Like i said, i would be uploading photo essays of some of the places we visited. Though when we started out there was no intention of making something like this, and these are more about what struck us about the places rather than based on any pre-travel research or idea.
This is a Photo Essay about Egypt, one of the destinations that I had been in particular vying for. Since as long as i can remember Egypt has held a sort of fascination in my mind, one that i am sure is shared by many of us. Therefore a trip to Egypt was really special. Do let me know what you think about this photo essay.
I have been playing with an idea for a long time. We have a huge collection of our trip pictures, more than 10,000 taken by both my DSLR and our Sony point and shoot. Some of my personal favorite pics from our trip deserve a separate mention…So therefore I have made a portfolio out of them. These are some chosen pics which I feel have great subjects, great timing and not to mention a lot of luck! It took me a looong time to narrow down on these 20-30 odd pics out of the thousands. Looking forward to hearing your opinion on my best picks…ideally as comments here. If you prefer to view a cool unobstructed slideshow, then click on this thumbnail .
Though we did take a whole lot of pictures, there are some places where it just wasn’t possible to take our cameras. So here’s a list of some places where I wished I could have taken my camera:
While snorkeling in the Red sea in Egypt and in Bonito, Brazil – The underwater world in both these places is so mind boggling. Specially for someone like me who had never snorkeled before. You jump into a dark blue sea only to discover millions of colors underneath which weren’t visible a second ago. In Bonito, you are literally face to face with the big fish…unreal!
In Rio during the carnival – While I had my camera for the carnival parade in the Sambadrome, I didn’t dare take it to the street parties. Tourists are easy targets and I had heard of at least 3 people from my own hostel losing their cams to thieves. But I missed capturing the real throbbing, partying Rio, with its Samba enthusiasts, drummers, drinkers, beer vendors, processions, awesome costumes, drag queens, street food, people gyrating to new age techno samba, etc…
To the Tango club in Argentina – We didn’t go to any of the fancy Tango performances which most travel agencies tend to include in package trips. Instead we went to an old and reputed Tango club where a bunch of locals meet up to dance. A regular saturday night affair for them, there are many such clubs all over Buenos Aires, and most of them are filled with regulars. Though I carried my camera, I didn’t feel it was appropriate taking pics of people there. But I wish I could show just what a special experience that was. In hindsight, I would have taken a landscape of the hall from a high vantage point. But at that time, I couldn’t be bothered as I was so blown away by the Tango!
Considering I did take my camera almost everywhere else and got it back in one piece…I can’t complain!
Also coming up…I will be posting some of my photo essays for various destinations. So if you are interested in going to the places we went to you might want to check them out!
The access group (1st day of carnival, 11 groups parade during the whole night) in the sambadrome (its a 700 mt path filled on both sides by wild cheering spectators), best viewed in full screen. Rain played spoilsport throughout the night, but it was one amazing amazing spectacle.
This is where it all began. Literally. The state of Bahia was the center of the slave trade that supplied workers for the sugar plantations of Brazil (its always been strong in sugar), the mines of potosi …across South America. The Africans (mostly North Africans, if I remember right) came with their friendliness, rhythm and local religion. This is what makes Brazil the vibrant place when compared to the relative homogeneity of rest of South America.
The tourist center is Pelorinho…that ultra authentic cobblestone street that gives your ankles a stern test; shops selling various muscial instruments, avant garde art, african art, street performers, people hanging out on the pavement, cafes, bands, police, capoeira – the place is fully of energy. Visits to the Artist’s Market, The Mall (its the biggest ), the pier, museums are easily arranged from here. And great food, yes even for vegetarians.
A few pics through the point and shoot:
Lima is the capital of Peru and Lima is huge. We had spent a few hours here searching frantically for good restaurants to eat on our way to Trujillo but had just walked and walked. This time we were to spend 4 days there.
Cities have something about them, historical significance, economic importance or what not, selling dreams of utopia to people everywhere, attracting people, changing people, morphing people…. Lima was center of Spanish domination, absolute power was wielded by the Spanish from Lima over rest of Latin America (had Latin America been comfortable with a French king the Bolivarian revolution might not have succeeded. Peru was the overlord among countries.
Lima is beautiful – wide and clean roads, the up market areas of Barranco and Miraflores, the centro historico, china town, shopping areas, loads of parks (the park of musical fountain is the best, the park of love is uplifting ), the arterial metropolitan bus service, largely friendly people, great food and nightlife – perfect? Not quite, somewhere the soul is missing. Its almost as if the city in extending its charm to the hordes that throng it, has charmed itself into nothingness.
Maybe the occupation, maybe the proud Andean peoples capital being located away from their beloved Apu (mountain god)… maybe just another city.
We should have spent atleast there.
Exit Peru, extraordinarily satisfactory.
Lima: Fountain park
Lima – general pics:
Peru is historically important. Period. Rest are details? Not quite, Peru can quite surprise the traveler with its diversity. Our trip was essentially about Machu Picchu and Nazca lines, everything else was sort of a bonus. But before deciding not to travel around in the last week of our travel, we did look up quite a bit of Peru.
The Inca Territory:
Cuzco: One of the most beautiful places that you will ever visit, Cuzco is that mixture of Inca architecture, Andean hospitality and Spanish practicality that probably makes you want to go back. The tourist ticket is a good investment and covering those gives a general idea of what went on exactly here, before the spanish and after them. Cuzco was the capital of the Incas and you wont miss their influence. 2-4 days, longer if you plan to study Spanish or Quechua.
Machu Picchu: We did not do the Inca trail, but it runs until the first week of february (its constantly raining in the last week as per our friend), expect to pay from $280 onwards per person (+ tips + porter) for the trip. The trek up form Aquas Calientes (train is only from Ollyatatumbo (a 3 hour drive from Cuzco) stops here) is quite scenic and do go up Wayna Pichu once on top of Machu Pichu (tickets for entry can be bought ahead). 1-2 days (you can only enter once on the ticket) but some people prefer sticking around.
Ollyatatumbo: For most people its just a stopover, but its a great base to cover Cuzco and the Sacred valley. You can have fun exploring the water paths and the town is an example of Inca architecture. Wonder why Manco Inca won the war here and ran away tho’.
The way Pisaq citadel is built is awe inspiring and Moray provides a great glimpse of how agriculture was perfected in the Andes.
Nazca: The Nazca lines are probably one of the most surreal things that you will see in your life. If you get on the flight, dont feel nauseous and can take in things quickly (the flight is for half an hour). Maria Reiche spent most of her life studying them and they say she still had it wrong. 1-2 days.
Huacahina: Want to try something new? try sandboarding in Huacachina. Unwind for a few days around the lake, people watching and taking in the brilliant scenery available on short walks. 2-4 days.
Lima: From the individuality of the Andes you would be forgiven to think of Lima as nothing more than a concrete mass. But give your self a couple of days to explore it, the musical fountain, the beauty of the coast, a glimpse into the Peruvian city life will charm you. 2-3 days.
Trujillo: Pizarro city is almost like a miniature city in its planning. Uninspiring, except for organizing cheap outings to Moche and Chimu ruins around the city. You can go farther to check out more ruins in the moche valley. 1 day.
Huanchaco: A short drive from Trujillo gets you to the beautiful surf heavy beach town of Huanchaco. If you dont surf, party away to glory. The music (if you can like the Peruvian variety) does not stop, ever. 2-4 days
The nightlife of Arequipa and the colca canyon trek (2-4 days), pre-inca ruins (4-5 days from Trujillo, long bus journeys), Iquitos and the amazon (4 days) puno and sillustani (2-4 days) should complete Peru.
Vegetarians rejoice: Peru has the widest variety of vegetarian food among all the countries that we visited.
Great weather, history and culture, good food, reasonable prices (except for buses), natural beauty…Peru is sublime.
And the mysteries of Machu Picchu and Nazca continue to puzzle us, beat that.
|From The Machu Pichu|
Huanchaco is a short drive from Trujillo. At first look there is nothing in town except waves, the second look confirms the first look. After planning to stay the night initially, we ended up staying for almost a week there. The idea was to do nothing, I am quite restless usually, I like travelling, going somewhere – constantly, we did quite well actually.
The guy with the monkey that everyone wanted to play with, the kids at Huanchaco Inn, the chatty owner of Oceania, junta on skateboards, the surfers waiting relentlessly for the perfect wave, finishing a book by only reading in a restaurant, the mini carnival, the pier, loads of movies, endless walks along the beach, countless cups of coffee, long lunches and dinners, people watching, surfer watching, the brit who made the crazy indian curry (banana in a spicy sauce with coconut bits), the yummy mexican wrip (the best probably of south america) (we tried anything that was vegetarian in all of the restaurants…yes long overstaying our welcome), endless games of online chess.
Yes, I ve made my peace with doing nothing (for now).
A typical, Peruvian Beach Scene….
A grey sky, overcast but bright. Grey water with tinges of blue if you’re lucky. Dark brown sand with speckles of black which stick to your wet feet in a black mess. Pebbles large and small and tiny near the water’s edge, marking the real limit of the waves. Surf in the air. Waves about 3 feet high ridden by surfers. A pier going about 100 mtrs into the water with the waves crashing into its wooden planks below. Families, the hot bods, the not so hot bods, the nonchalant, the sun bathers, the surfers in their wet suits carrying their boards on their sides, the surfers in the water laboring away towards the more substantial waves, the few good ones actually riding them, the children buried in sand, the little ones eating the sand. The dads tucking in their bellies every time a hot bod walks by or for the family picture. The mom’s filming their little tots in the sand. The ubiquitous brit tourist with his quicksilver swim trunks, the local chicks tiptoeing sillyly over the pebbles and into the water. The bubbles. The ice cream vendors, the sweets and savoury vendor, the swim wear seller with his hangers of clothes, the woman selling shades, more ice cream vendors.The beach umbrellas and chairs in pairs with the ever attentive attendant, ready to pounce upon anyone who happens to hover around their side of the beach. Beach towels and sarongs of all colors. The ‘fotografo’ Polariod photographer armed with his album.
Trujillo was established by Pizarro as a modern city. Not much has changed here since then in terms of architecture, everything is centered around the Plaza de Armas around which concentric roads are built. The city is extremely well planned and if not for the Moche and Chimu ruins around, extremely boring too.
First stop were the Temples of the Sun and the Moon of the Chimu culture. Chimu were the people to occupy this valley followed by the Moche and the Inca. The Chimu culture was centered around the gods, their worship and the high priest and there was no form of centralized government. The people lived in isolated pockets around the valley (with trading relationships with other cultures/civilizations – for example the walls are lined with white sandstone from Cajamarca) and over a period of what is thought to be severe famine like conditions the people lost faith in their gods and their civilization disintegrated. Not much is known about them. Really. The Temples of the Sun and Moon are named so because the archeologist who was excavating thought they were similar to the Temples of the Sun and the Moon of the Mayans up north. The god is assumed to be male for lack of other evidence (this is probably right because these societies were paternalistic). Atleast the well funded renovation project had an excellent guide. The Temple of the moon has seven layers: each generation builds a temple leaving the old temple intact underneath.
Chan Chan was the capital of the Moche people. They established a large empire and ruled it centrally till the Incas came and destroyed them. If the gold was looted by the Incas or the Spanish, I am not so sure, but it was nevertheless looted and soil erosion (the moche used some sort of sand bricks which disintegrate over time) has left Chan Chan in a complete mess. Much of what is shown to the tourists is abysmally renovated stuff. Chan Chan is ordered around palaces of different kings whose mummified body was kept within the premises after his death and was taken around in a procession during ceremonies. Every ancient civilization loved the dead.
That concludes our trips in search of ruins. NIharika has put her foot down, “dont ruin the trip”.
The southern coast of Peru, from Lima onwards bore the brunt of the earthquake in 2007. Many a town were completely destroyed and some still remain in ruins. The capital of the province Ica did not seem inviting at all (so to the other travellers it seems), but the guidebooks talked of marvelous sand dunes just a few km from Ica. Since we were passing through this part of the country it seemed worthwhile to take the detour.
Have you ever seen an oasis? Huacachina is an oasis town. The town is centered around an oval shaped greenish water mass, surrounded on two sides by sand dunes. The sand dunes extend as far as one can see into the horizon. Consider the weekend revellers from Ica and surrounding parts of Peru, add a few tourists and you have perfect little place in the middle of nowhere, morphed into the sand boarding center of South America.
Hop on to a buggy that defies gravity and set out to conquer the sand dunes. If you havent got a bit of sand in your hair you have not tried hard enough no?
Here goes Ni !!!
This guy went like a bullet!!!
Nasca was one of our last ‘must do’ things. Nasca is home to the Nasca lines, the mysterious geoglyphs made by the Nazca population more than 2,000 years ago.
Nasca lines along with Machu Pichu, Pyramids, Stonehenge, Merry Maidens, Easter Islands, Bermuda triangle etc have for long been considered as the worlds greatest mysteries. The lines are large patterns (some as big as 300 meters) made on the ground. These lines were first discovered during a fly by around 1930 and have continued to bug archeologists (a german woman called Maria Reiche spent 60 years trying to understand them) ever since. Who made these lines? How were they made? What is the source of the technology? There are more than 300 figures (animals) + geometric shapes + lines in a small pampa region, what is the significance of these lines? The most important question being – whats the point of making something which can only be appreciated from the air 2000 years ago?
Theories have ranged (the best one being the dubious Erich Von Daniken s guide to spacecraft theory – yup I read that one when I was a kid, me and my brother spent endless hours discussing each of these places and their theories, of course these were built by aliens) from they being a large cosmological plan, rutualistic map, map of the water paths of the region and so on and so forth. It was made so that Niharika and I could see it 2,000 years later.
We are on firmer ground on how they made and what has made them last this long. The top dark soil was simply removed to reveal light soil, lack of rainfall makes tracks here permanent (there are scores of truck/car tracks, towards the edge of Nasca lines that look like the lines themselves). Archeologists know how to make similar lines and they think a few men could make such large figures in a very short while, provided they had great survey techniques. They had brilliant engineering technology to build aqua ducts that are still the lifeline of this barren land, so maybe this theory is right.
Our first flight after 3 months was a non-starter. The flights here are extremely unorganized, we paid & waited for 3 hrs and got offloaded at the last minute. Overbooking. The next time we decided to take it easy, if we dint get a flight we would give Nasca a slip. We were in the air in less than an hour. The flight a 7 seater (5 passengers + 2 crew) was the bumpiest I have ever had. The pilot banks steeply to point with the wings at the figures and this makes you distinctly nauseous. We kept checking for the plastic bags in case we threw up.
The lines are surreal and other worldly (as a matter of saying, aliens or otherwise) and are quite clearly visible despite their age. Whale, astronaut (these two are dicey and according to us dont seem like rest of the lines), monkey with the spiral tail, humming bird, condor, hands, tree, trapezoid etc are some of the highly stylized images seen during the half an hour flight. It was a huge surprise for me – I was skeptical about both the quality and size of the images, left me momentarily kicking myself at not having studied archeology.
The lines are everything that you hope for and more, having not been deciphered helps them retain their mystery. I will venture to say they ought not to be deciphered – if the explanation is too complicated, we will wonder and conjecture about ancient wisdom, if they explanation is too simple – we will simply laugh, the interpretation of the lines, as with Machu Pichu is best left to our imagination.