Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Rest of the Story, Cusco, Lima

We still had a day in Cusco before we flew back to Lima.  Dick and I decided to not go on the optional tour this day, and that turned out to be good.  Not everyone in our tour group was as interested in museums as we are, so we slept in, and planned to visit the Museo Inka (an archeological museum) and the Pre-Columbian Art Museum.  The Inca Museum is housed in a Spanish mansion, and has a beautiful collection of pottery, textiles, metal working, and a display with mummies.  The Pre-Columbian Art Museum glitters with jewelry made of gold, silver, bone and shell, and is also very beautifully presented - though not often in English. Neither museum allows indoor photography, but I did sketch some of the jewelry and pottery shapes, as well as a woman who was demonstrating traditional weaving in a courtyard.

This was the one day we struck out on our own to eat, and that may have been the reason we ended up using all the Pepto Bismol tablets we packed for the trip.  The competition for tourist money in the restaurants is fierce, and we decided to try an eatery on the main square.  It was pleasant and clean, and we were seated by a window that allowed us to watch the passing parade of locals, tourists, dogs and cars around the central plaza.  I ordered a beer and stuffed peppers, and Dick ordered cuy.  That's guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru.  Actually, he got half an order, and I sampled some.  It didn't taste like chicken to me, more like roasted pork, or maybe the dark meat of turkey.  It was palatable enough, though there are too many little bones for my taste. We were fine for a while, but before long we were both in digestive trouble.  Maybe it was that lunch, a sort of revenge of the guinea pig. However when we met up with the rest of the group later in the evening for a nice buffet and music we discovered that virtually everyone was affected, so maybe it was the snacks on the train to Machu Picchu. Nobody knows.

These friendly ladies persuaded me to take their photo for a little money.  They were on Loreto Street, a long narrow street, as old as the city itself with a good Inca wall on each side.  There is a large local market on this street too.  People everywhere downtown were smiling and friendly. At least two young girls, maybe third or fourth grade, came up and asked us if we were from the United States. and if we liked Obama.  One said something roughly like this: 

Washington is the capitol of the United States. California is a big state. Do you live in California? Obama is good. Before Obama, Bush. Before Bush, Clinton. Before Clinton, Bush. Before Bush, Reagan. Before Reagan, Carter... 

and she continued back to about Truman.  I'm not sure why children made little recitations, except to be friendly or practice English.  

It only takes about and hour and a half to fly from Cusco to Lima.  We originally were supposed to have most of the afternoon free to rest before our trip back to Wisconsin, but we had missed our Lima tour at the beginning of the trip, so our guide arranged some activities for us to make up for what we had missed before.  Our first stop was the Museo Larco.  This museum is also an 18th century Spanish mansion, but is built on the foundations of a pre-Columbian pyramid. Our guide gave us a tour of the rooms of Moche, Nazca, Chimu and Inca art and artifacts.  We could photograph here, and this Moche head gives a good idea of the beautiful quality of the pottery. There is also a separate exhibit of pre-Columbian erotic pottery which is amazing for all sorts of reasons.

Jose, our Lima guide, said he'd take us on a "panoramic" tour of colonial Lima, which meant we wouldn't be getting off the bus very often, and we wouldn't be shopping.  Lima is the largest city in the Republic of Peru, on the coast overlooking the Pacific ocean. It is home to over 8 million people, and one third of Peru's population.  Obviously we didn't see all there is to see. This Spanish screen is part of the Lima Cathedral.

We were in Lima on Saturday, and it happened to be the day when people at the Monastery of San Francisco were bringing offerings to Saint Jude.  The area outside the church was crowded with pilgrims, vendors selling rosaries and candles, and lots of tourists.  We walked through the church admiring the moorish tiles, paintings, and carved work.  But the church is really famous for its catacombs, where the bones of thousands of church supporters lay.  We could not take photos, but there are quite a few available online if you Google "Lima catacombs."  I wasn't horrified or disgusted, but with our tender stomachs the claustrophobic and warm catacombs were not anywhere we wanted to linger.

Only a couple block from the Cathedral and monastery is the Palacio de Gobiermo, the Government Palace.  There is also a Legislative Palace and a Palace of Justice.  On Saturdays various branches of their military have a "changing of the guard" and a parade around the plaza, and it is very popular.  We were tired by late afternoon, so we sat on a park bench to listen to the band, and had a chance to interact with some evangelicals who invited us to prayer study. We could honestly say we were on our way back to Chicago, but thanked them for their invitation.

The Coat of Arms of The Republic of Peru, with vultures.  According to Wikipedia the shield consists of three elements.  The top left shows the vicuna, the national animal, on a light blue field, the tree on the top right is the cinchona, a source of quinine and the flavoring in tonic water, and the bottom has a cornucopia with coins, spilling on a red field representing the country's mineral resources.

We ended our last day with a bus tour of part of the Miraflores district, the most upscale part of Lima, where our hotel the first night had been.  It was getting dark, but we saw modern apartments, homes, hotels, shopping, lovely parks, and many restaurants. Our time was rapidly running out, and much of our energy as well.  We ended up at a final dinner featuring regional dishes and pisco sours (the national drink - not what you want on a tender stomach) , and then headed for the airport.  Our time in Peru was finished.   

It was a long and frustrating trip home that lasted more than 24 hour all together, with delays and discomfort.  But none of that matters as much as the things we did and saw, and the people we met.  Thanks to UW Whitewater for offering the trip. I will always remember our journey to this beautiful country.


Margaret Ann said...

Amazing photos...I cannot get over the beauty and the complexity of the architecture...and the inner joy radiating from the faces of the people...Those skirts are magnificent...Oh how gloriously colorful.

Glad you are home safe and on your own terms as far as diet and comfort LOL :)

Wonderful seroes of posts! :)

mARTa said...

You took me on such a wonderful tour of peru through your eyes............i enjoyed being an armchair traveler on this excursion!

Chaska said...

You really were unlucky to get bad food. We went to Peru on our own two years in a row, steering clear of tourists, and neither of us got sick. We were careful to not drink the water.