Bolivia Travelogue

Popular Travel Destinations
See all Bolivia Travelogues

Potosi, Bolivia: Solar Eclipse trip

  • Submitted by: Steve Kocsis
  • Submission Date: 15th Feb 2005



Total Solar Eclipse - Potosi, Bolivia - Nov. 3, 1994





On October 24th, 1994 I flew from San Diego to Miami. There was suspense
during the touch down in Miami. The flight had been delayed in Fort
Worth. The connecting flight from Miami to Asuncion, Paraguay would only
wait if my flight was at the gate by 2330. If not, I had a 24 hour wait
in Miami until the next flight to Paraguay. We made it at 2330.
The plane to Asuncion was packed with young girls from Brazil, the
first stop was Sao Paulo, Brazil, now the third largest city in the
world.

The girls were very flirtatious, eye contact and body stretching were a
constant behavior. Social distance was decreased from North American
norms. I settled in for a long flight. I got off in Asuncion, the
capitol city of Paraguay. I took a crowded local bus from the airport
into the city center passing many prosperous homes. I went to the
tourist office where I received a recommendation for Hotel Itapua. At
$6/night it was fine.

The common bath had hot water. A Peace Corps worker with a broken leg
had a room there. He was stationed in the Chaco region which is mostly
uninhabited, the location of a devastating war for Paraguay. The country
lost a large percentage of it's men leaving women, children and burros.

Asuncion was similar to cities in Mexico. A clustering of government
buildings in the central plaza. A good public transportation system. My
lack of Spanish did not handicap me in communication. The next morning
I was on a bus to Ciduad del Este (City of the East). Ciduad del Este is
on the Brazilian border. The town is stained with red mud and is a
shopping mecca for Brazilian and Argentinean tourists looking for
electronic goods. When I first crossed over the river to Brazil I shared
a bus with a large crowd of shoppers carrying enormous arm loads of
goods. The Brazilians were loud, gregarious and full of energy. I found
a hotel in Foz do Iguasu, Brazil. I took a local bus to the Brazilian
side of Iguasu Falls National park.

Iguasu falls is overwhelming. The river is 1.5 miles wide when it
reaches the red sandstone cliff. The water falls 300 feet, in a torrent,
split up by rocks, composed of hundreds of separate falls, along a
complicated-convoluted brink. The noise is like a physical wall of
white. The spray is catapulted high into the air. The water is a
chocolate brown at the top of the falls. As it descends it is churned
into a white spray. Birds build their nests behind the falls. They dart
in and out of the wall of water.

The land surrounding the falls is jungle. Butterflies: yellow, blue,
iridescent fly in clusters as dancing leaves. Walking under the forest
canopy the calls of unseen birds and insects are constant. There are
monkeys: the howler and colobus. The combination of the dynamic falls
and jungle life creates a sensory experience that is exhilarating.
Iguasu falls is extremely popular among the South Americans living in
Brazil and Argentina, at least one million visitors a year come to visit.
What do they see? Clouds of spray are thrown hundreds of feet into the
air by the force of the water falling over a 1.5 mile wide cliff 300 feet
high. Many birds build their nests behind the falls themselves. They
rapidly dart through the falling water where they have their nests
placed out of the range of predators.

The water is a chocolate brown color at the lip of the falls. As it
descends it turns white with foam. A series of catwalks have been
constructed that allow the visitor to stand at the edge of the falls and
watch the turbulence and dynamics of the rushing water. Half of the
catwalks were washed away in the flood of 1992. The repair work is not
completed. When on the catwalks I became soaked from the spray. This is
not unpleasant since the weather is hot and humid all year long. The
mist is cooling.

While walking on the trails the most common mammal is the South American
equivalent of the raccoon, the kotamundi. Kotamundis at Iguasu are very
tame since they are accustomed to being fed by visitors. However, I
witnessed one lady surrounded by 15 kotamundis, which were so aggressive
in their demands for food that the lady abandoned her munchies and ran
off in a panic. They had started to climb up her clothes with their
teeth and claws and were vocalizing in a threatening tone to one another.

The falls do not descend in a continuous line; they are broken up into
hundreds of separate falls each of which by itself would be worthy of
national park status. In addition, the land around the falls is rain
forest/jungle and is protected from development with national park status
by Brazil and Argentina.

There are two species of monkeys. The howler monkey has a large vocal
sack which it uses to generate a call of tremendous volume. The colobus
monkeys are smaller with a very human looking face. This does not
prevent the locals from eating them however. Birds are everywhere in the
jungle. I saw parrots, toucans, egrets, flamingos, and many small birds
I did not know the name of. Insects are common with butterflies
everywhere. Butterflies were dancing in the air on wings of bright
yellow and blue. The blues were a sparkling iridescent metallic glint
sparkling in the sun.

I hiked into the jungle with a Dutch anthropologist I met who was in
Brazil studying the Brazilian martial art of copiberra, which combines
dance movements with self-defense. There were many green lizards present
about the size of large iguanas. The jungle canopy kept most of the
sunlight out. It was cooler for that reason in the jungle than out in
the open. We heard animals but did not see them. We would come across
lizards which would immediately rush out of our way. The trail we were
following were narrow; we were constantly brushing the vegetation.

Where the trail came close to the river, upstream from the falls, we
encountered the largest lizard we had seen up to now. From tip-to-tail
it was almost 3.5 feet long. This lizard was blocking the trail. It
behaved differently than the others. It did not budge as we approached
it; in fact, it puffed itself up with air, raised itself on it's legs and
opened it's mouth in a threatening manner. The Dutchman became concerned
that it would attack us. These lizards live on rotting food and a bite
would likely cause infection. We stood still for minutes but the lizard
maintained it's threatening posture. We grew worried that a closer
approach would trigger an attack. The Dutchman left the trail and went
into the bush to walk around the lizard while I stayed where I was.
The lizard initially focused his attention on the Dutchman, who was
moving, while I remained still. He was able to circle to the other side
of the trail so that now we were on both sides of the lizard. I followed
the same path. We were marginally protected by long pants and shirts
from insects and irritating plants. The lizard never moved but as we
headed back to the trail head the lizard still remained ready to attack.

I had a great time visiting the area around Iguasu falls which is shared
by Brazil and Argentina. I stayed in the town of Foz de Iguasu(in
Brazil) and took a local bus to get the falls each day. On my third day
in the area I went to the airport where I expected to meet my friends
Bill and Frank who were flying in from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As I
stood on the second deck of the airport in Brazil I saw my two friends
leave the plane with a yell of success on a safe arrival in Brazil. I
had to wait for them to clear customs and get their luggage. Then we
left the airport with the intention of going to the falls first then to
the motel room.

We started to walk towards the main road to catch the bus when a taxi
stopped. He agreed to take us all to the falls for a reasonable price so
we got in. The road to the falls cuts a swath through the rain forest.
Butterflies are numerous and quickly fall victim to the windshield.
There is an entrance fee. The falls are 22 kilometers from Foz de
Iguasu. I did not describe the falls to Bill and Frank since it is a
sight beyond words. We left the taxi near the luxury hotel next to the
helicopter port. The view there takes in just a portion of the falls
but, it is exciting. The green jungle and brown sediment-laden water are
obscured by the spray of the falls. The sound of the crashing water is
a wall of noise. We walked on the side of a canyon cut by the river
until we arrived at the first catwalk extending into the clouds of spray.
Walking out on the catwalk we were drenched in seconds from the falls.
It was a baptism. Late in the afternoon a rainbow was visible from the
mist.

We took the bus back to Foz de Iguasu. Our triple room had the
screens missing from the windows. This turned out to be a problem since
the building of a new dam had created a large expanse of stagnant water
that has increased the mosquito population tremendously. The anopheline
mosquito, only the females, suck blood, the males live off plant sap.
It is this species that carries malaria, dengue fever, and encephalitis.
After lying down I heard the persistent whine of mosquitoes; however
having started taking my malaria pills, I felt marginally better. In the
morning I noticed a few bites on my arms. Bill and Frank had none. We
had the whole day to spend at the falls.

Waiting at the bus stop we talked to a group of Germans who had been
living in Paraguay. They said it was cheap. Towards the end of and
after World War II, Germans came to South America: Paraguay, Uruguay,
Brazil and Argentina. Some with resources or war loot, others without.
Today we visited both the Brazilian and Argentinean sides of the falls.
We used local buses. Argentina was the most expensive of all the countries
we visited. There are more trails on the Argentina side of the falls.
I crossed the borders between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay with no
visas but I had my passport. We left Brazil returning to Paraguay.
We traveled by bus to Asuncion. It was a luxury bus with a toilet aboard.
The terrain was green farmland with no large towns until we reached
Asuncion.

We had a few hours before our flight to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We hung
out at the central square where there was a large monument to El Supremo,
the former dictator of Paraguay. In the past it was forbidden to gaze
on his palace. There were orders to shoot anyone who was found looking.
Fortunately this order was no longer in effect with the passing of his
regime. The monument was patrolled by an honor guard with guns. They
let us take pictures of them. Inside the building a sunken pit contained
the coffin of 'El Supremo'. He had led his country into a disastrous war,
'The Chaco War', which killed off most of the adult population leaving only
women, children, and burros.

At the central square we talked to a group of ladies to find out about a
good place to eat. We were directed to the Lido cafe which was packed
with locals. We had 'Pescado Sopa', fish soup with bread. It was
delicious. The cafe looked like a classic American diner. Everyone sat
at a long curved counter. From the square we took a city bus to the
airport which is 10 km from the city. We had been told to arrive 2 hours
before the flight since it was going to Bolivia. We were flying on Lloyd
Aereo Bolivianos to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The flight left Paraguay in the
evening.

Santa Cruz is a new city with a population of 1 million. It is
prosperous mainly from the cocaine trade, in fact 50% of the GNP of
Bolivia comes from the export of the coca leaf. The Indians use coca as
Americans use coffee.

Santa Cruz has the appearance of a western city without high rises. A
pleasant taxi-driver took us to a hotel that was still being worked on
where we stayed in a clean-western style room. We had an early flight
the next morning to Sucre and were promised breakfast at 0600 which was
included in the price of the room. We were in the breakfast room the next
morning but, with apologies, we were told that breakfast would be late.
Quickly we flagged down a taxi for the 30 minute ride to the airport. I
sat up front with the driver and had one of my fumbling Spanish/English
conversations conveying no information, just the sound and fury. Bill and
Frank were in back laughing at my pathetic Spanish.

At the airport Bill and I had cups of matte de coca tea and pastries.
Frank declined calling us, 'f***ing druggies.' The use of coca leaves
is legal in Bolivia. We began talking with two German ladies who were
on the same flight. The younger lady had her hair died jet-black. She
had a nose ring. Her Amazon story was chilling, 'I was staying on a
tributary in a small village. Very hot and humid. An insect entered
my ear. I could hear it scurrying around inside my ear, but it did not
exit. A local came and attempted to remove it with a wire. At this time
I totally lost control and went hysterical. I could hear the man poking
the wire in my ear and the now increased sound of the insect. I screamed.
It seemed like 15 minutes passed but, I can't be sure. The man left, he
returned with a flashlight which he shined into my ear. The bug left my
ear attracted by the light.' She relived the experience in the telling.
It was a strong emotion.

Our flight first broke through clouds then as it gained altitude
presented a view of the high plateau, the Altiplano. Landing in Sucre we
were greeted by clear skies and the beer brewery. We hoped that the
clear skies were an omen for eclipse day. Our hotel was next to the
market. The market was crowded and busy. The women wore black bowler
hats and long dresses. I walked up steep cobblestone steps to a catholic
church commanding a panoramic view of the valley of Sucre. The church
was 16th century with detailed rich wooden ceilings and walls. I climbed
to the top of the bell tower to gaze down on the city streets below. On
returning to the room I was first upset to find that my bandanna that I
had washed and left out to dry was missing.

Bill and Frank had a surprise. 'Get a load of this.' In my absence they
had toured the market and found bales of coca leaves for sale. They
purchased a kilo for 25 cents. We chewed the leaves and left them to
soak in our mouths. The effects were minimal. We would find out later
that we were missing the vital ingredient, liheja, that amplifies the
effects of the coca leaf alkaloids.

We were up early next morning before the market opened and boarded our
bus to Potosi which would be the base for viewing the eclipse. The bus
station served matte de coca tea with the leaves floating on the surface.
The bus was modern and comfortable. The road was rough dirt with
potholes. The terrain was similar to the Southern Californian deserts.

On arrival in Potosi we walked two blocks and took over a room that 3
ladies were just leaving. We felt lucky since we had heard that all the
rooms in town had been full. The hotel had a central courtyard and a
common bath. It was not clean, but it was cheap. The central square was
faced by two cathedrals. One had been converted into a museum. The
entrance was an arch with a large wooden face at the highest point. The
head was adorned with an olive branch, it looked like Bacchus.

Potosi was at 11,000 feet. There were not as many tourists as we had
been led to believe staying for the eclipse. As in the Mexican eclipse
(1991), the numbers had been significantly exaggerated. We met 5 other
American tourists. We joined forces and rented a van with driver. The
plan was to drive 30 kilos south to the centerline of the shadow path to
gain 20 seconds more eclipse time. Potosi was at lest 400 years old. It
existed for the silver mining. The great hill to the west had been mined
for the life of Potosi.

I had trouble sleeping with excitement over the eclipse. I went on the
roof and saw stars, The sky was clear! I dressed at 0500 to a few
scattered cirrus clouds. I felt nervous that totality, 0824, would be
clouded over. The van was to be ready at 0600. All 7 of us were at the
location at 0600. But no van and no driver. To add to our anxiety the
clouds to the East were increasing. The driver and van arrived, but
there was some last minute negotiations concerning who was coming with
the driver. All 7 of us were nervous about getting to the centerline on
time for the eclipse. We finally got started to our relief.

We drove on a dirt road. On the outskirts of town groups of people were
climbing up the hills. The tallest one had a wooden cross on top.
People were clustered there. We were heading south to El Porto, which
was close to if not on centerline and had a commanding view according to
our driver. The Altiplano had the look of the low altitude Mojave desert.
Sun-blasted weathered granite with gullies formed by flash-floods.
The lighting was the brilliant illumination of the high altitudes.
We were gaining altitude heading for 15,000 feet.

As we sped along in the van we were watching the sun with our mylar U.V.
filters. We were looking for first contact. Kristin, one of two sisters
from America, was the first to announce it's appearance, 'I see it!' We
all saw it now.

The touch of the moon upon the sun started a drama that would envelope us
for the next 2 hours. We continued to drive as the eclipse progressed.
At a high point on the road we stopped the van where we had a good view
to the East but not to the West. The sun's shadow would come from the
West at more than a 1000 miles per hour. We placed a white sheet on the
ground to view the shadow bands. Frank, Bill and I put on our mylar
eyeglasses and chewed coca leaves but, now with the lijea. Soon our gums
were numb and we felt the drug. Approaching second contact, the sun
became a narrow crescent, the light becoming noticeably different. It
was surrealistic, a Daliesque light with sharp shadows. The strangeness
accelerated as the shadow swallowed us. There was a diamond ring too
bright to look at, then at second contact, a black hole surrounded by the
fires of the corona, photosphere, and chromosphere flashed on; steel
blue, gray, and crimson. Stars were present as if a planetarium
projector had been switched. The corona was asymmetric with a long spike
at 2 o'clock. The view is exhilarating, transcendental; I feel exalted.
All I can say is 'It's so beautiful!', which I repeat. I hear 'Oh God,
.. Oh God!', hyperventilation and crying from the others. As third
contact approached I said, '10 seconds', to warn of the reappearance of
the sun and U.V.... There was a last crimson flare, then the diamond
ring. It has lasted 3 minutes 5 seconds. I had been transported out
of my ego. Looking down at the bed sheet the shadow bands were present.
Low contrast strips of light and dark moving at 3-5 mph. They are
venetian blinds seen at the bottom of a pool.

I repeated a quote from the Bhagavad Gita, which I had selected the
night before and had read out loud before second contact and now
after third contact, 'The flames of thy mouths devour all the worlds.
Thy glory fills the whole universe. But how terrible thy splendors burn!
... I am become death the destroyer of worlds.' As third contact passed
and the light brightened, the exhilaration of the eclipse passed.
We returned to the van for the drive back to Potosi.

We passed many groups of black, brown and white llamas. We stopped at a
cluster of adobe huts where our driver said there were hot springs, aqua
caliente, a short distance. Only Bill and I were interested. In the
company of our driver we walked a mile to the mouth of a narrow canyon
issuing forth a stream. Climbing up the wall of the canyon we passed
through a tunnel and into an oasis: bushes, trees, and plants nourished
by the desert waters. After a few hundred yards we reached a group of
thatched adobe buildings. An Indian family motioned for us to go inside.
The building covered pools of hot water. We stripped to our underwear
and soaked in the water. The eclipse and now this. It was a perfect
moment! The driver did not join Bill and I. We could swim in the larger
pool. We stayed in the water until the driver grew impatient. It took 40
minutes to walk back to the van. It seemed in our absence that Frank had
made remarks that upset the ladies. We noticed a tension.

Back in Potosi Bill and I took a tour to one of the co-operative mines.
The silver has been coming out of the hills above Potosi for 400 years.
At one time it was South America's richest city. On the way to the mine
we stopped at a kiosk to bring gifts to the miners - sticks of dynamite,
50 cents, and coca leaves, 25 cents a kilo. There was also ammonium
nitrate to enhance the explosion. Our guide gave us a detailed
discussion on the proper way to chew coca leaves. Putting the leaves
one-by-one into the mouth well salivated and about a gram of lijea to
extract the alkaloid. Twelve of us gringos on the tour were encouraged
to indulge. Bill and I did not hesitate. By the time we arrived at the
mine entrance my mouth was numb and the coca had enveloped me in a warm
buzz.
We were initiated to the mines by setting off a few sticks of dynamite.
Then we donned carbide lamps and dirty clothes to descend into the mines.
The mining is done by men who are mostly illiterate and who have no idea
of safe engineering practices. A hole 20 inches deep is drilled by hand
and a stick of dynamite inserted. A long fuse is attached. The miner
withdraws, hoping the explosion does not collapse the mine. If all goes
well he returns to collect the silver ore to sell. The miners are
nourished by chewing coca leaves and giving offerings of cigarettes to a
statue of 'El Diablo' deep in the mine. After 20 minutes in the mine we
were anxious to leave. Our guide was enthusiastic and ended up keeping
us underground for 2 hours. The conditions were shocking.

On returning to the Hotel we found Frank waiting outside in the street.
He was worried that we would be late catching the train to La Paz in the
night. We greeted him with a stick of dynamite we kept as a souvenir.
He was upset. He insisted that we leave at once to secure our places on
the train but, Bill and I wanted to shower first. We were filthy from
the mine. However, Frank was intent on going, so I stayed to take a
shower while Bill went off with Frank to check on the train.

Bill returned with the news that the train was OK and Frank was holding
our seats. Bill and I took a taxi to the train. Our coach was very
comfortable. The two American sisters who had watched the eclipse with
us were in the coach. The train had made a few false starts which
startled Frank thinking he would leave without us. He was glad to see us
arrive. As the train left the Potosi station it's headlights illumined
the countryside especially on the turns. It was exciting to be crossing
the Altiplano this way. The lounge chairs were easy to sleep in. As the
night progressed it grew colder as we were 15,000 feet high. I had 5
layers on my chest, 3 layers on my legs, gloves and a wool hat. There
was snow on the ground. The temperature inside the train went down to 48
degrees, but there was no heating. I did not sleep well. Frank said,
'This is the worst night of my life, when we get to La Paz I'm flying to
Miami from there.'

The rosy dawn revealed a snowy landscape. We passed through a dismal
mining town, Oturuo, the outskirts a large garbage dump, people squatting
at their toilet, pigs rooting, sick dogs roaming. We approached La Paz
which is at the bottom of a large valley. The poor live on the rim
looking down on the rich who live on the bottom where it is warmer. The
train tracks spiral down circling the rim. We arrive at the La Paz train
station in the early morning. As we left the train the porter asks for
'propina', a tip. We laugh, no blankets had been available through the
cold night.

La Paz is the highest capitol city in the world, 12,000 feet. We are
already acclimated from the altiplano. We find a hotel then spend the
day wandering the streets and arranging our transportation into Peru. The
main street lies on the bottom of the valley. The glacier capped Andes,
20,000 feet, are visible from the city center. The witches market offers
brews and concoctions to satisfy all needs. The women wear black felt
bowler hats. Frank does not get a seat to Miami. We will all go to Peru
by bus.

One last piece of business before we leave for Peru. We still have
a stick of dynamite and a bag of coca leaves. It would not be wise
to cross the border with them. Bill and I had passed a group of workers
at a construction site. I approach them speaking in Russian to confuse
them. I offer them the dynamite and coca as a gift. They look at me
with bewildered expressions. Since they do not take it from me, I leave
the items on their worktable and walk off.

Our room includes breakfast. We meet an American biologist who
is headed for the jungles of Bolivia to study frogs. He has already
discovered two new species. A van picks us up in front of the Hotel. We
pack in other travelers until it is full then climb out of the valley
leaving La Paz. Heading northwest towards Lake Titicaca we have a
sweeping view of the snow giants of the Andes. The altiplano is dry and
windswept. The other passengers are Americans who were also in Bolivia
for the eclipse.

Our first glimpse of Lake Titicaca is a blue shimmering on the horizon.
When we approach the shore at San Pablo it is an inland ocean of fresh
water. We leave the van and board a ferry after having our passports
checked by police. We are crossing a narrow portion of the Lake and are
still in Peru. On the other side we go to the toilet outside against a
wall, following the locals example. The van has been brought across
empty on a barge. We reboard and continue along the shore of the lake.
We see many islands. The water is a deep azure from the great depth. At
points we do not see the opposite shore. It is a magnificent lake.

We reach the town of Copacabana on the shore of the lake. Here we switch
to a luxury bus. Our first stop is the Peruvian border. We leave the
bus and clear Bolivian customs. At the Peruvian customs building we
receive visas in our passports. Now driving through Peru we see a series
of stockade-like buildings that might be prisons. The Sendora Luminosa
have been active in this area. The shore of the lake is marshy with
reeds. There are a flamboyance of pink flamingos along the lake edge.
The houses are adobe. The setting sun at this altitude casts a brilliant
red-orange light. We arrive in Puno during a festival of the devils. The
streets are packed with young people dressed up as El Diablo accompanied
by martial music.

We have missed our bus connection to Cusco. There will not be another
bus for 24 hours. A tout approaches us and offers assistance. I trust
him but, Frank is suspicious of his motives. We take Senior Fernando's
advice and find a hotel to spend the night. We have to force our way
across a street crowded with merry-makers. Fernando cautions us against
pickpockets. We buy air tickets for the next day to fly to Cusco. We
discover later that this was a good choice since the bus trip is the 'bus
from hell.'

We are up early to get a taxi to the airport which is 30 km. away.
At the airport everything went smoothly. It was a 30 minute
flight compared to a 12 hour bus ride. The landing at the airport was
great. We had a grand view of the main square and the cathedrals. We
took a taxi to the square where we obtained a room with one wall the
original Incan wall. Frank and Bill had to leave for Lima the next
morning so they immediately took off on a tour to Macchu Picchu. I had
another week so I stayed in town. Cusco was fascinating. A large
central square flanked by three Cathedrals with narrow cobblestone
streets, white washed buildings and Incan ruins.

At a restaurant I meet an American lady from Texas who I was to later
have over for dinner when I returned to San Diego. I went to the Faucet
Air office to get tickets for Bill and Frank for the next morning.
After talking to the manager I walked out with the tickets, it took about
an hour.

I walked up a steep cobble stoned street to the Incan ruins of
Sasquaywuaman. The stones were fitted together without mortar and were
high above Cusco with a commanding view. There were the usual hawkers
including men with llamas and a condor that tourists could be
photographed with. The lighting was great, the sun going in and out
lighting up the grass in front of the ruins. I found a 30 foot diameter
circle of stones, the Puma's eye. A couple from Alaska said that by
standing in the center and facing Machu Picchu one would become empowered
by magnetic resonances. I tried it but was not sensitive to the
experience.

I walked back into town with the couple. I took a different route
through the poor section. The smell of sewage was present. At the Plaza
de Armas the city lights were coming on. I returned to our triple room
with the Incan wall but, Bill and Frank had not returned. I went to a
restaurant where I met the American sisters. They returned to my room to
view the Incan room. The older sister flirted with me, she was slightly
drunk, the younger one dragged her off with plans for us to meet tomorrow
since we planned to share a room at the expensive Machu Picchu Hotel to
share the cost. Bill and Frank returned at 11 p.m.. They were excited
about the trip to Machu Picchu.

I was up early and had breakfast returning to wake up my partners. We
went to the airport together. Frank sold me one of his pepper spray
canisters for protection. 'Watch your back.' They were flying to Lima
then on to Miami, I had another week by myself in Peru. I walked all
over the city visiting the cathedrals and museums. I reserved a train
ticket to go to Machu Picchu the next day. I was up early for the train
ride. The route was through the Sacred valley of the Incas. Machu
Picchu was rediscovered in the early 20th century by an American. The
train deposited me at the base of the ridge where the ruins are located.
A bus goes up a dirt road to reach the foot of the ruins.

Machu Picchu has an incredible setting with rain forest mountains
surrounding the ancient city. I climbed the mountain behind the ruins
for a grand view. Rain squalls passed through the area, with the sun
going in and out. Returning to Cusco I spent the next 3 days taking day
trips into the sacred valley of the Incas. The whole area was a narrow
valley with snow covered peaks at the highest points. The most striking
place was the Incan ruins of Pisaq which were in a drier location than
Machu Picchu, there was cactus, but with a long scenic view. The ruins
were less touristed than Machu Picchu. I flew into Lima for a 2 day stay.
I had been warned of high street crime here because of the poverty, but it
was no worse than any American city.

The high points of Lima were the museums. The Museum of Gold had an
outstanding collection of relics both gold, and weapons from the Incas.
The Pottery museum had an extraordinary collection of mummies and erotic
pottery from the Incas.

At a chicken restaurant in Lima I was brought a white cardboard box after
my meal. There was a chirping and movement. There was a chick inside.
As a marketing ploy one was given to each customer. I declined mine.

My flight back to San Diego was fine. As soon as I was back home I was
downloading files from the NASA gopher site for data about the solar
eclipse on Oct. 24, 1995 which goes through Asia including India.