Peru


IMG_2238 (2)

I caught this shot of a Peruvian woman on the street just before leaving Huaraz. Now I’m back in Lima, and I leave for North America this evening.

I found myself comparing Peru to Africa often during this trip, which is obviously flawed since Peru is one country and Africa contains many. Still, I was struck by many questions and comparisons: How do the local citizens react to foreigners? What technologies are being used? How are development projects executed here? What cultural differences are there, and how do these affect one’s approach to projects? What is the difference in need?

Three weeks in a place is certainly not enough time to make any conclusions. My first impressions tell me the need for appropriate technology here is simply not as great as it is in Africa. At one point, my friend (who has traveled to more places in South America than I have) commented, “I think South America is going to be okay.” We don’t talk about “fixing” South America like we do about “fixing” Africa. That says quite a bit about the Western view of the two continents.

I love the Peruvian wilderness. I love the friendliness of the people, and how communication is much easier with one common language. But I am still tied to my exploration in eastern Africa and my projects there. Maybe it’s the beauty I find Africa’s harsh environment, or the strength of its people. Maybe it’s the potential that projects can have when executed well. I feel pulled there.

One day I may try working in South America, but for now I will reserve it for my rock climbing adventures.

IMG_2209 (2)

This panoramic of Hatun Machay – even when enlarged – does not do the place justice.

My friend and I just returned from two nights in a refuge located about 1km away from this forest of rocks. When we arrived, it was snowing. There was no electricity, no cell phone reception, only a wood burning stove and endless beauty. The caretaker for the refuge played guitar and some Peruvian musical pipes to pass the time. It was peaceful and calming; a relaxing escape.

We climbed by day. The routes were bolted, and I had only ever led one climb before. My friend had never climbed in his life. Now, Ive led five routes.

IMG_2202 (2)

(Note: Despite the dreads in the above picture, this is not me climbing. This is an Austrian guy we met at the refuge who climbed with us on the second day.)

We played poker and read our books by night. It was one of the most peaceful escapes I have had in a while.

IMG_2179 (2)

Yesterday my friend and I rode a bus to 4,800 meters and biked 50 kilometers back to town. Here are some of the views:

IMG_2144 (2)

IMG_2145 (2)

IMG_2147 (2)

IMG_2162 (2)

Today we go to Hatun Machay, which is called the “Forest of Rocks” for a reason. I brought along some gear and we rented the rest, so it should be an excellent 3 days of rock climbing.

IMG_2094 (2)

They’ve been excavating this site in Lima for quite a while now, and they’ve still got 30 years to go until it’s finished.

Sometimes I wonder how much is out there that we simply haven’t found.

IMG_2066 (2)

Nothing takes away from the beauty, attraction, and preservation of ancient ruins like a road cutting through the mountain side that buses thousands of tourists to the entrance every day.

IMG_1984 (2)

I just returned from 5 days of hiking in the Peruvian mountains. The trek started out at Salkantay, where everyone on my trip suffered from some form of altitude sickness. My friend and I stupidly gave ourselves 24 hours to acclimate. Epic fail. I have never been at 4,600 meters before, and I don’t plan on returning without spending a good week acclimating first.

IMG_1948 (2)

The hike was one of the most demanding I have ever done. Not because of the trail, which was rather gradual compared to some I have previously hiked. The altitude was the kicker. But the sights at that height were absolutely stunning.

IMG_1952 (2)

After a couple days, we thankfully returned to a lower altitude and everyone in my group regained some of their spunk. There were 7 of us total on the hike, and we became rather close by the end. Hiking and facing challenges together can do that to a group.

The trek ended in Machu Picchu, which is amazing but overrun by tourists. We woke up at 3am to hike to the gate, and I most enjoyed walking through the ruins in the early morning mist.

IMG_2045 (2)

To be honest, though, I much preferred the less touristy areas on the Salkantay trail. While the ruins are beautiful, nothing can compare to sitting around a bonfire in the middle of the wilderness drinking a fruity Peruvian tea and surrounded by good company.

IMG_1913 (2)

The first thing that struck me about Peru is how mountainous and dry the landscape is. Maybe I was expecting fields of green. I don’t know. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see this out my window.

The second thing that struck me is that hiking and outdoor activities are huge here. I really appreciate this, especially because little emphasis is placed on sports or the outdoors (besides football) when I travel through many places in Africa.

The third thing that struck me is that people don’t hassle you on the street as much. I am currently in Cusco, the jumping point for all the Machu Picchu treks, and it is very touristy. Locals, of course, try to sell you handcrafts at street corners, but when you say “No, gracias” then they stop asking. Wow.

I came to Peru purely for pleasure. I have to be back in the US for a wedding in early October and decided to take the next 5 weeks to explore and have fun. My goal is to get as much rock climbing and other outdoor activities jammed into my schedule as possible, while also allowing some time to relax and wind down. Despite this goal, I’m sure I’ll still be thinking about technologies and culture and how everything fits in to my career interests. I somehow can’t escape this.

Tomorrow I leave on a 5-day trek that ends in Machu Picchu with a good friend from college. I normally don’t like to do such touristy activities, but there is no other way to get trail permits. I’ll be out of contact for a few days and will update with pictures and stories when I return. Happy trails!