Those travel advertising dweebs have got a lot to answer for – out of all the beautifully Photoshopped pictures of snow-capped mountains, charity hill treks and celebratory Machu Picchu poses, the unglamorous reality of altitude sickness doesn’t get a look-in.
Perhaps the sight of a grumpy tourist clutching their head and begging for a darkened room isn’t much of an incentive for potential customers, but it’s something mountain visitors need to be warned about, much like yodelling or the onslaught of posh children mowing down first-time skiers for kicks.
We’d already stayed in Puno, seen the male knitters of Taquile Island, and had our introduction to the crafty building skills of the Incas; now it was time for the final push to Machu Picchu on our Majestic Peru tour (if you need a quick recap, click back to Part 1 and Part 2).
Day 11 – Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
Whilst we didn’t have time to trek up to the higher narrow terraces in the mountains, we got to visit the lower ones, just a short walk away from the town centre in the Archaeological Park. I then popped into the Museo de Chocolate (Chocolate Museum) to refuel, before watching some colourful street processions. Lunch was at the Hearts Cafe, a local business and charity supporting women in highland communities facing issues like nutritional problems or domestic violence.
One of the greatest bugbears of modern travelling, for me at least, is the sight of an ignorant tourist whipping out their iPad to document a world-famous landmark. The combination of stupidity and arrogance is enough to make my blood boil, as they ditch the prospect of using a camera or, God forbid, their eyes, to record memories.
Such is my loathing, I figured it was time to take a closer look at why this is so offensive and what you should be doing instead, to look a bit less obvious if nothing else. I’ve taken two prominent locations as examples – in each one I’ve spotted people freely using this gadget to a worrying degree…
There’s no better way to spend New Year’s Day than in the company of thousand-year-old mummies, their well-preserved bodies having survived the greed of looters and centuries of exposure to the elements at the Chauchilla Cemetery. Well, it’s at least a more poignant start to January 1st than I’ve ever enjoyed before, albeit with the familiar thump of a hangover, this time from Peruvian wine, lurking in the background.
Throughout my sixteen days in Peru, I was struck by the resurgence of death as a theme, even away from the obvious attractions such as the cemeteries and pilgrimage sites. I found it time and again on the roadside, on the painfully dated telenovelas screened on daytime TV, and in the religious iconography covering everything from portraits to jewellery. Here I’ve examined some of the best examples of the theme emerging.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.