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Curious kids entertaining our train and hoping for some handouts.

The Peru and Galapagos trip continues with our final days in Peru. With my Fitbit registering a ton of steps and my knees sore, it was a relief to go by bus and train from Machu Picchu back to Cusco. The train had to stop a few times and we would see some locals asking for money. It’s always a reminder of how well off we are and how just a few dollars can make a difference to their day. We saw a local women who looked elderly and her back was bent pretty bad—probably from years of hard work.

So many of these people like to be self-employed. We met a few of them all over the Cusco/Machu Picchu region as they were friends of our tour guide. They called themselves names such as Diana Ross and George Washington. As a marketing professional, I can say I am impressed by this tactic.

Street vendor.

On the way and throughout the trip we would see kids and women in tourist areas with lamas, alpacas, and even baby sheep because they looked cute, dressed up to take pictures and collect money. We noticed the kids would get upset when they weren’t picked for the photo or didn’t get a U.S. dollar if another did. I got my photo taken with some kids who started singing a song. I asked our tour guide what the words meant and he said it was a drinking song. (See below for video of them singing.)

Coca leaves to chew on to help with the elevation were in a big bowl at the airport. I preferred the candy and tea versions.

Back in Cusco, the elevation was making me take deep breaths and hurt my lungs and head a bit. Our hotel was really interesting—it was an old monastery and each room had a lot of character. We took a tour around town to a cathedral and enjoyed a big party and parades going on around the main square. We saw military members walking with those old German type straight steps, guys dressed in cowboy outfits shaking beer and spraying it around, college groups dressed in black and white business clothes, and more. We were told there are so many “holidays” that get celebrated there were too many to count or know all of them.

We went to a lama/alpaca farm where they let us feed them. There were also demonstrations by locals who learned the tradition of weaving the wool and making the wonderful cloths they sell today. Baby alpaca is the first “shaving” of an animal and is softer, costing more. There were several breeds of both kinds of animals and all were fun to and interesting to see.

As we went through a beautiful church, we learned how the Peruvians really mixed their pagan traditions with Christianity. There is lots of that all over the world; however, I was somewhat shocked that they didn’t only observe old traditions, they still “worship” pagan symbols. At the risk of sounding judgmental—I’m surprised they can’t see the outright contradiction with the first commandment. For example, there was a stone from pagan religions that sits in a glass near the door. On Sundays, the people line up after service and put their hands on the stone and pray. The priests say “it’s just a door stop” but the people believe it’s more. There are other symbols including statues and paintings depicting Mary in clothes that are like triangles (mountain shaped and hiding her feet)—she symbolizes Mother Earth who they worship. And paintings of her pregnant that contradict the Catholic religion, but not Protestant. Throughout the trip we were told of many other pagan worship rituals that still happen. While a little disconcerting, it was a good lesson of their culture and I found their architecture and people to be quite beautiful.

Dad and I did our traditional shopping trip around town and then went back to rest before dinner and another very early morning wake up to catch the flight to Lima and then on to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We landed in Ecuador and took a short city bus tour. Our hotel rooms were big and we explored the main street around us—not really finding anything but banks, disease-welcoming restaurants, tiny mini markets, pharmacies, etc. Our next morning was brutally early and back again to the airport to catch a flight to San Christobal in the Galapagos.  Goodbye beautiful Peru and more on the islands to come!

 

 

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I think this is Mt. Ranier with windmills turning from the heavy winds blowing across the fields.

On my second day in Oregon, I got up from the wonderful home where I was staying in Hood River and headed east along the Columbia River. The scene was gorgeous and soon I was starting to see more desert landscape. The scenery was magnificent and changed continuously as I drove east and south. At one point as I was driving through low rolling hills and endless fields with wind generators dotting the horizon, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a huge snow-capped mountain. I pulled off the side of the road to get a good look and then scanned to the left and saw another mountain in the distance. I’m pretty sure the one was Mt. Rainier in Washington. I don’t think any other mountain that far away could have been as huge as the tallest peak in America. I saw it once from a plane and now viewed it from land.

While I normally dislike the journey and am more of a destination kind of person, I fully enjoyed the drive and stopped to take photos as the landscape called to me. Oregon has a natural history filled with geological turbulence and regrowth. Ice ages, volcanoes, water, weather patterns, storms, and more formed the beauty we see today. Fields and prairies, hills and low bushes, tall beautiful trees, mountains in the distance, and windy rivers all captured my attention and made me relaxed and happy.

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The stage coach station in the old west town of Shaniko.

I stopped at a ghost town called Shaniko. In the old west, it was a thriving place but when the railroad passed it by, it became desolate. So the locals now make some cash from selling antiques in the old stagecoach station and from people like me who stop off to see a little tiny old west town.

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The Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds.

After my short visit, I continued on a somewhat deserted road that turned sharply up and down the hills of central Oregon toward one of the locations of John Day Fossil Beds Parks. There are three sites that make up this park. I first went to the Clarno Unit, where I hiked about a mile and a half through in the high sun and along rough paths through ancient rocks. The scene of the tall rock monuments changed as I wound my way around the paths. These rock cliffs were formed from volcanic mudflows that swept through the area 44 million years ago and preserved a diverse assortment of plants and animals that inhabited a near-tropical forest. My heart was palpitating when I got to the top of a 450 foot elevation on a small rough path ending under an arch and a fossil of a tree embedded in the cliff.

I was in want of ice cream when I finally made it back to my pickup truck—the so called “economy rental”, but alas, no civilization was nearby so I continued along the windy roads to the next park, the Painted Hills. These colorful hills were beautiful. Reds, yellows, and spots of black flowed through the rolling hills as a result of ancient volcanic flows.

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The Painted Hills

The Painted Hills is one of those places where the view keeps getting better and different as you move along the paths. The hills look like sand but when you see it up close, it’s more like very dry, crumbly rock that has been colored. As I was making my way down from the top of one path, I noticed many people with dogs—they are allowed on leashes. And then, my eye caught one woman walking her little goat. He was on a leash, so I guess that works! One of the cool things about traveling is seeing all kinds of people who make it interesting enough to write about.

IMG_5306With my Fitbit buzzing at 10,000 steps, I called it a day and drove the final leg down to Bend where I would get to see my niece and her friend. More mountains dotted the landscape as I reached hippie town, USA. Seriously, it is a lovely town, about to burst at the seams as more and more people (and students) add to the 80,000 population. More on Bend and my fun with “Grasshopper” on my next post, but once again, I will say I thoroughly enjoyed the drive through this gorgeous state with seemingly vast resources and open land.

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Know anyone who rents a tomb? I know of only one. He used it for three days and then left it empty. That emptiness of the tomb is a symbol of fullness in everything else. You can use that empty tomb to store all the useless things in your life you don’t need.IMG_0318

I tend to cry on Good Friday and Easter during services. I used to think it was because of the insane brutality of torture Jesus endured. Now I know it’s partly that but it is also the overwhelming feeling of being loved so much by someone that He would take the burden of all my sins and die for me an excruciating death.IMG_0311

When the women who loved Jesus went to clean Him up on that Sunday 2,000 years ago, they found the tomb empty. The men did not believe them. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. My pastor said this morning, when you are faced with bad times, indecision, hurt, or need help, run to the tomb. Run to Jesus.

Happy Resurrection day! Thank you Jesus.

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