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.
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.
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.
For many people, their strongest association with Peru is Machu Picchu. Legendary “lost city” of the Inca, it was revealed to the public in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. As a professor at Yale University in South American history, he organized an expedition to Peru to find the last capital of the Inca. Led by local guides, his crew arrived at Machu Picchu, a largely forgotten site.
The world knows now that Machu Picchu was not the last capital, and that others likely arrived at the mountain city before Bingham. He still deserves credit for the movement to reveal the vine-covered community at the edge of the jungle. Excavations he led over the next three decades exposed a magnificent city that continues to baffle the imagination.
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.
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.
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
Geologists tell us Mt. St. Helens started its eruptive life over 37,000 years ago. It went through quiet periods between four major eruptive periods. The most recent in 1980, the modern eruptive period, was witnessed by residents nearby and by viewers the world over. Details of the eruption can be found at this link, in case you missed it. We traveled south on Interstate 5 toward Portland, OR, and took route 504 toward the visitor center at Johnston Ridge Observatory. To give a sense of scale, it is 5 miles from the Observatory (green marker in the upper right quadrant) to the crater at lower right. Click the picture to see details.
In the late 1800s, Lieutenant Joseph P. O’Neil headed a group that explored possible routes across the Olympic mountains, in northwest Washington state. One route brought the men to the headwaters of Lake Cushman. The plan was to go upriver along the North Fork of the Skokomish River, cross the mountains, and travel downriver along the Quinault River to the Pacific Ocean. It proved very difficult. The terrain was steep and heavily forested. Pack mules had a difficult time walking in the steepest parts. A solution involved cutting small trees across the trail, filling the spaces between logs with mud and debris. The effect created a sort of staircase up the slopes that the mules could use. That area today has the name Staircase and has camping and trails into the surrounding region. We visited and enjoyed a day of hiking.
On our way back to Iowa from southern Ohio, we made a two-night stop in the Chicago area. Before we moved to Iowa in 1992, we lived and worked in the Chicago area. Though we’re glad we don’t live there, it’s always fun to go back, like visiting an old friend.
Chicago offers much to see and do. We had a big day ahead, with some firm plans and a lot of time for spontaneity. Under blue skies and in low 70s temperatures, we were ready to enjoy it.
To make getting around simple, we stayed in the suburb of Oak Park at the Write Inn. It was one block from the birthplace of Hemingway, three blocks from some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, two blocks from eateries, and three blocks from the ‘L’ train station, our means of getting into the city. Oak Park is also short miles from Brookfield Zoo, where we spent the day before.
First we needed breakfast. The day before we asked a waitress at a Vietnamese restaurant where to get breakfast. She said go to George’s. That was good advice. We had breakfast, dinner, and breakfast the next day at George’s.
To use the L trains, we each bought a 24-hour pass for $10. That allowed us to leave our car parked in the garage used by the hotel. We were at the Loop on State Street within 25 minutes. After a walk of a few blocks, we crossed Michigan Ave and entered Millennium Park to enjoy the beautiful morning and do some people watching.