Here I am. Poised on the brink of another photography trip in the UK and I don’t know what to do with myself. I have a few scanned images from Mongolia that still need to be processed. I could make a start on my slides from Nepal. On the other hand I need to concentrate on my upcoming visit to Exmoor and I don’t want to get sidetracked. Instead, I have been trawling through my images in Bridge and making sure everything is up to date. I added a “blog” keyword a couple of months ago and now I can see what is left. Not even 2,000 photographs. A tiny amount by some standards, especially in this digital age, but more than enough to keep me busy.
My eyes settled on one photograph scanned only recently, but taken nearly 25 years ago. It was on the three-hour train journey from Cusco to Macchu Picchu along the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I don’t recall making any stops, but the train slowed down as it trundled through the little villages. The valley is extremely fertile and according to one of the local lodges:
“The diversity of its micro climates allows the production of a large variety of species of flowers that adorn its sowed fields with immense variety of potatoes, cereals, vegetables, fruit-bearing and ornamental plants. In the area it is common to find deer, chinchillas, viscachas, foxes, Andean doves and infinity of birds and beautiful hummingbirds”.
No wonder that I had been content to sit and watch all this pass by, with the stunning Urubamba river and mountains in the background. Then a small figure caught my eye. A little girl running by the side of the track with a puppy in her arms. I reached for the camera and grabbed just one shot through the open window. I wouldn’t have had time to change the settings and getting the manual focus correct must have been down to sheer good luck. I find the resulting image quite haunting. These people are poor by our standards and yet they want for neither food nor water. In fact, I found myself wondering if it would be possible to buy one of the little houses and live the rest of my life there in peace and contentment. Probably not, but I like to think this little girl is still there, a grown woman now with children of her own. I wonder if she remembers how she used to run beside the local train with her furry best friend.
The next photograph was taken at Sacsayhuaman. I don’t remember the details, only a sad-looking young girl carrying a white kid. I guess she was sent to greet the tourist bus to earn a living having her picture taken. Is that wrong? Wouldn’t she have been better off attending a local school, if such a thing existed? Were we wrong to pay her the going rate for a few seconds of her time? It’s a problem you can’t avoid if you travel to areas like this and I’m still not sure I have the answer. One view is that as long as the person is doing something in exchange for a payment, then that is probably OK. I have slightly different views in my own country and instead of giving money, I would rather buy a meal and actually sit down and spend some time with those who have fallen on hard times. It is far too easy to walk on by as though they are invisible.
The final image was taken one bright, but cold morning on one of the floating Uros islands on Lake Titicaca. These are home to around 2,000 people who are reputed to have “black blood”, which makes them impervious to the cold. That didn’t seem to be the case on this particular day as all the children were shivering in the early morning sun.