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Part 3 Installment, Infinity 2/29/04 South America

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I have broken my trip journal into 3 installments. Installment 1 is pre-cruise (Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls), Installment 2 covers the 14-day cruise around the Horn, and Installment 3 focuses on the 2 weeks we spent in Peru.

For those who have no interest in reading the journal, my summarized review of the is the forward to Installment-2 The Cruise.

Installment 3: Peru

MARCH 16th: DAY 24 (of our trip)---Santiago/Lima:

Departed for Santiago’s international airport at 6:45 A.M. Missed most of the traffic and airport crowds. The airport appears relatively new and is clean. The departure area has ample shopping and food outlets. Our 3-hour flight departed on time. We flew Business Class on Lan Chile (Boeing 767). The service and food were very good and the aircraft was clean. The flight included in-flight entertainment.

The view of Lima from the air reminded Doris and I a lot of Kuwait. Drab, dusty, and desert. The sky is overcast and it is hard to tell if it is weather related or pollution. White jet liners no longer in use, parked at one end of the runway and streaked in dirt remind me of the effect Tokyo’s pollution has on buildings and cars.

Lima’s airport is under construction and is in worse shape than Buenos Aires’. You are bussed from the aircraft to the arrivals terminal. Baggage delivery is pretty fast. If you are flying premium class, don’t look for you bags on the carousel. They will be on the floor towards the end of the carousel. Plan on your suitcases being x-rayed by Customs. If there is a man in a police like uniform minus a pistol standing at the front of the x-ray machine helping people place their bags on the x-ray machine, be aware he is just a low paid security guard and not a Customs Inspector. He might ask for a tip. If you have any local currency or coin, 1 solace will make him happy.

After clearing Customs we met our friend Daul and headed to his home. It took an hour or more to make the drive. Lima and Peru are not at all like the cities we visited in Argentina and Chile. Peru reminds us Mexico and U.S./Mexican border towns. Slums and trashy neighborhoods border the airport and provide visitors with a poor first impression of the country and its people. Traffic is chaotic and nerve wracking. The only traffic laws I observed drivers follow were stopping at stoplights and one-way streets.

Daul told us that even though Peru does not have the same emission standards for vehicles as the U.S. or Europe, the air/sky is not polluted as in Santiago. He explained the skies are always gray this time of year in Peru and that foggy conditions caused by cold artic ocean water and warm air contribute to the gloomy effect. Dry desert conditions and corresponding blowing sand exacerbates the condition. I remained skeptical and attributed most of it to pollution.

We chilled out for an hour or so at Daul's and Gaby's home and then drove to the private school their daughters attend and picked them up. From there we drove to Mira-Flores and the beach. The beach was rocky, the surf was up, and local surfers were doing their thing. We crossed the street and entered Daul and Gaby’s tennis club. Their 3 kids had space to burn off their energy and we adults relaxed with a few beers and pisco sours. We had an early dinner of a variety of ceviches and headed home.

Soon after returning home, the girls’ Spanish tutor arrived and they settled in for an hour or so of Spanish lessons. Daul is a Peruvian diplomat who only recently returned to Peru from 2 back-to-back postings in the U.S. While his daughters speak and understand Spanish, their skills are not up to the level of their classmates.

A cough that began to manifest itself in Santiago has evolved into a racking hack. Doris has the sniffles. Between the hack, sniffles, and days on the road Doris and I call it an “early” night.

Despite taking medication, we both coughed throughout the night. At about 4:00 a.m., Daul brought me some hot tea. We stayed up for about an hour talking about Peruvian and Inca history. My cough seemed under control and I returned to bed. I fell into a deep sleep that lasted several hours.

MARCH 17th: Day 25----Lima:

At about 7:00, the children woke us up. Doris stayed in bed and I got up. On top of the cough, something I ate or drank the night before gave me diarrhea. I had no cramps or fever and figured it would be short lived and held off taking any of the medication we had brought with us for this type of thing.

I joined Daul on his and the dog’s morning walk. Daul and his family live in a fashionable part of the city. They are currently renting and contemplating buying a home. Whereas they will be in Peru for 2 or less years before returning overseas, they are not in a rush to buy. Anyway, the neighbor is very nice and clean. Neighbors clean up after their animals. Joggers and walkers are in abundance. Fortunately, my GI tract cooperated and I survived the walk.

After breakfast we drove into downtown Lima. At Daul’s insistence all jewelry was removed and left in the car. Lima has experienced the decay many other large cities in other parts of the world have gone through. The upper classes that used to live in the city migrated to the suburbs. Middle class families who moved into their spacious apartments replaced them. Later, the middle class followed the upper class to the “burbs”abandoning their apartments. A wave of impoverished migrants from the jungle and mountains seeking a better life squatted in the empty apartments and buildings. Single-family dwellings became home for several families, straining plumbing and electrical systems. Safe, stately neighborhoods deteriorated into crime-ridden slums. The Peruvian government is making some headway in relocating the migrant squatters and once stately buildings are being restored, some as fashionable apartments others as businesses.

Doris did some jewelry shopping. The prices are incredibly low. So low that we decided to explore importing and retailing Peruvian handicrafts in partnership with Daul and Gaby.

We had an interesting 1 ½ hour tour of the cathedral and its’ catacombs. Towards the end of the tour, my bowels began growling. I made it to the WC with little time to spare. Men be aware many, if not most, commodes in public toilets for men do not have seats and may actually be squat type toilets. If you are suffering intestinal problems, consider using the ladies room. Be sure to carry a small packet of tissues with you and consider toting a travel packet of wet toweletts as well.

We spent about another hour downtown and then headed to San Isidro for lunch. Following a pleasant lunch, we returned to our hosts’ home and relaxed until it was time to pick the girls up from school.

That evening Daul and I drove to his Miraflores condo that he is renting out. He brought his maintenance fee account up to date and discussed several issues with the on-site manager. His condo has a view of the ocean, and was a perfect bachelor’s pad. However it is now too small for his wife, their 3 children, maid, and him.

Back at his home, we had a casual dinner and called it a day.

MARCH 18th: DAY 26---Lima:

Began taking altitude medication today in preparation for tomorrow’s trip to Machu Picchu.

Today we drove North through Lima to a nearby coastal village. On the way we drove through several sprawling “Nuevo Jovels” (New Cities). In the states we would call them shantytowns. Migrants from the mountains and jungle have squatted on hillsides. Daul informs us that per Peruvian law, the hills don’t belong to anyone. These “New Cities” begin with straw or cane mat structures; evolve to small wooden tool-shed looking “houses”, and eventually to brick buildings. Water and electrical infrastructure for these communities is obtained via loans from organizations like the World Bank. There does not appear to be any trash service as garbage is dumped freely and everywhere. These communities place a huge financial burden on the Government and citizens who pay taxes. The occupants of these communities are of the mindset the government should provide them with everything for free. What amaze Daul is just how enterprising the citizens of these communities can be and how over a relative short number of years these cities evolve from a single shanty to a bustling village. Daul points out that the occupants of these cities a part of a massive underground economy that pays no taxes and almost nothing for utilities. And, that politicians lack the courage to suggest implementing any initiative to collect taxes from the individuals and businesses that are part of this underground economy.

The purpose of today’s trip to a costal village an hour out of Lima was to recover a 27-foot sailboat Daul had sold several years ago. The new owner never made any payments and let the boat deteriorate on its trailer. For a sum of $350.00 Daul had contracted with the Peruvian Naval Shipyard to make the boat seaworthy. (I would have towed it out to sea and sunk it!) Anyway, a crew from the shipyard followed us to the village in their truck. They were supposed to use the truck to tow the boat and trailer to the shipyard. However, the truck had no trailer hitch this was impossible. Once this was discovered Plan 2 (call the shipyard and have them dispatch a second truck…this time one with a trailer hitch0 was executed. 2 hours later that truck arrived. Yes, it had a hitch, but a hitch only and nothing with which to secure the trailer to the hitch. As we searched through the sand of the lot in which his boat had been parked for something to use, I heard Daul cursing the Latin mentality in English and under his breath. We finally found something they jerry rigged to work. The trucks and trailer along with Daul left and we followed sometime later. I fully expected to find them along side the road with the boat on its’ side. God was in a good mood that day and they made it to the shipyard without incident.

The seaside village has many condos that are owned or rented by Peruvian gentry. The village also is home for a private yachts club that has its’ own beach and pool. A very good friend of Daul and Gaby owns one of the condos. She is also a member of the club. Daul’s and Gaby’s friend is from an established Peruvian family who owns a lot of land and several asparagus farms. In a word she is loaded! As luck would have it, she was spending several days at her condo with a friend. This gracious lady insisted on us going her for cevichi and a few beers. This proved to be a Godsend in respect to keeping the day from becoming an almost total loss.

A word about the landscape is required. Lima is located in a desert that seldom sees rain. Unlike most other deserts we have been in, nothing natural grows in this desert. In the developed parts of the city there are green lawns and trees that have been planted are survive because of irrigation. Elsewhere there is nothing but rusty colored sand.

It was late afternoon before we return home. All 3 kids were home from school. Because we had to leave the house the next morning at 3:45 for a 6:00 flight to Cusco/Machu Picchu, we had an “early” dinner, packed, and called it a day.

MARCH 19th: DAY 27---Lima/Cusco:

Everyone was up early and we left the house on time. While there was no traffic this early, our driver was perhaps the most cautious one in all Peru! The guy drove so slow it took us 15 minutes longer to get to the airport than planned. That said, our timing was perfect. There were no lines and check-in was a breeze. After checking-in we had to line up to pay airport tax (you must an pay airport tax of $5.00 and change for all domestic and $26.00 and change for international flights---cash only). This process took about 15 minutes. From there it was through security, which only took 5 minutes, and then a short walk to the gate. We arrived at the gate as they called our flight for boarding. Had any of us needed to make a pit stop there wouldn’t have been time. We boarded and had an on-time departure.

We flew a Lan Peru Air Bus. It was one class and clean. We were surprised to find the flight only about ½ full. The flight lasted almost 3 hours.

Cusco is nestled in a small valley with mountains at both ends of the runway. If there is bad weather or fog, the planes don’t land or take-off. We had a clear day and landed at about 8:30 without problems. The weather in Cusco was much cooler than Lima and many people were wearing jackets or sweaters.

We were met at the airport by our tour operator and taken right to out hotel, the Novatel. It is relatively new and very comfortable. In the lobby we were served some coca tea and briefed on our itinerary. We nothing scheduled until 1:45 P.M. The 4 of us were tired and just wanted to nap. I was finding breathing at that altitude difficult. Travelers returning to Lima depart very early in the morning and the hotels do an exceptional job of cleaning them for the incoming guests. We were in our rooms by 9:10 and on the bed a minute later. I could only sleep for about an hour. The altitude was not only giving me difficulty breathing, but was causing me discomfort in my knee and elbow joints. I got up, went to the lobby and tanked up on 4 or 5 cups of coca tea. I even chewed several coca leaves. I started feeling better and decided to explore Cusco.

The part of Cusco most tourists see is remarkably clean. Tourists are approached, but not hounded by street vendors. The local merchants don’t want them hounding tourists and therefore the local police and security forces do a very good job of controlling them.

You can go to Cusco without making prior arrangements for excursions and do so on the ground there in Cusco. I don’t know what the rates would be, but I am sure they would be reasonable. Our itinerary is as follows: Day 1: Depart Lima for Cusco, arrive Cusco, 1st excursion began at 1:45 and finished at about 6:00. Day 2: Picked up at hotel at 5:30, 6:00 departure via train to Machu Picchu, 9:45 arrive in Machu Picchu, 3:00 depart Machu Picchu, and 7:30 arrive Cusco. Day 3: Picked up at hotel at 8:30, full day excursion to the Sacred Valley, return to hotel at 7:00. Day 4: Picked up at hotel at 8:30 for return flight to Lima. The cost per person for this trip, including air, hotel, train, and excursions was $600. The same thing can run more or cost less, depending on your wants and likes.

I spent about an hour and a half exploring and was on my way back to the hotel when I bumped into Daul and Gaby. Both of who complained about how the altitude was giving them headaches. With a little more than an hour to burn we walked around town and grabbed a bite to eat in a local café. The meal was incredibly cheap ($1.10 for a 3-course meal and drink).

After lunch we walked to the town’s central market (the one for locals). To get there we departed the touristy part of town and entered local neighborhoods. The clean façade quickly eroded. The streets became dirty, but not trashy. We only spent a short time at the market and did not venture into its’ interior. It was not only far too crowed and dirty, but we were running out of time.

We returned to the hotel, got Doris up from her nap, met in the lobby, drank more coca tea, and waited to be picked up by our tour operator. The weather had warmed and shirtsleeves were all that was needed. The bus arrived and we were off on out first adventure in Cusco.

As we were reboarding the bus following our first stop, Doris pointed out a Japanese man in our group and said he looked an a lot like Pete Shigeta, a DEA agent I worked with for 4 years in Tokyo and from whom we bought our Miada. I agreed and didn’t give it a second thought. Ironically after boarding the bus we were missing 3 people and our guide read the roll. You guessed it, it was Pete! He is back in Tokyo and had been attending a DEA sponsored conference in Lima. Following the conference several of the attendees traveled to Cusco and Machu Picchu for 2 days of excursions. It truly is a small world!

One of Pete’s buddies told me the altitude had really affected Pete and that he was having a hard time with it. Several other passengers commented on how badly they felt. One of the sites we visited was in excess of 13,000 feet. Gaby began to feel nauseous.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a cold wind started blowing forcing everyone to put on a sweater or jacket. A heavy rainstorm surged through the region forcing us to cancel one stop. The rain moved on and we finished the remaining stops without event.

Back in town, we elected to get off the bus at the central square and walk around. We did some window-shopping and bought a T-shirt or 2, but nothing more. We had dinner at a local restaurant. The cost was reasonable, but the food mediocre. By this time we were all dragging *** and decided to call it a day.

MARCH 20th: DAY 28---Cusco/Machu Picchu:

Doris and I were up at the first sound of the alarm. After showering and dressing we went downstairs for breakfast. Daul and Gaby were quite late so I went to their room to ensure they were awake. Gaby answered the door assuring me they were up and would not miss the bus to the train. Minutes later they joined us for breakfast and learned that beginning at about 4:00 became physically ill. We recommended she ask the bell captain for some oxygen and she spent the rest of the time either barfing or on O2. She needed oxygen again later on the train.

The train left on time. The train uses a series of 4 switchbacks to climb out of the valley. The train is narrow gauge and very slow. Thus the 3-½ hour ride to cover the 120 kilometers to Machu Picchu. As you climb out of Cusco you see a part of the city not meant for visitors. Impoverished and trashy.

Apart from the trashy villages, the passing county side is generally very beautiful. The train runs through the Sacred Valley and parallel to a river and as you drop down the 2,000 feet or so into Machu Picchu it picks of volume and current. There is a long series of Class 5 and 6 rapids that extend for several miles. Along the way you can see several sites containing Inca ruins.

After arriving in Machu Picchu you board a bus that takes you on a 25-minute ride on a narrow, steep, serpentine dirt road up to the ruins. Try to get on the 1st bus. You won’t have any downhill buses flying past you, thereby minimizing the pucker factor. A light rain and mist greeted us on arrival in Machu Picchu. Rain ponchos or rain gear were a must. The rain made the dirt road up to the ruins slick, a factor that made the ride a little more exciting.

The mist just added to the mystic of the place. It is everything you expect and more. Lamas graze on the terraced hillside. It is really beautiful and awesome! Your guide takes you throughout the site, sometimes across high narrow paths or ledges. There are no guide or handrails. Any moisture makes the granite stones slick. You enter the site at your own peril. Towards the end of the afternoon, a man at least 30 years old, or older, fell and broke his leg. They splint the break, put him on a stretcher, transported him to the aid station, and on to the train station. The last we saw of him he was being carried onto the train for the 4 plus hour ride back to Cusco.

The only food available at the site is a buffet at the Sanctuary Hotel, just outside the main gate of the site. Our lunch was included in the price of our excursion; I think the cost was about $10.00 per person. They quit serving at 2:45. Your other option is take the bus back down the mountain and eat in town,

The train back to Cusco departs at 3:30, you are suppose to be at the station no later than 3:15, and the “last” bus down the mountain leaves at 2:30. If you catch the last bus, you will still have time to do some light shopping before entering the station.

When I initially planned this trip I intended on remaining in Machu Picchu overnight and fully exploring the ruins. However, when our Peruvian friends decided to join us, we had to let their available time and budget be the guide. From our perspective, the one-day there was sufficient. The walking and climbing, in conjunction with the altitude, makes for a long, strenuous day. Doris had her right hip replaced in mid-December and the day’s activities put a strain on her. Gaby returned to the park entrance early and had to go back on oxygen.

On return to the hotel, 3 of us relaxed in the lobby keeping Gaby company as she sucked down even more O2. None of us were hungry so we ordered 4 bowls of chicken soup, which we ate off the lobby coffee table. At almost $30.00 for those 4 bowls of soup, this was by far the most expensive “meal” we ate during the entire 5 plus weeks of our trip.

All of us were experiencing difficulty with the altitude when we went to bed.

MARCH 21st: DAY 29---Cusco/Sacred Valley:

I woke up this morning with another mild intestinal problem. Same symptoms as before. I left the room hoping it would clear itself by noon.

Our bus was almost 45 minutes late in picking us up. Our tour operator told us the delay was caused by one of the passengers who was suffering from altitude sickness. We were the last group to board the bus and thus the only available seats were on the back row. We encountered a very rude Latin woman who insisted on stacking her and her female traveling companion’s bags on the floor next to our seats. This took space from us, but before saying anything the bus stopped and this lady and several other Spanish speakers got off to join another group.

The first 2 stops we made were at local handicraft markets (Pisac and one other). It was Sunday, and all the stalls were open for business. We bought several unique ceramic pieces, one of which dates back to colonial Peru. While there are restrictions regarding exportation of pre-Inca and Inca ceramics, no such restrictions exist for ceramics produced during Peru’s colonial period. Doris also found a couple of watercolors that she liked. The price for all the treasures we bought was remarkably inexpensive.

Our next stop was lunch, also included in our excursion. Each group on the bus had different tour operators, thus we all had different lunch arrangements. The four of us, a Canadian, and 1 other couple got off at the first stop. A charming, former monastery. Lunch was buffet style and very good. While all our other traveling companions on the bus rated their lunches as good, we could tell our place had been the most up scale of them all.

After lunch we made our first stop at a historical site (Ollantaytambo). It was one we had seen the day before from the train. Like all Inca sites, a considerable amount of climbing steep stone steps was required. It took all of Doris’ and Gaby’s effort to make it to the top. The site and history behind it was as you expect very interesting.

As we were leaving our bus had to wait for an on-coming bus to clear the narrow street to the village. While waiting, Doris got a great, candid photo of a local woman wearing a white top hat sitting in front of her shop.

The tour guide permitted an Indian woman and her 2 children to ride the bus to the next village. All 3 were wearing local costumes. They performed some songs and danced in the aisle.

The last stop for the day was Chinchero. At an altitude of more than 13,000 feet, this village was nestled in rolling, cultivated green hills. It was a tough climb up to the village church’s square and the ruins. As it was Sunday, many local families were in the square along with all the vendors. Kids were playing with one another and with their parents. I think it was the happiest village we visited. The church was constructed in the 1600’s and its’ interior was the most unique I have ever seen. I told Daul and Gaby about it. They went in and spent at least 20 minutes looking around. They agreed with me.

On the way back to the bus, Daul found an Indian blanket used to carry a baby on its’ mother’s back. It was woven in 1967. Daul, who I believe to be a very compulsive shopper, had to have it. He spent at least 15 minutes haggling and bargaining over the price. He eventually got it for what he wanted to pay (50 solace—down from 90).

We returned to Cusco dropped our treasures off in our rooms and went searching for a place to have dinner. The weather was turning colder and each of us were feeling the effects of the altitude, more so than in days past. We had dinner in a smaller restaurant. Doris and I had Alpaca and I don’t remember what Daul and Gaby had. The food was reasonably priced and good. While we had wanted a quick, early dinner, nothing happens quickly in this part of the world. Dinner ended up taking just over 2 hours.

The walk up the stairs of the hotel to our room was laborious. My chest felt as if someone was sitting on it. Even in bed turning on my side took real effort and result in shortness of breathe.

MARCH 22nd: DAY 30---Cusco/Lima:

We were up, fed, and ready for our 8:30 pick-up for the airport. I’m still suffering from that hacking cough. No matter what I take I can’t seem to shake it. The tour operator came into the lobby and told us that rain and fog had resulted an airport closure, but that with luck it should open within the hour. Bottom line, our departure was delayed just over an hour.

The flight into Lima was uneventful. The ride from the airport to Daul’s and Gaby’s was slow and tedious. We got there just before Sebastian and well before the girls got home from school. We spent the remainder of the day taking it easy and resting.

MARCH 23rd: DAY 31---Lima:

Daul’s brother has a Pisco distillery and most of the production is sold to Peruvian embassies and diplomats. He has about 10 cases of Pisco stacked outside waiting to be delivered to a fellow diplomat. Today we loaded up his car and drove to his friend’s San Isidro apartment. Actually the guy has one very large, tri level apartment for sale and is renting a smaller 2-bedroom place in the same building. After unloading the Pisco, we looked at both of them. The 3-bedroom place is fantastic! Views and private balconies on each level. Both Doris and I agree that we could live there. The smaller 2-bedroom place was very well decorated (the guy has taste!). The asking price for the one for sale is $160,000. Later that day Daul decides to make an offer on it.

Next stop was to visit a friend who lives in a newer section of the city. She lives in a gated community; minimum size of the lots is 1,000 square meters that cost approximately $180,000. According to Daul the lots are expensive, but construction costs low. Their friend lives in a very nice house, well decorated and landscaped. Her husband is a professional carpenter and she has a small business that produces designer jewelry and cosmetic bags. It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. She had several unique ceramic pieces and told us where in Lima we could find them.

From Daul’s friend’s house we made a stop at a local pharmacy where I bought some codeine cough medicine. And then it was off to the house. Sebastian was home from school. We picked him up and drove into Lima to shop for treasures. We found the shops Daul’s friend had told us about and spent several hours buying and pricing all kinds of things.

Back at home Daul fired up the grill and we had a late night BBQ. Daul’s brother, who is the Director General of Peru’s GAO, and his family joined us. Daul’s brother and his family lived in Southern California for several years and speak excellent English. Although we were tired, jokes and interesting conversation made the time fly by. We called it a day at 12:30.

MARCH 24th: DAY 32---Lima/Trujillo:

Daul has convinced us to travel to Trujillo to visit some significant pre-Inca ruins there rather than fly over the Nasca lines. When the girls got home from school, Gaby fixed them something to eat and at about 4:30 the 7 of us loaded up the car and hit the road.

Getting out of Lima was a nightmare. The International Development Bank was holding a conference and for security purposes many main roads were closed. This caused terrible traffic jams and slowed the movement of traffic to a snails pace. It took almost 2 hours just to get to the airport area. Trujillo is 350 miles North of Lima, so we had a long drive facing us.

North of Lima the Pan American Highway turns into a pretty good 4-lane freeway type highway. Unfortunately it only lasts for about an hour and then it is back to a 2-lane highway congested with slow moving trucks. Daul is not an experienced nighttime driver and his speeds fluctuated wildly from 40 KPH to 70 at most. I am guessing the average speed was 50 KPH. The car full of adults and kids in conjunction with slow speeds and heavy traffic made for an interesting trip.

About 80 miles from our destination Gaby took over driving. She is a much better driver than Daul and the remainder of the trip went much smoother.

It was almost 2:00 A.M. when we arrived at our seaside hotel. The place is owned by a man from the Netherlands. His web site makes the place appear newer and more upscale than it really is. It was just OK.

MARCH 25th: DAY 33---Trujillo:

Doris and I were awakened by a squawking macaw and parrot. Daul’s children were standing in front of the cages of birds trying to get them to talk. We got up, showered, and had breakfast. After breakfast we headed to the nearby ruins (Huaca Del Sol, Chan Chan, Huaca Esmeralda, and Huaca El Dragon).

These ruins from the Moche and Chimu civilizations and are totally different from the Inca ruins located in the mountains. They are close to the ocean and encompassed well over 44 square kilometers. From the road, the site looks similar to a highway construction site where loads of dirt and sand have been dumped. Much of this city remains buried. That which has been excavated is awesome! We spent until mid-afternoon visiting the 1st and 2 other sites, including a museum. At the museum we saw several hairless, odd-looking dogs that are unique to the area and are descendants of an ancient breed.

We had a late afternoon lunch of ceviche and the local shrimp stew. That, a couple pitchers of beer, and the effects of previous day’s travel put all of us in need of a nap. 4 hours later we all woke up. I could have slept on, but still got up. We drove into town, bought a 6-pack of beer, soda, and water, and some snacks. We called that dinner and went to bed early.

MARCH 26th: DAY 34---Trujillo-Lima:

We decided to return to Lima early today, rather than later in the afternoon and night. Daul’s daytime driving skills are not much better than his nighttime driving abilities. This resulted in erratic speeds and white fist moments. Something 4-year old Sebastian ate or drank yesterday didn’t sit well with him and he got sick several times during the drive. This of course impeded our forward progress.

We made 3 major stops. One for gas, snacks, and bathrooms; one at a rocky beach; and one in the village of Chancay. Some very interesting ceramics originate in Chancay. We spent about an hour looking for the artisans who produce them. The one we did find had some small replicas, which we bought, and several originals that Daul bought.

During the long drive back to Lima we past several fast moving rivers that appeared to contain significant amounts of water. These rivers provided irrigation water for large tracts of asparagus and corn and mango plantations.

Traffic in Lima was a nightmare! It took us over 2 hours just to navigate through it and reach home. It was a Jack Daniels night.

MARCH 27th: DAY 35---Lima:

Spent the day repacking and generally chilling out.

At 5:00 we went back downtown to buy some more ceramics. Afterwards we drove to open-air mall in front of the Marriott in Miraflores. The place is loaded with restaurants, a theater, bowling ally, and shops. Our intent was to take the kids bowling. However the loud music and flashing blue lights in the bowling ally proved to be too much for any of us (kids included) to handle. The kids settled for a big ice cream cone and some Chinese food. Two of the kids fell asleep at the table.

MARCH 28th: DAY 36---Lima:

Our last day in Peru. We finished packing and made 2 trips to local grocery stores. They are every bit as clean and modern as what we have in the U.S. We had offered to take the family out to dinner, but Daul wanted to BBQ, so that’s was we did. A couple of family friends joined us and we called it a relatively early night.

MARCH 29th & 30th: DAY 37 & DAY 38---Lima/San Paulo/Washington D.C./Jacksonville

Left for the airport at 9:30 and got there at 11:00. Got there just before the rush of other passengers. Checked in, paid the airport tax, said good-by to Daul and entered the international departure terminal. Had no problems clearing Immigration and security. When all was said and done we still had 2 hours left before departure. We spent this time in Varig’s Business Class lounge. Our departure was delayed 1½ hours. After boarding, the Captain got on the PA system and announced that we were overweight and some of the bags would have to be unloaded. This didn’t go over well and several passengers demanded to be returned to the terminal. They finally sorted it all out and we took off with the original load. We were aboard an older Boeing 737-300. Even though the flight was in excess of 4 hours there was no in-flight entertainment. Food and beverage service was typical. I don’t think I want to fly Varig again.

On arrival in San Paulo we had to walk what seemed to be ½ mile to another terminal. We were flying United and had to undergo their internal security inspection. They were not automated so everything was slow in getting done. The boarding area was under construction and there were not enough chairs for everyone. Some of the paxs had been scheduled to fly out the night before, but their flight had been cancelled for mechanical reasons. Everyone just wanted to leave. We had gone through all of our cash in Lima and didn’t have enough to buy even a bottle of water. We were relieved when they finally began boarding.

We took off on time (11:00 P.M.) and landed at Washington/Dulles 15 minutes early (appx 6:00 A.M.). We were the 1st international arrival for the day and got there before the Immigration and Customs inspectors. We had a 10-minute wait in the Immigration inspection area until the inspectors reported and started processing us. Cleared Immigration and Customs without problems. Next came TSA. Had to unlock our suitcases, leave them unlocked for inspection, and catch a people mover to the next terminal. Had another 2-hour delay in flight departures. Finally got home at noon. Sadly several of our treasures didn’t survive the trip.

Man is it good to be home!

Infinity--South America--Feb 29,2004
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WOW. Really enjoyed your review. Thank you.

Neighbors of ours recently came back from a similar cruise at about the same timeframe aboard the Royal Princess. They had a fabulous time. Too bad they're not review writers, I would like to compare the two cruises.
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Your three reports are absolutely wonderful. We did the cruise part on the Mercury two years ago, and our impression of Celebrity was about the same as yours. They need to develop some people skills, but have a good product.

We're scheduled to go from Ft. Lauderdale, through the Canal, and on to Santiago on the Infinity next January. I had thought they had resolved those pod/propeller problems. I know they are in a big law suit with the makers.

One question: you mentioned several times that at various high altitudes some of your group had to take Oxygen. Do hotels, trains, and such have Oxygen available, is it something that you bought in some type of cannister and took with you, did you have to visit a medical facility, or what?

Again, your reports were fantabulous, and we look forward to more info on Oxygen.

Mike & Charlotte

Upcoming Cruises:
Star Princess, Australia/New Zealand, January 2004;
Star Princess, Greek Isles, September 2004;
Infinity, Panama Canal & west coast, South America, January 2005.

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Mike & Charlotte,

Thank you for your kind words.

Yes, the hotels and trains have oxygen bottles. They are are the standard green colored ones and all the ones I saw had official looking tags on them reflecting inspection dates and fill dates. Our hotel had one real big one on wheels and several smaller ones. I do not know if they would take them to a guest's room or not. They wanted you to limit your use to 10 minutes per use. My wife and I never needed it, but one of our traveling companions did, as did several other guest in the hotel. There were also oxygen bottles on the train. One of our traveling used it. It was a smaller one.

I was surprised at how the altitude affected me. I am a diver and dispite my paunch in very good shape.

It was a fun trip!

Infinity--South America--Feb 29,2004
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Hi y'all Cabo here

Thanks very much TF for your interesting post. We were in Cusco/MP at about the same time as you via X. It was a wonderful trip with excellent accommodations, meals, entertainment (including a fashion show/low-key sales pitch on the return train ride), guides, air/train travel, shopping - considerably more expensive than your fare, but a good value in my estimation. the guides decided to depart the return train ride at Poroy to avoid the last hour of switchbacks at night. The bus ride took 15 minutes and we all needed the extra time to relax before the dinner/show.

I had taken Diamox beginning the day before our departure from Infinity and finished off the 6 tablets on the evening of our second and last full) day. I did not experience the side effects (tingling of extremities, off taste of carbonated beverages) that have been experienced by others. My worst feeling was a very, very slight headache on Day 1. One of our party did not take preventative measures, and did need oxygen for 5 minutes at the Libertadores Hotel where we stayed. That helped quickly, but the coca tea was less effective (and maybe it's just the caffeine that really helps some folks).

Wondering why your flight to Cusco from Lima was over 3 hours, as our flight from Cusco to Lima on Aero Continente (727) was only about 45 minutes to 1 hour. We were on the same flight with the recently crowned South American Cup Champions - Cienciano of Cusco).

Thanks again for your perspective.

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Hi Gary,

We too considered taking jumping off the train early and taking a cab back into Cusco, but knew our tour operator was waiting for us at the train station and decided to stick it out. Actually the lights of Cusco provided several additional Kodak minutes.

Our flight took closer to 2 hours. We departed Lima on time at 0600 arrived in Cusco around 0800 got to the hotel shortly thereafter and was in the room at 0915. I remember telling my buddy I would met him in the lobby at 1030.

Infinity--South America--Feb 29,2004
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Really enjoyed your review. You have a talent for making the person feel they are there with you.

We took a cruise around the horn this Feb.-March. We were able to get into the Falklands, but they told us from the beginning that they might have to miss the port if the weather was bad. As we tendered into shore, dolphins followed the tender both going and coming.

As to the compensation for missing the port - we missed a port on our Mexico/Panama Canal cruise last year and our compensation was a free glass of wine at dinner and return of our port taxes (about $24.00 for both of us). In comparison, your compensation was great. (We were on another line.)

Again, thanks for the great review. I really enjoyed it.
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