of God in behalf of each of us. "

Our computer happens to be right next to our bookshelf with all our church books, so this was the closest to my reach, Stand A Little Taller by President Hinckley.

Here's how to do the tag:

The rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book
2. turn to page 123
3. find the 5th sentence
4. post the 5th sentence
5. tag some people

I tag everyone who wants to participate.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Midnight(ish) Mystery

Last night at about 2:00 a.m. Robert and I both woke up because we heard a loud noise. Of course, we were sound asleep when we heard it so we both weren't really sure what it was that woke us up. After a couple confusing seconds trying to figure out what we heard, we heard it again, "crack!" It sounded like it was coming from our bedroom window. We both jumped out of bed and scurried into the hallway, away from the window. Then we heard it again, a loud, distinctive "crack!" It sounded like something hit the window.

After another minute we heard it again, "crack!" Then I heard a series of "click, click, click, click, click, click." We spent a couple minutes sitting in the hallway wondering what to do. Should we call the police? Should we call the apartment manager? Where are all our phones at? (cell phones and home phone were spread all over the apartment) Should we go into the bedroom and peer out the window? Robert went over and looked out the living room window, which faces the same way as the bedroom window-- into our parking lot. He saw nothing. He decided to call the apartment manager. At this point enough time had passed that I felt like I wasn't going to get hit by any flying objects going through the bedroom window, so I crawled over to the window and looked up at it through the blinds. It was broken.

Poor apartment manager was also now roused in the middle of the night and confused. She told us she was going to look at the security cameras and call us back. It was not a pleasant experience to be rousted from your bed at 2:00 a.m. by some unknown phenomenon, and then have to sit in the hallway doing nothing while all you really wanted to do is go back to bed. A few minutes later the apartment manager called back and said it looked like someone had been in the parking lot trying to get another someone's attention to let them out of the parking lot. Today we learned that it was some dumb high school student, a friend of someone in our building, who had parked in our lot, was leaving, and couldn't get out (we have a gated parking lot, the only way out is with a clicker to open the gate). He also couldn't get back into the apartment building because you need a key to get into the building. Dumb kid not only because he was throwing rocks at the windows (and obviously broke one) but also because he got the wrong apartment! Grrr...
BTW: I never did figure out what the clicks were. Robert claims he didn't hear them, but I heard it right after the "cracks." It sounded like it was coming from under our apartment, where there are some parking stalls. IDK.