Where are we?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Too Big to Describe

No wifi for the past three days.

We thought three days ago that we were within reach of Ollantaytambo, but the interior of Peru has been nothing but surprises. If you look at a map of the country there is a paved north-south road along the coast. There is no other paved north-south route. Jim and I decided to find out why.

We turned on to dirt roads that just in the last three days have led us over four or five 13-14000 plus passes, some in the clouds, with virtually every usable acre in use. Village after village we have seen so many native people subsisting, nothing more. The bright colored clothing is deceptive, up close you can tell that everyone of these women is working hard. Their faces, their clothes and the almost total absence of a smile all tell the same story. Jim and I have had the feeling that we are probably the first gringoes that most of these people have seen.

We were stopped by a road construction project at 13500 feet. One of the workers had been on a ship and learned some English, so we managed to get more information than we usually do. I asked why they had two security guys in uniform way out in the mountains. He explained that they have to have 24 hour security to avoid having everything stolen. We could tell that he viewed with disdain the colorful natives for which Peru is so famous.

We got off our route for a period of time yesterday and so ended up spending the night in a very small village in the middle of nowhere. I noticed that the proprietor of our hostal locked her office before she showed us our room that had a padlock on the front door. Everything is locked. One advantage may have been that the room cost 32 soles.

Politics are everywhere. From my last visit to Peru a year ago, I understand that the rural population is quite discontent over neglect by the government. This may be part of the reason that we have seen several significant road projects where one would wonder why they are spending the money. As voters, many of the natives don't read. Instead they go to the ballot booth and know that their candidate is number 1 or number 3. Beats trying to make out a name. Signs abound telling people which number to vote.

The other interesting signs relate to curbing corruption. Very freshly painted sign are everywhere with the same message--no corruption. Seeing these signs primarily in the highlands leaves one wondering who is taking advantage.

Today we had an interesting example of how hard the natives work. Stacked along the road were huge bags of potatoes, all sorted by size. I stopped to ask the kid sorting them where they had been dug. He pointed straight down the hill about 300 yards. He stood there in bare feet at the top of a well worn path. I assume to avoid theft that all of his potatoes had to be picked up today. And I am sure that this means loading them manually into a truck.

We've enjoyed the trucha, in fact again for dinner tonight. Along one road we saw one spectacular trout rearing facility with thousands of fish circling in the tanks waiting patently to be eaten.

The last comment I will make in this catchup blog has to do with road hazards. The reason our travel has been so slow is that the roads are full of cows, sheep, pigs, people, buses, trucks and fast cars. Jim made the comment that too many people rely on their horns and then race around corners. We are fortunate that we are skinny and can pass everything with reasonable comfort. I would not consider driving a car or bus on the roads we've been on.

Manana is Cuzco and the Incas we have been pursuing.

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