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Massage, Friend? Restaurant? Machu Picchu? Coke? Weed?

I wrote this blog post back in, like, January and never posted it. Better late than never:

Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas is beautiful, but walking through there as a tourist wears on your patience pretty fast.

As a gringo, you’re a walking dollar sign, constantly declining pitches for restaurants, nightclubs, textiles, trinkets, massages (or perhaps “massages”), weed, cocaine, and info about Machu Picchu.

After four months of living in Cuzco and frequently passing through the Plaza de Armas, this got pretty annoying. After a certain point I unfortunately got in the habit of avoiding eye contact and giving cold refusals, or ignoring the hawkers altogether. This was partially a deliberate tactic to minimize intrusion, but also partially just because I was past the point of containing my irritation. I’m actually frustrated with all the previous people, but today I’m taking it out on you, sir.

Of course, the sellers themselves have it even worse. To earn their paycheck, they have to repeat the same pitch over and over and over, nearly always to be rejected by rude foreigners who obviously have money to spare.

I don’t know what the solution is, but it struck me as an interesting example of how economic inequality creates an animosity that feels very personal to both parties, even though it isn’t at all.

The Post-Glacier Andes

Global warming-induced glacial melt is expected to eventually threaten the water supply of 80 million people in the Andes. I talked to some young people in Cuzco who are going to be around to see this happen:

Across the Andes, people are preparing for the coming increase in scarcity. Mira-Salama’s World Bank project used a three-pronged approach to climate change adaptation.

First, knowledge generation: creating climate models and trying to predict the impact of glacier retreat on important crops. They also installed high-altitude ready weather monitoring equipment in the mountains of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. And finally, the Bank tried to help with “on the ground adaptation” in select Andean communities.

“We’re working with farmers [in the Santa Teresa region of Cuzco] in showcasing better irrigation practices that are more water efficient, working with them in organizing them in water associations so that they can irrigate with pre-defined schedules, working with them in finding more climate-resilient crop varieties […] and also increasing the diversity of their crops,” Mira-Salama said.

Not all communities will have World Bank help facing glacier retreat, though. As future leaders, AYP students will have to build a viable future for their communities in a glacier-parched world.

“We need to start now to make people aware of what’s going to happen, that there’s not going to be water,” Karina Jimenez Suma of Ollantaytambo said.

One idea: plant more Queyña and Chachacoma trees, which are native to the area and do not rely heavily on water.

“We can have a campaign to plant more trees in our communities, avoid wasting water, and do more sprinkle irrigation. You see very little of that [in Ollantaytambo], only a few people know about it. I think sprinkle irrigation is one of the things that can help not use much water,” Jimenez said.

Some possible solutions are more outlandish. One Chilean geologist is exploring strategies to artificially reduce glacier melting or even create new human-made glaciers.

More, including climate changes already underway, how to help from the United States, and the first completely melted glacier, at Generation Progress.

02/26/2014 // Morning Hike // Pampallacta, Peru

pampallacta

At the Potato Park, about 14,000 feet up. Went on a walk to get a cell phone signal. The rock piles mark the border between the village of Pampallacta and nearby Chawaytire.

 

01/17/2014 // Pedestrian // Patacancha, Peru

pedestrian

A story behind this one. Driving through the high Andes in the middle of nowhere, well above 4000m. Out the window is nothing but lush green mountaintops, grazing sheep and llamas, and rolling mists that occasionally block the view of everything else. Like something out of Lord of the Rings.

I tried to take a picture of the mist, in the foolish belief that it would appear as more than just white emptiness on a camera. It was only after I looked at the picture on my computer that I saw I had caught this woman, just chillin’, as we zipped by. This was an hour drive out from Patacancha, a tiny mountain community an hour drive out from Ollantaytambo, a touristy village which is two hours driving from metropolitan Cuzco, itself two miles above sea level in the Andes. The woman standing on the side of the mountain road, just minding her business, just as I would on an big city street corner, struck me as a reminder of how remote Andean lives are. (Depending on your frame of reference for “remote”…)