Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Graffiti Done Right in Valparaiso

Earlier this week, one of my Matador colleagues wrote a piece for the Traveler's Notebook entitled Florence Defaced by Graffiti, Declared Ugly and Depressing. It's a harsh, though humorous, indictment of the Italian city's ubiquitous displays of juvenile graffiti. The lead-in photo of the tag "Kid Crap" says it all.

In the post, Tom laments how people are capable of producing such garbage graffiti, when the potential of the medium is so much loftier. After spending a day in Valparaiso, Chile, I'm in total agreement.

Valpo, as the nickname- and slang-obsessed Chileans refer to it, is a coast city set on a series of cerros (hills) that roll down to the sea. It's famous for its acensores (elevated funiculars that ferry people up and down the steepest slopes), its artistic heritage (poet Pablo Neruda had a house here), and its graffiti.

In fact, exploring the streets, steps, and narrow pedestrian passageways of Cerro Bellavista or Cerro Alegre is like walking through an open-air museum. Every free space is covered with graffiti. But there are no Kid Craps here. Standards are high, and the imaginative and edgy images give entire neighborhoods a sense of purposeful expression. Here, see for yourself:


Sleeping among the watermelons

Flowers have been planted on this ex-street.

People perspectives and naughty dogs

This cat wasn't painted, but it almost could have been.

Eagle and flora

Andean flute girl

Yours truly, wishing I looked as cool as my friend on the wall

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Machu Picchu: A Photo Essay

Uh-huh, it's picture time again on WayWorded.

Why have I been falling back on my pictures so often recently? Three reasons, I think. First, I've been busy. One thing people sometimes don't realize about freelance work is that, at the same time you're enjoying the freedom and flexibility of not working a 9-to-5, there's also no one around to say, "Stop. You're day's over. Go home." So, while I certainly don't ever work continuous 8-hour blocks, I'm usually going at it right when I wake up and right before I bed back down. And lately there've been plenty of projects to keep me occupied. Which...yes, is a good thing.

Second, I've put together quite a few photo essays during the last month as co-editor over at Matador Trips. I enjoy writing, but through these assignments I've also come to appreciate how powerful photographs can be. Which leads into my third point: there are some subjects for which it's simply more economical and honest to work in images rather than words. Case in point, Machu Picchu.

For anyone with plans to visit this destination of destinations, I wrote a budget guide last week: Machu Picchu on the Cheap. For everyone else, here's a little taste, in 10 photos.


1. I woke up a 4:00am to start hiking from the town of Aguas Calientes up the hundreds of Inca stairs to the gates of Machu Picchu. This is necessary to be one of the first in line. The air was damp and cold, and for the entire morning, a thick mist clung to the mountain and ruins.

2. A small herd of llamas grazes in the grassy plazas of the ruins. They're the tamest llamas I've ever seen. They'll let you touch them if you move slow.

3. My early entry enabled me to secure one of the 400 daily tickets to climb Wayna Picchu, the steep, daggerlike peak rising sharply behind Machu Picchu. At 10:00 I began the ascent, sucking coca leaves for added strength, and by the time I reached the terraces and ruins at the summit, the fog below was finally beginning to break.

4. The rest of the day was relatively clear, and from 2:00 onward, I enjoyed the site in near isolation, as most of the tour groups had already left. I could have wandered for days more.

5. Late in the afternoon, I followed the path up out of the ruins towards the Inca Drawbridge--sheer cliffs, and a steep drop to the valley below.

6. The next day, I walked back to the base of the mountain. Looking up, a goodbye glimpse of the rim of the ruins before hopping the train back to Cuzco.