Monday, 15 April 2013

Day 20 - Obelisk


Located in the centre of Puerto Maldonado is the Obelisk... This structure was apparently created around the year 2000 for the millenium and stands as a testament to biodiversity in the Amazon.

In many global guides however its claim to fame is otherwise known, apparently it is the fifth ugliest building on the planet.

Ugly it may be, but after climbing the Obelisk's myriad stairs something of a treat awaits you at the top...

Sunset over Puerto Maldonado - Giles Crosse

The sprawling, unkempt vista stretching to the horizon is quite something. At ground level, and certainly in the Plaza, Maldonado is an interesting and endearing place.

But from up here a range of concrete blocks, empty shells, corrugated iron roofs and shanty dwellings loom off into the horizon. Distant fires flare as night falls and inhabitants start to burn the days rubbish. Smoke drifts up from across the city and catches in the setting sun. Humanity's impacts on the world around us have rarely been so easy to see and so naked or harsh.

Maldonado from above - Giles Crosse

Then again, there is plenty of rainforest still visible around Maldonado. There are no hills as far as the eye can see, the horizon is flushed with green canopies and there is something refreshing about this.

Maldonado sunset - Giles Crosse
Glancing down over the mass of humanity evokes some strange emotions. In many ways the city almost feels like a cancer, infecting and spreading into the surrounding forest. Prostitutes here earn more than in any other part of Peru, and are sometimes paid in gold for their services, as single miners return from the forest with the precious ore and spend their dues on women and alcohol.

Giles Crosse

What is the future for this city? Presently there are far too few schools here, which open from 7:30am to 1:30pm. There is a new basketball stadium being built. Cocaine use, presently relatively limited, is likely to rise to similar levels as in nearby Cusco or Lima.

How far into the surrounding forest will the city spread. What lessons can be learned about how best to manage this? In many ways this city is no different to many others springing up across the world, where ordinary, decent people seek education, healthcare, a place to make a living and secure a future for their children.

Giles Crosse

There is no such thing as simple development, simple conservation or a simple human being. The future for Maldonado will most likely be defined by cash, the rush for a better standard of living, and the natural heritage of this part of the world may well suffer in this race. Lessons from the past might be well applied here, but is it really so simple to criticise those who merely seek a similar sense of life and opportunity to that experienced by this particular reporter?

The complexities facing our planet as a whole are well illuminated in the Maldonado sunset.

Giles Crosse


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