Peru - you had no idea! ;)
Once Upon a Saga: country #53
I think a lot about many things. And often I've heard that I think too much. And lately I've been thinking that a world without the Red Cross would be a world of chaos.
Traveling is a great many things. But rushing traveling is downright wrong in my opinion. And unfortunately rushing is a large part of this project. I am absolutely privileged to live this life and I wouldn't change a thing. But I am moving at a very high pace and I have a lot of administrative work along my journey. There are the obvious things like finding transportation, a bed for the night and the right food to provide the energy I need. Then there is the social media which I keep updated as well as I can. I get many messages and many wonderful ideas from all sorts of people and it's hard keeping up. I basically never have a good internet connection and I seldom sleep in the same bed for more than a night. I try to reply kindly and informatively to all the curious people I encounter and I try to experience the countries I'm in while I'm in them. I write a Red Cross story for every Red Cross nation which is currently 189 countries. In effect I have already written 52 stories based on the interviews I do with the Red Cross along my way. And trust me...it gets emotional for me to hear about all the activities the movement covers. But meeting new people and starting to care about them followed by leaving them is also no easy job for my heart. So when you combine the two then it is as emotionally hard as it is physically demanding. And all of it immersed in foreign cultures and foreign language.
A micro business in Lima. Or lunch as I call it.
But luckily it is balanced. I hope by following this project you get the same rare glimpse into how precious our planet is. I have visited and moved through a quarter of the world's countries and I have not been harmed by anyone. Far from it. I have encountered the amazing hospitality of strangers on all sorts of levels. I have seen the scenery change from the European fields to the North Atlantic's staggering beauty. I have seen the landscape of North America unfold in all it's beauty and diversity and I have seen the jungle form around me as I traveled further south into Latin America. Now the giant mountains of the Andes have lifted me up into the thin air and still I have only seen a fraction of the world and met a few thousand of the billions of people we live together with. Sometimes I think about this. I think that we are fed unbalanced information. Why be afraid of Mexico in all it's beauty and why fear Colombia with its precious culture and warm hospitality. The media will sometimes tell you the truth...but will it be evenly balanced with information about the astonishment that is in our world? Will it remind you and I of the billions of goodhearted people of which there are most? But then again sometimes...I think too much...
Peru won't allow you to forget their past. Which is a good thing I think.
Peru is another grand country of mass diversity. The coastline is mainly desert, there are huge production areas with oil rigs as far as the eye reaches, the capital houses over 11 million people, the mountains are cold and the jungle is warm and damp. But I am willing to bet that if someone mentions Peru at dinner then the first thought is Machu Picchu. And as the little mermaid isn't all of Denmark, the Eiffel Tower isn't all of France and the Colosseum isn't all of Italy; Machu Picchu, as grand as spectacular as it may be, just isn't all of Peru.
A piece of advice: NEVER tell someone from Peru that you had great chicken in Ecuador. And drink lots of Inca Kola! :)
There is much to explore here and what I saw in Lima, the grand capital, was everyday modern people living everyday modern lives. The waves were surfed, the restaurants visited, the parks enjoyed, the buses were crammed and life was lived. I have seen around 50 capital cities in the last 10 months and at first Lima was just another one. But it grew on me and it has its own unique fingerprint. At this point it's a cliche...but people are what makes a country and in Peru they are just as kind, helpful and friendly as I have found people to be in the first 52 countries. So where is your money on how it will be for the remaining 150? ;)
I visited the Red Cross and they invited me to ride along as they were visiting a project the next day. So I extended my stay in Lima for another night. I had already had 2 nights in the city and during the weekend I had a chance to take a "break" from traveling by leaning back into a comfortable chair in a cinema...for TWO movies in one night (followed by sushi).
But now it was project time. And I showed up at the Red Cross the next morning as agreed and we then battled ourselves 40 minutes through what in other countries might be known as traffic (they are nuts in Peru!). Suddenly we turned away from the Tarmac road and onto a dusty dirt road. I asked if this was still Lima and received a "yes".
Electricity: yes. Running water and toilets: dream on!
Not long after entering the dirt road we found ourselves between primitive houses in a primitive neighborhood. The kind of small dusty homes that look somewhat unfinished and a little unauthorized. Almost every home had a blue plastic barrel in front of it. The roofs were commonly made of tin sheets and the surroundings resembled the kind of desert you would expect of Iraq with stones and steep hills. "This is Lima too" I thought to myself.
The community we were visiting comprises some 1,500 men, women and children. They have electricity but they have never had a toilet or running water. Remember the blue barrels I mentioned? They are by ever increasing costs being filled with a poor quality of water but what can you do? These are not the people who have options. You get what you get. Mosquito larvae, including those with Dengue, love still standing water and breed in that environment only increasing the problems. The lack of toilets creates an environment which is highly unhygienic and lacks proper sanitation. On top of this, waste disposal had been poorly organized but all off this was being taken care of now. Not only because of the Red Cross. But largely because of the Red Cross' long lasting relationship with people.
Puente Piedra is a less known part of Lima. It means: stone bridge and was once a landfill.
The community leaders had reached out and by this had gained contact with the Red Cross. Had it not been for those leaders' initiative then the project might not have existed at all. The community has now had toilets for about a year and with any luck within solid funding the water reservoirs, which are still under construction, may deliver water to these 1,500 citizens of Lima within a year. But how can any of us imagine a full life without running water or proper toilets? Perhaps a vacation has provided some of us with a few days glimpse into such a world. But a full life?
That's how big Lima is! I saw a dog on a skateboard to much amusement of everyone else in the park in one neighborhood in Lima and I smelled the rotting garbage mixing with the dry dust in another neighborhood. Mind you, if you visit Lima you are absolutely unlikely to see any of this. You will see the modern world with the fine restaurants, beautiful stores and lovely parks. You will most certainly see the historical town center with its magnificent architecture and you will never go a day hungry from the unreasonably good food that is common in Peru. No, out of sight out of mind...you will never see what I saw. And really; what is 1,500 people in a city of 11 million? Nothing. And no one would care. But this project has lasted for 18 months now and I guarantee you that the community cares. They care for the children and for their friends - and really...this is a good story. It's a story about compassion, active involvement in your own community and help where it is needed. And I have rarely heard anyone who has received help from the Red Cross speak about it - without tears.
So...that was my first visit to a project. And perhaps yours too :)
I think I want to see a bullfight. I'm not pro bullfighting. But I'm culturally interested. Lima has the oldest arena in the Americas and the 2nd oldest in the world. The Plaza del Toros de Acho was inaugurated in 1766 and it was closed when I visited.
Let's leave the city. Because I did. A 20 hour bus ride took me high up into the Andes. As high as 3,399 meters where you find the ancient capital of the Inca culture. Its a modern city today off course. But I like to imagine. Cuzco is the name and it is the starting point for most visits to Machu Picchu. If you have never heard about Machu Picchu then you are in for a treat. Because I'm going. So stay tuned to Once Upon a Saga within the upcoming days. I have no idea when I might have heard about Machu Picchu for the first time. But I know that for me it has been a great source of speculation, interest, adventure and fascination for many years. So it has priority for me. And I think I will combine my visit with a 4-5 day trek to Machu Picchu before I aim to reach Bolivia. Here's a teaser for you: I'm planning on crossing Lake Titicaca from Peru to Bolivia thereby bringing the highest navigational lake in the world into this project! :)
In Cuzco...today actually...I met with Thomas. Who the heck is Thomas? Well, he is a fellow adventurer who has been on the road for around 4 years now. And he is from Denmark too. He is doing it because he enjoys it and perhaps to inspire others. But he is free of sponsors, obligations and isn't promoting a certain cause. I respect that. Thomas' adventure is this: "A 50,000 km Cycling Expedition Through 40 Countries Around The Globe". Check him out here: www.cyclingtheglobe.com
A raindrop fell on the camera covering my face - I'm singing in the rain baby!
Thomas and I had lunch and followed up with our own little expedition to the nearby Inca ruins of Saksaywaman which are at an elevation of 3,701 meters. Into thin air I tell ya :)
Out of context but relevant: This is a picture of Lars Andersen in his 1968 Porche. He started as #17 and finished as #2!! I would have loved to have been at Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix this year. I was there last year as Lars is a part of the Ross team. Last year at the same event I met with the Norwegian Ross Offshore and we shook hands in what might have been a key factor of this project. No money, no honey, no fun - Ross Offshore is the financial sponsor ;)
This fellow adventurer thing is growing. If you have been following from the beginning then you might remember me meeting the "Rambling Rat" (Tim Dennis traveling the world in a landcruiser) on the ferry from Dover to Calais last year. Then in Iceland, as we shared the same dorm room, I met Chris Duff (paddling his rowboat across the North Atlantic). You must remember that I spent a night as a guest on Jinja Island in Panama? That invitation was extended to me by Graham Hughes who is another outstanding adventurer and globetrotter. This community isn't all that big. You sort of hear about people as you move forward. Mind you; there have only been around 100 people in history who have visited every country in the world. And they all had airplanes involved one way or the other.
You are creating history with me. How could I ever thank you enough.
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - thinking and traveling and being grateful globally :)