Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Memory, Photography, and Machu Picchu

Hi there to all of you. It has been a while since my last entry, but times have been and continue to be hectic, what, with the world crisis and all. More later on that boring but serious pit-bull-like subject… For now, on to more elevating stuff: www.fotomission.org!
People that know me will agree I am a lousy photographer. I actually prefer to travel without a camera, as looking at the world through a lens never was my greatest pleasure in life. I really love looking at pictures though, especially if they are good and/or about an area I have recently visited or about my past (so much has happened, so few memories) and so I am a photo fanatic nevertheless. Also, of course, travel and photography are as strongly linked as it is impossible for me to combine the two on a personal level. If it weren’t for Karin, who actually is a great photographer (most of our current best online pictures still come from her Nikon D80!), most of what we do (and sell) would have never made it to the public eye… Now that would have been a true disaster!

Travel photography of course plays an important role in a couple of our most-sold destinations: The Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu. I have been there several times and all of my visits have been truly amazing, although tremendously different experiences:

Jan 6th, 1991, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley: Epiphany or Three Kings Day as it is better known in Peru. Took a cab to Ollanta to participate in the fiestas and enjoy endless quantities of “Chicha” (corn juice, fermented on human saliva additive; yummy!). Somehow made it up the fortress’ ruins and crashed out lying on one of those immense granite building blocks, only to wake up in the middle of the night from the reflective light of a huge full moon. The awe and absolute natural beauty of that moment stay with me to this day, but guess what…I had no camera!
• The only other time I have seen a moon like that was during another midnight escapade, this time to the Geysers of El Tatio in the Chilean part of the Atacama Desert in 2004. During that mind-boggling occasion I forgot to wake up Karin and, in addition to being punished for the rest of that trip, I again have no photographic evidence of what I witnessed.
Jan 10th, 1991, Machu Picchu, take 1: after a disastrously funny “San Pedro – hallucinogenic cactus experience” somewhere near a “temple of the moon”, I woke up sick, having to cancel my planned Inca Trail hike and take the train instead. Getting to see the ruins and somehow making it up to Wayna Picchu made more than made up for Montezuma’s bitter revenge. The view from up there I will never forget, but I would need to become a great painter to share it with you.
Sometime in 1995: First Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: those were the times when you could still do it yourself… so we each hoisted over 25kg of canned food, lighter fluid, cooking equipment, tents, hard liquor and yes, some cannabis on our backs and into the mountains we went. The first night it rained so hard that we literally had a small creek running through our tent. I woke up because Karin had managed to crawl on top of me in her sleep, avoiding the water from running into her sleeping bag. She slept straight through the event, but made it kind of difficult for me to forget the fact I was soaked and very, very cold. The second morning we had to climb some 2,200m (6,600ft) straight up to the infamous Dead Woman’s Pass, where Karin almost became a dead woman herself as she slipped and almost fell down a small crevasse. I’m not sure why, but I had been holding a flap on the back of her pack for quite some time already and managed to steady her before worse could happen. The images that stay with me though are those of the moss dangling in some seriously bewildering ways from the trees in the cloud forest we passed through on day 3. Fairytale type stuff, really, but still, somewhat regrettably, these images live on only in my mind.

I could go on and on, but that would be taking things out of perspective. Maybe one day I will share some of my earlier travel experiences with you, but for now, suffice it to say that sometimes it would have been great to have a camera on me with the actual knowledge on how to use it properly. Had I known the people from Fotomission years ago, I might have become a different type of traveler. Let me share with you some of their “About Us” page:

“Photography is a powerful language; it is the language of light. With it we strive to understand and shed light on the complexities of human activity, its dependence on its causes and in connection with its effects, not merely in relation to how it affects us as individuals, but our world as a whole.

No other form of communication or expression has done as much to transform our sense of self, our daily lives and our society as the photograph. Photography is probably the most influential medium of the modern era.

Fotomission is a volunteer operated non-profit organization dedicated to promoting as well as producing artistic and documentary exhibitions, publications and online presentations of significant and socially conscious photographic endeavors.

Our mission is to utilize artistic and documentary photography as a means of creating positive social change while at the same time promoting the art of photography.”

Pretty cool stuff! Take a look at the following link to get a better idea of a great tour these guys have set up and which might be a great tip for an upcoming photo-traveling experience: http://www.fotomission.org/expeditions/machu_picchu/index.html

Remember, May is a great time to visit Machu Picchu. It’s right after the rainy season and guarantees lush, green views and good temperatures, as well as good late afternoon and evening light for great picture taking. This is actually one of those gems when it comes to organized tours; well-organized, unique, very dedicated staff and great photographic memories for sure! Need I say more?
Happy Trails!


Pakistan travel said...

Very beautiful area i will go there Inshallah.

Diana said...

I have been in Cusco and Machu Picchu two times... and each time it was unforgettable!

Travel Blog said...

Machu Picchu seems to be quite a scene to view. I bet its even better to view from there. I really like nature and beautiful sites, makes me wanna visit there.In fact, I probably will visit the place when I have time.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick line to say hey! and to thank you for the well written
lines you share with the world in your Travel Blog.
If you don't mind, I would like to ask you a couple of questions. I'm
a photographer and would like to know your perspective on security: is
it safe to travel with pro-equipment outside of Lima? I know I need to
be careful no matter where I go, but is it a problem bigger than per
se, Chile or Argentina? Are the locals friendly towards curious
foreigners visiting their place?
Please be safe. Always looking forward to your next posting.

Bart de Graaf said...

Hi Jaime,

Thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words. With respect to safety
in Peru, you basically already said it yourself: you need to be careful
wherever you go. From my experience I would say that you will be safer
outside of Lima than in Lima itself. Still, it is wise to be alert,
especially if you travel alone. I normally do not take pictures; Karin does
that and I "keep watch". I prefer it this way, so she can fully focus on
what she does best and I make sure nobody gets too close, just in case.
Locals are very friendly and in 99% of the cases my caution is completely
redundant, but I like to be on the safe side just the same. On the other
hand, Andean people are not fond of being photographed as they believe the
camera to steal a part of their soul if a picture is taken. We therefore
either ask beforehand if it would be ok to take a picture, or try to do so
without the subject noticing, usually from a greater distance. Considering
your last question, yes, you will be welcomed there. They are used to tourists, but you should remember to respect the locals and their traditions, of course.
Hope that clarifies things! :-)

Happy trails

Samui said...

Machu Picchu is beautiful place. Nice !

Susan said...

Beautiful picture! and very nice reading thanks for the article!!

Traveling Geek said...

your pictures are so beautifull!

Jimmy said...

For the first time I read about Machu Picchu. Thanks for such an interesting piece of writing!

Allen said...

Nice Information!!!!
I like this type of place, in future i might be go there.

Petter said...

Nice Blog!!!!
What a lovely place i want to see it. only i hear about this place.

travel said...

very beautiful

Von Shtupp said...

Great blog, Bart! I will be a frequent reader. If you get a chance, check out my new travel blog, www.meanderingutopia.blogspot.com, which also discusses South America in a recent post on Vilcabamba, Ecuador -- which, by the way, is a place worth visiting, if you haven't already done so.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your travels with us.

Vietnam Travel said...

Very beautiful area

Dirk said...

Interesting text. You have a nice blog. Keep it up!

James said...

While people may have different views still good things should always be appreciated. Yours is a nice blog. Liked it!!!

Avila Beach said...

Nice Manchu Piccu picture...
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

What a beautifull place !!
Thanks for sharing !

Liz and Alf said...

Hi Bart, S.America such a beautiful destination.Pop across the ocean and pay us a visit in Queensland Australia mate.
We can share a few beers.

website design said...

what an amazing photo! i love it so much.

Pierina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TFN said...

Wow, I just look at the picture and wished i was there.. great view :)

Anonymous said...

Cusco is an amazing city, I was a week and I could know a lot of places like Sacred Valley of Incas, Machu Picchu, and the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo. Also, the food is delicious and people great. During my time in this wonderful city I stayed in Libertador Hotel which I recommend because has an excellent service. They helped me to organize all my tours. Its website is http://www.libertador.com.pe/en/2/1/2/cusco-hotel if you want more information.

Sally said...

A great post - and a great site. We'll definately pass our customers in your direction!