We were visiting Cusco, Peru. Purely by luck we happened upon a religious festival. I was in the thick of it. We were all wandering around separately and planned to meet in the early afternoon. So here I was on my own and face to face with a masked man. I have wondered but do not know the details of the costumes and the masks. There were many different groups dressed and marching. It wasn’t a parade. The groups converged upon the main square from different directions. It is quite an event. And, best of all, I had just wandered into it all. Unlike New York, I did not have to arrive hours early, jockey for position, or get chased from the route by police. How nice!
Amazon jungle, Peru. I have read about but never seen a piranha up close. The guides tell me they can clean a whole cow to the bones in short order. We fished and used small pieces of raw beef. Sure enough our effort was rewarded. But it was just like fishing at home. The piranha did not fiercely attack the bait. There was coaxing and cajoling involved. Alone they don’t look so bad. But all those teeth add up. It was catch and release on this day.
Lima, Peru. We had just had the last supper with David. In the restaurant our mood was good humored and we all made guinea pig faces. Maybe, I’ll post these pictures later. His mother and I would not see him again for about a year. And his sister, well, that’s another story entirely. In the meantime he would survive long grueling bus rides and at least two robberies. What an adventure he had making his way through many South American countries, finding his way alone, and growing up on life’s experiences. Here, just before we parted, David posed in the Mira Flores Park Hotel lobby. He looked confident and ready for his big adventure. No one, neither his mother nor David showed any of the concerns that they would later admit feeling. It turns out no one wanted to admit they were terrified of his leaving and his striking out on an unknown adventure. The only thing that I can say is, “Thank goodness for the internet and Skype!” And when David called home explaining that the youth hostel owner had given him a free phone call home, his mother inquired, “Are you in jail?”
Amazon jungle, Somewhere. We stayed in an eco friendly resort. It was rainy and muddy. The hosts provided, and you needed, the knee high boots so as not to be mired in the mud. The rooms were open to the jungle – no windows, no screens. The jungle was cut back from the room about ten feet. During the day, monkeys foraged in the trees. At night a mosquito netting was placed over your bed to separate you from nature and the mosquitoes. We took malaria prophylaxis and no one became ill. After walking through mud all day, everyone was exhausted. I slept like a log. The next morning I awoke to hear Julia screaming and Lisa standing at the bedside. All night long the bats had made a roost above their mosquito canopy. And then they did what bats do. This sight and photo need explanation because it is not obvious until captioned. Julia had left her shoes below the roosting bats. Somehow, and I don’t believe it even now, they bombed the area and never seemed to have landed anything in her shoes. The picture is here. David and I never heard a thing – not the bats and not the screaming.
Cusco is a town at relatively high altitude 11,150 ft while Machu Picchu is at 7,874 ft. Either way it’s all about effort. Walking uphill will do it every time. I did not experience the breathlessness in Cusco that I experienced on Machu Picchu. One afternoon we did help to revive a young woman who collapsed while we were on a bus tour. While we visited there was a religious festival in progress. These colorful characters marched along side religious statues. I say characters because technically I did not see them dance. Elsewhere they served guinea pig – roasted whole. This was one of the many representative costumes. The masks were somehow scary though no one appeared the least bit apprehensive. I feel fortunate that we were there on the day of the festival see the pageantry.
The plateau upon which Machu Picchu rests is reached by bus. The last part of the trail is a walk up a winding path to magnificent vistas over the valley to the adjoining peaks. This walk is challenging in itself because of the altitude. I was short of breath while David was unencumbered and able to carry my heavy camera bag without a problem. The bottom of the trail starts in the small town of Aguas Calientes. David decided to hike the mountain from the bottom in the dark just before dawn in order to see the sunrise. After you hike to the plateau there is another mile or more hike to higher elevation at the Sun Gate. David hooked up with a fit female climber at dawn. It turns out David had no problem with this altitude. Julia and I took the bus to the plateau and hiked the remaining trail to the Sun Gate. I was tachycardic, sweating and short of breath, but we made it before sunrise. I watched a group of guides running down the trail with a teenage girl who had collapsed from the altitude. As Julia and I started our brisk trek from the plateau, this sight in the morning fog made a signature image.
There have been countless images of Machu Picchu made by others. It was explored by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The city sits on a mountaintop in a remote region. The huge and heavy stones were carried to the top of the mountain and assembled in a feat that makes the site a wonder of the world. This image captures a detail of the ruins giving a sense of the grandeur and spacious skies.
Cusco, Peru. We attended a wedding in Lima, Peru in 2009. South America had not been on my short list of places to visit. I was unprepared for this great adventure. We landed in Cusco on the way to Machu Picchu. At a roadside stop was this woman demonstrating her skill with a loom. She worked as I took advantage of the muted indirect light to capture this image. There were llamas present, one of which gave David a full-face lick. I have that shot also but this picture is better.