My trip to Peru 

... travel in Peru

Ella Letterie

It was a bitter cold night in January 1977 when my husband, Louis and I went to Logan Airport in Boston Ma. to fly to Lima, Peru. This trip was to occur after 6 days preparation. On Monday, I had received a call asking about my going to Peru the next Sunday. In a heartbeat, I answered "yes". We were told that we had to have several "shots" before entering Peru. One of the shots was a vaccination. I could not take this as my daughter had eczema at the time and, had she come in contact with me, I would have transferred small pox to her. I needed to obtain a doctor's report of Gloria's eczema and have it stamped with the city seal. On Friday I went to City Hall for the stamp, and was told to come back Monday. I explained that I would be in Peru on Monday. I was shuffled between the City Clerk and the Board of Health until I said in quite a loud voice, "no one leaves this building until I have this report stamped". It was stamped!!!

When we landed in Peru the custom officer looked at the paper upside down. I thought, all this aggravation, and he didn't even read English..

After we cleared customs, we were transported to the Hotel Crillon in downtown Lima. We toured Lima and learned that the Inca indians had been in Peru since 1200, and had created a vast empire. In 1532, a Spaniard named Francesco Pizarro came to Peru with his conquistadores and conquered the indians. As far as I could determine, there were only two classes in Peru; the very wealthy Spaniards and the very poor indians. The indians would chew coco leaves to protect themselves against the cold and the mountain sickness which is found in the Andes Mountains.

The indians would then feed their babies coco (commonly known as cocaine) and the little ones would be drugged all day. The babies were usually carried in a swatch of cloth tied on the mother's or brother's back.

Peru was under a military dictatorship at the time of our visit and when we retired at night we could hear the tanks roll down the main streets, and if a person was on the street after curfew, their passport was taken and they were put in jail.

While touring Lima, we saw many llamas and alpacas roaming outside the city, but no vicuna as they are protected as an endangered species. The predominant religion in Peru is Roman Catholic as many missionary orders came there to convert the indians. Among the orders were the Jesuits and the Franciscans.In Cuzco there is a great feast of Corpus Christi. In the 1960s, Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston Ma. created a missionary order called St. James, and many priests of Boston elected to go to South America, namely Peru, for their missionary work. We did tour many of the churchs and the cathedral.

We went on a side trip to Cuzco, which is the former Inca Indian capital of Peru. We had to fly over the Andes Mountains, and were told that since we were in a very high altitude, the air was quite thin and we were inclined to get what is called "mountain sickness". Oxygen was provided for anyone who had difficulty breathing. Cuzco is about 11,500 feet above sea level. We toured Cuzco and learned that the Spaniards had stolen practically all the gold and jewels of the Inca Tribe and sent them back to Spain. The Incas had treasures of gold, silver, and mercury.

While in Cuzco we saw a wall which is called "Sacsayhuamon".  Apparently there were three walls running parallel and supported a terrace and parapet. These walls were built as a fortress to protect Cuzco. They were built with stones so large that one could not believe they were laid by humans. Each stone is fitted to the next with such precision that you could not fit a post card between the cracks.

We left Cuzco for a 3 hour ride on a narrow gauge train which twisted and turned 8,000 feet up into the Andes mountains. The scenery we witnessed on this ride was breath taking. We rode along side the Urubamba River, and the vegetation was lush. As Peru is close to the equator, I reasoned that it was like living in a rain forest. The train performed what is called a switch back. It moved forward and then backward up the side of the mountain. At each stop, the indians would board the train selling whatever they had made. The Inca Indians spoke two languages one was Spanish, and the other was Quechua. An interesting item concerning the indians is that the ladies wear different head gear. This identifies the area that they come from, similar to the license plates of the United States.

We soon approached a view of two peaks of the Andes. On one was a complete city. The city was built into the side and on top of a mountain. This city is called Machu Picchu. This is a Quechuan name meaning "The Ancient Summit". This was discovered by Hiram Bingham who was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut, in 1911. I believe he was also a Yale professor. Supposedly it was built as a refuge against the Spaniards who had killed the people and looted the country.

More on Machu Picchu later.         

September 3,1999

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