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Last Days in Peru June 26, 2012

Posted by bethcarpenter in Travel Log.
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The week after we returned from Machu Picchu, we bid goodbye to our old professor and began our new class on the cultural patrimony of the city of Cusco with a new professor.  Our last week in the city was characterized by varied interviews, city excursions, and a flurry of packing to begin traveling around Peru.

Our last weekend we spent in the city of Puno on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, taking an overnight bus to get there.  After a Peruvian-style breakfast much too early in the morning at the hotel we would return to Sunday night, we ventured out on motorcycle taxis to the coast and boarded two boats for the lake.

We visited an indigenous community only ten minutes from the mainland, that lives on small islands they hand make with dried reeds heavily stacked and bound together; these islands float for almost twenty years before they sink and the community must relocate.

We began our three hour sail to the indigenous island of Amantani where we would pass the night with indigenous families.  After a much-needed nap on board the boat, we landed on the island and were divided up among the women of the community.  I was to share the home with not only my roommate, but also my new professor and the school coordinator.  We had a simple, but delicious lunch of muña tea (for digestion) and potatoes and rice; afterwards, we headed to the football (soccer) arena to play a match and then head up the mountain to watch the sunset.  Combined with our later view of the Vía Láctea (Milky Way) that shot clearly across the sky later that night, Amantani was easily the most celestially beautiful place that I have ever been!

We visited the island of Taquile the next morning; even though we had to hike nearly an hour uphill to reach the main plaza of the community, the fresh trout and quinoa lunch and spectacular views were well worth the effort.  We slowly made in down the stairs to board the boats and return to the Puno hotel later in the afternoon.  A hot shower was much appreciated after no running water on either island!

Monday was spent returning to Cusco from Puno, a long, arduous bus ride–made all the worse because class was held for three hours; that night, we bid farewell to Cusco by dining with our respective families and going out in a small group for dessert off the main plaza.  Tuesday we worked on our final projects; then we said goodbye to our host mother and left Cusco later that evening on an overnight bus to Arequipa.

Arequipa was simply lovely when we visited–I wish we had been able to spend more than a day there!  The architecture is quite European in style, much more Spanish than the indigenous-influenced Cusco.  The Plaza de Armas of Arequipa is characterized by a magnificent gray fountain surrounded by pigeons that will happily eat from your hand, as well as a grand Cathedral.

The Cathedral is simply spectacular inside–a giant organ from Belgium, peach-washed walls with cream crown-molding, and a collection of artifacts from various points in the Cathedral’s history .  We were able to see ruby and emerald-encrusted crowns of Spanish saints, gold and silver-threaded vestments of the church officials, and diamond-studded chalices used for Holy Communion.  We finished our tour on the roof; the tour guide pointed to a massive volcano clearly visible from our position and allowed us to tap the massive bell that proudly overlooked a splendid view of the Plaza.  We finished up a lovely afternoon by dining Peruvian-style on a balcony over the Plaza and ordering gelato on the way back to the hotel.  We had some early-evening work and yet another overnight bus ride.

We arrived in Lima on Thursday morning.  Settling into our hotel rooms in the trendy, beautiful district of Miraflores, we were able to grab a small lunch in a café before we were to meet in the lobby for an afternoon tour of the city.

The Lima historic district is breathtaking–not only does the Lima Plaza de Armas have its own massive Cathedral that we were fortunate to tour, but it also is surrounded by cheery yellow-painted government buildings in the Spanish-style architecture.  The Plaza is also home to the magnificent president’s mansion, which has a changing of the guards not unlike Buckingham Palace in England.

Lima has a vibrant night-life which a group of us enjoyed later in the evening.  We had a lovely tapas dinner at Café Café, and then ventured into the discotecas that the Spanish world loves so much.  These clubs feature salsa dancing and often live music!

We visited ruins on the outskirts of Lima early Friday morning, had another tour of Lima, and concluded in the early afternoon for some free time to shop, eat, and pack (most of us had to leave for the airport at 8 PM that night).  I had an Italian-Peruvian fusion lunch in a Miraflores park of gnocchi de ajé de gallina (gnocchi with a traditional Peruvian squash sauce); and we went to a highly-recommended restaurant on the beach for dinner where we dined on lomo silvestre.  The only thing missing from our final meal in Peru was time for dessert!

I had to leave at 4 AM Saturday morning for my flight.  While most everyone completing the Spain portion of the program and Peru program returned to the States for the week we have off, I flew directly to Europe.  I am currently visiting my aunt and uncle, who live in the southernmost region of Andalusia, Spain.

I hope to spend my free weekend of the Spanish program in Casablanca, Morocco–with such fantastic adventures in South America, I can’t wait for Europe and Africa!

Thanks to the sources of my photos, because my personal photos will not upload:

1)http://images.travelpod.com/users/garion/1.1308073317.6_ile-amantani.jpg

2)https://gttrips.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/plazadearmasdearequipa.jpg?w=300

3)http://fobe.wikispaces.com/file/view/aa.JPG/48890559/aa.JPG

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