Monthly Archives: July 2010

Sacred Valley, Part 3

WOW!

WOW! The Sacred Valley in all its glory.

As we drove up and out of the valley these absolutely amazing views opened and presented themselves.  I have spoke of the energy that some places on the planet have, like heading over the pass on the Milford Track in New Zealand and being up in the peaks of the Alps, and the feeling and electricity that your body picks up on.  As we drove along this route through the Sacred Valley I got the exact same feeling.  It must be the scale of mountains, and being deep and high within them that triggers this intense feeling.  I am guessing this is what mountaineers and climbers are chasing.  I just tried to capture a little of its essence with my camera, which of course is nearly impossible.  At least on this day, the mountains and sun put on one hell of a show, and I just couldn’t stop clicking away.  I don’t think I have ever sprinted as much as I did during the twilight hours trying to shoot all the angles.  There was just so much to shoot as the light changed color.

Taken From the Bus from the plateau above the valley.

Taken From the Bus from the plateau above the valley.

I have never wanted my own vehicle more than at this moment.  We where driving at 40 mph passing some of the most beautiful vista points I have ever seen.  I was jumping from one side of the bus to the other, pulling the windows open and snapping shots as we flew by.  It was frustrating that I could get out and take my time to set up.  I did my best, and got a few semi-decent shots.

Scared Valley Mountain Peaks

Scared Valley Mountain Peaks

Scared Valley Mountain Peaks

Scared Valley Mountain Peaks

Scared Valley Mountain Peaks

Scared Valley Mountain Peaks

Scared valley mountain peaks, and plateau farmland.

Scared valley mountain peaks, and plateau farmland.

Silhouette Mountain

Silhouette Mountain

Sacred Valley Peaks

Sacred Valley Peaks

Godly Vista

Godly Vista

We drove from the Plateau into a small town and the final stop that we would make on this tour.  It was an old Inca site that was rebuilt by the Spanish into a christian church called Chinchero.  The town was small and had nice avenues lined by houses and shops.  In the church grounds many vendors had multi-colored textiles and crafts laid out making the scene even more colorful.  It was incredible, the crafts where priced best here, and the views where unparalleled.  We stayed in the church court and watched the sun set over the mountain peaks.  It was some of the most amazing color I have ever witnessed in nature.

Chinchero Avenue Door

Chinchero Avenue Door

Gateway to the Church at Chinchero

Gateway to the Church at Chinchero

Chinchero resident in doorway.

Chinchero resident in doorway.

Church Compound Arch

Church Compound Arch

The View from the Church Courtyard

The View from the Church Courtyard

From this view Christianity almost has it right...Doubt they ever look at it this way though.

From this view Christianity almost has it right...Doubt they ever look at it this way though.

View From the Church Courtyard

View From the Church Courtyard

Sunset Over Mountain Peaks

Sunset Over Mountain Peaks

Sunset Over Mountain Peaks

Sunset Over Mountain Peaks

Sunset Over Mountain Peaks

Sunset Over Mountain Peaks

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

Cross and Sunset Mountains

Cross and Sunset Mountains

Cross and Sunset Mountains

Cross and Sunset Mountains

Sunset Mountain

Sunset Mountain

Church Bell Tower

Church Bell Tower

Church Bell Tower

Church Bell Tower

Church Bell Tower

Church Bell Tower

Sunset Color

Sunset Color

Church In Sunset

Church In Sunset

Sacred Valley, Part 2

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Ollantaytambo was the second Inca city we visited.  This was another sacred site to the Incas and is home to the unfinished sun temple.  It is not hard to see why the Incas choose this spot as a sacred spot.  The mountain framing the entire place is a round dome of rock, and impressively stands alone over the valley. At the exact right time of year the sun will set directly over the mountain peak and shine a triangular beam of light on the spot where the sun temple was being built.  It was never completed because of the Spanish invasion and resulting war.

Ollantayambo City

Ollantayambo City

Looking down from terraces.

Looking down from terraces.

Garrisons on side of Mountain

Garrisons on side of Mountain

Can you see the Inca face?

Can you see the Inca face?

Beginning of the unfinished sun temple.

Beginning of the unfinished sun temple.

Foundation Walls

Foundation Walls

Looking from temple area back at the mountain.

Looking from temple area back at the mountain.

Walk way to the sun temple.

Walk way to the sun temple.

Polished and perfectly fitted stone wall.

Polished and perfectly fitted stone wall.

The stone work by the Incas is mind blowing.  How they where able to fit each rock to the next, sometimes meeting multiple angle points and have them fit perfectly is incredible.  There isn’t enough space to slip a piece of paper in the joints.  Maybe they had computers work it out….

View from the site of the sun temple.

View from the site of the sun temple.

View from the site of the sun temple.

View from the site of the sun temple.

View from the site of the sun temple.

View from the site of the sun temple.

Mountain and Garrison

Mountain and Garrison

Sun Temple Unfinished Wall

Sun Temple Unfinished Wall

The walls of the unfinished sun temple are about 15 feet (5 meters) and are fitted with thin vertical stringer stones that segment about every 4 feet or so. The stone is polished and has carved relief surface details.  It must have been impressive to see a temple finished and in working order.

Relief Wall Detail

Relief Wall Detail

Looking across the complex back on the sun temple site.

Looking across the complex back on the sun temple site.

Looking across the complex back on the sun temple site.

Looking across the complex back on the sun temple site.

Back at the bottom

Back at the bottom

The mountain from the bottom of the site.

The mountain from the bottom of the site.

Sacred Spring

Sacred Spring

Unplaced Stones

Unplaced Stones

Unplaced Stones

Unplaced Stones

These stones where being worked and prepared for placement at the sun temple right around the time that the Spanish arrived.  The war resulted in the temple never being finished, and the work site sits as it did when work at the site came to a stop.

Construction Site Inca Style

Construction Site Inca Style

Pretty easy to see why they choose this spot for the sun temple.

Pretty easy to see why they choose this spot for the sun temple.

We got back on the road right as the sun really started to drop.  We drove up and out of the valley and headed towards out final stop.  The bus climbed a steep valley wall and then hit a massive plateau that seemed to span forever.  The view of the mountains forming the sacred valley where as beautiful a range as I have seen, which is saying a lot considering I had just been in New Zealand.

Stay tuned for pictures of the massive peaks around the valley! Thanks for traveling with me.

The Sacred Valley, Part 1

Got to love that even in a rural valley town there is a football pitch, even if its used as a pasture.  Welcome to South America.

Got to love that even in a rural valley town there is a football pitch, even if its used as a pasture. Welcome to South America.

Welcome to the Sacred Valley of Inca Peru.  This is one of the most visited areas on the planet, and easily the most visited place in South America.  The Valley was the center of the Inca world and a major power around the time of European expansion.  We learn about western (modern) society, imperial ambition and the ancient cultures of South America like the Incas.  Here you can see, feel and taste that ancient culture while walking through history to see the clash of worlds that many of us learn about only through boring lecture and skewed history books.

Sacred Valley Map

Sacred Valley Map

Geneva and I started in Cusco and headed into the Valley from the southern end.  We drove past Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy-woman) which is the ruins closest to Cusco.  We didn’t stop at this site, but continued on into the valley, about a 30 min drive.

These pictures where taken at a small village on the way into the valley and the first main Inca ruins.  Here there was a tourist market set up with the local villagers selling al paca (like a lama) sweaters, textile and various other crafts.  I wasn’t really interested in the commercial goods, although al paca is very soft, like a poor mans cashmere.  The rural valley had a really nice quite and quaint feel to it.

Valley

Valley

Valley

Valley

Valley

Valley

After a quick stop, we drove another 30 min to the first of the main Inca sites that we visited.  Pisac is a beautiful area with amazing vistas and steep valley walls falling into a fertile river valley.  Heading over the pass, and descending down into the valley the bus stopped and we where able to take some great vista shots.

Pisac Valley Vista

Pisac Valley Vista

Geneva Brion

Geneva Brion

Phil Ceccarelli

Phil Ceccarelli

Steep Valley Wall

Steep Valley Wall

Steep Valley Wall

Steep Valley Wall

Geeking out shooting the amazing view.

Geeking out shooting the amazing view.

Geeking out shooting the amazing view.

Geeking out shooting the amazing view.

As we approached the city of Pisac I could see high up on the side of the surrounding valley, terraces that where cut from the steep sloping earth.  The first thing that struck me was the resemblance to Asian terrace rice fields.  The big difference was that these where on impossibly steep 50 degree slopes.

We crossed the river and drove through the small city and followed the road back up the opposite side of the valley.  The road switched back up and up and zig-zagged until it reached the entrance to the Inca city of Pisac.  We could see on the way up parts of the roads washed out by the massive rains and mudslides from the previous rainy season.

We Walked into the city, had a 20 min guided tour and explanation of the city structures and location, and then had 45 minutes to explore the structures and views.

Pisac valley and surrounding farmlands.

Pisac valley and surrounding farmlands.

Picas Terraces

Pisac Terraces

These terraces where built to grow crops.

Pisac valley from the Inca ruins.

Pisac valley from the Inca ruins.

Pisac valley from the Inca ruins.

Pisac valley from the Inca ruins.

Looking the other way, across the ruins into the other end of valley.

Looking the other way, across the ruins into the other end of the valley.

Pisac Inca City

Farmer and labor quarters

Pisac Terraces and City

Pisac Terraces and City

Valley Farmlands

Valley Farmlands

Terrace Wall Steps

Terrace Wall Steps

The stone retaining walls of the terraces are about 15 feet (4 meters) tall.  In order to get from terrace to terrace the Incas built steps.  These are amazingly constructed out of stones that where fitted into the wall like all other stones but extended out another 2 feet (0.6 meters).  Its like a modern staircase design made in ancient times.

Stairway separating terraces.

Stairway separating terraces.

Terraces

Terraces

Terraces

Terraces

Terraces

Terraces

Archway

Archway

Inca Fitted Stone Wall

Inca Fitted Stone Wall

Pathway leading away from the main city buildings to the farmers quarters.

Pathway leading away from the main city buildings to the farmers quarters.

Pisac Valley

Pisac Valley

Cave passage along path.

Cave passage along path.

Looking back at main part of city.

Looking back at main part of city.

Looking back at main part of city.

Looking back at main part of city.

Farmer and laborers quarters.

Farmer and laborers quarters.

Farmer and laborers quarters.

Farmer and laborers quarters.

We headed back to the bus and loaded up for the the next stop.

To be continued…..

Holy Headache Cusco

Cusco Vista

Cusco Vista

Cusco is an amazing city.  Beautiful situated in a large valley along the spine of the Andes in central south Peru, it is the major city near all of the historical Inca ruin sites and the mystical sacred valley.  Rolling mountain peaks surround the city and the neighborhoods crawl up the slopes creating classic vistas and steep stepped lanes leading back to the Plaza De Armas.  It was the main city and center of the Inca empire.  The entire city was planned and in its original state was laid out in the shape of a puma.

When we fist arrived, we where so twisted from the long 24 hour bus ride that we relaxed in our guest house for a while until venturing out into the city.  Bethany was feeling very sick, and I wasn’t in the best shape either.  The day was filled with lunch and a slow walk around the Plaza De Armas and surrounding streets.  It is a very touristy area, with many backpacker and travel agencies.  In the Plaza, countless street merchants approach you trying to sell postcards, shoe shines, paintings and crafts.  When walking by a restaurant or cafe someone always tries to convince you to come in.  But they are polite, and generally don’t push when denied.

As a photographer I was in heaven.  There where so many amazing shots to be explored, and I started to eye all the spots I wanted to go shoot.

The night ended light, and we all went to sleep very early as we knew the next day was going to packed with figuring out how to get to Machu Picchu, and exploring the city.

In the morning Geneva and I headed to the train station to see about tickets and travel to Machu Picchu .  We found out that we were going to have to wait 2 days for a spot, but we booked seats and headed back to see how Bethany was doing.  We all headed out to grab breakfast and walk the city.  We ended up walking into one of the various storefronts offering tours and signed up for a tour of Inca sites throughout the sacred valley leading up to Machu Picchu.  We booked the tour for the next day.  The rest of the day was walking the city.

Small Plaza Adjacent to the Plaza De Armas

Small Plaza Adjacent to the Plaza De Armas

Small Plaza Adjacent to the Plaza De Armas

Small Plaza Adjacent to the Plaza De Armas

Small Plaza Adjacent to the Plaza De Armas

Small Plaza Adjacent to the Plaza De Armas

Cusco Avenue

Cusco Avenue

Plaza Kusipata

Plaza Kusipata

Plaza Kusipata

Plaza Kusipata

Cusco Avenue

Cusco Avenue

Plaza De Armas

Plaza De Armas

La Catedral

La Catedral

Looking Out From The Plaza De Armas

Looking Out From The Plaza De Armas

One of the many narrow streets leading away from the Plaza de Armas

One of the many narrow streets leading away from the Plaza De Armas

Cusco Street

Cusco Street

Cusco Vista

Cusco Vista

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As you walk the streets of Cusco, many of the walls of the buildings are part of the old Inca city.  The stone work is mind blowing.  Each stone is carved to fit the others touching it nearly perfectly.  There is not enough space to slip a sheet of paper into.

Original Inca Wall

Original Inca Wall

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Famous Inca Wall

Famous Inca Wall

This street is famous as an example of Inca masonry.  Each one of these stones is almost a meter across. and they are fitted beautifully together.  They where hand polished into a perfect fit.

Bethany and Geneva enjoying a drink

Bethany and Geneva enjoying a drink

I had separated from Bethany and Geneva earlier and went off to take some pictures.  As I turned the corner and headed up this avenue I heard my name called out.  I looked up to see the girls sitting on the smallest veranda having a drink and sit.

Looking back on the Plaza De Armas from oh high.

Looking back on the Plaza De Armas from oh high.

After leaving the girls again I headed up an avenue and found some stairs leading up.  I decided to follow them up. At the top there was a stunning view looking back at the city and the plaza from the hillsides.  It was an amazing, and I could see the expanse of the city below.

Sunset in the Plaza

Sunset in the Plaza

By the time I got back down into the Plaza the  sun started to set and the light got great for photographs.

Sunset in the Plaza

Sunset in the Plaza

Sunset in the Plaza

Sunset in the Plaza

Sunset in the Plaza

Sunset in the Plaza

After meeting back up with Bethany and Geneva at the guest house. We went out for dinner and a few drinks.  As we were walking back to the main plaza I took some picks of the plaza close to our accommodation.  The fountain and setting was magical at night.  I really love long exposure night shots.  They are easily my favorite type of photography. They way that the light seeps into the camera and the play of motion blur and rich color is everything I love about photographs.

The Plaza at Night

The Plaza at Night

The Plaza at Night

The Plaza at Night

Drink on a terrace overlooking the Plaza De Armas

Drink on a terrace overlooking the Plaza De Armas

In the morning we woke to find Bethany in really bad shape.  Overnight she was shaking and had sever abdominal pains.  We where scheduled to go on an Inca historical site tour early in the morning, and we had already paid, but we could tell that there was no way she was going to make it.  After talking about it we all decided that the best idea would be to get Bethany to a clinic.  She was steadfast that she could manage on her own, and she really wanted Geneva and I to go on the tour.  We all walked down to the Plaza and saw Bethany off in a taxi.

Geneva and I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed to the tour company.  After a bit of confusion, which we found to be standard, we where shuffled onto a bus and headed off towards the sacred valley and a day of Inca exploration.

Early morning in the Plaza De Armas

Early morning in the Plaza De Armas

Early morning in the Plaza De Armas

Early morning in the Plaza De Armas

A Quick Stop In Lima on the Way to Thin Air

Bethany and Geneva, Our First Dinner In Peru

Bethany and Geneva, Our First Dinner In Peru

Peruvian Ceviche

Peruvian Ceviche

The next morning after we arrived in Lima and Peru we headed to a cheaper hostel within walking distance of the hotel we stayed at the night before.  We were in the Miraflores area of Lima which is considered the night life center of Lima.  It is right on the ocean and is home to the more affluent citizens of the city.  There are many restaurants and cafe’s lining the streets which are incredibly clean.

We moved to a hostel that been recommended to me by a friend in New Zealand.  The Loki Hostel was suppose to be a very well run, fun and social place that I really wanted to check out. Little did I know then that this decision would change me in very fundamental ways.

We only stayed at Loki for a night.  We went out to grab dinner and then in the morning we booked a 24 hour bus ride to Cusco, which is the city positioned near the Sacred Valley and the gateway to all the Inca historical sites.  After a quick lunch of ceviche, which is a Peruvian invention of cooking seafood with citric acid, we headed to the bus station and got on the longest bus ride I have ever taken.  For the first 3 hours or so we drove along the coastline heading south.  There was a solid swell in the water and I could see big 5 ft waves rolling in along the cliffs under us.  I was super anxious to get into the water, but I knew I would have to wait a few weeks as we where headed inland, up into the Andes and some of the most visited historical cites in the world, one of which was the famous ruins of Machupicchu.

A few hours south of Lima we turned onto the road that lead through the foothills and up the crazy 6 hour section of switch back road climbing into some of the highest mountains on the planet.  All through the earliest hours of the morning the bus turned hard, and then turned hard again, making all of us passengers slosh back and forth like an aquarium in an earthquake.  I doubt anyone got sleep.

As we headed into late morning, we slowly approached Cusco, but were impeded by long waits for construction on the road.  2 Months before massive floods hit the area and had washed out many villages and roads.  The area is still recovering and many aid drives and organizations are continuing to raise money and work in the area.

We Finally arrived in Cusco.  The first thing I noticed was a dull headache and the feel of being at high altitude.  I have experienced this before from the many snowboarding trips I have made, but it was hard to know what effects where from the altitude and which where from riding in a tin can for 24 hours without proper sleep.

We checked into a small guest house near the Plaza De Armas which is the heart of the city.  Bethany was in real rough shape after getting some kind of stomach bug between Lima and Cusco.  She was pretty much out of commission a felt like death.  Right around this time I started feeling very sick as well.  I had not been feeling right since Luang Prabang in Laos, which was over a month ago at this point but it really started to hit me hard in the altitude.  On top of all this, Bethany and Geneva and I weren’t meshing as a traveling team.  We are all very good friends, but whether it was a personality clash, or the fact that Bethany and I where very sick and therefore very edgy, the result was that our group dynamic was deteriorating fast…..

Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Peru

Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Peru

More to come on Cusco soon!

Forever In The Air. Peru Arrival

I flew back from Bangkok to Sydney where I have most of my gear in storage.  After a repack and a quick 2 day stop over in Aussie I jumped on a wicked flight to South America.  I guess I should have thought about the brutal travel time, and layovers before I decided to have a big party night in Sydney.

This flight path ended up being the longest and most annoying I have ever took.  I flew from Sydney to LA (12 hours) and had picked a flight that allowed me to have a 24 hour stop in the US.  Once on the ground, I rented a car and went to my friend Tim’s house in Hermosa Beach.  I was able to get a bit of a rest and a shower which felt great.  Tim wasn’t around yet in the morning, as he was flying back from the east coast, but his roommates where more than hospitable.  I went out for a breakfast burrito, which was such a treat, and then headed to Manhattan beach to run a few errands. After a little shopping I met up with Lisa Sakai, a designer I used to work with at Reef. We hung out for the day, went to WalMart (yes!) and got lunch.  It was rad seeing an old friend from the Reef days.

Later in the night I headed back to Tim’s place and just basically chilled and fell asleep for a few hours before awaking at 4 a.m. to return the car and get to the airport for my 7 in the morning flight.

I had a leg to Mexico City where I had another 5 hour layover.  Of course the flight was delayed by 2 hours and made a weird landing to refuel or something. This added another hour to the delay and with no way to contact Bethany, I knew we might have some problems as they where planning on meeting me in the airport. I stumbled into the Lima airport at Midnight, waited to get through customs, find my bags, and Bethany and Geneva.  They had been waiting for me for two and a half hours, and of course the flight was not displayed in Lima as late.

We finally got to the hotel around 1:30 in the morning and crashed out for the night.  Hello Lima!

Onward and Upward, I Mean Downward to Peru

What can I say about Peru.  This leg of the trip was just a complete roller coaster ride.  Looking back I had a few preconceived notions of South America that were left in my brain from various Mexico and Central America trips.  What I was expecting wasn’t terribly off once I arrived, but the events over the next month and even weeks after I left Peru are something that has effected the way I look at myself and has twisted my life.  This had little to do with Peru as a place and everything to do with the the travelers and locals I met, and I can say with absolute certainty that this trip has changed me.

Mixed in with travel partner conflicts, sever sickness, and frustration was some of the most memorable and (I hate using this word) “spiritual” moments of my life to date.  I can’t say the places I went where spiritual, its not like I sat at Machupicchu and felt this spiritual energy or anything, but it was the conversations I had, the timing that someone would say something at the exact moment it needed to be said, and the situations I ended up in over the course of a month that leave me amazed, confused, and still processing what the meaning of it all was.

Most of these experiences are just for me. Some ended up being quite painful emotionally, and a few others have left there mark on me forever, some good, some bad, and some that I still don’t really understand.  What I can say, is that this is the reason to travel.  Its the complete unexpected moments that I think we live for.  Its hard to explain, because I am not talking about going to a place, or the unexpected twists that happen getting there, or what you see, or even who you meet.  It is more about the amazement when you realize that had you not come to this place, events that create your life would not have happened, and a new path that you never saw is laid before you.  Who knew that Peru would both crush me, and heal me all at the same time.

But Peru, why Peru?  Well, South America wasn’t really in the plan when I thought about where my trip was going to take me over these few years.  But I have told myself, when an opportunity arises to travel with a friend, I would do it, and once again, a few friends where heading to Peru….so off I went.

One of my good friends from San Diego, Bethany Lukens, and one of her good friends Geneva Brion where headed down to Peru for a trip from the States.  After looking into it, I figured I would at least set foot on the only continent I hadn’t been to yet (not counting Antarctica).  It was going to be an expensive flight, and one of the longest journeys I could have possibly made.

After Peru I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but I left with a peace I have never felt before.  I knew that after Peru I was coming to the end of hardcore country to country travel.  It was time to settle down for a few years, fill the coffers back up with funds and live someplace once again. So this you could say was my blow out run.

I will just talk about the places I went, and make a few references to people I met along the way.  If you ever see me though, ask me about Peru, and I will tell you a story that is amazing, painful, and mystifying all at the same time.  I look forward to talking with you!

So, here is Peru!