Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What To Bring

I thought it might be useful to anyone planning a trip to Peru to have our list of what to bring.
I will note that one of the most useful things we brought was a water purifier (it was a Steripen I got for around $70 on eBay) because that way we could get water from any source in our bottles and then purify them. If you get one of these remember to bring extra batteries (I bought some rechargeable ones and a recharger on eBay). Another key thing was the power converter because the plugs and the voltage are very different from the US. Anyway, here's our list:

What to bring:
* Reusable Water bottle (quart-size or smaller with large screw-on lid). The water from the taps in Peru is not normally potable but I’m bringing a “Steripen” water sterilizer for all of us to use to make it safe.
* Comfortable walking shoes (2 pair because of rainy season) – we’ll be doing a lot of walking and blisters can make these trips miserable.
Rain poncho / umbrella (this is the wet season in the highlands—be prepared for rain and/or mud).
* Layered clothes (include sweaters or sweatshirts) – in Cusco the average high temp is 65 and the average low is 43 (80 high / 60 low in Tacna).
* $600 – $700 each in cash or traveler’s. Include small denominations that can be used for tips to guides, waiters, hotel staff, drivers etc.). You can also use credit / debit cards (there are ATMS in the big cities).
Personal medical supplies.
* Money belt for cash and passport.
* Hat, UV protecting sunglasses, and sunscreen (the sun is much stronger at tropical latitudes).
* Reading material (for plane and bus rides).
* Electrical conversion for any appliances you bring (shaver, curling iron etc.). The outlets are the two round prongs like they have in Europe at 215 Volts.
* Camera and extra batteries.
* Toilet paper (public toilets rarely provide TP). Also don’t put paper down the toilet as it will block it. They put paper in regularly emptied receptacles near the toilets.
* Granola bars or other non-perishables for beggars (instead of cash).
* Hand sanitizer.
* Mosquito repellant (with DEET), light colored clothing, and something for itch relief
* Diarrhea medicine
* Pain meds (e.g. Ibuprofen etc.)
* Pocket knife (to peel fruits etc.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Eva's Musings

What follows is a note from Eva summing up her experience in Peru....

Dear Joe, I am a little slow in sharing my thoughts and feelings about the trip to Peru but I still wanted to share at least with you if no one else. Your questions were good promptors for my thinking so thank you. Before we left and during the planning I guess I anticipated just being together and being able to see where you all had lived so I could enjoy the memories you had had as a family before I was born. Those 2 things were the reasons I wanted to go. I don't have disappointments except it would have been nice to speak spanish to get more out of the experience. I also am not sure I would change anything, although I do wish I could share it better with my children. So perhaps keeping a better record along the way to present right when I got home when my kids were enthusiastic to hear my story would have been better. I always love traveling to see and smell and taste and listen to new culture and enjoy the differences and beauties that are new to me. My favorite experience was seeing the room where Lucy was born. I felt and strong and reverent feeling there and was grateful to think of Mom and her great impact in our lives and the love and sacrifices she seemingly enjoyed giving to us. I also love that we were all there together and that each person was making sacrifices for the good of the whole. Being a unified family feels so good! I also loved the awe and reverence I felt at Machu Pichu. It felt so good and fresh and like such a blessing to be up on top and see the beautiful creations of God and his children. I loved petting the animals and seeing the amazing handiwork. I love thinking about the patient work done by so many to build the structures and defenses that we saw.I loved the fun conversations on the bus rides and elsewhere. I loved hearing memories of your childhoods. I loved being together!!!!!!!!. The guides and drivers were wonderful to us and I felt like they supported us beautifully. I am grateful to everyone who helped plan this trip, it was a valuable gift to us all. I felt very spoiled and really hope no one felt overworked at my expense. Thank you to everyone for your great effort to create a cherished memory for me. Love, Eva

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17th 2009
I have thought alot about the overall experience of Peru and although I struggle with putting into words maybe I can add a note here.
The greatest initial motivator for me to go on this trip was to be with my siblings and spouses. We have never made a trip as couples before and the thought of being all together was awesome regardless of where we were going. The fact that we were going to Peru was frosting on the cake. For many years I have wanted to see Machu Pichu and had dreamt what it would be like and then went with some fear that I would be disappointed, the opposite was true and I was taken backk by the beauty and the majesty of it all. I was totally taken in by what seemed to be an impossible task of building such a place in a location that high in the mountains. The other areas we saw brought different emotions and the one that was the most humbling was Los Uros islands. I have thought seriously many times since the visit of the total self sufficiency of the place and even as I lost my job when I came home I thought in there circumstance they have no rent, no taxes and learn to make do with what they produce for themselves. I don't believe I could live that way and pretty sure I have gotten use to the creature comforts around me so I honor those great people and there sacrifice for living.
The kindness of the people in Peru was great and though I was molested somewhat by the tenacity of the street vendors overall I was taken by the kindnesses shown to us. In Toquepala I felt we were treated like royalty and was very appreciative of the tenderness shown by Teresa (our host) as it relates to the purpose of our being in Toquepala. Joe was the first to acknowledge the feeling of the presence of Mom with us. I didn't get the feeling until we were at the hospital and saw the room where Lucy was born and then I was overwhelmed with the feeling of completeness of our family unit in Peru all togther.
Mine was an experience of patience as I witnessed the kindness of my siblings toward those less healthy. I know I have much to learn from my family and certainly patience and tolerance for the challenges of others is a major thing.
I have to add that as I navigate through other peoples lives and hear the comments made about inlaws that have married into there families I feel extra blessed to have such awesome, wonderful and uplifting inlaws. Thank you for your shared love with me and mine.
I give a shout out to Joe and Lucy for all the work done in advance to make this trip so special. Thank you, thank you, thank you for a unique experience shared with each of you and my wonderful companion Sheri. Harold

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Joe's Summary

Everybody should take this trip sometime in their lives. Peru is a remarkably beautiful country. The people are kind and resilient. The music was moving. The experiences we had were memorable and meaningful (not like the plastic virtual experiences you have at an amusement park or at some orchestrated gala event). The trip was affordable--the prices of everything (food, lodging, tours, transportation etc.) are reasonable enough that we did it all for about $1500 per person including the airfare (that doesn't include the souvenirs which some of us overspent on just a little).
(this is the coolest video I took on the trip)

While I can guarantee you breathtaking beauty and thought provoking experiences if you take this trip, one of the things that made our trip so memorable you'll just have to bring with you...great travelling companions. As with any trip we had mishaps and mayhem galore. There were also long stretches of plane time, bus time, train time, and airport time (not enough sleep time I should mention). There was every opportunity for us to get crabby or impatient and start sniping at each other. Instead we laughed. We found humor in the most unlikely places and enjoyed the good-natured ribbing, jokes, and goofy antics (we sort of embodied the credo "you can't keep from getting old but you can be immature forever"). Dad was patient with us all but even he cracked a smile now and then. Our guides and drivers picked up on the mood and dished out as much as they took (e.g. Ofelia taught us that the Quechua word for pig was "cuchi-cuchi" and later, after we had exhausted her with all the pig jokes we could think of, she registered our group at the restaurant as the "cuchi-cuchis").

Speaking of guides and drivers, none of this marvelous trip would have been possible without the whole team at Lamanita Travel (,, Phone: 51-84-227151, Mobil: 51-84- 984683132). Cesar and his team were unbelievably efficient, helpful, dedicated, and just plain fun! They got us better prices than we could get ourselves, made great recommendations, and got us out of trouble (e.g. at one point the train returning from Machu Picchu was stopped by a random landslide--they found out about it and sent a bus to pick us up at the next station). We spent the most time with Ofelia (the guide that took us to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley), and with David (the driver who was with us the whole time) and they became like family. Cesar and his team at the agency were the consummate professionals and were just good folks (e.g. they volunteer time and resources to help the poor indigenous people of the mountain regions).
The indomitable Ofelia.

David fooling around with a top hat and cane we found at the restaurant in Moquegua.

We were also favored with many miracles and tender mercies of a loving Father in Heaven. Just as an example even the feeble among us had the energy to make the trip. Also our health problems were generally allayed while we were there (e.g. my brother-in-law Hugh's gall-bladder attach waited until he got back home where his doctors could help him).

Finally, I loved the sense I got of the place where I was born. I loved the people, the animals, the music, the food, and the weather. I came away feeling Peruvian at last. I found another place that I feel connected to and consider "mi tierra" (my land).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Doesn't really matter where we go....

was how I felt getting ready to go. I was mostly excited that we were taking a trip as a family. The where could have been most any place. I have often felt like "how could anything be any better" as we have visited different countries. Peru was no exception. I came away with stirrings to study the history of such a people as I was introduced to, the Inca Indians and their history. From the majesty of the mountains and rivers to the awe inspiring life of the lake people.
Highlights for me would be just about everything we did because everyday was such an incredible experience and full of something new. But some would have to be the famous Machu Pichu for the magnitude of where and how it was built and the incredible mountains that surrounded it. Not having any idea what Lake Titicaca was other than floating islands, I was totally overcome with what met us. These warm people living on top of a reed island with hardly anything material except for what they made with their hands including the "ground" they stood on. Talk about living off the land. The mine and Toquepala were a great intrigue just because that was the beginnings for some of the family. Culminating with a quick stop at the hospital where Lucy was born probably in the very room and the very table where mother would have brought Lucy into the world was a touching and powerful witness that Mother was near. Early on in the trip as Carl and I knelt one night we mentioned mother in our prayers then again silently throughout the trip, hopeful that she could be witnessing what was going on with her family. It was a proper ending to an unimaginable trip. The time spent with each other was by far the greatest gift. I am in awe always of each sibling and their spouse for the spice that each brings to the table. Honor thy father and they mother that thy days shall be long (full) upon the land...we witnessed that that is true. Thanks to all!!! Peru has a newly found intrigue for me, a great desire to study the ways of a once incredible empire and people.

All in All, a once in a lifetime trip-Carl's thoughts

Thanks to Joe, Linda and Lucy who made this trip a great adventure. We didn't know if we would have the money to pay our part of it but it worked out and it was the kind of thing that you just couldn't pass up. I knew it would be an interesting trip but it turned out better than I expected. The press of people trying to sell items was sometimes a bother but it is hard not to be empathetic with the needs of those whose entire livelihood depends on selling souvenirs to foreigners.

The guides that were provided by Lamanita travel were quite good and particularly Ofelia in Macchu Picchu. She had a great grasp of the story and a fine sense of humor with our unruly tribe.

The visit to Macchu Picchu was the highlight of the trip. Even with the 3,000 plus daily visitors the setting is still mysterious and remote. It is just unbelievable that the Inca's mustered the manpower and intelligence to build that remote outpost on the top of a mountain, all the while providing themselves with food and water. The size and craftsmanship of the stonework was simply amazing for anyone much less people without steel chisels and pulleys. What an extraordinary thing.

My next personal favorite and the emotional highlight of the trip was the visit to the "Isla Mormona" of Los Uros. The extended family living there had been converted to the Gospel a few years ago and the warm welcome we felt as brothers and sisters was amazing. These people live "close to the bone" on Lake Titicaca on their personal island where everything including the island itself was made of reeds. As the reeds get waterlogged and sink, the island has to be refreshed with a new layer of reeds every other month. Every detail of their lives was difficult and so different from ours. I would love to have had a month to live with them and learn some of what they know. I don't think I could last much longer, especially as it got colder. My heart and a tip of the hat to these awesome people and God bless them in their journey. With a son on a mission and another getting ready to leave they will deserve every blessing they get.

Although there were new and interesting experiences every day the final one I will leave with was the visit to Toquepala. It was the main reason for going and the last thing we did before heading home. The utter barren moonscape quality of the environment and the incredible effort of the mine plunked down in that inhospitable place were still astounding. The poignant joy of seeing places we had left 48 years ago, the hospitality of the mining company in welcoming us there and the emotion of seeing the very hospital room, bed, stirrups and equipment where Mother brought Lucy into the world were just very touching. Certainly most of what we experienced there as adults was new to us but it was a familiar feeling.

The entire trip was a grueling physical effort but such a satisfying lot of fun and growth.

Thanks again to all my sibling and inlaws who made the effort to come and to Anna who cared for Wesley and Cara so we could come.

I love you all and am grateful for your support.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lima Peru

We left Tacna early Friday morning and flew to Lima. We only got there one hour ahead but were able to get through all the check-in, baggage check, security, airport tax, and boarding in time (several miracles required).

When we reached Lima we met our driver from Lima Bus Service who drove us around for the rest of the day in an air-conditioned Mercedes Benz mini-bus with a luggage trailer. It was very comfortable and helped immeasurably to deal with the traffic on enormity of the greater Lima area. The first thing dad wanted to do was visit the port of Callao which is near the airport.

There were several other stops including the Mercado Indio where we spent all our remaining soles (and more) on some wonderful woven goods, native instruments, curios, silver etc.
We stopped by the presidential palace for the changing of guard, attended by a mediocre brass band (who nevertheless added to the pomp of the occasion with their colorful uniforms), and the real guards of the palace standing by with riot shields.
At some point when we needed the bathroom the driver dropped us off at the Hotel Bolivar which was luxurious in a very ornate and dated way. You can see the beauty of the stained glass dome of the lobby below.

We stopped by the Lima Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As with most temples in large cities it was an island of peace in a sea of chaos.

We met several groups of young people. This group had traveled 18 hours by bus to attend the temple.
In the evening we went to the Parque de Amor (love park) at the edge of the ocean cliffs and watched the Paragliding near a quaint light house (you can pay $30) to fly tandem with an experienced pilot but none of us tried it).

The driver got us back to the airport by 9:00 p.m. and after some tiring long lines we flew home.
The trip was more wonderful than can be communicated with a few words and pictures. But we'll try to keep adding our thoughts and memories to round out the experience.

Visit to Minas de Toquepala

We got up early and left the Gran Hotel in Ilo to drive to Minas de Toquepala (the mining town where Lucy and I were born). As we drove closer the terrain became ever more desolate until there were no plants at all for miles, just rocks and sand hills and ravines. This was quite a contrast after the lush jungle-like green of the mountain country we had experienced before. As we drove up that dry brown dusty road I suddenly had the feeling that my mother (deceased back in September) had joined us on our pilgrimage back to our beginnings. It made me consider that 52 years ago she made that same journey with four tiny children. She must have been wondering "what have I gotten myself into?", but she bloomed where she was planted and made a wonderful home for us all. After checking in at the front security gate (the whole town is owned by Southern Copper so we had to apply for special permission to even get in. However once the permission was granted they treated us like visiting royalty!
The first place they took us was the mine. It's an open pit copper mine that has been operating for nearly 50 years and has another estimated 40 years of life left. They blast out layers of ore containing their two primary products, copper and molybdenum (there are other trace elements such as silver and gold but they are in much smaller amounts). The rocks are loaded onto giant earth moving trucks, dumped through crushers and either carried away by conveyer (gravity pulls the crushed rock along the down-hill conveyor - in fact they generate electricity from the turning conveyor) or by train car depending on whether it's low-grade or high-grade ore (they use very different processes to extract the metals depending on the grade of the ore).
Our guide was Teresa, the director of public relations, and she was so kind and informative.
What you see below is the crusher into which the trucks load the low-grade ore before it is taken away by the conveyor.
These trucks are HUGE. Each one costs about $4M (each tire costs $35K and is used for about a year). You can see that the whole family is standing in front of the bottom half of one tire.
In the low-grade ore process (which they've only used for the last 10 years or so) they are able to recover some of the highest purity copper (99.9996% pure) in the world they leach copper out of the rock by sprinkling acidic water over the stone for years and alternately letting a special stone-eating bacteria degrade the ore. The acidic water with the copper in is concentrated through chemical separation processes and then put in large tanks where electrically charged meter-square stainless steel plates are dipped for 5 days. When they pull the plates out of the electrolysis a half-centimeter copper plate has formed on each side. They clean and flex the stainless steel plates to remove the copper plates. This process alone generates 100 tons of copper per day.
The high-grade ore is crushed and then ground until it's a powder (the final set of grinders are giant tumblers filled with the soft-ball-sized steel balls that you see below) mixed with water that flows with the consistency of a thin shake. Then it is separated in a bubbler where the minerals rise with the foam. The molybdenum is removed and the remainder is dried in a kiln to a powder. This copper rich powder is loaded on train cars and sent to a smelter in Ilo (down on the coast).
After the mine took us to a cafeteria for lunch and we saw the mailboxes the kids used to run to to get the mail.We also so the old American school where the four oldest went when we lived there.
We went to what had formally been the Mormon church built by the efforts and funds of our family and many others back in the late 1950s. It's now a company training center.We found the house we had lived in, and though we weren't able to go inside (the current resident was on vacation) we did take pictures in front of it, listen to the older ones reminisce about their memories, and went to the ravine behind it where dad had built them a playhouse (now gone).
I was born two months before they finished the hospital so mom went to a small clinic down near the entrance at a place called Incapuquio. The building is now gone and there's a golf course there now.
My sister Lucy was born a year-and-a-half later in the Toquepala hospital. We stopped by and took pictures of the outside but didn't see the entrance and it was late in the day so we loaded up the van again to leave. At that point I noticed a window that said something about hospital records so Lucy and I went over to ask about whether they had our records. They said that records that old were archived and would take some research, but the man in the office insisted that we visit the hospital itself.
He took us up to the top floor (there are three) and got a nurse to find the key to the delivery room. When he opened that door we realized that THIS was the very room in which our mother had gone through delivery and where Lucy had first seen the light of day. We went back to the van and called everyone to come join us. I took a picture of dad and Lucy in the delivery room and then suddenly I felt mom with us again. The tears started to flow and we found ourselves feeling that this was a sacred moment.

This trip to Toquepala was the primary purpose of our trip to Peru and it didn't disappoint. Prior to this the fact that I was born in Peru was purely academic. Now I feel connected to the place. I feel Peruvian.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To New Heights

Today was a travel day from Puno to Ilo. Along the way there were very few towns or people so we got to enjoy wide open spaces. Our trip included climbing to 15,800 feet above sea-level (the highest we've been so far) and then descending all the way to the ocean where we checked into the Gran Hotel Ilo.

On the way we stopped at the restaurant of a woman who worked in Toquepala back in the time when we lived here. Her name is Teresina and she is over 80 but still very welcoming and a great cook.

A nature break along the way.Being weird over a culvert.

Amazing lichens that almost swallowed the rocks.

Terzina's restaurant.

Lake Titicaca

From Puno we took a boat onto lake Titicaca and visited Los Uros (the people on the floating reed islands). One in particular is called the "Isla de los Mormones" because it's populated by several families of who several years ago joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). They are very poor and live simply. As we got off the boat they greeted us with smiles and hugs. They explained their way of life and they invited us into their homes. It was an inspiring feeling to be embraced and drawn into their circle of love.

This is a bycicle taxi in Puno. They are everywhere along with motorcycle taxis.

This is the boat we took to get out to Los Uros and Taquile island.

Even as children the people of Los Uros are handy with oars.
They rowed us around their island in their handmade reed boat.

Even their ropes are made of fibers they gather from the lake.

They took us into their homes, dressed us in their clothes, and told us about their lives (e.g. I asked how they protected their children from the dangers of the lake and they shared that they have to be very watchful--a couple of years ago while they were having a meeting one of the little one year olds wandered off the island and drowned).

We sat around on a reed bench and learned about their lives.

Everything in their way of life comes from the waters of Lake Titicaca. They make their islands, homes, and boats out of reeds which they also eat and cook with.

We went to an island called Taquile which is quite primitive (no cars, no bikes, no motors). It's a UNESCO world heritage site where the people are famous for their unique weaving.

Cute little girl was a bit shy.

The village elders taking account of the clothing and school supplies we brought to them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Las Islas de los Uros

This was the most overwhelming experience for me. I would love for each to have the experience of seeing these floating islands,how they were built, how they live and the beautiful people. There were about 44 of them one of which is a group of Mormons. You can't imagine how warmly we were welcomed.