Tuesday, March 22, 2016

#8: Peru. The Sacred Valley.





Quick housekeeping note: They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, if that's true these posts just got several thousand words longer. Or if you are like me, have just given you an excuse to skip to the pictures and be done with it rather than doing any reading. Whichever you prefer, from here on out rather than attempting to attach tiny thumbnails of pictures to these posts, you'll see embedded links to my photo-site. Eat your heart out. 

In the general theme of this whole series of 'the bucket list', Peru had absolutely been on the top of mine for several years. Throughout my childhood we had this ethereal photograph taken by one of my dad's friends hanging on the wall that always gave me wonder. It was not those crystal clear wide angle shots of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu that you will find on the cover of National Geographic (or to an extent, in the photos below), rather it was a simple shot of a mist covered stone circle erected by the Inca, off to the side in an area of the ruins that tourists don't even venture as nothing seems very special about it. It was in an area that the Inca used to hew the massive stones for the building of the city, but these stones are so perfectly placed in a circle they seem to indicate that there was a ceremonial purpose to these particular ones. This was my impression of Machu Picchu growing up: not the Disney World of impressive ruins and panoramic vistas of the Andes that most envision when they picture the place... but one shrouded in mystery and of unanswered questions about the native culture that seemed to have suddenly abandoned it hundreds of years ago. Why was almost no gold discovered at this site that was purported to be the luxurious home of Incan royals; they being of an empire that we know forfeited countless galleons full of it to the Spanish when they were conquered?  Why have only bones of women been uncovered upon its discovery? Did the men all go off to war to never return? What exactly took place on the (coincidentally human size) altars which seem to be designed and placed in such a way as to pay tribute to the sun and the surrounding mountains?

As a kid, I'd ask my mom about the picture. She'd tell me there was a mighty culture that was once there; kind of like the 'Indians' of North America, but bigger and grander and more mysterious. She'd tell me my dad often spoke of wanting to go but never did. He was always one who was enamored by native American culture: he could spend hours walking around a freshly tilled up field in Indiana just looking for arrowheads or any trace of the tribes that once lived in the area. He'd make his own tools in the way they would have been made hundreds of years ago out of rawhide strips, wood and stone in attempt to recreate the lives of the men and women who lived in America before we did. Everything about their culture absolutely fascinated him, and now myself as well. It was for him that I was now making the trip here and finally coming face-to-face with this mystery which I'd seen hanging on my living room wall since I was a child.

In telling the story of the trip, I'll let one of my older blog posts (which by complete coincidence, I wrote five years ago almost to the day) speak for me. It is the story of coming across road construction in the middle of the otherwise uninterrupted jungle landscape in the Santa Teresa river valley right outside of Machu Picchu. My thoughts of the whole experience haven't changed much since then, so I figured I'd just post a link rather than retelling it all. But I can't help but note if my dad were there he may have had more appreciation for how changing times can be bittersweet and that development can often spoil Mother Nature in irreversible ways; how there was a time when men behaved as if we and Earth were dependent on each other as we realized our fates were inescapably intertwined. This all may be putting words in his mouth, but I do know this for sure: at the very least he'd have certainly been walking through that construction site looking for Incan arrowheads.
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What preferences put Peru at or near the top of my bucket list? That one's easy:

Affordability: 100/100
Architecture: 50/100
Cities 50/100
Culture: 50/100
Food: 50/100
History: 50/100
Nature: 100/100
Outdoor Adventure: 100/100
Relaxation: 1/100
Safety: 50/100

(spoiler alert: a few countries down the list are soon upcoming)

http://grimeskr.tumblr.com/post/140335090361/machupicchu-peru-salkantay-travel

http://grimeskr.tumblr.com/post/140334923731/peru-cuzco-machupicchu-salkantay-travel

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