June 15, 2008:

Part 2: Machu Picchu, One of the New Seven Wonders of the World

We arrived in Cuzco, the historic capital of the Inca empire, which
lies at 3,300 meters (10,800 ft). (Cuzco can also be spelled
Cusco). This tourist city celebrates many festivals and we happened
to arrive right smack dab in the middle of one. The city was alive
with parades and had a street fair going on with numerous food
vendors . Chicken and whole guinea pigs were the specialty of the
day with rice and pasta remaining a huge part of the menu. All
meals started with a generous bowl of very tasty soup. It was a
good way to introduce Jeff to Peru, especially after his 24 hour
journey here. As we walked around Cuzco, giving Jeff some time to
adjust to the altitude, we observed many cultural practices. One in
particular appeared to have a middle aged man whipping the upper
back thighs of young men with a rope whip. Many people were
standing around watching and the young men appeared to be victims
voluntarily. We didn't understand what was going on there and never
did get the scoop. One festival that we learned about (in which I
don't know the name) occurs June 20-22. Day 1 and 2 you fight with
anyone that you have had a problem with in the past. Day 3 everyone
fights and then you take care of the injured and conclude with
everyone partying together to celebrate the winners and the losers.
Okay, I guess this would be an incentive to not piss anyone off! We
also observed many elderly people begging on the street corners. We
were told by a local not to give money to children but that it is
good to give money or food to the elderly. For many of them, their
families have abandoned them. So, we would usually carry some food
with us and give it to these people as we would run across them.

Our accommodation in Cuzco was at a hostel which was an old colonial
building with great character. When we arrived the desk clerk
immediately offered us mate de coca. (Coca is what they make
cocaine out of. However, I think there is a lot of manufacturing
that needs to be done to transform it from the leaf state to the
powder.) This remedy is suppose to help you adjust to the altitude
but it only made Ward sick The hostel had alot of people staying
there of all different nationalities and it was great to hear their
stories. They were inspiring.

We rode to Urubamba on Saturday and prepared ourselves for a full
day at Machu Picchu the following day. Our route to Urubamba was on
a gravel road, that was recommended by a local, and it took us
through a very nice farming area. As we rode through small
communities the kids were getting out of school. They would run
along side of us, slap our hands, say "hello" and then giggle.
Sometimes we would run into road blocks. The donkeys, that were
invisible to the eye because they were buried in corn, took over the
road and our only option was to patiently bike behind them.
Sometimes they weren't donkeys....sometines there were men under all
that corn. We finished the ride by going down the Peruana mountain
bike downhill championship course. We were flying and it was
sketchy with our little tires. We passed the Salinas (salt ponds)
that are just outside of Urubamba in the sacred valley. The salty
water bubbles up from below the ground and is then routed through
miles of little channels and to hundreds of ponds created on the
mountainside for evaporation. These salt ponds provide the salt for
all of southern Peru.

5:00 a.m., Sunday morning, we were up and excited for our Machu
Picchu adventure. To get there we had to take a local bus, then a
train ride, and then a final bus to Machu Picchu. It probably would
have been just as easy to have hiked the Inca Trail. Just a little
bit of history of Machu Picchu for those of you (like me - Jacky)
that learned about it in school but never thought much about it
again. It is referred to as the lost city of the Incas and was
built in 1450. It was abandoned 100 years later at the time of the
Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire and was forgotten for
centuries. It was rediscovered in 1911 and is now one of the New
Seven Wonders of the World.

Machu Picchu lies on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley and
is truly magnificant. It is not only beautiful it is also mind
boggling in other respects. To think that they cut each block of
stone so that they would fit together tightly without mortar. There
are junctions in the central city that are so perfect that not even
a knife fits between the stones. By not using mortar the buildings
were suppose to be more earthquake resistant. The mountain behind
Machu Picchu is called Huayna Picchu. It is 360 meters (1181 ft)
above Machu Picchu. It is where the high priest and the local
virgins would go. Well, they only let 400 people climb this
mountain per day and Ward, Jeff and I just had to be 3 of them. The
climb up was not that bad. We were always looking forward
concentrating on where to put our foot next and trying not to slip
on the humid uneven stone steps. But, once to the top it was a
little hair raising! There was nothing to hide behind and one slip
of the foot could put you over the edge. My heart was
pounding...and not because of the elevation...as I crawled down the
steps and ledges on my butt. Yes, crab style. I was very happy to
reach the bottom and have 2 feet planted on the ground. But, it
was well worth it!

The Incas also made a walking bridge that has a section across a
cliff face. They wedged a walking path into the side of this
cliff. If you would slip you would fall 570 meters (1,900 ft) over
the edge. The Incas were crazy. This bridge is located just west
of Machu Picchu.

Pictures of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and the walking bridge can
be viewed on our website.

Monday morning we were back on our bikes and enroute back to Cuzco
and then to Puno. But first we had to stop in the small town of
Pisac to talk to the English classes. We have started a project
called "Pedaling for Pencils...Write to Remember". Our goal is to
talk to English students in various schools and to inspire them to
dream, no matter how grand or how small. We tell our story and
also try to teach them a little about different cultures, etc.
Needless to say we learn alot from them too. We encourage the kids
to write/record and we give each student a pencil. In Pisac Ward,
Jeff and myself talked to English classes for 2.5 hours. It was
great fun as the 14 and 15 year old students were getting excited
and very inquisitive. It was especially interesting for Jeff who is
a Mathematics High School teacher in Decorah. It was a learning
experience in itself to observe their educational system. Our goal
is to talk to 2 schools a month. A special thank you to the Cuzco
Rotary club for funding our pencils for the Pisac school.

As we biked down the road we couldn't help noticing:

1. all the corn fields and the men and women sitting on the ground
shelling the corn and sorting the kernals by hand. Isn't there an
easier way? Every farm has a tent in their field. Every night
someone sleeps in the field to make sure no one or nothing gets into
their corn. Their corn is their bread and butter.

2. boys playing soccer in bumpy/rocky fields where they made their
own goals, etc. They make do with what they have.

3. manure drying on the roofs. They use it for fuel....yes, even
for cooking.

4. the dogs everywhere! In Peru they are aggressive. After Ward
had 4 of them on his heels and actually got bit by one we obtained

5. the poorly maintained roads. Not only were many areas bumpy
but sometimes there would be a manhole cover missing, or grates
missing. Not conducive to cycling.

6. all the public transportation buses and all the people jam
packed into them. They also have an enormous amount of 3 wheel
motorcyle taxis and 3 wheel bicycle taxis.

7. all the horn blowing. You don't know if they are blowing their
horns to let you know that they are behind you, to tell you to get
out of the way, to notify vehicles/people in the intersection that
they are coming through and not stopping, or to let you know that
they are a taxi and you can hitch a ride.

8. the poor emmision standards. It is common for the buses to
have black exhaust strewing from them. You have to plan ahead, take
a deep breath and hold it as the vehicle passes.

9. -the numerous amounts of parades. We seem to catch a parade in
every town that we stay in!

10. the amount of potatoes, rice, pasta and bread we have to
eat! The Atkins diet would not work here.

On the way to Puno we crossed our highest mountain pass so far,
4,333 meters (14,400 ft). Luckily neither Ward, Jeff nor I had
problems. Unfortunately we didn't get to descend much and stayed in
the high plains, close to the mountain tops. It is chillier at this
elevation and we have even had to start our candle/stove in the
hotel room to try to get the temperature above 52 degrees. They
don't believe in heating ANY of the buildings here and frequently
leave their front doors wide open. Do you know how hard it is to
type with your gloves on?

We reached Puno and Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest
commercially navigable lake in the world at 3,830 meters (12,566 ft)
above sea level. We found a hostel that we made our home for a few
days. Lake Titicaca is known for its floating islands. In the past
the Uros Indians escaped from the Spaniards and built these floating
reed islands. We took a 3 hour tour to the islands and were able
to visit 2 of them. We actually took a reed boat made by the locals
to the second island. These islands are phenomenal! They are
actually floating and can drift. The water depth under the island
we visited was 62 ft. They have to replenish the reed on the island
about 4 times a year. Their houses are also made of reed. There
are about 42 of these floating islands of all different sizes on the
lake. Each one has its own mayor. Then there is a head mayor that
reigns over all the islands. Each island has its own tower and that
is what they use to communicate with each other. Please see the
photos on our website. These islands are truly incredible.

We were also able to give Jeff a crash course in Peruvian culture.
Last Sunday we treated ourselves to some ceviche (it was okay but
wouldn't order it again) and then we started to make our way down to
the lake front. We were distracted by a local soccer tournament
that was taking place. As we were spectating we noticed a beer
garden. What better way to mingle with the locals. It didn't take
us long to discern that we were the only "gringos" there and that
these people had been sitting here for a few hours. They were very
friendly to us and everyone wanted to be our amigo. Beer was being
shared, pictures were being taken, hats were being swapped, and
laughs were being had. Let me tell ya...you don't experience this
on a tour bus! Ask Jeff about their style of drinking beer. Jeff,
you passed your crash course with flying colors. The guys that we
were sitting with were from the Coast Guard. Edwardo is the engine
mechanic and wanted to give us a tour of their boat the following
day. Of course, we'll be there.

The boat was built in 1820 and was brought over the Andes to Puno in
segments by mules. It took 3 years to get the boat transported. He
showed us his work station in the engine room. The engine is so old
that they can't get replacement parts. So, when it breaks down he
has to fabricate the parts. It was a very interesting tour.

Jeff finished his time with us by getting his last bit of altitude
training in. Jeff and Ward did a marathon training run (Ward plans
on doing the Aukland, NZ marathon next Nov.). Their lungs were
tested as they gasped for air. Yes, running and biking are a little
different. Jeff left us on June 11th. We will really miss him.
Thanks Jeff for joining us.

We are now making our way to Bolivia. We had to take a day off
today because we found out that we have to pay $200 US at the
Bolivian border. They don't have any ATMs in this town or in the
towns down the road so Ward had to take a local bus back to Puno to
get the money. Planning is critical in these smaller towns and
poorer countries. You never know what is going to be accessible or

Just a tidbit on the weather. The days can get up to 50-70 degrees
but the nights can get down in the 20s. One morning we woke up to
snow and then it snowed again in the afternoon. We are not camping
at this time because of the colder weather and because of lack of
campgrounds. The lodging is very inexpensive. Ward and I both are
staying in a hostel/hospedejae for $4.00-$10.00 a night. They're not
always nice but they're doable.

Food is also very inexpensive. The restaurants offer desayuna
(breakfast), almuerzo (lunch) and cena (supper) for 1.50 to 4.00
SOLES. That translates into 60 cents to $1.36 US per meal. We
can't cook for that price. They offer only one or two choices for
your meals so you can't be picky. You always get plenty to eat
since each meal comes with a large bowl of soup. They do eat some
interesting items here. We've seen guinea pig, frogs in soup, cow
stomach and cow intestines. We do eat food from the food vendors
on the streets. We don't always know what it is but we make sure it
is cooked. We don't eat any fresh vegetables or fruit unless we buy
them ourselves and soak them in our own disinfectant solution. We
treat the tap water with Pristine and use that for our drinking
water. We have had a little diarrhea but nothing some Immodium
can't cure.

Peru is the most cultural country we have visited so far and very
diverse in its environment. Please see our pictures to further
understand what we've enjoyed and experienced.

All the pictures through Peru will be posted by Wednesday, June
18th....right Kay?

Hasta luego amigos and amigas,
Jacky and Ward Budweg