Saturday, March 17, 2018

Much Pleasure at Machu Picchu


No trip to Peru is complete without visiting the famed Machu Picchu, which is considered one of the modern seven wonders of the world. I was not disappointed when I saw it. Indeed it stands up to its fame and deserves the title, constructed at about 7,900 ft high above the clouds (see the picture to the right). The scenes from above there are spectacular. Those who inhabited it had excellent views and enjoyed a wonderful life at the top up there. The trip started by landing at the airport in Lima the capital. Lima was hot and humid in March, and I was told it never rains there. Located at the Pacific ocean it has a mild weather all year round. It has some 350 ruins that date back to more than thousand years, before the Incas time. Incas were the kings of the people who are called Kashua, and their spoken language is also called Kashua. The Miraflores district is one of the rich areas in Lima, together with San Isidro, which was built in 1870. The parque del amor has a statue erected in 1993 by one of the famous Peruvian artists. The design of the park is inspired by Gaudi of Spain.
The Spaniards came in 1532 and built many churches. The architecture of the churches was based on the Muslim Andalusian architecture, and it was obvious that the artwork insides the churches was done by Moors. Before the Incas the Peruvian people worshipped three deities: The moon, the ocean and the earth. The Incas worshipped the sun. There are some 350 archeological sites in Lima that date back to more than a thousand years before the Incas, for example the Huaca Pucllana which was constructed 2000 years ago. The original royal language was called Panakka, and is extinct now because the Spaniards made sure to destroy it first. The language that is still spoken today is the Runasimi (also called Katchua). They had no written language and therefore their history was not preserved.
The population of Lima is 11 millions. It is the third largest city in South America after Sao Paulo in Brazil (20 million), and Buenos Aires in Argentina (14 million). The picture to the right was taken in the main square of Lima and you can see the colonial buildings with wooden balconies that were certainly the work of Moors. Peru was a dictatorship between 1968 and 1980 when inflation was at 3000% by 1990, but now it is a democracy and its economy is doing quite well. The main sources of Peru's economy are: mining (gold, silver, copper, aluminum and molybdenum), agriculture (potatoes and gourmet coffee), and tourism. Lima was liberated from Spain in 1821 by San Jose Martinez, whose statue is in the main square downtown. Lima is also called the city of the kings, and was one of three major cities the Spaniards constructed, the other two being Bogota and Buenos Aires. The flight from Lima to Cusco takes about one and half hour. Cusco has all the Inca attractions. It is located at an altitude of more than 12,000 ft. which makes it hard to breathe up there and I got a headache for the first night but got better afterward. The coca tea helps alleviate the breathing problem a little but the moonya tea was the best. Moonya is a kind of wild mint plant that can be found only at that altitude.
The first place we visited in Cusco was the village of Chinchero by the sacred valley. There people still speak the Kachua language and live the primitive life of the original natives of the land. They grow some 3,000 kinds of potatoes and they raise llamas and alpacas. Their food consists of mainly potatoes, quinoa, coca leaves, and cuy (which is the guinea pig). They weave nice textiles made of the alpaca wool. The rainforest is only three hours away from here. The words thank you in Katchua language are "Sul Payke" or "Anyay". After Chinchero we visited Ollantaytambo where we climbed up the temple of the sun. The Incas brought skilled architects from lake Titicaca. The Spaniards destroyed the temples and replaced them with churches, and the only village that survived was Machu Picchu because they never found it, and it was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham of National Geographic and since then it got its world fame and was voted as one of the modern seven wonders of the world.
The Incas believed in the supreme god whom they believed created the world. They pictured him as a bearded man, and they thought the Spaniards were messengers from him because they were bearded too while the Incas did not have beards. That was a big mistake the Incas made, and of course the Spaniards took advantage of that very well. The Incas made terraces in the mountains for agriculture. They used granite rocks in some of their temples which is very hard rock and since they did not have iron, they used Hematite ores to break the blocks. They did not have any animals of burden either. So they moved by foot. They sent messengers through the Inca trail for thousands of kilometers by foot. Imagine the messengers had to deliver oral messages by foot because they did not know writing.
The picture to the right is an example of a church built by the Spaniards over Inca temple. They put mirrors inside because they noticed that the natives of the land believed the mirrors captured their souls and they believed that after death their souls went to the other world guided by dogs. I am wearing a Peruvian hat in the picture that is made of alpaca wool. We visited more places in Cusco such as the Dominican church which was damaged by the last earthquake in 1950. The Peruvians were grateful to the earthquake because it revealed old walls of Inca origin that were hidden by the Spaniards. Needless to say the Spaniards stole tons of gold and silver from the Inca temples and stored all that gold in the "tor del oro" in Seville, Spain. There are two rivers running under the city of Cusco, and the area used to be a lake in ancient times. The three sacred animals in Peru are the condor, puma and snake. Their national flower is the Kantuta flower. The 9th Inca (king) Pachakuteq is known to have united the people from the north (Motche) who were good with metal work, and the southeast (Titicaca) who were good with pottery, and south (Nazca) who were good with textiles. The ruins of Saqsaywaman include the original zigzag wall that used to protect the city of Cusco and is only 40% preserved. The zigzag made the wall strong enough to withstand the strong earthquakes unlike the Spanish buildings. The zigzag also symbolizes the lightening which they believed is the connection between heaven and earth. We also visited Pukapukara which is at an altitude of 12,500 ft., the highest we got up to. The whole area was called Cosqo which means the center navel of the world. The Pakapukara was one of the relay stations along the Inca trail that extended for about 3,000 km from Quito in Equador down to Chile, and was used by the runners who carried the oral messages of the king. We also visited Q'enqo which means labyrinth and it has a temple for mother earth. It was a place where they mummified the rich dead.
Last place we visited in Cusco was the Cathedral of Cusco that belongs to the Vatican. Next to it was another church that belonged to the Jesuits. The Cathedral of Cusco was built on top the most important religious place of the Incas and that was the temple dedicated to the great Creator of the Incas (remember the one they pictures with a beard?) The Cathedral took 100 years to build due to a civil war between Pizzaro and his rivals at the time. The people who were mixed between Spaniards and natives are called Mestiso. The Cathedral has lot of gold and silver. The gold represented the sun and the silver represented the moon in Inca culture. There is a statue of a crucified dark skinned man of the natives and they call him the lord of the earthquake(Korpuskristi), because the last earthquake stopped when they carried that statue out of the church. There is also a picture of the last supper that has a guinea pig as the meal. The Peruvians mixed Catholicism with their original religion and created something new. They have a symbol of the cross with two bulls and a pot which represents the amalgam of the Catholic cross and the bulls that the Spaniards introduced to help with agriculture and the mother earth represented by the pot. Peruvians used to be 90% Catholic but now they are only 82% Catholic. It seems they are abandoning Catholicism and returning to the religion of their forefathers. Come to think of it, their original religion was a bit better than Catholicism in my opinion.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trotting at the Oceanside Turkey Trot


I ran the 5k Oceanside Turkey Trot race and here is a picture that was taken of me at the finish line. Hooray! I ran the 5k in about 39 minutes. I really enjoyed it because the weather was perfect and it was nice running in Oceanside streets and then finishing at coast all the way to the pier. It was great. I should do this every year if I can. There were about nine thousand people running in total, about three thousand of them ran the 10k race and the rest ran the 5k race. Compared to the Double Peak race I would say this one is the better one. The crowd was much larger and the venue much better. There were people from different states as well as from other countries as well. That is how famous this race is. I saw people from Canada as well. I guess people come here because of the nice weather at this time of the year whereas they have snow at home.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Peaking Up at Double Peak


I participate in the Double Peak Challenge 2017 which took place Saturday 9/30/2017. I ran the 5k race, which was an untimed race around Double Peak. Finishing the race in itself is a challenge because of all the hilly trails along the 5k path. In the end I got a Double Peak #reachthepeak medal and a red bag full of snacks. During the race I took a wrong turn and made an extra 1 km, so in reality I ran a 6k race! It was fun and I would do it again if I can. There are other similar races in San Diego area. There is one coming up in Escondido called Grape Day race, and then the day of Thanksgiving there is one called O'side Turkey Trot race in Oceanside. I would like to participate in that last one because its 5k race is grouped into different waves, each wave with certain speed range, so one can choose the wave that is suitable according to one's ability to run. There are two waves in the end for walkers/strollers. I think I will join the one above those, i.e. about 16 minutes per mile.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Los Angeles Double Decker Tour


We took a double decker bus to tour Los Angeles. The bus is a hop on hop off service and has four routes. We bought tickets for one day only and therefore the best we could do was to explore only two routes: the red route which tours Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and the purple route which tours downtown LA. Each of the tours is more than two hours, so we did not have time to get off at any point but remained on the top deck watching the scenery and listening to the narration with earphones. We started at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood by the Walk of Fame area. The red route went through Sunset Blvd to the exclusive area of Beverly Hills where the rich and famous live. Along the way we saw Chateau Marmont, the Beverly Hills shield, and the exclusive streets where Palm trees stand tall on either side. We saw the Spanish Renaissance City Hall building of Beverly Hills where the police of the city reside, and where the movie "Beverly Hills Cop" was made. At Beverly Center is the premier fashion shopping mall of Los Angeles where you find hundred plus stores like Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry making Beverly Center a unique shopping destination. Then we took the purple route which took us through Wilshire Blvd to LA Museum of Arts (LACMA) and the Tar Pits Park, where you can see oil in the form of tar still bubbling to the surface as a reminder of the oil fields under the city. We passed by Canter's Deli which is open 24 hours a day and is considered an LA classic. Along the way we saw pioneer studios like CBS and Paramount pictures still standing in their original places. We passed by MacArthur park and lake in Westlake area, then on to the Broad, LA city Hall and the new famous LAPD building often called the glass house. Next we passed by Koreatown, where all the signs are in Korean and English. They say there is a famous stationery store in Koreatown called Daiso of Japan, which I am planning on visiting one of these days. Then we passed by El Pueblo historic Monument, which reminds you that the city of Los Angeles was established by the Spanish in the eighteenth century. The famous Union Station is next to El Pueblo, and next is Chinatown which is maintained by the Chinese government itself as a tourist attraction. Nearby Chinatown is Little Tokyo whish has interesting free museum to see. We saw the tallest skyscraper in downtown LA which is the US Bank tower, and then we passed by the Staples Center situated at Figueroa St., which is a multi-purpose sports arena and whose picture you can see on the right. That concluded our one day trip. The bus then took the highway back to Hollywood and dropped us at the Dolby Theater where we started. This tour was just a means to know about the places of interest in LA so that one can visit them again later at his leisure. LA is a very vast city and it is impossible to visit everything in one day or even one week. It requires many weekends to cover all the other places. For example there is the yellow route that takes you to Santa Monica area and Venice beach, but that requires a separate day, so we will visit that area on our own at some later date.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Lights of the Valkyries


We visited the Griffith Observatory of the city of Los Angeles on mount Hollywood near the Hollywood sign. You can climb up the Hollywood sign, which takes about 1 hour, but you can see it clearly from the observatory as shown in this picture. What we liked most was the live show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. The show was called "Light of the Valkyries" which took us on a voyage of Viking cosmology and explored the true nature of the aurora borealis - the northern lights. We explored the source of the northern lights (the Sun) in a cosmic light show set to one of the most iconic pieces of music of all time, Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. We learnt how in the northern arctic (and the southern arctic) there are days when the sun never sets, but moves across the sky near the horizon in a full circle that starts from the north and ends also at the north. There are other days when the sun never rises leaving the arctic north in creepy darkness for months.
There were telescopes outside set up for free viewing. We looked at the moon magnified 130 times and we looked at the city of Los Angeles. The telescope's power enabled us to see street signs from above mount Hollywood many miles down the city. There are hiking trails also that one can take you down to the park along the way to the city of Los Angeles, but this is best done in the weekend because the park closes by sunset. One of the items displayed inside the observatory building is Tesla's coil that Nicola Tesla built in 1891. It is an electrical resonant transformer circuit used to produce high-voltage, low-current, high frequency sparks, and was used in the Frankenstein movie. There is other exciting information inside so go visit the observatory if you can, you will enjoy the information inside, and the fantastic views of the city of Los Angeles and the Hollywood mount, but above all visiting the Planetarium is a must. Admission to the observatory is free and there is free parking outside, however the planetarium ticket costs a mere $7 per adult.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Fitness Tracker Advantage


I tried one of the fitness trackers out there and this one is the fitbit charger 2. It is not really that great and certainly one can do without it, but it has some advantages that made me keep it. First of all I am not going to wear it all the time as they recommend. I tried wearing it all the time for a couple of days just to get some statistics, and as you see in this picture it tells you what your activities were like how many steps you walked and how many stair flights you climbed, and your average heart beat rate and things like that. When I went biking I set it up to track my activity but the GPS signal was not strong enough so the results were not accurate at all as it missed a big chunk of my exercise. A good feature of it though is that it pairs with your cell phone and it vibrates when you get a call or a text message. You can find out who called you and can even read the text messages you receive. This is useful because when I am biking I can't reach my phone and the same is true when I am on the elliptical machine. Also it is useful to continuously monitor your heart beat rate during the exercise. It is good to know if you reached your maximum heart pulse rate and for how long etc. Therefore I decided to use it only during my exercise, like during weight lifting or aerobic exercise sessions, and of course during outdoor activities such as cycling or hiking.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Cycling Oceanside


This picture is taken at Carlsbad beach during a cycling event with Performance Bikes group. We started from the bike shop at Oceanside, rode down Plaza drive to Hecienda, then south on Melrose, to Palomar, to Paseo Del Norte, to Cannon Rd. to Carlsbad Blvd. On the way back we took Cannon Rd. all the way to College Blvd. to Plaza Dr. to the bike shop again. The ride was about 22 miles and took about 2 hours and 15 minutes including a brief stop, which means we were making about 10 miles per hour. My Trek mountain bike served me quite well over the past several years especially on dirt rough roads up and down hills, but here in California one needs a road bike to take on those smoothly paved hilly roads that require a lighter and more maneuver capable bike, so I bought this Fuji Roubaix 1.0 road bike. This bike comes with a light aluminum frame (except the front fork which is all carbon), Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain, 105 front derailleur, and Oval compact crankset and Shimano 11/28 cassette. The wheels are Oval 327 with Vittoria Zaffiro slick Slick tires. At first I installed Shimano pedals with triangular cleats PD-R550 that go with Shimano RP-05 shoes, but after falling four or five times while using them I decided to return them and replace them with regular platform pedals. I rode this new bike along 18 miles which took me about two hours and the experience was fantastic. The Ultegra drivetrain shifts flawlessly and the brakes work great giving an overall exhilarating experience. I also liked the Oceanside bike shop "Performance Bikes" who accepted my returns with no questions asked, and they re-aligned my gears after my numerous falls off the bike free of charge.