I traveled to Peru, meeting up -- barely -- with my friend Nancy for the first half of the trip.   We almost didn't meet.  The first day, an apparent miscommunication resulted in a taxi not picking me up upon arrival at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, and so we had no idea where the other person was!  The next day, another scheduled taxi never showed up at the gruesome hour of 4:30 a.m.  I flagged down a taxi in the street only to have it break down ten minutes later!  After watching the driver attempt to put gas into his taxi with a leaky plastic bag, I managed to catch another taxi and end up at the airport to meet Nancy just as passengers were boarding the plane!!!

We visited the ancient city of Cuzco, hiked along part of the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, and rode horses around some of the Incan ruins near Cuzco.  Quite interesting was how the Incan walls are regularly incorporated into the architecture of many of the buildings.  There were also quite a few good restaurants in or near the Plaza de Armas and in other parts of the city, notably Pucara and Las Senoritas.  It took a day or two for us to acclimatize, as Cuzco is nestled in the Andes at approximately 3,400 meters in elevation.  At this elevation, climbing a flight of stairs the first day or two can be exhausting!

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During the second half of the trip, Nancy flew to the jungle city of Iquitos, visiting the Amazon for a couple of days before flying back home.  I traveled by train to Puno, located on the shores of beautiful Lake Titicaca in the southern part of Peru at approximately 3,800 meters in elevation.  Here, I went with a family from Chicago to check out the vibrant Sunday markets and the funerary towers at Sillustani.  We also stayed on two islands in Lake Titicaca, Isla Amantani and Isla Taquile, with  local families in their houses, an interesting experience.  The islands were absolutely enchanting, and we climbed some of the peaks on both islands, investigating some of the ruins at the top.  Along the way, we met a lot of very kind local island residents.  The food selection was limited on the islands.  We had two days of salty, cold papas fritas (French fries) -- cold because the high altitude caused them to cool off quickly even when freshly served!

Especially strange were the Islas Flotantes, man-made islands made completely of reeds!  Though somewhat freakish in its very touristy presentation, it was nevertheless fascinating.

I eventually flew back to Lima, where I stayed in upscale Miraflores, a suburb of Lima, for the weekend, enjoying the fine restaurants, stores, clubs, and nightlife there and in neighboring Barranco.

- Ken Lee



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