Thursday, June 21, 2012

Beyond Ollantaytambo

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:   At 7 AM, Monday morning, we boarded one of only two daily trains to a place whose remoteness had kept it safely hidden from the conquistadors, from 400 years of adventurers, pilferers and desecrators, and from history itself from the fall of the Incas in the 16th century until 1910 when Hiram Bingham brought it to the attention of the outside world. 

How many of us had our childhood imaginations teased by stories of adventures in such places, visited them in books and movies, scaled the heights of Machu Picchu in seaside sandcastles or on actual mountains that were never like these?  Photographs have made Machu Picchu famous, and it is not only the spiritual world of the Incas that it has come to embody.

Remoteness had been the secret to Machu Picchu's survival. I imagined it covered in jungle as it was when Bingham first got there. Now Machu Picchu is Peru's most popular tourist attraction. There had been talk of a bridge, of roads. Ancient rocks had been relocated, and a helicopter had been landed, and I wondered if any of the magic could withstand the assault of 21st century tourism. I thought about the anachronism of 19th century technology through the inhospitable canyons in front of me that kept at bay the assault of more like me, and I secretly worried the magic might already be gone. Then the train was jolted into motion and rattled out of Ollantaytambo station.