13 March 2012
Virginia and Dennis Johns
Wed Feb 29 At 2200 we took a taxi to the bus terminal. Our bus didn’t leave until 2330, and indeed we had gotten there too early. Despite the heat, we dug into our duffle bags and got out long pants and jackets so that we could cover up as much as possible as there were mosquitoes everywhere. We spent the next hour just pacing around so that they didn’t have a convenient place to land. The locals each carried a small towel that they would constantly swing and use to swat the mosquitoes. At one point Virginia considered asking one of the taxis if we could pay them just to sit in their taxi for the next hour, but decided that would be too wimpy. We were glad when we could board the bus and dozed during the 4 hour ride to Guayaquil.
Thu Mar 1 The bus terminal in Guayaquil was in a bit shopping mall; but at 0400 not much was open. We took a taxi ride to the airport for the first flight to Lima. In Lima we had to disembark and check into our second flight to Cuzco. We had obviously forgotten about some of the airline rules about what is acceptable to carry on in your luggage as we both lost parts of our manicure sets there. They double checked some of Dennis’ bags and in the shuffle his tilly hat and our mouse pad (with the pictures of our grandkids!) were lost. We were met at the airport and taken via taxi to Corihuasi hostel. It is right off the central plaza up a steep cobblestone road. We got lots of exercise while we were there. Our first stop was to an ATM to get Peruvian soles and then to a pharmacy to get medicine to prevent altitude sickness. We wandered the cobblesone streets of Cuzco and bought Dennis a souvenir – a hat. It rained off and on every day we were in Cuzco and we were wishing we brought our umbrellas as we couldn’t find any to purchase in town. But we had our hats and windbreakers. We made our arrangements through a travel agency four our trip to Machu Picchu. When we got back to the hotel, we noticed that we had a leak in the roof which was dripping onto our bed. The hotel staff was very accommodating and moved us to a different room. Corihuasi is a very simple but clean and comfortable bed and breakfast. We spent some time on the internet and skype trying to track down our wind generator circuit board which was to be shipped to Ecuador only to find that it had been shipped to Panama. So we ordered a second one to be shipped to Karen who is joining us in just about a week so that she can bring it down with her. Valerie and Stan on Pax Nautica graciously agreed to take the one that arrived in Panama to the Galapagos with them and we’ll hook up with them there. We ate in a cute restaurant - got sucked in by a street hawker. But we enjoyed the Peruvian food. We even tried an alpaca appetizer; but we did not order the cuy – guinea pig – also considered a ‘typico’ dish here.
Fri Mar 2 We are off to Machu Picchu. We took a bus (large van) from Ollyntaytambo and then transferred to a Peru Rail train for the second half of the trip to Agua Callientes. Each leg was about 2 hours. Our bus driver was stopped at a random check point for a documentation check and he drove like a madman through the windy roads to get us back on schedule. The countryside was so beautiful, spotted with farming settlements. The bus ride took us above Cuzco, giving us a nice view of the city. The train was quite comfortable – groups of 4 around a table. We lucked out and were seated on the side by the river – the best views. The river was raging wildly – not navigable by kayakers or rafters – eventually feeding into the Amazon. We followed the river down to Machu Picchu. We were greeted in Agua Callientes by our ‘transfer’ person who walked us to Pirwa hostel. Again a very simple room, but clean and comfortable with private bath and breakfast included. That night our guide, Peter, came to the hostel at 1900 to give us a briefing so we would know what to expect and what to bring. It rained all day and night. We were glad we had found some umbrellas in Ollyntaytambo near the train station.
Sat Mar 3 We awoke to a beautiful day – no rain. We took the 0700 bus ride up to Machu Picchu from Agua Calientes (about 30 min) and met Peter at the entrance. We only had 8 in our group which was wonderful. We saw much larger groups of 20+ that were quite unwieldy. We were able to move about quickly from spot to spot. Peter’s English was very good and he was a wealth of information. Machu Picchu was amazing. It is a huge settlement and so well preserved. Since it was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors, it wasn’t destroyed like the other ruins near Cuzco that we visited. However, when Hiram Bingham did come across it in 1911 it was deserted and any artifacts of value or symbolic importance were gone. It is believed that the Incans in Machu Picchu and other nearby settlements voluntarily evacuated and took all their treasures to “the lost city”. They were afraid of being discovered and pillaged by the conquistadors. The engineering and architectural feats are unbelievable. For instance, there are two earthquake faults there which you can see from visible fissures in nearby mountains. The Inca designed the city around these, providing a break in the walls at critical points to allow for fault effects. We had the guide for two hours and then were on our own to explore. We walked to an Incan drawbridge and Dennis walked part of the Inca Trail while Virginia rested and people watched. We only had 10 minutes of light sprinkles the entire day. It was amazing. We were so lucky. By taking the 30 min bus ride from Agua Callientes we took the easy route. You can also hike from Agua Callientes to Machu Picchu (couple hours) or take a 4 day hike that starts closer to Ollentaytambo. We met a young woman from Australia in the airport who had done the 4 day hike with her sisters. She said that it is very difficult when it is raining as the Inca Trail is all cobblestone and by the third day when their legs were rubber they were all constantly slipping and falling. Also they just could not get warm as everything got wet. We were glad we had taken the easy route this time.
Sun Mar 4 Took Peru Rail back to Ollyntaytambo at 0830 and then a bus/van back to Cuzco. We returned to Corihuasi Hostel.
Mon Mar 5 Went on a guided tour of the city in the afternoon. It included a cathedral, Incan temple, and several ruins just outside Cuzco. Our English speaking guide, Raul, gave us a lot of info about the Incans, especially their use of astrology. It rained as we explored the ruins but we came prepared with our jackets and umbrellas.
Tues Mar 6 We walked the city on our own, visiting several museums and discovering small hidden plazas and fountains. We attended a folklorica show that night with traditional Peruvian music and dancing. The costumes were beautiful and elaborate. Both men and women danced very energetically throughout. It was a different style than we had seen in Panama.
Wed Mar 7 We flew to Quito and stayed at the Sakti Hostel, recommended by Suzanne and Michael of Namaste. Elena and Humberto run a French vegetarian restaurant and small hostel. The rooms were simple with French country style decorations. They were very pleasant people – such nice hosts. Dennis found a Rotary club that was meeting that night and we attended their dinner meeting. Fernando Lasso spoke wonderful English and was the first to greet us. As he was on the board and had duties to attend to, he sat us with a former Rotarian Governor who belongs to that club. He was kind enough to keep us apprised of what was happening. It was a very enjoyable evening. The next day, Mar 8, was Women’s Day which evidently they make a big deal of in Peru so they gave some special recognition to all the women Rotarians present that night as well as Virginia.
Thu Mar 8 Sakti’s included breakfast started out with a big bowl of fruit – delicious. We took the bus to the airport to meet Karen. She brought an extra small suitcase full of gear for us. She breezed right through customs. We had a late big vegetarian lunch at Sakti and took an early evening walk around town. There was a large children’s park with every imaginable play structure, including a run similar to ziplining. It was fabulous. We had obviously just missed a parade and other festivities. They were cleaning up. We skipped dinner and just relaxed in our rooms.
Fri Mar 9 We had another great breakfast with fruit at Sakti before heading off to the airport. We took a short hop to Manta and then a bus ride to Bahia de Caraquez. A short taxi ride got us to Puerto Amistad around 1730. The staff took us out to Libertad in a panga. We had eaten a hurried, but substantial, lunch in Manta so we skipped dinner and called it an early night as we, especially Dennis, were exhausted. It was more of an emotional exhaustion than physical , from the surprise that awaited us when we returned to Libertad. We had hired Raymundo to run the engine periodically to charge the batteries while we were gone. Although he had dutifully done that, we came back to only a 33% charge. Dennis traced it to the alternator (again!); he took off the ‘new’ one and put on our rebult one and we were charging again. We ran the engine for several hours to get back up. Meanwhile Virginia and Karen cleaned out the freezer because it had turned off automatically when the battery voltage got too low. All the meet was unfrozen, warm and smelly. We cleaned the freezer several times with soap, water, vinegar…and the small somewhat dissipated. We took the spoiled food ashore to put in the trash and proceeded immediately to the bar for a cold drink.
Sat Mar 10 Tripp Martin, the harbormaster of Puerto Amistad has returned from the his trip to the states so we got to meet him and get things rolling for our departure. We need to be topped off with diesel, gasoline, water, and propane. We also need to get our paperwork, zarpe. The port captain has been gone but they are expecting him back Monday so hopefully we can leave early next week. Meanwhile we are provisioning the boat and installing the new wind generator circuit board that Karen delivered to us (among other projects). We have been without propane since we returned as they didn’t fill the one tank we gave them before we left for Peru. Since non-ecuadorians aren’t allowed to buy propane, Tripp buys it in large canisters and then his staff gravity feeds it into our smaller containers – very time consuming. We got one tank back today so we were able to cook aboard.
Sun Mar 11 Caught up on internet work in the morning. Worked on boat projects in the afternoon. Dennis finished the wind generator installation and Virginia sewed a new canvas cover for our outboard and for the generator. Karen assisted with both; Virginia was so happy to have someone willing to do all the seam ripping of the old cover so she could use it as a pattern. Movie night: Karen had not seen Captain Ron yet so we had to watch that.
Mon Mar 12 we were hoping to leave today or tomorrow, but it looks like it will be Wednesday before all preparations are in order. We have provisioned. They’ve delivered the diesel and gasoline. We still need the propane, water, and our zarpe. They say it will arrive Tuesday so that we can leave Wed. morning. Tonight we went over to Suzanne and Michael’s house for dinner – enjoyable evening swapping cruising stories.