Summer solstice -- but winter solstice if I were still in Peru.
It's been over two weeks since I returned from that amazing country, and I keep thinking about what an incredible journey I had.
I am glad I write a blog along the way, because it would be hard now to put all these experiences into perspective.
I have to say that this trip was everything I wanted and more. The highlight, of course, was seeing Machu Picchu. I will never forget walking through the park entrance and along a short walk until the entire vista of the ruins opened up, with Wayna Picchu towering over the site. I felt particularly blessed that some of us were able to hike both the Inka Trail to the Sun Gate and the trail to the Inka Bridge on our second day.
Besides Machu Picchu, my favorite day was "A Day in the Life." This is one of the reasons many people like to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). Although we experienced daily life many times on our trip -- from drinking chicha beer at an impromptu kitchen bar to eating lunch in a local home where we were served guinea pig, we had one very special day. I loved every minute. It began in the village of Izcuchaca. What was particularly memorable was becoming acquainted with everyday people who make a living selling food and drink in the town square and produce and meat in the city market. We continued to an elementary school where we interacted with the children, stopped in a small village to see a beautiful mountain lake, participated in a healing man's ritual, and ended the day with demonstrations at a weaving co-op.
All of the ruins we visited were interesting for the historical perspective they provide to the Inkan culture. After all, most people visit Peru just to see the ruins.
But the life of today is well worth the visit. I fell in love with Cusco and feel there there was much left to see. Shopping in the markets and small shops provided an opportunity for cultural exchange as well as some great purchases. I was overwhelmed by the volume of handcrafted items available for reasonable prices throughout the area. Pepe told me that Peruvians have resisted the intrusion of manufactured items from other countries, and the manufactured items for sale are made in Peruvian factories by locals. I have to believe that this is true because everything I saw was unique. I could have filled a second suitcase, but I had to show restraint. Maybe it was best to leave something behind for the next time -- and there may be a next time. The Inka Trail still calls.
After returning home, Pepe sent these photos of our group at several locations which I want to share:
I also can't resist posting my fabulous finds (in x-small - like the Peruvians)
(Top left) mantas for my daughter to wrap baby Lorelei
(Lower left) 4 scarves for myself and friends
(Right top) a hand woven scarf from the weavers at Chinchero
(Right bottom) woven yardage
2 pair hand-knit mittens (with fingers!)
A silver souvenir spoon to add to my collection
A silver pendant with the Inkan cross and calendar
Dolls, baby mittens, a painting of a village and for my daily treat - coffee mugs
Top right are holders for water bottles, which were extremely useful on the trip.