Morning Walk

I think the rains in Cuzco are starting early this year. We’ve had occasional rain for the past month or so. This morning I woke up to a fabulous view over the mountains to the South.

I snapped a few pictures while walking the dogs this morning. The pictures don’t do justice but the view was wonderful with some of the mountains shrouded in clouds and a good bit of snow on the higher peaks. All of the snow was gone by mid day, here in Peru you have to go really high to find perpetual snow.

morning walk after a rainy night in Cuzco Peru

View towards the “Valley of the South”. The snow on the mountain was gone by mid day.

Mariscal Gamarra Cuzco

Looking down over Mariscal Gamarra in the direction of the Cuzco airport.

Park in Marsical Gamarra Cuzco

Overlooking the park in Mariscal Gamarra, Cuzco.

In the distance (click on the picture to see full size) you can see a number of houses on the far slopes of the mountains. Cuzco is beginning to have a very serious problem with ugly expansion. I think most of those houses are considered “illegal” (no building permit, no land title, lack of utilities). One of these days when I have more time I want to do a post on Cuzco’s ugly expansion – which is a colossal failure of the local authorities. I don’t want to be judgmental to the people who live there (everybody needs a place to live) but the next big earthquake that hits Cuzco will be an unmitigated disaster due to the substandard/illegal construction on the sides of the mountains surrounding the city.

Roxi and Manchita after their morning walk

Ready for breakfast after our morning walk

* * *

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet:

Since we’re sort of on the subject of dogs, kind reader Carrie sent me a message a while ago that somebody had stolen a picture of our dog Manchita off this very blog and used it in on a fake Facebook “Pitbull rescue site”. The site has since been taken down but I managed to save a screenshot. This person was using pictures of dogs they found online, inventing names and stories and soliciting donations for their “rescue” of course.

stolen picture of my dog Manchita

A picture of my dog that was put on a fake Facebook Pitbull rescue site.


I’m walking back to our house. Deep in thought about some computer code for one of my customers.

A lady in traditional Peruvian dress on the opposite side of the street looks a bit upset or out of place. She’s carrying a baby on her back. She’s yelling something I didn’t understand right away. I’m still in my own world.

A young man – maybe still a teenager – walks by quickly, his head down.

The lady’s yelling louder and more clearly now. RATERO! RATERO!

Other people in the street are looking up and start yelling as well. RATERO! RATERO!

The young man starts running down the street.

I finally snap out of my own world. “Ratero” means “thief”. Apparently the guy had robbed something from the poor lady but she was alert enough to notice. A bunch of people are now running after the ratero and a bit down the street they catch up.

I was mad at myself. I missed my chance. If I hadn’t been in my own world so much I would have stood a decent chance of being the first to catch this little robber. I didn’t stick around too long but it looked like all ended well for the poor lady and the little robber was about to get what he deserved. In 4 years here in Peru this was the second time that I witnessed a public chase after a ratero. Unfortunately both times I was just too late to run after the guy myself.

Peru is generally a safe country but petty crime is quite noticeable and people are understandably upset about it. You can probably argue that in the most recent Peruvian presidential elections the final vote came down to the 2 candidates that were perceived as the toughest on crime. We regularly hear about break-ins and the like. It’s happened to friends and neighbors. At Patricia’s work there’s always a line of people looking to buy new cellphones because their old one got stolen.

The only thing I’ve lost to a ratero was a camera about a year or so ago. That was my own fault because I was in a large crowd and put the camera in an open pocket. More recently kids took a ball and a little purse that belonged to Brianna but again it was my own fault because I left the stuff unattended in the park while Brianna went to play in a different area.

The rateros like to “case” houses pretending to be utility company employees and the like. They prey on empleadas (maids) who are home alone and may not know any better. One guy came to “case” our house pretending to be with the gas company. I let the dogs out and haven’t seen the guy since.

Roxi and Manchita keeping a watchful eye outside

Roxi and Manchita keeping a watchful eye outside

Patricia laughs at me and thinks the dogs won’t do anything if a ratero came to our house. Maybe that’s true but even the appearance of security alone is typically enough to make the ratero move on the the next house. Quite frankly most Peruvians don’t have any experience with strong protective dogs (the street dogs are generally skittish) and I have no doubt in my mind that our mutts would put the average ratero in the hospital for a very long time – especially if any of us are home. The little dog is a Jack Russell mix and hates everyone but me. The bigger dog is a Blue Pitbull and has never had an original thought in her life. She just does whatever her “big sister” does. When the little dog gets mad the big dog gets madder. The big dog is mild mannered and timid by herself, but the little dog isn’t scared of anyone. I’ve seen her get mad at 10 people or a Mastiff that outweighed her by 140 pounds.

Of course petty crime doesn’t just happen in Peru. My father was working in his garage in Belgium one day when a thief snuck up beside the house and stole a bicycle. I got pickpocketed at the Atlanta airport once. When Patricia lived in Ohio some guys came to “case” their neighborhood. I guess it happens everywhere.

If you’re visiting Peru some ideas for your safety/security are just be alert and watch your belongings while you’re in crowded places or on a bus. Don’t be a dumbass like me and walk around Inti Raymi with a camera in an open pocket. Be alert at the bus stops, people will enter the bus to sell candy and drinks, or from outside through the bus windows. Rateros will enter the bus to steal your stuff while you’re distracted or asleep. Don’t flaunt expensive jewelry or electronics, don’t leave your belongings unattended, common sense stuff like that.

If you want more security I’ll be happy to rent you a pair of protective mutts 😉

Alcohol in Cusco

I saw a funny drunk the other day. I don’t know what it is about Cusco, or the highlands of Peru in general, but it seems like heavy drinking is more common here than in the coastal parts of Peru or elsewhere. That’s just casual observation, no proven statistics or anything of that nature.

I don’t know what the reason might be, it could be because life here in the high Andes really is tough due to the climate, geography and high elevation, I really don’t know.

Like most people we enjoy drinking socially at times, but unfortunately we also know a few people who are habitual drunks and have let their alcoholism really affect their lives in a bad way. I’m hoping most of the time when I see someone stumbling around drunk out of their mind that it’s not a habitual thing.

At any rate, back to my funny story. Now this is one of these stories that really can’t be told…

You had to be there:

The other day I was getting my hair cut at a local barber. My “casero” (ie. regular or regular customer) works out of his house on Av. Cultura, a busy main street in residential Cusco, not the tourist areas downtown. While I’m waiting to get my hair cut, many people walk in and out of his shop, schoolkids come in to buy candy, etc. Some friends or family walk into his shop, say hello and then go to the back of the house.

Just as it was my turn to get my hair cut, a guy drunk out of his mind came stumbling into the barber shop and mumbled something to my “casero”. My “casero” replied something I couldn’t understand, I think they were speaking Quechua, but it was obvious my barber knew this person. The drunk was a guy maybe in his fifties, well dressed in a suit and shirt but with a scraggly unkept beard.

The drunk disappeared in the back of the house for a few minutes and then returned. He sat down next to a couple of other customers who were waiting in line. A minute or two later, the drunk got up and started talking to the other customers. He was speaking Spanish at that time, but I couldn’t understand a word he said because his speech was so slurred. I think he was pointing out something in the tabloids that are laying around the shop for waiting customers.

Next thing you know, for no obvious reason, this drunk guy puts his hands on the couch (where customers were waiting), feet on the floor and starts doing push-ups. Not just one or two, but maybe 10 or 15. A 50-some year old guy in a suit, drunk as a sailor, doing push-ups in the middle of a barber shop, you just had to be there.

My “casero” and everyone else in the shop just sort of chuckled, and after a little while the drunk said something else to each of the people in the shop, I didn’t understand anything except that he said “50 cents” several times. Then he walked out into the street and disappeared, as quickly as he had shown up he was gone again.

* * *

This crazy scene reminded me of another event, different but similar in its stupidity.

A while back when I was teaching an early class at ICPNA I would get up at 6:00 and walk the dogs before heading into work. These 2 mutts:

Roxi and Manchita, with our baby Brianna

Roxi and Manchita, with our baby Brianna

Our dog Manchita

Our dog Manchita

One morning just after 6:00 I was walking the dogs in the park by our house, and another stumbling drunk shows up. He’s holding a plastic cup in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. He’s happy as can be and when he sees us, he decides to walk towards us and starts offering me and the dogs some of his “cerveza”.

“Hey, let’s have a drink, let’s all be friends.” – Seriously.

Now it must be said that our dogs are really quite protective. I don’t let anyone other than myself walk both of them at the same time. They’re not aggressive or bad dogs, but they are protective and don’t like being approached by strangers, especially men. I don’t know what it is because we found both as strays, perhaps they were abused or something, but both dogs do not like men they don’t know. The Jack Russell looking one is the oldest and most dominant, and the fat pitbull-looking one has never had an original thought in her life, she just barks and growls when her “big sister” barks and growls.

So this happy drunk came stumbling towards us offering the dogs a drink of cheap beer (I think it was Brahma or something) and the dogs start going nuts, barking and pulling on their leashes. I’m pulling the dogs out of the way as quickly as I can, but this drunk keeps coming at us:

“Hey, let’s all be friends.”

I’m not making this up. By now the pitbull is raising her hair and pulling her lips and the idiot drunk still wants to make friends. I luckily was able to pull the dogs away and make my way out of the park quicker than the drunk could follow us. I don’t think the guy remembers any of this, he was so happy drunk out of his mind, but he’s very lucky he didn’t try the same thing with some 7-year old kid walking his dogs.

Peruvian beers

Peruvian beers

Enjoy the holidays! Drink responsibly 😉