Saturday, June 26, 2010

Easter Island

On our first day in Easter Island we went to see some of the famous stone heads. They are huge, much bigger than they look in the pictures. They hold the spirit of someone who has died. They face inland, and watch over the village the person lived in. If the neck breaks, the spirit escapes and makes the family weaker. In wars, they would tip each others' statues over so the necks broke. The area around the statues was paved with stone. The statues also sit on stone bases. In one place the stone base is as good as Inca show quality stone work. When Captain Cook came, he saw the fine stonework and thought there must be gold there. So he blew a hole in the platform only to find there was no gold. Some of the statues have red stone hats on them. The best statues are at a beach. They tipped over not long after they were made and got buried in sand. They were only discovered and put up again a few years ago so they are in perfect condition.  One of them is missing an earlobe because it was broken off by a man who wanted to compare it to the statues in his country 9 months ago.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tupiza and the salt flats

The scenery in Tupiza is very similar to the scenery in Utah - big red rocks and a dry, dusty climate. While we were there, a South American overland truck parked in front of our hotel. It had sleeping compartments, a kitchen and seats all in one vehicle. The salt flat was the world's largest, the second being the Bonneville Salt Flat in Utah. On our first day we drove through some amazing red mountains; we even saw some Vicunas. In the evening we got to the salt flats;  we were on the edge where they harvest salt for cooking. Then we drove out into the salt flats. They were extremely hard. Our guide said they were 100 meters (300 feet) thick in some places. We drove for about an hour and a half in a straight line to our hotel, which was made of salt. It is amazing how much the salt looks like stucco. I am glad we had heaters because it gets down to -18/20 degrees celcius at night. The next day we got up and watched the sunrise on the salt flats. Then we drove out to the island Inca Huasi, where we saw some 900 year old, 9 meter (27 foot) tall cactuses. Then we drove out into the middle to get our funny photos.  After that we continued on across the salt flats. Then we drove to a cemetery the locals made in the 1400's. There were rocks carved into egg shapes and hollowed out. Because of the dry climate, the bodies were well preserved. Some even had skin. It was amazing: they were still in the cemetery, no security, no glass, just like they were left. Then we drove to a hotel made of lava rocks. In the morning we went to the 'tree of stone'. After that we went to a geyser field at just over 5000 meters (15000 feet) elevation. At that high elevation even getting in the car made me pant. Then we drove down about half an hour to a hot spring. We swam in the hot spring and it was very cold when we got out. At the hot spring, we met a biker. He had been biking 3 months. Then we went to the Salvador Dali desert, this because it looks like what he would paint. On the last night we stayed in a hostal without heat. We spent about 12 hours in our bed because it was the only warm place. At the Bolivia-Chile border crossing there was a huge fox. Our guide said he was Bolivian, and while we were there he never went to Chile.

Lake Titicaca

On our first day we went on a tour to see the floating islands. They are amazingly firm considering they are made of reeds. They are anchored to the bottom of the lake so they don't float away. They are about 2 meters(6 feet) thick. To make them the locals start with a base of reed roots. Then they put layers of reeds on until the island is thick enough. After that we went to a natural island, the second largest on the Peru side of the lake. It is about 7 kilometers long. On the island there is a huge, two storey high building full of the handicrafts the locals have made.

Machu Picchu

We walked around and looked at some buildings before watching the sunrise. The light on Machu Picchu at sunrise is amazing. It gives things good colour. Then we went up a little hill at one end. The best stones were on that hill. Our guide said that the royalty lived there. From there you could see most of Machu Picchu. After that we went to the mirrors. They are perfect dishes of water carved into the rocks. The Incas would look at the reflections of the stars at night.   When we were there, there wasn't much water because the llamas had drunk it. There is a little aqueduct which still has water flowing in it. The water in it was sacred, but when we were there a dog was drinking it. Then we went up to the Sun Gate. From there you can see all of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. The stone work in all of Machu Picchu is amazing. The aqueduct was made up of many rocks, but they fit so tightly together that no water leaked through. Our guide told us that there are lumps and holes in the rocks so they lock together and don't move. The next morning we went up again. I watched he sunrise from the royal plaza. It overlooks most of Machu Picchu and has the temple of the three windows. Every morning the sun shines through the windows.