We left Salt Lake Monday morning, arriving in Peru at about 11 PM after a brief layover in Atlanta. Wednesday morning we hopped on another plane to head to Cuzco, which is quite the tourist town.
This is the view from my hotel window. Up north is the Cuzco Plaza, which is the tourist hotspot. All sorts of people selling things.
We were just sitting on the steps, and this guy comes up trying to sell my buddy, Dave, a "100% baby alpaca sweater" (alpacas are a lot like llamas, but have softer wool). When we asked him who made it, he said his wife did. As we continued through our trip, we saw about two dozen other people, at various places, selling the exact same sweaters. Anytime anybody tries to sell you something, he made it himself, but there's only about 5 items that are sold in all of Cuzco.
The next several days were spent up in Salkantay, a village just a few miles from Cuzco, up in the mountains. It takes almost an hour to drive there though. The roads are quite treacherous and not well maintained.
The pictures don't do justice to how beautiful the place is. On this last panorama, you can see people walking up the road on the left - we had to stop and get out of the van because it couldn't get up the hill with us in it. In general, vehicles had trouble getting enough power here, due to the low oxygen levels in the air. Cuzco is about as high as the top of Mt. Timpanogos (11,000 ft), and Salkantay is about 2,000 ft higher than that. As we approached Salkantay, about a dozen kids and run out to meet us, and ran alongside the vans as we went. We didn't get straight to work when we got there - the elementary school students had put together quite a program for us, mostly of dances. It's a very poor village - most of the houses are about as large as one of our bedrooms and made out of mud bricks. The school area was built by another humanitarian group based out of Salt Lake called Eagle Condor. Here we worked on the stove water heating project and the bio-filter toilet. The water heating project didn't end up working out, due to not being able to find the type of tank that was needed. The bio-filter toilet we think will work out - only time will tell with that one.
We left Cuzco for Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu. When you're in Aguas Calientes, you feel like you've entered Jurassic Park.
We set out hiking up Machu Picchu at 5 the next morning. Most people will take a bus up, and the hiking trail just goes straight up the side of the mountain, in between the road switchbacks. Machu Picchu is the most beautiful place I've ever seen in my life. They still haven't excavated all of the ruins up there, and we don't really know why the place was built in the first place - if it was just another village or if it had religious purposes or what.
One of the big deals about the Incas is that their finest stone work is done without any mortar. They shape the blocks kind of like legos to keep them together instead. The thought is that they did this with the intent of it making their structures earthquake proof, as this has allowed their structures to survive several major earthquakes. They also would build them with the walls slanting inwards, also to make them more stable in an earthquake.
After Machu Picchu we headed to Puno, which is on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Here we built our windmill. We think it works, but we never got enough wind to actually see if it did. We left it in the hands of a guy who's confident he can get it working, though, and he has our e-mail addresses so we can keep in touch and get it worked out.
Lake Titicaca is home to the Islands of the Uros - man made floating reed islands. When the Spaniards came, some of the Incas fled to Lake Titicaca and hid out there in houseboats, which eventually evolved into these islands. They make their living almost entirely off of making and selling crafts for tourists. The islands are about 6-10 feet thick, so it doesn't feel like you're walking on a waterbed or anything like that - they're quite stable. There are about 50 floating islands on the lake. The solar water purification team built their project here and left it with the people.
Then we went home.