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Published: June 26th 2017
JOHNNY'S JOURNEYS: PERU 2017
May 18, 2017 (Thursday)
Janet and I stayed at the Days Inn-Airport hotel last night in Kenner,LA.It was nice to be in
bed before 11 p.m. This morning we had a 7 a.m. wake-up call. Breakfast was at IHOP, located
adjacent to our hotel. After checking out, we drove out of the parking lot and across Airliner Hwy.
and we were at the airport. Wow, just right across the road.
My wife dropped me off about 9 a.m. and check-in at the American Airlines desk was very easy.
Rain delayed the flight by only 15 minutes. By 10:40 we were flying to Miami, FL. The flight took
us over the Gulf of Mexico for about an hour. Finally reaching the west coast of Florida, I could see
Sanibel Island from my window seat. 17 years ago, our family had collected hundreds of shells from
the lovely Sanibel Island, as we returned from a Key West trip.
I looked down at the vastness of the Everglades for a little while, before landing about 1:15.
I had a 4+ hour layover. A departures sign shows that my flight toLimais "on time". I found my gate
and plenty of empty seats. Was able to send a few text messages. I decided on a substantial meal at a
restaurant and ordered tomato-basil mahi mahi tuna. There were grilled veggies, mashed potatoes and
Coca-Cola. I chatted with a truck-driver from GA, Richard, at the next table.
Heavy rains in the area caused a 30 minute delay. So our flight left about 6:15 p.m. Surprise... only
20 minutes into the 6 hour flight, dinner is served. My tray held a chicken and rice dinner, salad, roll
butter, biscuits, cheese and dessert. I can only imagine how delicious the caramel brownie would have
tasted. I accidentally left it on the tray, as the crew collected the finished trays. That won't happen again.
It is time to change the watch back to Central Time. Our flight should last about 6 hours and we
will be in Lima about 10:15. This is my first trip to South America; and also the Southern Hemisphere.
Peruwill be the 30th country I have been to. No idea where my next new country will be.
I had a deep tissue massage yesterday, to get the kinks and knots out of my back and legs. That was
followed with a light spray tan (winter glow). I'll be able to fit in as a Peruvian; or not. Hey, I'm looking
good and feeling good. Thanks, Jasmine.
Flying over and out of south Florida, I can see thousands of small islands, rainbows, boats, clouds
and sailboats. I can recognize Cuba, as we fly over. A little while later I see the Cayman Islands. As
darkness sets in, I am able to take a little nap. Flying over Ecuador, I see sporadic patches of light
below... and an amazing array of stars above.
It is about 10:30 when I step foot in South America! And the good news is... the luggage arrives too.
After going through immigrations, I find the waiting area Larry told me about. And about 12:15, I meet
the other 9 team members. They had started their morning in Atlanta, GA. The Hotel Manhattan is just
a few miles away from the airport. Sam is my room-mate. In bed at 1:15 and the alarm rings at 5:15.
May 19, 2017 (Friday)
That was a quick 4 hours of sleep. And we do have hot water in the shower. I repack a few items
and am downstairs for breakfast at 6 a.m. I have one banana, one bottle of drinkable yogurt, a hard
roll with jelly and juice.
At 6:30 the bus is on its way to the airport. After checking in, we soon board for an 8:45 flight to
Tarapoto. Looking out the window, I am in awe of the majestic Andes Mountains. We fly over an end-
less sheet of white, fluffy clouds. Then several mountain peaks appear above the clouds. I view snow
capped peaks, glaciers and lakes. Beautiful! I can now make out small villages with zig-zag trails. A
breakfast box has a soft roll with ham and cheese, a brownie and pineapple juice.
At 10:10 we're walking across the tarmac and I see we're at 868 feet elevation. Two trucks await
us as we load the luggage. A little while later, we stop for gas and a 7 year old girl tries to sell drinks
to us. I do buy a bag of dried plantain chips for 35 cents. There is a two hour drive through rural areas
until we reach the city of Saposoa. We will stay the night at the San Martin hotel. There is a "green"
courtyard with hundreds of plants, trees and shrubbery. Also, three noisy parrots entertain us. My room-
mate from a few Costa Rica trips, Bob Simpson, texts me. He is praying for each of our team members
as we prepare for tomorrow's long hike. Thousands of folks back home are praying for our team.
Lunch is served today at Wilki Wilkinson's house. There is a nice sign to welcome the Men of Go
International. He is an amazing 67 year old minister who has "planted" 40 new churches in eastern Peru
and the Amazon region. We were served pork chops, salad, plantains, Inca Kola and Coca-Cola. Yum!
As our group headed back to the hotel, we stopped at a service station and all enjoyed ice cream.
That evening, Wilki served us supper at 6:00 and in a little while, there was a community church
service. How did we communicate with them? There were hand shakes, fist bumps, high fives, lots of
cheeky kisses and hugs. It lasted over two hours and there was lots of fine music. I was pleased to see
three young people involved. Larry delivered the sermon... "Jesus is passing through here tonight". And
it was translated by Daniel, a preacher from Tarapoto. It was a powerful message. Each of our team
members got up, introduced ourselves, and said a few words. When I spoke, I said that we had only been
here a few hours; but that I would always have a special place in my heart for them. A thirteen year old
girl that spoke during the service had been standing by me. She was really into the music, even dancing
to a few songs. When it was all over, she gave me a big bear-hug. I'm gonna miss these fine folks.
May 20, 2017 (Saturday)
It seems like we just got in bed at 11:30, after the church service, and now we are all getting up at
3 a.m. We are out of our rooms by 3:30 and loading the large Toyota truck. As we travel before dawn,
we are soon out of Saposoa and are no longer on paved roads. We drive north on bumpy, then super
bumpy, then muddy roads for a few hours. It looked like we had the road to ourselves, but several times
the motorized 3-wheel little vehicles (motor-taxi or tuk-tuk) passed us, on the way to Saposoa. We drove
through the community of Yacusisa and there were a few lights on. Stopping in the small town ofPasa-
raya, several of our guys get out and await a second truck. We have maybe 10 stops to cool off the tires
or engine, or give a big push when we are stuck in 2-3 feet of mud.
Finally, our truck reaches the small town of Ilusion. It is truly the end of the unpaved road. Then we
wait and wait. The second truck brought our other team members within 5 miles of Ilusion, before it
became totally stuck in mud. Yes, these guys hiked 5 miles to reach us. So at 9:20 we finally begin an
incredible 16 mile hike.
It had rained heavily a few days earlier. Heck, we were still at the end of rainy season. I have never
hiked on such a MUDDY trail. So glad I purchased aluminum hiking poles. They were practically a
life-saver as I stepped on thousands and thousands of muddy rocks and boulders. Too often there was
just no dry trail. When one boot sinks down into 12-15 inches of mud, you know this is going to be a
long and difficult day.
I had close to 2 liters of water in my new camel-bak back-pack. Plus, I had filled two bottles with
one liter of water. We stopped maybe eight times at a stream or creek or river to utilize our water
purifiers. Activated charcoal will filter 99.999%!o(MISSING)f the water borne critters.
Last year's missionary trip to Olivos was during the dry season and "only" took about 9 hours. I
had exercised and trained and spent many hours on the treadmill machine at South Alabama pre-
paring for a 9 hour hike. Honestly, with all the mud, sucking our boots down, this was very slow
going. The longer the day went, the less energy we could muster. I kept telling myself "don't stop,
don't stop, don't stop" as we approached very steep inclines and very steep declines along the trail.
Hiking on these muddy trails and muddy rocks was treacherous. About 6 miles into the hike, I
slipped off a big old muddy boulder and my right leg got stuck in the mud. THEN, my left leg and
back plopped down. I felt a very painful snap in my right leg and knew I had just pulled my hamstring.
Absolutely not what we needed today. Soon I had leg cramps in 3 different places. I need to keep on
drinking plenty of water.
Last night in Saposoa, the sun set about 5:45. And now it is getting dark fast. Should we stay at a
little shelter, which had no walls (meaning no protection from mosquitoes or any creepy, crawly
critters) or should we continue into the darkness? Right at that moment, a tarantula spider, about the
size of my fist, started to climb up Ramone's boot. Stomp! Let's continue and see how far we can go.
Larry, our leader, tried diligently to encourage me with "I am not going to sleep in the jungle tonight"!
A little earlier, two teenage guides took our back-packs, to lighten the load for us. Well, we lagged
behind with hurt legs, and did not see them until the next day. Yep, back-packs with water purifiers,
trail mix, flash-lights and water were now out of reach. Most every step was painful, but I had to go
on. Took many breaks... no energy. Sometimes I could only hike 5 minutes, then have to rest again.
Ramone visited a small house by the river and brought us a couple of oranges and a delicious papaya.
Pitch-black darkness was now upon us as we continued our jungle hike with just a few small flash-
lights. Occasionally we could see through the canopy above. The stars and constellations inspired me.
They were gorgeous! What might have made the hike a little better would have been markers. We could
not tell how many miles we had already hiked... or how many more miles to go. A reply from one of
the locals was "I can make it in 30 minutes, but it will take you at least two hours". So we continued.
In the jungle darkness, we were nearing exhaustion, and with scant water... yes, we were scared.
Dehydration was setting in. What else could we do? "Lord Jesus, guide every step... I can't make it
without you". This was my constant prayer and plea hundreds of times. Really did not know if we
could make it. Several times I thought we would be forced to sleep in the jungle that evening. Larry
was ever-encouraging, like a coach "we ARE going to make it. We are NOT going to sleep in the jungle
tonight". Daniel then chimed in "at least not here". That got us all laughing.
I found out later that two local guides had gone ahead to the village of Olivos and were going to
retrieve two mules for us. There were more steep and muddy uphill climbs and then downhill climbs.
We finally reached a small river crossing. And to help me out, here was a mule. I crossed the river,
boots in the water, and was the first to the far side. I was given two tangerines because they thought I
was dehydrated and talking unusual. That seemed to help. Then I drank a whole bottle of filtered river
water. How much further? two hours became four hours. It was near midnight.
From out of nowhere, I'm given a can of tuna and some crackers. And finally we arrive at the last
and probably river crossing... maybe 100 yards wide. We strained our eyes, looking for the lights of
Olivos. Oh no..... we missed a turn on the trail and are way farther upriver than we should be. I'm glad
to be on a mule, but absolutely wiped out. 90 minutes later, WE ARRIVE and WE'RE ALIVE!!!!!!!!
It is 1:40 in the morning. The last seven hours in the jungle were in pitch black darkness, with 8 people
and 3 small flashlights. All thanks and glory to God, for we would have never made it on our own. A
few times I reminded Larry of a devotion in the Upper Room Methodist magazine from earlier in the
month. From Psalms 119: "My Word is a lamp unto thy feet, and a light unto thy path". That was meant
for us! God delivered us that night. Can't wait to see what big plans He has for us.
Our home is a 2-story building for the next four nights. The dirt-floored church is on the bottom
floor. We are upstairs and sleep in tents or hammocks. Tonight, I slept in a hammock for the first time.
And with a mosquito net over me, I was asleep by 2:00 a.m.
May 21, 2017 (Sunday)
Getting up a little after 7 o'clock, we take turns at a small wooden building. I had been mentally
preparing to shave, shower and shampoo in the nearby river. Within the last year, a pipe now brings
cold river water to our "new shower". Back in the big room I start to dress. "Johnny, your leg"! Well,
there is a huge black and purple bruise from the top of my right leg... half-way down my calf. Yes, this
is going to hurt for quite awhile. Had some anti-inflammatory gel to rub on it. Thanks, Dr. Angel.
I've been looking forward to breakfast. We are served lentils and rice and coffee (rather diluted with
lots of sugar). Now, it is time to get to work. My plans to be dental assistant have changed. Instead, I
will work with Dr. Angel, who is a physician at a hospital in Lima. For three days, I'll be a physician's
assistant. In the church, there are partitions to separate the dental clinic from the medical clinic. On the
steps of the pulpit is where the local villagers are checked for reading glasses. We treated six people
before lunch. The most memorable one was a 7 year old boy with a bad sore on his leg. His mother
was treating it, not with Neosporin ointment... but with battery acid. That blew me away!
At lunch today we were treated to a little pork and rice, veggies and hominy. I really couldn't guess
what type of juice we drank. But it was good. Back at work in our little medical clinic, we saw maybe
eight more patients. They would come and sit down and talk to the doctor. Then, he turned to me, and
translated what their issues were. I then prescribed which medicines to dispense. He had brought a large
box of medications from Lima. He agreed with my choice of prescription medicines most every time.
That was quite satisfying, from a professional role. At 5:00 we went on back to the room and rested.
Our first night in Olivos and we were hosting a church service. Andy and Eligio provided the music
and we sang close to 45 minutes. Several of our guys gave their personal testimonies. The local people
listened intently. Just to summarize, Jesus made all the difference in the world. Larry then preached,
while Daniel translated. I do believe they make a very good team. Six people responded to the altar call
tonight. A few of our guys went and prayed with them. It was a happy and successful evening. We said
our good-nights, then I was in my hammock.
May 22, 2017 (Monday)
I didn't expect roosters to be doing their thing at 2:30 a.m. Maybe they were glad to have us there.
I was curious what we would have for breakfast. Well, today we enjoy beets and rice. And there is a
"sludge" of bananas and milk to drink. Interesting. Time for work, and we saw folks in the medical
clinic from 9:00 - 12 noon. The 7 y.o. boy we saw yesterday came to see us. Now, his mother had
tied a clove of garlic to his leg sore. Well, it was probably better than battery acid. There was a steady
flow of patients. When it was time for lunch, we sat and chatted about what all the other guys had been
doing. Some had ledVacationBibleSchoolactivities; others worked on a water filtration unit and the
building it was in. A few of the guys were helping the village folks, getting their coffee beans to dry in
the sun. We had given away all the reading glasses. And the dentist and his assistant continued to see
lots of folks and pulling teeth. We tried to decide if this was rooster soup or chicken soup. It was the
toughest chicken I had ever eaten. There was a comment about seeing less roosters this morning.
At 1:15 Dr. Angel and I were ready to go see our patients again. Just about every woman we saw
suffered from a urinary tract infection and also a yeast infection. We also dispensed two prescriptions
for them to take home to their husbands. Dr. Angel told them no sexual relations for the next ten days.
Just use your imagination as I used my hands to "repeat" what he said. I also told them loudly "no, no,
no, no, no!!!" We heard a little later from unhappy husbands that the doctor and I were "bad boys".
At 4:45 we had seen our last patient when a young fellow was brought to us. He had been bitten by
a (poisonous ?) spider an hour earlier. His left hand was very swollen. We decided on a cocktail of
three different medicines. Then gave him a triple dose of the only antihistamine, chlorpheniramine. A
high dose, but he really needed it. Also gave him enough acetaminophen for several days.
We sat with him and his father over an hour. I thought of all the discomfort, pain and difficulty we
had endured. I pondered the idea that there were no medical facilities within 40 miles of us. I truly
believe our actions saved his hand... and quite possibly his life. This made everything "worth it"!
Our supper this evening was spaghetti and a vegetable 'mush'. There was 1/4 strength coffee with
plenty of sugar. Hey, I can handle this. And it was very tasty. I told our team that one year ago, Janet
and I had been on a Mediterranean cruise. And on this date, May 22nd, I had won the Mr. Sexy Legs
contest. Look at me now, one year later... Mr. Purple Legs!
Nothing is planned for us tonight. I climb into my hammock at 7:30 p.m. I think that just two nights
ago, we still had another 6 hours of hiking ahead of us. Amazing... We all settled into sleeping bags,
tents and hammocks early tonight. Then we individually related our experiences of the day to our
team-mates. All lights were out by 9:30.
May 23, 2017 (Tuesday)
At 4 a.m. I think I hear a shotgun. Later in the day, we hear that a villager shot a mountain lion or
shot at a mountain lion. Hope to get more details later. I snooze a little longer than almost everyone.
I really wake up at 7:30 with a cold, refreshing shower. Breakfast today is rice and plantains with a
banana milk/sludge. Okay, we're ready to take on our last day at Olivos!
At the medical clinic, every school child is coming to get a "worm" tablet from us today. For the
children that had difficulty swallowing a large tablet, I would snap them into two halves. And the
youngest students received just 1/2 tablet. This will just have to last them until a team comes back
next year. For each young boy drinking down his tablet, I prayed "God bless you, little man". And
a "God bless you, little sweetie" for the girls. I truly believe He will. One of their teachers brought us
a hand-made thank you souvenir. It was a cardboard fish with lots of scales drawn on it, yellow and
blue fins and one blue eye. A note on the fin was "Gracias por su visita" or Thanks for your visit.
At the lunch break, the gracious ladies served chicken soup with pasta noodles, unsweet and sweet
plantains. As we rest a little, it is just so relaxing to listen to a light rain on the tin roof.
There will be no more patients to treat at the medical or dental clinics. We shall spend the after-
noon with the children at Vacation Bible School activities. There was Bible reading by Andy as he
talked about wearing crowns in Heaven. 36 children listened and then started to color. Two of us guys
cut out crowns from an activity book. Each child wrote his or her name on the crown. Now for the
fun... decorating the crowns with glittery silver or gold glue. And then we had hundreds of small
stickers for them to decorate their crowns. Oh, the joy of those precious little kids! Strings were
attached and the children could now wear their crowns. They had a blast. I had my camera and took lots
of photos. The kids loved looking at their own pictures. I know I took pictures of every child there; and
several for some of them. Fun!
Some of our guys wanted to go swimming in the river (a 4 minute walk). Some swam, some played
with the kids who came and joined us, some shampooed their hair. One small boy found a large batch
of foam and covered his face and head. The children enjoyed playing with new balloons. Eligio and
others cross the river, build a small mound of rocks, then tie a white balloon at the point where we plan
to exit the river tomorrow morning around 5 a.m.
Back in the big room, we start to pack and get ready to leave soon. We spend a lot of time at a big
bucket of river water. Got to pump the water purifier system and have drinkable water for the return
hike. I filled the camel-bak back pack with 1.5 liters of water. Then I pump water into three 1-liter
bottles. Then I added Propel electrolytes powder into them. I think I'll be ready.
After supper tonight, we prepare for another church service. Andy and Eligio start playing around
7:30 as the villagers slowly come on in. There is some good music tonight as everyone joins in the
singing. Once again, Larry delivers a stirring sermon as Daniel translates for him. After an even-
toned delivery, the message builds to a crescendo. At the altar call, we see an amazing, really just
an overwhelming response to let Jesus into our lives... as Lord and Savior. Five teachers from the
school and over 35 school students make their way down to the front of the church. Larry asks our
team to come down and pray with them and pray for them. There were two groups of people down
there... two huge group hugs. Tears of joy as lives were transformed tonight. So incredibly emotional.
I stood among them and touched each and every one on their shoulders and their heads. Over and
over, and over, all I could pray (in English) was "I love you, but God loves you more"! I'm sure they
could feel what was in my heart. I thought of what I had first said at a team meeting. We were coming
to this remote village in the Peruvian jungle to "touch hearts and change lives". Yes, we did. I looked
down once and saw a little boy and a little girl hugging me. They were both at belt level. Wow, what
an evening. What a way to finish our time in Olivos. I'll never forget this night. So many hugs and
hand-shakes as we leave the church tonight and head upstairs to our room. A little more packing of
my stuff and I'm finally in bed at 11:30. One more night to sleep in my hammock.
May 24, 2017 (Wednesday)
Everyone gets up at 4 a.m. Hey, we have not even heard the roosters yet. I've decided to leave the
hammock here. I won't be coming back, and maybe someone else can use it. Duffel bags and other
stuff are put into waterproof (?) bags and placed on six mules. They will carry the heavy load. I've
got more appreciation for these beasts of burden, especially since I will spend hours on one today.
It is still dark as we exit the village of Olivos. I think that it was "settled" just 17 years ago. No
electricity lines from the closest town, but there are generators to work the light bulbs. At 5:15 we
start to cross the Saposoa River. They want me to be the second member to cross. It is slow going
and yes it is pretty chilly. With so many unseen rocks and boulders in the river, you just have to go
slow. The water is stomach level deep as I make it across, holding a plastic bag. Reaching the other
side, I remove my swimming shoes and shorts. Time to dry off, put on dry blue jeans, socks and my
hiking boots. The wet items will just stay there until they are retrieved by the local folks.
Our return adventure has begun. Crossing here will save us two miles of hiking. Still, we will be
on muddy, muddy, muddy trails all day long. With my leg injury, Larry had arranged for me to ride
a mule. Wow, this was most appreciated. Just three days ago, I had really thought I might have to
pay for a helicopter to retrieve me. (That is only done with life-threatening conditions). Sometimes,
the uphill hike was too steep and I had to exit the mule. At other times, the downhill hike was too
steep so that I had to exit the mule. Once, the old mule was too close to a large boulder and I scraped
my leg. Several times, the mule strayed away from the muddy bog and went to a higher ground. That
is when I was riding in the thick brush or thorny plants or low-hanging tree limbs. Gee, the adventure
just continued. Twice, the trail was so steep that the mule fell. I thought about that often, wondering
if I would have the mule fall ON ME. Glad that did not happen. I counted up the unlucky times on
this long and treacherous trail. Coming and going, nine times I fell on the rocks and four times I fell
off the mule. After hours and hours, I was looking like a pretty decent cowboy.
Passing through a creek or stream gave us an opportunity to pull out water purifiers and rehydrate.
We are going to make this... even if it is at the end of the rainy season. Then, like an oasis, after 12
miles we reached a shelter. And there was lunch awaiting us. Wilki had arranged for a woman to be
there and cook for us. Bless her heart. This was wonderful! And the gentle rains became very heavy.
Within the last few days, four rafts had been made for us. Each had about 5-6 logs of balsa wood
which were tied together with vines. Then small pieces of what looked like firewood were tied to the
long logs. These were our seats. Oh boy, this does not look too sturdy or safe. Eligio assured me that
since he was a certified Lifeguard, I had nothing to worry about. Well I felt better. Right at the edge of
the river, he found a small tarantula spider. We just hope it does not want to go with us.
With the heavy rains, the river level was up and flowing rapidly. One of our rafts immediately
flipped over. Twice, I was able to scoot over and keep ours from flipping. One raft got sort of hung
up in low branches and two of our men were thrown off. Oh, there were no life preservers. Just way
too dangerous that we could not even go one-half a mile. Two rafts had to cross the river to join the
other two rafts. So, we will hike another four miles.
When we reached the flat area with hundreds of cacao trees, I was feeling pretty good about our
situation. We are going to make it! Then we finally see Ilusion about 5:30. Civilization never looked
so good. And we still have about 20 minutes before sunset.
There is one Toyota truck in the town. Four of us sit inside and all our stuff is loaded in the back.
That means nine guys will stand up, squeezed in like sardines, for the long ride back to Saposoa. It
took so long to navigate the steep, almost impassible roads. I think we got stuck in the mud on four
occasions. The driver got a shovel and sometimes used a pick-axe to chop away and remove the clay
in front of the truck when the ruts were too deep. The guys in the back would get out and push. That
would usually help us go a little farther. Once, we all had to get out. As several guys were pushing
with all their strength, Daniel chimed in with "I am pushing with my faith". We needed a little humor.
The streams and creeks we drove through seemed a little deeper. "Lord Jesus, we cannot make it
without you". So true that night. Going up or down the very steep and unpaved roads, I must have
prayed that hundreds of times. One more foot, one more yard, one more mile... "Lord guide us"!
We really take things for granted back home, like paved roads. The distance we drove that night
from Ilusion to Saposoa... on a paved interstate would have taken maybe 20 minutes. For us, in one
very crowded Toyota truck, it took 5 and 1/2 hours. Yes, a little after 11:30 we arrived at our hotel
in Saposoa. Oh my, such muddy jeans and boots. So glad to get out of these wet clothes and sleep in
a dry bed tonight.
May 25, 2017 (Thursday)
After another cold shower, Wilki had arranged for us to have breakfast at 7:30. We had a potato,
pork chop, apple, juice and bottled water. Several of us decide to leave incredibly muddy clothes
and socks behind. Daniel gathers them all into a plastic bag and will take them home to wash. These
will then be given away to those in need. That was nice. I snap a photo of a motor bike with three
riders and a dog. There are two trucks and one bus we load onto. Then we're leaving for Tarapoto.
Hoped I would get a good shot of a statue as we left town. It is a frog holding a boot. That seems to be
the rough translation for the word "Saposoa".
Two hours have passed when we reach the Tarapoto airport. Daniel's wife brings pizza and juice
to the airport to feed us. I will repeat... pizza!!! It was delicious. Such a kind and thoughtful gesture.
We gather upstairs for one final and farewell group photo. Our leader, Larry, is joined by Jack, Sam,
Andy, Brandon, Caleb, David, Eligio, Johnny and Justin. From their home country, we have Gerson the
dentist, Daniel the preacher and Dr. Angel. What an amazing missionary trip this has been.
We begin to board our plane and a little before 3:00 we are heading west. At the capital of Lima, we
arrive at 4:05. We're then driven to a very nice hotel, the Gran Hotel Bolivar. Built in 1924, it was the
first large, modern hotel constructed in Lima. It is centrally located by the Plaza San Martin. And in
1972, this was declared a national monument. I was surprised to see a 1920 Model-T Ford in the lobby.
I enjoyed glancing at a book with photos of some celebrities that have stayed there. Names I recognized
include: John Wayne, President Richard Nixon, Walt Disney, Ava Gardner, Charles de Gaulle, Orson
Welles, Julio Iglesia, Clark Gable, Ernest Hemingway and Santana.
7:00 is suppertime and the experienced team-mates have talked about going to Norky's all week.
Just a few blocks away, this restaurant serves rotisserie chicken. Large platters include 1/4 chickens,
fresh salad and french fries. We also chose between Coca-Cola and Inca Kola. It was so good that we
ordered another round, and cleaned every platter again. Dr. Angel came to join us. And there were 3
men that Larry wanted to introduce. There was an incredible story about the preacher. He was the son
and grandson of preachers. Seems like a farmer from Kansas came to Peru in the 1920s and began
preaching and saving souls. One such man who turned his life around was the grandfather of our guest
tonight. Wow, talk about planting a seed and letting God work things out on His schedule.
A short while later, we were back at the hotel and went to Larry's room. This was an emotional,
but powerful time together. Each of us spent a few minutes talking about this past week, what we had
learned and experienced, how we saw God move in our lives and the lives of the fine people of Olivos.
As we closed, Larry broke bread and communion was served to each of us. What a mighty message to
ponder, "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them". Amen...
May 26, 2017 (Friday)
Sam set his phone's alarm clock for 5:30. At 6:20 a taxi is waiting for me. I have booked a 4 day
vacation tour. The traffic is not as heavy as I expect. And it only takes about 25 minutes to arrive at
the Lima airport. There is no trouble checking in at the lcPeru desk. I'm actually a little early; with
about 3 hours until my flight. At the top of the stairs I make my way to the chapel. It is rather simple,
with two benches. I quietly stay in there 20 minutes... just very thankful for so many blessings.
The security check point was easy and I make my way to the food court. I go to Pardos Chicken
and order two fried eggs, toast and hot tea for $3.75. It is quite cloudy as two buses shuttle 120 of us
passengers out to the lcPeru plane. Weather delays us about 30 minutes as we leave at 10:20 a.m.
I marvel at the incredible views of the Andes Mountains as hundreds of peaks break through the
clouds. For a breakfast snack, we're served peanuts and orange juice. I also get to see glaciers, snow-
capped peaks and pretty blue lakes. In about one hour we reach the Cusco airport. I've need to take a
photo of the large basket of coca leaves. The sign encourages visitors "Free Coca Leafs, Take Only 3".
They are supposed to reduce the chance of altitude sickness. Both pieces of luggage arrive with me.
There is a money exchange where I swap $400 USD for Peruvian soles.
Dozens of people are holding signs, trying to connect with passengers. I'm so happy to see Keila,
holding a small white sign with one word: COBB. She is a representative for Peru Vacation Tours
and is also my taxi driver this morning. I am staying one night at the Hotel Garcilaso. Cusco sits at an
elevation of 11,020 feet. Hot coca leaf tea is served as I check into my room. It really works as I have
no trouble with altitude sickness. I rest for 90 minutes before I start the Cusco City Tour.
Someone is waiting for me at the lobby desk about 1:30. There is a three block walk to Plaza de
Armas. This has always been the "heart of Cusco", since the time of the Inca Empire. It is the colonial
center of the city. This plaza has been the scene of many key events in the history of the city. It was here
that Spaniard Francisco Pizzaro proclaimed the conquest of Cusco. A magnificent cathedral and the
Church of La Compania flank it on two sides. Our first visit was to the Cusco Cathedral, which was built
on top of the ruins of the Inca Palace. Walking on narrow streets, I saw lots of locals dressed in the
vibrant traditional clothing, even children. They liked having their pictures taken... for a little donation.
There was a large courtyard type area with extensive archaeological work going on. I was extremely
impressed with the difference between the stones that the Inca people had placed (perfect fits) and what
the Spanish had tried to duplicate. Of course, I liked the cobbled streets too. After a little while, it was
time for 25 tourists to load onto a bus, heading out of town.
Ten minutes later we visit Sacsaywaman, best known for its megalithic stone walls. Our guide loved
to mis-pronounce the name and called it "Sexy woman". I counted 9 levels of terraces. Most impressive
was the size of the boulders, and how they were brought in from quarries several miles away. This area
is best described as a pre-Inca mountain fortress. For more than 50 years, it took over 20,000 men to
work this site. This occurred in the 14th and 15th centuries. What is left today is so impressive!
Just below Saqsaywaman is the Cristo Blanco, or White Christ. The statue was a gift from Christian
Palestinians in 1945 who were seeking refuge in Cusco. The statue is 26 feet high and depicts Christ
holding His arms outward. Being a tourist, I just had to have my picture taken with 5 Peruvian women
with their llamas. Yes, I am on vacation.
We load onto the tour bus and drive to Tambomachay. The elevation is now 12,352 feet. A stone
road led us up to the Inca baths. It was used as a resting and watering place. The water itself was wor-
shipped as the source of life. The site is composed of a set of finely carved stone structures, aqueducts
and waterfalls originating from nearby springs.
The last archaeological stop was at Q'Enqo. This temple was carved out of a giant monolith. One of
the chambers is set up as an amphitheater. It was used as some type of sacrifice to the sun, moon and
star gods who were worshiped at this site. It was an extremely holy site for the Incas. Their dead were
judged and possibly embalmed in the winding tunnels. Blood sacrifices were offered to the heavenly
The lights of Cusco at night were spectacular from high atop the mountains. Our last stop was at a
store where many bought authentic alpaca and llama items: blankets, throws, jackets, clothing, etc. I
did not realize there was so much deception by some of the people who try to sell inferior or fake items
and have sewn on a 100%!g(MISSING)enuine label on the piece. The store representative had several pieces and
showed us the differences, such as touch, texture and temperature of the items. We laughed, learning
the difference between "baby" alpaca and "maybe" alpaca articles to purchase.
This was a most interesting 5+ hour tour. Back in Cusco, we were dropped off near the Plaza de
Armas. Walking a few blocks, I entered the Restaurant Ukum. There was a menu item I had not tried
before. Well, of course I had to try alpaca steak. It was served with salad, veggies and french fries. No
sweet tea so I drank another Inca Kola. Very good.
My hotel was 3 blocks away and it was downright cold at 8:15. The night-time cold may be due to
the elevation. I charge the camera and phone batteries, work on the travel diary and am asleep by 10:00.
May 27, 2017 (Saturday)
Happy birthday to my nephew, Jason in Texas! I'm up at 6:15 and in the hotel lobby at 7:20. This
will be a long day for me. A Peru Vacation Tours staff member walks me a few blocks to our tourist
bus. There are about 25 people of us as we drive north, out of Cusco. Our guide, Eloy, gives us
history and culture lessons for hours. So informative.
There is a short stop at El Mirador for spectacular views of the whole Sacred Valley. This was a
key settlement area for the Incas; with its combination of fertile plains and wonderful climate. We
see mountain terraces and irrigation channels. As we approach another small town, we see a type of
animal farm for the tourists to come and walk through. There are llamas, vicuna, deer and alpacas.
That looks like fun.
I see a few glaciers on some mountain peaks. And there is the fertile Urubamba River. There are
beautiful fields of corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, lemon grass, peaches, avocados, tomatoes,
peas and quinoa. Also, I see mats where corn and coffee beans are drying in the sun.
As we approach Pisaq, there is a short stop to purchase something to eat. I buy an orange Fanta and
a pack of sweet potato chips for breakfast. I notice that most homes nearby have small, ceramic bulls
on top of them. These are believed to bring fertility and economic fortune. Pisaq is an archeological
treasure of Incan ruins. I loved these terraces, about 52 levels. Of course I hiked to the very top! Pisaq
was likely a fortress to defend the valley and control trade routes. The Incans constructed different
buildings for military, religious and agricultural purposes. Remnants include the Temple of the Sun,
altars and ceremonial shrines. Another amazing place.
The tour bus takes us to the town ofPisaq. We stop at a silver jewelry making store. Very interesting
to see how the pieces are assembled. And we are taught how to spot "fake" jewelry. So many goodies for
sale. I buy a butterfly necklace and a small llama with turquoise on its back. Across the street there is a
huge market to explore. There must be millions of homemade souvenirs. They've got whatever ya want.
Continuing our tour, we drive through the small town of Huayllabamba. A wedding has concluded
and the bride and groom and at least 100 well-wishers are walking down the main street. Confetti and
rice shower the newlyweds. Such a lovely sight. We then see roadside vendors selling skewers of cuy,
or we call them guinea pig. Even saw a cute statue of a guinea pig, in front of a restaurant, to welcome
the hungry folks.
We then stopped at an oasis with gorgeous gardens and hydrangea flowers. Our lunch today will be
a superb buffet. I thought I saw a sign saying Muna. There are literally hundreds of salads, appetizers,
veggies, breads, meats and desserts to choose from. It is time for me to try some new foods: llama, beef
tongue and purple corn pudding. What a wonderful variety; just delicious! A Peruvian pan-flute was
played by a talented musician, Daniel. And I bought his music CD for $7 called "Land of the Inka".
As we continued riding, we passed a most unusual "hotel". It can only be reached by rock-climbing.
There are four sky-pods, literally hanging off the mountain. Dinner and breakfast are served for about
$400 per night. I had seen videos of this, before coming down here. Sure looked like an adventure.
Our tour continues as we reach Ollantaytambo. From this location, one can see all three valleys.
Located at 9160 feet, this site of Inca ruins contain terraces, Temple Hill, storehouses, and a defense
system. Three miles away are the quarries from which all these stones came. Very narrow paths lead
up 18 terraces to the top, at the Military Zone. Our guide slowly led us all the way to the top. I knew
I could do it! On the other side of the town, up in the mountains are the ruins of storage granaries. A
gentle rain started as we finished the tour and watched llamas graze nearby. This is so neat...
The tour was now over and what an amazing day to see these incredible Inca ruins. The bus drove
a few of us tourists to an office, where we waited for our train. All the others will return to Cusco. I
have plenty of time to explore the downtown area. I see a few light poles at the town square. Three
animals are near the top: a condor, a puma and a serpent. A church service has just begun as I step
into a church. There is an infant baptism tonight. Joyful and proud parents. That was special to see.
There is a slight problem. There was an envelope for me at the Cusco hotel this morning. I did not
receive it. It only contained train tickets, bus tickets and the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. Keila
drove over an hour to deliver them to the train station here in Ollantaytambo. Such a dedicated tour
representative. She has a passion for helping other people.
Twenty of us walk about 12 blocks to the train station. Several trains came through until mine
finally arrived. A passport and one train ticket has me heading to Aguas Calientes (hot water). This town
is closest to Machu Picchu. Snacks are served as we go north in the Peruvian darkness. Reaching our
destination an hour later, at 10:30, I'm met by another tour company representative. There is only a 3
block walk to the Inka Tower Hotel. For a budget hotel, this place is NICE! Time to go on to bed.
May 28, 2017 (Sunday)
I wake up 4 times, thinking I've missed the wake-up call. It's okay, as I do receive one at 6:15 a.m.
There is a nice variety for breakfast: 3 flavors of pourable yogurt; ham and cheese; grapes, bananas and
orange juice. When I check out, I only have one small plastic bag that I had brought yesterday from
There is a 4 block walk to the bus station, then a 30 minute bus ride with lots of zig-zag hair-pin
curves. A guide meets me between 8:45 and 9:00. For $1.65 I will store my "overnight bag". Then I
finally meet the English speaking tour guide a little after 9:00. There are about 30 in our group. I'm
here... I'm finally here in MACHU PICCHU! This is a United Nations World Heritage Site. Also, it is
listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The 2 and 1/4 hour tour was extremely
informative. Before the Spanish conquest, there were 22 million Incas living in South America. And
what an archaeological legacy they left. You know that I took hundreds of pictures here. Every shot
seemed to be awe-inspiring.
Machu Picchu (meaning Old Mountain or old peak) dates back to the mid-1400's. It was abandoned
about 100 years after its construction. The Spanish never attacked or even visited the place. Some
historians say a smallpox epidemic wiped out the population. We may never know. Some believe it
served as a royal estate for Inca emperors and nobles. Others think it was a religious site, or a trading
hub, or a station for testing new crops or a prison.
There were four distinctive areas: a farming zone, a royal district, a residential district and a sacred
area. The walls, terraces, stairways and ramps blend in nicely with the natural setting. The terraced
fields, finely crafted stonework and irrigation system bear witness to the Inca's mastery of architecture,
engineering and agriculture. By far, the most advanced civilization in South America. When the tour
ended, I re-entered and this time took a different route to climb to the top! What magnificent views!!! I
could even see the Vilcabamba River below.
Time to retrieve my overnight plastic bag and get on the next bus (which runs every 10 minutes). As
I get back to Aguas Calientes, my tour package provides me a ticket to a scrumptious buffet lunch at
Toto's House restaurant. There is a huge selection of fine eating... I had a window table, overlooking the
VilcabambaRiver. That was wonderful.
I'm just a few blocks from a huge market, with tons of souvenirs to choose from. I find post-cards,
a tee-shirt and a few other items. I'm ready to get to the train station. There are hundreds of people
waiting like me. I enjoy talking with a college student from Vermont. And I thoroughly enjoy the
scenery in the daylight hours. We pass farmland, primitive homes, majestic mountains, some that are
still capped in snow, a few glaciers, small towns and hiking trails in the hills and mountains. The train
track pretty much followed the river.
After a few hours, the train arrives near Cusco, at Poroy. No one is there waiting for me. That was
unusual. But I only had to wait at the station for 8 minutes before my taxi driver arrives. Then he picks
up two other passengers. In just a little while I am checking into the Garcilaso Hotel, in the same room I
was in two nights ago.
I walk a few blocks away to the large plaza. I see a business advertising massages. I think that would
help my leg. So I schedule one for the next morning. Then its time to find a restaurant. Tonight I wanted
to eat cuy, or guinea pig. There is just not a lot of meat on these little animals. So many bones to work
through. But it was fairly tasty. I'm glad I tried it. In bed tonight at 10:30.
May 29, 2017 (Monday)
Up around 8:00 and go downstairs for a diverse breakfast. There are scrambled eggs, ham, yogurt,
fruit and papaya juice. I walk 4 blocks to the Plaza de Armas for my 10:00 appointment. Jessica at
Glamour Massage will give me a 1 hour Inka massage. This is essentially a deep tissue and Swedish
massage with emphasis on the back and legs (including feet). It then concluded with hot stones. Oh,
that felt good. Thought about staying longer, but there are other things to see and do.
Across the street, I visited the Cusco Museum of Natural History. There were displays of insects,
ants, butterflies, birds, over 150 snakes and even pumas. There is also a collection or pre-Inca pottery. I
was impressed. It is the most visited museum inCusco.
For lunch today, I thought I would try something different. And I found a vegan restaurant called
The Green Patio. Over a dozen tables set up in the courtyard. And an entertaining menu to look at.
Let's go all out healthy today with a "burrito" and lemon grass drink. The burrito and grilled veggies
were excellent, but I probably won't order a lemon grass drink anytime soon.
Within 5 minutes I'm back at my hotel and retrieve my two pieces of luggage. They were locked
away safely, when I checked out. I fill out a survey for the Peru Vacation Tours people (and was very
complimentary). My taxi should be here at 2:20. Well, Keila comes to get me and we walk just a few
blocks to our waiting taxi. I'm saying good-bye about 15 minutes later at the airport.
I have a 4:40 flight scheduled, but there are spaces available on a 4:10 flight to Lima. Sure. Two
ladies on my row are from California and Holland and we talk about our adventures in Peru. A $10.00
taxi drive takes me to my Hotel Padama. It is about one mile from the airport. I am booked for 2 nights.
After a little rest and getting settled, I go downstairs and inquire about local restaurants. One of the
two employees unlocks the door and escorts me three blocks to the D'Kaza restaurant. I order a huge
plate of rice, chicken and scrambled eggs, plus one large papaya juice and a bottle of water for $7.00
So much food that I couldn't finish it all. Yum! In bed tonight by 9:45.
May 30, 2017 (Tuesday)
Wow, 9 hours of sleep... that was nice. Breakfast is served on the 6th floor. There is a lot of Lima
to been seen from this height. About 11 a.m. I'm down at the desk and inquiring about a taxi to the
Mira Flores district. It was only 60 soles, or $20 USD. What a bargain.
Jose, the taxi driver, picks me up about ten minutes later and we drive through the chaos of
the capital city. So many honking car and truck horns! As we stop at red lights, he uses his smart
phone to type in a question, which is then translated into English. That worked pretty well. Jose typed
that he would pick me up at the same spot, at the Kennedy Park. We decided that I would be there for
a 5 o'clock rendezvous. That will give me a little over 5 hours and I won't have to worry about a ride
back. Alright Johnny, let's go walking. That is the best way to see the area.
Two blocks away, I stop at a restaurant and look at the large menu sign: Traditional Peruvian Food.
I'm not ready to eat yet, so I'll keep walking down Oscar Benavides Blvd. Near the coastal blvd. I must
have climbed 100 steps to reach the pedestrian bridge. It crosses 6 lanes of traffic.
I'm now walking the sidewalk by the rocky beach. There are a few dozen tent-top areas renting wet-
suits and surf-boards. 50 or more surfers are out today, at this little stretch of the Pacific Ocean. I see
no sand... just small rocks for the beach. I find a great spot to pick up 18 small rocks of differing shapes
and colors. These will go in a zip-lock bag and added to my small collection. This close to the Pacific
Ocean, I just have to stick my fingers in there. Oops, a big wave covers my shoes, too.
I ask two municipal workers for directions to the lighthouse. I've got to take the steps back to the
top of the 200 foot hill. Then it is in view: the Mira Flores lighthouse. For some reason, I am drawn to
lighthouses. I'm able to take lots of pictures with the ocean in the background. I feel successful. I walk
by tennis courts and the flat area where paragliding occurs. A red flag means no paragliding. No one
is out there with their parachutes. Just too windy... very disappointing.
Its time to go back up the main avenue for lunch, the traditional Peruvian food. I'm seated at an out-
side table, near the sidewalk. The afternoon special is a free Pisco sour. Not sure what a pisco is, so I
will research that back home. I order lomas saltado. It is beef tips with rice, tomatoes, peppers, chili
sauce and french fries. I also ordered Inca Kola and a bottle of water. The New Zealand man at the next
table offered me a pisco sour; since his wife didn't drink alcohol. They are only 3 ounces and seem to be
the "traditional" Peruvian drink. Wow, lunch was so good!
I walked back towards the beach and pass the Parque del Amor. There is a large statue of a man and
woman in a loving embrace. It is surrounded by walls of romantic quotes scripted in mosaic tiles. This
is probably the first time I've seen a statue dedicated to lovers.
I pass the flat, grassy place where paragliding occurs. The red flag is still out. Well, no such luck for
me today. Back at the lighthouse, I'm still mesmerized by the constant rolling of waves. There are tennis
courts nearby and across the street, I watch a couple games of racquet-ball.
The flag has been changed to red and yellow at the grassy area. I sit at a bench as a 65 year old
school teacher wants to chat with me. After 18 hours of hitch-hiking, he had just arrived in Lima. I
did not realize it at the time, but he really wanted a nice donation for his school. Wow, the flag has
now been changed to all yellow. There are at least ten pilots out there with parachutes.
Do I have enough time??? I've got to meet Jose for my taxi ride in 42 minutes. Yes!!! I quickly
fill out and sign a release form and pay my pilot $85.00 It is a tandem paraglide. All I've got to do is
just get strapped in (and there are 6 snaps), sit down and ENJOY! The pilot will handle every thing as
we jog toward the edge of a 200 foot cliff drop-off. And a few steps before we reach it, we are airborne.
I'm floating on air currents... feels like no gravity, for 10-12 minutes. I am in awe as we slowly float
higher than the local 10 story apartments. We make 3 passes around the lighthouse. And several turns over
the Pacific Ocean. Dozens of people on the sidewalks below wave at us. A GoPro camera is focused on
me and I seem to be mesmerized, just a floating on the air currents. What an AMAZING 10 minutes!
I'm given the camera's memory card as a souvenir. What a way to finish my last day in Peru.
I hurry up the boulevard and stop across from Kennedy Park. I only wait 4 minutes when Jose pulls
in 5 minutes early. What timing. Then there are 50 minutes of a harrowing and chaotic drive back to my
hotel. I vow to never drive a vehicle inSouth America. By utilizing the yellow separation lines, two
lanes become three lanes of traffic. And three normal lanes can accommodate five lanes of traffic. And
horns are always being beeped. This is way too much chaos for me.
Jose has me safely at the hotel by 6:00 and I rest until about 8:00. Its time for supper and my taste is
leaning toward pizza. Well, I don't see any pizza spots so I return to D'Kazo and get a huge hamburger.
On a large bun, the bottom half contained a meat patty, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato and fried egg. The
top half was all french fries. Add a bottle of water and a small pitcher of orange / coconut juice for a
total of $6 USD. What a deal. As I walk out onto the sidewalk, I look across the street and see a pizza
There is a small mom-and-pop store open nearby and I buy a large slice of pastry for dessert. What
was inside can only be described as creamy, sweet and gooey. I request a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call as I
pass the front desk and then make a 4:30 taxi reservation for $10.00. Its time for a little sleep as I have
finished packing. In bed by 9:45.
May 31, 2017 (Wednesday)
This was the night to sleep "lightly". I woke up a few times and checked the time on my phone.
The phone alarm goes off at 4:00. Eight minutes later, the hotel phone rings. And at 4:30, my driver is
taking me to the Lima International airport. There is very little traffic this early in the morning and in
just ten minutes we are there.
I checked in the luggage at the American Airlines desk. That went as easily as checkpoint security.
I made my way to the chapel for about ten minutes, thinking and thanking God for a successful
missionary trip in the jungle village of Olivos. Golly, I have the incredible fortune to live in the U.S.A.
In the food court I have a 5 stack of pancakes from ChinaWok. Our six hour flight to Miami,FL
leaves right on time at 6:40. I'm happy to have plenty of leg room at my window seat. Over Ecuador,
a few mountains stretched above the clouds. Later, I looked down and saw Panama as we flew over
Central America. I listened to music on my headphones for a few hours. A line from the song "Summer
Time Blues" caught my attention. "I'm going to take two weeks, gonna have a fine vacation". Then
nothing but blue waters as we flew over the Caribbean Sea. After passing over Cuba, it was easy to
recognize the Florida Keys and a 7 mile long bridge. After landing in Miami, I was happy to see the
"Welcome to the United States of America" sign.
I called Janet as soon as we disembarked. Have not talked to my wife in 14 days. Gosh, I sure did
miss her. She just got word about my leg injury yesterday. That is probably just as well. My bags are
picked up, taken to the American drop-off spot and heading to New Orleans. Everything was going
smoothly until we tried to board our flight. Well, four "glitches" caused a 45 minute delay. That sorta
thing just comes with the territory.
We fly out at 4:30 and just do cross over the Atlantic Ocean. After going across the Everglades, we
are soon over the Gulf of Mexico. Wow! Today I have flown over the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic
Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
We shall touch down in New Orleans a little after 5:30. As with previous trips, there are heavy
rains in the south Louisiana area. This means a 30 minute delay to bring in all the suitcases and
luggage. Yes! I'm happy that both pieces of luggage arrive this evening. So very glad to see Janet!
There is so very much to talk about and be thankful for. God is good! Life is good!
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