Martha Kidwell of Cleveland and Go Ahead Tours arranged for such a feat for a group of travelers from Cleveland and other locations as they visited Peru and Machu Picchu in June.
The group climbed through the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, visited an Indian village and the Sacred Valley of the Incas and also toured archaeological sites while savoring authentic Peruvian cuisine.
According to Kidwell, Peru and the Inca site of Machu Picchu were on her “Bucket List” of places to go and people to see after touring all over Europe, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
Kidwell kept a diary of her experience and education with her friends Aloha Buffington, Ronnie Buffington, Ann McCoin, Denice King, Kay Kelsey, Roberta Helweg, Donna Hinton, Polly Sullivan, Gwen Greer, Carol Renner, Virginia Harrington, Joyce Bailey, Carol Stubbs, Jackie Wattenbarger, Alan Goslen and Martha Hancock.
Kidwell admits she was surprised to learn that Inca culture and architecture was “astounding and on par with the Pyramids of Egypt.” The following are excerpts from her adventure in Peru, the biggest country in South America, and the small town of Machu Picchu, the “lost city of the Incas.”
As told by Martha Kidwell:
“The Andes Mountain Range crosses the country from North to South forming diverse geographic regions and various altitudes of different climates. Its geographic division separates the country into three regions: the arid coastal strip, the irregular mountain range, and the Amazon basin, or jungle. This tour covered all three regions and climates, which made packing for such diversity a real challenge.
June 10 — The tour started in Lima, Peru, where the group toured the city’s Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, and the Church of San Francisco with its museum of religious art and catacombs that dated back to the 16th century. Sightseeing also included driving past the scenery of the cliffs along the Pacific Ocean.
The next day the group visited the National Museum which houses a large collection of pre-Columbian artifacts from nearby Incan ruins. Some of the group flew to see the mysterious geometric designs of the Nazca Lines which can only be seen and appreciated from the air. There are many theories that attempt to explain the meaning of the lines. Maybe the only refutable one is the one that maintains they were made by extra-terrestrials and used as enormous landing fields!
In Lima, the group was introduced to the huge varieties of Peruvian food, including cerviche (fresh, raw fish marinated in lime juice and Peruvian peppers, which “cooks” the fish).”
The fusion of Spanish culture with African and Asian cultures contributed to the Peruvian cuisine, according to Kidwell.
“One of the specialties is guinea pig, which most declined to try,” she said. “Other than that, the food was delicious!”
“June 12 — After a few days in Lima, the group flew to Cuzco, Peru, the ancient Incan capital and the center of Incan culture. Cuzco lies in a “bowl” high in the Andes Mountains.
This city of approximately 400,000 people would serve as the base for exploration of the surrounding Incan religious sites for the next several days and gave the group an opportunity to adjust to the high altitude (11,000 feet-plus) before going on to Machu Picchu (more than 8,000 feet) above sea level.
The altitude does take getting used to and for the first few days, everyone tried to take it slow and easy until they got used to it. Drinking the local coca tea and taking Saroche pills (found at local pharmacies) helped make the adjustment to the high altitude. Hotels also offered free oxygen and some took advantage of this as well. It was a strange experience to find oneself out of breath after a small amount of exertion, such as walking across a room!
After some time to adjust, the group was able to see more of Cuzco, which still contains walls and roads originally built by the Incas. When the Spanish conquered Cuzco in the 16th century, they were so impressed with the Incan architecture that they simply built upon and around it.
On a visit to the old Spanish cathedral, La Merced Church, we saw the Korikancha Temple which was built by the Incans and used to be fully covered in gold. The church is simply built upon the Incan walls and the temple was left intact adjacent to the church.
Later the group visited the archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman, the location of a historic battle that forever changed Peruvian life. The Spanish defeated the Incas here in 1536.
The Incans managed to transport and place stones in the walls of this fortress/military/religious site that rivals those used by the Egyptians in building the pyramids. Impressive, to say the least!
June 14 — A full day’s sightseeing to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which lies below and between Cuzco and Machu Picchu and the surrounding Andes mountains, gave the group an opportunity to see the famous ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. The group climbed the steps all the way at Ollantaytambo to the Temple of the Sun. Spectacular scenery! The colorful market at Pisac was filled with local handicrafts and produce grown in this area.
June 15 — Machu Picchu: After a journey by train, approximately three hours, from Cuzco ... the group arrived in the small town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Callientes) where members checked into their hotel and left by bus for a 30-minute ride up the mountains to “the lost city of the Incas.”
Machu Picchu is truly an amazing site and will take your breath away! Thanks to the altitude adjustment period in Cuzco, the 8,000 feet altitude here was not a hindrance, and climbing through the ruins was no problem. The site was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
It was a sacred city where Inca nobility and priests resided and it is everything you have heard, seen, and read about it and much more. The perfect stonework of the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Sector, views from the Temple of Three Windows, and the cave of the Temple of the Condor were some of the sights among the many at Machu Picchu.
June 16 — A return to Cuzco by train for another two days there gave the group an opportunity to see the Archaeological Museum, and experience more Peruvian culture, shopping and cuisine, all at a leisurely pace.
June 18 — After a flight back to Lima, the group visited the Larco Museum, one of the best private museums in Peru. The facility showcases chronological galleries which provide an excellent overview of 3,000 years of the development of Pre-Columbian history, and features the finest gold and silver collection from Ancient Peru. After lunch by the Pacific Ocean, the group made preparation for the upcoming visit to the Amazon the next day.
June 19 — A morning flight from Lima took us to Iquitos, Peru’s major Amazon city and the world’s largest city with no access by road. It can only be reached by river or air. From Iquitos, we traveled by boat down the Amazon River to the lodge in the Amazon Jungle. The Amazon region is the vast plain that lies east of the Andes Mountain range.
It is full of rivers, lagoons and swamps ... and is the habitat to the largest assortment of flora and fauna species found in one place on the planet. It is also referred to as the “lungs of the planet.” The total area of the Amazon rainforest (more than 2.3 million square miles) is bigger than Western Europe and covers an area equivalent of two-thirds of the U.S.
June 20 — On the first morning in the Amazon, the group left at 6 a.m. to go bird-watching by boat. It was still foggy, but beautiful, and with the help of a guide, many different types of birds were spotted. Peru is one of the top countries in the world for bird species recorded within its borders and has the highest density of birds per square mile of any country on earth. More than 1,500 bird species are found in the Amazon Basin.
In the afternoon, it was time to go piranha fishing! Along the way, several pink dolphins were briefly spotted. Several members of the group managed to catch several piranhas.
The piranha, which means “toothed fish” in the language of a native Amazon tribe, has an exaggerated reputation as an aggressive killer. Although a school of piranha can be ferocious and devour prey quickly, they serve as the Amazon River’s “cleanup crew.” They typically eat sick, injured, or dead animals and rarely go after healthy ones.
In the afternoon, a visit to the Yagua Indian village was enjoyed by the group. The Amazon region houses at least 65 native ethnic groups who have preserved their customs and their own languages. The Yagua is one of the best known of these groups.”
According to Kidwell, the Yagua live a simple lifestyle supported by small-scale agriculture, fishing, and light hunting.
“They are skilled craft workers,” Kidwell added. “The Yagua are famous for their use of the blowgun and they are still used as an effective hunting tool. Several in the group tried their hand at using the blowgun.
June 21 — The last day of the tour arrived, but there was one more thing to do. Going by boat to a village called Indiana, the group bought various school supplies, shoes, soccer balls, etc. to take to an elementary school farther down the Amazon.
The students and teachers at the school sang, danced, and answered questions with the assistance of the guides and teachers. Some of the group danced with the children.
Then each member of the group distributed the items they brought to the students. It was a great way to end this part of the tour. After a four-hour boat ride to Iquitos, the group boarded a flight to Lima, and finally flew back to the United States.”
Kidwell concluded, “In many ways, it was a very challenging trip, but in the end it was very much worth it all. One more place to cross off of the ‘Bucket List.’”