Wednesday Roam — Trip to Peru — Inka Sites

This is a busy time and I probably won’t have much of a chance to blog so this week, and probably next week, I’ll be re-posting some older posts about a trip my daughter and I took to Peru. The posts are in two parts – one on the famous Inka sites (I use Inka instead of Inca), and another post on Peru, Cusco and Lima in general. I hope you enjoy it…

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578_1301I  spent about a week in Peru back in early 2011. It was my daughter’s idea as a celebration of her Masters Degree graduation and she invited me to go along. We did the usual thing…headed to Machu Picchu…but there is so much more to see in Peru that we both want to go back. Here are a few pictures taken along the way. Peru does not exist simply to be the showcase of Inka ruins but that is what people think of…if they think of anything…when the topic of Peru travel comes up. The most common reaction when we mentioned we were going to Peru seemed to be “…aren’t you frightened about going someplace like that?” Nonsense — Peru is open for business and is a wonderful place.  This blog post will deal only with Inka-related pictures. The next following blog post will be a No-Inka-Zone photo posting.

Cusco

578_1335Sacsayhuamán is located on the heights overlooking Cusco. I’m not really sure that we have a firm or correct idea of of what it (or any Inka structures) was used for. It looks like a fortress and that’s what most people tend to see it as. I actually didn’t go there because I was suffering from food poisoning from something I ate on the airplane.

Cusco (at about 11,000 feet) was the Inka capital city and was filled with palaces, temples and various religious or government buildings. Some were covered in gold. The Spanish destroyed or devastated most of these structures. But…old Cusco is built on the ruins and foundations of these Inka buildings. Higher quality stonework was for important buildings, temples or royal palaces.

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Cusco is surrounded by Inka sites. The “Sacred Valley” is full of small and large ruins. It would be worth the trip just to tour the Sacred Valley sites and never see Machu Picchu.

Ollantaytambo

??????????????????????Ollantaytambo is one of the most important Inka sites, mainly because of it’s spectacular location and the engineering required to build it, but also because it was one of the few places where the Inkas made a stand and defeated the Spanish. Some of the stonework predates the Inkas. Ollantaytambo is still considered to be a relatively intact Inka town. There are identifiable “quarters” where different groups of people lived. The higher you were in status the closer you were to the temple complex..

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Machu Picchu

It seems like everyone getting off a plane in Lima has one ultimate destination — Machu Picchu. It isn’t very easy to get there and it serves as a modern-day pilgrimage. It took us several days of travel and acclimation to the elevation to finally get there. We stayed for two days.

 
578_1423Machu Picchu is the one place that was never found and desecrated by the Spanish so it is almost entirely intact as it was abandoned…plus the wear and tear of four hundred (+) years. Hiram Bingham was not the first outsider to find the place but he brought it to every one’s attention.

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You can’t take too many pictures at Machu Picchu — every time you turn around there is something else unique in all the world.

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Site guides will explain what the various buildings were used for but that is really only an educated guess. The Inka culture and society grew up without any sharing of ideas or concepts with other cultures in Asia or Europe. This is very much like meeting an alien culture — we are not exactly sure what we are seeing and can’t use old world labels or concepts.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA sacred stone carved as a profile of the mountain in the background. The Inkas probably did not dry their wet clothes on the sacred stone.

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Hooks and Feathers – Chapter One

I’ve been a fly fisherman since the mid 1970s. It took me a while to get there. My various adventures and experiences that led me to hooks and feathers on trout streams began way back in the 1950s in city park fishing ponds. This part is mostly the back story of how this all sorted out. There will be other chapters.

xxx forest parkIn my early youth I occasionally found myself sitting on the edge of a pond equipped, by a well meaning adult (my dad or mom), with a cane pole, floating bobber and a worm impaled on a barbed hook. We were usually in a St. Louis city park. I was told to sit and be very quiet and not move the pole. The adult sitting beside me seemed content to spend the hours watching a bobber drift aimlessly at the end of a string.  I was puzzled by this but it was viewed as quality time and we were supposed to be having a good family experience together. After a while I would pull up the worm to see how he was doing or if he was even there. I was curious by nature and wondered about how the worm was supposed to catch a fish. I also wondered about the grass, the trees, the ants, the birds and anything else I could see. I really wanted to throw rocks in the water and float make-believe boats out into the pond. Once in a great while I would get a nibble and the bobber would jiggle in the water. Occasionally I would catch a fish. My adult companion usually had better luck than I did. Somehow my older brother managed to dodge the bullet — or the worm — and was conspicuously absent during most of these fishing expeditions.

xxx big piney 3A few years later we would drive several hours down Route 66 to my uncle and aunt’s – and cousins’ – cabin on the Big Piney River in the heart of the Ozarks. My uncle was a dedicated fisherman — he was born that way. Part of his family was from the area and he spent his childhood summers on an island in the Gasconade River hunting and fishing. He had a boat at the cabin so the fishing activity usually centered around sitting in the boat for hours. We fished with minnows and I graduated to a real fiberglass rod and reel. Sometimes my brother would be in the boat and sometimes one of my cousins would be in the boat or my dad. My uncle was usually in charge — he knew how to run the boat and avoid the fallen trees or other hazards in the river. He knew the good fishing spots and was full of advice and encouragement – in his own way. He smoked a pipe and I associate pipe smoke with some of these trips on the river. This was much better than sitting on the bank with a cane pole but there was still a lot that caught my attention. There were turtles sunning on logs, egrets and herons flying up and down the river, maybe Indians or bears or turkeys in the forest, rocky river cliffs towering over the water, plants of every description on the bank and huge trees draped across river. I enjoyed it, mostly. I was not a good swimmer and was nervous about the boat but it was sturdy and stable. I was not much of a sitter, either, but there was no place to go in the boat so I was stuck. My fishing experiences improved even though I didn’t catch that many fish.  We ate what we caught so there was also that issue of gutting and cleaning the fish and then the big fish fry at the end of the weekend. Different kinds of fish taste different. Catfish, bass, perch, crappie all had slightly different qualities.

One year I spent the summer with another aunt and uncle in Paducah, Kentucky. They were childless so I made friends with the local kids. We all lived a couple blocks from a swampy woods that was the local kids’ playground. There was a pond or maybe a slough back on the woods that had all sorts of large water birds — big cranes, herons egrets and things that I never could name. Usually if it was big and white we called it an egret. This was an interesting place to play and catch frogs and turtles. It was also full of mosquitos and snakes.

Several times that summer we would drive over to visit my aunt’s mother (Missus H) who lived on a farm near Fisk, Missouri…deep in the southeast corner of the state, sometimes called “Swampeast Missouri” because it was in the Mississippi delta region and very swampy. Much of the land had to be drained by large canals so it could be farmed. The canals ran into the St. Francis River or the Mississippi. My aunt’s mother was an interesting woman. She had been married five or six times and was quite plump, wore silk stockings  and smoked cigarettes from a long white cigarette holder. Her current husband was a quiet man about twenty years her elder and he let her rule the place…as if he had a choice. I enjoyed those trips and actually learned where things come from and what it was like to live on a farm. I churned butter and collected duck eggs and pulled vegetables out of the garden for the dinner table. On some of the weekend trips there would be other kids there  — Missus H’s grandchildren — and we would all decide to go fishing in the St. Francis River.

xxx st francisThe St. Francis River has a split personality in Missouri. The upper reaches of the stream are fast and wild with class four rapids and small waterfalls. By the time the river reaches Fisk it is brown, slow and moody and confined by levees and steep mud banks. We were heading to the muddy part. Missus H was leading the expedition through the forest to her favorite fishing hole. It wasn’t exactly a forest. It was a damp, hot, bug infested jungle and she was wielding a machete while we followed single file behind her. After chopping through the jungle for twenty minutes we emerged at the top of a eight foot mud bank overlooking the poorest excuse for a river I had ever seen.  There was no discernible current and the water was more like liquid mud than water. We were all outfitted with cane poles and slid down the bank to the river’s edge. I think somebody caught a catfish or two but I have wiped most of that experience from my memory. I may have blacked out from heat stroke or loss of blood due to the mosquitos.

xxx big piney 1On my jubilant return home at the end of summer I was greeted by the news that the family dog died while I was gone. I was bummed. As a consolation prize my parents decided to spend Labor Day weekend at my uncle’s cabin on the Big Piney.  That weekend I was introduced to fly fishing. My aunt had taken up fly fishing and my uncle would often have a go at it as well. It looked like fun and you didn’t have to sit still and watch the bobber. My uncle took my mom out in the boat to show her how to use a fly rod and they came scurrying back about a half hour later because my mom launched her fly into a hornets’ nest and the hornets didn’t go for that. After backing the boat as far away as they could while the fly was stuck in the nest, they gave it a yank and then raced back home before the hornets figured out who to blame.  That weekend I learned to love fly fishing for small mouth and perch with poppers. You could stand in the water and fish. The river was murky but clear enough that you could guess where the fish were and almost half the time you would be right. I caught more fish that way than I ever did watching a bobber.

At that point I had no knowledge of trout or trout streams even though there was a nice one only about ten miles up river. I didn’t discover that until almost twenty years later after fishing trout streams in Wyoming and Colorado.

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Next chapter — the Tongue River and the Big Horns

New Mexico: Revisiting the Land of Enchantment

A love letter to New Mexico — great post to share.

Duck Pie

View from the High Road near Chimayo View from the High Road near Chimayó

I’m far from the first person to wax lyrical about New Mexico, and, so long as the chiles ripen and the highways go on endlessly, I’m sure I won’t be the last. People have been discovering the magic of this spectacular corner of the planet for eons, but the magic never ceases to amaze.

For me, New Mexico is travel. My first real experience with travel, when I was five-and-a-half, was a two-week journey around New Mexico. Some of my strongest, earliest memories are of that trip: absorbing the vastness of a mostly treeless land, staring at clouds, road-tripping, scrambling up mesas to 1000-year-old Pueblo cities, descending into valleys filled with centuries-old Spanish towns, watching faith-filled pilgrims collect sand at a two century-old sanctuary, waking up to breakfasts of blue corn enchiladas doused in red chile.

Me at Taos Pueblo, age 5 (Photo: A.S.Graboyes) Me at Taos Pueblo, age 5 (Photo:

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Wednesday Roam — Friendship and the Bocce Court

The previous owner of my house was a “Granola Person” as my realtor called him.  He and his wife were nice people who had great expectations for life in the desert. They were a live and let live couple. They went to considerable lengths to construct a raised vegetable garden with about seven 4′ by 8′ planter boxes and the whole thing was fenced to keep the rabbits and other vegetarian wildlife out.  But, this is desert and you barely can get anything to grow, let alone a vegetable garden.  So, the experiment failed and when I moved in the garden was deteriorating and filled with salt bush, tumbleweeds and trash. A large compost heap was baking in the desert sun and not really converting anything to soil. There were a few toasted sprigs of herbs of some sort…the last desperate attempt to grow something before the death of the garden.

I knew I wouldn’t use the garden. Instead, I wanted a Bocce court and saw an opportunity to salvage the garden boxes and convert the space and leftover lumber as the basis for my Bocce court. The project was a little bigger than I planned and my neighbor joined in the project about halfway through. We got it done in about five weeks — including spreading 8 tons of crushed stone for the surface.

My neighbor was the first person I met when I moved here. He knew everyone in the neighborhood and made sure I was introduced and he knew answers to all of my new-comer questions. He was retired and about ten years older than me and worked as a handy man for a number of widow ladies who had chores but no one to do them. As a handy man, he knew his way around a hammer and a saw and was a tremendous help in getting my project done.

The pictures show the general progress of the project.

Demolition

Finished

We finished the Bocce court in early spring and began playing games every few days.  It was a little difficult getting used to the surface. We would rake it and water it periodically to get the crushed stone to solidify a little more. The climate is so dry that we did not have to install drainage. There were some persistent critters who wanted to burrow into the crushed stone surface so we had to discourage them.

My neighbor was a member of two bowling teams and, although he was not experienced at Bocce, he was very hard to beat. He won three games to every one I’d win. Trash talk was his specialty…he had something to say with every ball thrown. We went even further with the fun and games and put in a horse shoe pit next to the Bocce court.

My neighbor took on one of his handy man jobs around the end of June and I visited with him a little at the end of a long day. He looked tired and didn’t have much to say. He died the next day. Heart problems ran in his family and his number came up without much warning. He was my closest friend after my move and made my transition go so much easier. I actually only knew him for about nine months but it seemed like decades. It is hard to say goodbye to a good friend and I miss him more than I expected. The Bocce court serves as a memorial to our friendship and he is always in my thoughts when I’m out there.

The Brewer’s Lament

A few months ago I was visiting my cousin out in the Bay Area and we both are interested in craft brewing.  He is a well-informed patron of some of the best local craft breweries and can talk at length on the history and styles of beer – lagers and ales. I’m reasonably acquainted with the local craft brewing scene in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and I’m a long-time award winning home brewer. We had lengthy and good natured discussions and a couple serious debates over various pints at various places. Often the topic was regional styles and tastes in beer. If you travel the country you will notice different places have acquired different tastes in beer. We sampled a number of local beers and took a drive up to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa to see what was on tap. Russian River Brewing is a widely recognized Mecca for beer lovers thanks to the hopped up (hyped up?) Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger brews. Pliny the Younger is triple hopped and has a 10.25% alcohol (abv) content and is only available once a year. Pliny the Elder is a double hopped IPA and is always available on tap. The brewery has maybe twenty or more brews on tap of various styles. Much of what we had as we made the rounds was very good. Some of the North Bay breweries are arguably among  the best in the country. We’ll come back to Russian River in a minute.

I’m an experienced brewer and little bit of a beer snob — I admit it — and I have a beef with some craft brewers because they excessively use certain hop varieties or simply over-hop their beer. Why bother making a wheat beer or a rye beer or use a toasted chocolate malt if you are going to put too much hop bitterness in the beer? There seems to be a contest to see how hoppy they can make their beer.  India Pale Ale (IPA) is a hoppy beer style. Hops serve as a preservative in beer and IPA was a British brew sent to the soldiers in India so it was always heavily hopped to make the long sea voyage. The bitterness scale used in brewing is International Bitterness Units-IBUs and the traditional IBU range for IPA brews is around 60 units. For comparison, Bud Light might have 10 IBUs and Blue Moon might be around 18 IBUs. Some brewers are making what they call ”Imperial” IPAs with bitterness units of 90 or even 110. I’ve had conversations with brewmasters at several craft breweries about the trend to over-hop craft beers. They recognize the issue and agree that many beers are too heavily hopped but they say they must brew what the patons want.  The usual patron knows the hop taste and equates that with craft beers and the hoppy beers are selling. I don’have a problem with hops, per se — just the excessive use that seems to be common in many craft beers.

My second complaint is that there is also a tendency to over use certain hop varieties, which give the brew a heavily citrus flavor. The Citra hop is a new variety of hops (2009) that everyone is going crazy over. Centennial, Cascade, Columbus and Amarillo hop varieties are also very citrus-y and if over used can make beer resemble grapefruit juice. I participated in a brew-off contest among five local brew clubs. Four of the five competing beers contained Citra hops. The fifth beer was a traditional stout that was hopped with traditional English hop varieties and at an appropriate level of bitterness. In an open taste test with several hundred patrons voting, the traditional stout won the contest. The Citra hopped beers were mostly okay but were citrus flavored and over powered.

Okay,  so…I left my cousin at Russian River Brewing so I have to go back to rescue him. We were having a great time drinking pints and enjoying the place. We decided to share a full flight of the Belgian style brews they had on tap and when it came there were eleven different samples….yikes. Belgians have a knack for doing some unusual things with beer. They are big into flavoring beer with fruit so you will find cherry or peach or raspberry additions to beer. The abbey beers in Belgium were fermented using wild yeast strains in open vats, often up in the attic or somewhere with little or no control over fermentation conditions. Some yeast strains were localized and eventually permeated the fermentation areas and wooden vats and they became the standard yeast for a particular abbey’s beer. These are Lambic beers and many fall into the category of sour beers.  I’ve had sour beer before and it is an acquired taste, I guess. We plowed into the eleven samples and each one was more sour than the last. My cousin was in heaven….he loved the stuff. There was maybe one or two that I would be willing to drink a full pint of…maybe. Most were undrinkable. A truly open fermented beer in northern California might have yeast strains that are visiting from the neighbor’s vineyard or possibly blown in from a fish carcass on the beach or the road kill we passed a while back. Instead, thankfully, Russian River uses wine barrels from California wineries (a yeast source) and introduces other isolated strains of yeast from different Belgian brew styles….what once were wild yeasts. They use different wine barrels (Pinot, Chardonnay, etc.) for different brews. That’s all very interesting to me but the end product tastes awful. When I brew beer I work very hard not to have those flavors in my beer because that is what I would consider infected beer and I’d throw out the whole batch. Needless to say, we had some spirited discussions on the merits of sour beer. We agreed to disagree.

My cousin is an artist and a poet when he isn’t in beer mode. He is a good artist – I like his stuff – and has a couple published books of poetry. He writes in a form that he developed called “Boxes”, which are poems of ten lines with each line having ten syllables. There is more to it than that but you get the idea. Each poem has 100 syllables. In his honor I decided to write the following poem, reflecting on our brewery experiences.

The Brewer’s Lament

Your beer conforms to the sour persuasion.

It seems so wrong on the few occasions

that I’ve given it my full attention.

If I brewed a batch that took on that taste

I’d know my effort had all gone to waste.

So what is the deal with regional beer?

There’s Belgian and Baltic and Irish but

Mexican beer has an Austrian root.

So drink what you will, I won’t call it swill.

Don’t over think it – pour it and drink it.

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 I know folks will disagree but that is part of the enjoyment of the current enthusiasm with craft brewing.

Wednesday Roam — Bosque del Apache

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABosque del Apache wildlife refuge is a major stopping point for birds flying south over the Great Plains and Rockies. The morning fly-out is spectacular when thousands of geese all take off at the same time. You can find some amazing video on YouTube of the dawn take off.

I’m not very enthusiastic about getting up before 4 AM to drive to the refuge in the dark to see the dawn fly-out…someday I’ll do it.  This week my daughter, Jill, and I took a day trip that included a sunset stop at Bosque del Apache. The sunset fly-in is much more reserved and smaller flocks of birds fly in to the refuge and settle down for the evening. There is a huge number of Sand Hill Cranes that spend the winter at the refuge and they will fly out more casually in the morning and then trickle back a few at a time near sunset. The cranes are among the favorite birds because of their size and the frog-like croaking sound they make. In the spring I hear them flying over my house on the way back north but they are so high that you can’t actually see them going over.

Here are a few pictures. If you get a chance to visit the refuge in winter, don’t pass it up.  Bring a good camera because the dawn and dusk light, coupled with the water reflections and moving birds makes some shots difficult.

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New Mexico Libraries Score a Hat Trick

I’m pretty bummed out over the election results. My guys got shellaced but that’s politics. Sometimes a reversal of fortune opens up new opportunities. We shall see.

But not everything was gloom and doom in the local election results. I’m happy to report that New Mexico voters cast their votes in favor of three bond issues supporting libraries.

There was a statewide general obligation bond question on the ballot to provide $10.8 million for public, academic, public school, and tribal libraries. This measure passed with 62.9% of the votes.

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Taytsugeh Oweengeh Library, Tesuque Pueblo

Bernalillo County — which is Albuquerque — had a separate ballot bond issue to provide $1.8 million for the local library system. This ballot measure passed with 74% of the vote.

Sandoval County — which is north of Albuquerque and includes Rio Rancho – had a bond issue for $3.25 million to go to fifteen public and tribal libraries. This ballot measure passed with 59.5% of the vote.

loma coloradoI live in Rio Rancho and we have two library branches with nice facilities and good collections. Other towns have their own libraries — small but very active and well supported by the residents.

 

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Bernalillo County (and Albuquerque)  has a county-wide library system with about eighteen branches and nice facilities and collections.  There are some specialized research libraries in Albuquerque as well.

 

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The respected Zimmerman Library on the campus of the University of New Mexico is housed in an historic building designed by famed southwestern architect John Gaw Meem

 

New Mexico voters seem to like their libraries. I moved here a year ago from Missouri and I can’t imagine even one of these bond issues passing in the ”Show-me State”