Here are some common sights around Huaraz, a mountain city north of Lima. Huaraz has a small population despite being the capital of Ancash and a popular destination for mountaineering and winter sports enthusiasts. Many of the locals spend all day outside selling bananas, sweaters, gloves and cuy (hamsters) – sometimes cooked, sometimes live. And I’m not sure why flags are/were in such high demand (maybe because Independence Day was coming up), but they definitely seemed to be.
I was suffering from a combination of jetlag/lack of sleep and altitude sickness the whole time I was in Huaraz. The air pollution from the cars and tuk-tuks didn’t help my cause either. But, for this man, inhaling petrol fumes and dealing with this traffic is daily life.
I took this last photo with Charles Baudelaire’s and Walter Benjamin’s flâneur in mind. My friend Edwin had just published his article on Pokemon Go and how it impacts on our experience of time and space and interactions with our (increasingly urban) environment. That is, the way the game compels us to ‘saunter’, to ‘stroll’, to ‘loaf’ around our cities in ways we are not usually encouraged to; to talk to strangers, go down small alleyways or inspect plaques we otherwise wouldn’t have noticed – to access space we aren’t usually able to see.
I love this idea of investigating my surroundings, just for the sake of it. However, in deambulando (meandering) around cities like Huaraz in Peru, I was reminded of my privilege, of the security that enables me to enjoy this pastime in Australia. On the way from the airport to Maria’s house when I arrived, she told me to only speak to her in Spanish – you don’t want to make yourself conspicuous. When we reached the bridge that marked the edge of Huaraz city, we knew we couldn’t go any further.
Pokemon Go was released in Peru towards the end of my trip and only in the capital. I was able to spend some time on my last afternoon there playing it in a beautiful, safe, family-friendly park (Parque de la Reserva). It had free wi-fi and you had to pay to enter. A few days later, Maria told me she’d lost interest in the game. It isn’t safe to walk around Lima flaunting your smartphone like that.