Hola! – from Patagonia it was time to shed the thermals and fly north to colourful pink paint splashed Lima with LATAM, then onto the high altitude of Cusco in Peru.
We had a lot of ground to cover quickly before sunset, so our small group all piled into our mini van at the airport, while passing and sucking on altitude lollies, heading straight for the Sacred Valley, at the foothills of the mountains where Inca civilisation once held reign.
Sometimes there is just no time to stop and take photographs, literally. Nothing hurts more than seeing shots whizz by you which you can’t hop out to grab them. So the next best thing is to wind your window down and shoot from the moving car. It’s like a ‘sampler’ of the city, you get to take it all in, real fast.
Even though I didn’t spend very much time in cobblestone Cusco, I could tell it was my kind of city. Colourful and vibrant, lots of joy on the streets, overflowing with a certain type of positive energy, which could also have been due to the Shania Twain blaring from our car radio.
We arrived on dusk at explora Sacred Valley, which surprisingly was actually in the middle of an ancient corn plantation, where corn is still harvested. Just like at explora Patagonia, every part of the stay was thoughtfully considered. Even down to the daily gourmet offerings which are based on giving you energy and sustenance so you comfortably achieve your ‘explorations’ in the Sacred Valley each day.
Our first ‘exploration’ was actually taking the luxury Belmond Hiram Bingham train straight up to Machu Picchu. All aboard! No hiking for us. I know, I know, not exactly working up a sweat, though it did get my heart racing.
It was actually such a thrill to ‘dine’ in a luxury serviced carriage with all the white table cloths. It truly felt like something straight out of the 1920’s, as we followed the Urubamba River, itching closer to the ancient Lost City of the Incas.
Machu Picchu, what is there to say which hasn’t been said before? It hurts your head to fathom the complexities and the physical demands to build such a city. What it does make you realise is the power and determination of the Inca Empire.
With such thin air and harsh sun, that’s all I could think about – how strenuous bringing together such an urban creation, dedicating your entire life to constructing a gift of sorts to the empire.
On our last day in South America we hiked to a small ancient township called Chinchero, to seek out a very old textile market, which had been a marketplace since Inca times.
On the windswept plains at 3762 meters above sea level, I found most things a little harder and a little slower as we were getting used to altitude.
It wasn’t the easiest of hikes, though it was one of the most rewarding. With each gasp of air I told myself that something spectacular was just around the next bend.
I thought ‘my reward’ was actually going to be the best Peruvian blanket I had ever seen in my life, turns out it was even better than that… the mayhem of Sunday church.
Sunday Mass at the Colonial Church of Chinchero had just finished and the bells were ringing as locals and neighbouring villagers poured out from arched doors of the church in colourful traditional outfits, chattering about. It was all very festive and lively, like a mad conga line of people weaving their way out.
I noticed the most striking Quechua woman carrying the heaviest bunch of gladioli, so I hopped in her conga line and followed her along the cobblestones to catch up with her. I thought she was so beautiful and with no language between us, besides my rapid arm movements, we shared a conversation of sorts, which resulted in a lot of laughter.
After church we then walked down to the Sunday textile market, which was again so alive. If you ever make it to Chinchero, make sure you visit on a Sunday to catch the market, it’s an absolute must. Full of cooking smells, fresh produce, laughter and the bartering of textiles. I could stare at the ‘Mamachas’ all day with their noble high hats, plaited piggy tails and colourful wardrobe get ups.
Our last stop was one of the most spectacular from the whole trip. The salt pools of Maras in the Sacred Valley. Since Inca times the terraced salt pools have been in use, harvesting salt.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, though I didn’t expect the salt pools to be this beautiful, reflecting all the light from the sky in their warm salted pools. In such delicate colours of soft blues, pale pinks and faded ochre.
And then that was it. The most visually wild 12 days across Chile and Peru came sadly to an end. The colours, the light, the people, all but memories until next time – and there will be a next time.
Also, a big thank you to you; thank you for your support and interest in my travels. It’s one thing to travel, though it’s far more meaningful to be able to share and capture these experiences with others in mind.
P.S. If you spotted any images you’d love as a print please jump over to my online shop and check out the new collection. If there’s an image you love that isn’t there you can order it as a custom print.
Also, if you’d like more info about LATAM airlines and the trip here is a fact sheet to download.
Thanks again for reading!