Posts in Cusco

StoryHow clean is clean?

Again and again, we have been reminded of the necessity of washing your hands and obtaining food that has been thoroughly washed. But what are the metrics? We'd be really interested to know the answer to these questions…

Hand washing…
What germs generally can be found on your hands?

For how many minutes and how vigorously do you have to wash your hands to get off everyday germs? Is hand on hand action sufficient?

What kind of germs cannot be removed/killed this way?

Does water temp affect washing? If so, how hot does it need to be? Or is very cold water just as effective?

How much soap do you need to use?

Do bubbles play any role?

What is the mechanism of action in traditional bar soap vs liquid hand soap vs liquid antibacterial soap vs Purell?

Is ... View Story »

GalleryLand of the Incas

Mules at Maizal in the mist, en route to Machu Picchu from Choquequirao along the Vilcabamba range.

For three weeks we traveled in the footsteps of the Incas. For the first eight days we walked from the Incan "sister site" Choquequirao on to Machu Picchu itself, following the Vilcabamba range up its high passes and down into the shadows of its valleys. We saw few creatures, save our arriero and his two beasts of burden. We climbed, slowly, to our highest altitude to date - 14,800ft, our arriero skipping gaily ahead of us. Frequently Anjuli was terrified of falling off the world (or our 1ft wide path). Yet we walked - well, sometimes Anjuli crawled and cried - marveling at those courageous, innovative Incans and the f*ckers who massacred them. View Gallery »

Snippets of Delerium

Things you think of when you're tired and suba-ing the peso:

Am I moving? I can't feel my legs.

A: What if we could produce food like trees? 
M: You can drink your own piss.
A: I would make hamburgers.
M: You would be a hamburger tree? I would pluck you.

I wonder if when a mosquito sucks you it gives you blood from its last meal.

Getting bitten and getting malaria is kind of like being raped in your sleep.

Remember the sign times (on our way down)? Those weren't really a time. They were more of a place I took a piss.

Wow. It's steep. Why is it so steep?

I wish I had counted the switchbacks on the way down. Then at least I'd have a false glimmer of hope.

If an Incan were to see us walking right now with these walking sticks he'd think we were a deer ... View Post »

"I'd do a job where I got paid in avocados"

— Anjuli
View Quote »

Tomorrow we start an 8 day exhibition. We have enough food on us to fill a potato sack for us two and our horseman. We'll see you all in a little over a week!

EssayOn the up and UP

Our tiny two burner propane stove where we make our meals.

Things were ebbing when we arrived in Cusco and are now flowing again as we near the end of our first week. It took a little while to find a good pad. On our first night there was a crazy amount of noise reverberating off the walls in our street-side room. On our second, the uncanny smell of sulfur which the lazy owner - who had yet to change out of her pajamas - claimed to be sewage from the street. Since we had no internet and have never known sewage to smell like a steamy hot spring, we strapped on our gear at 9:30pm, paid for a half day and left. We were tired of smelling shit - our bathroom for the last month had bad plumbing that smelled like dirty Chinese food and we had to shower in a toilet stall used by 40 women during the day.

But we're happy to report that since Tuesday ... View Essay »

One is called to the priesthood through divination. As soon as a child is born, a máma consults the Great Mother by reading the patterns that the stones and beads make when they are dropped into water in ceremonial vessels. Those who are chosen are taken from their families as infants and carried high into the mountains to be raised by a máma and his wife. There the child lives a nocturnal life, completely shut away from the sun, forbidden even to know the light of the full moon. For eighteen years he is never allowed to meet a woman of reproductive age or to experience daylight. He spends his life in the ceremonial house, sleeping by day, waking after sunset to cross in the darkness to the máma's house where he is fed. He eats twice more through the night, once at midnight and again ... View Post »

Things you can't ship to Peru

The saga of shipping a few things to Peru continues… We found the following list of prohibited items on the USPS web site. Fortunately none of what we are shipping falls cleanly into any of these categories.

Usually a country blocks the import of goods that are dangerous (fireworks, guns and ammo, all things radioactive…) or those that would compete / crush their domestic equivalents (e.g. clothing, electronics, precious metals, etc.). To some degree this tactic is understandable, and no I don't know the sizes of the markets for these products, but c'mon, you can't ship used clothing, playing cards or sound playing devices?

Which are your favorites? Ours are highlighted in bold.

  • Accessories and personal items. (I am not even sure what falls under this)
  • Agricultural ... View Post »

Overheard in SAE

We've been witness to a ton of canned experiences since we got to Cusco. One of the most dangerous and highly coveted is that of drinking Ayahuasca with a shaman.

Today I overhead such a sale while spending the afternoon at SAE. A woman in her late 40s who works for a company that gives Ayahuasca experiences in Cusco had just finished closing a sale.

Ayahuasca is a brew made by mixing a jungle vine with leaves of a DMT-containing species of shrubs. It's Quechua for "spirit vine." It's commonly used by shamans for it's hallucinogenic properties. It's said to be a more introspective experience and shamans use it to locate remedies with which to heal their patients. There is a long tradition of Ayahuasca use with many tribes of the Amazon.

Unfortunately, Westerners hoping for a ... View Post »

  • Matt asking a question to someone at SAE: Know anywhere to get clean eggs?
  • Typical American Cusco tourist interjects: Hey man, what's wrong with the eggs here?
  • Matt: The chickens here are pumped with hormones to grow faster.
  • Guy: Is that bad?
  • Matt: Well, that means you're ingesting the hormones.
  • Guy: Oh, right, right, I thought you were talking about salmonella.
  • Matt: Well, that would be a risk if you're eating uncooked or improperly cooked eggs, like in mayonnaise.
  • Guy: Oh, right, that's a good point. Yea, I'm not too worried about hormones. I think I'm old enough that stuff like that can't hurt me anymore.