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all text and photos copyright 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. 2016



Monday, March 26, 2012

So high, so high, I've climbed the mountains of the sky...

The next morning, another supposed-to be-early start. We'd waited a good while in the hotel reception area for our translator, whom we'd never met, Mike pacing, irritated while I was more blasé about it, assuming it was a Peruvian time sort of thing. Most nationalities aren't as time-centric as we are, after all.

After half an hour I sent an email and made a phone call, but it was too early in the day for either of those to have done any good, as we both knew full well. I did it anyway to placate him a bit.

I can't speak for Mike, but I was still smarting over our inadvertent bad behavior from the night before and was determined to be the most pleasant, culturally with-it white girl in town, to maybe restore some karma, spread some good will.

When our translator finally made it, we were surprised to shake hands with a petite blond German girl who introduced herself as  Laura. She was quite angry we'd been told the wrong time, and apologised that we'd waited. We told her never mind; to my mind, if you think everything is going to go smoothly on vacation, you should probably stay home. More predictable.

Bundled into the taxi, we were off to the bus waiting area


which wasn't a station, by any means, simply a place where dusty vehicles gathered, a bit battered, some with tires barer of tread than one might like. As I understood it, each driver arranged fares and destinations, either ahead of time or on the spot, then set off without further ado as soon as they had enough passengers to fill the two or three rows of seats, up to 8 people and the driver, more if there were kids in laps.

Chickens scuttled and clucked underfoot, stray dogs watched warily, vendors offered eggs.


Speaking of predictable, I had foolishly thought there would be a restroom; we knew the buses were too small to have them, and we were going to be on the road for hours and hours. Laura asked if it was an emergency -should she ask the bus drivers and the passengers to wait for me? I decided that would not be along the lines of my dictum to be culturally sensitive, that I would deal with it until the petrol station stop, which, she assured me, was not too long up the road.

Mike and I were settled in the middle row of the bus, Laura in the front next to the driver. Almost immediately she dropped off to sleep, her head lolling this way and that.

My spouse and I exchanged glances; for a translator, she surely didn't talk much and it would have been nice to have someone telling us about the lands we were passing through. Oh well, we thought.


The little bus had set off at good speed, climbing up and soon we were once again traversing the farmlands and rolling hills of the Sacred Valley, heading toward the Andes Mountains. In the third row behind us, two of the passengers were lustily singing with vigorous young male voices to Spanish pop songs whenever one came on that that they favored, which was often enough.

I suppose this would be a good time to explain what the heck we were doing on that little bus.

We were going to spend the night at an organic coffee, cacao and tea plantation in Huayopata on the edge of the Amazon jungle.

Was I stoked? Indescribably so.

At the petrol station  one of the young men in the last row bought an enormous plate of food and the singing petered out for awhile as they feasted with their plastic forks on some sort of spiced meat and potatoes. Then the singing began again. Festive.

Eventually the radio died as we climbed up into the mountains, to be replaced with an MP3 player, an occasional 80's song from the States,  and winding curves. The mountains were closer now. Our driver took it as a personal affront if anyone dared drive in front of us and aggressively passed each and all, heedless of the road or speed, and took corners as though we were being pursued by the hounds of hell.

Laura was either listlessly propped against his shoulder or whipped around like a rag doll while I happily discovered that I could hold onto the center console seat with right hand if we were swooping left and with my left when we careened right and keep my seat relatively well.

Suddenly Laura sat straight up and said something in rapid fire to the driver, her mouth behind her cupped hands. He screeched to a halt in the middle of the road, steep precipice dropping into nothingness to one side, cliff to the other, and blind corners in front and behind us. Everyone except me bailed out to stretch their legs and most of them gathered to watch our guide throw up repeatedly into the street.


Once I realised what was happening I decided to stay in the bus; she didn't need an audience and I wanted a metal frame around me. No other vehicles appeared while we waited, and I thanked our lucky stars. Everyone got back in, Laura looking green and spent. "I have the flu," she said, "I took pills, and I thought I would be better, but..."

Oh, marvelous.

Happily, she fell back asleep, apparently a bit better. I was torn between feeling terrible for her and wondering how we could avoid getting sick in this petri dish of a bus.

As we got higher it got colder, and damper, rocks frequently strewn across the road, the road slipping and winding enough to give me a shoulder workout as I continued to grab the seat in front of me, remaining calm, if jostled. Mike was looking a bit concerned, and both of us were well aware that there are more "Bus/ Lorry In ______ (insert random third world country, like Peru,) Plunges Off Precipice Killing _____ (insert number here) Passengers and Driver" incidents than room in a daily paper to report them all, but while there may have been reason, there was no benefit to worrying about it at this point.

Plus, the roads could have been worse, and the tires could have been balder. We could have been riding on the roof.

This having been said, I think most people I know would either have been digging their fingernails into their palms or shoving fists in their mouths to have kept themselves from screaming.

This would be because most people apparently have a better grip of reality and mortality than I do.


Denial and ignorance can be a carefully cultivated and useful skill set.

The hills finally become mountains, and we crossed the Andes at snowy Abra Malaga Pass, 14,200 feet. About the same as Mt. Rainier. The cheerful young men in the back asked our driver to stop once again, and, surprisingly he agreed, so we all got out to look around and get some thin but blessedly fresh air.


Yes, I really love my llama hat. No, I don't care if it IS dorky.

Two boys were playing a game with a string and spool and the young South Americans from the back seat rushed over to say hello and take photos with them. You can see why.


The boys seemed shy, looking over at us now and then. I figured they'd seen their share of tourists; downhill-only cycling trips start from this pass, which, after looking at the steep and serpentine road seemed like a dumber than usual idea.


Church with carved doors (above).
Note how plain the seating area is, in contrast with the elaborate altar (below).


The journey continued, and yet, something as missing. Ah, the jolly guys in the back weren't singing any more. Perhaps they'd drifted off to sleep.

Or perhaps they had altitude sickness.


Half of people who journey to 14,000 feet, particularly a rapid ascent to that height, get altitude sickness in one form or another, most commonly headaches, but also nausea and vomiting, fatigue, or worse. Much worse, and it can strike as low as 8, 000 feet.

The  second guess was confirmed by sudden, violent vomiting sounds in the backseat from the larger of the two young men. We were having odd luck in our encounters with young men. Between the gurgling, the heaving, and the smell, the little bus was suddenly and inescapably a very unpleasant place to be. The driver rolled down his window, the only one that could roll down, which helped a little. A very little.

The vomiting continued. I couldn't believe that anyone could throw up that much, and wished, for his sake and ours, that he hadn't consumed such a large plate of food. I also started to worry about the bag capacity. To add to the good time we were having, Mike, next to me, was starting to gag, a sympathetic reflex that would do no one any good.

The woman on the other side of me dug in her bag and came up with cotton balls and a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol. She poured alcohol onto each cotton ball and passed them out to the passengers,  gesturing that we should hold them under our noses. Apparently she was old hat at this sort of thing, and we accepted them gratefully.

Would you believe they actually helped? The sharp astringency muted the sickening smell, though nothing could be done about the gruesome sound effects. We felt a bit better but he sounded really miserable.


Long miles later he was still heaving, and moaning, his eyes rolling back and his skin a sickening blue-gray color beneath the usual tan. We were getting more than a bit worried about him. Finally, and I don't remember why, the driver stopped the bus and the sick man's friend tried to help him up and out. He was literally too weak to stand and slumped to the floor, shaking so badly I thought he might have been having a seizure.

His forehead was burning hot to the touch, his breathing irregular and shallow, perspiration standing out in beads on his forehead as I tried to locate a pulse, which, when I finally found it, was thready, alarmingly rapid and weak.

We thought then that he was going to die. I put my cold hands on his face and neck and sent an informal, heartfelt little prayer to the universe for him.


the sign says place of haze
The bus driver, with what at the time seemed like shocking callousness, ordered us all back into the bus and took off down the mountain as soon as the doors were shut.

I wrenched around in my seat to encouraged the friend who was, by this time, beside himself with worry, to remove his friend's heavy coat and loosen his clothing, reducing the heat that would have made him feel lousy even under regular circumstances. Somehow the friend understood my English and crappy attempts at Spanish and got it done as we hurtled along the increasingly bad roads.

Laura told us later that she'd laid into the driver for being so uncaring. He told her, without apology, that he'd had a passenger, a woman ("sitting in the same seat as you are now!")  with babe in arms on another trip over these mountains, and the mother had gotten quite ill.

How ill? She died. And left him with a nameless corpse and a baby to deal with.

He was none too pleased to be landed in such a situation and knew that the only thing we could do to help the young man was to descend from altitude as quickly as possible, to stop fussing and fluttering so uselessly and get the hell out of there.

We careened down the mountain, around switchbacks and onto gravel and dirt and sections of pavement. Water flowed down over the road at regular intervals; apparently there was a river running straight down the mountain, whereas we had to loop back and forth, following the roads. 

Construction workers had started work to redirect it through pipes, but for most of the journey it sprayed up over the sides of the bus as we sped heedlessly through again and again, to no ill effect.



Looking around, the jungle was making its presence felt once more. The trees rose and thickened the further down the mountain we came. Also, the moaning in the backseat had stopped. I was afraid to turn around to look, but you'll be happy to hear that the descent had done miracles for our friend. He looked tired and worn, and his color wasn't what it had been before, but he managed a wan smile and you could tell, after all that, he was going to be fine.


In fact, by the time the now-filthy little bus dumped us off at the plantation, he was nearly as perky as before and gave us a hearty wave and ¡adiós!

Me? I needed a cup of coffee. Badly.

Which worked out well, since we were guests of a coffee plantation...

 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How about a round of applause, yeah, standing ovation...?


So here's the story: we were in the great historical square of Cusco after dark. Mike went to an ATM to get some cash and I pulled out my camera to see if I could get a shot of the glowing white statue of Christ up on a hillside overlooking the city. It wasn't turning out terribly well, as you can see, too far away and too much interference from the city lights to get a suitable photo:


I gave up and put the camera back into the safety of an inside pocket in my borrowed jacket just as Mike returned, Peruvian soles secured.

We were crossing to the other side of the square, discussing what supplies to get for the next day when a man emerged from the darkness from behind, hailing us to stop. Instantly we were on alert.

Every guidebook says the same thing: If you are going to be robbed or conned in Peru, the most likely place for it to happen is in Cusco; be on your guard, vigilant, attentive...

The man hurried up, a young man, shoulder-length wavy hair, Peruvian accent. Do you have a camera? he queried.

Did he think we just fallen off the tamale truck? Please!

No, no, no, we said to him firmly, determined not to be victims, backing away as he got closer, his hands out. "Over there," he insisted, pointing, "you took a picture, yes? "

Behind him, we could see another person coming up to join, something metallic in one of his his hands, something else in the other.

We continued shaking our heads, saying NO.

Mind going a million miles an hour: yell, run, fight? Spanish for "help" was what, again?! I focused on the second man's hands. And everything went utterly sideways.

Oh, crap. He had my camera. I had missed my pocket and instead dropped it on the hard ground where it popped open. Even better, the batteries had fallen out, but our un-looked for savior had taken the time to find them on the ground, then followed his friend he'd sent to catch us.

My camera...with all our irreplaceable Machu Picchu photos on it.

I went from how are we getting out of this one?!  to I am SUCH an asshole in less than a second.



Ohmigod, I sputtered, my camera. These were no criminals. These were good Samaritans...and we'd just treated them like crap.

Gracias, gracias muy, no, muchas gracias! we both exclaimed in a rush, over and over as the nice young men gave back the camera and, flipping backward waves over their shoulders and de nadas,  disappeared back into the dark.



We stood there, stunned.

Then ashamed.

This was terrible. We'd been exactly what we hated most:

Ugly Americans abroad.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some kind of wonderful...

The llamas at Machu Picchu are, without a doubt, quite picturesque. They are also harried beings, if I am not mistaken.  Over on the terraces there were children daring each other to run at the llamas, smack a hand down on the beautiful long thick fur of their backs and then run away, shrieking.

Now, if I were a llama, I would get really tired of this. I saw no spitting, but no one would have blamed them had it come to that.

Llamas seem like gentle, social creatures. Personally, I wanted to be Girl Who Hangs With Llamas, so I waited until the rotten children finally went to go torture their parents and each other instead of the herbivores, and with Mike looking on, (and if he was concealing the fact that he was laughing at me, he did so well) I slowly crept up to a mother and her little one, talking quietly as I went. I would be the llama whisperer.

As it turned out, you can approach a 350 lb creature and her baby if you do so nicely. Apparently llamas are also forgiving. I patted the mama for awhile, then quietly sat near her baby. Everyone was OK with this arrangement.


a much more-llama-friendly way to interact with a Camilid

There may be something cuter than this baby llama in Machu Picchu,  but I sure didn't see it.


Doesn't she have the sweetest Judi Dench eyes?



It was pleasant there, resting in the terraces, snapping the odd photo and eating sweet crackers.


Mike even offered to pose for this action shot:


nifty stone stairs

which made me entirely mellow and happy in the sun. It was also getting a bit warm; the UV exposure there is one of the highest levels in the world, not so good for pasty-skinned tourists.

Yay for sunscreen. High marks from me, as a skin pigment challenged sort of girl.

We gave  ourselves extra time to catch the bus down and to visit the necessary, as there are no toilets in Machu Picchu...and we'd been hydrating. This is not a complaint, nor am I advocating that they should build restrooms in the ruins, not at all. That would be...wrong.

I added to my photo collection of people charging to use toilets:


I know, I know. I simply find the practice...curious.

Then we got to do something that had never occurred to me as something you could do. I've always treated my passport as something near-sacred, to be marked by officials only, so this was a real revelation. In honor of the 100 year anniversary, we were actually permitted to stamp our passports with a special design! Check it out:


I don't care who you are, that's cool.

There was an enormous queue for the buses where the road down  the mountains, begins, and fellows stacking the concert equipment, boxes and boxes of it, into waiting trucks. Other workers were stretched out on the boxes, arms thrown over their eyes to get some rest. We waited, quietly baking in the sun, and discovered that the trip down was less harrowing, what with gravity being on our side this time.

When gravity is on your side, you are like the hitter, not the hit-ee in a fight, so other buses coming up the hill will generally get out of your way. Not always, mind you, but in this case anyway, mostly.

Inevitably there will be a handicrafts market where tourists gather, and the one at Aguas Calientes, the village at the bottom of the mountain, was quite nice to walk through...out of the sun and all that. It being winter, I wonder what it's like to come here in the summer...or the rainy season?

Just before the train depot were a couple of local children playing quietly, having tucked themselves into the bottom niche of a two-tiered shrine:



I am sure their parents approve on all fronts.

The ride back was, surprisingly, a jolly affair.


We sat with our Chilean friend, JT, and across the aisle from his parents, who spoke little English, but are obviously very nice people. (JT is gratifyingly fluent.) I was just in the process of admiring his camera equipment, hiding my point-and-shoot under the table, when another gentleman with a National Geographic photographic gear bag quietly asked if he could sit with us. We agreed.

He put HIS camera on the table and I swear JT started to drool (I know I did) and also might have started to hide his camera under the table. I understood how he felt.


LOOK at that bad boy. I mean the camera.

We ordered some wine and talked with Maarten, a professional documentary photographer from Iceland. Great accent. The Chileans were very excited; it turned out he had done a piece on one of their favorite artists. JT in particular was thrilled -it's his life's ambition to become a travel photographer; perhaps Maarten could help him with contacts. He was starry-eyed, brimming with dreams and hopefulness.

I asked Maarten for his best travel tip, which was an interesting one: supposedly, to be less attractive to mosquitoes, eliminate sugar from your diet before and while you're in the jungle, and take B vitamins.

Eliminating sugar and taking vitamins is undoubtedly a good idea, but personally, I'm sticking with the proven methods of light-colored clothing and repellent with DEET and lemon eucalyptus oil.

I know, such a cynic. We were staying away from the malarial areas of Peru, to be sure, but even so. Malaria bad. Even regular old mosquito bites are not my idea of a good time.

Yay for bug spray.

Maarten even let us watch a rough compilation of his Machu Picchu work on his laptop.


terraced farmland, hillsides along the tracks

Lots of laughter, sharing stories and another bottle of wine, the day darkening into night and the Peruvian countryside rushing past became shadows.



Our train car was treated to a a traditional dance up and down the isle, performed by a ghoulishly masked, rainbow-garbed demon followed by a catalogue fashion show, the clothing very much for sale, running to hundreds of dollars per piece and modeled by our service staff who did their best while looking somewhat embarrassed. All clapped and cheered, why not?

We invested in another bottle of wine. The hours went by beautifully.

At the station, we said somewhat regretful good-byes and were dutifully collected by our driver who dropped us in the town square to find a late dinner. I was grateful April and Royce had lent us puffy winter coats; it was chilly up in the mountains. Peru was playing Mexico in a televised soccer game to full-throated roars from the viewers. It was nothing short of a miracle that the cooks and servers stopped watching long enough to bring us drinks and food.



Like the (llama) hat? Attractive and toasty.

Peru triumphed in the end, 1-0. We called our Mexican compadre in Lima to taunt him a little. It was that sort of evening.

Then we went to get cash, and a dreadful thing happened...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

You can't always get what you want...


Machu Picchu. The name alone evokes an exotic, wonderful destination, like Kathmandu or Timbuktu, yes?

Perhaps it's the "u" ending. But then, how do we explain Breslau, Nebraska's total lack of popularity?

It's a mystery.

What was even more of a mystery, to me, anyway, is that I, for some inexplicable reason,  never especially wanted to go to Machu Picchu. (Mike was so perplexed and surprised by this the first time I said it I think he stuttered.) Now that we were actually there, why wasn't I thrilling to the experience, the landscape, the history?  I have a degree in anthropology, for crying out loud -this should have been the trip of a lifetime.

What I felt instead was tired, a little grouchy, even irritable. This gnawed at me, which, no surprise, made me even more irritable. Had I grown tired of travel? Had I become a spoiled, hard to impress snob? Had other sites like Ephesus in Turkey and Jerash and Petra in Jordan ruined my ability to enjoy...ruins? Where was my excitement?

The narrow path up from where the buses spit us out was positively clogged with men coming down, straining beneath unwieldy loads of cables, amplifiers, plywood, speakers, and one guy with an inexplicable but obviously very heavy stack of round barbell weights.


Love the shirt.

A massive light and sound spectacle had taken place the night before to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Machu Picchu's rediscovery, and now all the equipment had to be humped out.

So we climbed stone steps in the thin air and tried to stay out of their way. Especially the guys carrying plywood. Those guys could take you out.

Finally the path opened up and the iconic view spread out beneath us, absolutely postcard perfect:


We'd gotten perfect weather, a clear day, and the ruins, situated in the middle of nowhere, are stunning. Maybe it had never made my bucket list, but wow anyway.

Our russet-skinned, almond-eyed guide, who may or may not have been named Mario, waited patiently and with humor while all his wards caught up, then began what was obviously a well-rehearsed tour, introducing us to the lay of the land, then having each of us say our names and countries of origin to the rest of the group.

It was about this point that I began to realise the real source of my irritation: I didn't want to be in a stupid group, following a flag on a stick . I wanted to go explore, not stand around introducing ourselves. To be perfectly honest, why should any of us care where the other people were from? If we wanted to know we could ask, right?

somewhat aloof llama

This is not to say I'm anti-tour group, exactly; Mike and I had been in tour groups before, but with our kids. More often than not, with kids or without, we'd hacked our own way though places, and we'd never gone on a group tour when it was just the two of us. If there was no danger of getting lost, why follow like cows?

If I'd had half a brain I would've told Mike, "let's ditch this" and followed my instincts.

Mistake #1: I didn't and I should know better; ignoring how you feel is a recipe for discontent. This was our vacation, we should have done what we wanted to do, instead of being foolishly constrained by the idea that we should be "polite".  So we stood and listened while trying to disguise longing looks over the rest of the ruins, walked when we were told to walk, which included painfully waiting, exhibiting carefully arranged and held expressions of patience, for the slower members of the group.


The people in this category included an elderly woman who was both frail and determined to proceed without any assistance from others (I kind of admired her spunk, to be honest), those who had worn what I will charitably describe as unsuitable shoes for the terrain, (not just women!) and those who took pictures of everything and looked at their digital screens the rest of the time. These last folks were somewhat hazardous to the rest of us, stumbled a lot, and tended to walk into things, but no one was actually lost off the various and daunting precipices.

Our guide had the habit of stepping right to the edge and then turning his back to certain and painful death, perching there while giving his spiel.


It added some zest to his presentation, to be sure.

Mistake #2: Since we'd planned on being in the tour Mike and I hadn't read up ahead of time about the area. We had watched Nova's Ghosts of Machu Picchu and been dutifully impressed with the engineering feat, particularly with the terracing and water, but our group didn't get into that level of analysis. The tour focused more on the story of Bingham discovering Machu Picchu, the idea that it was  probably built as a place of worship for Incan royalty, and how it was created with an eye to the movement of the stars and sun. This was all relevant and good stuff, of course.


Mistake #3: listening to the guide's answers to questions posed by the group, we all began to realise they weren't answers at all, which led to the realisation that he didn't really understand English all that well and was giving the tour by rote. There was some grumbling. In other words, Mike and I could have gotten the same tour by ourselves, on our own time schedule, out of our guidebook, had I brought the guidebook. Whoops.


It must be said there are many questions about Machu Picchu that may never be answered:"Why and for whom was Machu Picchu built? How was it built? and why did they build it in such a remote location?" Then there is the favorite factoid that everyone repeats: you can't fit a knife between (some of ) the stones at Machu Picchu, despite the lack of mortar.

rather like a really heavy jigsaw puzzle.


Honestly, you can't pick up anything about Machu Picchu and not read about the knife thing. Sometimes an enterprising individual substitutes "piece of paper" for "knife" but you know, that's neither as vivid nor as impressive sounding.

Perhaps they could sell commemorative knives at the site to tourists so everyone can have a go at it?

Then again, maybe not. Those stones have been there for a long time and while the government has wisely limited the daily visitor count to 2500, that's still a lot of people. Tourists should probably not be given sharp objects as a general rule, anyway.

Especially cranky ones.

At one point our guide asked the group how we thought the masses of rock had been brought, some from far away, and then shaped without the benefit of either the wheel or iron tools.

Mike raised his hand and said with a grin that he didn't know how they'd done it, but that he had seen how they were moving all the tons of equipment back down the mountain.

Which made our guide throw back his head and howl with laughter.


Mike looked pleased with himself. That was a high point.


The Sun Temple. Yes, very nice. Again, no sharp objects allowed.

Actually, they don't allow a number of things into Machu Picchu. Including bottled water. We ignored this rule, deciding that not having water at altitude was a really stupid idea. 

just outside the gate they'll sell you a can of pop for $5.62.


Also, they don't actually search your bags. You're supposed to check them, but we'd also read that it isn't the greatest idea -things stolen, lost, and kind of a pain to wait in line unless you're stowing a backpack and tent. 

The question that kept bobbing to the surface of my mind was why do we marvel today that the Incans worshipped the sun and were strongly aware of the seasons and stars? As farmers and religiously driven people trying to make sense of their world, they should have be aware of such things, much more than we are today. We have central heating and calendars, television and internet to distract us, so we're not motivated in the same way.

The guide probably wouldn't have been able to answer that one. Then again, maybe he would. I spent my time being quiet so the tour could end sooner rather than later.

I liked how even the most inexpert eye could see the different types of building techniques used,



and I tried not to roll my eyes when the group showed great interest in the titillating details of human sacrifice, the guide trying to both please his guests and to put a positive PR-friendly spin on it.

I began to think that my anthropology background was a drawback.

Then there my personal favorite, and I suppose I'm being gently sarcastic here, the Intihuatana stone, translated as the "hitching post of the sun".


People approached with reverence and stretched their hands over the roped off area to the sacred rectangle to feel the energy emanating as warmth or even visions from its surface. I, myself, would call that particular magic retained heat from the sun, but as no one ever got popular or rich by being a skeptic, we'll leave it at that and let you make your own decision.

I think, had we gotten to wander guide-free, despite the lack of interpretive signs, we would have had a much better time. And, as I've heard over and over again, if you hike the Inca Trail, earning your Machu Picchu experience, if becomes something utterly different.

porters along the Inca Trail

I wished we could have been there at night, or at sunrise, that we could has the time to climb up Huayna Picchu, the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu, and seen the view and temple there,  not following but instead discovering and marvelling and learning for ourselves.

but it was not to be.

The tour ended. Warned repeatedly to catch a bus back in time to board our train, we were hot and tired and any impetus for wanting to explore had faded like a forgotten dream. We gave the guide a tip, probably for laughing at Mike's joke and not falling backwards off a cliff. All we wanted to do was to find a quiet spot,  and rest and eat the nice snacks packed for us by our hotel and look over the landscape. Preferably away from the constant whistles that were sounded by site guards every time a tourist trespassed somewhere they weren't supposed to. Which was constantly.

Interestingly, it was perfectly OK to be an idiot and lean over precipices and the like. They weren't trying to save lives, just the site.

Fair enough.



Fortunately for my mood, (and for Mike who chooses to put up with me,) there were llamas...