Adios Huaraz: A tribute from my eyes and ears

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I SAY goodbye to Huaraz. I have been there for most of two weeks and have attracted much attention on the street for carrying a camera worth almost the average annual salary, zoned out listening to my Ipod shuffle.

HuarazFor the first time in a long while I am fatigued with words and so for this post between the photos I will use lyrics from songs I have been listening to while out in Huaraz.

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“Can I just fight for the winning side
And feel that I’m building a
Home and a life to behold
Till it’s robbed from my sight?”

-Sjamboksa, Gang of Youths

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“Now well, when I was young, we connected
When we were little bit older, both sprung
I got issues and chips on both of my shoulders.”

-End Game, Taylor Swift ft Future and Ed Sheeran

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“We need change, we need it fast
Before rock’s just part of the past
‘Cause lately it all sounds the same to me.”

-Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio, The Ramones

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“I’ll be animating every night
The grass’ll be greener on the other side
And the Vampires and Wolves won’t sink their teeth.”

-Tokyo, The Wombats

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“Triple dj let the bass drum go like – Bam, Bam, Bam………Here’s Johnny!”

-Here’s Johnny, Hocus Pocus

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“If you fade out without me
Will you know all about me?
If you fade out without me
Will you know all?”

My Heartstrings Come Undone, Demon Hunter

 

 

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“Here we go again, another drink I’m caving in
Stupid words keep falling from my mouth
You know that I mean well.”

-Can We Dance, The Vamps

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“And I felt I was in a trance
And my spirit was lifted from me
And if only someone had the chance
To witness what happened to me.”

-Dance of Death, Iron Maiden

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“Go forth and suffer for your art,

-If it’s all you look for, you will always find the dark.

-Suffer, The Smith Street Band

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“Nothing’s gonna hurt me with my eyes shut
I can see through them
I can see through them
I am drawing pictures, I’m evading.”

Eyes Shut, Years & Years

 

 

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“I’m trying to keep up with the latest trends
You pulled me up so quick that I got the bends.”

-We Spend Too Much Time Together, San Cisco

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“I been running Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…….

What have I done?”

-Police On My Back, The Clash

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“What’s been happening in your world?
What have you been up to?”

-Snap Out Of It, Arctic Monkeys

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“For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside,
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place.”

-Badlands, Bruce Springsteen

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“And here we go, life’s waiting to begin.
Life’s waiting to begin.”

-The Adventure, Angels & Airwaves

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Un momento, dos momento

 

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Some great moments don’t need to be mentioned. The photos speak for themselves. 

It’s a sudden awakening. There are howls and whistles and screams and cracks and yelps from fireworks. My bunk mate Andy below me shouts and we get out and rush to the third-floor balcony to check what is going on.

In the day I would look out from the bottom of a valley – seeing buildings and streets clinging to the steep hills overlooking us. At 12.01 Christmas morning a roar of fireworks are being lit from these streets up into the night, all layered together with cracks of greens and reds and blues. Each street of Peruvians seem to compete against each other for the main attention.

It is the most glorious thing I have seen. I am frightened but laughing and reaching for my phone to Facebook Live this moment. Our street is included as a cluster of neighbours light up their rockets which pass above our faces. Andy and I roar expletives and between the ‘holy fuck’s and ‘Feliz Navidad’s I am laughing, and laughing, and laughing, and it is a moment, by this hill in the night, bright and explosive and loud, I will not forget. Within eight minutes I had the best Christmas of my life – and there was nobody but strangers to witness it with.

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The view from the balcony during the day. 

The show is slowing down 10 minutes later and Andy and I rush to see if the plaza on the other side of the building might have better fireworks. We run out the front door. The group of neighbours see us as they are lighting fireworks. They shout something with the word ‘gringo’ in it and a rocket hits alarmingly close to me. It’s most likely ‘get the gringos!’ and Andy and I keep jogging up the street.

Earlier that day in the plaza I watched an incredible dance. A brass band walks up the closed street guarded by frustrated police officers holding batons and riot shields. These police officers have been watching the Christmas Eve shoppers all day and I swear by the end a few of them want to take a swing at someone, just to have some fun, just to vent their frustrations at the rudeness.

The dancers take their graceful steps. Most of the dancers look like the ‘Big Bad Banksia Men’, but in the likely event you don’t know Australian fairy tales, I must avoid metaphor and describe them properly.

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The plaza. 

There’s 20 dancers in black masks which have red lips and grotesque blue eyes. One of them has an unlit cigarette in his mouth. They wear wide brown sombreros and heavy boots, and they clutch folded whips. There are two dressed in clown masks and they hold some boom-shaka-lakas (okay, I’m making up a word but it’s appropriate) which make grinding noises as they wave them around to scare away the pressing crowds who want the closest angle to take videos and photographs with their cameras. Some of the mothers are even using their children as cute hostages to get in closer. That doesn’t stop the threatening clowns from holding back the circle. The clowns have no mercy. You know why? Because they are clowns.

Arm in arm with the biggest and ugliest mask is a beautiful woman with icy eyes and a rosy smirk (who can resist such a woman?). And they proudly lead the dance with casual struts. A boy who can’t be more than seven-years-old is dressed completely in a white cow costume and he dances too, and closes in on the main couple. They are a cute family there, in that main street, in front of the plaza and the fountain and the glorious church.

And as they dance to the trumpets the sun shines on a spot on one of the mountains tipped with snow high beyond us. And this moment also is glorious.

Nobody can possibly be so lucky to have two amazing moments in the day.

I am.

Some of us seem to think sex or even alcohol is the answer to replace hurt or unwanted memories. Maybe so. I happen to love both, and tried both, but they tend to be an expression of my mood. They don’t exactly create happiness if I don’t already have it.

The trick is to find another way, and maybe at long last I’ve figured it out. The trick with coming to Peru or overcoming pain in life might not have anything to do with finding yourself as it is to be more of yourself.

I’m not talking about being ‘more’; ‘more healthy’, ‘more athletic’, ‘more sexy’, ‘more wealthy’, ‘more knowledgeable’, ‘more desirable’, (more superficial). I know, I know, this is all a familiar tangent of the self-righteous, and I’m sorry about that.

But what I’m talking about is having more moments like the fireworks in Huaraz on Christmas morning. The majestic moments that burn in your brain you can’t ever forget, so that they become you. Those moments where you remember laughing, the ones which weaken everything else that came before it.

 

Among the living and the dead

cover picA minute after taking this photo from these ruins, a group of drunken men lounging behind a house greeted me. Two of them walked up to speak to me, and they were slurring their speech. To be fair, their English and my Spanish were terrible, so it’s hard to tell they were slurring, but for the unfocused eyes and the alcohol breath.

They taught me an extension of the local handshake. First your hands slightly touch as if you almost shake hands, then you fist bump, and then the addition: bend your arm to connect to the other’s elbow.

They asked me for money, I think, and I pretended I had no idea what they were saying, and I said goodbye to my day drinking amigos, and returned to the city. And I found myself in lost laneways for a while.

In these lost laneways a little girl in a red jacket cautiously opened a gate and entered the laneway on her own. She walked in front and kept staring at me cautiously. Finally I said ‘Hola!’ to be polite, but she said nothing.

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It was like she was a little Quechua red riding hood on her way to her grandma’s house round the corner – who may have been warned to beware of the wolf.

And I was the wolf to her. The stranger. The danger. The tall brown haired man in a dark shirt. As she gazed at me a moment before knocking on another doorway, I gained the feeling I did not belong here. I didn’t. I was not a part of this world, but that’s okay – I never expected to be. That’s how I knew I had come to the right place.

I was supposed to be on a day trip to the mountains and had paid money for it. But I woke up this morning and my legs were sore from my last gym session with a personal trainer. And my phone was flat. And I wanted to find a padlock to buy to protect my stuff (there’s a long list of stuff I forgot to bring that would have saved me money and time). A volunteer at the hostel said “oh yeah, I know where to buy a lock. Go up the stairs down the lane and keep walking up until you pass a bridge and there’s a lady who sells them on the street.”

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So it all came down to instructions I had listened to, to track down a lady. I didn’t find her. And everyone I asked were helpful but kept pointing me different directions. Everything was for sale! There was even a shop dedicated to fire extinguishers. But no padlocks. Honestly it would have been easier to track down a Charizard on Pokemon GO. But finally a store owner pointed me in a direction and said “cinco” so I guessed that’s how many blocks I had to walk.

He was precise. I found myself in a crowded street of products being sold, from fruits to corn to recently harvested crops still on the plant. And I found my padlock eventually.

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I went to the museum  Arqueologico de Ancash. All the exhibits were explained in Spanish so most of the time I had no idea what I was looking at so I think I’m just going to have to show you some photos.

I can’t show you photos of the exhibits of the top floor – of a mummy and skulls that look like they had been trepanned. Mostly I get to just show you the basic pottery.

But this was the Peru I imagined seeing, having loved the Herge comics Tintin.

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But there was a garden out the back with the statues and chairs to sit down on. And I sat and it was honestly the nicest and most relaxing place I have been since I arrived in this mountain city.

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I could see the snow of the mountains and it was too bright for my eyes. I couldn’t stare for long. I felt a little dizzy too. Outside the fence locals passed on by and it occurred to me that I was in the middle of a balance – witnessing two Perus. I was seeing the living and the world around me and even the archaeologists of the future wouldn’t be able to say for sure what this feels like. And then I was there too, among the relics of the past. And no matter what I would never understand them for the contexts of why they were made, and how the people experienced their lives, and most importantly; how they saw themselves.