Solbit has problems with Ollantaytambo

Dear Nicalai,

Ollantaytambo.  You just try to say that with the proper Spanish pronunciation, and you’ll understand my problem.  I just can’t say it right.  I think I’m supposed to say something like “Oh-Yawn-Tay-Tom-Bo,” but, whenever I say it, the local people just stare at me and not because I’m a plastic jurassic.  I know that stare. It says, “What did you just say?”

If you think the line of people going up is on an escalator, you would be wrong, like I was. Nope, they're climbing stairs, a lot of them.

If you think the line of people going up is on an escalator, you would be wrong, like I was. Nope, they’re climbing stairs, a lot of them.

Even though I can’t tell you how to say “Ollantaytambo,” I can tell you that it is an ancient town — a ruins —  in the Sacred Vally of Peru, and you really want to go see it sometime — even though you have to climb a lot of old stone stairs to see it.

Imagine that you have no bulldozer, no motorized cranes, no jack-hammers, just hand tools. Now imagine using your hands and those hand tools to make this place out of rock!

Imagine that you have no bulldozer, no motorized cranes, no jack-hammers, just hand tools. Now imagine using your hands and those hand tools to make this place out of rock!

Ollantaytambo is the place where the Incas resisted the Spanish conquistadors and won, at least for a little while.  That was a long time ago, even way before Papa was born and he’s really old. Eventually, the Spanish conquered them. Of course, eventually, somebody made the Spanish leave. Seems like they had one war after another. Papa is always telling me that, whatever the problem or whatever the question, war is not the answer, because it just causes a lot of suffering.

I know that war isn't good for anybody, but something else is good for everybody: water! We need to protect water.

I know that war isn’t good for anybody, but something else is good for everybody: water! We need to protect water.

I noticed that here in Ollantaytambo, and also at Machu Picchu, the Incas had systems for running water all through their towns. How smart!

Look up there on the mountain above the town. Do you see those buildings? That's where the Inca stored food supplies.

Look up there on the mountain above the town. Do you see those buildings? That’s where the Inca stored food supplies.

The Inca grew a lot of food on the terraces and then kept their extra supply of food in storage buildings, called granaries. They seemed to think of everything … except the coming of the Spanish who wanted the Inca’s gold — all of it. I wonder why didn’t they just buy it instead of stealing it from the Inca?

I have to go to bed now because we’re getting up really early tomorrow.  Poor Nona. She won’t be able to read in bed all morning, but that’s one of the prices of travel.  Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit wonders, “What does ‘Machu Picchu’ mean?”

Dear Nicalai,

We just got back from a place called “Machu Picchu.”  With a name like that, I wondered, “What does that mean?” So, I looked it up.  No big deal. It’s Quechuan for “old peak.”

"Old Peak" doesn't begin to describe what we saw at Machu Picchu, the ruins of an Inca estate.

“Old Peak” doesn’t begin to describe what we saw at Machu Picchu, the ruins of an Inca estate.

On the other hand, Machu Picchu really is A BIG DEAL.  Trust me. I know. I just got back from there. I went with Nona and Papa and cousins Susie and Tom.

Wow! Walking around Machu Picchu is so much fun because I can imagine living here 500 years ago when the place was "open for business."

Wow! Walking around Machu Picchu is so much fun because I can imagine living here 500 years ago when the place was “open for business.”

The Inca people built this place around the year 1450 CE, before the Europeans (Spaniards) came to South America and took over.  If you could see the amazing big polished stones, the way the stones were placed to prevent earthquake damage, and the way the stones fit together tightly without out any cement, you would know that those ancient people really knew how to make things.

I think that Uncle Josh and Aunt Tanya would have loved this place, because the gardening terraces are right by the houses.

I think that Uncle Josh and Aunt Tanya would have loved this place, because the gardening terraces are right by the houses.

Papa kept saying, “I’m just amazed at the amount of human labor it would have taken to make this place and then to maintain it and to grow food too.” I kept asking Papa, “How did they move these big stones into place?”  He didn’t know.  I guess I have to do more reading about Machu Picchu to learn how they did it. Papa told me to read a book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, but that’s a grown-ups’ book, and I’m just a beginner reader.  “You can do it, Solbit,” Papa encouraged me.

Nona kept taking pictures of the doorways at Machu Picchu. I think she wants to put these into her next apartment -- the shape not the heavy rocks.

Nona kept taking pictures of the doorways at Machu Picchu. I think she wants to put these into her next apartment — the shape not the heavy rocks.

While the shape of the doorways is pleasing to my eye, I’m gonna guess that the reason the Incas (or their Wari Wari “contractors”) used the shape had to do with earthquake safety.  I’m just guessing, of course. We left late in the afternoon to go back to our hotel in town.

We got back to the town near Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes (that means “hot water”) also known now as Machu Picchu Pueblo, just in time for a parade at night of local people in traditional outfits. Wow!

We got back to the town near Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes (that means “hot water”) also known now as Machu Picchu Pueblo, just in time for a parade at night of local people in traditional outfits. Wow!

For an “old peak” Machu Picchu sure has a lot to offer.  We’re going back up there again tomorrow. There’s just so much to see that we couldn’t do it in just one day. Nona says I have to go to bed now, because we have a long day tomorrow at Machu Picchu. Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit feels a calm settling in

Dear Nicalai,

You know how Nona likes to wake up at 6:30 or 7:00 AM, sit up in bed, pull out her iPad, open her New York Times Replica Edition app, and read the newspaper until mid-morning right there in bed? Then maybe she’ll eat a little something around 11. Well that’s not happening here in Manu. We have to get up really early, usually by 5:00 AM or before!

At 5:50 AM, we’ve already gotten dressed, had breakfast, piled into our river canoe, and started our river trip to another interesting place in Manu.

At 5:50 AM, we’ve already gotten dressed, had breakfast, piled into our river canoe, and started our river trip to another interesting place in Manu.

Poor Nona! She not only has to get up and get out of bed early but she also has to have her breakfast well before 6:00 AM, most days. Also, no electricity and no internet. So she can’t have a fresh NYT daily.  She reads old, back issues, but not in the morning. She has to wait until we get back from our morning excursions.

On the Madre de Dios River (that means “mother of god river,” I think), it strikes me: how nice to name a river for the mother of god. She deserves a lot of credit, right?

On the Madre de Dios River (that means “mother of god river,” I think), it strikes me: how nice to name a river for the mother of god. She deserves a lot of credit, right?

We sit in our comfortable car seats that have been installed in our big river canoe, and, the calm of the river settles over me. I can tell that Susie, Tom, Nona and Papa feel the calming effect too.  In fact, one of them is so “calm” that I hear snoring sounds.

Our canoe went through a little rough water, and that was a sign that we had gone from the Madre de Dios River to the Manu River. Another way to tell the difference is that the Manu River looks much more brown, that is, muddy.

Our canoe went through a little rough water, and that was a sign that we had gone from the Madre de Dios River to the Manu River.  Another way to tell the different rivers is that the Manu River looks much more brown, that is, muddy.

Speaking of mud. If you have rubber boots, you want to wear them on these river trips, because getting on and off the river canoe can be a wet and muddy exercise. Of course, I don’t need rubber boots, because Nona always carries me in her purse pocket.

Dorothy, our travel companion from Germany, brought her rubber boots and they served her well.  I even think the boots look fashionable. Don’t you?

Dorothy, our travel companion from Germany, brought her rubber boots and they served her well.  I even think the boots look fashionable. Don’t you?

Well, you are probably so bored by my story of being calm on these rivers that by now you’re snoring too.  Still, if you ever need to calm yourself, you might consider an early morning — I mean very early — canoe trip on a wide river somewhere.  Sometimes calm can be a good thing.  I bet it might even be healthy.  Bye for now.

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit encounters Amazon jungle mysteries

Dear Nicalai,

Our river canoe took us deep into the jungle of the Manu Biological Reserve here in Peru, landing riverside in the mud and the muck. Nona carried me up to the trail into the dark jungle. That’s when I discovered something very important, “Nona, I don’t like it here!”

“It’s ok to be unsettled in such a strange place, Solbit,” Nona tried to calm me. “I’m not ‘unsettled,’ Nona,” I corrected her, “I’m terrified!”  Keeping her calm,  Nona asked me, “Now, Solbit, you have me, Papa, and our excellent guide, Danny, to protect you, so why are you ‘terrified?'”

“I don’t know. It’s all so mysterious here. Nothing is familiar. Nothing seems — you know — normal.”  Nona listened to me and then her eyes sparkled and she told me, “Solbit, jungles do hold mysteries. Jungles are not familiar to us. We don’t know what we’ll encounter here. That’s why we came here, to discover and to learn about new things — things strange to us, and to unveil mysteries. We’re going to have fun! You have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Then Papa chimed in, “… And maybe a puma or a caiman!”

I could not refuse to go along, but I sure wanted to get right back into our canoe and get out of there. Then something changed. I don’t know why, but I started to ask questions about the mysterious things I was seeing in the jungle. Like, “Ooh, what’s that?”

"Oh, look at the pretty mushroom," I called out. Papa said he thought it wasn't a mushroom but a lichen . I wonder which?

“Oh, look at the pretty mushroom,” I called out. Papa said he thought it wasn’t a mushroom but a lichen. I wonder which?

Papa answered, it’s a beautiful living community of different organisms that together we call “lichen.” You know, Solbit, we have lichen back home in the US too. It’s not so mysterious. “No, but it sure is pretty,” I admitted.

We walked on, deeper into the jungle.  Next thing I knew, I was acting as if everything were normal.  “I bet we don’t have this kind of bug back there. Do we?” I asked Papa.

Bugs can be beautiful. Don't you think? I just love this one's color -- orange, like me -- and long hair, too -- not like me.

Bugs can be beautiful. Don’t you think? I just love this one’s color — orange, like me — and long hair, too — not like me.

The next thing I know, I’m looking at a very familiar object. “Look at this! Somebody left their piñata right here in the middle of the jungle,” I called out in surprise.

Gee, I knew we had piñatas back home and also in Mexico, but in Peru, too?" Nope. That's something else.

Gee, I knew we had piñatas back home and also in Mexico, but in Peru, too?” Nope. That’s something else.

I didn’t know that termites were such skilled builders.  Even without measuring tools or tools of any kind, they can make almost perfect spheres way out here in the jungle.  How do they do that?

Hey, did you know that some termites make their homes underground.  Yeah, they dig tunnels.  They even have storage rooms down there.

I guess termites have to put the dirt somewhere when they tunnel underground, so they make mud towers. How cool!

I guess termites have to put the dirt somewhere when they tunnel underground, so they make mud towers. How cool!

Remember before when I said that I learned something very important, that I don’t like it here?  Well, I’m changing that to I’m loving it here.  I’m learning so much by putting aside my fears and finding one interesting mystery after another.  What a great trip!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit’s Big Amazon Basin Adventure

Dear Nicalai,

Well, we’re already in Peru. Nona and Papa have taken us to a remote area of Peru’s Amazon basin region called Manu! More birdwatching … and reptiles and mammals too!

We traveled by boat on a big, wide, fast moving river.  I saw this alligator first and yelled to everyone in our big river canoe, “Alligator!”  Wrong. Our excellent Manu Expeditions guide, Danny, gently corrected me, “Solbit, I know it looks like an alligator, but, actually, it is a caiman.” That’s why we have guides, you know, to help us learn.  I said, “Thank you!”

That's not an alligator. It's a caiman. We saw it from our big river canoe on the Alto Madre de Dios River on our way to Manu.

That’s not an alligator. It’s a caiman. We saw it from our big river canoe on the Alto Madre de Dios River on our way to Manu.

We see all kinds of wildlife here in Manu: birds, frogs, monkeys,  and even a tapir!

We saw this Large-headed Capuchin Monkey at the Cock of the Rock Lodge on our way to the park. He wanted me to give him a banana. Our cousin Tom gave him one. Then he just wanted another.

We saw this Large-headed Capuchin Monkey at the Cock of the Rock Lodge on our way to the park. He wanted me to give him a banana. Our cousin Tom gave him one. Then he just wanted another.

Traveling by river canoe is an adventure.  Sometimes it is even scary. The current of the river is fast, but the river is wide and shallow in places.  The boat can get stuck.  Our captain, Jose, was so good at “reading the river” that he almost always found the hidden deep channels to ride. When he didn’t, he got help from Aurelio.

Aurelio, our boatman, was strong and often saved our river canoe from getting caught on tree snags, dragging on the bottom, or crashing into rocks.

Aurelio, our boatman, was strong and often saved our river canoe from getting caught on tree snags, dragging on the bottom, or crashing into rocks.

I didn’t get to tell you all my Ecuador stories.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that Katy, Dino, and I did so well at birdwatching in Mindo, Ecuador that we’ve graduated from wonderful birdwatching in Ecuador to an Amazonian adventure to see all kinds of wild life.  Here’s our graduation dinner that we had in Ecuador before we left for Peru.

Marcelo (R), our guide in Mindo, Ecuador, and our friend Louise (L) helped us celebrate our graduation, before we left for Peru. That’s me (orange), Dino (blue), and Katy (red). Only we got to sit on the table, because we’re really small.

Marcelo (R), our guide in Mindo, Ecuador, and our friend Louise (L) helped us celebrate our graduation, before we left for Peru. That’s me (orange), Dino (blue), and Katy (red). Only we got to sit on the table, because we’re really small.

My first graduation!  Papa says that I’ll have many more.  Have you already had a graduation, too? Graduations are good because they bring us our next big adventures! Look at me.  I’m proof of that.

I wish you were here.  Bye! I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit finds mummies  and “legos” too at ancient pyramid

Dear Nicalai,

Hey, we moved to Peru. We’re in a neighborhood of Lima, Peru.  It’s called Miraflores.  Oh, you’re gonna love this letter! I know how you love mummies, and Miraflores has them.  Oh, you love Legos, too, and Miraflores has something ancient that reminds me of legos.

We found both the mummies and the “legos” in the same place today.  No kidding.  The place has several names but let’s just say it is the ruins of an ancient pyramid. Look at this.

Call these ruins what you like -- The Huaca Pucllana, Pucllana or Huaca Juliana or Wak'a Pukllana -- this place is an amazing pile of dirt bricks!

Call these ruins what you like — The Huaca Pucllana, Pucllana or Huaca Juliana or Wak’a Pukllana — this place is an amazing pile of dirt bricks!

You might wonder why would someone go to the trouble of making all these handmade dirt bricks and then piling them up so carefully, so wide, and so high.  I wondered.  So, I looked it up on Wikipedia.

The pyramid is pretty high up, so, from the top, we got a good view of the modern city of Miraflores.

The pyramid is pretty high up, so, from the top, we got a good view of the modern city of Miraflores.

Sounds to me like the place was very important long ago, 200 CE to 700 CE. That’s more than 1300 years ago! I guess the leaders of those ancient people tried to please the gods and to govern the people from here. They had something called the Lima Culture, but I don’t know anything about that.  I need to read more, right?

OK, get ready, because here comes a South American mummy!

The ancient people mummified their dead, gave them nice little rooms on the pyramid, and brought them food and drink. Looked like a lot of leftovers to me.

The ancient people mummified their dead, gave them nice little rooms on the pyramid, and brought them food and drink. Looked like a lot of leftovers to me.

Now, here come the “legos!”

Long before the days of plastic, somebody had the "lego idea." The stacked handmade adobe and clay bricks to make things.

Long before the days of plastic, somebody had the “lego idea.” They stacked handmade adobe and clay bricks to make things.

Guess what, these ancient people were smart.  They figured out how to stack all these dirt bricks in a way that earthquakes couldn’t knock them down. Amazing!

Now, you probably are asking yourself, “Why didn’t these mud bricks just dissolve in the rain and wash away after all these centuries?” Good question.  Answer: Because it almost never ever rains in Lima, even though it’s right on the Pacific coast of Peru.  Isn’t that surprising? OK, that’s it for today. Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”