The Road Ahead Sampler : August September 08 Sample
AUG/SEP 08 41 Armas, which is surrounded by shaded walkways and majestic colonnades and occupied by a collage of intertwined couples, children and elderly dreamers. al is the religious and cultural custodian lds in a small nave to the side of its taking artwork. Spanish Jesuits created the o Chapel, bedecked with the flora and erican forests. This detailed artwork domed ceiling in a cave of walled montage are not only animals which from our planet, but also the artists in the foliage, as if Genesis, once ed the page. e Compania Cloister. Accompanied by we ventured into some of the excellent with pastries, headed to Santa Catalina Monastery. The Convent's narrow, cobbled streets, beautiful gardens and squares radiate tranquility. The earthy colours of buildings are offset by bursts of deep blues, dark green foliage and flashes of red geraniums. Our visit to the Museo Santuarios Andinos exposed us to Juanita, the beautiful, teenage girl of the Ampato volcano, and guardian of many of the hidden religious practices of the Incas. She lies still frozen and is surrounded in the museum by wonderful artefacts which give testimony to the sophistication of the Incan culture. The next morning tested our acclimatisation. We climbed by van 4900 m to the Papas Pampas where a nature stop, giggling from some members of the party and subsequent hyperventilation at that altitude resulted in instant headaches. Our descent to Chivay, 3500 m, breakfast and coca leaves in hot water, brought relief before heading back up to the Colca Canyon, The Lost Valley of the Incas, to see the condors fly. They spun on the thermals, and our trip along a twisting road gave us a clear understanding of how the pre-Incan terraces still allow farmers to work with their micro-climates, from tropical on the valley floor to cool temperate near the top. We left the dusted, snow-capped mountains of Arequipa, landing in the early morning at Cuzco, 3400 m, picked up our van and driver, and headed to The Sacred Valley. A stop off at Chinchero, 3700 m, a well-preserved indigenous village, and a visit to a women's co-op not only gave us a chance to test our altitude fitness, but also provided a wonderful insight into the weaving and dyeing craftwork of women in this region. Our descent to the unassailable Incan fortress of Ollantaytambo, set at the confluence of three valleys, was our afternoon destination. We clambered over its sculptured fortifications, impressed by how the work of flawless Incan stone masons made the Egyptians look like amateurs. The early train from Ollantaytambo saw us winding our way beside the Rio Urubamba to Aguas Calientes. Dwarfed by the sheer peaks and the remnants of hanging glaciers, we gazed in awe through the vistadome. We'd come to spend two days at Machu Picchu, 2400 m, and pinpoint planning got us immediately onto a bus and up the precipitous road. It wasn't the trip up or the altitude, however, which created a feeling of dizziness. It was the sheer beauty of the place. Its purpose is still a mystery. Every turn brings something more breathtaking, with the ashlar and sillar stone dominating the well-planned design. Our climb to the Sun Gate the next morning gave us that perspective of how visiting Incas might have responded to their first sight of this unique community. That evening, we 'switch-backed' our way to Cuzco on the train. Cuzco was the 'navel' of the Incan empire and this is clearly evident at the archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman, immense in both its religious and military significance. Cuzco is an amazingly beautiful city. We used our time well, visiting the Cathedral with Marcos Zapata's Last Supper, displaying Andean food including the guinea pig; walking through the remnants of The Sun Temple, devoted to the worship of celestial divinities and repository of royal mummies; strolling through the cobbled streets and arcades; taking a trip out to Tambomachu, with its sacred, purifying fountain; and spending the night entertained by dancers and singers. A trip to nearby Pizac on Sunday market day gave us a chance for immersion in the culture and the special privilege of attending the church service with mayors in their traditional costume. Our two weeks in Peru had been packed with fun and we headed up to the Alti Plano the next day on the Andean Explorer, confident in our ability to deal with the high altitude of Bolivia. We wondered why we had left it so long to explore this superb region of the world. colonnades and occupie white-smocked school c The Basilica Cathedra of this square, and it ho major precinct a breatht Here, indigenous and scintillating San Ignascio fauna of the South Ame stretches from floor to d frescoes. Hidden in this have since disappeared themselves suspended i created, had never turne We exited through the haunting Andean pipes, craft shops and, armed Monastery RACQ CAN HELP RACQ Travel can book your holiday to South America. Members can contact our experienced and friendly travel staff on 1300 888 449. RACQ also sells International Driving Permits. Call 13 1905. MAIN PHOTO: Spectacular Machu Picchu. ABOVE: Plaza De Armas, Arequipa. A family with their alpacas.
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