Tipon

Lena Admiring Tipon

Our very last weekend in Cusco! We had finished our Spanish classes and have been busy preparing for our upcoming journey to Machu Picchu via Salkantay. But our Spanish teacher had organized an excursion to nearby Tipon and convinced us to come along.

Tipon is an ancient Inca site in the Sacred Valley located about 15km from Cusco. It is believed to have been a hold place for upper class members of the society and a center of agricultural importance. There is also a very impressive Intiwarwi (Sun Temple) high above the agricultural terraces. This was one of the most advanced of the Incan cities in the area in terms of engineering, and there is an impressive system of canals and fountains that still function to this day- many hundred of years later.

Tipon Panorama

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Hike to the Ruins

Beautiful Valley

This past weekend, Lena and I finally ventured out of Cusco for the day for a hike in the surrounding countryside. Within less than 8km of Cusco there are at least seven major Inca ruins in the hills here. There are many of smaller ones as well, unnamed which one sometimes stumbles upon accidentally. This day, we left from San Blas, and hiked up the hill to Q’enko. We had heard that it was possible to enter to the ruins for free, so from the hill we just walked in through the rear of the complex. We had a few minutes to explore, but when we tried to go to the main part of the ruins, we were stopped and asked for our tickets. Of course we didn’t have any, but we just played dumb, and when the guy threatened to call the police we just left. Still our plan was ruined- We couldn’t continue to the other ruins, so we just started walking in the other direction where we heard there were other ruins which could be visited for free. So, from there we walked across the countryside and eventually found the Temple of the Moon and from there followed an ancient Inca road over the valley pass to Puka Puch’ara. By the end of the day when we made it back to Cusco, we had walked more than 18km- Good training for our upcoming trek to Machu Picchu.

Panorama from Templo de la Luna

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Pisac

Jason at Pisac Market

After we were already two and a half weeks in Cusco and never had time on the weekends to get out of Cusco to see something of the surroundings, we finally made it last Sunday to Pisac. Pisac is located in the “Sacred Valley”, as the surrounding area is referred to around Cusco, because so many Inca ruins are found here. And on every Sunday there is the spectacle of a huge handicraft market in Pisac, attracting both tourists, and locals alike. One can really get lost in this market. The entire marketplace of Pisac and all the little streets around are studded with stalls, selling all imaginable kind of handicraft products of Peru: Scarves and sweaters made of alpaca wool, colorful caps and sleeves, Jewellery, ornate carved gourds, Ponchos, Masks and much more.

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Yanapay Halloween

Vampire!

Our very first week at Aldea Yanapay happened to be the week of Halloween. We had no idea Halloween was so popular in Peru, but the kids were already busy at work preparing their costumes when we arrived. Each week, there is a particular theme at Yanapay which we try to teach to the kids in some small ways; This week, the theme was recycling and so, we were building our costumes from completely recycled materials. It was a hectic week full of paint, glitter, and glue, and was quite a shock for our first week working with the project… It was however, a great introduction, and an easy way to work with the kids- even without words.

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Aldea Yanapay

Voluntarios Por Amor

A Brief Introduction:

We have been working for Aldea Yanapay for two weeks now, and have wanted to post some photos from the school since we started… Aldea Yanapay is a social organization here in Cusco working with children from 4-13 year-olds in one of the poorer parts of Cusco. We work with the children about four hours a day, helping with their homework, playing games, teaching art classes, or introducing them to other cultural subjects like world-religion, environment, social issues, art, or theater (The themes of the last two weeks have been Recycling, and Inca Religion)

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El Mercado

Fruit Vendor

From a Western point of view, it’s a little strange finding that there are very few supermarkets in Peru. Actually as far as I can tell, there is not a single one in Cusco. None. That means no sliced bread, no Captain Crunch for breakfast, no packaged meats, no TV dinners… Basically none of the lovely western pre-packaged foods, junk food, and comfort items we depend on. Instead, there are little corner shops everywhere filled with fruits and vegetables, crusty bread, and pasta (just the basics), and most people do their day-to-day shopping at whichever is closest to his door. Any real shopping however, is done at the local mercado– Here you can find literally anything you might think you need; From souvenirs to toilet paper, toothbrushes to tea, a massive assortment of fruits and vegetables, fresh milk, eggs, and cheeses, herbs of all kinds (including Ayahuasca; brewed or not, San Pedro, Yopo, and Coca), dry grains by the kilo, meats (chopped, skinned, or even still alive), bread, alpaca wool, and whatever else you can possibly think of- you can probably find it there. If by chance you come up with something that isn’t on the shelves of one of the literally hundreds of vendors, just wave a few soles around and I bet within a few hours an industrious merchant will find it for you.

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Snapshots from Cusco

Lena catches a 'Bresson Moment', San Blas, Cusco

We have actually been pretty busy since our arrival here in Cusco (finding an apartment, working at school, two days sick…), and really haven’t had much time for the normal tourist activities… We have had a little bit of time to snap a few quick photos on our way from here to there though. At first glance, Cusco is a beautiful town filled with colonial churches, Inca walls, wonderful markets, street vendors, and beautiful plazas. I can’t wait to have some time to take the camera out for some real work- I think there are truly a lot of photographic possibilities to explore; especially as the Spanish (hopefully) improves and interactions become more intimate. Here’s a quick section of a few of my favorite photos from our first few days here… Lena’s Bresson-esque shot is my favorite.

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Seen on the Streets of Cusco

Role Reversal

I thought this was a very appropriate and well executed piece… Even being a camera-toting gringo myself, I really loved it and have thought about it ever since every time I pull out my camera. I think that’s pretty effective street art; and just what street art should be.

Seen on the streets of San Blas, Cusco.

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Casa de Mama

Inconspicuous Entrance from the Street

A small room in the sky. The entire upper half of the walls is a facade of windows. We are above the whole city and have breathtaking views over the old town. At night we can see from the bed the glittering city below. All the little houses and streets, winding up the dark mountains, lit up in orange light. And in the morning we wake early with the sun. It's always summer in our little room in the sky, because the whole day the sun shines in. It keeps the room warm, so with this stored heat of the day it is a bit easier, to get by on still very cold Andean nights. A ceiling made of bamboo and elaborate decorations from plants brighten up the little room.

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First Days in Lima

Well, I admit this blog thing hasn’t been going so well lately… We have been far behind posting since we began. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we now have to skip all of the United States roadtrip (perhaps to reappear at a later date, since there are a lot of stores to tell about that!) and try to write about some more recent endevors…

Fast forward two months…

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Plaza de Armas at Night

Lima, Peru.

After months of planning and anxious anticipation, we finally arrived in Lima, red-eyed and tired from 18 hours of travel. The first task was to find a cab to take us to Miraflores in the south of the city, where two couchsurfers were hopefully waiting for us. Gringos fresh off the plane (and even worse, speaking almost no Spanish) made us prime targets for all kinds of scams, robberies, and general taking advantage of. We grabbed some cash from the ATM and headed outside to a mob of cabbies yelling and trying to bid for our patronage. I tried haggling a bit with a few of them, but we were so tired there wasn’t too much we could do- If we had another half hour to spare, we might have saved a few soles, but as it was, we were pretty happy just to find a bed that night…

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