Thick As Machu Pea Soup

At the base of Machu Picchu, tour guides have their antenna poised for their next batch of visitors.
The typical view of Machu Picchu, tourist enhanced.

While in Peru recently, I found myself in a perpetual search for all things “mystic.” I was in the land of the Incas. Machu Picchu and all the glory of their ancient ruins, still remarkably intact after thousands of years. Everywhere I looked, I saw the contrast between that which was and that which remained, only to see the beauty of the past stained by the present – namely tourists.

At the base of Machu Picchu, tour guides have their antenna poised for their next batch of visitors.
Písac, a Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley on the Urubamba River is well-known for its market which attracts heavy tourist traffic from nearby Cusco. For a small expected fee, locals are happy to pose for photos.

I was part of the problem. With my tacky T-shirt depicting allegiance to my hometown, cameras draped around my sun-blocked neck, I likely stumbled into dozens of random vacation photos just like others who happened into mine. Every time I focused on all the grandeur of this apparently not-so-forgotten land, I felt like I was taking just another shot of something umpteen-hundreds of others before me had taken. Talk about over-exposed photos.

What could possibly elevate my images to that of “high art” with all these little figures speckled about in each frame? Then it hit me. Why not have an annual lotto which allows only a small group of professional photographers in, with full access to all the magic of Machu Picchu? Of course, tourist destinations rely mightily on the revenue from the mottled, plaid-clad masses who make the pilgrimage daily, so I know it would never do to suggest ONLY “us” lucky winners of the lotto could enter … therefore, the obvious solution would be to require that all OTHER visitors who chose to vist, could do so as per usual, as long as they agreed to be entirely nude.

Yes, “Naked Day at Machu Picchu.” Instead of a sprinkling of checkered bodies in their short pants and white socks back-packing their way through your photos, you’d have masses of nude wanderers juxtaposed beneath the mystic steps, temples, and archways. Primal, native, musty. Fat and tall or short and thin. Whether filled with pocks from heel to head, or wrinkles from elbow to toe would make no difference. Beautiful or or beastly, all features found on the human form in their current state would only serve to complement the wondrous backdrop perfectly.

I’m sure, now that the idea is out, your Sam Ables and Jay Maisels will have proposals promptly drawn up to enact this new idea. I hope they do and I hope they succeed. I’d love to be found as one of the fortunate few touting cameras that day. If not, I at least want to be one of the minions in the buff who get in the way of every photographer there. I promise I’ll be found in all my own ancient glory, with all holes exposed to the gods and my tribal attitude intact. I will make a point to be in every shot possible, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase, “I think that photo is a tad over-exposed.”

The ruins of Sacsayhuaman, In the times of the Incas, was called the “sun’s house” – a great religious center. Today, it’s littered with travelers like me.