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Travel Diary

South America Part Three: Peru

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.

Above left: A lady waiting on the side of the colourful road / Above right: Colourful buildings lining the streets

Above left: A colourful retro, Volkswagen Van / Above right: A red car driving down the streets

Above left: Mini van details / Above right: Houses on a hill shot from the window of the van.

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.

Above left: Lady on the side of a road / Above right: Colourful street corner

Above: Entrance to explora Sacred Valley, in the middle of an ancient corn plantation

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.

Above left: The luxury Belmond Hiram Bingham train going to Machu Picchu / Above right: Inside the train, luxury serviced carriage with all the white table cloths.

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.

Above: The ancient Lost City of the Incas.

Above left: The ancient Lost City of the Incas / Above right: Exploring Machu Picchu

Above: The views at the top, Machu Picchu in all it’s glory.

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.

Above: Sunday Mass at the Colonial Church of Chinchero

Above left: People walking out of the church / Above right: A man sitting and waiting outside the church.

Above left: Sunday Mass at the Colonial Church of Chinchero just finishing / Above right: The last few people leaving after the service.

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.

Above: Sunday Mass at the Colonial Church of Chinchero finishing and local villagers pouring out from arched doors

Above left: Quechua woman carrying the heaviest bunch of gladioli / Above right: A cross outside the 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.

Above: Ladies in the textile markets

Above left: Food being cooked in the markets / Above right: Lady cooking food

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.

Above left: Sitting outside of the textile markets / Above right: people sitting down enjoying their market food

Above: A lady selling her fresh produce in the markets

Above: The golden grasses on the high plateau and the yucca lined roads. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Entrance’ available in my print shop.

Above left: A lady and her donkey, they had been working the fields nearby. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Donkey and Peruvian Lady ’ available in my print shop. / Above right: The donkey working hard.

Above: Salt pools of Maras in the Sacred Valley. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Maras’ available in my print shop.

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.

Above left: The colours of the salt showing different colours as it reflects the light / Above right: Pink and ochre tones coming through from the salt.

Above: The salt pools reflecting the light from the sky.

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.

Thank you to LATAM airlines for the invitation and NOMADE Unique Experiences for hosting this incredible trip and unearthing the most authentic experiences possible.

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.

K x

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!


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6 Comments to “South America Part Three: Peru”

  1. I see these words and images and I can't help seeing another book itching to happen, so, so beautiful Kara. The salt pools are gorgeous especially loved the sweet friends you made. X

  2. Oh the memories Kara! I spent three weeks in Peru thirty years ago when it had finally dawned on me, it wasn't going to 'happen' if I didn't make it happen. We hiked the Macchu Pichu trail (studded with indestructible pink Peruvian toilet paper in the bushes), I lost my whole lower lip to rampaging cold sores from the thin air and hot sun, came home nine kilos lighter with a taste for Pisco Sours. Magic!

  3. I love reading your stories Kara you’re a great writer! Peru has been on my bucket list for a while now, I’ll get there one day soon. I’ve seen giant salt pools in Sicily but not with those colours, so cool.

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