Friday, 29 March 2013

Day Two - farms, chiggers and mercury

Today has been a pretty quiet day, settling in with temperatures about 35 Celsius. Had a mellow time sorting clothes out, uploading some images and generally getting used to the pace of life here which predictably enough is very mellow compared to Western ideas.

Had a beautiful lunch in the neighbouring Eco Lodge to which did make me feel like an afternoon doze, but instead necked a quick coffee and took off on a walk...

Giles Crosse

There are some really wonderful flowers and fauna here. There are also plenty of other eyeopeners, taking a a stroll down the Carretera towards Tambopata I encountered a number of friendly cows in the middle of the road, and some less friendly perros which were deterred with a large stone...

Around the corner from here there is a chicken / pig farm. No doubt due in no small measure to the heat, the smell is literally breathtaking and makes you think twice about how and why we eat the way we do and how divorced many of us have become from the process of seeing, killing, skinning and cooking our food. I certainly have, though I did deliver to abattoirs when I was younger, which was also an eye opener.

A Tesco lasagne is something totally devoid of odour, death or the realities of sustainable consumption and is probably a marketing miracle in reality. Yet it contains just the same animals creating the odour down the road that would put anyone off their microwave dinner.

Everyone has an individual choice to eat whatever they choose and this should absolutely be respected... That said, I imagine few of us would fail to at least question what we put in our stomachs when confronted with the harsher realities of how things reach us.

This is something very fundamental when it comes to sustainability. Whether our computers are recycled in Hong Kong or China, where workers daily inhale heavy metals amid conditions that would make any UK health and safety officer run for the hills, or whether it comes to food, many people are divorced from the realities that make Western luxuries and global societies tick.

A conversation with local Peruvians at lunch revealed many won't touch local fish, because they are so full of mercury which leaches into the river from the heavy metals used in mining locally. Hence there are bespoke fish farms amid the greatest river confluence on the planet, which begs a certain irony...

There is a lot of gold here, indeed pebbles in the street can offer up a tiny bit: in Maldonado there are buyers with scales ready to carry out these transactions, in a very frontier style manner.

Ultimately all of these things illustrate how interaction and human consumption impact on biodiversity but also on human life, as what we use to exploit our resources generally returns into the ecosystem and back into our bodies, unless we realise what's happening and accept we can't even eat local fish anymore.

Giles Crosse - near the chicken/pig farm...

You have to be a little careful ambling around here, as it's possible to get chiggers. Chiggers are nothing more than young mites, specifically the parasitic larvae of mites in the genus Trombicula.

Seemingly, should you brush against chigger-infested vegetation, or worse, sit down to rest in shady grass full of chiggers, the tiny bugs will immediately crawl up your body, looking for a place to hide. Because chiggers measure just 1⁄150 inch in diameter, they're so tiny, you are unlikely to see or feel them.

Once the chiggers find a good location on your body, they pierce your skin with their mouthparts and inject you with a digestive enzyme that breaks down your body tissues. Chiggers then feed on your liquefied tissues. They don't suck your blood, like mosquitoes or ticks.

The chigger will remain attached to the host for several days, feeding on dissolved tissues. Once it has an adequate meal, it detaches and drops to the ground, where it continues its development into a nymph. For most people, however, the intense itching caused by the chigger bite leads to equally intense scratching, and the chigger is dislodged by frantic fingers before finishing its meal.

I hope none are on me. The solution is neat alcohol, which is a solution to many things come to think of it!

Giles Crosse - development
There are some cool little bridges around here, and it's a real pleasure speaking Spanish with the locals, who are amazing, and feeling your language skills returning a little. Can't wait to get the Spanish back to how it used to be...
Giles Crosse
Will add in a youtube link to these pages tomorrow for video updates...

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