Machu Picchu

As one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu is fondly known as ‘The lost city of the Incas.’ This stony citadel is nestled high in the mountains which is the reason it was never destroyed by Spanish conquistadors. It is simply breath taking to witness. To arrive here, you can take a plane from Lima to Cuzco and then catch the train to Aguas Calintes or Machu Picchu Pueblo. There you can spend the night and take the bus that leaves every 10 minutes to go up the mountain to see Machu Picchu. You may notice the drastic change in climate as you leave the Andes and begin to enter the subtropical zone between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rain forest where Machu Picchu sits. Suddenly the dry dusty climate gives way to lush green forests.

The train-ride from Cuzco was just above 3 hours long and extremely scenic. There was even an onboard fashion show that showcased Peruvian traditional wear. I recall arriving in Machu Picchu Pueblo, our base for the night before going to the the actual site the following day. I was very surprised to see how many pedigree dogs were roaming the streets. Huskies, bulldogs, mastiffs, you name it. All stray and just looking for some food and someone to pet them at that moment. I remember thinking “not another hill” when I looked at the steep incline which lead to our hotel. My father also understood my sentiment as we both stood there for a moment before ascending, knowing that we would soon be out of breath due to the lack of oxygen at this altitude.

On entering our hotel we were all quite surprised. The rooms were freezing cold and seemed a bit like a cave as not much light entered. For the rest the of that day, I remember seeing all other members of our little expedition sitting in the sun as a welcome option to being in those cold rooms. I sometimes went off on my own to explore the quaint little town but some how always ran into the others. The town is also known for its hot springs.

My father and I had a meal together that we still talk about to this day. We decided to order the “cuy al horno” from the menu while I was busy bombing wifi. Not long after the waiter brought us a little flat, four-legged creature on a platter, reminiscent of a rat. To this day I am not sure why we ate it since I had a pet Guinea pig that lived for about 10 years, but it was tasty. We laughed as we unearthed organs still in place. To be fair, it’s a local cuisine in Peru. However when given the chance to eat llama for free since it was in a buffet, I humbly declined. I cannot morally point out the difference between the two since they are such fantastic creatures and I don’t condone eating either of them.

The fun part about traveling can be the characters you meet along the way. We had dinner at a pizzaria where they played reggae music. The waiter was nuts. He told us that Stephen Marley had visited this same place and asked them to put marijuana on his pizza.

But I digress, we woke up at 4 am the following day as we were told that the best time to visit Machu Picchu would be at sunrise, when we would not only get away from the crowds but also have a fantastic view of the sunrise sans humans. I remember thinking to myself that I would look so sleepy in my photos.

The bus to Machu Picchu took off as some others began their hike. It was like something out of the movies, the roads zig-zagged through the cut-away mountains and were very narrow and dusty. Sometimes the bus would have to reverse to allow another to pass as they crossed paths. There were no rails and it seemed extremely unsafe. On arriving and beginning my ascent on foot, I remember thinking that I was not exactly enjoying the journey as I wanted to take as many photos as possible while dealing with my extreme fear of heights. I do mean extreme. As a child, I would cry to go up seemingly normal stairs. What was I thinking of going up a mountain? My brother was in disbelief of my fear as he took to it like a duck in water and simply laughed. I think a fear of heights is an unreasonable, illogical thing to have since the fear itself makes you more likely to fall in a dangerous situation. You can’t control wobbly knees when it’s needed most.

Our tour guide took us to one of the best spots for photos before walking down to begin the real tour. He explained that the entire structure was built without mortar and that not even a piece of paper could fit between the precisely placed rocks. It was thought to be built as a vacation palace for the elites and nobles of the Inca Empire. However many female mummies were found which led historians to believe that priests and chosen women may have resided there, making it a place for ritualistic worship. The stone-masonry and craftsmanship are exemplary in the ancient world as it was constructed to even withstand earthquakes. While there are about 600 terraces and 200 buildings, there are 3 main rooms worth mentioning. The Temple of the Sun, the Room of the Three Windows and the Itni Watana which houses the enigmatic sundial/ calendar. I remember walking through the ‘city’ and seeing little carved out rocks that served as alters where offerings of coca leaves were still made to Pachamama (mother earth). Many of the buildings faced the sunrise and some even cast long shadows to mark the summer and winter solstice.

One of the fun facts I never forgot was when the guide pointed out a sort of circular hinge carved high up on an entrance way. He said this was made so that a gate could be placed to keep bears from entering the city. I was mind blown as I vividly imagined a bear on a deadly rampage through these corridors. Many of the buildings and constructions have a very sacred significance represented by animals such as the Condor, Puma and Snake. The Incas believed that nature, plants, animals, rivers and every stone should be worshiped as there is an energetic connection in all life. Needless to say, the sunrise did not disappoint as the deep blue sky that seemed unique to Peru, created a beautiful backdrop for the mountains and valley’s that made up Machu Picchu. I still remember the crisp morning air and cold-almost metallic feel to the rocks as I passed my hands along them as I walked by. It is believed that Machu Picchu was constructed along an energetically powerful site on earth called a ley line and so thousands flock here as a sort of pilgrimage where they can recharge their spiritual batteries, so to speak.

The Incas even observed the movements of the milky-way and cosmos at large. The tree-of life is also represented on the Inca Cross. I would love to continue to talk about this marvelous civilization but you can learn more about them by reading some of the vast information available on the world wide web or better yet, you can visit Peru one day and see for yourself.

Nazca Peru: History & Mystery

About 380 kilometres to the South of Lima, you will find a city by the name of Nazca. The name was derived from the Nazca Culture that flourished there between 100 BC to 800 AD.

It took us approximately six hours by bus to arrive there from Lima. From what I remember, it was the most comfortable bus I had ever travelled on. The type with a bathroom, where they give you a blanket and there is even a foot rest. I am not one to usually be affected by motion sickness however this time I had unfortunately fallen ill. I was just relieved to arrive at our new accommodation that had a very typical ‘Spanish Hacienda’ look and feel to the place.

The next day, we signed up for a tour that would acquaint us a little more with the preexisting culture. First we went to a pottery workshop where a very skilled artisan showed the group how ancient pottery was created and painted. I remember being in awe at how steady his hands were as he demonstrated with a regular paintbrush, many precise and meaningful lines. It seemed as if he was born with a paintbrush in his hands. The pieces usually consisted of about four colors that were generally reddish brown, orange, black and white.

After that, we were then taken by mini-van to the desert. It was the first and only time I have ever been to a real arid, desert. It made me very excited to find out that even though we were in Peru, it is considered to be a part of the Atacama desert that stretches through Chile and even Argentina. It is said to be the driest desert in the world. Many curious discoveries have been made there. The soil samples are said to be very similar to that of the soil on Mars, so it is no wonder NASA uses this desert as a testing site for many of its Mars programs. Another interesting fact is that the oldest mummies in the world (predating those of Egypt) were recovered from the Atacama desert. The remains were dated to 7020 BC.

We visited the Cauchilla Cemetery. After walking through a designated pathway bordered by ropes on both sides, we came to what I would describe as holes, about six feet in depth. Within these holes sat mummified humans with long dread-locks. Men women and even children were placed at this burial ground. I had never heard of any other culture wearing this hairstyle besides the present day Jamaicans.

I distinctly remember the guide saying that these mummies were specifically placed to face the sun rise. What a beautiful significance I thought. Beyond the ropes were thousands of bones littering the desert floor. Femurs, jaw bones and every other imaginable part made the sandy floor appear white.

While Cauchilla was a pleasant archaeological surprise, our primary reason for traveling to Nazca was to witness the Nazca lines or geoglyphs from above. We were then chauffeured to a small airport where we would take a light airplane to view the formations. I was very happy to have this particular experience as I recalled my father reading about them to me when I was just a child.

Finally the plane took off and after a short distance we were able to see the formations. There were a variety of incisions made into the soil that were so large, they only made sense from above. The pilots gave passengers on both the left and right side of the plane the opportunity to see the Lines. He dipped down and doubled back as he called out the shapes below. There I saw, the humming bird, a whale, a monkey, a spider, a man waving and many more amazing, curious geoglyphs that I can recall from memory. It simply causes one to wonder who did this and what was the reason. They were works of art. I had, and still have so many questions.

For me, an extremely puzzling feature of this was the fact that there were also many geometric shapes carved into the soil. Triangles, intersecting other precisely drawn lines and angles that went on for miles. There are many hypotheses that can be taken into consideration but the mystery is what makes this place unique since it is difficult to prove any one as absolutely true. Some say that it was created by the people of Nacza to be seen by the deities in the Sky. Who knows?

One thing is for certain, Peru is perhaps the most mystical, profound, amazing place I have ever visited. I think I would recommend it as #1 destination to anyone wanting to take an unforgettable journey.

Covid-19 and Other Stories…

Hi there, how art thou?

I took a little hiatus from writing blogs about travel because I was honestly going through something difficult in my personal life. However I also chose shy away from writing due to the fact that many people are suffering, afraid and facing a variety of uncertainties. From where I stand, as much as I want to uplift others and take their minds off of things, I wanted to be respectful to those who had become ill with Covid-19 or have had their lives turned upside-down financially and otherwise. I hope that everyone is doing their part to be safe, staying indoors and keeping up morale as much as possible. We have a good chance of coming out on the other side of this if we exercise discipline and responsibility when it is needed most, right now.

At this present juncture, a lot can be said about Covid-19. I feel a bit sad to write this blog post as my heart goes out to the people who have lost their lives or loved ones to the virus…

The day before the lockdown began on March 12th here in The Philippines, I was forced to go through the whole ‘panic-buying’ episode since it was extremely sudden and it wasn’t clear if groceries would remain open or even be stocked due to the rush. I was alone and so, I could only take as many items as I could carry on myself, not a good start I thought. I stood in cues for up to three hours from all the way outside the supermarket right up to the cashiers. I almost didn’t make it home in time for the curfew that particular day. President Rodrigo Duterte’s words echoed in my head ” Shoot them dead…” anyone who defied the lockdown orders.

I have since done my best to stay indoors, cut out the delivery services and I even quit my exercise regime at the gym and pool to be as safe as possible. I was actually doing quite well, swimming daily. I have since been indoors 98% of the time, finding things to do such as working, looking at movies, playing play-station and sleeping in-between the aforementioned. I also downloaded two books I wanted to read. One being A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul. This book has one of the most captivating introductions I have ever read.

Anyway, at first it was absolutely shocking to find out that taxis weren’t running and I was ‘essentially’ stuck. ‘Essential’ has come to be a very important word in these times. I am happy to say that I am within walking distance to most things I need but I have not been able to get certain products that I heavily relied upon before the outbreak, such as bread, garlic and potatoes, staples in most households. This situation has forced me to become creative in terms of finding healthy ways of living.

My personal experience has been transformative mainly due to fact that I have been forced out of many bad habits I was not aware I had. I have since given up eating junk-food and discovering I am much more capable than I had given myself credit for. For reasons as simple as not having a washing machine, I have had to wash everything from towels to bed-sheets by hand and frankly it’s not that bad as I save a considerable amount on laundry. I usually wash at night so that my items would have dried by midday the following day.

Since most places are closed, simple things like paying the water and electricity bill have become increasingly complicated. Google-maps shows that everywhere is still open and that I can walk into any 711 and pay my bills. However that is far from the case and I have been forced to scour the internet to find ways of paying before I am left without my utilities. It has happened once before when I was not aware that I had to ask the front desk for the bills since my landlady usually delivers it herself. Yes, I spent almost a week filling water at the pool every night in the cover of darkness, to run my little household. You would be surprised how much water is used on a daily basis if you had to fetch it yourself. I will chalk this experience up to another character building exercise.

My birthday has since come and gone, quarantine style. If I had not decided to do something a bit different it would have passed unmarked by memory. Thankfully other April babies have become my strength in this time. The solidarity is real. I ordered a 3-day Juice Detox Set and found it was the ideal time to cleanse myself of bad eating habits, give my body the nourishment and care it deserves and frankly teach myself a little bit about discipline once again. It really was a challenge just drinking fruit juices every time I got hungry. I even became light headed some time in day two. But at the end of it all, I felt really good about myself having been able to carry out this form of ‘fasting’. I realized all the chocolates I was so accustomed to eating were merely props, habits and comfort food, things I needed to fill my day, often due to boredom and negative thinking patterns.

I hope this post finds you (all my readers) well and that you are feeling mentally ok in this time of isolation and economic uncertainty. Feel free to reach out to me at any point, just to talk if it would make you happy to do so. Big hug to all my readers. Stay safe.

-Naomi