Peru · 86 Days · 30 Moments · December 2014

dr saschy singh

dr saschy's odyssey through Peru

20 March 2015

Lima has a vibrant street art scene, concentrated mostly in the older districts, including downtown Lima & barranco. I did a walking tour with my friend Lana who discovered and introduced me to the likes of jade Rivera (thanks Lana!! Xx) whose beautiful pieces of work are scattered across the city (check out jades work at: or on Instagram: jade1rivera). Unfortunately Lima has a new mayor, who amongst other negative attributes, doesn't see the value in street art and a few weeks ago the council started painting over (ie. removing) murals in downtown lima, shameful as the art colours many otherwise drab industrial looking streets.

15 March 2015

The old buildings of Lima display beautiful workmanship, not only externally but internally. One striking feature inside these Peruvian colonial era houses are the ornate tiles ... although some haven't weathered the years so well, they add a lot of charm and many renovated buildings still retain the original floor work.

6 March 2015

We were privileged today to meet a pretty inspirational Swiss physician, Frederique Jacquerioz... She has been a vital team member in the Ebola response on the ground in Liberia and Sierra Leone for MSF and the World Health Organisation... She ran us through the logistics of working in a containment area, and we dressed in protective equipment and stood in the midday sun for half an hour to get a feel for the extreme working conditions and to of course learn how to protect ourselves should we choose to work in an affected area in the near future. Many funny photos ensued of course, however it is no laughing matter, as although the western media may have forgotten about it now, new cases are still emerging every day: 132new confirmed cases in the week prior to march 1st (WHO Ebola situation report, 4/3/15) and, as usual, it's affecting the poorest people in the world. Spare a thought for your African brothers and sisters #ebolatraining #gorgas2015

5 March 2015

Fine-tuning my diagnostic skills on the locals #workinghard #gorgasthetortoise #lima
Environmental toxins workshop... Learning about all the venomous or biting creepy crawlies that await us on our jungle trip at the end of the month! We will be visiting Iquitos, situated in the amazon basin, and teeming with wildlife, and unfortunately also with many infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever, to name a few #buglife #amazon #creepycrawly #gorgas2015 also... i'm having 2nd thoughts about sleeping in a jungle lodge in the amazon #snakeinthegrass

28 February 2015

Machu Picchu is on the top of the list of any traveller in Peru. Hence the pilgrimage follows a well-trodden path from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (a beautiful town in the sacred valley, although still standing at nearly 2800m above sea level; and where the Incan emporer Pachacuti had his stronghold), then on to Aguas Calientes ("hot waters", after the natural hot-springs in the region) which is just a hop, skip & a jump from the sacred Incan Kingdom of Machu Picchu. The site is breathtaking, and there is nothing quite like getting up at 430am and being amongst the first on the mountain to walk amongst the clouds and wait for the mist to clear and expose the crumbling ruins.

27 February 2015

Another form of Peruvian 'street-art' could be Lima's various street embellishments: Throughout my wanderings in Barranco, Miraflores and San Isidro, I noticed the phenomenon of what I like to call "pavement prettification".... These are some of my favourite examples of ornate ways to embellish ones driveway or footpath. The best ones are neatly maintained with polished concrete or neatly organised pebbles, and small tufts of grass protruding through tessellated tiles. #lima #streetart #pavementprettification
Public health messages in Peru: as a student in public health, when travelling to foreign lands I like to discover how messages are being communicated to target groups to improve health outcomes. Delivering culturally relevant messages in an easy to understand manner is an important tool in preventive health care. Here are a few examples i have seen in my time in Peru: a classic Andean highlander breast feeding her baby, and a hot blooded Latino man complete with giant condom.. Delivering healthy messages to the locals.

27 February 2015

Another form of Peruvian 'street-art' could be Lima's various street embellishments: Throughout my wanderings in Barranco, Miraflores and San Isidro, I noticed the phenomenon of what I like to call "pavement prettification".... These are some of my favourite examples of ornate ways to embellish ones driveway or footpath. The best ones are neatly maintained with polished concrete or neatly organised pebbles, and small tufts of grass protruding through tessellated tiles. #lima #streetart #pavementprettification
Situated 3400m above sea level, even just walking the cobbled streets of Cusco was an adventure at lofty heights in itself. You need a few days to acclimatise to the altitude and for our trip we took diamox (altitude pills) starting the day before we flew out of lima, as we had a fairly hectic schedule with our course on arrival and wanted to be sure we were ok for our Machu Picchu visit a few days later. My first morning in Cusco, before class, I couldn't help but head straight out to explore the city. The architecture is really beautiful, but even though you can happily wander the main squares to admire its buildings, being a tourist town its frustrating being bombarded on every main corner by people trying to sell you things so early in the morning. So I took to the quieter laneways, perhaps less grand than the cathedrals, however still expressing such beauty in the smaller details, such as walkways and entrances. Here are a few of my favourite examples of "Las Puertas de Cusco"

21 February 2015

On my first day in Lima, I stumbled upon a gorgeous little bookshop in barranco called La Libre, run by an awesome couple, Anna & Carlos, who I've since been popping in to visit weekly, as they have very kindly been giving me hot tips on: books to read, what things are happening in the neighbourhood & which venues to visit. They are originally from Madrid, yet moved to Lima after being inspired by the place whilst on vacation here. They left their 9-5 jobs and set up this great venture which stocks books by a superb array of contemporary & classic authors & publishers, as well as a few 'zines and even a little music. On the weekend I bought a few books lovingly handmade from recycled cardboard and decoupaged images, featuring local poets that are part of a project called Amaru Cartonera. If you visit barranco make sure you pop in, say hello, explore their collection and support their business! You will be absolutely delighted by: the selection, the owners and the general vibe!

19 February 2015

This afternoon we played with bugs....And mosquitoes...and a few larvae (gross!) Entomology = in Greek "that which is cut in pieces or segmented" i.e the scientific study of insects. For one disease, Chagas' disease (which is transmitted by the bite of an infected 'kissing bug' from South America), diagnosis can be particularly difficult in some cases, as the microbe can evade even modern tests. So occasionally an old school technique, called "xenodiagnosis", is employed. This is where you take a 'sterile' (uninfected bug), trap it in a small circular container that is then strapped to your body, so that it bites you through the entrapping fine layer of cloth over the container. Later, this bug is dissected &examined.. if the parasite is then found to be present in the bug, the diagnosis is confirmed via proof of transmission! (very strange method indeed...)
Street cleaner wearing a Hat with ingenious built-in umbrella.. #occupationalhealth

15 February 2015

My neighbourhood is filled with such beautiful houses.. I'm Having some total house envy and dreams of renovating (à la 'grand designs'). Barranco was founded in the 1870s and later became a seaside resort area where wealthy limeños had their holiday homes.. during the war of the pacific many homes were damaged and the town had to be rebuilt.. Then in the 1940s a strong earthquake hit and some of the town had to be rebuilt again. So a lot of the buildings date back to between 1900 and 1940. Some of these have been turned into museums, bars and galleries, but there are many that look abandoned or are slowly degenerating as the owners can't always afford to maintain them. Apparently many old buildings in old parts of Lima, (if not taken over by corporate entities and banks who can afford to restore them) are slowly disintegrating.

8 February 2015

Trying to find the place where Los Mirlos were playing last night... we ended going up and down several stairwells and into various venues until we found it...and stumbled upon this fellow busking in a on a landing somewhere along the way. Eventually found the tiny salsa club and the band we were looking for! Los Mirlos ('the blackbirds', named after the classic Amazonian creature) are a legendary Peruvian act from the 1970s. They've released over 30 recordings over the years and are still kicking it today!

7 February 2015

Meet mauñuel, my trusty new compadre in Lima ..we have already had such fun this weekend!
On Wednesday we visited the children's hospital in North Lima.. Its a very busy hospital and is a referral centre so they take in children for treatment from all over Peru. Unfortunately it can be a very sad place to visit as they have a high burden of children with HIV and tuberculosis... On a lighter note: The hospital is very colourful actually and they had various pieces of art scattered around the grounds and on the wards, this was a large mural on the grounds, and the next photo was just in the one of the courtyards!
On Saturdays I head to the bioferia (organic market)- it's small but lovely! I've even made friends with the old guy selling the most amazing goats cheese (I first had to ask if it was pasteurised of course! I'm scared of getting brucellosis: a nasty illness I've learned about on this course...sometimes the more you know, the more you fear!!) The organic produce here is really good, and they are all small-scale producers. Its important to support your locals..... and sometimes it IS a good thing to have all your eggs in one basket

3 February 2015

All these years of requesting these from the lab, but never REALLY knew how they were done.. Malaria thick and thin films... #learningstuff
Today at Gorgas school I learnt a lot about HIV opportunistic Infections and other such complicated things...oh..and also found a giant turtle in the garden #slowlearner #gorgasthetortoise

2 February 2015

I've really been enjoying feeling a little bit local in my neighbourhood in Lima -that's the nice thing about being in one place for an extended period of time! I'm now branching out into various modes of transport after my first week as a simple pedestrian: for the last week I've been catching these local buses for just 1sol (40cents!).. and later this week I am picking up the cute little bicycle I bought to get me around the cycle paths! I have named him Mañuel... Photos to come!

31 January 2015

Llonely llittle llama.... On our mountain wanderings we were of course positively ecstatic to find a llama grazing beside the highway! My folks have a hobby alpaca farm south of Perth and hence Peruvian camelids do tend hold a little place in my heart! Although I must admit I wasn't quite sure of the exact difference between llamas and alpacas before coming here except that llamas are bigger! Now I can share some knowledge on the subject, so behold: they are both members of the family Camelidae, along with dromedaries and camels. The llama is about twice the size of an alpaca, has banana shaped ears & a double coat (coarse outer hair and softer inner fleece) and was bred as a pack animal to carry heavy loads on mountains, whereas the alpaca has a single very fine coat, straight ears & has been carefully bred for thousands of years as a luxury fibre animal. Apparently garments made of wool shorn from a baby alpaca are particularly precious.
Today we ventured along the mountain roads into the Andes to visit Ticlio, 4800m above sea level, to see how we would all deal with a rapid ascent to altitude. I was fine, though many in our group did feel the effects &developed mild mountain sickness :( On the way up we visited inter-Andean valleys to track the history of a particular disease (Oroya fever) which is virtually only present in Peru and more specifically in these valleys & is transmitted by a pesky local sandfly species that particularly likes the climate in this region (cue: insect repellant!!). Thousands of railway workers died here whilst building this giant bridge in the 1800s, later leading to the discovery of the disease. The roads are winding & unfortunately not in good condition, yet its the only thoroughfare between Central Peru & Lima, so the traffic can be terrible. We saw at least 3 trucks that had toppled over round various bends, reminding us that traffic accidents can also be a huge risk to travellers.
The Peruvians love their fresh juices... and with such an abundance of delicious tropical fruits, porque no? You can't blame them! I can buy a kilo of giant passion-fruits (they call them maracuyá over here) at the market for just 5soles (aus$2) and mangoes are just as plentiful and cheap! And you can see these juice carts all over the city here in Lima... although you have to be cautious, and I don't drink the juice from these street vendors for several reasons including that they don't appear to wash their hands. The classic adage from your friendly travel doctor rings true: "peel it, wash it, boil it, cook it, or forget it!"

24 January 2015

The vintage cars of Lima, my neighbourhood is particularly flourishing with cool wheels!

23 January 2015

Culture clash- #urbanisation and #tradition .. Many Andean villagers move to the big smoke to make a living (Lima has a population of nearly 8.5 million at last official count, though probably more like 10million). As is the case in many big cities becoming very industrialised, urban life can be tough and many girls end up selling salted beans and nuts for a pittance on the street

22 January 2015

I fell in love with this neighbourhood as soon as I arrived... The suburb of Barranco is situated on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and so there's a sea breeze that feels comfortingly familiar to a girl from Perth. Unlike some of the surrounding neighbourhoods, where modern construction rules, and where high-rise buildings are starting to obscure Lima's perennially foggy sky, the colourful old buildings of Barranco have mostly been retained. It's also summer now, so the flowering trees are in bloom and the streets seem to positively burst with joy!
First photo/First impressions of Lima: The traffic is a little crazy, but somehow the vibe is chilled out a bit by the cacti scattered across median strips and sidewalks.

20 January 2015

On board a huge A380 en route from Australia to Lima via Dubai and Brazil. This is my first flight with Inflight wifi- it's a pretty amazing thing sending emails and updating posts from the sky, I guess that will rapidly become the norm rather than the exception soon...Although I must admit there is something completely refreshing about being un-contactable for 15hrs, I've always enjoyed that freedom, putting those headphones on and reading a guidebook in anticipation of imminent adventures. I'm now mid-flight over a desert somewhere between Dubai and Brazil, there is a mesmerising pink haze of sand as far as the eye can see..I must be hovering somewhere over Sudan. I had a slight itinerary change mid-transit (minor issue with my Brazil visa, to add to the excitement) but well on my way now!

24 December 2014

Adios Perth! Im off travelling again very soon! Ive been accepted into a particularly special course in Peru, the Gorgas Diploma of Tropical Medicine&Hygiene. It's been running once a year for 20 years now & is famous for its incredible learning opportunities. 36 post-grad students, doctors from all over the world, congregate in Lima to learn about tropical infectious diseases (from malaria & tuberculosis to the more weird and wonderful rare ailments from the amazon.) Everyday we will see patients at the infectious diseases hospital who travel from all over Peru to be treated, and we will also spend a lot of time in the laboratory, looking down microscopes & learning about bugs & mosquitoes and their many connections to human disease. I shall also be visiting such far flung places as the Amazon basin to discover the truths about malaria, and then I soar up to Cusco & Machu Picchu to experience dizzying heights! Any excuse for me to get on a plane &travel, really :) watch this space!