The blog this week is basically to prove that we actually are in Perú. What’s more the photos are ones that we actually took (not from Google but with our own camera and phone for a change). We finally made it to Cusco and nearby Machu Picchu, the most visited tourist place in Perú and a very recognisable image.
We went to the city of Cusco as part of the semi-annual mission presidents’ seminar for our Area of the Church. The presidents and their wives received lots of instruction from their leaders and it is always a good chance for the doctors to network and build relationships with them, to better help care for the young missionaries.
Adjusting to the altitude was an interesting experience for most of us, going from sea level to nearly 12,000 feet in the Andes Mountains in just an hour flight. There were plenty of headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Later there were some gastric explosions, not helped by the change in air pressure. The picture of the Mars Bar is evidence of this. What about our brains?
We stayed in a beautiful hotel, Palacio del Inka, a spacious old mansion dating back nearly five centuries. It even had some original artwork on the walls from the 17th Century. At breakfast we were serenaded each morning by local musicians, including one on traditional harp. We enjoyed catching up with many mission presidents and their wives with whom we have formed friendships during our time here.
One day we all travelled from Cusco to Machu Picchu. It took a while to get there, with a two hour bus ride through the high mountain plains with snow capped mountains and the road lined with gum trees. It reminded us of the Snowy Mountains back home. Apparently the eucalypts were imported because they are fast growing and stabilise some of the ground. It was just something that seemed familiar, but so foreign in such a location. But, alas, no koalas. Perhaps they can not “bear” the altitude.
The bus ride was followed by a pleasant two hour train ride down a few thousand feet, following a mountain river (one of the headwaters of the Amazon River) before another half hour bus ride up the mountains to reach Machu Picchu. It was here that we laid eyes on the train and the place that nearly took the life of our daughter 12 months before as she took on the train and lived to tell the tale. After a bit of a hike we rounded the bend and saw the distinctive view of the ancient ruins of what apparently was a fairly ordinary small settlement. Whilst the ruins themselves are quite amazing and the feat of building it on top of a mountain was incredible, this was dwarfed by the spectacular views of the natural beauty of the surrounding mountain peaks, deep jungle valleys, sheer cliffs and rock formations, and an occasional llama posing for photo shots with keen tourists (not us). In typical Craig fashion he was heard to say “it’s just a pile of rocks”, large rocks mind you lugged to the top of a mountain, centuries ago without machinery or modern transport. They managed to line things up north-west-south-and east without even using a compass on an iPhone! Apparently there were no human sacrifices, just an occasional child over the edge chasing a soccer ball!
We climbed up and around steps (which our thighs thanked us for a couple of days later), and stopped to rest and catch our breath at times, not just because of the views, but we were still quite high up. Then after lunch we returned back the way we came, arriving after a 16 hour day. But, back again at high altitude it was a bit of an effort to even walk the 100 meters up the street to our hotel.
Finally, this week has been a bit quiet in the office, although we have still been busy. Everything shut down for Thursday and Friday because 21 world leaders converged on Lima for the annual APEC meeting. It did give us a chance to catch up with a good friend (no not Pres Obama or Pres Putin or the Prime Minister of Australia).