The Muddy Path

Photo: Michael Eric Nickel

I’ve been wondering lately. How is it that I have been sloshing on this muddy path?  Almost everyday I wake up at 6am, and after my morning essentials I am off to the garden!  My forest/garden/orchard, “Isulawasi,” is named after a famous and plentiful insect, the giant bullet ant (Paraponera sp).  “Wasi” means house or place in Quechua.  So, to House of the “Isula” I go to work and play.

I arrived in Peru in the beginning of 2009.  I had recently been laid off from my position at the local watershed council and was up for a change. Given that I have roots in Peru, it seemed like the right choice coming over here to visit family, travel a bit, and contemplate my next move.  It did not occur to me at the time to live here, although I was open to the possibility and rather fed up with the political and economic situation back home.

View of Uchiza from Serra Campana
Photo: Michael Eric Nickel

My real adventures began when I arrived in Uchiza, a small town with a tainted history on the lower slopes of the tropical Andes. Little did I know what would wait in store.  Gradually, I left the big city comforts of Lima smitten with this small unpretentious jungle town.  As a matter of fact, by the time I had arrived in Uchiza, all the creature comforts i.e. internet, cable TV, cellphones had already been there for a few years!  So, I thought I would have the best of both worlds- rural tropical paradise AND civilization.

As I began to spend more time in Uchiza becoming familiar with my family roots and exploring the region, I began to think about how I could apply what I learned in my Permaculture design courses here.  Maybe, acquire a small piece of land and “develop” it in an ecologically “regenerative” way.  I knew that it would be difficult back home given my economic reality.

When the opportunity arose to purchase a rural property, I jumped on it.  First off, the price per hectare was unbelievably cheap.  The property itself was a bit remote and wild, but accessible (via trail) with several spring fed creeks, secondary, and primary forest near a small montane river.  More than half was suitable for small scale horticulture/agriculture and the rest for reforestation/ecological restoration.

Camote river
Photo: Michael Eric Nickel

I quickly closed the deal on 18 hectares, but had to settle without a land title for the time being.  In fact, few folks, I’d been told, possessed legitimate titles.  Also, most folks were waiting for the state to issue titles.  So, I had to wait and learn.  Patience became something to be practiced daily.

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