Maps, Childhood, Disease and Living Bridges

One of the Kane Lakes, Central British Columbia (2012) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Two weeks ago I wrote about the rampant development planned in one of the cities here in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia. They plan to ‘develop’ most of the large wooded acreages remaining in the city into high density housing developments, that, if they are anything like the other development in the city, will strip all trees from the landscape. When I questioned that decision I was told that the land was just too expensive to keep in forest. This week I’m questioning that decision.

You see there is increasing evidence that contact with nature has profound effects on both adults and children, with the impact even greater for children. For example, research indicates that children with attention deficit are better able to concentrate after contact with nature. Children who regularly play in a natural environment have better motor skills and are sick less often. The diverse play opportunities of the natural environment leads to increased collaboration and improved language skills. Outdoor environments are important to children’s development of independence and autonomy. And these are just a few of the developmental benefits of nature for our children.

Doing what kids do. The nieces at Buntzen Lake. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

At the same time, we are seeing the development of what some researchers are calling a ‘childhood of imprisonment’ as opportunities for play in natural surroundings are being paved over and built upon and parents become so concerned about their children’s safety outdoors that play outside has virtually disappeared. Locally we see this with the proliferation of townhouses intended for young families being built with no yards, so that children are forced to play inside, unless a parent is willing to take children whatever distance it takes to get to a park.

If you don’t care about child development, other research (and maps) speaks to the impact of the destruction of natural habitat on the incidence of disease. A recent article in the New York Times pointed out that hot spots of emerging diseases and potential pandemics are where deforestation is occurring. As an example, researchers point out that a 4% increase in deforestation led to a 50% increase in malaria in some parts of the Amazon basin. Closer to home, North American deforestation has led to the increased spread of diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease, that are spread by robins and mice respectively. In both these cases, the replacement of forest with habitation of agricultural fields, tipped an ecological balance that favored animals and birds without their usual predators. This link takes you to an interesting map that shows that hot spots don’t just abound in other parts of the world. In North American areas of greatest risk exist around most of our largest urban centers—including here in British Columbia.

Jo at Okanagan Lake (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson.

Today’s children live lives far different from what my generation enjoyed when we could go play down the block, in the park, and even in the woods. It used to be that during the summer children escaped outside to play in the fields or the local creek or the woods. Sometimes it was a vigorous game of tag. Other times we sought treasure with our homemade maps. Now children’s indoor lives have them living in a world that is dominated by media. Not only is this a loss for the children, but it is a loss for nature, because children raised without contact with nature and animals will have less reason to care about the natural world. Children’s experience of nature is being limited to T.V. programs like National Geographic and they are growing up thinking that nature is exotic and not learning that nature is right outside their door and that they must care for it.

This should concern all of us, for raising our children away from nature, means that we are separating them from a large part of who and what they are and stealing their access to an important natural legacy. Humans might think they are above, and can control, the environment, but as we see the impact of climate change wreaking havoc across America and the world, perhaps we need to rethink our strong-arm approach dealing with the coming disaster, and instead turn our minds to a more conciliatory approach to nature. It has been done before. As this lovely video about the living bridges of Northeastern India show, sometimes nature provides its own answer to a problem, if we can just value nature enough to listen and hear.

The Living Bridge

 

 

Myth, Magic and the Transformation of Machu Picchu

At the start of the trek (2011)

At the start of the trek (2011)

Hiking the Camino Inca to Machu Picchu should be a transformative experience. After all, I was treading the same stone steps that Inca kings and nobility had trod before the Spanish arrived. Think breath-taking heights (literally), panoramic views of the mountain tops, and struggling up steep grades through jungle and rain forest to get to the ‘Sun gate’ and finally peer down upon the fabled city of Machu Picchu. How can one not be transformed after an experience like that?

Farmstead gate, Sacred Valley, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Farmstead gate, Sacred Valley, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

There were five of us – a thirty-something New Zealand/Irish couple and a twenty-something British couple – and me at almost twice their age. We started our trip at 4:30 in the morning, joining the small bus that took us to the small town of Ollantaytambo northwest of Cuzco, and then beyond to kilometer 82 on the railroad tracks between Cuzco and Aguas Calientes, the modern town that lies just below Machu Picchu. From there we took to the trail and entered the backcountry of the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River. We hiked up a gently sloping trail past people bringing horses and burros down to the river, and to fields to pack out the recent potato crop. We were passed on the path by our red-clad porters who literally ran up the path ahead of us like the ‘Flash’, to get to our lunch time stop ahead of us and prepare a massive meal of trout and vegetables and potatoes and pasta. With that break we kept hiking, stopping at lookouts to see terraced remains of ancient Inca communities and the small farmsteads that exist today.

The trail turns upwards (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

The trail turns upwards (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

The ground started up and we aimed at our first pass – 4,200 meters, but stopped to camp for the night at Ayapata, about half way up the mountain flank. So we had a quiet evening listening to the frogs that sang into the night and looking at the southern cross and Orion’s belt hanging over the glaciers, both of which were important to the Incas. The Southern Cross apparently helped predict the growing seasons, as well as major events such as the destruction of the Inca Empire. Orion’s belt represented the three layers of the world that the Incas believed in.

Day 2 began with a great breakfast of fruit and pancakes, but it couldn’t allay the torture to come. This was the day we had to cross the 4,200 meter, appropriately named, ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. They say the pass earned its name because from a distance the rock formations look like a woman’s breast and nipple and face. Okay, I could see that, but as I began the climb I could also see other possibilities.

Early Morning Mountains, Inca Trail (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Early Morning Mountains, Inca Trail (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

You see 4,200 meters makes it hard to breathe. You sweat and you climb uneven stairs and rocky paths and wind up through rough terrain, past old women driving llamas up the slope. Up and I was gasping and thanking god for the two walking sticks I had which, when I wasn’t climbing, I could lean on while I tried to find the oxygen to breath.

From the heights of Dead Woman's Pass (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson From the heights of Dead Woman's Pass (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

From the heights of Dead Woman’s Pass (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Finally, I made it to the top and the freezing wind cut through me and made me pull on all my layers of clothing before starting the difficult journey down.

Think steps and more steps, presumably created by people with a twisted, carnival-funhouse sense of evil. Treacherous and steep and uneven, but we made our way down into a lovely valley with waterfalls and rivers cascading alongside the path through thickening vegetation that became cloud forest thick with the scent of moisture and growing. We had lunch there and it was a matter of throwing ourselves on the ground in exhaustion, having lunch, and then having thirty minutes to rest before the rest of the day’s trek.

You see, we still had another pass to climb.

Upward, and the forest grew up around us, moist and filled with exotic species like bromeliads and orchids, and the trees were covered with moss and old lichen and birds flashed yellow and blue through the branches. The air was heavy and gradually clouds rolled in as we stopped at an old, round ruin, where our guide drew the Cuzco cross for us and told us how the shape represented much of the Inca universe, and how the Urubamba river valley ruins match many of the sacred constellations that the Inca saw in the sky; over-world and this world in harmony.

The rain started then. It washed away the guide’s drawing as we started for the next pass of 4,000 meters. Wearing slickers against the rain, we struggled up – or I did – did I mention that I’ve had knee surgery twice? But I kept slogging as the rain became hail and the guide finally sent the others on towards the next camp while he and I – finally made the top and took shelter in a cave while the downpour continued. That was the first magical moment of the hike. Sitting in semi-darkness while the rain ran down the rock steps and dripped from moss on the rocks and the frogs sang in happiness at the moisture.

And then there was more down. More steps, water-slicked this time, but after what seemed like forever we made camp and I literally just sagged to the ground. It was over. The worst of it was. I had made it over Dead Woman’s Pass and only felt like I was dead.

Phuyupatamarka, the Town above the Clouds (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Phuyupatamarka, the Town above the Clouds (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

The next day involved crossing the third pass. It was much lower than the others and I could breathe as we started down the long string of stairs and rough paths through rain forest. As we went, we learned the names of the orchids, and saw how the elephant ear leaves are smaller near the peak and get larger as you go lower because the oxygen increases – which sort of explains why a coastal woman like me is sooo much taller than the people of the sacred valley.

At about 12:30 we had to choose: go to camp or go to nearby ruins. We chose the ruins of Huinay Huayna. Think a great arc of terraces built into a hillside so steep it would be hard to stand. Think jungle rainforest on all sides and we sat on the steps beside a trickling, ancient irrigation channel and looked out over the mountainside and the Urubamba far below. Butterflies, some black, some iridescent turquoise and yellow and translucent fragile, fluttered up around us dancing on the slight breeze. With the sun on our faces and the water music, that was the second magical moment of the trip.

Huinay Huayna, Forever Young, hung above the Urubumba River (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Huinay Huayna, Forever Young, hung above the Urubumba River (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Frogs and cicadas welcomed our 3 am wakeup call the last morning. You see there is a race to get to the Intipunku – the Sun gate and we wanted to be the first out the checkpoint. We were, racing like ghosts by flashlight through pre-dawn darkness to the music of the frogs and cicadas, calling out treacherous footing to each other, struggling up fifty stairs that were almost perpendicular and then reaching the gate to be confronted by — cloud.

The myth is that on solstice days the sun comes through this gate and shines directly through one of the temple windows at Machu Picchu. The myth is that at Machu Picchu there are sacred stones that will fill you with energy if you touch them — but today these stones are cordoned off. The myth is that Machu Picchu exists as one of the few power places in the world, but standing there in the cloud it was easier to believe that Machu Picchu was like Xanadu and never really existed except in our hearts and our wishes. Magic.

Going down to cloud-shrouded Machu Picchu was the anticlimax. No longer is the ancient city a place seen by the very few who dare the ridges and passes of the Canimo Inca. Now busses bring the tourists up from Anguas Calientes every five minutes. Hordes of them, laughing, blabbing, yelling, irreverent, fat, sweaty and swearing tourists of every accent and nationality. There is no place you can go and feel the quiet of the place. There’s barely a place you can hear the birds sing. So I sat in Machu Picchu nursing sore legs and watched the clouds and mists roll over the mountains. I almost wished I had never left the sungate, or had had the chance to keep running the mountain passes seeking a city that never existed.

Unfortunately, the other transformation was the realization that, though my heart may be willing, physically, I’ve outrun my days of running ridges.

Machu Picchu in the mist (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Machu Picchu in the mist (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Cuzco Conversion

I’ve now been in Cuzco for three days and I have to say I really like this city. People are friendly. The scenery is beautiful with red-tile roofs swirling across and up the sides of the valley like a terra cotta wine in a glass. There are 16th Century churches, camposinos on the corners, wild and wooly local markets and beautiful, quiet parks where I can sit in the shade and think. There are lovely old mansions surrounding the Plaza des Armas, that have their second floors converted to restaurants so you can sit in a screened alcove and peer out old carved windows at the colorful crowds in the plaza. I guess, that’s the theme for Cuzco – conversion.

Old Camposino Woman. She shows such strength. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Old Camposino Woman. She shows such strength. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Today is Sunday and election day, but the city has been magnificently quiet all things considered. Stores were open (at least tourist ones were), and there were none of the rallies and rousing music I’ve come to associate with this election. I spent the morning climbing out of Cuzco proper to the ancient site of Sacsaywaman – one of the last strongholds of the Inca before the Spanish finally triumphed – and, in the ancient city plan (where streets formed a puma), Sacsaywaman was the part that formed the head.

It’s a long climb: first up steep, cobbled streets that are slippery enough cars must take a run to reach the top. Then follow the road until a cobbled path leads you into a pass between two of the hills surrounding the city. I kept telling myself that if I couldn’t do this then I had no business even contemplating Machu Picchu. The old heart was pumping and I was gulping in air, but I made it and, sweating, handed in my entry ticket.

A ruined wall at Sacsaywaman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

A ruined wall at Sacsaywaman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

There was virtually no one there at 8:30 in the morning. A few alpaca grazed the green grass between the two sets of ruins. The great stone towers are gone, but the zigzag line of battlements that form the teeth of the Puma of ancient Cuzco, still jut into the ancient field. Instead of ritual sacrifice or battle cries, there were birds and butterflies and horses grazing in the next field over.

I climbed to the top of the exposed rocks and sat there in the sun. A friend had asked me to soak up the feel of the place and I have to say all I felt was silence, just as yesterday, when I travelled out to the Sacred Valley and Pisac fortress, there was just the wind through the fallen stone.

The terraces of Pisac with the ruins of the fortress on the bluff behind (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

The terraces of Pisac with the ruins of the fortress on the bluff behind (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

This was a great civilization, but it lasted only through a hundred years of expansion, before being blasted into oblivion by Pizzaro’s conquest. The Inca way was to take over a territory and subsume the local belief system into their own. Walking around Cuzco today I was more aware than ever of the thievery of conquest. Every cathedral, church and convent in this city is built on the remains of an ancient Incan palace or temple and they are built of stones robbed from said palaces and Sacsaywaman.

As I drove out to Pisac yesterday, my driver started talking about this. He is born of Spanish and Quechua (local Indian)-speaking parents, and I could hear the anger in his voice, which came back to me as I toured the great Cathedral of Cuzco. Every blasted surface of the place is gilded with gold or silver plate – probably robbed from the ancient temples. (Did you know that crazy old Puno was once called the City of Silver because during Incan times one street was actualy paved with it?) But most of all I was struck by the stark contrast to the ruins I’ve seen. Clean stone and narrow ways that give onto vistas. Perched on the heights, the ruins were automatically closer to Incan Apus and the sun.

The churches, however are encrusted with treasure and filled to the brim with figures of Christ and Mary of the mountains (an attempt to convert people from their worship of Pachamama- the earth mother), and I swear every other saint or maybe-saint known to man, as if said cathedral was looking for safety in numbers from what lurked beyond its doors. There is figure after figure in niche after niche, and altar after altar in chapel after cloister until I felt almost sick with the panoply and actually longed for the clean lines of the ruins.

I realized then that what the Spanish did in Peru, wasn’t really a matter of civilizing the people, but, like the Incas before them, was instead a matter of trading one form of Idolatry for another.

Cuzco's Plaza des Armas and the red roofs of the city from Sacsaywaman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Cuzco's Plaza des Armas and the red roofs of the city from Sacsaywaman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Puno: Leaving Things Unfinished

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write this blog about because I saw so little of the Lake Titicaca area, but perhaps that’s the point. Sometimes things get in the way of best intentions and we either can’t or just don’t get the job finished for whatever reason. This certainly happens in writing, when health or other life issues get in the way. So I guess this is my turn. Just in case anyone was worried, I seem to be fine. The high blood pressure meds seem to have done the trick and I am going to get checked out before the Machu Picchu climb. But that’s all fodder for a next post.

A village of the Isla Uros, Puno, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

A village of the Isla Uros, Puno, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Let me tell you about Puno.

Puno sits on the shore of Lake Titicaca, running up the sides of a number of hills that roll down to the great northwestern bay of the lake. My bus arrived in the night, so we crammed three of us (from the bus) into a shared taxi to get to our various hotels. All well and good, until we left the bus terminal and headed into the streets. Think narrow enough two cars can’t pass. Think congested with cars, trucks, motorcycle-taxis that they call ‘chilos’, as well as bicycle rickshaws. And pedestrians. Don’t forget the pedestrians. Masses of them, blithely passing between the vehicles. In the night everything smelled like car exhaust , and the air was glossy with mist off the lake. And pollution. OK, I thought: this seems rather Dante-esque, but it was night and I was tired and so I let it pass, because I’d seen worse in other countries.

The next day, the day I finally saw the doctor, I went out for a walk. Grotty was about the best I could describe it. Now maybe it was me – I was unstable enough on my feet I actually got lost twice – and I rarely get lost, but the city seemed in a perpetual state of being unfinished. Everywhere you looked there were brick buildings with iron poles sticking out of the roof awaiting the next story. Even my guest house, which was up-scale on the scale of guest houses I’ve been staying in, had its courtyard dug up and the front entrance perpetually stuck in a heap of dirt-cum-mud.

FishingSailboat on Lake Titicaca, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

FishingSailboat on Lake Titicaca, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Not impressive, to say the least. Not a place you’d want to spend any more time than you had to, even though the streets were filled with delightful ladies in traditional bowler hats and absolutely everyone I had contact with was wonderful. My plans for Puno had been to use it as a base to do research farther afield. I had planned to go out to one of the islands in the lake and live there a few days, but given how I was feeling it seemed like a particularly stupid idea to put myself that far from a doctor.

One of the knitting old men of Isla Tranquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

One of the knitting old men of Isla Tranquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

So instead I did what I never do: I booked into a – dare I say it – a tour. A one day tour out to Isla Tranquile. I figured there was no way they were going to stress me out, and I could at least see something of the lake.

Of course I was wrong.

A wonderful day – brisk wind, blue skies and the scent of wet mud you get from a marsh as we first visited the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. These are islands built of a layer of matted root and then heaped on top with reeds. Whole towns exist on these islands. And if you don’t like your neighbor, you just pull up your ten anchors and float away to Bolivia. Think about how easy ending a marriage would be!

From there we headed to Tranquile. I’m picturing a landing, a light walk and lunch. The real picture relates to the fact that Tranquile is basically a mountain. So we land, and I’m looking at an uphill climb. Way uphill. We have to reach the top for our lunch. And of course I’m carrying about 35 pounds of camera equipment that I will not leave unchaperoned on the boat.

Looking back own the flank of Isla Tanquile (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Looking back own the flank of Isla Tanquile (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

At 14,000 feet this was not an easy hike, but the panting was worth it. Isla Tranquile sits in glacier-blue waters, its steep sides terraced with green, and laced with gold flowers. The sounds of birds and the call of children fill the air. The old men sit knitting (Tranquile is a UNESCO site for its fine fabric weaving and knitting) and its women constantly spin a weaving bobbin. You see them everywhere and they produce absolutely beautiful knit wear. The island is also famous for its gender roles. Men gain their worth by having a wife gift them with many handmade purses. The women cut their hair and weave it into a belt for their future husband. They also cut their hair to produce long falls that the men wear in ancient, Andean ceremonies. When you look at these faces, they have the same high cheek bones and hawk nose of the Incans and some say that Lake Titicaca is where The Inca – the first Inca – came from.

Which brings me back to Puno. I felt bad to leave the city without exploring it better. I climbed on the bus this morning feeling something of a failure, because I don’t like to leave things unfinished. Which is perhaps why Puno’s appearance that the whole place was under construction or reconstruction left me so unsettled.

But I learned from the guide on the bus that my perception was correct. Apparently the government of this department (state) only requires citizens to pay taxes on a finished house….

So I’m holding to that: Like the homeowners of Puno, sometimes in writing and travel it pays to leave things undone.

On the rooftop on the way to Isla Tanquile (2011)

On the rooftop on the way to Isla Tanquile (2011)

Altitude

In Peru everyone calls me the ‘Alto Mujer’, the tall woman. I sort of stand out in crowd around here, which is probably why I was picked to be robbed. But Alto, as in ‘Altiplano’, or the high flat plains between the mountains, are one of the reasons why I wanted to come here and so I headed from Arequipa to the Canon del Colca, the second deepest canyon the world by a bare 150 meters (and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon).

Vicunas in lake with El Misti in the background. As I looked closer I realized the anmal on the right is dying. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Vicunas in lake with El Misti in the background. As I looked closer I realized the anmal on the right is dying. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

To get there you must go to the high places where the windswept mountainsides are constantly repainted by clouds and as far as the eye can see are rocks and more rocks and stunted clumps of ichu grass that are the primary fodder for camalids like domesticated llama, and alpaca, and the dainty vicuna that lives wild in a huge natural reserve created for them. Picture windswept plains and tiny flowers and the mighty volcanic peaks of El Misti (5822 m), Picchu Picchu (5571 m) and Chachani (6075 m) looming above everything. The air is clear and smells only of dust and grass and sometimes animal manure, and aside from the wind, there is only silence until a truck or tour bus passes.

I was fortunate. I paid for a car and driver for two days and Edgard was the perfect person. He spoke no English and I speak very little Spanish, but we got along sharing my Spanish/English Dictionary and he told me things about the places we went. The road went up and up through this staggering landscape until we reached the viewpoint of the volcanoes which stands at 4,900 Meters. Yes, meters.

Karen, trying hard to breathe at 4,900 meters. (2011)

Karen, trying hard to breathe at 4,900 meters. (2011)

 On all sides are these huge peaks and in the foreground small traveler’s cairns too numerous to be counted that give praise for having made it that far and to pray for good luck with the rest of their voyage. This was so similar to practices in India and Tibetan, China, that it made me realize how right the Inca were when they thought the huge mountains were inhabited by Apus, or gods.

From there we headed down towards the canyon and the small town of Chivay that sits at its head. Unfortunately I was struggling a bit with the altitude as we were still at 3,630 meters. It is a small town, but the capital of its District, and everywhere you went there were signs about the upcoming elections that occur April 10. The main square (Plaza des Armas) has a lovely fountain and tree-shaded benches and I spent a few hours relaxing in this slower paced life and watching he women in their traditional clothing.

Market Scene, Chivay. Note the Inca rock that shows terracing and irrigation techniques. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Market Scene, Chivay. Note the Inca rock that shows terracing and irrigation techniques. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Edgard and I drove out the next day to see the valley. Actually, I almost called the whole thing off because I was feeling so ill, whether from Altitude sickness or the flu, I wasn’t sure. But at the last minute I thought I’ve come so far to see these birds and this valley, so I had to go.

So we went, through a valley that was filled with incredible Inca terracing up the mountainsides, each with their own microclimate so while one might be perfect for potatoes, others are perfect for Maize, or Quinua. We saw ancient tombs from pre-Inca times, and Inca-age rocks carved to keep track of the terracing. And then there was Cruz Del Condor.

Like entering a passport hall at a major airport, there was every language being spoken around you from the crowd that had made it this far to see. We were all perched in this high point of the cliff wall, waiting for the word the Condor had taken off and was rising up the cliff wall. I was there for one hour and saw one bird, but breathtaking isn’t the word. The swoop and soar on the wind. Everyone drew a breath so all you could hear was the swoop of huge wings and the frantic clicking of camera power-winds. And then he was gone. Magnificent and ephemeral as he swept away upwards and over the cliffs behind.

Colca Canyon, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Colca Canyon, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

So Edgard left me with best wishes for my journey and went back to his lovely family in Arequipa. Apparently, his wife is an obstetrician and his children are studying medicine and engineering. Yesterday I climbed aboard a bus to Puno and drove 6 hours through the high altiplano again, but this time southeastward toward Lake Titicaca, that sits at 3,830 meters above sea level.

The countryside seemed filled with curves of hillsides that cloud shadows made seem to fold in on each other. A few lakes filled deep valleys, but mostly they are shallow affairs that overwinter flamingos. We arrived in Puno at 7:30 pm, coming down out of hills to see great arcs of darkness surrounded by lights. The darkness? Lake Titicaca.

So today I am in Puno, but unfortunately I’ve not seen much other than what I saw last night. You see, there is a price to be paid for being Alto in the altiplano world. The people here are built short and barrel-chested for a reason. Me, I’m about the antithesis of that physiognomy, and given I’d been sick from the moment I left Arequipa, I finally called a doctor. It seems the altitude has given me high blood pressure.

Which has made this Alto Mujer, a little more Plano at this moment.

 But it was so worth it.

Condor, Condor del Cruz (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Condor, Condor del Cruz (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson