We have just a couple days here and then the Lima Temple closes for semi annual maintenance. We have two weeks of vacation in February and two more in August. We were told if there was a baby blessing, a wedding, or something of significance we could also apply for permission to return to Utah during those two weeks. That is a very tempting thought of seeing family and grandkids again. Since our mission area is all of Peru we are able to travel to Cusco and Machu Picchu. We will be posting photos and reports following our trip there when we return as our laptops are not going with us. We will have our IPhone so we can keep in touch via e-mail. We will be enjoying this trip with friends coming from Utah to spend a week with us here.
|Machu Picchu the iconic remnant of the Incan world|
Going to this very high altitude, cultural, and historical area of Peru requires some amount of preparedness. Probably the single most important consideration is finding a reputable and reasonable travel agency. Lamanita Travel was recommended to us by others here in Peru. We checked prices and services and found them to be competitive and in one case about half what a local agency in Lima wanted for the same service.
Secondly, the high altitude presents problems for any tourist coming to Cusco. The symptoms of high altitude sickness include about everything that can go wrong and ruin a trip, including but not limited to, nausea, diarhea, vomiting, headaches, insomnia, malaise, and fatigue. The prevention of these symptoms begins two days before your arrival. The most recommended medicine for prevention is Acetazolamida 250 mg twice a day. It is sulfa based so if you have allergies do something else. Our local missionary doctor recommends the coca tea and they used it successfully on their last visit. We bought our supply, the Acetazolamide, not the coca, over the counter from the local farmacia. Almost everything is available except narcotics without a prescription here in Peru.
|Sacsayhuaman Complex near Cusco|
The third consideration when going to Cusco and in visiting any area of Peru is safety. This is ameliorated considerably by relying on a competent guide service and taking a few extra personal precautions. The US State Department has a number of advisories published for travelers in Peru and elsewhere. The main crime against tourists are those associated with theft. Leaving a backpack or day pack unattended is a guarantee for a loss. A simple tip would be when putting your bag down on the floor to take a photo or enjoy lunch, remember to put your foot through the strap. It won't be stolen or forgotten. Money belts and the means to carry important documents under your clothing are recommended. We have talked with all of the expats here and the recurring problem is with pickpockets, though cross country busses have been hijacked and the occupants robbed. This made the news here recently. A common ploy for pickpockets is to squirt you with a liquid and then a "volunteer" will quickly want to help you get cleaned up. In the process your pockets are emptied. Public transportation in the cities on tight and cramped busses is another easy way for crime to occur given how many are hanging on to the handrails and the bumping and the jostling that occurs. In visiting high crime areas of downtown Lima I kept my wallet in my front pocket and my hand on it. I am wondering if the Utah Legislature can pass a law that would allow Utahans to carry Browning 1911 ACP 45's whenever they travel even abroad here in Peru.
Night time gives thieves and more serious criminals opportunities for violent crimes including assaults, kidnappings, rape, and armed robbery. In Peru US and foreign travelers have been kidnapped, beaten and their accounts emptied through the convenient ATM's that are everywhere. Travelers are warned when visiting the Sacshnuayman ruins outside Cusco and should do so only in large groups and never at night, dawn, or dusk due to roving gangs known to frequent the area. They are a remnant of an ancient gang called the "Gadiantones." We are also advised to avoid money changers in the street who sometimes work with pickpockets in identifying potential targets. These street changers are also, apparently, a source for introduction of counterfeit currency into the economy. Peru is currently the number one printer of counterfeit US twenties and hundreds in the world.
Returning to Machu Picchu, recent archaeological research by a National Geographic scholar in a forthcoming book contains sufficient evidence to suggest it was built for religious purposes. This discounts the theories it was an emperor's summer estate or a maximum security prison, among others. Unfortunately, this book I have ordered from Amazon won't arrive in time for the trip. The scholar, Johan Reinhard, is also the discover of Peru's Ice Maiden, found frozen high in the Andes Mountains dating to the Incan period.
|Intihuatana Stone and Altar|
We want to enjoy our visit and with adequate preparation including a little background reading and research it will be safe and enjoyable. My friends at the temple tell me the cuy is to be savored and enjoyed along with llama or alpaca in Cusco. Peru like other countries has a varied cuisine influenced by climate and availability of local produce and ingredients. We hope to see more of this beautiful country during the rest of our stay here.