Friday, September 30, 2011

Machu Picchu - A Dream Come True

Yesterday we visited this fabulous place, which the Spanish never found. News of its existence was broadcast to the world exactly 100 years ago, in 1911, by Hiram Bingham, of Yale.

I have waited almost as long - 60 years in fact - since I first read about it and saw the pictures and decided this was a place I must vist. And it was worth the wait. It is magic. I only wish my photography was up to it - but if there is one place of which you will easily find good photographs elsewhere, Machu Picchu is it.

And if you are puzzling over the picture which is lying on its side - so am I - it is the correct way up in my computer. I will leave it there to intrigue you - and to demonstrate my incompetence.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inca Technology

I have been interested in the Inca civilisation for most of my life, but to see it blows the mind. The astonishing architecture, using massive stones in impossible places, cut and fit with an amazing precision, built by a people who knew neither steel nor the wheel, is everywhere and difficult to comprehend.

But their use of technology is also a real eye-opener. I have been reporting on only a few of the sites and sights we have seen. Sometimes, as today, we visited 5 or 6 places. One of today's stops was at Moray, where we saw the pictured perfectly circular terracing. This was designed for testing and developing new crops and plants. At each level there was a different temperature. The irrigation ran down cleverly from one level to another, which is not surprising, but no water collected at the bottom. Drainage, which presumably involved a tunnel through the surrounding mountains, removed the water to be used elsewhere.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Road To Machu Picchu

Today we left Cuzco for 3 days, leaving our large luggage in the hotel there, and taking a smaller bag each for the next 3 days. We have moved into the Sacred Valley, visiting such places as Pisaq and Ollantaytambo. We have ended up in the magnificent Libertador Tambo del Inka (Google it and have a look, it is stunning) at Urubamba.

Tomorrow we have a look at some Inca roads and grain stores above Ollantaytambo, coming back again to the Tambo del Inka. Thursday we go on the train to Machu Picchu (there is limited luggage space on the train, which is why we are down to hand-baggage), then stay in a hotel at the foot of the "lost city".

Machu Picchu is of course the higlight of the trip for everybody, yet we are all subdued. One of our number suffered what seemed to be a stroke when we stopped for lunch, and had to be ambulanced off back to hospital in Cuzco. Our tour leader Bill went with him. The good news is that Bill telephoned from Cuzco to say that the patient is already showing signs of improvement and has his speech back.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wayne Rooney

I forgot to mention, when talking about our visit to the community on the reed island on Lake Titicaca, that these people, who are so cut off from the rest of the world, are fully aware of international sporting “celebrities”. When one of our party was asked where he came from and replied “England”, the instant response from the Indian was “England – Wayne Rooney!”.

Saturday we visited the ancient ruins at Tihuanaco, high in the Andes and not far from Lake Titicaca. Then Sunday we flew from La Paz – which has the highest airport in the world, with a runway which has to be 4 miles long instead of the usual 2. This is because there is 40 percent less oxygen in the air than at sea level. We flew from there to Cuzco, the ancient capitals of the Incas.

The Spanish conquerors destroyed the wonderful Inca civilisation, being interested only in gold and conversion to Christianity. They did their best to also obliterate the wonderful buildings which abound. This morning we went to Sacsayuaman, just outside the city. Despite the Spanish depradations, the ruins there are still a marvel. The walls are built of huge stones, some over 100 tons in weight. And the Incas, who had not discovered steel, managed to cut these huge rocks so perfectly, and fit them together so finely, that a piece of paper can not be inserted between the joints – which do not even use mortar.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lake Titicaca

Bolivian Woman in traditional bowler hat

Uros Girl

Wednesday we had another long drive from the Colca Canyon to Puno, on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. After checking into the hotel we had a boat trip out - after a breakdown - to the extraordinary floating reed islands. Here the Uros people spend all their lives on small reed islands, which they make themselves, living in tiny reed houses and living mainly on fish.

Thursday it was on across the altiplano to Bolivia. Here, after the chaotic border formalities, we embarked again on Lake Titicaca, this time on a hydrofoil, where we visited the Island of the Sun, where we had lunch, then the Island of the Moon. At both places we visited archaeological remnants of the Inca and pre-Inca civilisations. More time on the hydrofoil, then a bus trip into the heart of Bolivia and to its captital La Paz, the highest capital city in the world.

We are all very short of breath with any activity. Our altitude is varying between 3,500 and almost 5,000 metres above sea level.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

El Condor Pasa


Pre-Inca Terraces


Monday we left Arequipa and travelled by coach up onto the high altiplano. The highest point on the way was 4,900 metres but we finally ended up at the Colca Lodge at 3,400 metres. On the way we saw llamas, alpaca and vicuna.

Yesterday we arose before the crack of dawn - we seem to have done that several times on this trip, which is very hectic - and made a two-hour coach trip into the Colca Canyon. We stopped at a viewpoint where the drop was greater than any other canyon in the world. It was well above 1,000 metres. Many people were gathered there to see the condors, which nest nearby and seem to get up much later than we did. They circle round for a bit, put on a bit of a show, then go off to find meat which as conveniently dropped dead somewhere for them.

On the way to the canyon we saw many fine examples of the stunning pre-Inca agricultural terraces.

As always, double-clicking will make the pictures bigger.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Flying By

The year is certainly flying by quickly. And so am I. Yesterday I made my 26th flight of the year. It was from Lima to Arequipa in Peru. Earlier in the day Gay and I had flown over the famous Nazca lines.

I have wanted to visit Peru and see the ancient structures and other remnants of Peruvian cultures, ever since, at the age of 10, I somehow managed to get hold of William Prescott's famous book The Conquest of Peru.

The Nazca lines are immense carvings in the floor of the Nazca desert. The hundreds of individual figures range in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks, orcas, llamas, and lizards.There are many geometric designs and representations of humans and animals. The great mystery surrounding them is that they can only be seen from the air. If you were on the ground you would not be able to see them. Some of the lines stretch for miles. So how (and why?) were they carved in the desert so long ago? They were constructed by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD

In an action-packed first four days we have also seen the pre-Inca ruins at Pachacamac, The museum at Ica, the oasis and immense sand dunes at Huacachina, and made a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands, with unbelievable numbers of cormorants, pelicans and blue-footed boobies -so many that guano collection and removal is a very visible industry there.

For the Nazca lines we flew from Pisco, a town largely destroyed by a recent earthquake in 2007. We stayed for two nights at a very splendid resort at nearby Paracas. It was very reassuring to know that this resort had been completely demolished in the earthquake, which had resulted in the rebuilding to a much higher standard. That would have been a great comfort if another earthquake had come along when we were there.

Pisco airport is clearly also a military base. It was very interesting to see the pictured Canberra aircraft there - a wonderfully versatile aircraft built by English Electric, now known as British Aerospace or BAe, the company my son-in-law Kenny and my granddaughter Alexandra work for. The Canberra was retired by its first operator, the Royal Air Force (RAF), on 23 June 2006, 57 years after its first flight. NASA are still using some of the American version for meteorological work. There were others dispersed around the airfield.

We are now in Arequipa at well over 2000 meters, on our way into the high Andes for visits such as Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thanks To You All

Perhaps provoked by the publicity surrounding my book (and there has been quite a lot), donations have started up again on my JustGiving page (click here to go there. No donation would be too small.

Total donations to pancreatic cancer research through my page now stand (against a target of £7,000) at £8255, with a further £1443.76 chipped in by the UK government as a tax payback for donors who pay tax in the country. So the total I have raised for this cause is approaching £10,000, plus a small donation from every copy of my book sold. Thank you to everybody who has helped with that.

Amongst websites featuring my book is the official Mark Knopfler website - click here to view that. The connection is "The Walk of Life", a famous Dire Straits tune, which was played by BBC tv in the news item covering the finish of my walk. If you want to see that excerpt from the news, just search my name - Vic Heaney - on YouTube.

Also the Rohan website - click here for that.

For details of where to find my book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England" double click on this.