I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Sunday bird blogging

A West Peruvian Dove in Lima. Again, not a great picture but you can just see the blue eye ring.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Saturday reflections

An office building on a Saturday, taken from my hotel in Lima.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Urban poetry

Boats pulled up on the beach near the fish market in Chorrillos.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Cerca del océano pacífico

One more picture of the view from the cliffs in Lima—the little black specks in the water are surfers. Surfing is very popular there. And a wiggly sort of tree that caught my eye nearby.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Sunday bird blogging

One of the very noisy scrub blackbirds which provide a constant soundtrack of chatter for Lima's green spaces.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Finishing up

A few Peruvian odds and ends. This is the ornate Baroque façade of the Convento San Francisco in Lima, built in the late 1700’s. The interiors were magnificent—a cloister with an ornate wooden ceiling and tiles from Seville surrounding a garden, a library with spiral staircases, beautiful paintings. No photography was allowed unfortunately, but if you Google “Convento San Francisco” you can find pictures from visitors who ignored the rules.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

I love a parade

Taken on my only night in Cusco. I tried to walk from the hotel to the main plaza and ran into a parade coming in the opposite direction. I stood on the median in the middle of the avenue and took a few pictures; when I turned around I realized that the parade now filled the street behind me as well. I gave up on trying to get to the plaza and just joined the parade for a few blocks back to the hotel.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Saturday reflections

A car parked on the very California-like streets of the San Isidro neighborhood in Lima. The West Coast is the West Coast, apparently.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The library technique

A closer look at the bricks at Huaca Pucllana. That a structure built of adobe has survived for 1800 years is partly due to the climate—the coast of Peru is a desert, and Lima gets less than an inch of rain a year. Stacking the bricks vertically is called the library technique; the spaces in between the bricks allow them to move and makes the structure more earthquake-resistant.


Another look at the contrast between the Huaca Pucllana pyramid and the surrounding streets in Lima. It's just so cool.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Sunday bird blogging

Inca terns at the fish market. The picture on the right isn't great but I had to include it to highlight the curls on those amazing white cheek feathers.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Saturday reflections

Back to Huaca Pucllana in Lima. These mirrors were placed in the ruins as an art installation. The reflections weren't the best, maybe because the site is so monochrome, but it's still fun.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Urban poetry

Houses on a hill in Lima.

After some Googling, I learned that this is actually an art project, to give what was considered an unsafe neighborhood on San Cristobal hill that had been hard hit by COVID the look of a giant mural. Now it's even more poetic.

Evening in the Sacred Valley

I missed this picture earlier. We'd stopped in Urubamba (a town, not the river) to visit a ceramics studio on our way to the hotel in the Sacred Valley.

It was late afternoon/early evening and I was shooting straight into the setting sun, but I still like this picture. You can see two of the tuk-tuks that were the primary mode of transportation there.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Faces of Cusco

I love the hats on these boys sitting at a bus stop outside the Koricancha.


This is the most important Inca site in Cusco. It was across the street from the hotel, so I did see it, at least from the outside.

It was a temple to Inti, the Inca sun god, and the walls were covered with sheets of gold (gold that was eventually stripped to pay ransom for the life of Atahualpa, though of course the Spaniards killed him anyway.) After the fall of the Incas, the Spanish demolished the temple and used the stones to build a church on the site. You can still see some of that amazing Incan masonry in the foundations though.


I didn't see much of Cusco. I went for a walk the evening we arrived but it was already dark, and when I woke up the next morning and couldn't catch my breath after bending over my suitcase, I decided to skip the last day of sightseeing and go back to Lima.

And it was the right decision, but I do hope I can try again some day. This is the street outside the hotel.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

A few more looks at Ollantaytambo

The water feature on the left is called the Nusta Bathtub, or the Princess Bathtub. I don't remember what the buildings on the right are, but I'm guessing they have something to do with the Incas.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Inca pantry

There are also some ruins on this mountain, which towers over the site, but we had neither the time nor the inclination to get a closer look (at least speaking for myself—climbing up the stairs next to the terraces was enough for me.)

The structures that look like tiers of bleacher seats were used for food storage; the cold dry air up there helped to preserve it.

The terraces

In some ways these ruins were more surprising than Machu Picchu. It's a fortress sitting in the middle of a village (where some of the houses and streets were also built by the Incas). You just pull into a parking lot and suddenly you're in the 15th century.


Like Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo was built by Pachicuti, the ruler who expanded the kingdom of Cusco into the Inca Empire in the mid-1400's. It's about an hour's drive from Cusco, and was both a ceremonial and agricultural center and Pachicuti's royal estate.

After the murder of Atahualpa, this was used as a fortress by Manco Inca, and was the site of the only victory of the Inca army against the Spaniards.

The main site is a series of terraces and stone walls surrounding an esplanade. This is the Water Temple, containing one of many ceremonial fountains.

Monday, July 3, 2023

Sacred Valley

I took this from the van as we drove through the Sacred Valley going back to Cusco, so there are a few reflections, but it's still pretty beautiful.

Alpaca glamour shot

It turned out I did have a few pictures of the alpacas from Chinchero. I like llamas but I think alpacas have the sweetest faces.

Back to Ollantaytambo

The pictures from the train leaving Machu Picchu turned out much better than the first set. So here are some more looks at the stunning sere mountains on the way back to Ollantaytambo.

More Aguas Calientes

The church in town, and a picture I took from the train station in the morning before we left, showing one of the basically vertical mountains that surround the town.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

The Urubamba, um, River

The Urubamba runs through Aguas Calientes. June is the middle of the dry season, so I assume the river (which is a headwater of the Amazon) looks more impressive after some rain. I love the shapes and colors of those stones in the riverbed though.

Aguas Calientes

I like the old name Aguas Calientes better, but calling the town Machu Picchu Pueblo makes it clear it's definitely a tourist town—hotels, restaurants, shops—but also that it's a place that only exists as a waystation to Machu Picchu. There are no cars in town, only the buses that go up the mountain. And since you're only allowed to bring one carry-on sized piece of luggage on the train in, nobody is staying for long. (Many people actually do Machu Picchu as a day trip from Cusco.)

And there was a baby llama!

This baby was trying to nurse but every time it latched on, Mom would move on to a more promising patch of grass and baby was left running after her to try again.

A few more Machu Picchu pictures

Plus llamas.

Steel and stone

It is true that the Incas had no written language and didn't use the wheel, but I've sometimes read that they didn't have metal tools, and that isn't true. They didn't have iron or steel, and they seemed to have thought of metal as a religious material rather than a practical one, but they did have bronze tools, including knives. At Macchu Picchu they seem to have built with the stone that was already on the mountain, and you can see that only one of these walls uses the perfectly sized and fitted ashlar masonry you see in Cusco. Still, to have cut all of this stone using only stone or bronze tools is mind-boggling.

While I was in Peru I read a novel called Civilizations, by Laurent Binet. It's an alternate history, where Atahualpa conquers Spain instead of the other way around. It's written in the style of a contemporary historical account, and so there wasn't the world-building or character development I would have liked, but it was very clever and it was amusing to see Europe (now “the New World”) through Atahualpa's eyes. One of his generals dreams of being the first to “discover” Italy. Jesus, aka The Nailed God, is “a local fable.”

This version of events is possible because a daughter of Erik the Red flees Greenland after a murder and sails south to Central and South America, where the Norsemen show the natives how to find and use iron. When Columbus turns up a few centuries later, he and his men are killed and Atahualpa uses one of his abandoned ships as a model to build his own. The Incas could live without a written language or the wheel, but if they'd had steel, history might have been very different.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

More stairs

The sun came and went while I was there. Overcast skies made this picture work well in black and white.

Stone steps at Machu Picchu

You can see why you don't want to have to run down several levels of these in a real hurry.

Being there

For the first time since dropping out of graduate school, I remembered an unpleasant weekend spent struggling to comprehend the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s explanation of the difference between calling something beautiful and calling it sublime. Nowadays, we throw around the word “sublime” to describe gooey desserts or overpriced handbags. In Kant’s epistemology, it meant something limitless, an aesthetically pleasing entity so huge that it made the perceiver’s head hurt. Machu Picchu isn’t just beautiful, it’s sublime.

--Mark Adams, Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Yes. Maybe I'll go back some day. But I don't have to.

And there it is

The day before, when I'd been lying on a bed in a clinic in the Sacred Valley sucking on oxygen, I'd been resigned to missing Machu Picchu. I hated to come so far and not see the main attraction, but I didn't see how I could keep going.

So I was thrilled to be there. I made it! I was actually at Machu Picchu!

And unfortunately I wasn't well. It wasn't the altitude that bothered me, but my digestive system that distressingly picked That Particular Moment to act up. After taking the bus up to the ruins, we had lunch in the restaurant outside the gates. After lunch, I was setting up my walking poles and slathering on insect repellant—Machu Picchu is jungle after all—when I suddenly had to run to the bathroom. Urgently. And a few minutes later, when we had just started climbing, I had to leave and go again.

I was okay after that, but as there are no bathrooms at the site I didn't want to take any chances, and so while the rest of my group did the long circuit including the top levels, I stayed below, closer to the exit. I was a little disappointed not to get the “classic picture” looking down on the site, but in some ways, I lucked out. When I described how I'd found being there an almost spiritual experience, others in the group commented on not having time to really take in the views because they had to watch where they were walking, and that it was crowded and noisy. Whereas I was mostly alone, except for a few llamas, and I got to spend time sitting on a bench and looking at this view.

The road to Machu Picchu, continued

I took this picture from the bus going up the mountain. (Taking pictures distracted me from the steep drops and lack of guardrails.) You can see the Urubamba River in the valley far below.

Blog Archive