At the proposal of the Cusco Regional Government, and in a joint effort between the Ministry of Environment (Minam), through the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (Sernanp), the regional conservation area (RCA) Chuyapi Urusayhua was established this week.
Located in the districts of Echarati, Vilcabamba and Santa Ana, in the province of La Convención, Chuyapi Urusayhua seeks to ensure the conservation of the two ecoregions, six ecological floors and 12 ecological systems associated with the Urusayhua mountain and the upper part of the Chuyapi basin; as well as the biological diversity they harbor, guaranteeing the provision of ecosystem services for the benefit of local populations and contributing to the mitigation of climate change.
The park covers 80,190.78 hectares and conserves the ecoregions of the humid highlands of the central Andes and the Peruvian yungas, the latter of which is considered one of the most fragile ecoregions in Peru due to factors such as deforestation and forest fires.
The Chuyapi Urusayhua RCA is also home to three priority conservation areas for the country: the Cumpirushiato River-Cushireni River-Cirialo River, the Vilcabamba River, and the La Convención Valley Savannah Forest.
There are 936 species of flora in the area, 25 of which are in some state of conservation by national and international legislation, such as romerillo, walnut, cedar, and quina.
It is also home to 82 species of mammals, 412 birds, 30 amphibians, and 22 reptiles, among which species endemic to Peru and characteristic of the cloud forest have been identified, such as the cock of the rock, spider monkey, spectacled bear, puma, jaguarundi, dull guan, and blue-headed macaw, among others.
Their recognition also ensures the conservation of important ecosystem services such as air quality regulation, carbon sequestration as a climate change mitigation measure, water supply in quality and quantity by conserving headwaters, as well as the supply of medicinal plants and timber forest species for the benefit of local populations.
Five watersheds are located within this RCA alone: Cirialo, San Miguel, Cushireni, Vilcabamba and Chuyapi, the latter of which provides quality water to the population of Quillabamba, with more than 46,000 users of the drinking water network.
In addition to this natural wealth, Chuyapi Urusayhua also protects cultural values related to the Urusayhua mountain, which is considered the tutelary Apu of La Convención. The establishment of this new RCA was also supported by Conservación Amazónica (ACCA), the Provincial Municipality of La Convención, the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (SPDA) and the Andes Amazon Fund (AAF).
Yesterday morning I decided to get out of Cusco for a bit and head up into the mountains above my apartment. Despite the heavy winds and light rain that blew in and forced me back down the mountains, it was still a lot of fun getting out and being able to put my mask in my pocket for awhile.
I even got to so some filming with my DJI Mavic Air 2 drone and my little DJI Pocket 2 video camera to make this short film so you can get an idea what it’s like hiking up there:
The scenery is breathtaking. Every day I have to remind myself just how lucky I am to live in a place so beautiful. This really is my backyard!
[Be sure to click on each pic to see a larger version!]
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So many sights in Cusco go largely unnoticed even by local people who pass by them without ever really paying attention.
I like to walk slowly through the city, stopping and looking around in search of details that usually go unnoticed. Rarely does a week go by when I don’t find something rarely observed yet beautiful, unique, and worth seeing.
I always feel sorry for people who see Cusco as a place to “check off their bucket list” because they miss all of this. Yesterday’s passing of the Cusco’s Casa de los Cuatros Bustos (“House of the Four Busts”) was an excellent example.
The Casa is named for the magnificent main entrance that opens onto Calle San Agustin with four relief busts carved into the lintel along with an impressive shield and other beautiful and unique carvings.
The site was once part of the Q’oricancha which was the central religious site of the Inca Empire. (Today only a part of the site still exists on the grounds of the Convento de Santo Domingo a block away.)
It was originally given to Francisco Pizarro’s brother, Gonzalo Pizarro when the Spanish marched into Cusco in 1533. He later sold it to the Marquis Juan de Salas y Valdez who had a two story house built on the grounds.
The four busts for which the house is named were identified by the historian Luis Enrique Tord as being (from left to right):
- Usenda de Bazán, wife of the conquistador Juan de Salas y Valdez.
- Juan de Salas y Valdez, owner of the house.
- Fernando de Salas Valdez Bazán, first-born son of the owner.
- Leonor de Tordoya y Palomino, wife of Fernando.
The massive shield above the lintel survives in remarkable detail. Each of the four quarters into which the shield is divided have a particular meaning.
The upper left quarter show a castle with a lion rising and three scallops. This is associated with the Salas of Asturias to affirm that Juan de Salas was a native of the town of Salas in the principality of Asturias.
The upper right quarter shows three bands and ten circles surmounted by blades. This is associated with the Valdez family.
The lower left quarter shows a sword pointing up passing through a moon composed by four half moons surrounded by five fleurs-de-lis and, in the border, seven blades. This associated with Doña Palla.
The lower right quarter is composed of a palm tree on waves of water between flames of fire that correspond to the Dóriga family.
Both Doña Palla and Dóriga were lineages from which Salas descended on his maternal side.
I’ve passed by this door hundreds of times and never really stopped to look closely at all it’s details until yesterday when, for some reason, I happened to notice a scowling, snarling face on the side of the lintel that appeared to be growing out a some kind of floral figure like an oak leaf. Upon looking a little more, I noticed that the opposite side had a corresponding face.
I haven’t been able to find out the significance of these two faces. Perhaps their meaning is lost forever, but they certainly are unique.
I plan to do a series of posts on sights like this in Cusco — interesting and unique places which are so easily passed by without being noticed. Cusco is full of these wonderful places!
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I made a couple of trips to the Huancaro market on the Santiago district of Cusco, Peru this week with my DJI Pocket 2 camera.
Make no mistake — this is a local market and NOT a tourist market. Everyone looked at me strange with a distrusting stare and very few were willing to even talk at all.
Yet this is the kind of place normal people go every day to get things for the kitchen that allow them to make their daily meals. You won’t see any fake alpaca sweaters or souvenir llama beanies here. It’s a real market with real stuff for real people.
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Last week I finally got the chance to return to Machu Picchu before the end of the year. I’d already made seven trips there in January and February of this year, but the pandemic and closure of the site kept me away for months.
I had been to Aguas Calientes twice already when the Sanctuary opened up this month, but hadn’t made a trip up to the ruins themselves until last Tuesday.
Needless to say, the new biosecurity protocols including severely limiting the number of visitors each day to only 675 instead of the previous thousands of daily visitors made it a very special day.
For those thinking about going soon, you must take a bus up to the ruins. Many of the iconic sections are closed off including Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu mountain, the Inti Punku (“Sun Gate”), and the Puente Inca (“Inca Bridge”).
A mask and face shield is required on the bus (as well as the entire train trip if you choose to travel to Aguas Calientes that way), but not inside the ruins. Get ready for countless temperature checks on your trip and alcohol sprays on your hands, though once you are in the ruins you can relax. Face masks, like everywhere in Peru, is required at all times, though they’re patient and understanding if you take a quick selfie as most visitors do.
The most striking part of the entire visit was that Machu Picchu was relatively empty. I happened to meet my friend Joseph Baca who had booked a ticket for the same time as me because 6 am was the only available slot when we got our tickets at the last minute a few days before. It was a nice coincidence and we were able to take our time going through the site without worrying about hordes of tourists blocking photos or forcing us to rush through.
Here are some photos I took along the way. (As always, click on the individual photos to see a full-size version.)
When we arrived back in Aguas Calientes there was a protest march in progress against the PeruRail train company that continued for hours and eventually resulted in a blockade of the train station stranding both tourists and local people for whom the train is their only transportation.
Many travelers were trapped inside the station as police blocked both the entrance and the exit all day leaving them without access to food or water. It wasn’t until late that the trains were allowed to leave. Tensions were very, very high and for awhile I wondered if it could become violent. Fortunately, by the time I went got to the station for my morning departure everything was over.
RPP Noticias is reporting that on November 1 Machu Picchu will reopen its doors for tourism and during the first 15 days, entrance will be free for all Peruvian citizens.
This decision was taken during a meeting of the Management Unit of Machu Picchu, which integrates national, regional, local authorities and institutions linked to the cultural and tourist field, informed the district mayor, Darwin Baca León.
“Unanimously, we took the decision that from November 1 the reopening of Machu Picchu will take place and for all Peru, until November 15, the entrance is free. For this, you must register on the page of the Decentralized Direction of Culture,” he said.
Baca said that 675 visitors are expected to enter the area each day. The entrance will be done in groups of 7 people plus the tour guide. The tour will be carried out for a period of one hour for each group.
“The capacity of the entrance to Machu Picchu is not the normal one because in these dates normally 2 thousand to 2 thousand 500 people enter,” mentioned the district mayor, who added that the entrance of children and older adults will be allowed.
Baca León said that the rail and bus transportation system will operate with half of the allowed capacity, in addition to the biosecurity measures, to avoid infections of COVID-19 during the journey.
Regarding the hotels and restaurants, the mayor of Machu Picchu pointed out that more than 50 percent are conditioned under the security protocols to attend to visitors after 7 months of the suspension of tourist and economic activities.
The request for an ambulance for Machu Picchu, was also approved during the meeting in which it was noted that a vehicle will be delivered by private institutions. This way, medical attention will be guaranteed to visitors.
“We have gone to see the ambulance and this week it will enter Machu Picchu to attend to any eventuality that may occur in relation to the new coronavirus,” said Baca Leon.
Experts from the National Institute of Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems (Inaigem), an entity attached to the Ministry of the Environment, permanently monitor the water level of the Salkantaycocha lagoon in Cusco.
The glacial lake, fed by the melting of the snowy Salkantay mountain, caused a flood on February 23rd that destroyed villages, caused deaths and left more than 1,500 people affected in the district of Santa Teresa.
In the recent technical inspection carried out last October 9, a team from Inaigem corroborated that the water level at the edge is considerably below that recorded in February this year, but shows a slight increase compared to last July.
“Given the current conditions, it is concluded that the current level of the Salkantaycocha lagoon represents a low danger,” said Oscar Vilca, a specialist from that entity, for an official statement.
Vilca said that these days the possibility of an overflow in that lagoon represents a low threat with reference to the overflow registered in February.
According to the findings of the on-site inspection, Salkantaycocha presents conditions of clogging by sediment fillings deposited on the bottom of the water. In reference to the rocky wall of the snow-capped mountain of the same name, the fall of small fragments was observed, being a normal condition in this area.
Victor Bustinza, head of the Decentralized Macro Office of the Southern Region of Inaigem, reported that the staff of this institution fulfills the task of preventing the risk of disasters from glacial lakes along the Vilcabamba mountain range in Cusco.
He added that having as a background the avalanche in the snowy Salkantay, a report was issued with the respective recommendations to the competent authorities. “Since then, a constant follow-up of the situation of the lagoon and the rocky wall of the snow-capped mountain is being carried out,” he said.
My favorite place in the Sacred Valley is Yucay. The people are incredibly friendly and the scenery is breathtaking.
This morning I took my DJI Mavic Air 2 to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and flew near the village of Yucay. The area has the most beautiful scenery in the entire valley with it’s pastoral life set amongst 500-year-old agricultural terraces still used today almost exactly as it was centuries ago.
I got to do more than just fly. I was able to stop and visit with some farmers working in their field along with a couple of boys walking from their home high up the canyon on their way down into the village.
People are beyond friendly. They seem to love talking with outsiders who are interested in their wonderful place.
That is how you learn about a place — by connecting with the people who live there. And especially by connecting with the people who’ve families have lived there for centuries.
[NOTE: La Republica just reported that Machu Picchu will open on October 15 according to regional director of Foreign Trade and Tourism (Dircetur), Fredy Deza. Obviously there is a difference in opening dates. I’ll update as more information is released.]
Both Andina News and Cusco Post are reporting that the Cusco region will begin the economic and tourist reactivation with free visits for Cusqueños to the 47 registered tourist districts, among them Machu Picchu, to then allow the entrance to the national tourists and, finally, to the foreigners, as announced yesterday by regional governor, Jean Paul Benavente Garcia.
He specified that the visits will be from October 5 and will include Machu Picchu, the 16 attractions offered by the Tourist Ticket and others, with strict compliance with health protocols to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The priority will be to benefit the citizens who live directly and indirectly from tourism in Cusco, such as artisans, tour guides, travel agencies, micro entrepreneurs and businessmen. “This is the only way to return to what tourism was for the people of Cusco, which generated employment and income,” he said to Agencia Andina.
For his part, the regional director of Foreign Trade and Tourism of Cusco, Fredy Deza de la Vega, expressed his confidence that they will overcome the crisis that tourism is going through in three phases: containment, strengthening and recovery.
The first one, he explained, consists “in taking care of all of us to come back soon”, a time in which 4,480 people are trained in a virtual way in surveillance, prevention and first aid in case of possible cases covid-19, promote tourism regulations, surveillance plans, tourism culture and biosecurity protocols.
In this sector, 1,100 artisans will also benefit, 700 of them from the business sector with whom they address business plans. In addition, another 600 artisans will be formalized in a first stage.
The second phase consists of “preparing for tomorrow” by seeking to make the programs of the Business Support Fund (FAE) Tourism, Entrepreneurial Tourism and Reactive Peru more flexible, said the official.
During this period, the “tourist associations” will also be promoted, in a first stage, in the provinces of Calca and Urubamba, and will try to reach La Convención. The objective will be to form a corridor between the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Amazon.
Through technology, the Regional Directorate of Foreign Trade and Tourism (Dircetur) will make a diagnosis of recovery of destinations before the covid-19. In addition, Deza de la Vega said that they will have a portfolio of investments and projects to be executed, to enter the recovery phase.
The free visits will be from October 5 and will include Machu Picchu, the 16 attractions offered by the Tourist Ticket and others.
During this period, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) international seal and the Cusco Safe Destination label will be obtained.
Benavente Garcia, the head of Dircetur and some mayors – others in a virtual way – met yesterday afternoon in the auditorium of the Regional Government of Cusco, where they showed their willingness to promote responsible tourism that encourages the growth of this sector.
RPP Noticias has a fantastic article and photo gallery of brilliant old photographs by Félix Nishiyama Gonzales that I strongly urge everyone to see:
Félix Nishiyama Gonzales: El Cusco de antaño a través de la fotografía
The Nishiyama family has been in Cusco since their patriarch, Otomatsu Nishiyama, left Japan in 1900 for Peru.
The photographs capture the life of Cusco and surrounding the region that is far different from the modern world that exists today. Yet in many, many ways things really haven’t changed that much. Such is the oldest city in the Americas.
My friend and Félix’ grandson, Diego, shared these photos and continues the family tradition of outstanding professional photography. He also operates Cusco’s best photography store at Calle Triunfo 346 beside the Cathedral.