I skip the writers’ prompt today – time is of the essence. Internet connectivity has not been a problem, but finding time is quite another matter. We are busy taking in the sites, and the sites are too numerous. In terms of writing about my travels about Peru, I feel like I’m on the computer watching a slide show of all my pictures. A picture flashes, and before I have a moment to reflect and take it in, the slide show has moved on to the next photo.
We’re too busy to my taste, but no one can complain that The Ramblers have short-changed us. Several are suffering from altitude sickness. Traveling over mountain passes at 16,000 feet and spending our days at 12,500 feet has led to a number of headaches.
We have been fighting altitude sickness by drinking lots of coca tea, eating coca candy, and chewing coca leaves. I haven’t tried the candy, but I have drunk cups and cups of tea with is always hot and on offer in the lobby of every hotel that we stay in. You would know that I am a leaf-chewer by looking at my green-tinged lips.
For the uninitiated, take maybe five or so leaves and remove the stem of one leaf. This stem you offer up to the gods. Then you take a small chunk of volcanic ash and roll the leaves around the ash. The ash is supposed to act a bit like taking a one-a-day vitamin. It also sweetens the taste of the leaves. Pocket the leaves chipmunk-style in your cheek. You’ll need to do some chewing, but you need not spit. Every 20 minutes or so, you top up your chew with some more leaves.
Oxygen is always on standby. A clear indication that perhaps some of us will need to augment our supply of air.
Driving from Lima to Colca Canyon (twice the depth of the Grand Canyon), we drove through snow – shutting our eyes at the drop offs and the vehicles hanging over Patapampa Pass that topped out at 16,000 feet. We couldn’t see much, but all the snow and mist added to the mystery.
As if Colca Canyon is not impressive in itself, the thousand-year-old, pre-Inca terracing is jaw-dropping. When I think of the problem I have irrigating a nearly flat field, I can only marvel at an irrigation system that waters terrace after terrace. And all engineered by people with no written language.
We spent one morning watching the condors ride the thermals rising up off the canyon floor. Although condors are vultures and feed off dead meat, they serve their purpose in the food chain, and as they soar with their nine to ten-foot wingspan, you cannot help but marvel at their grace. As a measure of our degree of worldliness, someone in our party thought that he saw a condor, and someone else hooted with derision, “That’s no condor! That’s an eagle!”
And to think that just a few weeks ago we thought that seeing an eagle was a big deal!