Peru so far..

Let me begin by saying that Peru maybe the most beautiful country on the planet. It has something geographically for everyone; beautiful coast to the west, the valleys and mountains of the Andes, and not to mention 60% of Peru is actually a part of the Amazon Jungle. I have spent the last two days in the Sacred Valley and it’s surrounding area. Narrow, winding, roads led us to Chincherro, Maras, and Urubamba, but it was a train yesterday that took us to Machu Picchu. Our guide Marco told us to look out the window at a certain part of the train ride where the landscape literally transforms from mountainous/alpine-y type forestry to jungle at the base of these massive mountains. I have taken about 250 photos since I have arrived to Peru, so here we go with some new landscape style photography.


We visited Chincherro on Sunday, and this is a scene of the local leaders (only the men) of the town doing their Sunday service. The women pictured to the right are their wives who listen in on the service.

This ancient Huaca was used as a ceremonial space, and it is commonly thought that if the people were to wish for good crops, soil, etc. they would gather in this space, face the land, and pray for it’s fertility. In general, Huacas are used to get in touch with the spirits of the earth such as the sun, wind, stars, etc.

This church was built in the 16th century by the Spanish when they conquered Peru. They very kindly built literally on top of the Incan infrastructures which is why there is an inconsistent divide between the white Spanish pavement and Incan masonry.

This is a street made of steps in Chincherro which proved to be very exhausting on our lungs at 10,000 ft. elevation.

This local woman (from whom we asked permission before we photographed) sold us that backpack in the local market of Chincherro (only open on Sundays)  where the merchants like to bargain with the customers. It is kind of like the Italian Market because they sell absolutely everything from food, fabrics, toys, etc. We learned some new words in the local language, Quechua, to help with the bargaining.

The next town we visited was Maras, which owns this salt mine. There are about 4,000 ponds in this area that uses water that has been running since 450 AD (and has never stopped since then) as a means to fill these ponds. Then in the dry season, when the water evaporates these ponds are left with crystal white residue which we know as table salt. Farmers will often carry 100 kilos of salt back to their town to sell. One more interesting fact is that if a man wants to marry a girl from the town, the family will give him a pond to take care of and depending how  well he maintains it, they will give him their permission to marry her.

This Incan ruin was used for farming different crops such as corn, potatoes, and flowers. They were able to make the circles look so perfect by having a man stand in the center, attached to another man by rope who would then walk in the circles to mark them (like a human compass).

This, of course, is the famous Machu Picchu citadel ruins being overlooked by the Wyana Picchu mountain. It was discovered by some American explorers in 1911, and had only been accessible through the Inca Trail for a very long time. In more recent days, they send buses of about 60-80 people up and down every few minutes. The three major parts of Machu Picchu are known to be the worship area, agricultural area, and urban area.

We have one more (hopefully less rainy) day in Machu Picchu, but tonight we take the train back to Urubamba where we will depart for Cusco, the last visit of my Senior Project.

~ Eden

Final Days in the Archipelago 

Since my last post, my parents and I continued on our pursuit through the beautiful (and pristine) Galapagos Islands, which came to its conclusion today 😦 . Again, I will be taking the pictorial approach with my favorite picture from each excursion.

We spent our first day back in society with people other than those on our boat, which was a little weird, honestly. We had spent the first five days completely immersed in nature, with no cellphone or internet connection to the outside world (we were shocked to find out it snowed today back at home). The streets of Santa Cruz Island (population 20,000) are narrow, but busy. The most interesting place however, was the fish market run by two locals, who were being badgered by hoards of sea lions and pelicans.

That afternoon, the naturalists took us to a remote farm in the country of Santa Cruz Island, where tortoises come to hang out. Pictured above is my 6’3″ dad acting as a size comparison to this massive tortoise.

On Wednesday morning we visited Post Office Bay, a famous site first created by English whalers who would leave mail in the barrel for other departing English whalers to pick up and deliver to the recipient. This became a tradition at the Galapagos, and people now leave post cards for whomever, and as soon as someone who lives around that area comes to the post office barrel, they pick it up and deliver it in person. The result is a new friend you can share your story/experience in the islands with. Enrique, one of our three naturalists, is pictured above explaining the bin.

This was all happening on the island of Floreana, the famous site of the “Galapagos Affair” in the 1920’s. This is a famous story of a dentist Dr.Ritter and his mistress Dore Strauch who went through extreme measures (i.e. pulling out their own teeth and then sharing a pair of dentures) to live on Floreana. Their paradise was interrupted by a baroness who came with two other men, and the whole thing ends up with death and disappearance throughout the party.

In the afternoon we visited Punta Cormorant where we witnessed a rarity that is a group of blue footed boobies diving into the water for fish (pictured above). After that we hiked to the sea turtle nesting grounds and watched close to the shoreline for baby stingrays.

Yesterday, we visited Santa Fe Island where we saw the most adorable sea lions I have seen in my life. They were all over the place and the aroma was quite… pungent. We observed one male sea lion instigating trouble among the others, because that is what they like to do when they are bored.

Our last excursion of the trip was on South Plaza. We observed the endemic (to that island) species of iguana, the Santa Fe land iguana. Along the cliffs there was a wind tunnel housing hundreds of different species of birds, among which were swallowed tailed gulls, blue footed boobies, nazca boobies, and shearwater birds.

This week has been truly incredible. It is so rare to see land virtually unscathed by humans. It will be very strange to go back home where wild animals will most times run away from everyone, even those without cameras, binoculars, etc. Right now we have an overnight stay in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and this time tomorrow we will be in the Sacred Valley of Peru. It has been a lot of fun learning how to use the massive 80-400mm lens, however I am looking forward to the change of photography pace using the wide angle landscape lens.


Galapagos Islands

I apologize for not writing, the boat we are staying on had broken Wifi for the first few days. We have done so much in our first few days of being here, so much that it would be hellish to read a massive paragraph about it. So, that being said, I will do a more pictorial approach to this choosing my favorite photograph that I have taken from each excursion we went on.

We arrived one hour late to the Galapagos, so the afternoon felt pretty rushed. When we arrived to North Seymore Island  however, time slowed down as we entered these animals’ habitat. Other animals we saw on this island included blue footed boobies, male/female frigate birds, land iguanas, and of course sea lions.

The next morning we left the ship at 7 a.m. for a coastline tour of Isabela Island. On this trip we saw the landscape of the cliffs of Isabela Island, clearly defined layers in the rock where you can see the land formation. Other than that there were sally-lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, sea turtles, and the swallowed tail gull pictured above.

We have been snorkeling everyday so far. I have been taking a lot of videos with the GoPro, but my dad captured this image of the sea turtle.

On the island of Isabela, in the afternoon we took a tour of the Island shore where we hiked along lava rock and dodged what had to be thousands of marine iguanas (one of which is pictured below taking a swim). On that island we saw lots of flightless cormorants, more blue-footed boobies, sea lions, sea turtles, and more species of crabs I was unable to identify. We were also able to get the rare experience of seeing a marine iguana hatchling in the wild.

The next day, we were on the island Fernandina where we were able to see the Giant Tortoise in the wild. The big guy pictured above was one we encountered on the trail. There weren’t many other species other than the Galapagos carpenter bee.

Yesterday, we were on the red sands of Rabida Island. We saw mockingbirds, cactus finch, medium brown finches, land iguanas, marine iguanas, oyster catchers, flycatcher birds, and the Galapagos dove (pictured above). In the afternoon my dad and I swam with some white tip reef sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, and lots of parrot fish.

In the afternoon we hiked up Cerro Dragon, where we saw many land iguanas, and a single flamingo, since the Galapagos is the only place in the world you can see a single flamingo.

Galapagos has been fantastic so far, and hopefully the internet on our boat will be fixed so I can share more pictures for the rest of our time here!


Beautiful Quito

After some rescheduled flights, a night in Miami International Airport, and baggage lost and then found, my parents and I finally made it to Quito, Ecuador.  We made a bumpy descent into Quito International, as it lays deep in the valleys of the Andes Mountains. Overlooking Quito, is a massive ~135 foot aluminum statue of the Virgin Mary, as she is depicted in the book of the Apocolypse with wings (pictured below). It is a replica of the Virgin Mary statue located in the San Franciscan Church and monastery (also pictured below). Our guide Andrea informed us that this was the oldest church in Quito, built in the 16th century.

The monastery next to it was abundant in different kinds of birds, the best I thought were the two talking parrots. We also visited the “White House” equivalent for Ecuador, which is located in the center of Quito. Though the president chose not to live there, he works there and is said to be very open with the people. Across from him is the mayor’s office, and there were protests run by the indigenous people, asking to have a five minute conversation with the president, their cause I am not quite sure because I can’t read Spanish.

It has been absolutely gorgeous in Quito, 75-80 degrees and sunny since we have been here which is very unusual for the rainy season. We have been staying in “Old Town” of Quito because it provides a richer sense of the history behind the culture of Ecuador. The streets are lined with beautiful old buildings dating back to the 1500s. What sticks out to me the most is the amount of yarn and fabric stores that we have passed, one per block I would say. It would make sense because the streets are just lined with merchants selling their beautiful handmade products. Sweaters, shawls, scarves, backpacks, you name it they have made it. Anywho, it has been a fantastic time in Quito. Between my dad and me we must have taken easily over a hundred photos, so I will post the highlights below. Tomorrow, we take off and then set sail for the Galapagos Islands!

The flag of Quito in front of a view of Old Town.

The original Virgin Mary statue, Ecuador is the only place in the world that portrays the Virgin Mary with wings.  Photo credit to my father on this one.

The Replica standing over a group of children on a field trip.

There is a really good chocolate store and honey shop on this street. 🙂

As we stopped for a corn and beef aand cheese and plantain emanadas, we were sung “Guantanamera” by these two local gentlemen. My dad also took this photo  (I was too busy scarfing my empandas).

This is one of two Presidential Palace Guards. They take 90 minute shifts standing outside to guard the palace. They are dressed in a traditional soldier’s uniform, however  most soldiers did not wear these uniforms because they were expensive.

These are my two parrot friends located in the monastery of the  Church of San Francisco. They are bilingual!!


The Preparation Begins…

As my parents and I have been discovering for the past few days, preparing for a trip to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru is much harder than we had anticipated. It is the rainy season right now in Quito and Machu Picchu, the locations in the mainland we will be visiting. In the Galapagos Islands however, we are expecting temperatures from the mid-80’s to 90’s! My parents have not been in this cold PA weather as long as I have, and do not share my fear of melting upon arrival. So far our luggage is looking a little like this:

Pictured above, is 90% of our photography equipment for the trip. We will be taking a variety of lenses (which you probably got from the picture) in order to capture the best possible pictures for portrait, landscape, and action photography. The GoPro will be used during snorkel excursions, as well a Nikon point and shoot (which is not pictured). Luckily, I will be carrying just the small bag with a Nikon D7000 and a few lenses. 

This is how I will be documenting this trip! Notes in the memo pads, iPad for blogging, and a SD Card port attachment to share some pictures along the journey!

This outfit will be worn while trekking up to Machu Picchu, for it is the rainy season and temperatures will drop lower than the averages as we trek higher in elevation. Layers, layers, layers, my father continues to tell me.

This is my personal favorite outfit for the trip, for a day in the Galapagos where we will be spending eight days of our trip. A Henderson half-suit for deep-sea snorkeling, maybe even a resort dive 20 feet below. Plenty of sunblock to prevent the frying of my body, trekking sandals for navigating the abundance of volcanoes, and a surf suit for fun.

It is definitely going to be the adventure of a lifetime, I look forward to updating on Wednesday when we land in Quito, Ecuador. I would also like to thank my parents in advanced for putting up with my constant videos asking them their opinions about food, sights, etc. I hope some of my readers will find my blog posts at least mildly entertaining, but for now I have to start reading The Origin of  Species to put myself in the Darwinian mindset ;).

** A side note about my family in general, our thoughts revolve around meals most of the time so just be aware that there will be tons of blogging about food, only if it is good,though.