It is now well over a year since my trip to South America and my good intentions, in terms of documenting it all on this blog, are well and truly in tatters. But what the hell, I’ll keep posting some of the more memorable images.
I’m not sure Machu Picchu was the exceptional highlight I thought it would be. Not because it wasn’t as wonderful as it’s cracked up to be; more because there were other experiences which rivalled it or matched it. Still, my abiding memory of that quintessential Inca legacy is the hour my wife and I spent sitting at our chosen vantage point looking down over Machu Picchu and just drinking in the vista. This is the view we had:
We didn’t have great weather or great lighting for photography. There was a lot of low* cloud and it rained most of the time. We only had two or three hours of dry weather, from around ten in the morning till lunchtime, on the two days we were there so no chance of a dramatic dawn or sunset. And there are so many pictures of Machu Picchu that it’s hard to come up with anything truly new. Having said that, I haven’t seen many (or any?) other pictures that show the whole topography of the place, right down to the Urubamba River below.
* relatively speaking, bearing in mind we were around 8,000 feet above sea level
The cruise itinerary took us past the wreck of the Santa Leonora. It was very misty so I was quite pleased to get a usable photo.
There is a story to the demise of the Santa Leonora which was related by the captain over the PA as we passed the wreck. His story matches the explanation in the Kauer’s Korner blog, reproduced below:
Around 4:00pm we approach Isla Shoalon where the Santa Leonora was shipwrecked in 1964.
The ship was on her maiden voyage carrying Chilean pilots northwards through the area. She was a passenger ship of around 18,000 tons. At that time, aboard the bridge, helm orders were given using the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ instead of ‘port’ and ‘starboard.’ As they transited Shoal Pass the pilot and the captain were engaged in conversation and on completion of their talk the captain said, “Alright pilot!”
The nervous helmsman responded to what he thought to be a helms order and applied full right (starboard) rudder. The ship veered to starboard and mounted the nearby shallows at full speed.
Fortunately, no lives were lost. The passengers were rescued the next day. The investigation into the incident revealed that the use of the words ‘right’ and ‘left’ were the cause of the accident. As a result of that incident, all directions on the ship are given as ‘starboard’ (right) and ‘port’ (left).
The Amalia glacier is something like 2km wide as it reaches the sea and has a striking blue colour. You can see the upper stretches of it as it comes down the mountainside.
I was having trouble snapping Naomi with the glacier in the background. She either came out too dark or the background was overexposed. The ship’s official photographer came out with his DSLR and took a picture which had both us and the background correctly exposed. I was stumped until I realised he’d just used fill-in flash. I tried the same trick and my snaps were suddenly as good as his.
Well I did say my blogposts would not be following a linear narrative. We’ve jumped a number of days to the cruise section of our trip. This picture was taken at dawn while we were cruising the Chilean fjords. The rosy dawn light was reflected in the zig-zag pattern made by the ship’s lateral wake. I spotted an opportunity for an abstract picture. It features a lot of water so I call it an aquabstract.
Another journey, another series of blogposts. South America this time, starting in Peru.
This particular trip started over a week ago but it is only now that I am on board ship (the middle section is a Holland America cruise), with a few “at sea” days, that I have the time to start putting up some blogposts. The first few posts will be a retrospective, covering Peru, including Cuzco, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, and part of Chile. I will go straight in to some of the highlights so the narrative may not quite be linear.
Just to make the point, the first post covers day 4 which featured a visit to the Inca town of Ollantaytambo. Just to put timescales in context; Day 1 was Manchester to Heathrow, Day 2 was Heathrow to Lima via Madrid, and Day 3 was Lima to Cuzco where we just had enough time to visit one of the historical Inca sights, the Golden Enclosure or Qoricancha. Day 4 took in the trip to Ollantaytambo in the “Sacred Valley” that runs between Cuzco and Macchu Picchu and the town of Pisac which is basically a tourist market, if rather cleaner and better than most.
On the way from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo we stopped at a vantage point overlooking a town in a valley with glacier carved slopes and snow-capped Andes mountains in the distance. There was the usual clutch of locals selling traditional goods. The locals had a baby with them in traditional dress.
Have no fear, we will find ourselves airborne in the next post. But I did want to include this last picture of preparation for flight.
This shows a whole balloon on the ground, before even the cold air fans have been used to start inflating it. I guess I just liked the cluster of airborne balloons in the background. The largest (red) balloon is, I think, the same one that appears below in post #8 of the Egypt 2010 series.
Some very early risers were already airborne and heading off into the grey dawn sky.
We had to wait while our balloon was inflated.
According to Wikipedia (see photo of yellow balloon in the article) the balloon is first partially inflated using cold air from gas-powered fans, as in the picture above. The inflation process is completed using the propane burner mounted at the top of the passenger gondola (below).
Everyone associates the Nile with crocodiles, but there have been none north of Aswan since the dam was built. We did see some crocodiles when we reached Aswan, but we have not got to that yet. In the interim, the cabin stewards produced some towel sculptures to amuse us.
The towel sculpture seems to be a favourite tradition on cruise ships. The stewards leave a different towel sculpture in the cabin each night to give us a bit of a laugh, show off their creative skills and maybe encourage us to tip them a bit more at the end of the holiday.
Alex and Esther had a paticularly inventive steward. The eyes of the crocodile are plastic bottle tops and the “tongue” is the remote from the TV.
Bright and early next morning to the Temple of Horus. This is a late Pharaonic temple, dating to Graeco-Roman times, and as such in an excellent state of preservation.
Even if it is a lot less ancient than some of the other sights we had already seen, it is still well over 2,000 years old. This is the front “pylon” as the front wall is called in Egyptological circles apparently.
Clearly there was not much doing on board ship because Naomi and I ended up providing the evening’s entertainment without even knowing it.
We had docked at Edfu after nightfall, at around 10pm. From the boat we could see we were right by the town. There were streets, cafes, shops. The boat had come to Edfu for the Greek-period temple we were due to visit in the morning, but there was nothing stopping us going into town right there and then for a walk and quick look around. The town did not look too rough and the crew assured us it was safe.
As ever, for tourists in Egypt, you can hardly go anywhere without quickly collecting an entourage of locals attempting to sell you anything from jellabahs to alabaster cats, trying to guess your nationality and trotting out their stock sales patter in a variety of languages. Alex and Esther would talk in back-slang etc to confuse them.
Esther started to get uncomfortable with all the attention and returned to the ship with Alex. Naomi and I stayed out and decided to buy Egyptian dress at a local shop within sight of the ship. Naomi wanted to practice her famed haggling skills. And haggle we did – purchasing an embroidered two-piece Jellabah for me and one for Esther, along with a selection of matching headgear, for well under ship’s prices. I tried my gear on at the shop. Naomi was given a lesson in how to tie my head-dress on me, and picked it up straight away. She was (jokingly) offered a job in the shop.
It was only as we returned to the ship that we realised we were being watched from the sundeck. People in the bar stopped to talk to us about it – they had watched the whole episode and wanted to know what we paid, etc. It seemed half the ship had been watching us.
The afternoon of our trip to the Valley of the Kings our cruise ship (actually glorified riverboat) set off southward in the direction of Aswan.
We had to navigate the lock at Esna. Behind us were more boats waiting their turn. Whenever a riverboat is moving more slowly, close to a stopping point, it rapidly finds itself surrounded by a flotilla of traders in rowing boats. They get very close, trying to get the attention of the passengers, even when the cruise boats are moving. It is a wonder that some of the braver rowing boats don’t get crushed under the bows.
We headed to the lock, following another riverboat in. All the riverboats are built to the same design. Apparently there are 300 of them licenced to cruise up and down the Nile.
We had traders following us too, trying to sell Jellabahs (gelebaiahs or however you want to spell it), the traditional one piece garments worn by Egyptians. The traders in the picture are wearing them. Our ship, and very likely all of them, have an Egyptian dress up night at some point along the cruise and the traders know the passengers need to get kitted up.
Into the lock …
… through the lock and looking back towards it:
Going on a Nile cruise does not involve all that much cruising. We boarded at Luxor and the ship did not go anywhere until the afternoon of the first full day when it set off towards Aswan, taking in a couple of stops on the way. The ship then remained at Aswan for a couple of days while we went on various trips then sailed back to Luxor where it remained for a couple more days while we went on a few more trips. That was it.
But when the ship actually was on the move we did at least have a chance to enjoy the riverbank theatre. It is very common to see the locals down at the river splashing about. But always the boys. The girls don’t get a look-in.
We hit the ground running on our first full day with a trip to the Valley of the Kings. With mid-day temperatures in the Luxor region reaching 45°C or thereabouts we were expected to make an extremely early start. The alarm went off at 5am, a quick breakfast on the ship then onto the coach.
It is a fairly short journey from the ship over the bridge to the west bank of the Nile and on to the Valley of the Kings. Very annoyingly you are not allowed to take photos there and we were instructed to leave our cameras on the coach. The tour guides want you to buy the official photos although I don’t think anyone on our trip bothered. No huge loss. The valley itself is just so much rock and sand with a hilly peak in the background and entrances to tombs dotted randomly around the place. The use of the area for burials of Pharaohs dates from the reign of Thutmose I who was the first bright spark to notice that all his predecessors with their showy pyramids were leaving thieves in no doubt where to go find some buried treasure. Building an impressive tomb underground in an unknown place was supposed to thwart the tomb robbers, but all Thutmose’s successors used the same area and the secret got out. From then it was back to business as usual for the thieves.
On the way to the Valley we stopped at the Colossi of Memnon, where you are allowed to take pictures. These two 60ft statues of a seated Amenhotep III originally ornamented the front facade of the latter’s mortuary temple. The statues are all that is left to look at now, although there are excavation works going on behind.
In the photo above you can just see a sheep coming out from behind the statue to the right. Here are the rest of them.
The carvings on the side of one of the statues:
The statues are literally just by the side of a road, with handy car park and cafe.