Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Perú.

Natural habitat

28 March

One of the reasons why I like the Peruvian Andes is that this is a place that still has vast spaces which can be considered unspoiled.

One of the reasons I like this text by Mario Vargas Llosa is that it describes places that still exists, and that we still have the power to preserve. 

“Vicuñas should always be seen as one sees them at four thousand meters of altitude behind the volcanos which guard Arequipa, in the National Reserve of Aguada Blanca. At liberty, in their natural habitat, the animals are more authentic than behind the bars of zoos, more beautiful than when they are immobilized in photographs. Agile, silky and delicate, the vicuñas on the pampa of Cahahuas seem to shed their proverbial timidity.
 
Their large intelligent eyes observe with arrogance the visitor who interrupts their strolls or their grazing, and they only withdraw -slowly and fearlessly, with elegance- if one gets too close with the camera. Browsing among the shrubs in groups of five or six -a male with his slender harem- or in vast, honey colored herds, they can be seen drinking from blue pools in friendly company with wild ducks, Andean gulls and even flamingos. There are about three thousand of them, and they are prospering.
 
Four volcanos, Misti, Chachani, Pichu Pichu and Ubinas, form the western boundary of their dominion. The eastern is a vertiginous abyss in which a river courses. It waters a corner of Peru full of marvels: the Colca Valley.”
 
MVL, Diccionario del amante de América Latina
 

Not everything is black and white

25 March

Populism is black and white. Relativism –  grey. Ecologism – a beautiful escapism. Humanism – defenseless.

We live a world of half-baked ideas, half-finished products, fast tracks and low attention span. In a world where the lovers of nature see man as an evil, and where the preachers of civilisation ridicule the greens.

Nature is grand and we will preserve it. But equally, men are surprising creatures of  nature itself. Here is how MVL makes this point. 

“(…) vendieron Esprit y su colleción de pintura y escultura moderna, y los 180 milliones de dólares que sacaron por ello los invirtieron en la Foundation for Deep Ecology, e quien pertenece el gigantesco parque natural de Pumalín, en el sur deChile (…). Fui a Pumalín con el sueño de ver a un puma en libertad y nunca lo vi. Pero, gracias a los esfuerzos de Kris y Doug Timpkins, ese hermoso animal, que estaba en vías de extinción, ha renacido y merodea ahora de nuevo por aquí (…). Pocos lo han visto, porque es arisco, pero todo el mundo ha visto las ovejas destrozadas y las aves de corral devoradas por su ferocidad. El puma ay no participa de los románticos anhelos de convivencia, paz y hermandad de los Tompkins, a los que debe su renacimiento Pumalín. El puma es un salvaje depredador. Como el humano.”

MVL,  Diccionario del amante de América Latina

Rainbow Mountain - worth the visit ?

18 March

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca or Montaña de Siete Colores, is probably the second most popular visited attraction in the Cusco area.

So if you are not deterred by the crowds you will see on its colourfully layered slopes – this may be a place to put on your “must see” list.

Second, this is a day trip away from Sacred Valley. If you have that time – you should continue reading.

Third, if you decide to summit Vinicunca, prepare for the altitude. The summit is at 5,200 meters. This is way above any point on the Inca Trail or Machu Picchu. Make sure you don’t underestimate the altitude and the impact it may have on you on the day or after. You will need to acclimatise – let us know if you want to know how.

The views from the trail and the summit are rare and beautiful. The mountain’s striped colours are largely due to weathering and mineral deposits. But you will see the entire panorama of the Ausangate region, with some peaks bare and other snow capped, stretching far away at the horizon. 

Invisible tourists or how not to be a monkey in the zoo ?

8 March

Wow, this is a pretty confrontational question. Unfortunately all too often we, the visitors in the Sacred Vallet, act like monkeys in the zoo, or the caricatures of ourselves.

Instead of spending time picking cheap, mass production, useless memorabilia – consider visiting the Inca sites, the contemporary streets, the hills and the fields. Pick up the trash, buy fruits in the local market, look for handmade art. Be discreet and modest.

It is not easy when you come for just a few days to a place so culturally distinct as the Sacred Valley. But many have tried and succeeded. It is our choice whether we want to be the monkey tourists, or the invisible ones. 

A picture is worth a thousand words

22 February

Apparently, this saying was invented by an advertising executive, Fred R. Barnard, to promote his agency’s ads. I don’t know if this is factual or not. This is what says the Google search engine, the most accessible source of explanation of anything.

As is customary, that statement was repeated in multiple search results, reinforcing the impression it could actually be correct. Maybe it is ?

Not to make me drift away into my doubts, and not to bore me, the Google search pointed me to an adjacent territory with a more interesting statement. Apparently our brain can process images 60,000 times faster than it can process words. WOW !

But wait, what does that mean ? That if I see an image, I will digest its content in one second versus 60,000 seconds, or a little under 20 hours, it would take me to understand a word ?

That can’t be true. How many of us would actually do the math, though, to see the absurdity of that phrase ? It is catchy, and we like to quickly borrow and use catchy phrases rather than dissect them until the spell breaks.

Beware of catchy statements that are senseless. They are the younger brothers of populism.

Temptation of neverending leisure

15 February

In 1904-1905, Max Weber published The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Of all of my university years which, with four degrees, sum up to more than a decade, I only remember four concepts. Weber’s views on the value of methodical, everyday work are one of them.

Others have written eloquently about the essence of Weber’s thoughts so I will let them speak. Here is the text adapted from www.sparknotes.com:

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Protestantism offers a concept of the worldly “calling,” and gives worldly activity a religious character. One branch of Protestantism, Calvinism, believes in predestination – that God has already determined who is saved and damned. Calvinist looked for clues about whether one was actually saved in their success in worldly activity. Thus, they came to value material success as signs of God’s favor. Other protestant groups had similar attitudes to a lesser degree.

Weber argues that this new attitude broke down the traditional economic system, paving the way for modern capitalism. However, once capitalism emerged, the Protestant values were no longer necessary, and their ethic took on a life of its own. We are now locked into the spirit of capitalism because it is so useful for modern economic activity.

Throughout his book, Weber emphasizes that his account is incomplete. He is not arguing that Protestantism caused the capitalistic spirit, but rather that it was one contributing factor.  

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The concept of methodical work being a value on it’s own was horribly tweaked by the nazis.

It remains a simple principle which, if followed, could help us live a more balanced and fulfilling life. 

Works in Hotel Molino

9 February

Perched like a nest on a strip of land, Hotel Molino overlooks the Vilcanota valley, and faces massive mounts in three directions.

This privileged location comes at a cost. Being so close to the nature means we need to be very vigilant to what the nature brings, as it won’t forgive our negligence.

During the rainy season, just one day of consecutive rainfall causes the mountain lakes to overflow with water and inundate the land below. Even when it rains less, but the water channel that collects the water from the lakes happens to be blocked, that extra water will again bring down a mass of mud and stones that will destroy slopes, dirt roads and housing infrastructure.

In this particular place, rebuilding the dirt road and infrastructure requires agreement and cooperation of the entire community.

It is difficult to mobilize people for a social cause – they will find excuses to avoid you, and you don’t have leverage over them. It is difficult to mobilize people for a social cause anywhere, and the Valley is not an exception.

It took heavy pressure on local authorities and neighbours to start repair works of the damaged and unusable road. This time, the persistence paid off. Look at this group of men. Well equipped and professionally trained, they came with heavy machinery and spent the entire day working.

With effort and perseverance, good things can happen. Even in a remote Peruvian village.

 

Nazca lines

8 February

Created by the Nazca culture 2,000 years ago, the Nazca lines, engraved in the ground on a vast coastal plain, can be grouped into straight lines, geometric designs and pictorial representations.

Out of over 800 straight lines, some are of up to 30 miles long. Over 300 geometric designs include triangles, rectangles, trapezoids, spirals and zig-zags.

Representations of about 70 animals and plants, some of which measure up to 1,200 feet; include a spider, hummingbird, cactus, monkey, whale, llama, duck, flower, tree, lizard and dog.

Nazca has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and even without that seal, it is one of the more impressive places to visit on a cultural trip to Peru.

What if you don’t make it to Nazca ?

Consider this Lascaux-like red sheep slope near Arequipa. Although not quite as elaborate as Nazca, it is live, contemporary and spectacular. Who knows how many other similarly simple, defying landscapes you can see “just like this” on the amazing South American continent.  

02.02.2020 - Perfect Symmetry

Wow, today is a   v e r y  symmetrical date. Do you pay attention to the sequence of numbers ? Do you think some dates are better than other ? The calendar is full of dates that, when written in a numerical format, form unique and interesting mathematical patterns. These patterns are considered by some people (maybe including you and I ?) as having special significance.
 
Sequential dates occur when the digits on the date are in an increasing or decreasing sequence, e.g. 12/13/14 or 01/02/03.
 
Repeating dates would include 20 October 2010 written as 2010-2010 or 31 October 2003 or 10-31-2003 written as 103-103.
 
Palindrome dates are dates in which the digits that can be read the same way backward or forward. These are probably the most rare. Today’s date is a perfect example.
 
This year will have many symmetrical dates but nothing quite beats today’s. Why not to capture it by taking a good picture, visiting those in need, donating something valuable, making farfetched plans ?

Do you really want to see the "authentic" Peru ?

31 January

One of the more terrible concepts in marketing, “curated”, slowly starts losing its teeth. Curated hotels, curated content, curated photos and curated itineraries. The process of curation is not dissimilar to that of carrot production in the European Union: any carrot that doesn’t fit within the specified range of length, width, weight and color is discarded. As a result we are exposed to a rosy vision of things which has nothing to do with the asymmetrical, unexpected, unpredictable essence of the world.

It is not easy to offer clients a real experience that corresponds to their preconceived idea of “authentic.” In our favorite coffee shop in Ollantaytambo, pictured here, you will not find displays of local textiles, you won’t be served locally consumed drinks and, be sure, you will not come across a single Quechua farmer. Moreover, you will be able to order your fresh coffee in English, enjoy it while looking at vintage plaques from the American fifties, and hang out with Harley riders. Is this authentic ? Is this “real Peru” ?

Elections

26 January

We tourists tend to think of Peru in terms of breathtaking landscapes, friendly people, fabulous cuisine and holiday adventure. However while it is all of these things, Peru is also a “normal” country that faces the typical political, social and cultural challenges.

Early parliamentary elections were held in Peru today. The elections were called after President Martin Vizcarra dissolved the Congress in September 2019. The 130 members of Congress were elected in 25 multi-member constituencies using open list proportional representation. Shown here: voting in Ollantaytambo. 

Travelling to Cusco ? Beware of cancelled flights

10 January

We are used to a world where many services are available 24/24 and 7/7. Cancelled flight is a bummer but hey, “they” will have to fix it, rebook you, pay your money back. Well, not always and quite unlikely when you travel in wet season to Cusco.

To avoid disappointment, missed onwards flights, unnecessary queues and extra cost – consider this one simple recommendation: between December and January, and sometimes neighbouring months, don’t book flights that land in, or take off from Cusco before (roughly !) 10am. During these months the morning mist is oftentimes so thick it doesn’t allow the planes to safely navigate and land in the imperial nest.

This picture was taken on January 2, 2020. The situation was exactly the same last year and every single early January ever since I started travelling this itinerary. My flight number was 2012, the first plane to be allowed to fly. It left on the ground a stressed mass of visitors frantically trying to secure expensive tickets for the next flight – the next day or even the day after…

Happy New Year from Hotel Molino.In this video we share the singing of birds at the front door.Este año animate a visitar el Valle Sacrado !

Posted by Hotel Molino - Sacred Valley Peru on Friday, January 3, 2020

What you see is what you get

2 January

Our guests often ask us questions – what places to visit, where to eat, how to get there, what’s the cost ?

We are mindful each of us has different interests and sees the world through a different lens. Look for instance at this tranquil spot near Hotel Molino. What is it that you see ? Lush vegetation ? Abandoned crop fields ? Family house of people who no longer are ? Inca trail leading to the ruins just 100 feet above?

As we run a boutique hotel, we have greater chances of providing our guests with tailored service and recommendations that fit more closely with their particular objectives.

Our approach is to treat each guest individually. This starts at the time of booking where you will receive a personalized email from us. We can help set up your program and logistics well before your arrival. We can then adjust them during your stay, if this would be beneficial to you.

What you see is what you get. Let us help you see more and discover more !