Views. Colors. Textures.
After a spectacular day visiting Machu Picchu, I left myself a full day in Cusco, Peru to explore the city. If the sights and colors of the first day in Cusco were any indication, I was in for a great experience. I started by wandering the local streets near my hotel on the west side of the city. The first impression Cusco makes, and what is its most beautiful feature, is that it is truly a mountain city with changes of elevation, steep steps, and ample vistas, all while being draped in housing and development. There will be plenty of images of that to follow, but to begin, a few recurring sites kept me capturing photographs. I was drawn to the texture of walls and doors, locals walking and the plethora of stray dogs:
Up to San Cristobal
On this day, I had plenty of landmarks to see thanks to the Google Trips app. I made a lot of places within the city limits a starred favorite and covered as much ground as possible before the sun went down (and even after). The first place of interest was the San Cristobal Church which sits nicely atop a hill over looking Plaza De Armas. Along the way, as I started to ascend, I started to see more wide-open hilltop views:
After a good workout and many stairs, I was able to reach Colcampata Hill where the aforementioned San Cristobal Church is situated. From the plaza of the 16th Century Catholic church were again, beautiful views of the city as well as the Plaza de Armas below:
After taking in the views from San Cristobal, it was on to the next landmark. I had seen a statue of Christ looking over Cusco from above, and needed to find it to view it up close and in person. The statue was sitting at a site known as Pukamuqu. The hike up to Colcampata Hill for San Cristobal was just a warm-up. This trek, between stairs, streets and inclines was pretty serious. In addition, the thin air due to high altitude became a factor. It was all worth it, as the streets provided more breathtaking views (no pun intented) and up-close encounters with many colors and textures of the city's architecture:
One of my favorites from the entire journey. A man texting on his phone. He's so casual about the amazing landscape in which he lives:
Another favorite: as I ascended higher I would keep turning around to capture the view back down to the city. During one of those turn-arounds, a young boy was beginning his walk to school, I assume. It's almost as if he knew a photographer was going to photograph him, because he stopped perfectly at the landing and took in the awesome view:
After one of the most grueling city walks/hikes I've ever experienced, I reached Pukamuqu. Though it has a relatively flat area, it's technically classified as a mountain, and it's name translates to "Red Hill." The reason the hike was such a workout is because the peak of Pukamuqu sits 3600 meters (11,181 feet) above sea level. Not only were there steep steps to continue to the top, but I finally experienced what thin air due to altitude feels like. Someone described it to me as feeling like you need to catch your breath but not being able to. That's the exact feeling. You just have to rest more often than you normally would.
I was glad to be there, and of course, I came to see Jesus. The Cristo Blanco had been visible from Cusco proper and it was great to finally be close and photograph it:
Before approaching the statue, I noticed a few horses grazing in a small fenced area just off of Subida al Cristo:
The interior of cathedrals always pull at my soul, and this outdoor expression of Christian pride did the smae. Beautiful experience:
Wonderful views of Cusco...
Estadio Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, home of the football club, Cienciano...
Plaza de Armas...
and the edge of the Incan ruins at Saqsaywaman:
A conscious homework assignment on my trip to Peru was to be bold enough to capture some portraiture of locals. I reached out whenever the spirit felt right and I had some relative success. Most people were open and inviting. I would always offer a few dollars, or Peruvian Sols in exchange. This kind woman was sitting atop Pukamuqu selling some hand woven clothing:
After Pukamuqu, I headed back down to the city where along the way there were plenty more stray dogs, buildingds, walls, and views:
Cats are clever climbers, but this one, I can't figure out:
More plaza de Armas
I made my way back to the heart of the city, Plaza de Armas, where I was content to capture more details, candids of people and many angles and details of the Cusco Catheral:
As I wandered the city further, I came to an open marketplace named, Calle Loreto. From time to time there are alpaca that roam this courtyard, but I had no such luck. Still a cool space:
The alleyway leading to the market had a character all it's own:
Said alleyway led to my favorite portrait from Peru and arguably my favorite portrait (of my portfolio). A woman sat against the wall of the alley asking for spare change. I knelt down to her and gave her a few Sols. I asked, "¿tomar una photo? to which she nodded yes. I began to frame the shot and noticed that she still had an outstretched hand. It left me a bit heartbroken. I couldn't ask her to kindly put her hand down. She was still in need, so she was still asking. My initial instinct was to photograph just her face, to capture the texture of her skin, but then I realized that her outstretched hand was the story of the image and I included it in the framing:
While roaming Cusco, I was subconsciouly working my way towards Coricancha, which was an important Incan temple from shortly before the 16th Century. It was hard to miss while driving in from the airport. Now I was face to face with it, and started with a panorama of its courtyard:
I continued onward in the streets, capturing more details:
If I were looking specifically for it, I could have made an entire album of just Peruvian street art. It was plenteous, and I eventually came to a 1992 mural by Juan Bravo which reads left to right depicting the history of Peru...
...from the beginnings of Incan Civilization...
...to modern day Peruvian independence:
Another beautiful piece was not too far away, though on the other side of the gate of a secured lot. It could have also been by Juan Bravo, but no sure confirmation:
A blind guitarists serenades people passing by. One of those times where life feels like a romantic movie:
Again, just roaming the street is exciting to me, especially in a place with so much character. I made my way back towards Plaza de Armas while capturing candids and details. God bless the little children:
Some light drizzling was coming and going during the day, but then unexpectedly, beautifully, while hanging in Plaza de Armas, a sun shower broke and turned things into a photogenic scene. Once before, I briefly had the chance to capture a sun shower while in Shoreditch, London, and this time was also pretty special:
After the rain setted, I mapped out the trek to Park Espana, which I read had great views of the city. It turned out to not be true, but I enjoyed capturing a few details along the way. A few moments along Av. Collasuyo passing the Tawatinsuyo, Cristo Pobre, and Ucchullo Alto neighborhoods:
Looping back around towards the city center brought me in contact with the Himno Al Cusco monument in Limacpampa Grande Plaza:
My next destination was Convento de San Francisco, and along the way, naturally there was more to see:
Convento De San Francisco
A worthwhile stop, the 17th Century convent houses great paintings (though photography of them was not allow) and an impressive central court:
The tour headed up to the bell tower, where ample views and panoramas were present. It was a nice way to wind down the day:
One more walk through the streets, back to the hotel:
You'd think I'd quit. Not when packing my tripod and remote shutter. I made my way back to Colcampata Hill after nightfall and captured a couple of images of the lit hillside of Cusco along with Plaza de Armas:
I also tried my hand at some night shots inside the Plaza de Armas with limited success, but it came with a heartwarming moment. Two boys were intent on selling me some of their wares and I was out of cash at that point in the day. I wanted to purchase something just to reward them for their hustle. They took it in stride and were willing to smile for the camera: