Sunday, October 31, 2010

First Trip to Peru - 1972

    In 1970 Hugh graduated from college in Brockport New York and went to Peru in the Peace Corps.  He married while in Peru and we went to Peru the first time in 1972. 

     We drove our pickup camper to Miami and caught the Braniff Airline to Peru.  We went down east of Dallas and bought some peaches at a roadside stand.  It was about the 10th of June when we left and we planned to be gone 3 weeks.

    We went through Philadelphia Miss and we could feel the tension there.  This was about 8 years after the civil rights movement and this was the place where the civil rights workers were murdered and buried in a field or pond.

    We drove on and our next stop was Gainesville Florida where we spent the night.  We didn’t think it would  take long to drive to Miami but it took all day.  We stopped at a small motel in the heart of Little Cuba.  No problem, and we ate out at a Cuban restaurant.  We did go to several attractions in Miami and was it ever hot.

    The next night we stayed at a Howard Johnson Motel near the airport and parked our camper in their lot for  the 3 weeks that we were out of the country.  We left Miami in the evening and I think we flew direct to Lima.  We had never been up in a big jet before and ran into a storm on our journey to Lima.  The plane went up and down and it was a roller coaster ride.  We didn’t know any better so were not unduly frightened.  We arrived in Lima and you always come to the airport in a dense fog.

Hugh and Betty met us at the airport and we stayed overnight in Lima.  We were amazed at how dirty it was around the airport.  Leaving the airport by car one passes miles of slums coyly hidden behind adobe curtain walls that frame the highway.  And then the miscellany of homes that announce the residences of the rich California bungalows, turreted castles and colonial posada’s.

    One third of Peruvians live in Lima, but there is little Peruvian about the place.  It begin as a beach head of foreign power and has never learned to change.  Lima looks to Europe and America as models, and the rest of the country for the wealth to indulge the resulting inferiority complex-a complex evident from the lack of original style and the uncritical imitation of others.

    We left Lima the next day for the home of our son in Huancayo.  Huancayo a city of 100,000 population is located about 180 miles southeast of Lima.  We started up the mountains towards Huancayo.  We followed the Rimac river for many miles.  June is winter time in South America and it is cloudy all the time on the coast.  We saw native women washing clothes including hotel linens along the river.  The sun shines a few miles east of Lima and therefore your clothing will dry fast.

    We started up the mountain and stopped at a restaurant on the way.  We ate lunch at a cafe about a 2 hour drive from Lima.  They did have a modern restroom and we enjoyed our stop.  You have to be careful about eating and I ate papas huancani-which is potatoes with a cheese sauce and boiled egg and it is served cold.  Very good.

     I saw a man relieving himself in the open and that was common placer.  I went to the bathroom at the restaurant and it was modern.  The scenery was so unusual and beautiful.  We followed the river for many miles, at that time in 1972 the roads were mostly graveled.  We kept driving and climbing and arrived at La Oroya which was about half way to Huancayo.  The elevation there is 13000 feet.  We probably stopped to eat and may have drank some coco tea.  Coco tea helps you feel good in the high elevations.  We continued on to the highest spot on the road which is called Ticolo which has an elevation of around 16000 feet.  Then    we continued to Huancayo.  The elevation of the Mantero Valley is about 12000 feet and is called the breadbasket of Peru.  Lots of grain and vegetables are raised there on small  plots.

    We continued on the graveled road and stopped again at La Oroya.  This is a mining city at an elevation of about 13000 feet.  We had driven over the pass at Ticolo at an elevation of 16000 feet.  La Oroya is a very polluted  city and the people that work in the mines have very poor housing.  The mine pollutes the Mantero river for many miles and fish can no longer live in the river.  From La Oroya we followed the Mantero river to Huancayo in the Mantero valley.  This valley is located at an elevation of 12000 feet and is called the bread basket of Peru.

    In the Mantero valley are many small farms which raise potatoes, cabbage, beans, carrots and all other kind of vegetables. The native people of Peru developed most  of the vegetables that we are familiar with.  There is an  in the international Potato institute about 5000 different varieties of potatoes.  I saw and ate many different vegetables and fruits that are unavailable to us in the states.

Huancayo you will find potato sacks made of wool as that is what is available to use.  I can see the small villages on the road to Huancayo with the checkerboard farms stretching to the mountains on both side of the Mantero river. The people live in the villages and go out to work to their farms to work in the morning.

    The busses are full of people and animals and on market day you can see men on bicycles pulling a cart, heavy laden with produce coming to Huancayo to sell the fruits of their labor.

    The men mostly dress western but the women dress in their traditional clothing.  Black skirts, a bright blouse and a large shawl which is used to carry babies and other things.  The babies peek over their mothers shoulders and watch the activity and they never seem to cry.

    We arrived at Huancayo and Hugh and Betty gave us their bed which had a full sized mattress.  The temp dropped to almost freezing every night and got up to about 65 degrees in the daytime.  We had about 3 heavy wool blankets on our bed and it was cold up there.  I asked Hugh about taking a shower and he said he took one about once a week and waited until about 3 in the afternoon.  The shower head had a little electric heater attached to it and it just barely put out warm water.  Once a week was enough. We ate lunch at the house every day about 1 p m and the food was good but strange.  We could not drink water out of the faucet so we drank lots of coffee and soft drinks.  We went out to eat down the street and they had  very  good hamburgers and French fries.  It was cold at night but the stores were open.  We met Hugh’s friend Mr Meyers who owned a hardware store.  His sister owned a place where they wove fabric and hand knitted  sweaters. Her store was called Kami-Maki.  The  Meyers had arrived in Peru from Germany before the Holocost. They and lots of Jewish people could see what was going to happen so they came to South America in the 30’s.

    We stayed with Betty’s Mother in Huancayo for over a week and made day trips to small villages in the area.  There is no heat in the houses so you wear a sweater all the time .  When you go out at night you dress with hat, gloves and a warm coat.  the temperature at night is almost freezing and in the day time in winter it may reach 65 degrees.  Huancayo is 12 degrees south of the equator and the elevation is 12000 feet.

    I was 45 years old and did not have any trouble with the high altitude.  I did lose about ½ pound of weight every day as your body burns more calories at a high altitude and the people ate more food than we were accustomed to eating.  We took at shower about once a week and we waited until about 3 p m.  the water came out of a small electric heater attached to the shower head and it was bitter cold in the bathroom.

    There was a maid in the house who did the cooking and cleaning.  Another maid came in every week to wash clothing by hand and do the ironing.  The food was good but very different from what we were used to.

    We took day trips around Huancayo and went to one village where artists carved gourds for the tourist trade.  We were able to purchase gourds much cheaper at the artists homes than at the markets in Lima.  We also went to a village and purchased hand woven rugs.  Another manufacturing  shop on the outskirts of Huancayo sold hand woven cloth and hand knit sweaters and hand spun yarn.  The owner of the shop was a German woman who had arrived in Peru from Germany before the Holocaust.  Her brother Mr. Meyers owned a hardware store in Huancayo and was a friend of our son.

    Many German Jews came to Peru in the 1930’2 and are citizens there.  They could see the problems coming and they left Germany.  My Grandaughter Carolina husbands Grandmother knew the Meyers family when she lived in Huancayo over 50 years ago.
    Every Sunday in Huancayo there is a Fair or what we would call a flea Market.  Huancayo is a very important business center, being the point of convergence of all the nearby towns and many business transactions are made at the Sunday Fair.  The Fair starts on Saturday afternoon, when all the vendors come from everywhere in the region.  The Fair is truly wonderful for it’s leather goods, ceramics, gold and silver jewelry, textiles, used sewing machines, automobile parts and almost anything you could want or use.  The Fair stretches almost 2 miles and the stalls covered with cloth are 4 lanes wide.  It is the most famous fair in all South America and people come from all over the region to buy and sell.

    We made another day trip to the convent of Santa Rosa de Ocapa founded by the  Monks in 1725.  They have a famous library with thousands of books printed in the 15th century many of which are journals which tell of the early occupation of the Spaniards.  On the outside walls covered by  roof are paintings done by the natives about the life of St Francis of Assaisi.  There is no sense of proportion in the painting and they painted the Peruvian devils instead of what we think of as devils.  The climate is dry and the paintings have not changed in appearance over the years.  What an interesting day that turned out to be.

    We went out in the country to various homes and purchased gourds and a rug and some wool blanketsomes and purchased gourds and a rug and some wool blankets.  Hugh, Dale Gail and I made a trip to Huancavlica and also one trip to Lircay where Betty was born.  Then Betty had a vacation and we started to Cusco which was 600 miles from Huancayo across the mountains.

    We made another day trip to Huancalvica, a mining city about a 3 hours drive from Huancayo.  We stayed in a tourist hotel overnight and then went to Lircay the next day.  Lircay was the small town where Betty was born .  We were surrounded by children as they seldom see white people.  Gail was with us and they came up and touched her red hair.  Lircay had an open sewer and the town was dirty and the children had open sores on their faces.  We only stayed about an hour and then drove back to Huancayo.

    The roads in the mountains are very narrow and the cars go one way one day and the other way the next day.  You are not able in the high mountains to pass another car.  You see people riding small horses or walking on the roads along with cattle, sheep, llamas and alpacas.

    We left Huancayo at night as the road was one way one day and the other way the next day.  The road was narrow and graveled with a lot of bumps.  The car we drove was a Volkswagon and Dale and Hugh sat in front and Gail, Betty and I in the back.  The luggage was behind the back seat and one piece under the hood.  We had packed a lunch and the first day we stopped in a small village to eat.  Hugh and Betty could eat the food but Dale, Gail and I went to the market and had bananas and soda crackers to eat.  We traveled in a Volkswagon,.  It took all day to reach Ayacucho which was a distance of about 200 miles.  We saw people and animals on the road.  The road would go up one mountain and down and up again.  We passed some small villages but no cities of any size during this leg of the journey.  Our top speed was 22 miles per hour.

    We arrived in Ayacucho in the evening and went to the tourist hotel to spend the night.  Ayacucho is a city of colonial flavor, which between the 16th and 17th centuries enjoyed a great splendor for the wealth and nobility of its dwellers.  Even today the city preserves a colonial atmosphere, as if times has stood still.  It has numerous colonial mansions and beautiful churches.  Ayacucho is a very attractive city to visit and it offers all the services expected in a modern city.  Ayacucho is famous the world over for its sought after Ayacuchoan Nativities and its carvings on the Piedra de Humango a kind of soft alabaster.

    We stayed at Ayacucho the first night, which is a fair sized city in the mountains.  We stayed at the tourist hotel and the food there was safe to eat.  The mountains were beautiful and we saw pastures at the high elevations that held cattle, sheep, llama and alpaca in them.  The huts were made of straw and the native people were dressed in bright clothing.  Almost all were barefoot, some with sandals made from auto tires.  When we left Ayacucho the hotel people checked our luggage thinking we had taken a blanket.

    The tourist hotels in all the fairly large cities in Peru are owned and operated by the government.  The hotels are a safe place to rest and the food is safe to eat.

    We left Ayacucho the next morning going south past the gorge of Huanimo at 4100 meters.  We continued south through the small Andean towns of Urcos and Chincheros.  We continued on and stopped at a fairly large city named Andahuyles.  We stopped there to eat but could not find a suitable place.  Hugh and Betty ate soup at  a cafe but they said it would be best if we didn’t eat there.  So we went to the market and purchased bananas and soda crackers.  This was about noon time and we left Andahuayles  on our way to Abanacay.

    We went past some other gorges and beautiful mountains and on the road we passed a wedding party.  The bride was dressed in traditional finery and was riding a small stout pony.  The groom was walking besides the horse.  What a beautiful young couple.

    We continued on towards Abanacay and it became dark.  We could see the lights of Abanacay and thought we  would arrive soon, but we went up one mountain and down another and finally arrived at 10 p.m.  We stopped at the tourist hotel and all they had to eat was bean soup and it was very delicious..  We did not see many people.  I think we drove 14 hours that day and reached the small city of Abancay late that night.  We could see the lights for many miles before we arrived there.  We were hungry and all they had to eat was bean soup and it really tasted good.

    The next morning we left Abanacay on the road to Cuzco and made a stop at the ruins of Saywite.  We stayed a couple of hours at the ruins which consist of a gigantic rock shaped like a cougar, on whose back are hundreds of figures corresponding to animal and vegetal species of the kingdom of the Incas.  There are also carved buildings and inhabitants of the four sections of the empire with their typical dresses.  It was probably the most impressive artifact that we saw in Peru. I think that was the day we saw the ruins in the mountains and the rock carved with a model of a city.  Betty could understand some of the Quecha language but I don’t think she could speak much of it.  We arrived at Cusco the next day and distance from Huancayo was 600 miles.  Many years later I read in a magazine that only strong people should attempt that journey.  I was 45 years old and Dale was 47 at that time.

    We arrived in Cusco and stayed at the John Kennedy Hotel.  It was off the beaten path but was clean and O.K.  We took in the sights around Cusco and saw an interesting Catholic Church with some intricate wood carvings.  We also went to the old rock wall which was built to withstand earthquakes.  We visited the old fortress called basewoman.  We stayed a couple of days in Cusco and then we boarded the train to go see Machu Picchu.  That was a very impressive sight.  We spent a day on that trip and then came back to Cusco and prepared to go back toward Lima via the Pacific Coast Highway.

     We continued on to Cuzco and arrived there on the 3rd day of our trip.  Years later I was reading in a magazine that only healthy and strong people should attempt this trip by car over the mountains from Huancayo to Cuzco.  We stayed at a small hotel in Cuzco and drove out to the fortress at Sacsayhuaman.  The fortress is a huge work of granite rock of a colossal size and was built to serve the palace of the Inca Temple of the Sun and War Square.  It is formed by three defensive walls where huge rocks weighing many tons have been placed with mathematical precision.  When the Spanish arrived in Cuzco they could hardly believe their eyes when they saw the fortress.  It’s construction remains a mystery to this day.  No one has yet come to understand how the enormous rocks over 30 feet high had been moved to this place.

    The square in the center of Cuzco embodies the spirit of Empire more than any other in the world.  Built on an enormous scale 5 Imperial palaces surround the square. Like the street near it, the Plaza retains the format that its founder , Inca emperor Manco Copac gave it.

    We spent 2 days visiting the various cathedrals and palaces and then made our trip by train to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas discovered by Hiram Bingham of Yale University in 1911.

    The train ride to Machu Picchu was quite interesting.  We went past some small villages and stopped at one of them.  Vendors came on the train selling crafts and food and people were outside on the tracks selling things.  Every time you stop your car in a city there will be someone selling bananas, oranges, candy, newspapers and some one will want to wash your windshield.

    We looked at the terraces climbing up the mountains along the railroad.  These terraces are no longer in use.  We arrived in Machu Picchu after about 3 hours and we took a bus up the mountain to see the ruins.  It was overgrown with vegetation when first discovered and the government cleaned and repaired buildings and made it a tourist attraction.  We spend about 3 hours looking at the ruins and we had a guide explain all about the terraces and lookout towers.  We returned to Cuzco by train and the next day we started for Juliaca. 

    We traveled from Cusco to Juliaca and it seemed a long ride.  We stopped at a small mountain village and they didn’t have much to eat.  There were some other travelers also at the small cafe.  They had cheese with them and we had bread, so we just exchanged and were both able to eat cheese sandwiches.  We drove on to Juliaca and were not able to find a good place to stay so we stayed in rooms over a beer joint.  There was loud music and drinking downstairs all night but no one bothered us.  It was so cold there and the beds were dirty.  I slept in all my clothes to keep warm that night.

    The next morning Dale, Hugh, Betty and Gail went to the outdoor market.  I decided to stay in the car quite close to a building.  Seems I picked the favorite spot for people to use the toilet.  The men did it up against the wall and the women spread their wide skirts and squatted .  They would get you for indecent exposure in the U S , but in Peru that was common place.  We left Juliaca in the morning and drove on trying to get to Airquippa by evening.  Aerquippa is a large city but it was vacation time and so we could not find any rooms.  We drove on past Airquippa and went all the way to the coast.  We found rooms at the tourist hotel, Betty, Gail and I had a single bed each and Dale and Hugh had to sleep on a pool table.  The next morning a great big dog woke them up by licking their faces.  That works..

    We started driving on up the coast and the next night we stayed at another tourist hotel.  It had hot running water and so we washed clothes and stayed there another night.  There are small towns along the coast and they are located near where the rivers come out of the mountains.  Otherwise the coastal area is completely dry and nothing grows in the desert.  We continued on up the coast towards Lima and we stopped at one small cafe and ate fresh fish from the ocean.  The flours were dirt and dogs came to your table to beg for food.  We continued on to Lima that day and then we had to got out to the airport to pick up a record player running water and so we washed clothes and stayed there another night.  There are small towns along the coast and they are located near where the rivers come out of the mountains.  Otherwise the coastal area is completely dry and nothing grows in the desert.  We continued on up the coast towards Lima and we stopped at one small cafe and ate fresh fish from the ocean.  The flours were dirt and dogs came to your table to beg for food.  We continued on to Lima that day and then we had to got out to the airport to pick up a record player that was in customs.  Dale dressed up in his best clothes and bribed someone and we got the record player out for Hugh.

    We were going to drive to Puno but had heard from travelers on the road that there was an uprising in that area.  The road toward Puno was in the altaplano and the countryside was desolate.  We stopped at a small village to eat and think all they had was coffee and eggs.  We had bread with us and some other travelers had cheese.  So we shared what we had and got by that way.  We drove to Juliaca the first day and found a room over a beer joint.  The beds were dirty and it was bitterly cold.  That was the one and only time I slept with all my clothes on.  The music blared all night and was glad when morning came.  We got up and every one went to the market except me and I sat in the car.  The native people used the area close to the car as a outside bathroom.  The women squatted and let it go with their skirts covering them up.  The men pissed against the side of a building.  Quite an education for me.

   We continued on up the Pan American highway and the next night we stopped at a tourist hotel where they had hot running water.  Betty and I washed clothes by hand that day so we had clean clothes for the rest of the trip.  38 years ago in Peru keeping your clothes clean was a major job.  I remember eating at an outdoor cafe near the ocean.  We had fried fish and it was delicious.  The floor was dirt and the dogs came up to our table to beg for food.

    We drove on into Lima and went out to the airport and we were able to get the record player out of customs.  Dale dressed up in his best clothes and I think he bribed someone to help him.  That is a way of life in Peru.  You need to grease some ones hands to get anything accomplished.

    We went back to Huancayo and then a few days later we came back to Lima and stayed at Luchos house for a few days.  Lucho was living in the North with his family and the house was vacant.  I think Nelson, Angelica and Rodrigo were with us.  We went to the museums, the zoo and a futbol game.  We had traveled 2800 miles and had seen a lot of Peru in 3 weeks.

    We arrived back in Miami and started back to Oklahoma.  We drove up the east coast of Florida and saw St Augustine.  Then we went to St Cloud and rented a furnished house for $11.00 per night and then we visited Disney world.  It had been opened a week and we were not impressed with it.  We drove back to Ponca City and settled down to getting ready for school again. 
It was quite a trip.

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