Walking in Cusco..or..the day I lost my iPhone

I’ve spent a lot of time planning this mini-travel within Peru, to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Initially, Souvik was only supposed to join me for Machu Picchu, but when he decided to make it a work trip, I added Puno to the list. After tons of research on http://www.tripadvisor.com, and some panic buttons pressed, in the nick of time I managed to book Pension Alemana in Cusco, a darling little B&B in a nice part of town. One of my reasons for picking this place? The gorgeous views from the hotel:

Rooftop view of Cusco

Rooftop view of Cusco

After an invigorating cup of mate de coca (my latest morning ritual – coca tea) to help acclimatise to the high altitude, I was ready for Cusco.

Walking down to the Plaza de Armas, I had my first sight of the iconic Andean ladies with their llamas – they are ever willing to pose for photos for a little money.

Sights in Cusco

Sights in Cusco

Sights in Cusco

The walking lanes are no less picturesque. And steep.

When I spotted these ladies, lined up, selling stuff along the steps, I HAD to buy something, just to have a picture. Goodness knows what I ended up drinking! Probably chicha.

Sights in CuscoSights in Cusco

A few steps on, Plaza de Armas was a sight to behold. My photos do no justice to the scale and the magnificence of the site. This is the centre of the historic town of Cusco or Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca empire.

You may enter any of the cathedrals, for a fee, but I’d rather enjoy the feel of the sun on my face, after a week in grey-skies Lima. The local souvenir sellers didn’t bother me much because, apparently, I look quite Peruvian, until the camera came out. Then there was an endless stream of llama keyrings, and Inca pendants, and whatnot.

Looking up my Lonely Planet, I thought of doing their walking tour, which was meant to take me back to the area of my hotel at the end. Starting from the Plaza, I walked to the Mercado de San Pedro, but not before a quick stop at the Choco Museum for a quick snack of …ahem… chocolate.

Plaza de Armas

The Inca flag has all the colours of the rainbow. Those are to be found in most of the local garments and handicrafts.

The market of San Pedro was as fun as a market ought to be! Some of the ladies offered their bread to taste, and I was a willing sampler.

Getting out of the market, loaded with a snack pack of dried fruits and nuts, I went about my merry way on that walking tour towards the Palace of Justice, stopping, as usual for photographs.

Sights in Cusco Sights in Cusco

The sights were so interesting that I kept putting my phone (with the directions) away, to bring out the camera, and also munch on those nuts. That’s it. In the space of 2 minutes (the interval between peeking at the phone), my iPhone was gone. I have a strong feeling somebody may have followed me and stolen it, or just observed my inattention and taken the opportunity. Whatever it was, the phone was gone. Thankfully I had a 2nd phone with the local number, and called Souvik who was about 10 minutes away. We couldn’t call the iPhone because of some international dialling issues, so I rushed back to the hotel to access the iPad and lock down the phone remotely. In the grief of losing the phone (it’s like losing an arm, the amount of dependence I had on that), I was probably not thinking clearly. I should have changed all my apple and gmail passwords, which I didn’t. Within a couple of hours, the thieves had disabled the Find My iPhone feature, and all hope was lost. I simply couldn’t focus on anything after that, and hung about the hotel room, moping, cursing my own stupidity.

Souvik did his best to drag me out after that, but my heart simply wasn’t in it. We sat in the plaza for a while, watching the kids play and dance, and after a comforting meal at Inkazuela, called it a day.

Colours of Barranco

The bike tour from the day before opened my eyes to the Bohemian district of Barranco. While most parts of Lima look dull and grey, and Miraflores and San Isidro are well-manicured and modern, it’s Barranco that carries the labels of Bohemian, artsy and old-worldly.

The district has been preserved, mostly by the artistic community, not to the glossy levels of its upmarket neighbours, but in the most charming manner in its riot of colours. I had pre-conceived notions of what South America should look like, and Barranco satisfied some of them. I’ve also noticed that there is a concerted effort to make some of the districts safer, especially for tourists – there are information kiosks in a number of street corners, and quite a few tourism police keeping an eye on everyone. The results have been great for me – I’ve been able to walk on streets, camera in hand, without facing any trouble so far.

Enjoy!

I lunched at La Bodega Verde, close to the Puenta de Los Suspiros – a happy meal of quinoa burger with hummus. Seriously, I am now in love with quinoa.

I was lured into the MATE museum, that houses the photographs of Mario Testino. He is a world renowned Peruvian photographer, and I was fascinated by his work. I had bought a combination ticket to 3 museums, but the other 2 (Pedro de Osma & MAC) did not hold the same attraction for me, as one has a collection of religious art, and the other is contemporary, but I could understand neither. Still, the walk was fun. Gotta go back into Barranco in the evening to get a glimpse of all the colours of the night.

The Other Side of Town

This week in Lima, I had my photo walk on Monday rather than the usual Friday. Found Haku Tours to take me on a walk through one of the more humble settlements in the city.

It is always nice to see local markets in different cities, but the one we stopped at before the walk left me agape at the size of vegetables. Cauliflower and broccoli larger than my head, pumpkins the size of toddlers, different colours of corn, and potatoes in numerous shapes, sizes and colour. Plus some exotic fruits to sample. My guide, Edwin, taught me some phrases in Quechua, the local language – Adiyanchu (good morning) and Yus para sunki (thank you) to confuse me from the practised Spanish phrases. To add to that, every time I said Adiyanchu to a local person, I would get a blank stare in return because not everybody spoke the language! My timing was completely off; ultimately I let Edwin take the lead in greeting people.

I had a good introduction on the politics of Peru from my guides, as well as a good insight into the culture of the shanty town residents. And some photos of the people, with the people too. Predictably, the kids were super friendly, and fascinated by the camera and their pictures.

Not typical touristy destination, but quite remarkable landscapes! Here are many shades of brown:

A hidden city tour in Jakarta

This year, I went on a second Hidden City tour with Ronny, having done the first one a couple of years ago in East Jakarta. This time we went to the more familiar and ‘touristy’ area of Kota Tua in North Jakarta, to meet some of the people that were impacted by the recent floods in the city.

Ronny and his team do a fantastic job taking you to places you might never venture on your own. No wonder that their tour is rated amongst the best in Jakarta.

Photo walk North Jakarta

Not the typical sights you would expect on a ‘tour’, but these are eye-opening. People live under bridges along the river, and everything they possess gets washed away every time there’s a downpour. They save their meagre possessions in surprising nooks and crannies, and what might look like a pile of trash to some might be another person’s treasure.

It gets reinforced time and again that the less ‘stuff’ you have, the less you have to lose. And it doesn’t cost a penny to smile, or to pose with attitude!

On the Streets of Kolkata – #1

My India visit this year was set in Kolkata, land of my in-laws, thanks to a wedding in the family. In between all the wedding hungama, I did find some time to explore the city.

The streets are always exciting. Kolkata, even more so. Old and abandoned, or bustling with manic energy.

Sightseeing in Kolkata

Sightseeing in Kolkata

I drew the line at pushing my way into the Kalighat Mandir (no photography allowed inside). But the market adjoining the temple had plenty of willing subjects.

This first trip whetted my appetite, and I couldn’t wait to get out again for a proper photo walk.

Sightseeing in Kolkata

Photo walking in Kuningan

Kuningan – a neighbourhood in downtown Jakarta characterised by high-rise buildings and traffic snarls. Get on foot, and into the back lanes, and you can discover a completely different picture and a myriad of individual stories.

Photo walk Kuningan

No dearth of colour:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

80-years old, perfectly happy to pose:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Kids at the fish farm:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Pigeon racing trainer:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Cock-fight trainer:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

A world view of their own:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Just happy:

Photo walk Kuningan

Photo Walk Blok M Bus Station

Our photo walking group has grown! A couple of weeks ago, we found an exciting spot to have a photo walk – the Blok M bus station.

For once, there weren’t officials chasing us, as we tried to capture the essence of a bus terminus and the tiny market next door. In fact, most bus drivers were amused and rather willing to pose, as were many of the passengers.

After the pristine landscape at the Dutch cemetery, it was exciting to be in the midst of all the action, with chaotic traffic, exhaust fumes, and willing models!

 

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