At our Day 3 lunch stop, I had alpaca in sweet and sour sauce over rice, elderberry syrup over polenta, lamb from a large skewer, maize fried in oil and a sampling of tasty desserts. And then a female voice called out, “Pat Feldhaus!” Imagine my surprise to see a church friend from Chico which reinforces my “Small World” theory.
Next stop was Pisac (elev. 9,500- 11,000 ft.), another Inca site, situated at the top of a switchback road. Our group took a walking tour on the cobblestone streets of the town and we were invited into some of the homes where good luck dolls along with dried corn hung from the ceilings while guinea pigs scurried around on the earthen floors.
Since I believe that discretion is the better part of valor, I explored the lower levels of the historic location while the others climbed around some of the huge agricultural terraces. Then we descended by bus further into the valley to sleep at the Sonesta Posada del Inca in Yucay where the mattresses were on the floor.
Day 3 – Early morning flight to Cuzco at 10,909 elevation where the primary industry is tourism. On our way down into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, our bus detoured off the main road for several spontaneous “discoveries.” At one stop Walter invited a little boy to come on board and asked him questions about his school (he had to walk an hour each way) and his family. At the end of our conversation the boy said, “Welcome people. Thank you for visiting us.” What composure!
Walter pointed our Ulaipo Lake where Indians told the Spanish conquistadors that a chain of gold was placed; “aym” is the reciprocity of different families working together on their land to help each other; generally, small communities consist of 200 residents with a President; Incas worshiped and sacrificed llamas; and if there is a stick with a red balloon in front of a house, it means that “chicha”, a local corn-brewed beer, is being served.
Our second discovery happened when we all piled out of the bus to see a 2 story house with windows and doors being built of adobe with supports made of eucalyptus wood. If the builder doesn’t make the bricks himself, he can buy 5 bricks for one sol. Natural ventilation preserves food in the dry atmosphere.
Walter, our guide, shared some facts:Spanish is the Number 1 language followed by Quecha(spoken mostly by native Andeans); 3.20 sols + $1.oo; 1988-l992 was the period of terrorists, and July 28 is the Peruvian Independence Day.
The “Parque d’Amor” was our first stop on our afternoon city tour of Lima. A huge erotic statue overlooked the ocean and all sorts of love quotes were emblazoned on the multi- colored tile walls.
The next attraction was “Oro del Peru?Armas del Mundo” (gold of Peru and armaments of the world), a private collection composed of looted Inca sites and gifts of armor and guns. Some of the artifacts included ceremonial masks representing the most important divinities – feline, serpents and birds; weavings from the Paracas; narigueras (gold and silver nose rings); grandiose orejeras (earrings), and mummies that were well-preserved because of the dry coastal climate of Peru.
We arrived in Lima in the evening of the first day; but alas, Kathy’s luggage never caught up with us until the evening of Day 6! She took it in stride and the good part was that she never had to think about what she was going to wear the following morning.
Day 2 – Miraculously my Spanish returns to me when visiting an Hispanic country. I also follow the principle that “When in Rome, do as the Romans” which means that I started drinking coca tea to help me with altitude adjustment. Even though Lima is on the coast of the Pacific, our journey was going to be in the Andes with 10,000 to 11,000 feet elevation gain.
Our charismatic leader’s name was Walter and he started calling me “Mom” right off the bat since I was the senior adventurer (75) of our 16 member group. As we walked through Kennedy Square and the Plaza Principal on our way to lunch, a 72 year old man shined my shoes which are still shiny!
“Discover Real Affordable Peru..including Machu Pichu, the Sacred Valley and Cuzco in an Overseas Adventure Tour.”
How could I resist the lure of the travel brochure, especially since Paul and I had tried to visit Peru in 1989; however, we had to go to the jungle instead since The Shining Path (a group of terrorists) was killing tourists on the train to Machu Pichu.
So, the time was right for me to go to Peru with Kathy, my MT nurse daughter, who gave me a helping hand when those Inca steps proved too challenging for me alone.
Our weekend ended on a light note with “Being Liberal Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” presented by The Second City National Touring Company, a group of six highly Talented improv artists who performed witty, satirical sketches.
Some of the skits focused on a Parent – Teacher conference; a married couple driving in a car and each one always wanted to have the last word; several “spoofs” on the eldrerly and nursing homes; and a very touching cameo of a young boy who is trying to win his father’s approval at a baseball game. A few of the many actors who have launched their careers at this venue are Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Gilda Radner and Martin Short.
With memories like these, I’m planning on a return visit to Toronto.
We were able to see two more plays on Sunday. “Snowman by Greg MacArthur at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre which promotes “provocative artists and alternative lifestyles” had a very interesting plot about what happens to a dysfunctional couple, a teenager who came to be part of their extended family and an uptight archeologist when a frozen prehistoric child is discovered in a nearby glacier.
We walked to the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts to see Paul Ruder’s powerful opera, “The Handmaid’s Tale” directed by Phyllidia Lloyd and performed by the Canadian Opera Company with Conductor Richard Bradshaw.
I thought that this production was very true to Margaret Atwood’s hauntingly prophetic novel written in 1985. Her prescient view of “what happens when you start doing things that are not out in the open such as the government having secret trials? You are in big, big trouble.”
The Prologue and Epilogue of the book were effectively presented on a lowered screen. Especially disturbing were photos of ecological disasters which rendered many women infertile; therefore, the role of Handmaid was to act as a surrogate mother. With the help of a revolving platform, the stage crew did an excellent job of changing the scenes.
Other tour highlights were the Bata Shoe Museum shaped like a shoe box; the University of Toronto (largest in Canada); riding along the harbor front of Lake Ontario; the Skydome for sporting events; and Fort York which was taken over by the United States in the War of 1812 because the British simply left town.
Of course, a major part of any trip I take is seeing theatrical productions and I was rewarded with a variety of performances. We sarted with an afternoon dinner theater play, “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” at the Second City. From the minute we walked in the front door, we were caught up with the whole bridal group before and during the wacky “wedding” ceremony at Vinnie’s Chapel of Love. By the time we left the festivities, we were not just members of the audience, we had become part of the family!
“In 1812 the population of Toronto was 2,000. Today the Greater Metropolitan Area tops 3 1/2 million and is the 5th largest city in North America.
One of the big tourist attractions is Casa Loma (house on the hill), a “castle” with European influence built by architect E. J. Lennox between 1911 – 1914. Our guide said that Casa Loma was the home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt who designed a hydroelectric grid for Toronto and made millions of dollars; however, the city of Toronto took over the grid and eventually the castle leaving Henry with very little money.
The other city icon is the CN Tower built by Canadian National in 1976 to display the country’s industrial strength. I looked way up to see the revolving restaurant and viewing platforms. Our guide continued, “It still remains as one of the highest free standing buildings of the world, attracts over 2 million visitors annually, is located in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District and is a short walk from the Fairmont Royal York.”