Every photographer loves the golden hour, that special time between dusk and dark. Sunsets can be spectacular, unusual and surreal. Since I just got back from Page Arizona to photograph the natural beauty of the area, including of course Horseshoe Bend at sunset, I have decided to collect a few of my favorite sunsets from around the world. Not all sunsets depend on color to make them spectacular, although Horseshoe Bend might be the exception. Often it is the subtle interplay of light and dark, the delicate colors rather than flashy vibrance and it is always about that soft light that fills our senses as the embers of the day play out.
During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center around 1440 CE. The “fortress” of Ollantaytambo is actually a religious structure, but it did function as a retreat from the attacks of the conquistadores in the 1500’s. It was last held by Manco Inca, who, leading resistance forces against the Spanish, retreated to Ollantaytambo in January of 1537. The Spanish forces attacked on horseback, but Manco Inca’s band, in a technical tour de force, flooded the entire approach plain with water forcing the Spanish to retreat and regroup. Though Ollantaytambo was a highly effective fortress, it also served as a temple. A finely worked ceremonial center is at the top of the terracing. Some extremely well-built walls were under construction at the time of the conquest and have never been completed.
We decided to stay at the Hotel Pakaritampu which is a 3-star hotel conveniently located near Ollantaytambo ruins, with quick access to the train station. Because Ollantaytambo is 1,000m (3281ft) below Cusco (which is 3,400m or 11155ft above sea level), it provides a very good location to begin the acclimatisation process. In fact many visitors to the region travel directly to the Sacred Valley after landing in Cusco to reduce the likelihood of experiencing altitude sickness. We stayed in Ollantaytambo for two days to acclimate and to enjoy the the nearby Inca ruins. In the process we got to know the truly beautiful and historic town of Ollantaytambo.
If you visit Machu Pichu, you will have to pass through Ollantaytambo, if only by train. It is 45 miles by road northwest of the city of Cusco and on the rail line to Machu Pichu. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 metres (9,160 ft) above sea level in the district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, Cusco region in the Sacred Valley. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Today, located in what is called the Sacred Valley of the Incas, it is an important tourist attraction because of its Inca ruins and its location, which is close to one of the most common starting points for the four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail.
Most people who do not live in a desert environment consider cactus to be an unattractive species. Nothing could be farther from the truth, cactus are a beautiful species, similar to euphorbia in Africa. Euphorbia can be found all over the world. The forms range from annual plants laying on the ground, to well developed tall trees. In deserts in Madagascar and southern Africa, convergent evolution has led to cactus-like forms where the plants occupy the same ecological niche as cacti do in deserts of North America and South America. The genus is primarily found in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and the Americas, but also in temperate zones worldwide. The 1,500 to 1,800 species of cacti mostly fall into one of two groups of “core cacti”: opuntias (subfamily Opuntioideae) and “cactoids” (subfamily Cactoideae). Most members of these two groups are easily recognizable as cacti. They have fleshy succulent stems that are major organs of photosynthesis. They have absent, small, or transient leaves. They have flowers with ovaries that lie below the sepals and petals, often deeply sunken into a fleshy receptacle (the part of the stem from which the flower parts grow). All cacti have areoles highly specialized short shoots with extremely short internodes that produce spines, normal shoots, and flowers. In Las Vegas we have one of the best cactus gardens in the world at the Ethel M Botanic Garden.
“Throughout history, clothing has not only protected us from the natural elements, it has also enabled us to demonstrate who we are. Our clothing and adornments indicate our gender and social position, as well as our origins and what we do. In all ancient societies, the elite employed ways of defining themselves. In ancient Peru leaders would dress and adorn themselves with articles exclusive to their social rank. They would preside over the principal ceremonies wearing garments and ornaments which not only denoted the function they performed, but which also displayed the religious codes of their society and the emblems of power and privileged status. Their social position and identity were defined by their dress, crowns and many items of jewelry. When they died they took with them into the afterlife objects which expressed their way of seeing the world. They were interred with the ritual attire which had identified their rank during life, and which had marked them out as the descendants of the gods. Their identity transcended their earthly existence and accompanied them into the next world. After death, these rulers would be transformed into ancestors who would share a place in the celestial world with the gods.” Larco Museum
When getting to know the capital city of Peru, head straight to the neighborhood of Miraflores for a scenic introduction to Lima’s charms. Taking cues from its name, Miraflores is peppered with flowerbeds and grassy parks, just calling for you to enjoy it’s lush greenery. From jagged cliffs overlooking the Pacific and the centrally located Kennedy Park, to some dazzling gems in Peruvian cuisine, Miraflores offers the perfect beginning to your Limanian adventure. It is a lot like Palisades Park in Santa Monica, only bigger and with better views.
At the Larco museum they had a section devoted to Moche warfare and ceremonial human sacrifice. Flourishing on the north coast of Peru between 100 and 800 CE, the Moche created ceramic vessels richly decorated with detailed, fineline paintings that relate complex tales. The surviving ceramics provide a wealth of information about Moche society and iconography. Moche artists frequently depicted warriors and warrior activities, and hundreds of these depictions can be found in museums and private collections today. The combat they depict appears to be ceremonial rather than militaristic. There are no depictions of warriors attacking castles or fortified settlements, or killing, capturing, or mistreating women or children. Moreover, there is no portrayal of equipment or tactics that involved teams of warriors acting in close coordination. We see no regular formations of troops like Greek phalanxes, or siege instruments whose operation would have involved trained squads of individuals. Although there are a few depictions of two warriors fighting a single opponent, the essence of Moche combat appears to have been the expression of individual valor, in which the warriors engage in one-on-one combat. Only rarely were combatants killed; the goal appears to have been to capture the opponent for ritual sacrifice.
The Nazca culture (also Nasca) was the archaeological culture that flourished from 100 BC to 800 AD beside the dry southern coast of Peru in the river valleys of the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage and the Ica Valley. Having been heavily influenced by the preceding Paracas culture, which was known for extremely complex textiles, the Nazca produced an array of beautiful crafts and technologies such as ceramics, textiles, and geoglyphs (most commonly known as the Nazca lines). They also built an impressive system of underground aqueducts, known as puquios, that still function today. The Nazca Province in the Ica Region was named for this people. From 500 AD, the civilization started to decline and by 750 AD the civilization had fallen completely. This is thought to have occurred when an El Niño triggered widespread and destructive flooding. Evidence also suggests that the Nazca people may have exacerbated the effects of these floods by gradually cutting down Prosopis pallida trees to make room for maize and cotton agriculture. These trees play an extremely important role as the ecological keystone of this landscape: in particular preventing river and wind erosion. Gradual removal of trees would have exposed the landscape to the effects of climate perturbations such as El Niño, leading to erosion and leaving irrigation systems high and dry.
Since we dined on the beach in Miraflores, we decided on dinner on top of the cliffs in Tanta restaurant located in the very modern Larcomar shopping center. The Miraflores “malecón” or boardwalk is possibly the most emblematic attraction in Miraflores. This six mile stretch of board walk starts with Malecón de la Marina in the north, then becomes Malecón Cisneros, and ends as Malecón de la Reserva in the south. This stunning cliff-top walk offers fabulous views of the Pacific Coast and is a great place for people watching. Although Lima is almost always cloudy, this Boardwalk down the coast where Lima sits is a beautiful walk. You will often see surfers and swimmers in the water and even paragliders overhead in the sky. It is also an amazing location to view a sunset although the overcast sky makes for an unusual sunset. Larcomar shopping center is a stunning feat of architecture located on the boardwalk in front of the JW Marriott Hotel. You can’t see this multi-level food, entertainment and shopping complex from street level as it is tucked away in the cliff face boasting stunning views of the Pacific Coast. You will find a lot of big brand stores here like North Face, Adidas and Banana Republic but you will also find Peruvian stores like Ilaria Jewelery, Kuna Alpaca as well as the great gift store Dedalo.