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Machu Picchu Photography Expedition

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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
Published November 29th 2021
The road to Machu Picchu - It is about the journey

When I had the opportunity to attend a photography expedition to Machu Picchu, I hesitated. It wasn't on my bucket list. But when I realized my daughter was available to travel with me, the ability to sit back and have her superior Spanish skills take the lead while traveling to a new continent was worthy enough reason.

Meeting fellow amateur photographers while having a professional photographer and a tour guide was key. The pre-planned itinerary allowed both off the beaten path and hot spots to photograph.

Watching my daughter bond with these older people was especially moving. She became our go-to translator. Her quiet confidence, appreciation of the local's work, and open attitude towards cultural norms in Cusco made our trip so much easier. "I can't believe how easily she navigates this," Kat Anderson said, "Can I take her home with me?" No way.

I learned perspective goes multiple ways when my daughter told me, "Your willingness to travel to new continents and explore new cultures helps me see what our life will be like when I'm married with children. I'm so glad you won't be sitting around but out and about and going new places."

Whilst in Peru, we traveled to several areas where markets were of prime interest. In Pisac, I completed a scavenger hunt shot list in the market. Exploring, we found guinea pigs on a stick, a local delicacy, being pulled from a brick oven. Guinea pig condos lined the opposite wall. One lady shouted, "Stop eating! Can you not see what's happening over there?" Perspective.

We traveled to Chincero, photographing the local women's singing welcome and weaving presentation. This was our scheduled primary shopping time. As I heard the bargaining around us, I tried my hand at it. We made a point of shopping at each lady's card table to better distribute the wealth. We hadn't expected each lady would follow us to the next. As I practiced my bargaining skills, trying to get 5 Soles off a price, one of the women pressured our vendor into accepting. She did, but her face was downcast. I looked in her eyes, saw defeat there, and gave her full price. She looked at me, bright-eyed, surprised. That look transcended language. Gratitude, yes, but acknowledgment, too.

We are one community, with a goal of making enough money to support our families. That was a priceless purchase. The items I'd received from her were mixed with the others, so I can't even point out which they are, but hers is the interaction I'll remember. Recognizing at a human level the importance of the sudden bond that developed in that moment of acceptance and understanding. Perspective.

And, until now, my daughter's quiet, watchful eyes, monitoring the situation, her sweet smile and comment, "Well done, Mom," had remained private. Her respect for my decision makes my heart swell.

The joy in the trip to Machu Picchu really was about the journey. Having the advantage of NOT having this historic location on my bucket list allowed me to truly embrace every place we went Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, Chincero, Maras, Pisac.

I learned why I'd never been particularly enthralled by the photos of Machu Picchu. Photos don't do it justice. They can't show the cold air at 4am, huddled in line for the bus in Pueblo Machu Picchu, but maybe the sweet and not-at-all-exhausted merchants who lined our path.

To allow the most visitors to this UNESCO site in a controlled manner, they require reserved entry for either the morning or the afternoon session. I recommend a stay at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge atop the mountain to walk right over, rather than wait for the bus. The only challenge with this is you miss the nightlife that is available in town. Most went to bed exhausted. The few brave souls from our group that made it out to a local pub really enjoyed the music, fellow voyagers, and locals that invited them to try the local beverages and share stories about other visitors to their beloved mountain.

Every destination allows me a new way of seeing what a wonderful young woman my daughter has become. Travel somehow became an equalizer and an expander. As our family positions equalize in adulthood, our capacity to understand the other's strengths and skills expands our interests and common bonds. All play a role in reinventing oneself and preventing stagnation. Because, in her voice, it's important to maintain a self of self and a sense of excitement in our lives. It keeps us young at heart.

Turns out, I've created a young woman who will become one of my best friends. Your travels with your own family can build the same perspective.
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