Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not so lazy days

Three more days at sea, March 21-23.  We were up to our usual, except I started playing cribbage in the mornings.  I finally won a couple of games.  I still don’t count well.

We've started seeing a lot of dolphin pods.

We've even seen a few turtles.
Sunset around here is awesome.

And night isn't half bad.
As we set sail for Central America, a few thoughts have crossed my mind.  There seem to be a number of things in common in South American countries and cities.  There always seems to be a main square called Plaza de Armas where in days past, the guns were all gathered in the evening.

There almost always seems to be a statue of General San Martin … and a road, street or city named San Martin as he liberated many of these countries.  Many of the statues look alike as though made in a single factory and just set differently along the main areas.  Could that be true?

And there are a lot of colorful buildings.  One theory at one location was the colors were due to the long evenings, and this was a way to make the surroundings more colorful and the area not so depressing.  Okay.  I can go with that.

Land ho, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, on Tuesday, March 24.  Yay.  Costa Rica is lovely and we enjoyed it when we were here last time.  We weren’t going to be able to meet our friend, Monty, as he’s a long ways away and we were getting back in the afternoon.  Another time.

This place has no army; it was abolished in 1949, and environmental and human rights issues are important to them.  It’s known as the Switzerland of South America.  They say it’s the greenest country in the world and they expect to be carbon neutral by 2021.  They are also proud to have more teachers than policemen in their country.  And interesting to an Alaskan, hunting is prohibited.

The flag is three colors – red for the sacrifice by the people, white for joy and happiness and blue for the sky and free thinking.  Bananas and coffee are the main exports and Puntarenas is one of two main ports, with the other being Puerto Limon on the other side of the country.
As we disembarked to go on our excursion we could see what they were loading.  We had signed up to go to the Crab Shack in a couple of days.  Yahoo!!
While there is much to see here, we were doing a zip line, and were on our way.  It was another long ride, but this time it was a much smaller bus with only 12 of us.  That’s one way to cut down on the size, do something a bit more adventurous.
A white-collared monkey was elusive.

And under where the monkeys were was a sign.
We drove up into mountainous country, and it seems rather dry, but that’s due to this being some of the driest time of the year.  We’d talked our new friend, Dorenda, into going with us.  She was a bit apprehensive, but way into doing new things.  We wouldn’t steer her wrong.

Our tour guide had a cashew plant to show us.  The cashew is at the top.  They contain cyanide and are poisonous until roasted.
This was a canopy zipline, and would take us to Mahogany Park, the location of some of Costa Rica’s last remaining mahogany trees.  There would be nine zips and we were hoping to see some wildlife.

We arrived and or guides got us all geared up and took photos before our safety briefing.  Then it was on to the first zip.
We were ready.
The great thing about this excursion was that the ship captain and his family were with us so we knew the ship wouldn’t leave without us and he wouldn’t be tapping his foot and consulting his watch if we ran late.  Hooray!!!

Jaz with near perfect form on the zip coming in for a landing.

Some vegetation is green although a lot was dry.
Dorenda didn't quite make it to the next platform and to do a little hand-over-hand.

This ladder/walkway led us to the next zip line.
The Tarcoles River, off in the distance, is the one we took a boat ride on last year.
Although it's the dry season, there are still some beautiful flowers.
Dorenda and one of our guides.

I'm zipping on to the next platform,
An iguana rested in a tree near one of the platforms.  His tail is longer than his body.

Hooked up and zipping along.

There were alligators nearby ... we saw these after we were done zip lining.
 After we got back to the ship after a great time of zipping from tree-to-tree, we wandered around the port area and town a bit.  It was a nice way to relax a bit before reboarding our ship and heading to our next port.
There were little transport trains to take people to and from the end of the pier.  Dorenda and Greg and Jaz and me walked.  It was pleasant and not too hot.
There were some guys doing sand sculptures.  What talent.

There was a little shrine near the entrance to the port.
We saw this beautiful church and went inside.  It was simple but so very nice.
Dorenda, Greg and I stopped for something to drink.  Hobbs, this one is for you.  I'm not sure what it is, but it looks kind of like some weird deer.  ???

 So, do you want a few more bits of interesting information about Costa Rica?  It’s about the size of West Virginia, they bury people above the ground because of the water table and it’s the same distance from Costa Rica to either Tierra del Fuego or Alaska.  Nearly all of their water is potable, one of the few countries that can lay claim to such a thing.  There aren’t many insects because of the bats as there are a number of species of them and they can eat up to 30 insects an hour.  There are 150 species of birds, 160 different mammals and 142 different kinds of snakes, of which 22 kinds can kill you.  And the orchid is the national flower.  Ninety percent of their electricity is generated by hydro power, six percent is wind, one percent solar and three percent is geo-thermal.  So there you have it.

And then we were back and heading to Nicaragua.  Who would have ever thought I'd go there?  Not me, that's for sure.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ruins and prancing horses

We were still in Lima March 20 (Friday), or at least its port.  We knew we were in port as we didn’t get much sleep.  The port apparently never sleeps at night.  There were cranes with back up lights beeping the entire night.  There were trucks being loaded with grain from ships.  There was construction and the scraping of front-end loaders as they gathered rocks and dirt and dumped it.  Good grief.  Our side of the ship was not the place to be.  I was hoping they were only working til midnight.  Nope.  All night long.  Until we left on our excursion when everything seemed to shut down. 

Today we were back on a bus to visit the Museum of Anthropology and Archeology, visit the Pachacamac Ruins and be treated to a show by Peruvian Paso prancing horses. 
There are always carts of some sort to photograph.
Our first stop was the museum.  While I enjoy museums, the time spent at this one was a little too much and I ended up wandering around on my own.  I can only pay attention for so long.  But there were a lot of interesting things there so I found ways to entertain myself.
The museum is beautiful with displays in outdoor halls.
The place has archways throughout and an old floor of black and white tiles.
Some of the pottery was nice but it's difficult to take photos when it's enclosed in cases..

This lady was carving some type of gourd and her things were quite nice.
There is always pottery, and so I take pottery photos.  The best part of this museum was that they had replicas of some items out so you could handle them, which I did.  The ones I took photos of seemed to be teapots.
This one had nice color.

And this one had a cool cat of some type.
It was fun to dry on a head dress.
The museum had some space dedicated to temporary body painting that was used during events such as ceremonies or celebrations.  It was quite fascinating the colors they mixed and used.  The painting was especially used on their faces and could be single- or multi-colored with a variety of patterns.  Burial rituals used a red dye applied over the body. 

But scary.
Another part of the museum was dedicated to intentional skull modification, used by the Paracas people and possibly related to different social standings.  They used two techniques on youngsters as their bones were still soft and developing.  The first, called the crib, used ropes on a child’s head.  The second used a headband (llautu) where they tied ribbons or ropes around the child’s head.  Both methods may have also used accessories of tablets or cotton pads and nuts. 
The cotton nuts were typical modeling tools of the time and some have been found still tied to children’s skulls using sashes. Different head shapes were possible by rearranging the ropes and altering the form or size of the modeling accessories.  They kind of sound alike to me, but were described in the museum as two variations of the same thing. 

Compression around the head with sashes and llautos like the one above resulted in a cylindrical shape.  Placing the rope in different positions provided variety among individuals.
This skull matches the one from the above photo.
With tablets and pads applied on the forehead and the back of the head a conical or truncated cone shape was achieved.  Most of the cases found were this type, which was also very common among the Paracas Cavernas people.

And little birds occupied our time, too.
 From there we reboarded our bus and headed to the ruins. 

There are always things to photograph, like racing taxis.
Or cops with guns.  There are a lot of those.
These were intriguing as they are located in an area surrounded by residential areas.  While it was quite hot, we got in and out of the bus to photograph.  It was particularly interesting as there were people working to continue to uncover the ruins. 

You can see the houses are not very far away, and can also see some old earthquake damage.
The Pachacamac ruins are centuries-old remnants of the Incan Empire, built in about 700 A.D. It has plazas, palaces, temples, monuments and pyramids, some of which is quite apparent, and is believed to have been a main pilgrimage center.
This route to the temple complex was marked by tall walls of stone and adobe.

This is the same route except to the other side of the street.

The road through the ruins is dirt and there wasn't much traffic except for the several busses transporting the tourists from the Princess ship.
Pachacamac means creator of the world.  In 1906 a German archeologist started working on the ruins and even as we wandered through there were people working on excavating and restoring.  Restoration is huge as the ruins are adobe and are often damaged by earthquakes.  Even as we drove through various areas of the region we could see damage left behind by previous earthquakes.
There are ruins in all directions that are not yet completely uncovered.

There are also buildings in every direction around the ruins.

This type of construction served as a center or possibly a palace.  Seventeen of these pyramids have been identified within the temple complex. 

The elevated structure in the photo above has overlaying platforms and is accessed by the central ramp located in front of a large patio.   The building includes closed spaces, storage rooms and roads connecting everything.  It appears to have served as a place for both public ritual and administrative duties.
The priests were in charge and people made pilgrimages here to worship the sun god and find out their futures from them.  The priests would take drugs, pass out, convulse and, I guess dream, and that would be interpreted as the future.

They're working in many locations throughout the ruins. 
The city surrounds the ruins in all directions.

And you can see how close everywhere you look.  There are more workers here, as well.

There's still a lot to do.
These people also believed in sacrifices, llamas and youngsters, usually virgins, of upper class families.  Someone asked if the sacrifices were drugged first and our guide told us they were.  Glad I’m of a lowly nature and won’t be sacrificed anytime soon.

The Mamacona was built by the Inca for women dedicated to the cult of the sun god and was a place for them to produce fine goods.  There are three sectors … structures with galleries and staircases, areas between them and large patios.  Typical Inca architecture shows in the trapezoidal niches, decorated ashlars and windows.  I overheard a couple of folks saying this was a reproduction, but it appeared to be ruins that had been discovered and rebuilt adding some support structure.

There are guards everywhere to prevent pilfering and vandalism.  At the hill in the distance, there is another guard.
We left the ruins behind and headed to another location to see Peruvian prancing horses.  We were taken to local hacienda with beautiful gardens and grass that was like velvet.  We were seated next to a soft dirt arena for our show, offered drinks and potatoes cooked in one of the thousands of ways that they can be cooked in this country, and sat back to watch. 

It wasn't my favorite way to eat potatoes but these were with a dipping sauce and not bad.
And we had a little show of dancing.  The dancers were lovely and graceful, performing on the dirt like it was the floor of the greatest theater in the world.

Our host gave us a brief history of the Paso, or gaited horses.  They have been bred to be gaited and have a natural beauty through long manes and tails.  For these horses that also means a short neck that is held high and a gait that is not like other horses.  Their gait makes for an exceptionally smooth ride, and I can only imagine it to be similar to that of a Tennessee Walker which I’ve ridden.  It’s smooth and a luxurious ride.

Our host rode in on one of these magnificent animals.

Others dressed in Peruvian dress came into the ring.
This is only three of the six performers.
Beautiful horses.

Coming around toward us.
And going away from us.

In addition to watching these graceful horses, we were treated to a folkloric show with dancers and a wonderful lunch.  It was a great oasis of time during a day of bus riding that can be tedious at best.

They showed off this little filly with the beautiful face.

More dancing.

And some of the setting of this beautiful place.
But a little nuzzle on the way out was a nice way to say goodbye.

All too soon we had to be on our way back to the port, via another piece of the Pan American Highway.  Our drive was not without its own adventure and was about an hour-and-a-half longer than it should have been.  There’d been a bad accident that had slowed everything down and the roads were parking lots.  It also made for some very creative driving. 

There was the biggest beer ad I'd ever seen, standing free-style, not a billboard.

Glad I wasn't driving.

They put flowers on the outside of the hearse.  You see interesting things from a bus window.
The good news is that while we were the last bus back to the port, if you’re on a Princess-arranged excursion they won’t leave you behind, or at least will make arrangements for you if they have to do that.  However, we figure the captain was tapping his foot and watching the clock impatiently awaiting our arrival.
I'm a sucker for photographing the carts.

This one was very unique.

Goodbye, Peru.
By the time we returned to our ship, all was quiet.  The trucks were gone, the ships were unloaded, the vans had been loaded onto trucks and were gone, the cranes were not moving and the construction project had shut down.  It was time for us to vacate our berth.