10. May 2012 21:33
*The five photos in this blog from our cleanup project were provided courtesy of Terrapin Blue
Local tourism leader Rogers Valencia Espinoza addresses the gathering. Tourism Cares CEO Bruce Beckham is shown at right.
Our whirlwind adventure in Peru was wrapped up with a boisterous welcome back to Cusco for a cleanup project at Mercado San Pedro, a major downtown market in this mountain city. Following official welcomes from local tourism leaders and remarks by Tourism Cares CEO Bruce Beckham, we got started.
Tourism Cares teams supplemented by lots of local volunteers addressed numerous facilities at this busy park. Some crews painted light poles, while others painted kiosks. Other groups went to work painting the marketplace's exterior walls, while others painted and filled flower pots that had long ago become filled with trash. We worked hard for a couple of hours before taking a wonderful lunch break that included sandwiches and the local specialty, Peruvian corn on the cob. These ears of corn feature huge kernals--some the size of marbles--and are served hot. All of us were hooked on this local delicacy by the time we left the country.
That afternoon, we went back to work and put second coats on many items and did a lot of trim work around railings and windows. Our video crew, Terrapin Blue, out of Athens, Georgia, got lots of great video of the event, plus many stills. Since I was working, I did not shoot any photos of this event and want to give thanks to Ryan and Jill Kelly, the company's owners, for sending these shots for this final blog.
About 40 Tourism Cares volunteers from the U.S. participated in the restoration
This passerby wore a typical tall hat that offers protection from the sun's rays in Cusco, which sits at 11,000 feet elevation in the Andes
Volunteers of all ages donned painting gloves and went to work to restore the city marketplace
Many prominent travel industry companies were sponsors of Tourism Cares' first international project
9. May 2012 19:15
Terraced hillsides step downward from the city's walls and courtyards
Understandably, Machu Picchu regularly rests atop the various bucket lists of worldwide travelers published by magazines and websites. Its iconic images of a "lost world" resting high in the Andean mountain range are immediately recognizeable to most of us, like the Taj Mahal or Egyptian pyramids would be. We took a winding bus ride up the mountain from the small village of the same name after an hour and a half train ride from Ollantaytambo to get here.
Our guide was careful to point out the variations in stone architecture that separated the living quarters here from the sacred temples or structures that addressed the Inca's spiritual beliefs. As with Christianity, the number three was sacred to this culture and was represented in various ways--the sun, mother earth and water, for instance, or their elevation of three creatures to spiritual status--the condor, the puma and the snake.
The Incas were master architects and builders, and they built Machu Picchu with earthquakes in mind, using distinct angles for windows and doors that would allow stones to compress into one another as opposed to away from one another in the event of a tremor or worse. Their craftsmanship as masons was extraordinary. Thus, 600 years later, many structures in this citadel are entirely or almost entirely intact. The Incas used a calendar they created from the movement of the sun through the seasons which allowed them to build sacred windows that were positioned to capture the sun's direct light on specific days of the year. Their calendar was remarkably similar to the one we use today.
Peruvian tourism leaders have done much to recondition the citadel's lawns
Distant peaks give some idea of just how inaccessible this archaeological marvel really was
The Incas were master craftsmen and built "quake resistant" structures
Most of these structures date to the 15th century
6. May 2012 18:00
A young boy in Ollantaytambo peered down an alley as we passed
On Saturday, we visited Ollantaytambo, where we caught our train to Machu Picchu. This village name means resting place for a warrior and high above us on the mountainsides were terraces and garrisons where Incan warriors tried to stop the advance of the invading Spaniards.
We saw the Incan canals that ran beside most streets that carried fresh water from high in the Andes and offered sanitation 600 years ago. We also saw the small crosses and team of bulls that rest on many rooftops to show reverence for God and prosperity for the dwellers inside.
It was a beautiful morning and this village was busy in its role as a conduit for many travelers making their way to Machu Picchu, about an hour and a half away by train.
These dolls were an adornment in a home we entered in Ollantaytambo
Many homes are set off the street within ancient corridors
Sacred items within this home included mummified alpacas and skulls of ancestors
5. May 2012 03:57
This fountain honors an Incan king in a city square of Cusco near our meeting site
I'm in Peru with Tourism Cares for a restoration project at Cusco's Mercado Central de San Pedro park, where we'll be removing grafitti, painting its walls and planting flowers in old flower beds long filled with trash. We're also visiting Machu Picchu, one of the world's most treasured archaeological sites that rests some 8,000 feet above sea level in this country's Andes Mountains.
This raucous welcome with costumed dancers was given to our group on Friday, May 4, prior to a day-long tourism summit with local officials, professors and dignitaries. Peru ranks very highly with affluent travelers in the United States and sends the second most visitors here after neighboring Chile.
Tourism Cares CEO Bruce Beckham brought a blue chip panel with him and asked USTOA President Terry Dale to moderate a discussion of how this country can continue to grow its American travel business. Industry leaders here are into serious long-range planning to deal with the sustainability issues that arise with an ancient site that draws so much visitation like Machu Picchu does. Several local professionals including Rogers Valencia Espinoza of Andean Lodges and Ruth Shady, an archaeologist who helped to discover Caral, the oldest city in the Americas, led a discussion of those plans and gained input from the American tour operators in attendance.
Costumed dancers entertained us as we entered the Cusco Convention Center
A band played for our delegation as we prepared for our day long meeting with local leaders in Cusco
The primary theme of Peruvian industry leaders today is sustainability of their sacred sites like Machu Picchu