The Big Issue: Pollution

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Eco Kuzco: Ezma pollutes the local river by irresponsibly dumping all her old potions!

Peru’s environmental game is at an all time low – they have the highest amount of air pollution in a Latin America, a rupture in the main oil pipeline has polluted the Amazon and endangered rural communities and they’ve just called a 60-day national emergency due to mercury poisoning from illegal gold mining.

As part of its emergency declaration, the government plans to provide uncontaminated fish and mobile health clinic to residents and monitor the area affected by the disaster. However, miners continue to expand into indigenous reserves.

Prevention is better than a cure – 21.4% of Peru’s population live in rural areas and rely heavily on the natural resources for survival, yet the Peruvian government continues to allow the unregulated destruction of delicate ecosystems and threatens the saftey of the people and animals who depend on them.

It seems ludicrous that rapid growth in population and non-existent recycling practices mean that even christmas wrapping becomes a health threat every year!

As bleak as it seems, travellers visiting Peru can do their bit in minimising environmental impact by supporting eco-friendly hotels that recycle, reduce energy consumption and are considerate of the local communities.

As a visitor, remember to leave no trace, especially when visiting popular sites such as Machu Picchu!

 

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All in Good Peruvian Time

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Kronkenitza: Kronk embraces his Kronkenitzan heritage which his shocked Incan classmates can’t handle

For me, culture shock is one of the most exciting things about travelling, yet since coined in 1980’s the term holds negative connotations.

In my weeks of research, warnings of “Peruvian Time” have popped up everywhere. It is an aspect of their culture that mainly affects people travelling to Peru on official ‘buisness’. Basically Peruvians are always at least an hour late – whether that be a meeting, a party or even a wedding.

To me it really just makes the culture all the more attractive.

On a more serious note, it can be very scary when there is nothing familiar around you. It’s one thing to confront a language barrier, but on top of that adding every day tasks like grocery shopping, making friends and navigating can make the experience completely overwhelming.

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I hate trying new things. Where’s my nuggets!?

The reason culture shock is viewed so negatively is because it suggests that a person isn’t putting themself out of their comfort zone. A key strategy in overcoming culture shock is good communication.

But that can be impossible when you can’t effectively communicate with anyone.

Point is, there are different types of ‘culture shock’ some are avoidable or trivial, like not having access to your favourite brand of toothpaste, and some shake the fundamental way you live, like language.

But remember travellers, culture shock can help you reflect on yourself, help you grow and learn a different way of life. It really creates a rich travel experience!

How not to Tourist in Machu Picchu

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The Mystery of Machu Picchu: a terrified Kuzco travels to the mysterious abandoned city only to discover it’s a theme park.

Beyond being considered Peru’s biggest tourism draw card, ‘The Lost City of the Incas’ is a world heritage site, the 5th wonder of the world and the most common image in a Google Image search for ‘Peru’.

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No 5th wonder it’s a big deal

To paraphrase all 9,000 glowing TripAdvisor 5-star reviews:

  • It’s magical
  • Breathtaking
  • So historical

Yeah we know. How many people have had the same experience? At least 9000 of them. So ask yourself: Do you want to be another ‘happy tourist‘ adding to the masses of perfect reviews or do you want to create unique memories of a real traveller?

Step 1: Go when it’s really busy

Make sure you’re there anytime between 10am and 2pm from June through August. There’s nothing better than taking a photo and having 5 selfie sticks and a crowd of people cover the scenery.

Step 2: Don’t walk anywhere

Why would you walk when you could take a train that might not even run due to strikes and costs heaps of money? You won’t be tired and you can sit around wherever the transport drops you off until it’s time to go back again. #economical

Step 3: Actually ignore my first step

Yeah that’s right, I decided to read a real travel guide and they suggested to get there early for the sunrise. Of course it will probably be foggy, but who wanted to see the sunrise anyway?

Just look at that sun rise. Courtesy of Trip Advisor

The Writing’s on the Wall

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Vincent van Guaka: Guaka has a terrible fear of drawing due to pressure from his dad for him to make a better life for himself

I must say I’m partial to some graffiti, hidden in alleyways, brightening up the grey walls along train lines. They’re technically beautiful and a simple image can harbour some seriously dense meaning. But you have to know what to look for and where to find it.

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Bright and eye-catching, if nothing else it is visually stunning.

Decertor is a street artist based in Lima. He burst onto the street art scene with his politically charged murals of deceased Lima gang members.

His work speaks to Peruvians through symbolism. Pre-columbian imagery, categorised as ‘traditional’ folk art, is the dark-skinned faces of natives, traditional garb (see last post) and the brightly coloured patterns of ceramics and textiles. He loudly proclaims social issues in Peru’s capital: identity, immigration, poverty and social inequality.

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Mural in the city of El Tambu

His strong aesthetic and activist ideals have become familiar to locals and graffiti lovers alike. For a short period city officials encouraged street art production in street art festivals, until a change in power saw some famous graffiti murals ‘cleaned up’. Locals and artists were outraged at the loss.

As a tourist attraction, graffiti does work. Walking tours in Melbourne are prime examples, but sadly graffiti is not marketed and valued as an attraction to Peru.

Although it is definitely an attractive aspect of the cities. Even without the cultural and political background knowledge, tourists walk the streets and photograph the murals hidden in the city. It becomes an interaction – a story – that they create as they explore, just like inhabitants of the city experience them in their daily lives.

Street art reminds travellers to explore beyond the ‘must-sees’ in a city and think critically about what they find.

 

Undressing Peru

History hidden in Textiles

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Project Poncho: Students have to create a poncho for a fashion parade. Kuzco tries to cheat.

 

When choosing a symbol of Peru, Machu Piccu or Llamas seem like the only options.

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Phew. This is definitely a more overtly symbolic picture of Peru that I can understand .

But intricately woven in the history, identity and way of life is Peruvian traditional dress, so much so it is a national symbol that promotes Peru to the world.

The fine weaving techniques date back to the Paracas people (600BC – 100BC). Products they created were highly prized and respected for their spiritual value in Andean tradition.

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A Paracas manta (heavy shawl) dating around 200 BCE. The Paracas are considered to be the finest examples of textiles in the Pre-columbian period and were well preserved due to their use in burial rituals.

Even when the Spanish invaded, they retained traditions by fusing Incan and colonial style, seen in the black pleated skirt, pollera.

Variance in garments, particularly women’s monteras (Quechua for hat), traditionally signify belonging to a specific region or village and in the case of the pollera, can even signify ethnicity.

In colder regions we’d find the (now famous) chullo rather than straw hats. Polleras were decorated with a certain colour belt, flowers or coloured embroidery and Ponchos varied by fibre, colour and length: heavy ponchos in Cajamarca, short and red in Cuzco and costal regions were cotton or vicuña fibre.

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Dance also called for specific types of dress. The Mirr danzantes de tijeras or ‘scissors dancers’ featured mirrors and embroidered their deity on their back. I’m sure there’s some really amazing information here.

The resourcefulness of the Peruvians is admirable, locals using shearings from their Alpaca heard as the main fibre and making sandals out of tyres.

Peruvian people are incredibly proud of their ancient textile tradition. Tourism has helped keep it alive – it helps that clothing not only sells as a symbol of Peruvian identity but is a commodity that travellers consume.

This has benefits in that local communities are supported, especially the women who weave the textiles. However the meaning of the symbol can get lost, with travellers expecting to see all Peruvians in traditional dress upon arrival or assuming its exactly what the Inca’s wore.

Make sure you travel with an open mind!