Analog photography in Peru - and travel advice
I'm thinking of taking my next vacation to Peru, and I was wondering if there are any analog photographers from Lima, Cusco, or Arequipa here who could provide some advice on things like getting around within the country, any special sights/activities/galleries/museums, and on a lesser note, availability of 120 film just in case I run out. I speak fluent but rusty Spanish, so getting around and doing things isn't a problem. I'll have roughly 7-10 days in-country, and my dates of travel are flexible. I'm looking to travel sometime between March 2013 and May 2013, so if there are any festivals/events worth attending or that I should plan to skip given the short notice (lack of hotel rooms, etc), I'd also appreciate the feedback.
Watching this thread, as I had similar notions - even around the same time...
In my mind comes book from Salgado "Other Americas" ... I want to go to Peru as well
Read up on Lonely Planet's guide to Peru.
Especially interesting is the thread, "Outbreak of Bubonic plague in Peru" (!)
I would personally consider 120 roll film to be an alien concept in Peru, in fact anywhere in South America, and might be best to take as much as you can physically take — and keep watch over, with you. It would be hard enough to find a watch battery (or try a 2CR5 battery...). Most of my friends who have been there (chiefly to Machu Picchu where some truly atmospheric studies have been shot) with MF have taken their own (B&W) film with them.
Last edited by Poisson Du Jour; 11-07-2012 at 04:54 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I was in Lima, Cuzco, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, and other areas from March - May 2008. If you have any specific questions you can pm me. Plan your trip and where you want to go around how much physical activity you can handle, factoring in some extreme elevation. Iquitos in the jungle is low physical effort, but Cuzco and the mountains can wear you out quickly. Also, you havent said what you want to shoot, city-scapes and street, farmland, people?
If I were to go back, I'd rent a vehicle and shoot desert and sand dunes along the coast for a few days.
Getting around - fly if you have the money, esp. if you only have 7 days. I took a couple of 25 hour bus rides and hitchhiked, saw some things but suffered greatly along the way. Lower cost buses get robbed at gunpoint. Add 25-50% on to any stated bus time.
Lima is a great place for street shooting, the public buses offer a lot, and wandering for a few days is really fun, lots of people working in garages open to the street, or on the sidewalk. Its also large enough to easily fill 5 days, more if you take a bus to the outskirts of town. A very gritty city.
Arequipa is comparatively very quiet. Much smaller, not nearly as many people on the streets, but fun to walk. Hiking in the area is amazing, but you need to be very fit and prepared. Otherwise the snow-topped mountains can provide some great backgrounds. Much less soot in the air, clear sky. I paid $3 for a room in the city one night, bad idea.
Cuzco - I ran out of stuff to shoot after 2 days. Heresy say some, but i'm not into all the polish for the tourists and the knick-knack shops lining the streets. Wandering the alleys at night gave me some good shots, wish I had a better camera to handle it though. I lost 15 pounds here (normally 150lbs) from altitude/food sickness. Thought I could die.
Chivay - You didn't mention it, but I think its the best area for photographers to hang out, and a place that constantly put a smile on my face. Many day trips from here to the smaller towns, accessible by public vans. Its on the way to Colca Canyon, so there are tourist things, but the smaller towns are mostly free of foreigners. If you hired a guide with a car for a few days it could really pay off, especially if you have a low fitness level. Towns in the valleys are surrounded by 5,000m-6,000M snow capped peaks. There are great hot springs to sit in, old rope bridges just like the cartoons. The farmland is wonderful to wander. Amazing irrigation system, and good people. I spoke with a lot of locals who were very interested with me, asking where I was from (USA), and not knowing where the USA was on the map, how big it was, or who the president was, the wars in Iraq, and the list goes on. You could skip Cruz del Condor having so much fun in the other areas. Also, April was the low tourist season there, no idea why, and many of the hotels (hostels really) were closed. I stayed in a local person's house for $5 one night after I found the 1 open hostel was full.
I met a woman in Arequipa from Yanque (great town near Chivay) and she gave me tons of information about who to talk to and how to travel the area, drew maps for me and so on. I have no idea how to obtain this information through the internet.
Sorry for rambling.
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Peru is a wonderful country and I have greatly enjoyed my time there. Traveling from city to city is almost always best done by air. Buses are available, and can be quite an adventure sometimes, but they are certainly a great way to get around, particularly if you are looking for a better look at how the country really lives.
It kind of depends on what you are interested in doing. Doing the tourist thing in Lima, and the surrounding area, can very easily eat up all of 7 days, as well as much, much more. At a bare minimum I strongly recommend a tour of the center of Lima at the very least because you will get a small taste of the Lima of the Spanish era, including Churches and Monastaries. Plan to spend at least a day doing this alone.
Obviously you can also spend at least a day touring Cuzco and another day around Macchu Picchu. You can also take the Inca trail and walk from Cuzco, through the Gate of the Sun, and into Macchu Picchu. Of course this will take longer than a day or two and is only recommended for people with hearty constitutions. Not only is it mountain hiking, but you are quite high as well. These are all traditional tourist attractions, but they are certainly wonderful in their own right. You will certainly not be disappointed if you have never traveled to Peru before.
Other attractions include the city of Huarez in the Andes, and old fashioned high mountain hiking in the high mountains. Huarez is actually one of the few places overseas where my wife and I have been tempted to move and live. It is an absolutely beautiful part of Peru and the people are wonderful. Another great attraction, but lesser known, are the ruins of Chavin. These ruins come from a civilization much, much older than the Incas and gives you a different perspective of just how old civilization really is in these Andes Mountains. Getting there is not as easy as some of the most common areas, and I do recommend that you rent a car and driver for the trip, but it is certainly worth the ride.
As for travel issues, travelers diarreha is certainly common, and is easily traced to using the water, or eating anything that has been washed in the water. Always use bottled water, for drinking, brushing teeth, even washing your hands sometimes. If you travel into the mountains you must also consider high elevations and the stress that will place on your body. Lots of the Peruvians regularly live and work at elevations that do not even exist in the United States. But, having said all that, Peru has relatively reliable medical facilities in most of the common areas that people travel, so treatment is available if you encounter problems during your trip.
I could easily go on and on but you are probably best working with an in-country travel company to establish your itinerary. However, you can be sure that it will be a memorable trip no matter what you chose to do. Enjoy.
I'm terribly un-fit physically, so I'll need to adjust, take things slow, and use transportation (no hiking the Inka trail for me). I think I'll do fine at altitude - I've been at 10,000 feet here with no ill effects other than shortness of breath from the thin air, so going to Qusco should be ok. As far as subject matter, my interest is in urban landscape/architecture, street scenes, and portraits first and foremost. I'll be keeping it simple with just a Rolleiflex 2.8E, and shooting mostly color. I MIGHT add one of those new Lomo 6x12 cameras since they're relatively small and light for what they are and would enable me to get some wider/taller shots.
Portaits are interesting in Cusco, people in the main plaza charge $3 for a photo, but at least you get to pet their alpaca. Try the buses in Lima, lots of characters. They have boys hanging out the door shouting the route of their bus.
If you travel during Easter (Semana Santa), you won't have any problems finding “festivals/events worth attending” Once you are in Peru, talk to the hotel staff, they'll have plenty of suggestions for you.
I traveled to Peru in 2010 and I was there October-September. Here are my suggestions.
I haven't spend much time here, but I prefer to stay in the Miraflores district. This is one of the upscale sections of the city. You'll be close to the beach and surrounded by bars, restaurants, stores, art galleries, etc. The Barranco district is also along the Pacific and a cool place to hang out.
If you plan to visit Machu Picchu, you'll have to travel to Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguascalientes. But don't just pass through Ollantaytambo, checkout the ruins and the countryside.
The city center is small but has interesting churches and monasteries. The night tour of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina is supposed to be very popular. I thought the entrance fee was kind of steep, so I skipped the monastery and instead went to a bar. If you are a foodie, ask locals to tell you about their favorite picanterias (restaurants that serve home-style spicy food). From here you can take a trip to the Colca Canyon (supposedly deeper than the Grand Canyon) and stay with a local family in one of the small towns of the Colca Valley. If you are the adventurous type, skip Colca and go to the Cotahuasi Canyon (deepest canyon in the world!), you'll need at least 5 days. Oh, if you are in really good physical shape, try to to summit the volcano El Misti. The flight from Lima to Arequipa is about 90 minutes. Taca (www.taca.com) flights are cheaper than LAN's (lan.com). I paid a little over $100 for a one-way ticket in September.
If you are the outdoorsy type, go to Huaraz. This is the gateway to the Cordillera Blanca, which is just beautiful. Since you speak Spanish, you might enjoy living with Andean farmers in the small community of Humacchuco (right outside the Huascaran National Park). They offer basic, but clean and colorful rooms, day hikes, and delicious home-cooked meals. I stayed in this community back in September. I would stay here for at least three days. LCPeru (www.lcperu.pe) has flights from Lima to Huaraz for about $99 each way. The flight takes only one hour. You'll get an awesome view of the Cordillera Blanca. The trip by bus is about 8 hours.
I did not feel the need to rent a car. I got around just fine using taxis, minibuses, public buses, rickshaws, and even tourist minivans. You can travel with a tour group and just pay for the transportation. This option is usually faster and more reliable than public transportation. Outside of Lima, you can hire a driver for a reasonable amount.
Here are some pictures from my trips.
Have a great trip!