One of many 12-sided stones in Cusco
The Incas were known for their exquisite stonework, fitting them together precisely with no gaps. The fabled 12-sided stone is a favorite location for tourist pics, but if you wander around you will find quite a few of them.
Santa Mercedes parade
Every day is a parade in Cusco! Santa Mercedes heads toward Plaza de Armas with a full marching band lead by dancing gorillas. We later discovered that the statue of Santa Mercedes shown above was made by the wife of our Inca Trail guide. It's a wonder that work ever gets done in a city with daily celebrations. Even daily mass is celebrated with fireworks.
Ceviche at Mercado San Pedro
We found a tasty and inexpensive meal at the Mercado San Pedro. Ceviche Trusca (river trout) is abundant here, served with fried corn and rice.
Choco Museo, Cusco, Peru
When you order hot chocolate at the Choco Museo you mix the ingredients yourself. Hot milk, chocolate, and honey are brought to the table for you to blend according to taste. They also serve sweet and savory crêpes!
Chris on a Peruvian Paso at Rancho Chalán, Urubamba, Peru
Getting out of the city for a bit, we took a trail ride to the Salineras de Maras, family-owned salt mines in the hills outside Urubamba. We rode Peruvian Paso horses known for their 4-beat gait, the paso llano, a fast yet smooth trot.
Salineras de Maras
These steeply terraced evaporation pools are tended by the families that own them. Water warmed by volcanoes and dense with salt and minerals is guided into empty pools using channels and rocks. It takes about one month for water to evaporate and the salt ready for harvesting.
Museo Del Pisco, Cusco, Peru
The evening before our trek to Machu Picchu, we celebrated with Pisco, the national Peruvian drink made from distilled grapes. Yes, it's a boozy wine!
The Zamboni and the Chilcano de Pisco at Museo Del Pisco, Cusco, Peru
Chris selected the Zamboni, a variation on the Negroni, with Pisco, Campari and Red Vermouth. I opted for the combination of Pisco, lime juice, ginger ale and bitters in the Chilcano de Pisco. Both were served with large ice spheres.
Ford Young, and his son Ford, joined us as the Connecticut Pumas, the trail name chosen for our team of 8 porters, 4 trekkers and 1 guide. Coming from Fairfield, Connecticut, the Fords were welcome travel companions.
The trail map above shows the sites visited and elevations reached during the classic 4-day Inca Trail trek. Salkantay, near glacial mountain ranges, can be reached on the 7-day hike.
Head Cook, Head Server and porters
Porters carried our tents, cooking gear, food and much of our water. They passed me many times on the trail. They were the first to arrive at, and the last to leave, a campsite. They were always ahead of us with an elaborate meal.
Typical lunch/dinner on the Inca Trail
Hiking all day while wearing a 25lb. pack still didn't keep me from gaining weight on the trail. Three to four-course meals were served three times a day with cocoa, coffee and coca tea offered with a snack at teatime.
Though we began the trek in a desert environment, day two had us climbing into cloud forest on our way to Dead Woman's Pass.
Reaching Dead Woman's Pass, at almost 14,000 feet, was the only rain we encountered while hiking in late September, the start of the rainy season.
Our last evening of the hike was spent near the remnants of Wiñaywayna, Forever Young. It was one of our favorite sites for both its accessibility and its views. As we listened to the glaciers groaning at Salkantay, we were blessed with rainbows near the Rainbow Temple at Wiñaywayna.
After an early rise at 3:30am, we rush down to the Inca Trail checkpoint and wait until it opens, two hours later. This bizarre ritual has something to do with the porters catching the only train to Cusco? When the checkpoint opens we hike about 45 minutes up cobblestone trail and steep steps to the Sun Gate.
Our guide, Emilio, takes us to his favorite spot on a ledge. We eat our pre-packed breakfast while watching Machu Picchu come alive in sunlight.
Descending to Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate is an odd experience. You begin to encounter tourists who have not hiked the Inca Trail to get there. These people have showered within four days or less and seem foreign. There is suddenly an awareness of the difference. I felt similarly at Burning Man this year. After camping in the dust for over a week I was confronted by weekenders. They were clean, fancy-looking and bizarrely out of place. There was pride and joy in my grittiness, I had earned my place in nature.
CT Pumas reach their final destination at Machu Picchu
After Emilio's tour of favorite places at Machu Picchu we had time to roam around as we wished. Ford and his son braved the heights of Wayna Picchu while Chris and I stayed on the main grounds.
The mountain with the spiny ridge rising behind Machu Picchu, which means Old Mountain, is Wayna Picchu, Young Mountain. If four days on the Inca Trail isn't enough for you, you can make reservations to summit that as well.
Tomb of the King, just below the Temple of the Sun
Machu Picchu is still a mystery to me. I heard many different explanations for its features and functions that left me with more questions. Some guides talk of human sacrifice while others deny it. Some say the most beautiful and talented women in Peru lived and worked here for the Sun King. Nothing was here until Hiram Bingham hired a guide to bring him into the jungle. What he discovered had been covered in vegetation for hundreds of years.
One guide described the Timepiece as harnessing the power of the sun, while another stole a scene right out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, beating heart ripped out of a chest and all. I spent quite a bit of time here and the only eureka moment that occurred was observing that when you're south of the equator you terrace your crops to face the north.
Also, two walls had been built that blocked the sun from striking the Timepiece and blocked the view of the Sun Gate from the Timepiece. A window in the eastern wall looked faced a "guards building". It was difficult to tell if this was original to the structure or added during renovation. A second Timepiece lies in the Tomb of the King, beneath the Temple of the Sun.
Guides describe these reflecting pools as collecting the sun, moon and stars and providing a way to view celestial bodies. However, this would produce a limited and reversed view. Hiram Bingham's photographs show Peruvians grinding grain on them in another area thought to be a kitchen.
The Incas were masterful at channeling water. The photo above shows the deep, narrow groove in use for light water flow and the shallower, wider one for overflow. These devices bring water to small fountains on each terrace level.
In addition to the Timepiece, I was able to spend a good amount of time in this place. No other guides stopped here yet people walked through it frequently. I'm calling it the Cinema because several guides indicated that as they walked through but said nothing more about it. While meditating here I got a clear image of bustling activity. I could imagine performances taking place in its small square, ceremonies using the staircase, announcements heralded from the circular top and busy marketplaces opposite the square. It was full of women and children running about their daily business.
All too soon we ran out of time and headed to Aguas Calientes to meet our traveling companions for one more meal. It happened so fast and was over too quickly. Machu Picchu's history definitely deserves more time and study.
November 27 - December 19
New London, CT
the F-Stops Here
October 15 - November 12
79 Bank Street
New London, CT
Professional photographers Pola Esther and Mattias Lundblad have selected Venetian Temple, below, as part of the Hygienic's annual photography exhibit. Works were chosen using their expertise in magazine photography resulting in a unique blend of subject matter and techniques.
Venetian Temple, encaustic photo transfers 7x11x2
Mattias Lundblad is a photojournalist born and raised in Sweden. He uses photography as a tool for telling stories of social justice, environmental issues, travel and culture. It is also a means to capture the poetic moments of life. Mattias shares his time between New London and Stockholm and has a background in art and music as well as social science. His work is published in many magazines and newspapers in Europe, such as Vi, Vagabond, Runners World, Colors and The Wire.
Pola Esther was born and raised in Poland. In her work she reflects upon her intimacy, femininity and sexuality. She is constantly looking for visual fantasy in commodities. Potential for eroticism is often central and even essential to her projects. While ago she moved to America and is currently based in New York City. In 2015 she presented an installation “EYE.EAT.YOU” at Kleistpark U-Bahn station with Platform Berlin. Her photographs were shown at Cutlog Art Fair (during Frieze Art Week) in New York in 2014 and Fotofever in Paris in 2015. During summer 2014 she participated in artist residency in Bulgaria culminated in pop up exhibition “Adam and Eve. News from Paradise” in Nuance Gallery, Sofia (with painter Brian Keith Stephens). Pola is frequent contributor to french Purple Fashion Magazine Dairy and her work has been reviewed and featured in various international print and online publications. Besides photography she acts as creative consultant and had a chance to collaborate on video productions for Beyonce, Lenny Kravitz and Korean boys band Big Bang. She is always ready to play and experiment.
Opening Reception November 19
12 Water Street
Suncats Out of Bounds, encaustic on birch panel, 8x8x2
Last summer the Courtyard Gallery
invited me to join their stable of artists in beautiful downtown Mystic, CT. Since then I have sold award-winning art at their gallery and met many other wonderful artists.
If you're taking a trip to Southeastern Connecticut this fall, be sure to find this hidden treasure at 12 Water Street, next to Margaritaville.
Join us at the Gallery every Sunday from 3-6pm for our weekly salons!
Hope you enjoyed that, Art Lovers! Lot's of photos to scroll through and it doesn't begin to capture Cusco's interesting dog and trash culture or answer questions about Machu Picchu and other archeological sites.
I'll be staying home for the Holidays this season and taking some well-deserved downtime. Next up is working on Black Light Garden for January 28th. More on that in next month's newsletter.
Have a great Thanksgiving, Art Lovers!