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Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun

Thousands of people travel to Peru every year to see the ancient ruins, Sacsayhuamán, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, and the city of Cusco to name a few. While we may go to Peru to gaze upon artifacts built by people of the past, it’s impossible to overlook the real jewels in the Peruvian crown, the children of the Incas… The People of the Sun.

People of the Sun

From the street vendors of Lima to the cultural dancers in Arequipa and everywhere in between, it is impossible to overlook the vibrant and colourful people that call Peru home.


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


Peruvians are a people of many cultures woven into a rich tapestry. Their ethnic roots range from the Amerindian indigenous people - the first people of the Andes - to those with European and Asian ancestries. While Peru is outwardly a Spanish speaking country, Quechua - the old tongue - is spoken throughout the Andes. Throughout the land, the ancient and the modern coexist, it is not uncommon to see traditional markets and road side automotive service services with blocks of each other.

People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


Pisco is the liquor of Peru, whether the fiery fluid is named after the region or vise-versa is unclear. The beverage on the other hand is very clear and as powerful as racing fuel. This brand is made from grapes, fermented and distilled in industrial quantities - it’s that popular - by the hard working locals around the city of Pisco. The ubiquitous Pisco Sour is made from 2 parts Pisco, one egg white and the juice of a handful of the small Peruvian lemons. The whole lot is tossed in a blender and whipped to a froth then poured in a glass with a dash of bitters then down the hatch. People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


After dropping our bags at our hotel in Arequipa we took to the streets to act like tourists. Much to out delight, we were faced with a farmers marching in protest of a free trade pact. Unlike many such protests in the so called developed countries, this parade was more reminiscent of a celebration than a protest.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Around the corner from the free trade protest, we ran head on into a religious event, complete with a marching band, flower girls, and church officials in full regalia conducting a statue of Jesus from one church to another.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Not to be outdone, the next street was teaming with people in traditional costume celebrating the cultural heritage of the region. Each region has its own distinctive colours, styles , and headwear.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


A seemingly endless rainbow of colour swirled through the streets of central Arequipa that day. We felt both lucky and honoured that the officials of the city arranged this event just for us.

People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


Leaving Arequipa, we made our way to the high Andes. Finding a market at 4,877 meters (16,000 ft) we stopped to stretch, check the items for sale and say hola to the los ninos. The children were delightful, and had already learned the value of the coin of the realm. No coin, no picture. It was a fair trade.

People of the Sun


Alpacas are pets, guinea pigs are supper. All of the traditional clothing is hand embroidered, not printed. The detail is exquisite and beautiful, just like the children of the Andes.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


On our way to Coporaque, near Colca Canyon, we stopped at Chivay, a mountain village, to shop and take lunch at a local diner. Toddlers hitching a ride, locals walking to town and little boys doing what little boys do best met our eyes at every turn.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


In Puno, the major city of Lake Titicaca, John was hounded by this young shoe-shiner who wanted to work his magic on John’s less than reputable hiking boots. Relenting John settled down for the shoe renewal. The lad did an amazing job - the boots actually shone - and he put on a show worthy of Broadway. Impressed, John gave this polish artist ten sols, one for the shine and nine for the entertainment.

In Puno, just as in Chivay, boys and their toys were in evidence doing what boys do everywhere, riding trikes and making the required vroom-vroom sounds. People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


The Uros people of Lake Titicaca still live on their traditional reed islands afloat on the lake. While they still build and use reed boats, they do avail themselves of more modern craft for trips into the city. All families on the islands contribute to the care and maintenance of their island home. Failure to keep up your part of the community could see you floating off on your own as the rest of the islanders saw through the thick mat to set you free.

People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Going ashore on Taquile Island further out in the lake, we met several of the local children. A trip to the islands involves stocking up on fruit and school supplies in Puno. These gifts are preferred by the community over candy as dental care is very difficult to come by. The kids love the oranges and pencils we handed out in seemingly endless quantities.

Farming on Taquile is done by age old methods, the land is tilled, planted and harvested by hand. Much of what the islanders need comes from their own gardens or from the lake.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Like their food, the islanders get the majority of their building materials from their local environment. Houses are built from stone and adobe.

Old traditions live on here on Taquile Island. The lady on the facing page is unmarried, distinguished by her unembroidered shawl with the flared tassel on its corner. A married woman would sport a round tassel and ever increasing amounts of embroidered adornment on her shawl.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


Custom dictates that men should be adept at knitting, any man who can’t knit won’t win a bride. Married men wear a hat - of their own creation - crafted from coloured yarn from rim to tip. This knitter is making a hat for an unmarried man, coloured rim and white top. Traditionally, to be considered worthy of marriage, a man must knit a hat that will hold water. Marriage on Taquile Island begins with a rather protracted engagement lasting two years. During the first year, the couple live together with his parents, the second year is spent with her parents, if they still wan to be married, they are automatically bonded in the eyes of the community. Young people are encouraged to choose wisely - there is a catch -if they choose not to continue their life together after the engagement , they will remain single for life. If the couple has a child during the engagement and choose not to stay together, the woman takes the child, the man pays for both mother and child to be housed and cared for.

People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


On Amantani Island, we spent a night with a host family, Janice and John stayed with a young mother and her son, Meghan stayed with a larger family at a local mayor’s house. When we landed several families greeted us, looked over our travelling companions and chose who to take home. Communication here was a challenge, most of the adults speak only Quechua, the children have started learning Spanish in school, English is not an option. Needless to say, given our command of Quechua, we resorted to Spanish which we speak fluently just like a two year old. Mostly we used a cheat sheet of English to Quechua which our family found amusing. All in all, it was fun and we learned much about their lives and customs.

People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


The children in Meghan’s adopted family were very curious. For her part, Meghan was thrilled to exercise her academic credentials as a sociologist.

People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Our hosts, Janin and her son Jimmy. Janin cooked our meals over a traditional wood-fired clay stove in the corner of the kitchen. There were a few cavy (guinea pigs) wandering around the kitchen but I’m fairly sure that none found their way into our supper. The little rodents serve as more than food, they also tidy up any spilled items in the kitchen, keeping the area clean.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


Cusco was the capital of the Incan world. The city reflects the people of Peru, a blend of many architectural styles mirroring nationalities. Many of the buildings are built on the ruins of old Incan buildings, transitions from carefully fitted stone to stucco or adobe mark the change transition of Inca to Spanish influence. Balconies overlooking cobblestone streets in Central Cusco afford visitors an opportunity to observe life in the city. Venturing onto side streets brings different perspectives.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


At every turn there is possibility both for the photographer and for the subjects of attention. The reward for the photographer is an opportunity to make an image come to life like this portrait of four little ladies of Cusco. For the subjects of the image, the encounter brings the possibility of making money. Just after I pushed the shutter release for the final time, the littlest member of this troop sallied forth with he hand out, When four coins were dropped in, one sol for each, the other three stepped forward for their 4 soles. It was worth a try. While wandering near the Plaza De Armas in the Centro Historico, I was confronted by a young boy who was selling postcards that he painted in school. I was not in a buying mood so I just said maĂąana (tomorrow, also understood as go away)> Without skipping a beat, he looked at me and said “ok senior, you remember me, Pablo Picasso.â€?

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


While it’s fair to say that large industrial machines are used to produce the bulk of the cloth sold in Peru, small primitive looms are employed by skilled artisans to make high quality, traditional items for sale or personal use.

While Samuel Beckett may have waited for Godot, this gentleman seemed content to engage in an equally fruitless activity, waiting for the local bus. People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


Ollantaytambo, northwest of Cusco, is not just the gateway to Machu Picchu, it is also the home of many remains of the ancient empires and a cultural center in the Sacred Valley which stretches from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.

People of the Sun


Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun


If you trek overland to Machu Picchu, your gear is carried by the porters, mostly indigenous Quechua speaking people from the surrounding area. Each porter carries up to 55kg which may include camping gear, food, your underwear and socks. Most people take 3 or 4 days to make the trek from the beginning of the Camino Inca (Inca Trail) to the high retreat at Machu Picchu. Testament to the fitness and stamina of the porters comes every when a race is held over the same trail many of the porters complete the run in under 3 hours.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


Leaving the land of the Inca behind, we travelled into the headwaters of the Amazon basin, navigating up the Madre de Dios river from Porto Maldonado to a lodge nested in the jungle. Our local guides treated us to an outing on a raft on a beautiful oxbow lake, chock full of piranha.

People of the Sun


The Madre de Dios is a river of commerce and opportunity. Boats loaded with bananas are more common than those carrying tourists. Elsewhere on the river one can see barges anchored over gold dredging operations.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


Where possible, the images in this volume were acquired in exchange for a small payment, a gift, or food, or in the coin of the realm. A few soles per soul one might say. Some tourists think that paying for the privilege of taking someone’s picture is an affront to all things holy and right. Likewise tourists shoo away the street vendors without a second thought. What they fail to consider is that exchanging coin for an image or souvenir is fair exchange for the story that we get to tell.

People of the Sun


Our exploration crew - Janice and Meghan shown here, John is discretely hidden behind the camera - were accompanied by fellow travelers from Canada, the UK, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Many thanks to GAP Adventures and to the people of Peru who welcomed us so warmly. Images and text copyright John Nicklin and Meghan Nicklin


People of the Sun - Š John Nicklin, 2012 People of the Sun

People of the Sun  

A journey through southern Peru, meeting people and experiencing their culture.