Saturday, June 21, 2014

Joshua's Graduation

I traveled to Aurora, CO, for my grandson's high school graduation.  

There were tornado warnings for the first three days after I arrived.  Hey, I left Kansas and Oklahoma to get away from the tornadoes, what were they doing following me here?!

My son, Brian, had two truckloads of mulch delivered just days before the graduation party.  Thank goodness he had all these helpers to move the mulch out of the street.

But it started raining.  No seemed to mind, though, and they just kept on working.

They actually got all that mulch moved the first day and spread the second day.  It sure did look nice.

The kids live just a block from Aurora Lake and the 7.8 mile walking/bike trail which goes all the way around the lake.  I got out every morning for a 3.5 to 4.5 mile walk.  These prairie dogs chattered at me every morning.

This is the Joshua, who graduated with honors from Lutheran High School in Parker, CO. 

The throwing of the caps.

I'm very proud of this young man.  He will be going to Grand Canyon University next year.

Of course there was the graduation party.  It was quite an affair for both Joshua and his best friend, Ryan. 

When I first skydived back in 2008, I called all my grandkids and told them I would take them when they turned 18.  Well, Joshua is the first one to turn 18.  Skydiving was his graduation present from me.


I think he enjoyed it.  

I found this older picture of Joshua and me going sledding several years ago. 

Congratulations to my grandson, Joshua, for graduating from high school!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wichita, KS, A Town Built by Trains

Wichita was the last place I worked prior to retiring and starting my life on the road as a nomad.  So, I find myself returning here to visit friends.  And since my fathers family is from an area just south of Wichita, it gives me opportunity to visit family as well.  I haven't written a lot about Wichita since it really wasn't a destination for exploring, but Wichita has an interesting history.  And like many cities, it has undertaken an effort to revitalize the downtown area.  They have renamed this area Old Town.
Haven't been to the museum yet, but it is on my agenda for the next time I am in town.  It was one of the older buildings which was remodeled prior to being turned into a museum.  It fronts a plaza and is now surrounded by small shops, restaurants and nightclubs.  There is music going on most evenings, but it usually draws the younger crowd and tends to be more of the blues/rock variety.

This was the old Morton-Simmons Hardware Store and Warehouse.  Being the largest warehouse space in the area, it housed over 79,000 merchandise items at one time.  It located itself close by the railroad connections.  The cupola on top housed over 20,000 gallons of water for a state of the art sprinkler system throughout the warehouse.   The building is now the home of Wichita Hotel.

Although Wichita was founded in 1870, it almost foundered when Santa Fe Railroad declined to take their rails beyond Newton, KS, north of Wichita.  Wichita approached Santa Fe and asked what needed to be done for Santa Fe to extend their rails.  Santa Fe told them to create a company and provide bonds.  The Wichita and Southwestern Railroad Company was formed and bonds were voted in and rails were extended to Wichita in 1872.  Santa Fe shorty after bought out the Wichita and Southwestern Railroad.  
In 1880, the Frisco Railroad moved in providing service to St. Louis.  By 1887, Rock Island Railroad had moved in offering service from Chicago clear to the gulf coast.  Wichita was now hub of rail transportation for many years.

This building has been remodeled into condos.

Here is a view of the balcony and deck at the top of the building.

This was the Hockaday Building, built in 1908 for the production of Hockaday Paint.  It is now the River City Brewery.  It was the first restaurant to be opened when this area was revitalized.

A WIN friend, Mike, was in the area so we got together for lunch one day.  

The River City Brewery motto.  

Another of the local eateries in the area.  This place used to have great wings.  It was a regular spot for the after work get together on Friday evenings.

Another tidbit of trivia.  W.C. Coleman found the Coleman Lantern, which made him a rich man.  He built his factory in this area and was the company headquarters for most of the twenthieth century.  They are still located in Wichita, but have since moved to a newer, larger location.  Coleman Industries now produces everything from lanterns, tents, ice chests, and sleeping bags, to include all types of camping gear. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Machu Picchu

Once the train arrived, we headed straight up to Machu Picchu so we could spend some time there before it closed.  We had two guides, both of whom grew up in the area, so the group was split into two small groups of about 5 people each for our guides tour.  

At the entry way to Machu Picchu.  In Quechua, Machu Picchu mean 'old person'.  It is often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas" and was built around 1450, yet it was abandoned only 100 years later following the conquest by the Spanish.  It was unknown to the outside world until 1926, when it was discovered by American Historian, Hiram Bingham.  Today it is one of the most visited historical sites in the world and is the most familiar icon of the Incan empire.  Since this site was never plundered by the Spanish, it is considered to be highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site.

It was not unusual to see alpaca's grazing along the terraces.

Looming above the main site, this building was thought to be a lookout.  From this location anyone coming down from the Sun Gate could be seen, plus you can see the entire layout of the city.

Looking down into the Temple of the Sun.  Visitors are no longer allowed inside due to damage.

These terraces were the farming area for those living in Machu Picchu.  There are differing theories on the purpose of why Machu Picchu was built.  Most prominent is the belief this was a royal retreat for Inca Emporer Pachacuti.  The second most popular belief says this was built to honor a sacred landscape.  It was built on top of a mountain, completely encircled by the Urubamba River, which mean Sacred River.  They now believe only about 800 people lived here permanently, although more ruins are being found in the outlying areas and nearby all the time.

The Inti Watana Stone is also known as the astronomical clock or calendar of the Incas.  The stones are designed to point directly at the sun during winter solstice.

Unlike the steps built for the millions of tourists who visit annually, these rock protrusions show how the Incas moved from one level to the next.

Next to Machu Picchu is the mountain known as Huaynapicchu or young mountain.  Rising almost 1000 feet above Machu Picchu, the Incas built trails to the top where they built temples and terraces.  The Temple of the Moon is located on the back side of this mountain.  Today if you want to hike the trail to the Temple of the Moon or just want to visit the ruins on top, a special ticket is required and must be reserved months in advance.  They now only allow 400 people a day on this trail.

Looking back across the ruins you can see the trail to the Gate of the Sun. 

From the residential area of Machu Picchu, looking down to the Urubamba River.  Although not completely excavated, it is believed these terraces extend all the way to the river.

As dusk was coming on the chinchillas started coming out.

Temple of the Condor.

One of about 14 fountains found in the ruins.

Inti Mach'ay, a special cave, located below the Temple of the Sun, which is believed to be a part of the Royal Feast of the Sun.  Associated during the December solstice, it was celebrated only by nobility.

In a garden area within the ruins they have numerous species of local plants.  The coca plant is a cash crop in Peru.  You can find candies, teas and other items which are made from the coca plant.  It is also the plant from which cocaine is derived, although to get cocaine they use solvents and a chemical process.   Coca leaves and coca tea is readily available in Cusco and the Cusco Valley, including Machu Picchu.  It is known to help with altitude sickness and is used to alleviate pain and fatigue.  Chewing the leaves or drinking the tea does not produce any euphoric effects like cocaine.  Visitors are encouraged to drink the tea to help with altitude sickness.  It is illegal to bring the teas or candies back to the U.S.  The original formula for coca-cola included coca leaf extract, but this was discontinued in the 1920s.  Today, one pharmecutical company is licensed to import coca leaves for the medicinal production of cocaine and to make a cocaine free extract which is used for the production of coca-cola.
Since we only had a few hours to explore the ruins, we had the opportunity to return the next morning before heading back to Cusco on an afternoon train.

The cloud covered Andes on the way up to Machu Picchu.
One of my reasons for returning to the ruins was for the opportunity to hike to the Gate of the Sun or Inti Punku.  The Gate of the Sun was just one of six trails leading into Machu Picchu.  Today, this is the entryway for those who hike the Inca Trail.

About 3/4 of the way up is a resting area.  The original Inca trail runs about 80 miles all the way to Cusco.  They had these resting areas about every 6-10 miles.  It is surmised they Inca had the first pony express without the pony.  They had runners to take messages and these runners handed over their message at these resting areas.

At the Gate of the Sun, overlooking Machu Picchu.  From Machu Picchu the trail is about 1 1/2 miles long with an elevation of 1000 feet.  

The clouds lifted just as we started the climb back down, so I was able to get a great shot of Machu Picchu.
Several of us made the trip up and back with enough time to also hike to the Inca Bridge.

You actually have to sign in and out as you start the trail.  The bridge is a 20 foot gap in the stone trail alongside the mountain, with a 1900 foot drop below.  It is bridged by several tree trunks which could be removed, making the trail impassable to outsiders.

This is as far as they allow you to go.

I think this is why they make you sign in and out.  It is a narrow stone trail and this section now has a wire cable to hold onto.  I guess if someone doesn't sign back out they go looking at the bottom to see if they fell.  It is over a 1000 foot sheer drop off to the Urubamba River.

Machu Picchu, another check on my bucket list.  What an experience.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On the Road to Machu Picchu

Anyone who wants to visit Machu Picchu must fly into Cusco.  But the ruins are actually several hour away by bus and train.  
Cuscu and Machu Picchu are in the Andes Mountains.  The Andes Mountain chain is the longest in the world, running through most of South America.  The tallest peaks in Peru are over 20,000 feet.  We spotted some glaciers along the way to Machu Picchu which is only at an elevation of 8000 feet.  Cusco, by the way, is 10,000 feet.

Our first stop was an overlook above Urubamba and the Urubamba River.  Currently, Urubamba is only a town of about 3000 and is largest major town in the Sacred Inca Valley on the way to Machu Picchu.
The town sits along the Urubamba River, which eventually drains out of the Andes and into another river which feeds the Amazon River.

We stopped at the pottery shop of Pablo Seminario.  This is one of his workers creating one of the pots he sells in his retail shop.

The shop uses styles and techniques utilized from Peru's ancient cultures.  These are placques which have been pressed into shape.  They will be dried, then painted before they are available at the retail store.

These small pots, cuts and placques have been painted and are drying before being fired and glazed.

They work their clay in the way of ancient times by pounding out all the air.  One way they accomplish this is by walking on the clay.  When they believe all the air is removed, they flatten the clay into slabs like those in the back of the picture.  After a few days of drying, the clay is ready to be formed into pottery.

Pablo Seminario's son is a veterinarian, so they had several animals, such as this llama.

Some pottery designs are carved into the clay such as this woman is doing.

Here they are painting the pottery.  All paints are from natural plant and mineral dyes.

Pablo started his artistic endevour in the 1970s when he started decorating pottery using pre-Spanish designs.  Designs are chosen purely for their look, and he does not claim to be making replications of ancient culture pottery.  Today he is know for what is called the seminarian style of pottery and much of the work he does himself is commissioned artwork.

Pablo is an architect by training and he approaches his pottery with the same deliberate design as one would any project.  His pottery can be found in the Cusco Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and as far away as the Chicago Field Museum and even the Smithsonian.

An example of his drawing out the design before starting to work in clay.

Downstairs in his garden we found this parrot.
I was most impressed with his pottery and the studio.  Of course, I did buy a couple of small, practical pieces, too.

The original entryway into Ollantaytambo, also known as the living Inca city.

Much of the city still exists in building built prior to Spanish colonization.  This was the royal home of Pachacuti, one of the most famous Inca Emporer.  It is at the neck of a valley and is where the last Inca leader, resisted the Spanish conquerors.  

Most streets are more like alleyways and will not accomodate today's vehicles.

On the outskirts of town is the ceremonial center known as Temple Hill, although many consider it to be a fortress because of its high walls and the way it could be defended.  The terraces around this area was used for farming.

Although you didn't see this a lot, it was more common to see people in the old style native dress here than in Cusco or Urubamba.

Typical of the homes found along the road on our way to Ollantaytambo.

At Ollantaytambo our bus ride ended and we boarded a train for the final leg of our journey to Machu Picchu.  Ollantaytambo is one of the starting places for those who are hiking the Inca Trail.

After a 1 1/2 hour train ride we arrived in Aguas Calientes, located at the base of Machu Piccchu.  Known for years as Aguas Calientes because of its hot springs, several years ago the new mayor renamed the city to Machu Picchu because it is the starting point for all tourists visiting the ruins.

The view out my hotel window, overlooking the Urubamba River.

Up the hill and across from the train station and market is the town square.

The town is not very large, probably having a permanent population of about 2000, and this is reflected by the smaller church located on the square.

My next blog will be the final blog on my trip to Peru and will be all about Machu Picchu.