Getting Around Peru

Mototaxi - very Peruvian method of getting around

Lima airport
Kristen and I flew in four different airplanes en route to the Andes.
Indy--> Houston--> Mexico City--> Lima --> Cusco
 (We could have done it in three, but she threw in the Mexico City stop so her hyperactive mother didn't have to sit still quite so long. If we did it again, we'd skip that step, even if it meant a longer flight from the states.)

But the variety of transportation we took and saw once we were in Peru was far more interesting than our standard flights!

For tourists taxis are the normal method of getting from place to place - even when the destination is many hours away. And a typical taxi is a Kia or Toyota. (Not one of those cute mototaxis like above. Those are used mostly by the locals.) We met so many friendly people, but our taxi drivers were among the most helpful and kind folks of all. With one of our drivers, we discovered a common bond in the Lord Jesus Christ. So sweet!

Taxis in Peru don't have meters; instead you negotiate the price before you begin a journey. So if you want to go from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, for example, and you want to stop off at the Pisac market for an hour, you simply ask your driver how much that would cost.

It was a good thing we trusted our taxi drivers so much. Because driving in Peru is Kuh-RA-zy!!! Drivers shift lanes without warning. Horns continually blare. (I never figured out what they meant. Watch out; here I come! Get out of the way, you nincompoop! Excuse me! Who knows!? Maybe all of the above!) And the passing! Oh my! We could be driving down a narrow, winding, mountain road, and our driver would decide to pass the mototaxi in front of us. No worries that a huge tourist bus was barreling towards us!)

Lima traffic outside our hotel. Fairly uncongested at this hour.

We saw very, very few stop signs in Peru. Kristen found one in Cusco, and said, "Mom, they do too have stop signs!" But before she'd finished her sentence, our driver had blasted past it, showing us why there weren't more.

But you know what? The cars looked remarkably dent-free, so it seemed the drivers knew what they were doing. We quickly learned to just sit back and not worry. It worked.

No roads lead from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, leaving options either of trekking for four days on the Inca Trail or riding a train. Peru Rail's Visadome was our choice, and it was lovely.

The scenery was gorgeous. 

But we also had a pair of terrific South African seat mates to share our table with. They de-trained before we for a day hike up to Machu Picchu. We ended up on the same flight out of Cusco several days later and were able to catch up on our separate adventures!

A few more modes of travel -

More adorable moto-taxis.
They are basically three-wheeled motorcycles with a back bench for passengers.
I loved the variety of outer shells.

And finally - an ambulance.

What? That doesn't look like an ambulance to you? While we were on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco,
Cusco Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas
 a man near Kristen fell to the ground. She went to investigate and found he was having a seizure.
Plaza de Armas

Several other bystanders tried to help him as well, but none were medical personnel. Kristen knew what he needed, but not being able to communicate was a serious hindrance. At least she was able to get him on his side and prevented others from trying to make him stand up while he was still seizing. When help arrived, it was an emergency truck like the one above. The sick man was made to walk between a couple of helpers, and then he sat in the cab for his journey to a hospital.

Kristen and I decided then and there that Peru was not a good place to have a medical emergency! 

(To be fair, we did also see a few of more traditional ambulances at various times.)

Peruvian Textiles

Kristen feeds a llama at the  Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary.
(The mesh behind her holds Andean condors.)

With alpacas and llamas  native to the Andes, it is no surprise to find that Peruvians are textile artists par excellence. The girls in my family also loves textile - one daughter spins, two weave, and all of us sew and knit. So one of the things Kristen and I were looking forward to was seeing (and bringing home) from Peru were some beautiful textile products. We weren't disappointed!

First off, a note about alpacas vs. llamas. To be honest, Kristen and I weren't always sure which we were looking at. But here's the skinny on how to differentiate these two camelids:

Alpacas: They are significantly smaller than llamas. (This is no help when you are looking at babies, though, as we often were.) Unlike llamas, alpacas aren't bred to be beasts of burden, but they have wonderfully lush coats which can be sheared once every year or two to make the most luxurious yarn ever. OK, here are a couple of visual clues besides size: alpaca ears are spear-shaped and their faces are kind of squashed.

Baby Alpacas (I think)

Llamas at Machu Picchu
Llamas: They can weigh up to 440 pounds, and they are used as pack animals. (One of Tim's friends uses them to carry hunting equipment on treks in the western U.S.) Their wool is also nice, but coarser than alpaca. Their ears are banana-shaped and they tend to have longer faces than alpacas.

The animal sanctuary, which is located between Pisac and Ollantaytambo in "The Sacred Valley," also had a display of natural dyes

and wool dyed in the various colors. Clearly, the Peruvian pallete is bright and bold!

Bright like this:
Ollantaytambo market
I want to make a quilt with these colors some day

And this:

Besides woven fabrics, knit items could be found all over the place, both homemade and factory made. Our favorite restaurant, Blue Magic in Ollantaytambo, used iconic Andean knit hats for part of their decor.

So what'd we bring home?

We chose a number of lovely scarves like these:

And thick fabric...

Andean women use square thick cotton cloths to carry babies on their backs, and both men and women carry all sorts of other bundles tied into their cloths. Restaurants use the fabric as tablecloths, and we even saw it used for window coverings. Kristen and I found several baby-carrying sized fabrics for ourselves and for my daughter, Kara. I went with subdued colors, but we found a bright, happy piece for Kara. (And Kristen learned the secret of folding the square into a baby sling.)

Lima hotel blankets - SO thick!
It's winter in Peru, and no place we stayed (two Air BNB apartments and one small hotel) had central heat. But it didn't seem necessary. Instead, each place (except the hotel) had space heaters and incredibly soft, thick alpaca blankets.

Though we saw blankets like those, we had no room in our bags, but Kristen and I did each find a baby alpaca throw blanket.

And we brought home a couple of alpaca sweaters as well.

The ladies at the markets were terrific at sizing customers at a glance

Finally, my textile purchases wouldn't have been complete without some yarn. (Actually, finding yarn is not easy!) With space in my carry-on only luggage completely gone, I purchased one skein of this luxurious baby alpaca and silk yarn which I have in mind to use for a couple of Peruvian baby hats.

Mountain Biking in the Andes!

Several people have asked me what I most enjoyed in Peru. That's a hard question! Should I tell them about the beauty of the landscape and the diverse ecosystems? The kindness of the people we met? The engineering marvels produced by the Incas? The lovely textiles we saw all around us?

But for sheer exhilaration, nothing beat the afternoon we went mountain biking!

In Ollantaytambo, the small village in "The Sacred Valley" where we spent several days, we found KB Tours, a company which offers all sorts of adventures from rafting to horseback riding to trekking. The folks we dealt with were fantastic, and the prices were good.

Our driver and our guide loaded the three bikes. To the right of the car you can see a couple of "moto-taxis," vehicles that consist of a motorcycle with a back seat for passengers.

As we drove more than an hour up the mountainside, we passed by Inca and pre-Inca ruins.

Do you see all those layers of terraces? There are something like 80 levels!

The scenery was not the only fascinating thing on the way up the mountain. At one point we came upon a Quecha family who had been traveling on a motorcycle. Dad, mom, baby, and child. Unfortunately, around a curve, their transportation had slipped out from under them. No one was injured, but the man of the family was unable to get the motorcycle upright again without aid. Our driver and guide immediately hopped out and helped put the family back on the road again. As a way of saying thanks, the mother filled our driver's shirt with boiled potatoes which he brought back to our car. Up to this point, Kristen and I had been fairly careful of what we ingested, but, what the heck. We ate some potatoes, and they were good! (Sorry - no pics of the family. That just seemed inappropriate.)

Further up the mountain we passed Patacancha, a weavers' village. And because it was Friday, the road from this point on was filled with children heading further uphill. They'd been at school all week, but now were returning to their even more remote homes for the weekend. Come Monday, they'd make a two hour trek back down the mountain for another week of school. Some of the kids had bikes, but no one was riding uphill.

Tired school kids heading home for the weekend

Alpacas grazed in fields in the mountain valleys. The elevation here was almost 4200m or nearly 14,000 ft.

And then we came down! For the most part, we stayed on the rocky, steep road. But at a couple of places, our guide, by then feeling more confident about the cycling abilities of his middle-aged guest and her daughter, took us off the road onto mountain paths, or, to use mountain bike parlance, single track. These were paths used by the locals, and we met men leading horses, children playing, and others. I'm pretty sure a broad grin lit up my face the entire descent. I love biking, but this ride was unlike anything I've ever done!

This picture doesn't really capture the steepness. I guess you'll have to take my word for it.
We dropped nearly 5000 feet in about an hour and a quarter, so it was pretty rapid. 

Peruvian Markets

Somehow I missed out the shopping gene that women are supposed to have. The only things I enjoy shopping for are books and fabric, and even those I prefer to purchase online. But visiting the markets in Peru was fun! Of course, mostly I just tagged along with my daughter who told me to keep my mouth shut and let her do the bargaining. I tend to feel bad anytime a marketer acts slightly disappointed when offered a lower price, but she assures me it is just part of the game.

We made several excursions to specific places that were known for their markets. And with a large family to buy goodies for, we were kept on our toes looking for just the right thing for each one.

Pisac Market

Hat, blankets, bags - in Ollantaytambo

We visited indoor markets, outdoor markets, markets with whole slabs of alpacas and ones with potatoes of all sizes and varieties. In Lima we even landed on what seemed like a Peruvian version of Walmart. Though it had a different name, it sold WM's Cherokee brand and even smelled similar to our American superstore.

Chinchero Market - This lovely market had the largest selection of handmade textiles. The elevation here is 12, 343'!

I so wanted to buy one of these sets of seeds for a special biologist I know.
However, with the attention I seemed to attract every time I went through security or customs, it would have been a bad idea.

This store clerk in Cuzco had fun dressing Kristen and I in Peruvian costumes. Technically, Kristen's hat should be tilted, as befits her single status. Staid matron I am, mine sits levelly on my head.

Not a market per se, but this fellow was walking down the street in Cuzco with his flowers on his back.

With all these lovely Peruvian markets, would you be surprised to learn that we left with our baggage (carry-on only) crammed to the brim with textiles and other goodies?

Positively Peru!

Llama surveys Machu Picchu (Sept. 3, '16)

I'm not exactly what you'd call a world traveler. Besides a summer spent in Belgium, I've only been to Canada a couple of times. Our daughter Kristen is an adventurous soul, and she's traveled with her dad to Thailand and Zambia. So when she declared Peru would make a wonderful destination, Tim decided I should be her co-traveler this time.

Oh my! I've wracked my brain in vain to come up with adequate adjectives to describe our trip. Amazing! Unbelievable! Even that overworked one - awesome - truly applies. Stepping away from my regular life for a week and entering this other world was incredible. Sometimes I'd feel like we were in the midst of a National Geographic special. What a joy to see this very different part of the world God made, experience the glories of these particular mountains, and interact with so many kind and helpful Peruvian people.

At the risk of becoming the neighbor who bores you by insisting you watch her slide show from her recent vacation, over the next days, I plan to post some pics from our trip. Instead of showing our trip in chronological order, I think I'll try to do it thematically. Tomorrow I'll start by giving you a feel of some of the many markets we experienced. Even for a non-shopper like me, the markets were a lot of fun!

Off to Deepest, Darkest...

Guess where I'm  heading? 

Yep - the home country of Paddington Bear:   (Deepest, darkest) Peru!

Tomorrow my daughter, Kristen, and I set out on an adventure, traveling to Lima, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, and Cuzco, and wherever else our wandering hearts and feet take us during the week we'll be in Peru.

Not only is Peru the home of Paddington, but it is the location of one of our family's favorite series of missionary stories: The Rani Adventures. These aren't typical missionary biographies, but if you want to enjoy some family laughs and learn about mission life from the perspective of a missionary kid, you need to try these books! (It's a Jungle Out There!; Life is a Jungle!; and Jungle Calls.)

I didn't start out overly enthusiastic about this trip at the thought of leaving my husband and sons home, but excitement certainly has been mounting! Tim's encouragement to make this trip has been wonderful. I'm eagerly anticipating seeing God's beautiful handiwork as we hike and possibly bike Peruvian mountains and plains! We're looking forward to learning history and culture first-hand (and seeing some llamas in their native habitat!)  And as fiber-lovers, Kristen and I are hoping to bring some yarn and other textiles home. Finding raw materials (yarn instead of knitted products, for example) is harder than finding finished items. But I have a few leads, so we'll see what we can come up with. No matter what, Kristen and I are thrilled to be able to take this adventure together!

Hello, Year 27!

Last summer hurrah - Family camping trip

Here we go again! We're now a couple of weeks into the 27th year of official homeschooling for our household.

School in 2016-2017 looks quite different in our home than it did back in 1990-1991. For starters, our household is shrinking, not growing, as it was in the first many, many years of homeschooling. Just three years ago we still had six kids living at home, though two were in college. But this year, having deposited our youngest two daughters at Purdue, we now have just our youngest two sons at home. Also, this year, for the first time, I have no elementary students!

Here's a peek at the educational program our youngest two are pursuing this school year:

Ben navigates rapids on Nantahala River
Ben - 7th grade (!)

Writing Fundamentals (Grammar and Composition) - online class with The Potter's School

Transition Math (UCSMP)

Otter's Botany - a literature and experiment-based botany course available free from   Guest Hollow. I hope to get around to writing a review of this outstanding program, but suffice to say, this is Ben's favorite subject.

Sonlight American History - an old course I've used with several students

Latin for Children C

Literature - books corresponding with our history studies, co-op book club, and other sources

Informal Logic using The Fallacy Detective

Bible - Memorization; personal Bible reading; and reading and discussion of several Christian classics

Others: Shakespeare (Macbeth and either Merchant of Venice or The Tempest with co-op; Co-op Book Club; piano lessons

Paul - 10th grade

Bible - Memorization; personal Bible reading; Christian classics

Introduction to Literature (The Potter's School)

Algebra II (The Potter's School)

Chemistry (Apologia)

Sonlight American History (old version)

Latin Alive

Introduction to Computer Programming (The Potter's School)

Physical Education  (He keeps track of points via The President's Challenge website, and his grade is determined by the number of points earned)

Volunteering: Wonderlab Science Museum and assisting with a Robotics Workshop for younger students

And here's what the other students in our family are up to:

Amanda and Faith 

Faith - Freshman at Purdue

Faith is studying Mathematics Education and is happy to be in Purdue's School of Science. She's in a learning community, which means she lives with other students also pursuing secondary education. Today was Day 1, and she's pretty excited!

Amanda - Sophomore at Purdue

Amanda returned for her second year in West Lafayette, and she's off to a busy year, serving both as an R.A. at the apartment owned and operated by her church, and as an Honor's Mentor to younger students in the honors program. Her major is interior design, which she absolutely loves.

Peter with niece Eliza
(I don't have lots of pics of Peter, OK?)

Peter - Senior at Indiana University (Kelley School of Business)

After completing an internship this summer at an Indianapolis firm, Peter is more pumped than ever about his accounting studies. He's pursuing a triple major with two other business areas (management and another that's more tech related), and will be looking for a job during this final year.