Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Approaching Easter Island

Fourth day at sea since leaving Peru. Sailing though an amazing purple/blue sea which is almost glassy smooth this morning. Peru surprised us in many ways -- like some other South American countries in some ways, but it's Incan past is so front and center -- it's is like the Spanish Conquistadores just left 50 years ago instead of 500.

CLYDE'S ADVENTURES -- Clyde has been very busy. He is well known throughout the Royal Princess now and has met a young lady bear that he likes. (He doesn't normally take up with Teddy Bears but things can get lonely for a wombat at sea). He went to Macchu Picchu and rode a llama. He also got to know some Indian children.

PERU -- A few observations, many of which were surprising to us.
- Food and agriculture -- Peru is where both potatoes and Guinea pigs originated and these things a both prominent in Peruvian cuisine. That is right -- roasted Guinea pig is often a Sunday dinner treat and most indigenous families have a pen of them out back. Brian tries some but it was so heavily spiced he could not really taste the meat -- not very meaty little guys. Peru cultivates more than 3000 varieties of potatoes and more than 40 varieties of corn in every color of the rainbow. The most arable areas of Peru (decent rainfall) are mountainous and the mountainsides are terraced (many terraces date back to the Incas) and the land is worked by hand. We saw only one tractor in our 4 days in Peru. Asparagus is their largest agricultural export -- they don't eat it themselves.

- People and politics -- Until 1968 descendants of the Spanish conquerors owner most of the land and infrastructure and completely controlled the govenment and economy. The Incan descendants were like serfs and their children had no schools. In 1968 a left-wing President/General took over --- did a land redistribution and established schools for the people. School is now mandatory for 6 years (not enforced) and free. Higher education is free if you pass the tests, but many private schools also exist. The indians are now entitled to 1/3 of the legislature seats and so are women. The Shining Path guerilla leaders are in jail but the group still exists in remote areas. Up until sometime in the 90s, they had about a bomb a day go off in Lima --- their capital of 8 million. Poverty is still evident in many places. The people we met were all pleasant and a bit shy. Street vendors were everywhere hawking toursit stuff -- they were pleasant but persistent. and gave themselves names like Tom Cruise, Martha Washington, etc to try to connect.

- Macchu Picchu -- We had seen the pictures but seeing it in person was a revelation. High in the Andes (8500 ft) overlooking a deep river valley surrounded by sharp green peaks. Scholars have many theories about the purpose of this town of 1000 or so, but no one knows why it was built or why it was abandoned. The Spanish never found it and it was lost until about 1910. Our guide, Odelia, made the Incan culture come alive for us. She is have Incan and half Spanish, but the Incan part is strongest in her. The Incans were an advanced civilization in many ways. They did not have iron or steel making technology, but fashioned huge stoneworks that fit together without mortar as if they had been machine-made. Their stone-working tools were fashioned from metiorites that gave them hard metal (iron and nickel). They had a strong set of religious beliefs and a highly ordered civilization. They were sun worshipers and astronomy governed a lot of things in their lives.

- The natural beauty of the mountains and river valleys is hard to describe -- very green this time of year and very steep. A few peaks covered with snow and glaciers were often visible in the distance. Incan trails and terraced fields dotted the mountainsides almost everwhere -- often in areas so steep it was hard to believe.

- Out computer is not working properly right now so pictures will be few, but we will try to put a few up later today.

-- BTW our 4-day land trip in Peru was extremely well organized. The hotel we stayed at 3 nmights in Cusco was truly 5-star and you know the food was good when everyone on the bus applauded when they announced that the next meal would be a the hotel.

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear of your adventure - the mountains put me in mind of Hawaii! Steep with beautiful valleys. Tell Clyde hello!