Machu Picchu
Peru

From the Andes to the Amazon

Peru is a beautiful, diverse country with immense cultural history. From the deserts along the west coast to the lush grasslands of the Andes and the Amazon Basin rainforest to the east, Peru seems to have a slice of practically every every conceivable habitat within its borders. The capital, Cusco, was once the seat of power of the Inca empire. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they were the largest empire in the world, stretching north to south along the entire Andean range. The legacy they left behind continues to shape the history of South America.

After checking out the beaches in Mancora, we made our way through Cusco to the Sacred Valley. There, we explored the Incan trails winding up the valley. The Inca were expert stonemasons and many of the terraces built during their rule are still in use today. Incan grain houses can be seen high on the slopes, where they could catch the wind and so preserve the grain harvest until such time as it was needed. We ran through the ruins of a rest house built for weary Incan travellers. Without horses, most goods were carried by foot. (They had llamas, but llamas can’t carry as much as a horse or a mule.) They say that the Incan rulers had fresh fish brought to them in Cusco from the sea by relay runners – a distance of 800 kilometers with nearly 20,000 meters of climbing – in under 24 hours! Point being: YiOu and I may have thought that our runs were bad-ass but a little historical perspective shows otherwise.

After paying homage to Machu Piccu and spending a few days in Cusco, we traveled farther inland to the Amazon Basin Rainforest. There, we spent 3 days aboard the Aria exploring the Marañon River. Special guest Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, joined our expedition and spoke about conservation efforts. Though the persistent 100% humidity may have claimed the life of my beloved Sony RX10 III, the opportunity to see sloths, piranhas, and a tremendous diversity of birds and plants made this one of our favorite excursions yet.

Backstrap looms are ubiquitous throughout the Andes and enjoy a rich history. Alpaca wool is spun into yarn, and different colors can be obtained by dying the wool or by simply by raising black, brown and white alpacas! Of course, blue alpacas are the hardest to find.
Backstrap looms are ubiquitous throughout the Andes and enjoy a rich history. Alpaca wool is spun into yarn, and different colors can be obtained by dying the wool or by simply by raising black, brown and white alpacas! Of course, blue alpacas are the hardest to find.
Sean Pont
Black-throated mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis) (?) in the Sacred Valley.
Black-throated mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis) (?) in the Sacred Valley.
Sean Pont
YiOu climbs above Incan ruins as we make our way up the valley.
YiOu climbs above Incan ruins as we make our way up the valley.
Sean Pont
We followed this Incan trail to the waterfall. When we got to the base of the falls, which were at around 4000 meters in elevation, there were three locals sitting and enjoying the view. We asked where they were from, and they pointed above the falls! Sure enough, when we climbed up to the top we saw a stone house on the opposite side of the river.
We followed this Incan trail to the waterfall. When we got to the base of the falls, which were at around 4000 meters in elevation, there were three locals sitting and enjoying the view. We asked where they were from, and they pointed above the falls! Sure enough, when we climbed up to the top we saw a stone house on the opposite side of the river.
YiOu Wang
There are many dogs in Peru. Most are friendly.
There are many dogs in Peru. Most are friendly.
Sean Pont
Incan terraces at Moray. The unusual shape and orientation with respect to the sun and wind create a large temperature difference between the top and bottom -- as much as 15˚C. Though archaeologists are uncertain of the purpose, it was likely used for agricultural research. Seeds from all over South America have been found here, indicating that the Inca were experimenting with which plants grew best under which conditions. This gives some indication of the level of sophistication of the Inca empire.
Incan terraces at Moray. The unusual shape and orientation with respect to the sun and wind create a large temperature difference between the top and bottom -- as much as 15˚C. Though archaeologists are uncertain of the purpose, it was likely used for agricultural research. Seeds from all over South America have been found here, indicating that the Inca were experimenting with which plants grew best under which conditions. This gives some indication of the level of sophistication of the Inca empire.
Sean Pont
We took the train to Machu Picchu. Who's that in front with the big white hat? It's my mom!
We took the train to Machu Picchu. Who's that in front with the big white hat? It's my mom!
Sean Pont
YiOu surveys her domain at Machu Picchu.
YiOu surveys her domain at Machu Picchu.
Sean Pont
Detail of Machu Picchu.
Detail of Machu Picchu.
Sean Pont
A llama rests on an Incan terrace above the temple at Machu Picchu.
A llama rests on an Incan terrace above the temple at Machu Picchu.
Sean Pont
Incan stonework in Cusco, with an YiOu for scale.
Incan stonework in Cusco, with an YiOu for scale.
Sean Pont | Art direction by YiOu Wang
A three-toed sloth chillin' in a tree above the river.
A three-toed sloth chillin' in a tree above the river.
Sean Pont
A boy holds his pet capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). This family lives along the banks of the Marañon river, miles from the nearest town and accessible only by boat.
A boy holds his pet capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). This family lives along the banks of the Marañon river, miles from the nearest town and accessible only by boat.
Sean Pont
Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) covers huge areas of the river. The natural predator of these prolific aquatic plants, the Amazonian manatee, is hunted for food by people in this area. Curiously, they do not hunt the dolphin because they believe it to be sacred. We saw perhaps a dozen pink dolphins, several gray dolphins, but no manatees in the wild. A wattled jacana (Jacana jacana) can be seem alighting on the vegetation.
Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) covers huge areas of the river. The natural predator of these prolific aquatic plants, the Amazonian manatee, is hunted for food by people in this area. Curiously, they do not hunt the dolphin because they believe it to be sacred. We saw perhaps a dozen pink dolphins, several gray dolphins, but no manatees in the wild. A wattled jacana (Jacana jacana) can be seem alighting on the vegetation.
Sean Pont
Piranha attack! Put some beef on a hook, dip it in the water. Seconds later, you'll feel the nibble of sharp teeth ripping into the bait. It takes a quick hand to bring up these
Piranha attack! Put some beef on a hook, dip it in the water. Seconds later, you'll feel the nibble of sharp teeth ripping into the bait. It takes a quick hand to bring up these
Sean Pont
Jean-Michel Cousteau ponders the fate of the amazon, or contemplates dinner. I'm a photographer, not a mind reader, damnit!
Jean-Michel Cousteau ponders the fate of the amazon, or contemplates dinner. I'm a photographer, not a mind reader, damnit!
Sean Pont
A baby black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), which our guide caught with his bare hands at night! (We released it unharmed.) Fully grown, the caiman is the largest predator in the Amazon ecosystem and can grow to over 4 meters in length. They are nocturnal (hence the flash) and we never saw a caiman during the day.
A baby black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), which our guide caught with his bare hands at night! (We released it unharmed.) Fully grown, the caiman is the largest predator in the Amazon ecosystem and can grow to over 4 meters in length. They are nocturnal (hence the flash) and we never saw a caiman during the day.
Sean Pont
Basic accommodations for those living on the shore of the Amazon River. Here, "Amazon Prime" means that someone has 2, 3, 5, 7, or 11 canoes.
Basic accommodations for those living on the shore of the Amazon River. Here, "Amazon Prime" means that someone has 2, 3, 5, 7, or 11 canoes.
Sean Pont
Sunset over the Amazon. We didn't play with the colors of the photo -- this is really what it looked like.
Sunset over the Amazon. We didn't play with the colors of the photo -- this is really what it looked like.
YiOu Wang

Full-resolution images: https://photos.app.goo.gl/3qn25wit9hwXK79B2

More photos from the amazon: https://photos.app.goo.gl/DdgZGSOE8PGokXIs1