Amy in Peru: An Odyssey

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Huancavelica Smells: A Tour

It has been another relatively run-of-the-mill week with nothing too interesting to post, so I thought I would give you all a tour of Huancavelica… but instead of posting a bunch of boring pictures, I thought I would take you on an olfactory journey of epic proportions. So come with me as we explore Huancavelica…. smell-o-vision style!

The day often begins on an olfactory level with the shower, where if I am not careful plugging up my shower drain after washing, one gets smacked in the face with the rank smell of stale sewer gas. I am not sure what happened with the piping in my building, but there you have it. After getting dressed, I squirt a whole lot of my Peruvian perfume (called “Day”: powdery and soft) and enjoy the smell of gas being lit as I prepare a kettle to make a cup of tea. Mmmm…. Propane….. Seriously. I love a gas stove.

On my walk to work is when my nose really gets a workout. As a side note, pervading any olfactory sensation while walking through Huancavelica, first off, is the smell of earthy dirt. There is always lots of dust or mud (depending on the season—rainy or dry) so there is always a backdrop of earthiness in any smell one encounters in the street.

As I start off, turning the corner from the alley into the plaza, one is hit with a raging strong smell of acrid, bitter pee--- I am not sure why, but someone LOVES peeing on the wall beside my building. Continuing down the hill towards the center of town, passing the small river, one often gests the distinctive, tinny whiff of blood as you pass the llama slaughterhouse. Although a visual cue, I will share that the very stinky, garbage filled river is often red--- makes me think of bible plagues and whatnot--- from the runoff of the slaughterhouse. Very nice. J

As I pass into the center of town and the plaza, I pass by the orange juice stalls, and get a whiff of their beautiful fresh citrus smell. A nice contrast to the stale, dirty water that often collects in the 6-inch drain ditches between the street and the sidewalk (when there is a sidewalk). As one continues their walk, one also encounters all make and model of dog poo--- fresh and dried, runny and compact. They have it all. And they all stink. A lot. As I arrive at the office, one has to greet everyone present with a kiss on the cheek, thus filling my nose with the strong smell of aftershave or perfume of my coworkers, which is nice after the relatively stinky walk to work.

On my way home from work, as the evening begins to set in, one is immediately hit with the smell of food cooking, mostly being fried (food in the mountains of peru is not very healthy, I have to say). Chicharrones, which are pieces of fried pork, are always being cooked on the street by little ladies and their propane tanks. One also gets greasy whiffs of piccarones (fried dough in a sweet syrup) and the ever-present rotisserie chicken and fried potatoes. In contrast, while one is passing the food stalls, one also passes the llama skin stores, where you get a very strong nose-full of stinky, dusty, rotting llama skins. Yuck.

As I pass people in the street, I am also greeted with the distinctive smell of chewed cocoa leaves--- people chew them as a stimulant, and they reek. A slightly bitter but bright smell, green and pungent. Not entirely unpleasant actually. And really common, especially at night.
I finally make my way back to my plaza, pass the crazy acrid pee wall, and as I walk upstairs to my apartment, I pass the smell of fresh paint and plaster, as they continue to finish the other floors in my building (mine is the only one finished). I enter my apartment, take a whiff of the pomanders I have hanging in my kitchen (oranges studded with cloves--- wonderful natural air freshener), and smell that puff of propane as I turn on the stove to make myself a warm cup of tea.


  • Interesting vivid 'sensual' tour of HC. Should post more often.

    By Blogger Paradoxers, at 3:50 AM  

  • Excellent post! You are such a great writer!

    By Blogger Keri, at 6:51 AM  

  • You're missed! I've tried three times to post a comment lets see if this one takes....

    By Anonymous Lee, at 6:55 AM  

  • Dear Amy,
    Thank you for my first olifactory tour of anywhere. vicki

    By Blogger vicki, at 2:00 PM  

  • Oops, olfactory!

    By Blogger vicki, at 2:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home