Friday, July 23, 2010

How long does it take to make a copy? Probably 5 minutes give or take depending on how far you have to walk to the copy machine. What if someone else has the document you need a copy of? Maybe you take a trip to their office, but more likely they will just fax or email it to you.

Getting a copy--this was the purpose of our trip with Doris and Donato who work for the The Mountain Institute in Huaraz. (The Mountain Institute works with local communities on a variety of social and ecological conservation programs.) Doris needed a copy of a document from the President of Huasta, a small community located in a valley surrounded by the beautiful Cordillera Huayash.

We left our hostel at 6am. Once in Huasta Doris met with the President of the community and the Governor of the region to discuss some documents. After the meeting it was time to make the copy, but no one could find the secretary who had the only key to the office with the only copy machine in the community. We sat outside along the road and waited while they looked for the secretary. During this time many locals walked by (some more than once) and stopped to chat—wondering what two gringos were doing in their village. After about an hour they gave up the search for the secretary and the key and decided to drive to Chiquain, a larger town about 30 minutes down the road, and the location of the nearest copy machine. While Doris and the President went to make the copy we waited in the Plaza de Armas and were entertained by a group of preschoolers practicing their drum line routine for the big 28 de Julio fiesta coming up. After about 30 minutes, Doris and the President returned, copy in hand. Success! We ended our trip with lunch at the Huayash Cafe. It was our first taste of Pachamanca, a traditional Peruvian dish baked in an earthen oven. The chicken was good, but the potatoes were some of the tastiest I´ve ever had.

We were finally dropped off at our hostel around 5pm, so our trip to get a copy took about 11 hours. That´s how long it can take to make a copy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There is no more room in the collectivo. It is full--standing room only. But then the horn honks and the young man by the door sticks his arm out the window and flashes a few fingers. We pull over to the side of the road and instinctively everyone squishes together. Three more people get on and slide into the newly created space among men, women, children, bags of tall grass, and containers of milk. Now the collectivo is full. Or is it?

We are on our way to Caraz, a town about 62 kilometers north of Huaraz. Once in Caraz we need to find a taxi to drive us up through the Cañon del Pato. Finding a taxi in Caraz proves to be more difficult than we thought. Huaraz is filled with taxis constantly honking horns and speeding around corners, but the streets of Caraz are comparitively empty except for a few mototaxis (3 wheel motor bike taxis) zooming around.

We ask the owners at a cafe to call us a taxi and soon we are on our way up the Cañon del Pato. The mountains that line the canyon are dry and rocky. The Rio Santa flows through the canyon which is formed by the Cordillera Blanca to the East and the Cordillera Negra to the West. We are driving through the canyon to see the hydroelectric plant that provides energy to many cities and towns in the Rio Santa watershed--as far south as the community of Huasta in the Cordillera Huayash. We stop to take pictures of the hydroelectric plant, but can´t go in because visitors are prohibited. The taxi turns around just after the narrowest part of the canyon, which is so narrow that I feel like if I stood in the center and stretched out my arms I could touch both sides of the steep rock walls.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Huaraz: Mountains on all sides and street signs absent

Welcome to Huaraz!!

Night 01:

We arrived weary after a 10 hour bus ride over the high mountain pass. After settling into our hostel and finding a delicious Thai restaurant, we enjoyed a walk around the Plaza de Armas. Immediately, we noted the differences in culture between Lima and Huaraz. The people here are dressed in traditional clothes, speak Quechua and Spanish, and carry everything they need on their backs.

Day 01:

We woke early to meet with Dr. Cesar Portocarrero at ANA's Huaraz office....and after about an hour of searching for the office, we hired a taxi to take us. Apparently the locals do not know ANA by the same name, so it took about 7 taxis turning us down to finally agree to drive us to the office. Here I am waiting in the office:

Dr. Portocarrero is a soft-spoken amiable man, very knowledgable about the glacial lakes and water concerns of the region (called ANCASH). He invited us to hike with their group to Laguna 513, a lake that recently scared the communities after an avalanche caused glacial ice to displace water and almost overtake the engineering mechanisms put into place. We also met with the resident hydrologist, who agreed to provide the hydrologic data that would help my model.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lima is a cloudy desert

We arrived yesterday in Lima to a sky of low clouds and a sandy coastline. After walking along the Malecon, which offers views of the Pacific littered with surfers, we found a bar to watch the World Cup finals. Viva Espana!

Today we met with Dr. Jorge Recharte at The Mountain Institute, who will be our main contact in Huaraz to discuss our itinerary. He will help us organize visits to the Cordillera Negras and Blancas to interact with the local campesinos and gain an understanding of their cultures and water systems.

After this successful venture, we taxied to The Autoridad Nacional del Agua (ANA), Peru's main source of water data and national infrastructure projects. The scene: two white females in a room with six (very) important Peruvian water engineers--who were speaking in Spanish--in a small, small room. Quite intimidating...and after about 20 minutes of discussion (which mainly involved me fumbling my way through the conversation), the Director of the Conservation of Hydrologic Resources of Peru asked if I would enter into a formal agreement whereby ANA provides all available water data and I would share my project results. Why, yes!

This successful day ended with chocolate filled churros and an impromptu circus with dancing ponies in the streets in Miraflores. No pictures to prove it, just got to trust that it happened.