The last time I saw snow was….mmmm… 2012. Anyway, it was a while ago. Skiing was one of my first passions as a full grown adult. I took the kids. David was so small on the mountain, people turned to photograph him on the steep blue/black trails in Utah. I’m not proud. I was an idiot for getting a kid who could barely walk straight up on a pair of skis. Laid back! David was so laid back he fell asleep on the chair lift. Nap time was nap time. He would just pass out. Oh! I started first by skiing with them between my legs. Jules and then Dave would be in front – I would ski slowly while holding them back with my ski pole. Yes, nuts too. Dave would lean over the pole like a cat arms just resting there. He snores! In the quiet shushing over the snow Jules and I heard him snoring away. Yes, nap time!
On this occasion Jules finally got her wish to try a “board.” Her cousins and brother had tried. She’s the only girl on my side of the next generation. The cousins are not too skilled. Dave can handle himself. And Jules spent an hour tumbling and falling. She sprained her wrist, gave in, and went back to a sensible pair of skis. Smart!
You don’t get to many selfies with your kids. But I guess it happens more than before. Low light, bad focus, poor composition, wide angle distortion matters not. Hey! It better than nothing. As I paused in editing I realize that these imperfect pictures mean the most.
A long long time ago… I was in Peru. Recently, I remembered this image. I shot it for the graphics and color. We were visiting a llama farm. Native women were costumed and weaving. I shot the color and not the technique or style, or loom. Sorry. It was not important to me then. I suppose more detail and the hands would have been a nice touch too. But one image must suffice. It illustrates all. A single image is always an incomplete story. I can recall the trip and the place we were in. The image is an anchor. I remember much of the day. David had llama for lunch later. I would tell you it tasted like chicken, but no, it was more lean and stringy like beef. And in the big picture, we were in Peru because we had attended a wedding in Lima. This leg of the trip was to Cusco and on to Machu Picchu. I took a lot of pictures throughout the trip. This was my weaving photo. One image, a lot of memories….
I went through a big photographic journey starting in 2009, which coincided with my kids’ journeys. Lisa and I were invited to wedding in Peru. Lisa decided to invite the kids along but not to the wedding. David had graduated and had not found a job in about a year at home. Julia and David were soon added to the wedding guests. And then David dropped his bomb. He would stay in South America, travel around, and then find a job in Argentina. Lisa nearly fainted with the news. I wasn’t sure he’d last there. And besides there are bandits and they kidnap Americans. Ha ha! It was nerve wracking when we left David in Lima and left to return to New York. Within a year Julia was on her African adventure teaching in Namibia for a year. I like to say that my kids were not on the same continent nor were they even in the same hemisphere for a while. The derivative was that we had to visit both kids and I ended up traveling to South America and Africa. Lisa did a stint in a children’s village in Tanzania. This ultimately left me with the realization that if you only live once, take life and live it, hence my journey to the Middle East.
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.
Cusco, Peru. We were there for a day before making the train trip to Machu Picchu. It was a day for a religious festival. There were saints carried around on pallets. All around the square local merchants set up tables of food and goods. I had heard that one of the local specialties is guinea pig. Here I was face to face with a platter. I don’t know how they prepare them, get the hair off, or kill them. I would rather not be faced with the teeth. After all these are the pets I see all the time. My son was more than willing to try this delicacy. And he eventually did so. I will also say that this same child refused to eat pasta with sauce because he had to see the pasta naked lest there be a secret ingredient. Shall we say that I took a pass on eating and just took a picture?
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.