Friday, October 28, 2011

Cerro San Cristobal

I walked over to the hill today and took a hike up. I wasn't expecting much, 409 meters not being a big deal. I did find myself stumped though, by a policeman when I asked for directions to the road through the barrio. He told me that it is very dangerous in there, and that I "have many years."I was puzzled because I wondered if he meant I look to old to take care of muggers or if he thought I'd have a heart attack. I hope I laughed it off, but whatever, I kept on going.

I was a good long way up when I encountered a rather large lady who panicked when she saw me, telling me that I would be robbed for my bag if I didn't take a taxi up. She said, "You are very old." OK, that's hard to mistake. So I kept on walking to prove her wrong. That lasted till I was too close to an on-coming contraption made of a motorcycle and a car axle, a local taxi of some sort. The driver stopped and told me it was too dangerous to walk up, which I assumed is a con all the taxi drivers tell tourists. But I decided it might as well give him a dollar and let him take me up rather than listen to how dangerous was my walk. I'm glad I did that. I found Jose to be a load of fun to talk to and interesting in his views of Lima, a kid who lives in a shack on the hillside.

We got to the top of the hill and walked around a while and Jose pointed out various things of little interest to me, and he told me about his family and his life in the city and so on, and I began to think that if I were 20 and staying here he and I would be good friends. I think that of many people here.

It's a nice place in many ways. It gets cold at night and not too warm in the day time, so today I paid about $12.00 for an alpaca sweater, and I had to exchange it because I wanted one of a different colour from what I first had, and the next one was, as I noticed in looking it over, not an alpaca sweater at all but one almost the same from the back room, this one in polyester. No deal, so I made the girl take it back and get me one I wanted. It feels beautiful. People here are nice, but one must pay attention to things anyway.

I did about 300 meters on foot, and next time, now that I know the whole route I'll go on my own. I went up this time with Jose and we looked over the city. I grabbed a shot of the cross just because and then shocked the lad by confessing that I am not a Catholic. He looked pretty puzzled when I told him I'm a Protestant, but he was pleased that even though I'm not Catholic I must not be a devil worshipper with so many crosses on my hat. forget about me being an atheist: Jose drove me down the hill in his contraption. I told Jose I am deeply impressed by the view. I was. Scared shitless. Much of the road is way too narrow and the drop is 408 meters till one hits the dirt.

No, it's not straight down at all. But from the edge it looks close enough.

I ended the daylight hours wandering through Rimac District by the river, and in time came across a crowd of close to 100 people watching silently as six motorcycle cops manhandled a petty criminal, the latter in handcuffs, a three inch gash down the side of his eye where a cop had hit him with a baton.

Yes, I am getting old, and I got this way by being careful in rough places, and more than that by being really lucky. I might have gotten lucky taking photos of the police and the criminal, but I hope you will excuse me for being careful instead. There is much to see here, and I hope in time to amass enough good shots of Peru to make visiting here worth your while. But I don't think I'm going to provoke the police here. Birds? Yeah, I can do that. I'll see about finding some meat to rot in the sun so I might have a chance of getting a shot of a condor up close. For now it's dinner time. More next time from Lima.

And more is from the far side of town: I was five or six miles out when I turned and saw the hilltop clearly for the first time. The curlicue on the hillside is a design ubiquitous in Peru these days, a "P" and the rest of "Peru." I see locals wearing tee-shirts and carrying bags with this design all over Lima. I assume it echoes on some way the geographs of Nazca. About halfway back from my walk I was able to get this long shot. Click for a blow-up.

Months later, as I up-date this post, here is a shot of the Nazca, Peru geoglyph that gives this some context:

About the pink houses on the hillside below Cerro San Cristobal. Who would paint his house pink? This is not Mexico. This is not machismo centro. A few days ago I sat across from a young fellow who looked like he could bend crow bars with his bare hands. Most of the time I can see most colours, and I saw flaming pink when I looked at his shirt. But I can be woefully wrong, as I know from people looking at how I sometimes dress myself. I asked to be sure. Pink. I've seen it a few times now on men who look particularly masculine. Maybe it's economy, maybe a challenge to the world they know most will never accept. I think it's a matter of the locals being pretty calm over all. This is definitely not Mexico, nor anything much like it.


butterfly said...

I was out on the Hellcat a couple of weeks ago, a Sunday, and passed some other bikers. They all had nice scooters, custom paint, lots of chrome, and riding easy, everyone was passing them. I was doing about 80 so I didn’t get a close look, but each wore colors, a large white patch with a cross amazingly similar to the cross you took a picture of. There’s a large Christian bike club here I see all the time out on the road but their cross is the typical symbol one sees everywhere. These guys with the adorned crosses were stuck in head so I asked around at work the next day but nobody was familiar with them. Now I have a better description, a picture even, and it never occurred to me that they might be Catholic bikers, as opposed "just" Christian. Anyway, thanks!

Did you read the inscriptions on the cross by any chance? Now you’ve got my curiosity up.

Dag said...

I can't understand how I missed reading the inscriptions at the base of the cross! It completely slipped my mind. I assume they would be in Latin, but that shouldn't be too big a problem. I just didn't look. A quick look at the Internet shows that others are as incurious and silly as I. I can't find anything there about the inscriptions. I will walk up and down on my own next time, regardless of what the locals say, and I will then copy the inscriptions. Usually I am an obsessive "tourist" when it comes to this sort of thing, and I am amazed I didn't even look. I've read inscriptions on everything else I've encountered, from a statue of Bolivar to plates on 500 year old churches and government buildings, but the Mirador I missed.

About the scooters you saw: I knew a fellow in Canada who was one of many in a scooter club, and he loved it. I never understood it, myself, being the proud owner of a dual-purpose thumper, a Kawasaki 650 meant to get me from Canada to Panama to Israel via West Africa. It's no PD 850, but mine is a fine machine. Having noted that, I saw a group of scooter riders, at least 100 of them, in Vancouver, all of them going roughly the speed limit, if struggling, and they were having a fine time of it. They were having a good time and the scooters seemed to attract that kind of person, whereas men who ride thumpers to Africa are maybe not so social. The group made it all worthwhile. I'd go for it just to be with people who are laughing and smiling. I'm not trading in my bike, but to scoot, yeah, looks good.

The Georgian Cross is from an Orthodox Church tradition. Georgia is one of the first Christian nations on earth, far past Ethiopia, of course, but not long after Armenia, the first official Christian nation, as it were. The churches one sees in the Georgian countryside are mostly over 1,000 years old, and though ubiquitous, are threatened by Muslim destruction.

I often attended, not no more sorry to say, Orthodox services. For a non-Catholic like me it is a very exhilarating experience, not having any prejudice against the Orthodox and having some greater love of the rites as an aesthetic experience. Catholics have much to learn from the Orthodox when it comes to piling on the details.

The Protestants can point to, among many others, Bach, to show that we are not outright philistines and barbarians, but the quiet of the Orthodox monastery at St. Catherine's in Sinai is otherworldly and mysterious. I walked a long, long way to get there, and after having spent the night at the summit of Mount Sinai to watch the sun rise with a group of Italian pilgrims and some men so old I thought they would die on the way up, and who then did tai chi for a few hours, I returned to the monastery and had a miserable two hours of being trampled by people coming out of tour buses. I couldn't see a thing of the place. I was determined, though, and kept waiting for a chance to view the icons in their hundreds. Well, was I in for a major surprise.

Dag said...

A priest approached me and said he's seem me waiting for the past few hours and he asked if I would like to ask the patriarch if I could take a private tour away from the tourists.

Icons in the hundreds? Just making my way down the hall ways to see the man was an experience I have never again had the likes of. Walls filled floor to ceiling with icons and art works of various kinds. 1,500 years of art right there, though I didn't have time to pick out the best examples from each period to study. On we went till I had an interview with the boss, we patching together a conversation in Hebrew and Greek till he was satisfied that I was an ok guy. Then it got good.

The priest who initiially saved me from the tourists took me around the back way and we went into the cave that is supposedly at the site of where Moses saw the Burning Bush. Inside the cave is a fresco of something, and supposedly painted in the year 300 by (John the Apostle?) I have notes somewhere, but the memory of the day is permanent in the feelings. We went out back into a cleft in the mountain and sat for a long time, the priest telling me the history of the place.

My point is that it was so intensely otherworldly that I live with it today as one of the high points in my life. I think one can have similar, if different, emotional experiences with people on scooters. The intensity can be the same whether this world or another.

I'm a bi on the macho side for a scooter, but that is my loss. I am now recalling another scene of scooters, and other times when my machismo has almost prevented my from having the time of my life. But I'll save some of this for another time.

Let us know what happens with the Cross. Hope it works out.

Always good to see you here.

My best,


Dag said...

Well, I might say I was confused because I just woke up and didn't focus on the actual cross you referred to when I got off on my Orthodox tangent. I did just wake up, and am back to bed in a moment. Before I go, I will mention that the cross if a replica of one erected by Pizzaro almost 500 years ago. It is definitely Catholic. People go to it at Easter time and it is a major draw. It immediately got my attention when I first came downtown, and it got me to walk most of the way up the hill to be there. I'll do a better job next time.

truepeers said...

Pink houses? Maybe it's a cultural thing, but how tough can it be?... Actually, if the women get to run the homes, the young men could be dangerous...

Let's have a photo of your sweater sometime!

truepeers said...

p.s. what is that (pattern and words) written or carved into the hill?

Dag said...

I wouldn't let the pink houses give the impression that the barrio in the photo is less than pretty tough. It's not anything like numerous places I've been in Central America and come out of only by sheer luck. It's not openly crazy and drug-fueled and gang-ridden. Still, it is pretty rough, noticeably so when one is right there.

I don't know about the lines and words carved into the hillside. I'll ask around. I assumed that the carving to our left is similar to one I see on tee-shirts everywhere, a stylised "P" for Peru done as a hill-side carving along the lines of some famous works around the country, as yet to be seen. But I will ask to see if I can find anyone who can tell me exactly. I haven't found much information on this site. Mostly it seems to absorb local interest as a religious shrine at Easter. Tourists go there to try to get a good view of the city, and beyond that I don't know if pay any more attention to it than I have. Now, though, I think it's time for me to start thinking a lot more about where I am and what goes on here. I've been looking at people mostly and haven't spent any time with culture, as it were. I've been looking at people, families, and how people work. This is the economic centre of the country, and it makes all else possible for those outside. I hope to be here in the country for a long while, with breaks to surrounding places, so over the course of a year I think I will have a good idea of what it's like at this time.

Women don't run things here like they do in Canada and the coastal areas of America. Here it is a patriarchal society in which a man is expected to provide for his family so women can have children. But it's not Central America, which is what I stumble on so often. It's definitely Latin America but not at all Mexico. The differences are huge, but I can't articulate them well as yet. I like it here, which is one way of saying how different it is from Mexico. I like Mexico City very much and am surprised at how little there is in Lima to compare to it. But Mexico City is a busy and dangerous place whereas Lima is quiet and seemingly safe. I have a lot to learn yet, and I have, to be honest, taken up most of my time with my own project rather than learning much about this city and country. That will come.

Dag said...

My sweater. I am losing some weight, but for now I'm not quite in shape for a photo. That too will come.

truepeers said...

I trust your judgment. Still, I'm curious what kind of patriarch paints his house pink. Maybe on your next trip up the hill...

Dag said...

I'll ask if I dare, and that because a man who lives in a pink house might be crazy and perhaps tense to the point of hostility over being razzed by his comrades about the colour.

At a guess, I think it's likely to be alone the lines of red barns. In the early days of paint, all barns were red because red was the cheapest paint their was, and a barn didn't need anything special, just something to keep the wood from rotting too quickly. Many barns are still red because barns are supposed to be red.

When I was in Central America a decade ago I saw adobe houses with one, sometimes two sides of the house painted with a full scale Coca Cola sign. In some villages, every house was painted like that. It meant one could go and buy from the resident a bottle of Coke. Everyone also seemed to have at least a year's supply of Coke in their homes, and really, there aren't that many thirsty travellers passing through to warrant it. Eventually I asked what's up.

Everyone who buys a years worth of Coke gets a big discount. Coke, aside from being part of a major pandemic of diabetes in Mexico and Central America, is also more than happy to paint a person's house if only they will have it done as a full sized mural of a Coca Cola sign. I am guessing that red paint is still the cheapest going. Pink? It could be cheaper still. But I might ask anyway what possessed a man to do that to his house.

I didn't notice the pink house. You now have Mr. Colourblind wondering nervously what colour is his lovely alpaca sweater. To me, it looks dark with light and llamas on it. I like it very much. So long as these little horses don't run, I am going to be pleased.

Dag said...

I've been asking around about the pattern and the letters on the hillside. No one I've met so far knows what it's about. I'm embarrassed to have missed it all. Often I am a total tourist who won't let anything go. This time I've been pretty much obsessed with work. Now I have a bit of time to explore and ask questions.

I'm liking it here. Of course, any place is good if one has enough money to live properly. So far I qualify.

truepeers said...

Well, just to clarify, I felt kind of guilty asking this question of a colour-blind man. But I should point out it's not just the one pink house in the foreground of your photo. Among the houses on the hill, in the middle at the top and in a tier or two below the top, there are whole blocks of pink houses. Maybe you're onto something and someone there got a wholesale deal on a big batch of paint, and sold some to his neighbours.

Dag said...

It is so amazing to live this life. I had no idea there were any pink houses there, even after searching the photo just now. I can't see a one. But what is so interesting to me is to know that others can see all kinds of things that I can't see at all. It makes me hungry for a long life so I can find out what others know and I have missed and maybe can only know second-hand. Still, it's good to know that there is far more than what I think I know and what I take as the way of it. I can't see a pink house, but now, trusting those others who know, I can say that I have a better idea, even if to me almost all the houses there are green. I know that to most people, some green is pink.

I'll store this away in what's left of my working memory and ponder it further as I travel. It is good to be wrong, if only to come at last, and sometimes, to a better understanding that I know is better. I hope I live for a thousand years so I can know what the average person takes for granted. I would hate to have lived a life in grey on grey.

You know this: that "The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering."

Maybe I too will see it when darkness descends, all the colour that I've missed.

truepeers said...

Well you too give the rest of us a challenge: learn to see shades of green instead of hot pink. There could be advantages to that.

Dag said...

I up-dated this post a bit today.