Cusco

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Cusco cuzco peru plaza night fountain
Cusco’s Plaza de Armas at night – all photos by the author – www.dojoklo.com

Every visitor to Cusco is likely to tour the Cathedral and a couple major museums, relax in the Plaza de Armas, and marvel at the exotic offerings in the San Pedro food market.  However there are additional essential sites and experiences that you may not find in your guidebook or that your tour guide might not take you to, which you don’t want to miss.  Most of these lie along or mere steps off the tourist trail, and with a little planning and effort can be fit into any itinerary.

EATING

All the guide books lists the popular restaurants in Cusco, and there are many worth eating at including Pachapapa for its distinct Peruvian dishes with international flair or the MAP Cafe for its creative Andean cuisine in a unique museum setting.  But the real local food is found with the local shops and vendors.

1. Picarones – An incredibly tasty snack that is a favorite among locals are Picarones, deep-fried pumpkin or squash donuts.  Although delicious by themselves, they are irresistible when covered with the syrup or molasses they are always paired with.  Shops and vendors selling picarones can be found throughout Cusco, so ask your hotel desk clerk for their favorite nearby spot.  Be sure to bring your own handi-wipes along because after eating a couple your fingers will be hopelessly sticky, and the damp cloths they provide are already too well used to work very well!

cusco cuzco peru picarones
Deep-fried and delicious Picarones

2. Tamales – As with picarones, the best tamales are found at the local shops and vendors.  As you walk around the city keep your ears open to the cry of “Tamales, Tamales!” and look for a woman with a large basket in her arms or at her feet.  There was one very popular vendor often under the colonnade at the north corner of the main Palza near Gatos market, though I don’t know if she is still there.  Be sure to try the “dulces” or sweet ones as well as the “pollo” variety that holds a tiny bit of chicken and an olive in the center.

3.  Cafe Restaurant Aldea Yanapay – Although there are many good restaurants to choose from in town, only a couple help to support social programs such as disadvantage children or orphan girls.  And only one is decorated like the inside of a dreaming child’s head!  This wonderful café-restaurant is run by the founder of Aldea Yanapay, a volunteer organization with various programs for the underprivileged children of Cusco, and all proceeds from the café benefit these programs.  Sit on pillows, play games, hold a stuffed animal, wear a silly hat, take in a playful performance, or just sit at a table and enjoy the delicious French toast, lunch and dinner entrees, or the best giant hot chocolate in town.  Ruinas 415, second floor

Aldea Yanapay Cafe Restaurant Cusco Cuzco Peru
Interior of Cafe Yanapay

Another restaurant associated with a non-profit is the Panaderia El Buen Pastor bakery and coffeeshop.  Enjoy a morning coffee while watching the racks emerge from the ovens with delicious pastries, sweets, and empanadas.  You will have to keep coming back each morning in order to try all the appetizing looking offerings.  Proceeds from this cafe benefit a home for orphan girls.  Cuesta San Blas 579 – San Blas

4. Brick Oven Pizza – While you’ve probably had great brick oven pizza, you’ve likely never watched it being made with such flair, while listening to reggae, and being warmed by the brick oven on a chilly Cusco evening.  Toss on a couple spoonfuls of the spicy aji sauce, and you won’t be able to understand how you ever ate pizza without it.  Maruri near San Agustin

CULTURE

After being fortified with Cusco’s great food, venture off to explore its cultural offerings.  Of course there are the Cathedral and Compañia facing the Plaza, the Inca walls and Coricancha Temple of the Sun, and the art and history museums.  But there are lesser known and equally as fascinating museums.

5. Andean Children’s Art Museum – Museo de Arte de Ninos Andinos, Irq’i Yachay – This unique museum displays the artwork of Quechua children from remote Andean communities.  A non-profit organization traveled to these communities to introduce the children to art and materials they had never had the opportunity to use, and the children responded with incredible creations portraying their lives, myths, dreams, and themselves.  An introductory short movie of the project and a free guided tour are provided in Spanish, and donations are encouraged.  Calle Teatro 344

Cusco Cuzco Peru Andean Children's Art Museum Museo de Arte de Ninos Andinos Irq’i Yachay Quechua Andes Andean museum kids children
Detail of a child’s painting in the Andean Children’s Art Museum

A similarly interesting local museum is the Taki Andean Music Museum, which not only exhibits Andean and Amazonian musical instruments, but is also a cultural center that organizes musical and cultural events, gatherings, workshops, sessions, lectures, concerts, teaches children to play, as well as promotes and supports traditional music groups.  Calle Hatunrumiyoc 487 #5

SHOPPING

Of course you are going to want to bring home souvenirs to remember your experiences and unique gifts for your friends and family.  Instead of grabbing the mass produced trinkets sold by every vendor and every shop, why not seek out quality handicrafts that better represents the local culture while also directly supporting local artisans and their cultural traditions.

6. Center for Traditional Textiles – A non-profit organization founded this center to preserve and continue traditional weaving, and to teach and support this work in numerous communities around Cusco.  There is a very nice museum of the history and traditions of Andean textiles, and always a live weaving demonstration in the store.  The beautiful items are more pricey than the tourist versions at stores and markets, but are truly hand crafted and naturally dyed.  Avenida el Sol 603

7.  Museo Taller Hilario Mendivil – This museum, workshop, and shop of the notable local artisan Mendivil family is famous for the unique long-necked religious figures, dressed with indigenous influences.  The space also contains a small museum of historic pieces, and the proprietress may give you a tour (in Spanish).  Numerous beautiful works of of both the “long-neck” style as well as several other styles are available for purchase.  Plazoleta San Blas (along the right side as you stand in the plaza and face the fountain)

Cusco Suzco Mendivil sargento Peru dance
My Sargento figure from the Mendivil Workshop

8. Local Food Markets – Venture beyond the covered San Pedro market to the open street markets and local covered food markets in the areas behind the main market.  Ask the vendors about exotic fruits or animal parts that you can’t quite identify, and try some such as the delicious cherimoya (or custard apple) and the maracuya (or passion fruit).  In all markets, be aware for pick-pockets and be very careful with all belongings – carry your bags in front and go with empty pockets.

Cusco Cuzco Peru market meat cow beef tongue
Various tasty cow parts at a Cusco market

EXPERIENCES

Travel isn’t just about seeing sights and eating food.  Some of your strongest and fondest memories may come from the unique experiences you can only undertake in a foreign place.  Strolling through a local market, looking behind the scenes to gain more insight into daily life, and interacting with vendors and shopkeepers can all provide these types of experiences.  There are other opportunities to take advantage of in Cusco:

9. Volunteering – It sometimes seems that Cusco may have more NGO’s per capita than any other other city, particularly any tourist-oriented city.  But this is due to real needs brought about by the inequities and social conditions that are common to many areas of Peru.  Find an NGO (non-profit organization) that serves a need which interests you.  This might include orphans, underprivileged children, single mothers, the environment, disabled children, cultural heritage, or countless other areas and needs.  The South American Explorer’s Club has extensive resources on local volunteer opportunities, and there is also a helpful list of organizations here: http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/

volunteer aldea yanapay cusco cuzco peru
A student at Aldea Yanapay

I have volunteered for several weeks at Aldea Yanapay, mentioned in the Eating section above.  They run an after-school program and cultural center for the disadvantaged children of Cusco, as well as other projects.  You can take Spanish classes at FairPlay which in itself is an NGO that helps single mothers, and who will also assist you with volunteer placement.

10. Inti Raymi…Up Close – While many visitors to Cusco in June have the opportunity to experience the Inti Raymi Inca sun festival, those who make an extra effort can see more of the events from close-up.  The festival starts at Coricancha, the original Inca temple of the sun.  Arrive several hours early and you can grab a front-row spot near where the Inca King – Sapa Inca – greets the morning sun.  Locate your self at the top of the hill near the curving Inca wall that now forms the base of the Santo Domingo church, so that you can view the Sapa Inca atop that location and the royal court as they stand among the terraces.  Immediately after the ceremony, run just up the street to near the entrance of the church, where the procession will emerge, so that you have an up-close view of the Inca, his court, and the entire procession as they start to make their way to the Plaza de Armas.  Be sure to orient yourself so that you are in the best position for photos, where the light hits the subjects and you are not facing into the sun if possible.

Inti Raymi Inca king Sapa Inca sun festival Coricancha
The Sapa Inca greeting the sun at Coricancha

Inti Raymi Cusco Cuzco Peru Coricancha
A Ñusta (Inca Princess) in the procession leaving Coricancha

I have put together a list of some of my favorite additional places to visit in Cusco, including restaurants, shops, and practical resources such as banks.  You can view this list of Cusco Places to Visit here:  http://www.dojoklo.com/writing/cuscoplacestovisit.pdf  Be sure to do your research and plan your visit to Cusco so that you can fully take advantage of all that it offers.

Want to learn how to take better travel photos on your trip to Peru, such as the ones highlighted in my Peru and Dance photo galleries shown here?  Have a look at my blog posts about Photography Technique or my latest e-book Ten Steps to Better dSLR Photography:

My lists of Peru and Cusco resources later in the post, click here: Peru – Cusco Resources

There are a couple Peruvian / Andean related books that have recently been published and which I both just finished reading:  the wonderfully woven travel stories, characters, and histories of Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, and a new print and process photography e-book from Craft and Vision called Andes by Andrew S. Gibson.

In the introduction to Andes, author Andrew Gibson shares that “Travel for many people is an unrealised dream. Things like the business of making a living, relationships and other constraints on finances and time can prevent people from turning dreams into reality. This eBook is for the dreamers, and I hope it inspires you to pick up your camera and go live out a dream or two.”  If after viewing his photographs of the people and places of Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia you aren’t yet fully motivated to undertake a similar journey, then reading Mark Adams’ Turn Right at Machu Picchu might just make up your mind.

A couple years ago I myself “picked up my camera to live out a dream” of exploring and photographing Peru, and to be honest, my life hasn’t been the same since.  The combination of volunteering, traveling, and photographing in Peru was a turning point that led me to seriously pursue photography as a profession, leave the 9 to 5 office life behind, discover the existence of an area of the craft called humanitarian photography, and to recognize and pursue many important but dormant goals in life.  If you read through the history of this blog, you should see that journey unfold.  Both Gibson and Adams pursued their dreams and goals, one through photography and the other through exploring the Inca ruins and history of Peru, and each came out of it with a book full of experiences worth sharing.

In Andes, Andrew Gibson presents the images he created, with both film and digital, on several trips to the Andes regions of Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia over a span of 6 years.  If you are familiar with his previous e-books such as The Magic of Black and White parts 1 to 3, you know he is a master of black and white, and all of the photos in this new book are black and white or toned monochome images.  The images capture the people, places, events, and sweeping landscapes of these regions, and the monochrome helps to express both the timeless nature or appearance of some of these places and their inhabitants, as well as the unique high altitude light of the mountains and altiplano.  At the end of the text, he includes the lens and camera settings details and short descriptions of the circumstances of each (see image below), as well as more detailed stories of his travels.  And for those interested in following in his footsteps, he includes practical advice for traveling and photographing in these countries.

For the first five days only, if you use the promotional code ANDES4 when you checkout, you can get the PDF version of ANDES, The Print & The Process Series for only $4 (or use the code ANDES20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection).  These codes are good until 11:59pm PST August 6th, 2011.  Learn more about Andes, Gibson’s other books, and all the Craft and Vision e-books on their website.

Back in 2008 when I was in Cusco, I met a real life explorer named Paolo Greer hanging out in the South American Explorers clubhouse.  He was preparing to publish an important article showing that Hiram Bingham was not the first outsider to “discover” Machu Picchu, and Greer was eager to tell any listener about the maps he uncovered in dusty archives that proved this.  I wrote a blog post about it at the time called The Real Story.  I didn’t think too much of it at the time, and people in Cusco aren’t too interested in Hiram Bingham so it wasn’t a big deal there – as they all know that Machu Picchu was never actually lost (Bingham himself met the farmers who lived ON the site).  But at the same time as I was running into Greer everywhere I went in Cusco, Mark Adams sat in his New York office and read about his findings, and it helped to stir his long-held desire to explore the Inca sites of Peru and re-trace Bingham’s footsteps, which eventually led to his marvelous book Turn Right at Machu Picchu.

Adams proceeded to travel to Cusco, find a dedicated and fascinating but somewhat extreme Aussie guide, and hike to the lesser known but important Inca sites that Bingham sought out as he searched for the last Inca stronghold Vilcabamba – sites like Espiritu Pampa, Choquequirao, and Llactapata.  Even though at first glance this book appears to be of the “desk-jockey heads into the wild, completely unprepared, with a crazy guide…mishaps ensue” genre, I quickly and pleasantly discovered it wasn’t. Adams expertly weaves several related stories together including a history of Hiram Bingham and his expeditions in Peru, the author’s own treks following Bingham’s footsteps, tales of his fascinating and capable Aussie guide, information about his Quechua guides and porters, a bit of Inca history, theories related to Machu Picchu and related sites and those who pursue the theories, and of course some self-depreciating travelogue humor.

After having spent time in and around Cusco and having read countless books on Incas and Machu Picchu, I still came away from this book learning much and having lots to ponder. It is a must-read for anyone who has visited or plans to visit Machu Picchu or hike the Inca Trail (or alternative trails). You will have a much greater appreciation of the Incas’ accomplishments, the hike, and the sites and people you encounter after digesting the information, experiences, and theories in the book.

Since either of these books by themselves should inspire you to want to immediately start packing and head to South America, and since they’ve cause me some intense nostalgia for my trips there, I’d like to also share some photographs from other talented photographers who have visited Peru either recently or decades ago, some of my Peru photos, and a couple of my resources for visiting Peru such as my recommended sites, stores, and restaurants in Cusco and my exhaustive list of Peru related books, movies, and resources.

When I was in Cusco in 2008 I met a young student and photographer named Peter Martin.  When I returned home and viewed his photos, I was fascinated at how we viewed and photographed the same country in such different ways.  I always zoomed in on the people, dances, and details while he captured more of the experience of “being there” in the moment or in a specific place.  Here are a couple examples, plus a link to more of them:


Peter Martin


Peter Martin

More Peru photos by Peter Martin: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterfmartin/sets/72157606934173170/detail/

A couple years ago I also came across an amazing collection of photos taken by John Tucker when he was a Peace Corp volunteer in Peru in the late 1960’s.  His photos capture the out of the way places and people that most tourists to Peru still never get a chance to see, and some of these places and outfits would appear unchanged in those remote places today.  Tucker has a photographic sensibility that reminds me of Robert Frank and his powerful and somewhat similar images of Peru from the late 1940’s, as seen in his book Peru:  Photographs.

Like the Robert Frank photos, Tucker’s photos capture the indigenous people plus a strong sense of the communities, land, and environment where they lived and worked. Both photographers create a true connection to the place for the viewer.


John Tucker


John Tucker

More Peru photos by John Tucker:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/30427909@N04/sets/72157608888125285/detail/

Peru – Cusco Resources

Here are my Cusco / Peru resources I referred to:  my list of Cusco Places to Visit and the Fruits of My Labor of all the research and reading I have done on Peru including books, movies, and more.  Both are Word documents that will open up when clicked.  And then some of my Peru images from 2008.

http://www.dojoklo.com/FruitsofMyLabor.doc

http://www.dojoklo.com/CuscoPlacesToVisit.doc

I just stumbled across this on Amazon – here’s my photo on the Viva Travel Guide – Machu Picchu and Cusco guide book.

Douglas J. Klostermann Photography Peru travel

Douglas J. Klostermann Photography Peru travel
Inca King at Inti Raymi – Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, Peru 2007

I would like to mention, for those researching digital SLR cameras, that this photo was taken with an Olympus SP-320, 7 megapixel point and shoot!

Two years ago, in 2008, I ventured to the annual rebuilding of the last remaining traditional Inca rope bridge, the Keshwa Chaca, which spans the Apurimac River near Huinchiri, Peru.  My mission was to photograph the locals as they spun q’olla grass into rope, constructed the bridge, and celebrated the completion with a festival of traditional dance and music.

Previous posts describe my journey to the bridge site and show some of my photos from the weekend.  Many of my photos are also posted on my website in the Inca Bridge gallery as well as in the dance gallery.  One of my very favorite photos of the weekend was of this bridge-builder:

Keshwa Chaca bridgebuilder
Keshwa Chaca 2008 – Huinchiri, Peru

As I was taking images of the bridge construction, this man quietly asked me to take his photo.   A crowd of fellow bridge-builders quickly gathered to see it, and when I realized I had taken it in the black and white setting, I asked to do another in color.  But it was too late.  “Oh, es blanco y negro,” I said disappointedly, “¿un otra en color?”  I asked.  “¡Un otra desnudo!” an onlooker called out – “Another one in the nude!”  The men erupted in laughter, the moment was gone, and I wasn’t able to take another.  Luckily this one came out well, and ever since then it has been my goal to get a copy of the photograph to this man.  Many people in developing countries have few, if any, photos of themselves or their family.  I was sure he and his family would appreciate such a nice photo of this man standing modestly but proudly in front of the bridge he is helping to construct.

This year at bridge building time my friend Mitch Teplitsky (director of the documentary film Soy Andina) was visiting Cusco.  He got in touch with me to find out more about the event and how to get there.  When I learned he and his wife Doris had decided to go the following day, I begged him to find a way to print the photo and deliver it to the man.  “It shouldn’t be hard,” I said, “just find a photo place on Avenida el Sol to print it out, and when you get there, just ask around, they will know him!”  At least I hoped it would all be that easy.  I’m not sure how they did it, but Mitch and Doris managed to print the photo, find their way to Huinchiri, and locate the man!

Bridge-builder and Mitch 2010
Keshwa Chaca 2010 – Bridge-builder and Mitch Teplitsky, photo by Doris Loayza

This weekend – June 10-13, 2010 – is the annual reconstruction of the Keshwa Chaca, the last remaining traditional Inca rope bridge (actually made of straw or grass), which spans the Apurimac River near Huinchiri, Peru.  If you are in the Cusco area, I highly encourage you to visit the bridge building and the incredible dance and music festival which follows on Sunday.  It is a truly unforgettable experience.

Keshwa Chaca weaving hands
Weaving q’olla grass into rope to construct the Keshwa Chaca Inca rope bridge

To view photos I took of the 2008 reconstruction, check out this post.  There are additional photos in the slide show on my website – www.dojoklo.com – in the Inca Bridge gallery.

This post describes my journey to get to the bridge site from Cusco.  If you are a member of South American Explorers, be sure to look at my trip report online or in the binder to learn valuable information about getting to the site, what to bring (you need to bring all camping gear and food and cash for various expenses), a rough daily schedule of what to expect, and getting back home.  Let me know if you went, and I’d love to see your photos.

I just learned that I’ve accomplished one of my photography goals:  to have my photo on the cover of a travel guide book!  My photo of the Inca King at Inti Raymi was selected to be on the cover of the Viva Travel Guide Cusco and Machu Picchu guide book.  As their website explains,

V!VA Travel Guides is a web-based community intent on collecting and sharing the most up-to-date travel info available. Essays, reviews and ratings submitted by travelers are available both online and in published travel guidebooks.”

viva cover amazon


Inca King at Inti Raymi – Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, Peru 2007
f/5 – 1/800 – 18mm

The guidebooks, if I recall correctly, were originally only available as downloads due to them being updated so regularly.  They are now offered as printed guides in paperback as well as some e-books, but are still updated frequently.  They cover numerous South American countries including Peru, Columbia, and Ecuador, and they are soon branching out into Central America.  You can buy the guides on their website, on Amazon, or in bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble.  The Cusco and Machu Picchu guide with my cover photo will be released in October 2010.

If you ever attend Inti Raymi, (in the paid bleacher seats) be prepared at the end of the ceremony to go onto the field and get some quick close-up photos of the participants (and I mean close – note the 18mm focal length!) as they parade out of Sacsayhuaman.  At least we were able to do that a couple years ago, when I was lucky enough to capture this dramatic shot.  This was the guy who, through sheer force of will, invoked the clouds to part and the sun to shine down on us, stunning the entire crowd (which included Bill Gates that year).

I haven’t written an update on Clara for awhile, so there is a lot to catch up on!

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As previously discussed, my friend Nienke put me in touch with an American special needs teacher here, Celeste, who then arranged for a young deaf Peruvian women, Karen, to work with Clara.  Finally everyone’s schedules coodinated, and they came to Yanapay to visit.  Clara soon figured out that we were discussing her, and she refused to join us, acting unusually shy and hesitant.  Nevertheless, Celeste explained everything to Yuri, and acted as a multi-communication translator, signing to Karen and telling me in English.  Yuri was thrilled with the idea, as was Karen’s mom, whose support was also important for this to work.  I was beaming with happiness, as it seemed Clara was finally going to get consistent help.  In the process, I obtained my name in sign – a “d” next to my glasses.  Finally Clara was forced down to join us, the idea was explained to her as best as possible, and she agreed to work with Karen.

On the first day of class, Karen and I sat down with Clara, and Clara already didn’t seem very happy.  She kicked me under the table in protest, but we carried on with the lesson.  Karen went through the alphabet in sign, and then seeing that she hadn’t brought any materials, I pulled out my flashcards.  She went through each of those, with Clara learning the signs.  She then quizzed Clara, and she remembered nearly all of them.  Not knowing what to do next, I ran to the storeroom to get some drawing materials.  However, when I returned, Clara had run off, and I had no success in coaxing her back.  “Poco a poco” I told Karen, little by little.

The following day, Clara wouldn’t even sit down with us to start the lesson.  We tried and tried to persuade her to join us, but no luck.  Eventually, however, as Karen and I stood around not knowing what to do, Clara invited Karen up to the games room.  Great!  Clara is warming up to her teacher!  I thought.  Karen was hesitant, but luckily she went up and joined Clara.  I left them alone, with the hope that Karen would turn it into a learning opportunity.  After about 10 minutes, they came down and went into the art room.  I tried to spy a bit, but mostly gave them their space.  They weren’t really working with each other, but working next to each other was a start.

By the following day, Clara would no longer greet me.  I assume it was because I was making her work, and perhaps because she comes to Yanapayto play, to have fun, and to be with other kids.  It is entirely possible that she is in her house all day, as she no longer attends school.  She wouldn’t sit down to work with Karen, and I began to think it all might fall apart.  I was away from Yanapay for a few days, and was afraid the lessons be over when I returned. 

Although Clara still wouldn’t greet me when I returned, she was proudly sounding out, “I am Clara!”  One of the volunteers had somehow taught her that.  She was also showing that she could sign her name.  I joyfully discovered that Karen had brought 2 of her friends, and they all worked with Clara that day.  It turns out, in my absence, the teachers at Yanapay had explained to Clara that if she wants to continue to come to Yanapay, she has to work with Karen.    I was extremely curious what they were all doing in the classroom, but I left them alone, and they worked for well over an hour.

A few weeks later, Karen started a job, but she had started to go to Clara’s house on Sundays for the lessons, which are hopefully continuing.  Last week, again after an absence when I went to Puno and Bolivia, I returned and saw Clara signing with Yuri.  It was not longer gestures and pantomimes, but real signing, which she seemed to be doing it with new found confidence and perhaps even a slight bit more maturity than I had seen before!

Please view additional Yanapay photo essay at www.dojoklo.com

OK, so I’ve been very forgetful.  I forgot to do a special post for Tracie and for Aunt Vickie and Grandma on their donation days.  I will have to make that up to you…  BUT, today is Gail Zimmer’s donation day and birthday!  Her donation was for a doll related art project with the kids.  Since I was supposed to be in the jungle now working in Pilcopata, I was going to do that at this time.  However, since that gig fell through, I am carrying my art materials deep into the jungle to Iquitos next week.  When I hook up with a volunteer organization, hopefully in a secluded indigenous community, I will attempt to do that project.  In the mean time, here are some pictures from an outing with the Aldea Yanapay kids.  We hiked just outside of Cusco, and explored a creek and some woods for the afternoon.  The kids loved playing in the water, and many left quite wet, along with a couple unlucky volunteers.


Heading out


Yuri helping a little one across


Jenni in the water


Marylin


Clara getting ready to cause trouble!


“Mira Profe!” The little ones were amazed by the wonders of nature


Diana playing in the mud


Maria calm and composed as always


Yuri and the kids


Ascending the trecherous hill


Returning from collecting leaves and seeds for future art projects


Descending the trecherous hill


Heading home

**Sorry, the links to most the photos got messed up.  Please view photos in the Peru gallery at www.dojoklo.com or my Inti Raymi set on Flickr here.

Here are some shots from the Inti Raymi morning ceremony to greet the sun, at Coricancha.  I got there bright and early, and hour and a half before, in order to get a good spot on the railing.  But the front row was already full!  What to do?  Wait until someone makes the mistake of leaving their spot, and jump right in!  Then push, nudge, and hold my ground for the next 3 hours.

paolo greer map machu picchu hiram bingham discover
A map uncovered by Paolo Greer demonstrating that Hiram Bingham wasn’t the first outsider to “discover” Machu Picchu (and the farmers living there, who presumably knew it was there as well)

A few months ago I met a real life explorer in the South American Explorer’s Club in Cusco named Paolo Greer.  He told me of his lifetime of searching for lost cities in the mountains of Peru, his studious research in dusty archives in Washington and Peru (I don’t think you’re allowed to say “archive” without first writing “dusty”), his innovative use of satellite maps to locate lost sites, and his technique of countering poisonous snakebites with a modified stun gun.  He even mentioned an NPR show where he was referred to as the real Indiana Jones.  AND, he was on the verge of breaking an amazing story of the true modern discovery of Machu Picchu.

At first I was fascinated and captivated, eager to hear of his adventures and his theories.  But after a few afternoons in the clubhouse, I repeatedly overheard him tell the same stories to any eager audience.  I began to suspect I had already learned all the juicy information.

Then last week, returning on a path back to Ollantaytambo after hiking to the Pumamarca ruins, we were joined by a British paleoecologist who was studying the ancient remains of mites buried in the mud of a lake.  The rise and fall of the mites, it turns out, from Inca times to present, corresponds to the rise and fall of the local populations, due to the fact that the mites lived in the llama poop.  Anyway, at his first mention of modern explorers, we exclaimed, “we know one of them!”  Turns out he has been working with Greer, helping him get his newly gathered information into the news.  And 5 days later…here it is: (sorry, some of these links don’t work anymore).  And here is the tale of our first unsuccessful but unforgettable expedition to the Pumamarca ruins.

Link to Article (no longer available)

Link to 2nd Article (no longer available)

Link to 3rd Article (no longer available…the Internet isn’t as permanent as we think!)

Link to Article with Pictures of the Maps and Documents

edit 2011-07-26:  Paolo Greer is now mentioned in a wonderful book by Mark Adams called Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a story partially inspired by the article that Greer was releasing in South American Explorer magazine at the time of this blog post.  Greer certainly is an “obsessed amateur historian,” as Adams calls him in the book, and their meeting commencing at the Lima SAE clubhouse in Miraflores reminded me so much of my first discussion with Greer at the Cusco SAE clubhouse.  Greer was enthusiastically, single-mindedly determined to share his story.  My companion and I had to begin to avoid him out and about in Cusco so as not to hear his theories again and again!  The paleoecologist mentioned above is also a footnote in the book, footnote 9 page 186.  I put together a blog post called Exploring the Andes to discuss the new book Turn Right at Machu Picchu, to discuss a photography e-book called Andes, and to showcase some of my favorite Peru photographs from other travelers.

When asked a question, a Peruvian will never respond that they don’t know the answer.  Instead they will always offer an answer, any answer, its accuracy and veracity: unimportant.  Ask the next passing Peruvian the same question, you will get a wholly contradictory, yet equally passionate response.  Put the two responders together and ask the question, and you will be either greatly amused or infinitely frustrated by the ensuing debate, depending on the importance and urgency of the question.

This becomes an issue when you are asking for the location of, say, the buses to Sicuani.  I first asked a teacher at the Spanish school.  “Avenida Cultura,” she confidently responded, “al lado del grifo” – next to the gas station.

“So there is only one gas station on Cultura?” I asked in Spanish, knowing that there are numerous gas stations on this street, hoping the sarcasm would translate.  “No, of course not!” she smiled, amused by my bilingual wit.  But returning to her serious face, she again insisted, “It is next to the gas station.”  “¿Esta cerca?  ¿Puedo caminar?” I asked – Is it close, can I walk to it.  “Si, si, claro,” – of course.

I asked a few other people over the next week, but never got a similar, or clear response.  A couple days later, I posed the question to the woman at the reception desk at my hostal.  Surprisingly, she confirmed the earlier response.  “Avenida Cultura.  Close.  Yes, you can walk to it.”  “How often do the buses depart?” I asked.  “Cada diez minutos,” – Every ten minutes.  Based on her previously consistent record regarding similar questions, I was now certain of two things:  it wasn’t close, and I’d consider myself lucky if the buses left more often than every ten days.

So I set out on a reconnaissance mission a few days before my journey.  I started walking down Avenida Cultura, past one gas station – no sign of a bus terminal.  Ten minutes later, another gas station.  No sign of a terminal, so I asked a passing woman.  “¿Sicuani?” she repeated as she looked pensively at her girl in tow.  “¿Sicuani?” the little girl echoed.  The woman then recalled, “Keep walking, it’s across from the hospital.  When you get to the hospital, ask someone.”

About ten minutes later I stopped in a Radio Shack and happily discovered that blank CDs were 25% cheaper than in the center of town.  After I bought a couple packs, I asked the woman where the paradero for the Sicuani buses is.  “Two blocks, no mas.  Maybe one and a half.”  After three blocks I came across a bus terminal.

“Is this the paradero for the Sicuani buses?” I asked the first knowledgeable looking person I came across.  “No, one block further.”  And so finally, after two more blocks, just past the fourth gas station, I found my stop.  Now, if I am only able to direct the taxi driver there on Friday morning.

It just wouldn´t be a religious holiday without the self-induced suffering.  And the whipping.  Even the kids get to take part!


Get me to the Plaza on time!  (We will meet back up with these guys a little later…)


The little guy was enjoying the whip quite a bit


Often those are toy stuffed llamas on their back…these were real!


I don´t have much of a zoom lens, so I was right up on these guys.  I got pushed out of the way of an oncoming saint a few times!


Chiriuchi – the traditional food of Corpus Christi.  Yes, those are the guinea pigs in front!

To be continued… if I have time,
otherwise,
As always, more religiously uplifting photos on Flickr

I´ve entered myself into another photo/ writing contest, which again turns out to be a popularity-voting contest.  However with this one, there is no signing in or registering…you just click!  AND, you can vote once a day, every day, and keep voting and voting and voting for me!
1. just go here:
www.gadventures.com/‎
2. look for this picture of Clara´s painted face and the blue steps:
3. click and vote daily
This way I can win a new spectacular camera, and won´t have to keep battling with the stray hair I have on my sensor which is ruining my beautiful photos.
Thanks mucho!

Plaza de Armas, Cusco, 11:30am

See Flickr for additional kids in costumes, with balloons!

This monitor at the hostal is very bad so I can´t tell if I´m choosing the best exposures…
Cusco Cuzco Peru street sign

cusco cuzco peru street sign

cusco cuzco peru street sign

cusco cuzco peru street sign

cusco cuzco peru street sign

cusco cuzco peru street sign

with a stray hair on the sensor.  luckily I discovered that now and hopefully got it out of there…

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Aldea Yanapay – Mi Grupo de Amor:
Arni, Roberto
Iomira, Zakhia, Naysha, Jazmin, Lucero, Me
Claudia, Rosy, Cecilia
(not shown – Cristian)

The presentation of the continents went great!  I contend that Cecilia and my group was the best, most prepared, and most creative!  We had a couple missing kids and a couple new kids, so we rearranged the roles at the last minute, including the lead role, and it still went great.  We concluded with a song:
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Hanging around before the presentations

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Clara as a half-butterfly (marisposa)

See Flickr for more photos, including more stomach-turning market photos, and a photo essay of “Nienke´s Day Out!”

Feliz Cumpleños a mi hermana, Lynn!!

(Photos can be found in this Flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/albums/72157604894550412/page1)


Jazmin y Marita

Lots of news and developments the last few days.  I just found out I will not be going to Pilcopata to volunteer in July and August.  The volunteer coordinator just quit, for many many reasons, mostly based around how the organization is being run and how the money is being spent.  As with so many things in Peru, it always comes down to money, and it seems the woman in charge is not behaving as a professional NGO and a legitimate non-profit.  And the organization is no longer going to be sending volunteers to the jungle but will be focusing on their other project.

I also just learned that I did not win the Travelocity grant for an Amazon scientific cruise, which I had hoped to go on.  But that is OK because it conflicted with the Amazon River Raft Race that I will be going on.  And I plan to reapply for the grant again.  In other Amazon news, it the Amazon has been declared (by the Geographic Society of Lima) to be the longest river in the world.  With the discovery of its true source, it is 4,388 miles in length, and beats out the Nile by 242 miles.

At Yanapay, the one-on-one lessons with Clara are not going as well this week.  One of the volunteers is doing elaborate face painting, so of course Clara wants to do this.  And since a week of face painting is much more important than learning to read, that´s how it goes.  I have been able, after ten minutes of chasing her down and persuasion, to bring her into the classroom and do 15 minutes of work.  I made some worksheets to match the words with the pictures.  She has yet to learn what the words mean so I want to keep this up, but it is difficult to continue making it entertaining and fun.  But Sr. Tigre begged to do Clara´s worksheets.  I couldn´t refuse a kid who WANTS to do homework, so he eagerly did a set of them as well.

I also meet with a special needs teacher, who a Dutch speech therapist friend of mine happens to know, to try to find out what resources or path might be available for Clara.  This teacher, Celeste, is an American who has lived here for four years, and has set up her own school for special needs kids.  She does not work with the deaf, but has a colleague who does, and of course knows more about the system.  Celeste has also worked with a young Peruvian deaf girl who has been well educated but is currently not working.  She is going to try to bring this girl to Yanapay to meet with Clara and with Yuri and see if she can be set up as her teacher.  The problem, of course, may be that there is no money to pay the teacher a small salary.  I hope this works out, as it would be an ideal long term solution, but I´ll wait and see what happens.

Geography lessons at Yanapay have been going well, and I am paired with a wonderful Swedish volunteer this week.  We need to come up with our weekly presentation today, which I can only hope will incorporate the chorus to “We Are the World!”


Davis (El Señor Tigre) reading with wonder and awe about planet Earth!  (this is honestly not posed!)


Davis eagerly does my worksheet


Señor Tigre!!


Cecilia teaches geography with Jasmin and Zakhia


Enjoying chicha at the Chinchero Market

 
The ruins at Chinchero


Starting the hike from Chinchero


Boys with their sheep.  They asked us where we were going…In hindsight we think this is where we got distracted and “I” lost the trail!


I took the lead and, hmmmm…where did the trail go?

 
Trying to re-find the trail


Pigs in training for Marathon de Chanchos!  I had no idea pigs could run so fast for so long.


Ruins at the lower right


The long and painful (on the knees) descent


Long way still to go to get to the bottom


Walking through the little village at the valley floor

More photos on Flickr!

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Bored with making friendship bracelets, one of my art class students grabbed a paper mache mask from the shelf and put it over his face. With the skill of a true comedian, he patiently sat and waited for a reaction. I turned around, saw him in the painted tiger face, and exclaimed, “Hola, Señor Tigre!” The room erupted in laughter and that´s how Davis became Sr. Tigre.

Angeline sponsored April 16 for art projects with the kids, and so her blog entry is long overdue. As head of the art room at Yanapay a few weeks ago, I was able to do my feathers project and then make friendship bracelets. On Flickr you can view the photos that I brought along for inspiration, from an exhibit at the Met of Featherwork in Ancient Peru. I prepared a presentation of the history and significance of these objects, and managed to keep their attention long enough to ask them a few questions. Doing art projects, its difficult to get them to think and work creatively, as they are so used to just copying, copying, copying in school. None the less, the class went pretty well, and we made some nice feather mosaic pictures.

However, they loved making the friendship bracelets, and wanted to do that for days. The girls, for the most part, knew how to do it or else picked it up very quickly. The boys, as a whole, were hopeless, and succeeded in making a series of irregular knots.

In general the boys are rowdy and disruptive for the entire three hours at Yanapay, and make a smooth, organized class impossible. So when Sr. Tigre came into the reading room this week, I wasn´t expecting to get him to concentrate and read. But surprises never cease, and when I wasn´t working with Clara, I had an amazing week reading with Davis. He gasped in awe as he read about killer whales (ballenas asesinos-murderer or assassin whales!) and traced his finger over the beautiful pictures in the book. Since he enjoyed that so much, we drew pictured of killer whales. Then we learned about all the animals besides hens which lay eggs, about polar animals, and about all the different types of trucks. He was quite impressed that I have seen, with my own eyes, el camion de salchicha (the Weiner Mobile!)

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