Burning Like Bacon on Machu Picchu

Huayna Picchu behind the Machu Picchu ruins.
Huayna Picchu behind the Machu Picchu ruins.

“What is that pain? Do you smell bacon?” I thought to myself as I stood atop Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the world. It was high noon and I was in short pants. With bare feet. Standing at the oculus of the Incan empire. Getting fried like a piece of bacon on a grease fire.

Inside the Vistadome.
Inside the Vistadome.

Aside from the bacon sensation, I tried to focus on the spirituality of Machu Picchu. Without doubt, it’s beautiful. A bucket list place, done. Even in the harsh flattening light of mid-day and crawling with 2,000 tourists (or whatever the daily quota is these days), Machu Picchu is still awesome. Just like the bus ride up from Aguas Calientes was awesome. Even after endless ruins and crenellations razoring one valley after another, it was still impressive. Go there if you can. Maybe do the early morning tour.

The river way down below. Not great if you are afraid of heights.
The river way down below. Not great if you are afraid of heights.

So now I’ve seen it. The number one destination in South America. Yes, it was worth it. They even have an “accessible” (handicap) path for those in wheelchairs! I loved it. Me encanta!

Walking down.
Walking down.

It’s amazing to stand there on Machu Picchu, breathless from altitude and wonder. Imagine the sweat it took to build it.

Our guide, out in the mid-day sun.
Our guide, out in the mid-day sun.

And I’m whinging about a few painful sunburns.

They cleaned all the windows on the Vistadome train before we set off.
They cleaned all the windows on the Vistadome train before we set off.

A Birthday Wish for Colombia

Today, on Colombia’s birthday (205 years old), I went for a walk to see how Colombians celebrate. I knew there was a parade somewhere and I’m pretty sure that I heard the flyover, but mostly, I noticed that almost all the buildings were flying the flag. I went out to a favorite eatery and as I pondered my cafe latte, I wished Colombia a happy birthday. Google had Colombia as a their design today, but in the headlines, it’s another country starting with a “C” that has grabbed the spotlight (also, I’ve noted that my blog readership had dropped now that I blog mostly about Colombia — which makes me realize the power of 170 million Bangladeshis, with smartphones!). Speaking of things starting with the letter “c,” my birthday wish for Colombia (other than people learn to spell her name correctly) is that she will loosen the fetters of her reputation for cocaine and kidnapping. Instead, I hope that people will think of Colombia when they enjoy their coffee, or nibble on organic chocolate, or cruise into Cartagena. Or come seeking the legend.

Coffee beans on the bush.
Coffee beans on the bush.

One year later, I thought I’d comment on my post about stereotypes about Colombia:

1. Aren’t you worried about getting kidnapped? (I wouldn’t go to Colombia if kidnapping was a guarantee. Duh!)

Answer: Still not worried. I stay in my bathtub, blubbering at my rubber ducky.

2. It’s dangerous. You will get mugged. Or worse. (Bogota, with seven million inhabitants, has all the usual dangers of a large city so I think my chances are equal those if I lived in New York or Bangkok).

Answer: Yes, it is. Hardworking Colombians get killed for the price of their cell phone. But, again, are you going to stay in your bathtub? No. I wander around during the day, going on epic 100-block walks. I don’t wander around at night. At night, I admire the reflection in my bathtub. 

3. Will you become a drug dealer? Or an emerald smuggler? (Why would you ask me that? Is it a conversation starter?)

Answer: Again, why would you DARE ask me if I really was one? And, frankly, I’d completely forgotten about the emeralds. I guess the Wizard will disown me now.

4. I hear that plastic surgery is really cheap and of high quality there. Are you going to get plastic surgery? (Thanks for the suggestion?).

Answer: Yes, it is. I’ve heard that a tummy tuck is about 4,000 dollars. Now, if you want danger, cheap plastic surgery is the way to go. But why would you scrimp when doing surgery?

5. Colombian women are the hottest in the world. You will get divorced there. (Colombia ranks first in bird bio-diversity…)

Answer: Some are. Some get plastic surgery (not the birds). The Colombians certainly seem to be careful about their appearance. Not all women wear high heels here in “cold” Bogota. But, the jeans are super-uber tight. Like shellac-tight (I just made up that term but you can imagine how tight a car is with its paintjob). The men do not wear tight jeans. No equality here. 

6. You will get married there. (If I go to a wedding, I’ll blog about it for sure!)

Answer: Not yet. It’s hard to meet anyone when cowering in my bathtub.

7. Oh, you’ll be having a lot of romantic assignations (Okay, they put it more crassly.)

Answer: See number six (and one) above. Plus, something about beeswax…

8. You will enjoy the steamy hot weather (Not in Bogota. The daily average temperature is 48-68 F, or 9-20 C)

Answer: Not hot in Bogota. Average is 65 F or 14 C. I love it.

9. Hope you like salsa because there will be lots of it. Any opportunity and Colombians start dancing! (Yup, bring on the vallenato, cumbia, hard salsa, salsa romantica, porro, and so on. More later.)

Answer: I do love salsa, both the dance and the dip. So far, the funniest salsa (or was it something else?) experience I’ve had was an awful experience at a club watching a drunk client get escorted back and forth from her chair to the bathroom. Otherwise, the most salsa I’ve done is the two-step on my slippery waxed floors. 

10. You will never want to leave. (The Colombian public relations slogan says, “the only danger is wanting to stay” so maybe they are right?)

Answer: I don’t have a bathtub.

Tokyo Ramen in Bogota

A bowl of ramen, salarymen in the background.
A bowl of ramen, salarymen in the background.

Yup, I found the best place for Tokyo style ramen in Bogota. The restaurant is located at Carrera 11 and Calle 98, overlooking the little park between 11 and 12. (*** update January 5, 2016 **** Telephone number is 609 09 59. They are open Monday-Saturday from noon to 9:30 p.m. and on Sundays/holidays from noon to 6 p.m.)

The place on the left doesn't get many customers...
The place on the left doesn’t get many customers…

They must cater to salarymen because they aren’t open for dinner on Saturdays, nor are they open on Sundays.

Fried cutlet on rice noodles.
Fried cutlet on rice noodles.

I enjoyed the soft tofu appetizer, the kontaksu (fried pork or chicken cutlet, here served on fried noodles as light as air), and the calamari which were soft and tender.

Fresh tofu, ginger and onion, and bonito (dried fish) flakes.
Fresh tofu, ginger and onion, and bonito (dried fish) flakes.

Some people would probably like me to keep this place a secret. Ooops.

Fried calamari.
Fried calamari.

Zooming In – I Love It!

Zooming in at maximum capacity.
Zooming in to capture color intensity.
The parrot with a standard lens.
The parrot with a standard lens.

I got a new lens. For the geeks, it’s a 75-300mm. All I know is that it allows me to zoom in from across the plaza. Right in tight on people’s faces. Or bird faces.

Close up portrait.
Close up portrait.

These photos were taken in Peru, in Iquitos, on the Amazon. All the subjects agreed to be photographed (the humans put on their tribal wear during the day to participate in the educational tours given to tourists).

A boy getting ready for the show.
A boy getting ready for the show.

People have fascinating faces and this zoom provides another tool for portraiture.The real personality shows up when the camera isn’t right in their faces.

A beautiful woman of the Amazon.
A beautiful woman of the Amazon.

As I kept saying when taking these photos: “me encanta” or “I love it.”