Uncornered Market » Huancavelica http://uncorneredmarket.com travel wide, live deep Mon, 27 Oct 2014 16:26:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Panorama of the Week: Guinea Pig Farm, Peruhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/guinea-pig-farm-peru-panorama/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/guinea-pig-farm-peru-panorama/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2011 07:30:22 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=9104 By Audrey Scott

Guinea pig (cuy) is apparently a critical component of Andean cuisine. At the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, we were told that guinea pigs have been domesticated and bred as a source of protein for thousands of years. And although the selection of meats throughout Peru and Ecuador has (thankfully) expanded substantially, guinea pig remains a […]

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By Audrey Scott

Guinea pig (cuy) is apparently a critical component of Andean cuisine. At the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, we were told that guinea pigs have been domesticated and bred as a source of protein for thousands of years.

And although the selection of meats throughout Peru and Ecuador has (thankfully) expanded substantially, guinea pig remains a prized meal.

As part of a microfinance project we profiled in a village outside of Huancavelica, Peru, we took the opportunity to visit a local, yet fairly large-scale guinea pig farm. The rate at which guinea pigs multiplied here makes rabbits look tame. In the course of only a few months, the guinea pig population in the breeding center had expanded from a few dozen to over 1600. We tried to get our heads around the math and gave up.

After our guinea pig eating experience in Ecuador, we declined another offer even though our Peruvian friends insisted their cuy was much better than Ecuadoran cuy. Neighborly rivalries — even when it comes to guinea pig — run deep.

360-Degree Panorama: Guinea Pig Farm in Huancavelica, Peru

panorama directions

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Keep Peru on Your Bucket List: Here’s Whyhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/keep-peru-on-your-bucket-list/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/keep-peru-on-your-bucket-list/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2010 14:16:35 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=3368 By Audrey Scott

Maybe you’ve seen the photos coming out of Peru over the last week or two: raging rivers, washed-out bridges, mud-buckled railroad lines, and tourists being airlifted from under the shadow of Machu Picchu in the town of Aguas Calientes. We’re here to suggest — despite it all — that you keep Peru on (or consider […]

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By Audrey Scott

Maybe you’ve seen the photos coming out of Peru over the last week or two: raging rivers, washed-out bridges, mud-buckled railroad lines, and tourists being airlifted from under the shadow of Machu Picchu in the town of Aguas Calientes.

We’re here to suggest — despite it all — that you keep Peru on (or consider adding it to) your travel bucket list.

Why?

Colorful and Cheery - Cusco, Peru
Handicrafts vendor in Cusco, Peru.

Thousands of people earn their livelihoods by way of the tourism industry in and around Cusco and Machu Picchu. They work as guides, porters, and hotel staff; they are weavers and craft vendors.

With the latest wave of rain-driven natural disasters, locals have suffered plenty. The last thing they need is a fear-driven tourist drought to take away what few jobs they had, making it even more difficult to provide for their families.

We understand that tugging at heartstrings may not convince you to visit Peru anytime soon, but maybe our experiences and photos will.

The not-so-well known in Peru

There’s certainly more to Peru than just Machu Picchu.

Chachapoyas and Kuelap

Don’t let the endless bus rides full of sheer cliffs scare you away from the northern Peruvian town of Chachapoyas. The town itself is pleasant and the nearby pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, with their circular stone buildings, are worth a side trip.

After all, everyone has heard of the Incas. But who were the folks in the region before them? Archeological theories abound as to why buildings were circular, but the reality is that no one really knows (our guide was quite honest about this speculation, thankfully). It all adds to the mystique of the 1000 year-old mountaintop citadel.

Fish-Eye View of a House at Kuelap - Near Chachapoyas, Peru
Fisheye Image of a Circular House at Kuelap

In the town of Chachapoyas, the friendliness of vendors and the abundance of fruit at the central market is surprising. There’s even some street food! Don’t forget to try the black olives — delicious and absurdly inexpensive.

Cajamarca

There’s something about the not-too-thin air of mid-alpine colonial Cajamarca. People are friendly, dairy products like manjar blanco, dulce de leche and cheese are likely some of the country’s best, and the indigenous head wear appear carved from giant loaves of white bread.

Because Cajamarca is a university town, cultural events are frequent. You might even be lucky enough to catch an international folk dance festival during your visit.

Mexican Dance Step - Cajamarca, Peru
Mexican Dancers in Cajamarca

Or more pedestrian concerns may draw you to avail yourself of one of the best and cheapest haircuts on the planet.

Lima

Many people dislike Lima; they minimize their time there or often avoid it altogether. The biggest thing going against Lima is the weather: a chronically gray perma-drizzle. But in Lima’s defense, it’s actually a nice place to visit.

We are convinced that Lima’s poor reputation has this has to do with the neighborhood where most travelers choose to stay: Miraflores.

Meet the Fish - Surquillo Market, Lima (Peru)
Friendly Fish Vendor at Surquillo Market in Lima

While Central Lima is a bit down-at-the-heels, Miraflores is downright soulless. Do yourself a favor and stay in Barranco, a neighborhood a little further out from the center than Miraflores, but one with an abundance of independent restaurants, cool graffiti and an air of an artists’ community.

Most importantly, a visit to Lima is worth it for the eating experiences alone.

Huancavelica

Interested in someplace without any tourists where you can get a feel for indigenous Andean Peru? If so, Huancavelica is the place for you.

Concentration and Weaving - Chacarilla, Peru
Traditional weaving near Huancavelica, Peru.

We found ourselves there for a photography project and saw only one other traveler in the course of a week. The town itself is relatively small, but you can head out into the surrounding hills and villages for some visually spectacular walks. Although the region has been affected by the recent heavy rains, we’ve been told that the damage hasn’t been on the scale of that seen in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

The well known in Peru

Cusco

We didn’t take excursions to the Sacred Valley or buy entry into the various churches or museums. Instead, we used our time in Cusco to acclimatize, look for a trek to Machu Picchu, and walk the city. We also hung out on the main square on Sunday to talk with handicraft vendors and take in a parade marched by local military, school and hospital staff.

If the hawkers in Cusco’s main square drive you mad, consider taking a walk up into the hills of Cusco where ordinary people make their way.

View of Cusco's Plaza de Armas - Peru
View of Cusco’s Main Plaza

Note: Cusco’s main square features a handicrafts market on the first Sunday of each month. The vendors are decked out in their colorful indigenous dress. They are exceptionally friendly and are happy to talk about their crafts and the techniques they use. Local craftspeople enjoy participating in this market because it allows them to sell their work directly rather than through middlemen and souvenir shops.

Machu Picchu and the Salkantay Trek

The granddaddy of sights in Peru, Machu Picchu makes the bucket list of many. And for good reason.

If you haven’t already, check out the full story of our Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu in which we document our entire journey.

Appreciating Machu Picchu, Peru
Relaxing at Machu Picchu.

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So don’t let pictures of Peru’s floods scare you away; keep it on the list.

And when you build your Peru itinerary, keep in mind that it’s a big country. Throw in an exploration or two beyond the main tourist sights.

Peru Photo Essays

More Peru Travel Tips: Accommodation, Restaurants, Wi-fi Internet, Transport and Activities

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Machu Picchu? Not Yet. A Slideshow of the Other Peruhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/machu-picchu-not-yet-a-slideshow-of-the-real-peru/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/machu-picchu-not-yet-a-slideshow-of-the-real-peru/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2009 05:40:01 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=2449 By Audrey Scott

As much as anyone else, we enjoy visiting world-famous tourist sites and embarking on adventure trips. Peru has been no exception. In fact, in just a few hours we depart for a five-day trek to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu by way of a mountain pass at 4650 meters/15,500 feet. But there’s almost always […]

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By Audrey Scott

As much as anyone else, we enjoy visiting world-famous tourist sites and embarking on adventure trips. Peru has been no exception. In fact, in just a few hours we depart for a five-day trek to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu by way of a mountain pass at 4650 meters/15,500 feet.

But there’s almost always another side to the countries we visit. And sometimes we disappear into the hills for weeks to find it.

Mother and Son - Ucchus, Peru
Mother and son outside of Huancavelica, Peru.

When we told Peruvians we were headed to the hill town of Huancavelica, their response was often: “Huancavelica? But that’s the poorest area in Peru.”

We traveled there to photograph and profile microfinance borrowers and were further exposed to the realities of life in the rural Andes. Here’s what we found:

Note: If you have trouble with the slideshow or you would like to see the captions and titles of the photos, check out the photo set here.

The Challenge for the Interloper

We departed Lima at 11:30PM.

We fell asleep somewhere after midnight, only to wake up around 3:30 AM to shortness of breath, cold perspiration, and a general feeling of anxiety. In less than four hours, we had climbed over 4,800 meters/16,000 feet to the Anticona Pass at Ticlio, Peru’s highest navigable mountain pass and one of the highest roads in the world.

Aside: It turns out that iPods also suffer from soroche (local term for altitude sickness). At around 13,000 feet, iPods begin to show erratic behavior (freezes, stops playing, makes clicking sounds). Apparently, this is the iPod hard drive’s struggle with altitude. A similar thing happened to our iPod in Nepal. Fortunately, on both occasions, the iPod returned to normal when we descended to lower elevation.

Upon our arrival in Huancavelica later that morning, at a mere 3,676 meters (12,000 feet), we downed cups of coca tea (a natural altitude sickness remedy) and spent the better part of the day adjusting to the thinned air. Our heads were fuzzy, we moved slowly, our hearts beat heavily and our thought processes retained a certain murkiness.

The Challenge for the Native

During our visit to the more remote villages outside of Huancavelica, the surrounding peaks outlined how beautiful yet challenging mountain areas can be. Valleys lay vast as sparse villages of mud brick homes clung to the hills. We wondered what steps people took to survive.

Pastoral Scene in Yauli, Peru
Pastoral Scene in Yauli, Peru

Because jobs are scarce and agriculture is often not enough to live on, village men work away from home in the mines. They return home only once or twice a month. Wives left behind raise their children (often in the range of five to nine of them) on their own. Because the money their husbands earn is usually not enough and the lack of jobs also extends to them, women run basic businesses in order to make ends meet.

For our photo project, we visited rural villages – some only accessible by foot – to witness the work being done by ECLOF, a global microfinance organization whose Huancavelica program is less than six months old and funded by Five Talents, a microfinance NGO based in the United States. The program makes small loans to clients (mainly women) in the range of 200-600 soles ($66-$200). Additionally, the program provides skills training and capacity building so that clients may learn how to improve their businesses and in turn their lives.

Over the course of a few days, our heads became filled with stories:

  • Juana produces and sells ice cream in a small town to support her seven children (two more grown children live away from home).
  • Paolina raises guinea pigs and sells hand-knitted goods and cheese in a small village to support her seven children.
  • Isabel weaves and knits her way into providing as a single mother and dreams of someday exporting her work.
  • Donaires sells coca leaves at the main market in Huancavelica and shared with us all the natural benefits of chewing coca leaves (it soothes altitude sickness, provides calcium, disinfects the mouth, cures stomach ills, etc.).
  • Zenovia runs a small village restaurant, sews blouses, raises guinea pigs, and weaves traditional blankets (mantas) with the help of her whole family.

At one of the borrower group meetings we attended, a woman broke down as she spoke about the support she receives from the women sitting around her. When she got sick, the other members of her loan group made her loan payments for her until she was healthy again. While individual successes are important, the success of the group is the broader aim.

To make the point, another woman captured a rather uplifting spirit, but with tears in her eyes: “When one of us falls, we help her even more.”

Proud Women of Yauli, Peru
Proud Women of Yauli

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