I wouldn’t say I’m exactly ‘a sucker for a view’. No. I mean they are nice and I can appreciate them, but I would never pay extra for a room with a view and sometimes I would rather have an aisle seat as to avoid having to literally climb over someone while they sleep so I can get to the bathroom. There are however some places on earth that are so beautiful, so picturesque, that they demand your full attention. I’ve visited plenty of these places. Stood on top of mountains and looked out over a vastly spread Australian bush. Seen Halong Bay stretch far beyond the horizon. Witnessed Abu Simbel from the sky. Not to mention the hundreds of secluded beaches I’ve seen living in Australia. All of these things are amazing, breath taking and force you to experience them in awe, but if I had to choose one place where I witnessed such a profound natural beauty, unlike any other I have yet to experience, without a moments hesitation or second thought it would be Peru.
Yes, there is Machu Picchu, absolutely astonishing and one of the best experiences I have had was sitting there and watching the sun rise and shine onto the both natural and man made structure, but there is so much more to this country then just this somewhat exploited tourist attraction. No matter where in the country I was, the natural landscape had a consistent power and beauty about it. Whether I was standing on top of a mountain and looking out onto an old Inca ruin, or looking out a bus window at the surrounding mountains, each was just as incredible as the other. If you haven’t visited Peru and witnessed what I’m talking about yourself it’s very hard to try and comprehend this exact feeling, and like always, pictures really do not do it justice. Of course if you have been to this stunning country then you would know exactly what I’m talking about.
Volcano Misty and Arequipa
Volcano Misty sits along side two other small volcanoes. Being the biggest of the three she over looks the town of Arequipa.
Machu Picchu and Surrounding Area
Machu Picchu itself is an amazing, awe inspiring experience to stand there and just take all it’s beauty in. What the postcards don’t show however is the surrounding mountains and forest which could revile the Inca structure itself. Even though this area is at such a high altitude that the flora shouldn’t be this lush and prosperous, the wind carries nutrients and minerals from the Amazon Jungle to the east, which travel here, enriching the soil and making it possible for plants and trees to grow so well; as explained to me by one of the local Peruvian guides.
(Bottom Photo) Myself, taking in what lays in front of me.
These two pictures where taken around the opposite side of a surrounding mountain at the Inca Bridge, which can be accessed by a short walk along a path which the Incas traveled along themselves hundreds of years ago. After playing around with my camera and getting a few shots of some friends on the rock (above picture) I ended up getting a silhouette effect and thought that it perfectly conveyed this place. Even though we were present, the lush mountains and dominating sky were the main subject. Though we could understand this, it is hard to interpret such a feeling through a photo. If we were in the photo smiling the focus would be on us, and if not it would just be another landscape picture of mountains. The silhouettes show that, yes we are a strong presence in this predominately untouched nature, but we are insignificant to the beauty which lies behind us.
A shadowed mountain as the sun starts to rise. A contrast of colours from darkness, to green, until finally reaching the snow capped mountains in a much higher altitude, overlooked by a bright clear sky.
Home to Peru’s iconic giant condors, the natural habitat in which they live is not overlooked by these amazing birds.
One of the largest lakes on earth, and at the highest altitude, it stretched right to the horizon and beyond.
What makes this country’s beauty so astounding is that it is not limited to where the tourists are taken. It is everywhere. One day I was sitting on the bus as we drove along the cliff of a mountain, staring out the window and taking in what I was seeing, when I heard my travel companion next to me say, “It’s so fucking beautiful.” She must have been doing the exact same thing as me, looking past the thick glass which separated us from out there and being confounded by what we were seeing. She quickly followed this up with, “Sorry for swearing, but fuck it’s so beautiful.” Swearing doesn’t really bother be anyway (I mean, I am Australian, it’s part of our standard vocabulary), but I felt that in this circumstance it was actually necessary, as just the statement ‘it’s so beautiful’ would have in no what at all have even come close to describing just how beautiful it actually was. And it wasn’t just her that had an opinion on what we were privileged enough to see everyday. Over the two weeks I was there everyone I met would comment on how stunning it was and how they felt in awe at what they were witnessing. Very rarely though did someone mention an exact place in which they felt more overwhelmed then somewhere else. Everyone was experiencing the full nature of what Peru has to offer the same why I was; by staring intently out bus and train windows, seeing it in the distance, high above the town streets, out room windows and even across plane tarmacs. And every day we would pull the bus over on dirt roads, cliff sides, in the middle of nowhere, just to get out, stand there and look at what lay in front of us.
The above two pictures where taken beside a very narrow road on the side of a mountain. Sitting in the first row of seats I had a perfect view out the window to what lay in front of us, which was great, except for when the bus driver decided to pull over here. Very quickly. I’m not going to lie, I genuinely thought we were going to go over the edge of the cliff, my knuckles white as I gripped the side of my chair. We came to a stop mere feet from the edge and I had never been so happy to be off that bus and have my feet on solid ground. Though shaken, that was quickly forgotten as I turned around and saw what lay in the valley below us.
I love this above photo of a small, isolated town which sits at the base of the mountains in the background. Taken in, really, the middle of no where. We had stopped to use a restroom, which was basically a small shed which cost us 1 solos to use, and despite the fact that I have been on a bus for five hours and had drunk quite a bit more then I should of cocoa tea that morning at breakfast, this sight was what really deserved my attention.
There are two climbable mountains which border the Sacred Valley, one being an old Inca ruin of terraces and an unfinished sun temple. Often used as a ‘practice’ for the Inca trail, there are a collection of steep steps which scale the mountain, yet the view from the top is worth it.
On the opposite side of the valley however, there is another mountain, with no man made structure of steps or railings to help hike upward. It’s extremely steep, even dangerous and follows a path which was used by Incas themselves hundreds of years ago. It’s hard work, at such a high altitude you need to pace yourself, and breaks a couple of times up are necessary. I would also recommend that if you have a even a small problem with heights, don’t look over the edge and try not not think about how close to the edge you actually are. I’m not really selling the hike for you, but trust me, once you arrive at the top completely out of breath, you walk through the high walls of a small Inca built building and look out over the valley, you will instantly understand why you just scaled the mountain below you. Your breath will be taken away again, not from the altitude, or exhaustion, but from what you are seeing. You will quite happily hike the entire thing again a hundred times over just to be able to keep seeing what is visible from up here.
The view which I got to experience from here was one of the greatest things I have ever seen, and definitely my favourite. Words really just can’t describe the feeling of what it is like to be able to sit alone in silence and search every inch of what your eyes can see just to make sure you don’t miss anything. A picture also can in no way at all do justice to what it is like to see for yourself. Even if you are someone who can never seem to clear your mind, even for a few seconds, it’s hard to stand where I’ve stood and think of anything else besides just how magnificent of a sight this is.
We sat for over an hour, sometimes in silence and sometimes discussing things like politics, what we want to do and change when we get home, future travel plans. All the while however, all pairs of eyes were kept strictly in front of us, not wanting to stop observing.
There is somewhat of a peace and calm up there, on the side of that mountain looking over the Sacred Valley. Even if you are with others, you can’t help but feel alone. Looking down onto the town, which I knew was busy with people and plenty of tourists, even a biking competition which was on that day, but up there is looked completely calm.
A Last Look
This photo was taken as we flew out of Cusco and is one of the last times I got to see the country. It perfectly conveys it’s power and beauty, reaching far into the distance of a vastly untouched land, the town below not cutting into and destroying it in order to build, but working with the land and following the way it moves.