Thursday, October 29, 2015

Week #40 Back in Cusco, friends from Farmington, and a quick side trip to Ollantaytambo and Pisac

After our adventure to/from Andahuaylas, we settle in for our appointments this week.  First to the market to replenish our groceris, where there is always a big selection of local produce.  These are potatos (papas).  They claim to have 400 varieties here.  I don't know about that, but I have seen at least 30 myself.  These are finger-sized and shaped, and very tasty when cut up and boiled with other fresh ingredients in a hot soup.

Around town one afternoon, Elder Rhoades takes us through a small plaza.  The Inca-era walls are now part of a luxury hotel.  This wall with this craftsmanship and rather sparse carved images are pre-Spanish.  What are the Hermanas pointing to at the top of the picture?

Couldn't be a llama or alpaca, because it doesn't have a long neck.  And it has a long tail.  Hmm, could it be a horse?   Thought these weren't here until the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the early 1500's. 

Hermano Alvaro of the Cusco Stake Presidency, and his lovely esposa holding their temple name pages.  It took two visits, but we got connected and put all the right data in place.  Their oldest son is serving a mission in Chile.  

The obispo (bishop) of the Los Alamos ward, with his lively hijas and lovely esposa.  We have recently started our Historia Familiar work in his ward.  We're working through the 14 wards in Cusco, and with our travel, it has taken some time to get to all of them.  As per our other experiences, the members in Los Alamos are very sweet and eager to have us help them.

Hna Gregoria is the Young Women's president in barrio (ward) Vista Allegre.  She's getting her YW ready for a trip to the Lima temple in November, and is very dedicated (and persistent) in helping them get family names ready.  Hna J helps Rosa Luz with some details.

Time for a talent show in barrio Ttio, and there is no shortage of it.  Hno Julio and Hna Pily have lots of musical talent that they're happy to share.

Obispo Reyes had a skit that looked like it was going to be knife throwing, but it turned out to be a big balloon behind the "target" that got popped, and surprised everyone.

Back to barrio Los Alamos, where we set up a mini Historia Familiar workshop during Sunday School.  Hnas Julia and Nessy are eager participants, while Hna. Hill translates.  Yes, we still need the help of the missionaries, though we can carry on a HF-related conversation in Espanol without getting too hopelessly confused - or bewildering the members.  When their faces go blank, we know we've really botched a word or phrase.  If they start to laugh, we know we've turned one word into another that's really out of context.

One afternoon we have appointments with Hnas Paez and Crump.  On this nice sunny day, it was very pleasant to make a rather long walk to our appointments. 

 On our return, we just happened to detour past a cafe that we know makes really good milkshakes.

 Zone Conferences for the missionaries come around every 3 months, and we got to hear very inspired and timely messages from Presidente y Hermana Harbertson.  When the meeting broke up into workshops, we had a previously scheduled appointment, but snapped this photo of one group of Elders before we had to go, and caught them without their thumbs up.

 It would be nice to say that Dave and Becky Nelson came all the way to Cusco to see us, but they really came to see the Harbertsons.  We were invited to the Mission Home to have dinner, and they surprised us with some treats, photos, and letters from our family at home.  We were really happy to see them, and see updated photos and letters from our kids and grandkids.

Seems like either Presidente or Hna Harbertson now insist on taking photos when we get together, as with this pic of is with the Hasler's.  I'm sure by this time, they have been in thousands of photos, and it's a little relief to stand behind the camera.  Their wonderful smiles are always genuine, and reflect the love they have for all their missionaries here.

One afternoon we detour toward Plaza San Blas in route to an appointment.  Not the wide sidewalks we're used to at home, but these streets (look at the cobblestones) were here long before there were cars.

Walking through the square, we stopped to watch a little Chechua woman at work weaving a belt while she wait for customers.  I'm quite fascinated by their weavings, and how they make such colorful and interesting designs. I may have to take a class on it when we get home.  Her goods were very nice, but a little overpriced - even after the usual bargaining, so we took a pass on these.

The battery in my daily-wear watch decided it was going to die after several years of good service, so I took it to a very small shop where they have every type of padlock imaginable, as well as about every watch battery that is available.  Cost, including installation - 6 Soles, or less than $2.

After a rather humiliating defeat in Round 1 of the damas (checkers) championship, I came back to a stunning victory over Yuripe, the reigning champ, in Round 2.  Round 3 will decide the championship of todo mundo (the whole world).  In Chechua, her name means "dove".

Later this week, Hna Rhoades (identical) twin sister and her husband come to town for a visit with them, and we get invited to meet them halfway back from Macchu Picchu at Ollantaytambo.  There are some massive and famous ruins here, but due to timing, we didn't get to see them (again).  Instead, there are others on the opposite side of the valley that are easily accessible, and we decide to see those before their train arrives.  Seems like the Incas liked to built most of their buildings on the side of mountains for some reason, and everything is a hike up, sometimes (mostly) on narrow trails.

Don't know for sure what these ruins were originally, but my guess is a traveler's hotel, as these apartment-looking buildings are about halfway between Cusco and Macchu Picchu.  The structures were built with their usual fine stonework, but the roofs were poles and thatch, and are long gone.  It is remarkable that they have survived with the walls exposed many hundreds of years after the roofs were gone.

From the ruins in the previous picture, a look across the valley is a good view of Ollantaytamo.  There are temples and other buildings on the upper left, wide terraces that were not used for farming, they appear almost like amphitheater seating.  The center has some buildings that look like houses for the king and his court, and the lower right contains baths with naturally warm water.

Hna J explores around some of the narrow walkways.  If anyone ever though she is timid or fearful, you should see here here.  She is usually the first one up, around, across and over.

More ruins at the same site, remarkably well preserved, which attests to the quality of their design and construction.  They literally are built on the side of a mountain.

From Ollantaytambo, it's about an hour's drive to another massive site:  Pisac.  These are farming terraces that are below the actual site, visible in the saddle at the upper right.  These terraces are wide enough to farm with a tractor!

A small, narrow tunnel that was cut in the natural slope of the rock leads to the site.

What's left of what has been described as a massive temple complex.   This is quite impressive.

If you've heard that the Inca stonework was so finely crafted that you can't stick a knife blade between the joints, here is proof.  In the highest-quality structures (the temples were the highest), this quality was maintained throughout.  How it was done is a mystery that is lost, and no one really knows for sure, even though many theories abound.  That it was done by space aliens is one of the most unlikely, but probably no more so than giant mirrors that focused the sun's rays and cut the rock like a laser.

Got your radiused corners here.

Got your square corners here.

Finely crafted tapered entry way, with the lintel stone in place.

Hmm, the 4th row up is a little curious.  My guess is that Pachachute and Tupac Amaru started on opposite sides, and when they met, someone hadn't measured correctly.  No problem, they just custom-cut a small stone to fill the gap.

A stone watercourse leading from a spring.  All still intact and functional.

And it leads to a small pool (font?)  Note the steps and handholds to help yourself in and out, and the drain that maintains a constant level, complete with overflow.

Around a corner at the top of the site was an enterprising Chechua woman with her woven belts and blankets for sale.  She had quite a bundle of them, and I bought a colorful hatband for 10 Soles (about $3.25).  She's working on a long belt here, and her only tool is the stick you see in front of her hands.  She picks and counts each row make the beautiful and symmetric designs.  She sits here all day and works, hoping to find customers from the tourists and visitors.  When the day is over, she has about a 4km walk down to where the closest homes are.

I really want to find a loom with a work about half-finished, just for display.  She offered to sell me this work in process, but it really isn't what I'm looking for.  Her only tools are a spike in the ground, and the stick.  The rest is skill and craftsmanship.  She or her village also raised the wool, sheared it, spun it, and dyed it.  

Well, I told you that Hna Rhoades had an identical twin sister.  Which one is "ours"?  After a long and enjoyable day, we finished with a nice dinner, complete with hostess in traditional dress.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Week #39 - New places in Cusco and a trip to Andahuaylas - and an unexpected quick return

When we have time on a P-day and the weather's nice, we will sometimes take a walk to the historical center of Cusco.  It's really a large area, and in 9 months we haven't even seen half of what's there.  This time, after a 45 min walk, we could turn left to Plaza de Armas or right.  So we decided to go right up the hill to Plaza San Blas.  It's still in the "tourist" area of Cusco, and there are shops and vendors open every day.  A large selection of handmade necklaces on this table.  They're about 20 Soles, or $6.25 each.

Here' a few nice ones close up.  We decided to text our granddaughter Ava to see if she would like one, and she responded immediately, 2nd from the left.

 I just happened to find a famous fashion model to pose with it.

Also, a photo of the model's new favorite purse, made with handspun and dyed Alpaca wool.

More fine Inca stonework surrounding the plaza

Also, we found the place where you can get real American food.  At least as close as can be made by expatriate Brits.  Milkshakes, waffles, yum!

A view from The Meeting Place into Plaza San Blas.  It's rather small, but buzzes with commerce of all sorts.

Headed back down the hill to the Plaza de Armas, there are numerous shops and vendors with colorful wares tempting the tourists.

We ran into (more like acosted by) 2 of the locals, a little overdressed for everyday work, but really there for the tourists.  This photo cost 5 Soles each for the women to pose - and I had to give the lamb a 1 sole propina (tip) as well.  

Our travel schedule takes us next to Andahuaylas.  This is one of the more remote parts of the Mission, and we decided to hire a car rather than being held captive on a bus or combi for 9 hours.  With a car, I can control the speed (somewhat, by threatening to take away the propina), and we get to stop and take a break when we need or want to.  We've just crossed one of the rivers, and we're "down" to about 8,000 feet, but the landscape is already turning to jungle (rainy season not started yet, note the dry hills in the background).  It was warm and sunny, and a nice chance to walk around and stretch.

Unfortunately for us, the mangoes are still green.  About another month or so, and they'll be ripe.

There's ripe mangoes somewhere, because we bought cups of frozen mango pulp for 1 sole each, and they were delicious!

Along the way, at one of the high passes, the driver asked if we wanted to see some ruins. "Ruins" are the local generic term for old Inca-era structures of all types, and doesn't necessarily mean that they are decayed or fallen down.  It was time for a break, so we turned off the pavement for about half a KM, and then walked to a rather large open area on top that had this temple.  This one was still in essentially original condition, and isn't on any list of top attractions, even though it is quite unique.  The top is open and flat and the top walls are about waist high.

Hmm.  Seems like we've seen a couple of these in other places was well.

Another pass, and we're way up in the clouds.  Horses and other livestock grazing along the road.  People live up here too.  Still curious to me why they live in such remote, and rather inhospitable places, but I guess their families have been here for hundreds of years, so they may as well stay.

Finally we make it to Andahuaylas.  A very picturesque and lovely town.  Like most places, it's built all over the hills.  There are 3 branches of the Church here and in the surrounding area.

The Andahauylas Zone of missionaries.  We arrived in time for me to make their weekly Monday 6pm meeting.  Hna J decided to get some rest from the twisty roads, and elected to pass tonight.

Afterwards, I was invited with Elders McKay and Jofré to the home of Hna. Sandra for a Family Home Evening.  With a nearby tripod, we got a photo.

We held most of our meetings in the Andahuaylas chapel.  One evening, Hna Erica came for a Young Adult activity.  She is everybody's friend, and it was also her birthday, so we had to take a picture of her with Hnas. Harris, Lozana and Johnson

After our meetings were finished that evening, we took the Hna's to a place for chocolate caliente and fresh pan y dulces.  I made sure the Hnas had a large take-away bag containing the types of sweet baked goods we were sampling at the table.

The next day, we took a break for lunch.  A lot of places don't have an extensive menu, just a few choices, and this was one of them.  Each selection contained 2 dishes, which means a total of 4, and it was more than we could eat.  Colorful and delicious, along with some jugo (juice).

Late Wednesday evening, we got a phone call from Elder Hasler.  Unfortunately, there was some protests and violence at one of the large mines in the area (4 people killed, 15 injured, and it was all nonsensical and for no good reason), and he advised us to get back to Cusco.  His advice is always taken seriously, and though we really didn't expect any trouble in Andahuaylas, there was the possibility that we could get stranded there for a week or more, as there is only 1 road out, and it leads through another city where they are notorious for "supporting" strikes and protests, and we could have not been able to get through.  I got up early the next morning, and rented a car and driver to take us back to Cusco.  The photo as we loaded up was really to get a record of the driver and the license plate of his car.

We made the trip back without incident, though we did take a detour in Abancay to miss what looked like a roadblock ahead.  9 hours back, it was a long trip, and we stopped along the way a a "locals only" cafe for a quick lunch of chicken coup, peaches, rice, and juice.  18 Soles for 3 lunches, or about $1.75 each.

Hna J was offered the front seat both ways, but she elected the rear seat and read a book on her iPad.

At one of our quick stops, we got pounced on by the local vendors.  One did have some freshly boiled choclo, or large-kernel corn on the cob.  The kernels are bigger than Corn Nuts.  You pick them off individually, and they are really tasty with a little salt.  3 soles (less than $1), and we had a great snack.

A little confusion on the way back:  Instead of nonstop to Cusco, evidently our driver was only authorized to go as far as Abancay, so we made a detour to the terminal (empty lot) where the drivers that belong to a little group or association gather to pick up and drop off passengers.  After a little hassle, we got another driver (2nd from left) and car to take us to Cusco.  Total fare was the same as I was quoted when we left, but was split between the two drivers, after a call and some help from Elder Hasler.

Along the way, we passed a school bus.  Not the yellow type - this was a truck with plywood sides and an open back.  Holds about 30 kids standing up from their pueblo to the school.  Not what we're used to seeing, but it beats walking 10 - 12KM each way.  We are glad these kids are enduring a couple of uncomfortable rides each day - education is their way up here, and unfortunately not everyone takes advantage of it.

Finally back to our hometown.  A long trip, 9+ hours, and was at the limits of Hna J's endurance on twisty roads, but she's always the trooper and ready to go and serve.  Though our trip out and back was without incident, my WiFi phone did get stolen in Andahuaylas, so I had to get another one as soon as we got back to Cusco.  Unfortunate and frustrating, but all part of the experience.