Peru – by Irene Butler –
Published in – Air Canada Vacations Magazine, Sun Collection 2008 – 2009 and Travellady.com E-Zine –
Our prop-plane droned, dipping its wings left then right for passengers on both sides of the craft to get a good view. A burly fellow named Angel was our pilot – I felt safe. He pointed out the gigantic geoglyphs as we neared each one. “Do you see the monkey? Next will be the bird with a wingspan of over 100m.” My mind swirled with the wonder of the ancient land-bound Nasca people’s mastery of geometry in drawing forms that can only be recognized for what they are from the air. The 60’s theory that the Nasca Lines were landing strips for extraterrestrials has faded, but for sure the most perplexing figure is that of a helmeted astronaut.
My husband Rick and I found the marvels along our route as varied as the gems used to decorate an Inca temple.
Colca Canyon, twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, is home to the Andean condor, a bird so large they depend on the thermal air currents to aide their flight. We waited and waited for a sight to behold – the graceful ballet of condors soaring, dipping and diving in the search of food and I’m sure for the sheer pleasure of being airborne.
Lake Titicaca is a name all school kids know and giggle at, even if most do not know it straddles the coast of Peru and Bolivia. The day of our boat excursion to two islands was perfect. The calm waters competed with the sky for the deepest shade of blue.
“Step carefully,” our guide Juan said. I warily stepped onto the spongy surface of totora reeds which are cut and layered to make the base of the Uros (floating islands). Everything is made from the reeds: houses, furniture, boats with Viking-like dragonhead bows. The ‘why’ to this water world was to escape Inca, then Spanish rule.
On the isle of Taquile, the Quechua speaking people hold strong to tradition in dress and their way of life. Listen up fellows – the men do the knitting; learning the trade from boyhood.
My heart pounds – not only from the exertion of the climb, but the thrill of ascending the same stairway as the ancient Incas. Over the rise the grandeur of Machu Picchu sprawls across the jungle ridge below. My eyes scan the garden terraces, the streets and stairways running between the edifices. A mist cloaks Huayna Picchu, the huge mountain that looms over the city.
Descending into the royal and temple areas, I rub my hand over the walls of granite awed by the precision masonry. In the rougher stone houses the pulsing energy of workers was almost tangible. A sun shower flooded the city with magical hues. I wondered if the ancients stopped what they were doing in this same spot to gaze at the stunning view, just as I was now.
Loaded with alpaca toques for our Canadian friends at home, it was back to the electric city of Lima, and the end of our adventure. A farewell Pisco Sour was in order. In addition to white Pisco brandy – the national drink of Peru, this cocktail is a blend of lemon juice, sugarcane syrup, and a frothy cap of egg whites which keeps the sprinkle of Angostura bitters afloat. Drink as many as you can while in Peru, as the essential small round lemons are impossible to find outside the country.
‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the places and moments that take our breath away.’ In the treasure trove of Peru – there were plenty of those moments.