Didn't find it?
RSS feed from Feedburner

 Subscribe to this Blog ?


Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

↑ Grab this Headline Animator


Just another spider on the web
Powered by Squarespace
Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

Entries in ccanon 5dmk2 (3)


Never pick your middle aged dad to help with assignments

Jr. learned that lesson over the weekend when she asked me to videotape her baking for a school assignment. Given she wanted a "high quality" video, I used the 5D for the video shoot while being worried that it had a focus issue. Luckily shot it with the 70-200 mm lens which seemed to work fine. 

The only mistake she made was in picking me to do the video. I stressed her out with a lecture on the value of money, trying to be perfect, not waste things, be fast etc. Pretty much micromanaged the thing and lectured her. It is not easy to work with me or work for me.. or live with me for that matter. So while watching this video I realized that I owe my wife, kids, friends and colleagues and especially my boss an apology for being so pushy and demanding and being obsessive compulsive in a lot of ways. The only people who are immune to this influence are my yoga teachers and yoga buddies. 

At the end of it, the cookies came out very tasty. The little one helped big time in being moral support for Jr. as well as coming in and providing her expertise in fixing mistakes during the baking process. 

The smiles say it all! 


Peru- Day 2 : Cusco, Saqsayhuaman and Qenqo

Day 2 of the Peru trip started off at 3:30 AM. We had to get ready as the car was going to pick us up at 4:30 AM. There was no breakfast open at the time, but the restaurant was nice enough to box us cute little cheese sandwiches (just mini buns with Cheese), some fruits and milk at 4AM. The driver showed up promptly and took us to the airport and we said our byes. He did not know at that time we would meet again! 

We were flying into Cusco. After a one hour flight delay we reached Cusco around 10PM. There was another 45 minute drive from airport to the hotel. We stayed at Mamasara, a cute place on the edge of the mountains but walking distance from the Cusco historic Plaza. We were told to get ready in an hour for the tour!

The hotel was beautiful. Full of cute things..

By now we were only in day 2 but the kids had had enough of this waking up at ungodly hours, skipping meals because the "tour was going to start" and this waiting on a bus for "all parties to show up" etc. 

We calmed them down, thanks to leftover idlis and chappatis, curry which had been packed. We ate whatever survived the heat thus far and went on the tour.

We were not disappointed. We got to go first to the Plaza and see the Basilica.

It was in three parts. Every painting was a gem and the altar piece was just spectacular, not to mention that everything was gilded in gold. There was no photography allowed inside which was unfortunate as I did have a camera that could take photos without a flash. . . they couldn't police it, so they banned cameras altogether. 

After walking through the churches we walked to the temple of the sun! We also got some interesting perspective on these buildings. The base is always Inca. The top is Spanish style. They literally built the Churches on top of the open Inca temples.

However, they were not winning the people over. So the Jesus is wearing local clothes, the last supper has a guinea pig in the center, Mother Mary is in the shape of a triangle (mountain - Inca god) and Jesus and Mary have Sun and Moon behind them everywhere.. the Inca gods were fused into Christianity to get "customers". 

We also saw a cleverly done painting of a Madonna. If you walk across a 100 foot line, she looks at you no matter where you are on the line. This optical trick was used to convince the natives, that they had "sinned". 

There were a zillion mirrors in the basilica. They are not usual in european churches. They were put in to attract the Inca people to come as they had no mirrors and seeing themselves in the mirror was an amazing experience. 

Then we walked along the plaza streets to go visit more cute places.. streets and street signs were welcoming!

We took a short break at a small grocery store to buy water and snacks. We found "fryums" Peru style and loved it. It was made of some soy bean type flour and local spices. There was lot of Gatorade. Given how much we were walking in the hot weather (yes, it is summer in the southern hemisphere in December, although there was no direct sun, it was quite warm), we decided to stock up on gatorade. 

After a brief wait we got a larger bus to take us to our next stop.. Saqsayhuaman (they say it like Sexy Woman). For a few minutes I was like "why does he keep saying we will go to see sexy woman?!" are we on the right tour?! maybe not a family friendly tour?!.. then we saw the sign board and all was revealed.. 

This is one amazing place. They set up a city on the mountain top with stones that are not from the mountain. Some of these stones are 200 tons. They had a tiered city with priestly folks, city dwellers and farmers with terraces built into the mountain side for farming. They had elaborate systems to get bath water and sewage into separate streams, a nice drain system for water to go to public baths, etc. etc. They didn't destroy this and build a Church on top, thanks to Jesus.. instead there was a separte giant Jesus statue built on the adjoining hill overlooking Cusco. You can see it in the far left in the picture below. Our tour did not take us to that statue. It reminds you of the statue in Brazil. Given we don't know when we will go to Brazil, I wanted to go see the White Jesus (they call it Christo de Blanco) up close and personal.. tour guide said "no time". 

We were given 30 minutes to roam around Saqsayhuaman including hike to the top of the bath area to get pictures (one above was taken there). Kept clicking..... processed them over time. Here are some HDR shots which bring out the detail and the depth.. no photographs can do justice to the experience of walking by those walls. 

It was worth the rushed hike up to the bath area because we got an amazing view of Cusco from Saqsayhuaman! 

Then we walked back to the bus. Somehow word had gotten out that the buses had come I guess.. there was a sudden increase in number of vendors selling stuff to the tourists! Women in colorful local clothing were wandering around with alpacas and llamas to take pictures with the tourists. You had to pay them a Sol each to pose (3.2 Sols to a USD). They gladly pose for a Sol as do the animals! 

 Some of the vendors just let you take their picture. We did buy some trinkets for the kids.. all three of them. 

I wanted to buy some colorful things and was promptly vetoed. I did get a nice cap the next day which is banned in the house now.

From this place we went to another place called Qenqo! That was a priestly sacrificial site on an adjacent mountain where the weather gods were literally present. One minute it is warm, next minute the clouds roll in so fast and we had a hail storm. It was surreal! Most of this site was unfortunately desecrated. There was a 50 foot stone Jaguar that was beheaded. It was one thing for the spaniards to kill the Jaguars, did they have to do this?! 

You also had an amazing view of Cusco from Qenqo! 

A video of the hail storm...

Finally it was time to go back to the hotel. We had a pit stop at a place that sold Alpaca sweaters and there was a small demo on how the stuff was made starting with how to get the wool and process it. There was free Coca and Mint tea for getting rid of altitude sickness and stomach cramps. It was a local Eucalyptus added to mint tea. Would have failed every drug test with all that coca tea. However it did help me cope a little bit. The eucalyptus made me throw up later that night though. 

We found the place to be very expensive, so we went back to the bus and to Cusco Plaza. By then I had a pounding head ache and skipped dinner. The wife and kids decided to eat at the only Indian restaurant in the Plaza. The food was disappointing according to them. We went back to the hotel and dozed off.. as it was going to be another wake up early day.. 

The kids were inconsolable when the driver told us "we will pick you up at 6AM. we have a lot to cover". The little one said "you call this a vacation? I would have happily just stayed home. All we see is a bunch of giant stones piled on top of each other on mountain tops.. we have to wake up at 5 to go see this over and over again?!"

Everyone has a perspective!

Jr. suddenly started siding with her sister, which has not happened in the history of time! We were worried that there was a mutiny on our hands. San did her little lecture thing about how many kids don't get to see anything and how fortunate they are etc. etc. and we hit the bed... 

Day 3 post tomorrow.. (I am reasonably sure becasue I finished editing the pictures!)


Day by day breakdown

The only way in my head to describe the Death valley National Park trip in pictures is to go day by day. Have finally finished processing all pictures from Day 1, uploaded the people pictures to Facebook to make the Mrs. and kids happy (they sit together at bedtime and surf facebook and this seems) and now uploading the nature stuff here. 

It does not make sense to visit death valley for a day or two. When Balaji told me we needed to take an extra day off for this plan, was initially not for it. We have never done a national park trip for more than 3 days. Then we did the internet learning and figured that 4 days in the park might just about cut it. 

It did not! We still missed a few spots after spending four full days in the park. That means the the next time we go, it has to be either :

- Rent and RV and stay inside the park or

- Stay at the one or two lodges inside the park and book it months in advance so we get a spot

We drove to a place called Ridgecrest after an 8 hour journey and rested that night. The next day (Day 1) we started at 8AM thinking that we will have time till 6PM to see things. The sun set at 4:15! We did course correct for this the rest of the trip. 

We went first to the Panamint area. There is a small store/ Visitor center with very helpful people and a very clean restroom there. You can also pickup things like moisturizers, sunscreen lotions etc.. there if you run out. 

There are beautiful views as you drive to this area

When you have a ND filter and you can do HDR.. you can almost.. almost make it look like what your eye sees.. but still it is only "almost". The human eye is the most amazing wide angle HD HDR ready thing and we usually do not realize it!

You keep walking through parched ground for a long time and 

then suddenly Darwin Falls!!!

We went on a dirt road for about a 2 1/2 miles and then went on a hike that definitely was more than a mile to see Darwin Falls ! There was lots of water flowing, considering we were in the middle of the desert and it was nice because we walked on the shade of the rock face. You are better off driving there in a Jeep or SUV instead of a minivan as your vehicle has to go real slow if it has low clearance! We did 10-15 miles / hour speeds throughout on dirt roads. 

It was really worth the effort as we got great photo ops on the way and at Darwin falls. Then we came back to the Store and had lunch.

Here is one with my two little bear cubs in a little cave! 

For comparision see bearcubs from Yellowstone many years ago..

It was already close to 1PM when we started lunch and we left the Panamint area by 2PM to go to Stovepipe Wells area.

That is almost an hours drive and we registered there at the Ranger station. That is when we were told "Sunset in an hour!". So off we went to Mosaic canyon which was the closest thing to see from the Ranger station. 

It was another 1/2 mile hike inside a canyon with smooth polished walls of marble and rocks of many colors and given that the sun was going down, it was like being in the Mckennas Gold movie! 

We have seen many canyons, but nothing like this! The kids could slide off some marble slopes.  We came out of Mosaic canyon and the sun had gone down but it was still bright out.

Started driving out of the park at 4:30 and it took us a good 2 hours plus to get back to Ridgecrest and got some fantastic views..The next day we started early amid protests from the kids! "This is a vacation, why do we have to wake up at 6 every day ?! Not fair" etc. etc. 

Wake up at 6 we did.. will share pictures from Day 2 in a few days.