Author Archives: Jim R

About Jim R

Teacher of Science, Astronomy, Nature, among other things

Peru | Hillside Homes | Traffic Woes

by Jim and Melanie

Hillside Homes

The cost of living in the central part of most cities tends to be higher than around the fringes. It is no different in Peru. Our first two days were in Lima. People who come from the more rural areas to find work in Lima most often live in the outskirts of the city. It has an urban population close to 9 million. The metro population is over 12 million. The topography around Lima is not mountainous and allows the city to spread out.

Cuzco is in a mountainous area. The population is about 435,000 and confined to a valley. New arrivals from rural areas looking for homes and work tend to live on the surrounding steep hillsides. Click this image for greater detail of the hillsides.

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Peru | Beer Bar – Oxen – Blessings

by Jim and Melanie

Mixed among our visits to archeological sites in Peru were several other learning experiences. Three are described in this post. More will follow.

Beer Bar and Sapo Game

We boarded the bus after breakfast on the day of our first visit to Machu Picchu. Very soon, we stopped in a small town in front of a bar. It seemed early to stop for a beer. Walter our guide wanted us to experience some of what the locals do for fun and entertainment. We entered a room that was mostly empty except for this unusual small table. It looked beat-up with holes cut into it. A drawer handle was in front. A brass frog, or sapo, sat on the center with a gaping mouth.

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Peru | Tipón and Sacsayhuamán

by Jim and Melanie

The day before our departure from Cuzco we visited two archeological sites – Tipón and Sacsayhuamán. There are many more sites in Peru. We feel drawn to return some day to see more of them.

Tipón Archeological Parque

We drove southeast from Cuzco about 14 mi (22 km) to the archeological site of Tipón. It sits 11,155 ft (3400 m) above sea level. Not very well known or visited by many tourists, it is important for the water control engineering of the Inca. The site is included in Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The description of Tipón by ASCE can be read here. Highlights include:

  • Inca converted the site from previous users.
  • Aqueducts brought water to the terraced site.
  • Structures routed water in different directions to provide for efficient irrigation.
  • Subsurface drainage techniques ensured long-term integrity of the central terraces.
  • Petroglyphs pre-dating Inca thousands of years exist on top of Tipón Mountain.

Our access to the site was by a narrow switchback road from the Sacred Valley below. This Google Map image shows the road and site. An interactive map link is here. The highest elevations are at the top of the image.

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Peru | Pisac & Ollantaytambo

by Jim and Melanie

After two days in Lima, we were on our way by air to the central city of Cusco which lies in a valley between mountain ranges. The elevation is over 11,000 ft. There we boarded our tour bus and drove up the northern hillside. Hills that rim the city are covered with housing and buildings perched precariously on the steep slopes.

Sacred Valley of the Inca

The next week of our exploration of Peru was going to focus on visits to many archeological sites along the Sacred Valley of the Inca. The Urubamba River runs through this valley. The map below gives a broad view of the region. Visited sites are marked. This post highlights our visits to Pisac (lower right) and Ollantaytambo (upper left). Machu Picchu is near Aguas Calientes (upper left corner) and will be covered in another post.

Click the image for a larger view. For an interactive Google Map, click this link.

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Peru | Lima | First Impressions

by Jim and Melanie

It was morning of 16 Oct 2018. We started our journey to Peru the day before and arrived in Lima just before midnight. Our hosts met and delivered us to our hotel. This morning we enjoyed breakfast at our hotel and walked a few blocks for a view of the Pacific Ocean. This was certainly not ‘darkest Peru’. Lima is a large city of 12 million in the metro area.

We walked along the elevated path to another good observation point. To our surprise, we met Paddington Bear. This was a sign our trip was going to be full of wonder and surprises.

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Good Hope Sky Baby

Recently I stayed overnight at my sister’s house. After dinner she pulled a large plastic storage tub from the closet. It contained old photos, guest books, and various other memorabilia from our parents after their deaths more than 10 years ago. She wanted help deciding what to keep. We sorted most of the contents that evening. The next morning I looked at the rest and found two thick scrapbooks Mom had kept. The books had newspaper clippings from the 1960s to the late 1990s covering a wide range of topics. They were interesting and brought back many memories. This clipping from 1986 caught my attention.

Good Hope is a small town in west-central Illinois. My parents moved from their farm home to Good Hope about 1980 as Dad neared retirement from farming.

On 13 Aug 1986, Republic Airlines Flight 586 was headed from Phoenix to Detroit. Passenger Tammy Martin, 20, of Mt. Clemmens, MI was going home to join her husband Thomas. She was 7 months pregnant. During the flight, Tammy noticed her baby was about to arrive two months prematurely. A call went out on the plane for a doctor or nurse. An obstetrician-gynecologist, a nurse and a paramedic were on board. Tammy was taken to the back of the plane where she was placed on the floor to be more comfortable.

Cheers went up from the passengers when they heard cries of the baby. Her medical team ″used dental floss to tie the umbilical cord and cut it with a butter knife. She had excellent attention.″ The pilot informed the passengers and new mother that the baby was born while in the sky over Good Hope. “I was embarrassed” said Tammy.

Since it was premature and in an airplane cabin at reduced pressure, the baby suffered from respiratory distress. The flight was diverted to Chicago where the baby was taken to Resurrection Hospital. Husband Thomas drove all night from Detroit to be with them. This photo from the Cumberland News in Maryland indicated it was a nationwide story for a time.

Sky births are rare. But they do occur. This one was pinpointed over the town of Good Hope. The baby was given the name James Good Hope Sky Martin.

In searching for James in other more recent sources, one from nearby Western Illinois University noted James was to be Grand Marshall of the 28th Good Hope Sodbuster Days parade in 2002.

I also found an entry in the Gardner News in Kansas. It listed the marriage of James Good Hope Sky Martin to Angela Renae Besta in 2013. Apparently, James uses his full name for legal purposes.


AP story by Nicholas Geranios

UPI archive story.

Gardner News of northeast Kansas for notice of marriages and divorces.

The Cumberland News of Cumberland Maryland.

The Western Courier of Western Illinois University.

Hummingbirds At The Feeder

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are marvelous tiny creatures. They arrive in the eastern half of the U.S. in the spring from over-wintering in Central America. We keep track of their progress toward eastern Iowa with Hummingbird Central. Users input the date of first sightings in the spring. Some hummingbirds fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico for hundreds of miles. Wings flap an average of 53/sec. They flap up to 3 million times during the long flight.

They will be departing our area by late September. We will miss them. Here are an adult male and an adult female borrowed from the All About Birds Macaulay Library.

Adult Male|©Ian Davies|All About Birds|Macaulay Lib

Adult Female|©Cathy Pondelicek|All About Birds|Macaulay Lib

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Columbia River Gorge

by Jim and Melanie

During one of our days visiting Portland, OR, we drove east along the Columbia River. Over the eons, the river cut a gorge through the land as it coursed to the Pacific from central Oregon. The first scenic part of our drive was on the  Historic Columbia River Highway. We stopped at the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint.

Looking east | Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint

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