Saturday, April 7, 2012

Last Day of Travel - Lima, Peru

Today was the last day of my South American journey.  I ended the day by walking around downtown Lima.  Today was Good Friday, and so many things were closed,  including a large set of catacombs.  I had hoped to combine that with the Spanish Inquisition Museum,  just to have a slightly macabre day,  and while that didn't work out,  I did make it to the Spanish Inquisition Museum.  the photos below are of wax figures that have been created to mimic the torture that occurred during that time,  they're not actual people.

The main square in the city,  Plaza de Armas,  was blocked off from vehicle traffic,  and there were thousands of people attending the main cathedral on the square,  most of whom were filing in and out of the cathedral slowly.  The service was being broadcast via large speakers to the exterior of the building,  and it was possible to hear the sermon (albeit in Spanish) throughout the entire square.  There were also video cameras inside,  I expect that the services were being broadcast throughout the country as well.

This made it tough to get my normal inside-the-cathedral photo,  but it was very interesting to watch and listen to all of the motion and movement.

After I explored downtown to my satisfaction,  I headed back to the neighborhood that my hostel was in.  This is the Miraflores neighborhood,  and, according to lonely planet,  is "gringo ground zero"  for Lima.  It's also apparently much safer than central Lima,  although I never felt at danger in either location.  My hostel was right on Parque Kennedy,  and only about a 20 minute walk to the beach.  The rest of my day was spent meandering slowly down to the water,  where I spent a good long time photographing the sunset.

These are the last images that I will be posting from my trip,  and I'm pleased to note that one of the very last ones is very similar to the very first image I posted,  way back in Aruba,  where I was chasing the Divi Divi tree.  It's a sunset,  with a tree,  at the ocean.  There have been many strange and unusual adventures in between those two shots,  and I feel very fortunate to be able to have made this journey.

Post Script:  As I write this I am in the airport in Mazatlan,  Mexico, waiting for the Alaska Airlines counter to open.  It's not open because my flight from Mexico City arrived early,  and it will be a few hours before I can check in.  I decided to sit on the floor and play with my photos a bit,  and out of curiosity,  I counted how many I had shot.  Approximately 16,000.  While I was looking at that number,  I noticed a sign across the hall that says,  "The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul."  This is,  I think,  a very apt description of what I need to focus on next in my photography.  This trip has been (among other things) a 2 1/2 month hands-on intensive photography  course.  My photography has,  I think,  improved from the beginning of the trip to the end,  and certainly I've learned a some additional techniques along the way.  What my photography says is really a genuine expression of my inner self,  and learning more about myself will,  I hope,  continue to shape my art as I go forward.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lima, but no pics

Today was a lengthy travel day,  so in the evening I treated myself well.  I got a private room in my hostel,  went for a long walk down to the beach to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean,  and then for dinner had the best food I've had so far this trip.  (Um,  well,  maybe the main dish wasn't as good as the beef I had in Iguassu Falls, Brazil,  but the desert might have been the best dessert I've ever eaten in my entire life)

So while there was an amazing sunset,  I have no photos of it.  Instead I took the day to reflect on the trip I've had,  think about what it has meant for me,  and just spent some time enjoying the world around me rather than trying to think hard about how to capture it in images.

Dinner tonight was,  by the way,  quite expensive by Peruvian standards,  clocking in at just over 200 Soles.  A starter,  2 drinks,  a main dish,  and dessert.  But the dessert,  just by itself,  was worth it.  

Cuzco Exploration

The internet died last night in the hostel I was staying in.  Even their computers weren't working,  they were displaying a Google Chrome "we can't display this page,  sorry" message in Spanish this morning when I checked out.

I explored yesterday,  and have a few quick stories.

There are cheap massages available in Cuzco.  I opted for a more expensive one with much nicer accommodations.  My thought process in choosing to get a massage was something along the lines of, " massages in a touristy area.  Is this aboveboard?  Or are there happy endings?  Let's find out!"  No happy ending for me,  just a very,  very thorough massage.  One of the strongest I've had,  topped only by the "I'm going to beat the crap out of you" massage I had in Turkey.

The Coco plant is grown in Bolivia and Peru,  the plant leaves can be chewed,  this gives relief from altitude sickness.  The same plant is an essential ingredient in making cocaine,  so it's tough to regulate the growth of these plants,  considering that the exact same plant,  when sold legally,  gives the farmers a fraction of the income the receive if they sell it illegally for cocaine production.  In La Paz,  there is a fairly famous bar known for it's easy availability of whatever drug you might want to get.  I did not go to that bar,  and couldn't care less about drugs.  Thus,  it was a surprise to me when walking around Cuzco, a  man approached me.  Lots of people approach the tourists all the time there,  usually they're trying to sell hand made clothes.  He said "hey,  how's it going?"  which was different than the typical approach of "Hola,  amigo."  I said,  "fine,"  and then he leaned over conspiratorially and said,  "do you want some.....coke?"  Me:  "no."  Him:  "how about some joints?  I have some nice marijuana."  At this point I laughed a bit and declined his offer.  He was a bit surprised,  I think,  that I chuckled,  but he took it in stride and left me alone,  although he did greet me again later in the evening when our paths happened to cross. 

Really,  if I wanted drugs,  I could have just stayed home and walked one block from my condo on any night of the week and scored whatever it is they're selling down there. 

Ok.  That concludes my brush with vices on my South American trip.  The rest of the day was spent exploring a large set of Inca ruins within walking distance of the center of the city.  That entire area of Peru is lousy with ancient Inca ruins,  and these were nice in that they provided some interesting contrast with Cuzco so near by.

Photos, photos, and photos.  No spam.

This was fun.  It was a big natural slide,  the rocks were slippery enough to slide down.  I did that,  and had a blast.  :)

Typical Inca construction of temples.  They fitted giant rocks together in an extremely precise fashion.

Finally,  a photograph of a street scene that I'm pleased with.  This was what many,  many streets looked like that I've walked down during this trip.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Llama Shot

There is a classic shot of Machu Picchu which shows the ruins with a llama nicely framed in the image in the foreground. I've seen this image probably a dozen times, and I have a pretty strong feeling the llama was photoshopped in. When I went to Machu Picchu today, I thought, "The llama shot? Impossible, I'll never get it. There aren't even llamas there." Well, turns out there are. They probably brought them in for the tourists, and I'm pleased to report that I was able to photograph one. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, The Llama Shot.

Machu Picchu

Yesterday I explored Machu Picchu.  The weather cooperated, I got up at 4:15am to get in front of the large crowd of tourists,  and got a few photos.  I present them here.

It's the dramatic version of Machu Picchu here.  I pushed those shadows into black pretty far.  :)

For my blog readers who like people in my photographs.  :)  Also,  gives a better sense of scale of the place.

I like this shot a great deal.  It shows Machu Picchu clearly,  but also shows an interesting new angle that I haven't seen much before,  incorporating these large ring terraces that nicely frame the main subject.

There's a story about this photo,  I am putting it in the next post.

The small town of Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is only reachable via train.  This is a Peru Rail locomotive