Tag Archives: adventure

Rome: Not for Sissies

At the colosseum

At the colosseum

Rome is flooded stimuli: energy that permeates and disrupts the senses, swarms of tourists clogging crooked streets, illegally parked cars, designer clothes , gorgeous shoes the price of a month’s rent, alleys with hidden treasures, and sadly, ubiquitous cheap Chinese stuff.

I asked Alessandro which side of the street the Italians drive on because it isn’t apparent here in the city. ” It doesn’t matter,” he answered. “Doesn’t matter! Of course it matters. I’m renting a car in Pisa and need to know.”  It’s the same as the US.” he says. Lordy.

The violent past of the colosseum invaded my dreams last night. I was fighting for my life. Hitting some snake like thing with something no bigger than a golf club. Afterwards I felt sorry. It’s not who I am. In the colosseum, only 3 % of the gladiators lived, none of the slaves or criminals or animals. Huge boatloads of reptiles, tigers, lions, bears, etc. were imported  from Africa and Egypt to fight in the ring. An estimated 100,000 animals were killed during the Romans short reign. Some species  became extinct because of the emperor’s thirst for entertainment, of public executions called games.

imageIt’s astounding how brilliant Roman  engineers built aqua ducts, astounding architecture, roads and the government was democratic. And yet, a couple of times a month, screamed for blood to entertain them . Or, maybe they didn’t attend the gory get togethers.

Romulus and Remus raised by a she wolf raised a city from dirt. Beloved Cesar stabbed by Brutus. Myth mixed with fact: legend with history. Barbarians brought down by barbarians. The fallen city plundered and pillaged by everyone, including the hollier than thou popes who used the heathen’s  materials it to build their Rome.

imageAnd then there were the vestual virgins, In charge of keeping the eternal fire lit. If you lost your virginity, you were buried alive; If you let the fire go out, you were beaten by the emperor (I think him). Rome, gorgeous, but not for sissies: not then-not now.

 

 

 

Black Bear Encounter

black bear

black bear

Black Bear Encounter

I grew up in Foxburg, a small town nestled in the confluence of the Allegheny and Clairon Rivers in the Allegheny Forest in Western Pennsylvania. It’s not uncommon to see black bears fishing in the rivers, especially in early spring when they have just woken up from their long winter’s nap.

Occasionally, one or two will wander into town during the evening to plunder garbage cans. When I was a child, I’d see them at the dump when my friend Artie, my grandpa’s handyman, took me with him. They always left when we drove up in his rickedly truck. I was taught to be respectful of them, but not afraid. My friends and I spent hours i

l-r Marilyn & Elaine

l-r Marilyn & Elaine

n the woods: building forts, climbing trees, picking wild berries. We were never afraid of the critters that lived there. We had no need to be. They respected us, too, and kept their distance.

side & back porches

side & back porches

During the 1980s, my childhood friend, Marilyn, and I bought a 100+ year-old house on 5 acres of forested land that was two and a half miles from town via a dirt road. The Allegheny River was a 3 acre walk from the house, through the forest. Trout streams on two sides flanked our property. Each spring the abundant water attracted fishermen and bears. I mean, who doesn’t like fresh rainbow trout?

When I opened up the house each March or April, I’d sweep the bugs from the screens, and doors, and make sure the basement, with its thick stone wall was free of critters. I posted our small acreage a NO HUNTING zone. Unfortunately, hunters had no respect for the designation. They ignored the signs, or tore them down completely. Each spring I’d replace them, and notify fish and game that the property was posted.

caves at top of hill

caves at top of hill

The bears made their presence known to me immediately. The second day I was there, I put some sunflower seeds out on a tall, sturdy wrought iron feeder for the birds. The following morning, it was lying on the ground, bent into the shape of a pretzel. Clearly it was not the work of birds. Within a few days I started to see signs of them in the woods occasionally: small sassafras trees with the leaves chewed off, broken bushes, and bear scat. Once my summer neighbor and I saw one watching us from the top of the hill. It was just standing there observing us. I imagine it was thinking, “There goes the neighborhood.”

And, they DID live there before anyone else. They wintered in the many caves throughout the forest, a few of which were above my house. As a kid we called them the Indian caves. It was only a matter of time before our paths crossed.

One spring morning I went into the woods after a rain to forage for mushrooms. I was hoping for morels or chanterelles, but figured I’d be happy with any thing eatable. I had read the Humane Society book on bear safety when I moved in. I knew not to run or turn my back on them. I had a push-button umbrella in the back pocket of my jeans so I could pop it and make myself look bigger than my petite 5ft 3in-height¸ 125 lb. weight. I carried a small wicker basket lined with a paper towel, a paring knife to cut the mushrooms out of the soil, and my mushroom identification book. I have never owned a gun, nor would I consider it.(Not that I think responsible people shouldn’t )

So there I was, crouching under an oak tree identifying a batch of fungi when I began to feel I was being watched. I stood up and slowly turned around. A large black bear was on the path, observing me. It was close, no more than 10 or 15 feet away. I could clearly see its face. Its dark amber eyes (similar to mine) were looking directly at me, and seemed to be eye level with mine. Fear seized me. I looked directly back at it. I forgot about the umbrella. I starting talking. Fast. think car salesman.

“ Hi,’ I’m here looking for mushrooms. See. I put them into this basket when I find them. I live down there in the red house. I bet you live in the caves. You’re probably going to the river. Well, go on ahead. I’ll just stay here. Here, have some mushrooms to go with your fish. Good luck fishing. I know you’re hungry.” I put the basket down in front of me. “ I can’t move until you leave. You have to go first. We’re neighbors. Are you the bear that wrecked my birdfeeder? It’s ok. Of course it is. How silly, of me. You can probably do anything you want. You’ll be happy to know that I have posted my property ‘No Hunting.” At some point in my monologue, the bear cocked his head, as if it was confused, or was trying to understand the words, or just pondering the crazy person it had encountered on the path. Then it turned toward the river and sauntered down the hill.

I began to tremble as if I had just had a near fatal car accident. I gave up mushroom hunting for the day. I walked home through the woods and poured myself a glass of wine, never mind it was still morning. This glass was medicinal. I sat on the back porch, sipping my wine, looking at the forest. I decided I had to continue to roam the forest, that I would go back the next day. I told myself that we, my burly neighbor and I, had reached an understanding.

front view of house

front view of house

And so I did. Although I spent part of most days in the forest, during the five years we owned the property, I never encountered another bear up close.

Currently I live in the high desert in California. The drought is forcing critters into town for food and water. One bear was in my neighbor’s yard a month or so ago. Although it didn’t harm anyone, and probably had no intention of doing so, fish and game killed it.

Many folks come to Sequoia National Park, and the areas surrounding Lake Isabella to camp. Bear awareness classes are taught, and a couple of weeks ago someone posted a bear aware list of things to do (or not) in the paper. Most of the advice made sense.

1. Don’t keep food in your tent.
2. Hang your food or put it into a bear-proof locker.
3. Keep fresh food out of your garbage can until trash day.
4. Don’t run if you encounter one.
5. Make yourself look big.
6. Be loud, wave your arms, and shout at it.

Then I got to the confusing part.

7. Don’t wear the same clothes to bed that you cooked dinner in. I assume this was directed at campers, but it wasn’t clear. I frequently cook supper in my jammies. I live alone, and eat whenever I want.
And then:

8. Lock your doors at night. What? Sometimes I don’t even shut mine.

I’m thinking the person who wrote the article had obviously taken The Three Bears too seriously. If a bear wants to enter your house, it’s unlikely it will use the doorknob. Even raccoons, with their nimble little fingers that could pick a lock with a paper clip if they wanted to, don’t use the door. They split the screens with their razor sharp nails. but, that’s another story.

Black bears do not want to hang out with you, or eat you. They might want to soak in the hot tub on your deck, or have the left over pizza you left in your trashcan for breakfast, or eat the sunflower seeds on your bird feeder. Mostly they want to feed themselves and their cubs, be respected and left alone. Try that. We can share the same neighborhood. Times are tough. Water is scarce, but we can still live in harmony.

Sightseeing at Home.

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Recently I  was asked to write about sightseeing around my new home in the country, in the middle of nowhere, in a one-horse town in Kern county, California.

After seven years living abroad and traveling the world, I’ve moved to the small town of Lake Isabella, CA, population 2300. With one main road and three traffic lights, there are no sights to visit. To understand and appreciate the extraordinary diversity and raw elegance of my new home, one has to venture into its essence..

Situated in the high desert, on the edge of the majestic Sequoia National Forest, home to the world’s largest trees, this small hamlet offers easy access to countless activities for everyone. The surrounding landscape is as magnificient as the gorgeous trees.

 Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

In spite of the drought, the lake is still full of bass for sport fishing and kayaking. There are two rivers and countless creeks for trout fishing, rafting, tubing, swimming,  more extreme kayaking,  just putzing around in the shallow water, or stretching out on one of the smooth boulders that line the river.  My friend’s daughter, Rose, has lent me a kayak, and I just bought the necessary life jacket at a local thrift store. I’m ready. Estoy lista!

I’ve already taken advantage of a few of the hundreds of hiking trails in the area. They   range from ea

Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

sy to difficult, and most are accessible. Camping and lodging is plentiful. One need only contact the Park Department to make camping reservations within the park, and each small town has at least one motel or lodge.

In addition to water sports, you can picnic on one of the National Forest’s developed picnic areas, go horse riding, mountain biking or view wildlife from your car or while hiking with your camera or binoculars. Use your manners. How close do you want a complete stranger coming to your family?

During the winter, with any luck at all, there are ski slopes, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling which I must say I am not fond of  because of the damage done to the forest floor.

At night, after a hard day of outdoor fun, people flock to the many pubs in the surrounding towns for great food made to order, locally brewed beer, and to listen or dance to live music played by excellent blue grass and folk bands. Before bed, take time to marvel at the crisp, clear sky above you. Track NASA’s satellites, identify your constellation, view the Milky Way, and wish on a falling star.

French Gulch

French Gulch 3

French Gulch 3

Desert art

Desert art

Bodfish Creek

Bodfish Creek

I’ve been walking late afternoons around French Gulch, a section of Lake Isabella easily accessible from the road. The water is so low that sometimes I’m directly on the lake bed. A brisk wind causes small waves to lap at the new shoreline that is littered with small clam shells the size of dimes and quarters.

Even with minimum water the lake is beautiful. Here and there a few fishermen stand patiently with their fishing rods, ready to catch large mouth bass, and renegade catfish. An occasional boat can be seen on a far away shore, and yesterday a family was camped a few feet above the water line.

I walk briskly, up and down the sandy, dirt roads that criss-cross the gaunt  terrain, thinking about the critters that might join me at any moment-might come down f

French Gulch

French Gulch

image

rom the hills for a drink and some leftovers, or minnows.In my childhood hometown, Foxburg, PA, the black bears still saunter across the defunct railroad tracks, now a bike path, to the Allegheny River.

I imagine

coyotes, or bobcats, even bandit raccoons, bewildered by the dry creeks, having to travel farther, even across the busy highway for life sustaining water. Taking a photo of a cluster of large, smooth boulders,  I halfway expect a Western rattler to emerge, yawning from its nap, from between the cracks.

I think about what I’ll say to them. The first thing I’ll do is apologize for my race -all of us homo sapiens because we have fucked the earth up and are not capable of getting along with other enough to make amends. I’ll tell them I hope I have another chance, in another life, even if it’s on a different planet, to make amends.

“Still, I will say, I am ever so grateful to have had the pleasure to see you all  alive and free in spite of sharp-shooters and greedy cattlemen, and the dumbasses who think snakes are out to get us;  that all in all its been a pretty sweet ride on the big blue ball.”

Hope Surges on Route 66/ I 40 across the USA.

According to distance-cities.com there are 2,471.06 between Charleston SC and Los Angeles,CA. If one were to drive non-stop, it would take 1 day and 11 hours without stopping to pee. It took me seven.

Creek Casino, Muskogee, OK

Creek Casino, Muskogee, OK

The main routes across my expansive country are Interstates 80, 40 and 10. I chose 40 which is also the old Route 66 known as Main St US.

Route 66 cafe

Route 66 cafe

Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch

A, made famous in the l960s by the song, Get Your Kicks on route 66, and the Route 66 TV show.

Back then it was all about the cars: colorful sexy, sleek, gas guzzling automobiles that felt like they were floating down the road-back seats big enough for three or four kids and a dog, or for making making babies.  In fact, my twin sons were conceived in a jaunty push-button, two-toned salmon colored dodge on a sultry summer evening in July, 1960.image

One has to deliberately exit the interstate to get to the old route, but to do so is a total trip into the past. I thoroughly enjoy the stores and restaurants that have been run by the same families for generations. I’m moved thinking I may have shopped in some of them during my first trip across the US with my mom and her friend, Tacy, in l953 when I was ten!

Eight years ago, on a road trip with my friend, Sherry Gaskin, we stopped for the night at the Route 66 Motel. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but the flouncy bedspread, and lace curtains could have been in my grandmother’s house.

As part of the price we were given breakfast vouchers for the restaurant next door: the Road-Kill Cafe. Although it didn’t feature opossum or freshly fender-whacked deer, we discovered that meat and potatoes were de riguer. When we both ordered oatmeal, fruit and yogurt, the young, pregnant waitress, peered at us with a blank stare. Within a few minutes she brought us coffee. While we sat waiting for our food,  customers around us came and went after devouring plates filled with bright yellow, slimy eggs over easy, accompanied by generous hunks of crisp bacon or sausage, potatoes, and toast or a plate piled high with four inch biscuits smothered in beige gravy. 

Finally we inquired about our food. She didn’t flinch. “This is the ROAD KILL CAFE. We don’t have yogurt, or fruit  or oatmeal,” she replied. “Oh. In that case we’ll have # 2 scrambled, with bacon and wheat toast.” we answered in succession.

I tipped her a dollar because she was surly, and the service was shitty. Sherry left her five. “Why’d you do that, Sherry?” I asked. “Oh, she’s a young, pregnant woman who lives in the middle of nowhere, working at the Road Kill Cafe. She needs something to brighten her day.” Ahh. Compassion. Random acts of kindness. I have a lot to learn from my friend.

This past trip, I stopped in Muskogee, OK, made famous by country music legend, Merle Haggard, with his song, Okie From Muskogee, recorded in l969. The song was Merle’s tribute to the values of folks in Oklahoma, and his renouncement of the  hippie movement going on in San Francisco. I was there to rendezvous with my dear friend, Kate, who’s living in Kansas, whom I had met in the 1980s in San Francisco when I was doing stand-up. We explored the sleepy town, had a hot chicken salad smothered with yellow cheese, at the new Creek Casino, and walked around an expansive park, where I unknowingly gifted to a lucky person a hand loomed scarf I’d  bought in Guatemala a few years ago.

Mole @ MEXICAN FOOD, AZ

Mole @ MEXICAN FOOD, AZ

Next I stopped  to visit with my new friend, Sandra, in Albuquerque, NM. I met Sandra and her mom, Rosa, in the Amazon jungle the previous September at the Nasty Monkey Hostel, (my name for it), Puerto Narino, Colombia. When Clare, another traveling acquaintance and I were invited to celebrate Rosa’s 70th birthday, we gladly accepted. Attended by two boys under ten, we drank beer, unidentified whiskey, and Rosa and I danced. Two old ladies cutting the rug in the jungle, happy to be alive.

L-R Ruby, Rosa, Claire, Sandra

L-R Ruby, Rosa, Claire, Sandra

The US is expansive, and diverse. Immigrants came from all over the world looking for freedom, to strike it rich, farm, and many other reasons. Aside from our deplorable treatment, and annihilation of the majority of the native Americans, I remember when our politicians compromised: when the country and we the people were priorities. Now, our politics are a mess. Congress has become the Tower of Babel, unable to communicate with each other, servants controlled and dominated by corporate greed and billionaires such as the Koch brothers.

Interstate 40

Interstate 40

However, zipping along in Margaret, my Mini Cooper that was a Christmas gift from my daughter, Anna in 2006, the windows down, the sun roof open, a CD blasting, and cruise control set to keep the speed legal, cruising from state to state, across highways that are still superior to most in the world, it was easy to forget our troubles. It was as if hope surged through the air. Even the ticket I got for an illegal lane change, while I was on the phone not paying attention, could not dampen my love of this place I call home.

 

 

 

 

Get Off the Bus

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of persons in the US over 65 (officially elderly) has jumped by a factor of 11! in the past decade. We are growing by an average of 2.8 % annually. Well, our numbers are. Personally, I am shrinking faster than that. I have to hurry before I am too short to ride The Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island. cyclone

Seniors make up the wealthiest niche market in the developed world. As travelers, they are said to want comfort, are cautious, safety oriented, demanding, and complaining. Additionally, they are quick to sue if anything goes awry. It makes sense.

A majority of these seniors live in gated communities, which comprises 10% of the US housing market. According to an article by Rich Benjamin in the New York Times, these communities “attract like-minded residents who seek shelter from outsiders and whose physical seclusion then worsens paranoid groupthink against outsiders.” In other words they distrust those beyond the pale. However, they have a staggering amount of money to spend, and the tourist market is working overtime to accommodate them.

tourist bus

Daily, buses full of middle class and upscale tourists from around the world clog the narrow streets of ancient cities forcing the residents to wait until they pass. Tourist companies pick and choose shops and restaurants that are ‘perceived safe’ for their clients. They are cautioned not to eat or drink from local street stands, or buy from unapproved merchants. God forbid they should go out alone at night. So, from their sheltered, cushy, climate controlled seats, perched high above the streets, these people observe the surroundings while being informed about it by the guide’s well rehearsed discourse. Later when relating their experiences at cocktail parties, they say, “Oh, yes. I’ve been there, I’ve seen that, or those people. It (or they) were charming, or quaint, or poor.”

The tourist industry is attracting like-minded physically secluded, tourists who seek shelter from the very places they tour. It’s crazy.

If you have the slightest inclination to step out a bit, to experience a different culture, or mingle with the locals, you have to get off the bus. Let that be your first adventure.

Adventure by definition means taking a risk, however small. Trust that people around the world are kind and curious. They want to know you, and are eager to share. As Rudyard Kipling said, “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”

Head Cheese, Whole Head, or Sausage: San Pedro Market

During my first trip to San Pedro Market I worked the fringes: the material, jewelry, the easy stuff. Except for the skinned cuy in the basket as I was leaving, I managed to avoid   the meat section. I am a hypocrite. I would be a vegan if I had to kill my food.

Yesterday, I ventured into the meat section of the marcado. The smell made me a little sick. There were piles of a gray substance that appeared to be skin ranging from a few inches to a couple of feet high. I didn’t take a picture.

Beginning with the small critters in the bowl which may or may not be a froggy kind of critter, I was fascinated by the variety and size of heads. I remember my mom’s cousin making head cheese. The pig head bobbing up and down in the pot is a visual memory that has stuck with me lo these many decades.

Yesterday I asked an old woman if the heads she  was selling were alpaca, because even with its fur gone it was recognizable. “Si.” I didn’t ask for a recipe on how to cook it.

 

 

 

A Day in Mancora, Peru

I wish I had been

Took the plunge

Took the plunge

Heading to hang on to put on mask

Heading to hang on to put on mask

Sebastian hanging on to tortuga.  yikes!

Sebastian hanging on to tortuga. yikes!

Ruby putting on snorkle mask

Ruby putting on snorkle mask

big  tortuga

big tortuga

dead manta ray said to taste like chicken!

dead manta ray
said to taste like chicken!

Blue footed booby

Blue footed booby

Pelligan feeding frenzy

Pelligan feeding frenzy

north beach Mancora, Peru

north beach Mancora, Peru

more beach Mancora

more beach Mancora

wearing a video camera yesterday, because it was one of those days I  want to remember.

First there was the swimming with the tortugas. The goodness was two-fold. The first was that I was not alone, which is frequently the case when I’m traveling. I was invited by Sebastian, a delightful young Colombian man who is working and living here at Psygon. When the  entire staff closed up shop and piled into the well-used car: four in the back and two in the front, I wondered, “Would they speak rapid Spanish and exclude me or was I really part of the party?”

As it turned out, language had no bearing on the experience. They were sharing with me. Paloma and I, girls to the core, thought the tortugas were scary and yelled every time one of them came close. After all, there were all those warning signs. When we yelled, the guys laughed. It was so typical and, I might add, had nothing to do with the weaker sex, for certainly we aren’t.

The other thing is that I wasn’t patronized in any way-ever. If I had asked for help  it would have been freely given. But, I didn’t, so it wasn’t.

After we got home I decided to go for a bottle of vino. Surprise. I walked  the 100 feet to the  beach. the wind was blowing sand around. Standing there, shielding their eyes from the stinging sand, were two girls, maybe 9 or 10. They asked me where I was going. I told them to the store for wine. They said they would go with me, that I was fuerte,(strong), and they would be seguro (safe) with me. hahaha.

We walked, talking and laughing. I found out that they live in the barrio close to the hostel. that they are Essie and Mia. They learned  I have daughters and grandkids in the US, that my name is Ruby.  I had no camera with me. I was just going doing a quick  wine run. We saw a huge elephant seal dead on the beach. It was looking straight at us, its tongue hanging out. Really creepy we all agreed.

When the beach ended, I started up the sand into an empty lot to a street I assumed was there somewhere. Mia and Essie stopped me. They pointed to the rocky sea wall in front of the buildings blocking the way to the next small beach. Piled sand bags interspersed with the rocks. The tide was coming in, splashing over them pounding into the buildings. “Prisa! ” (hurry). I leapt like a gazelle over the sand before the next wave arrived, and jumped onto the first batch of  bags. The girls were behind me.  After the sand bags, came the rocas-big slippery ones. Essie took the lead, then Mia. As we laughed and jumped like mountain goats over the rocks, she sometimes reached back to give me a hand. “Come, Mama.” So sweet.

At the end was a small beach. Standing there was a woman in a big flowered hat and equally big sunglasses, who I thought for a minute was their mom, but who turned out to be an Asian tourist. She was surprised to see us emerge from the rocks.

“That was fun,” I laughed. “You’re American,” she assumed. “Yes. These girls are great! They are bonito and muy fuerte.” The girls smiled. “They are Peruvian?” “Yes. They are fabulous.” She was surprised to find a wet  American grandmother climbing over rocks with Peruvian children?

I thanked the girls and went to find the wine store. On the way back to the hostel I stopped and bought a bag of sweet buns. I decided to walk through the barrio, and got lost. After getting directions from some guys hanging out  on a porch, I rounded the corner that they said would lead me to the hostel. There were Essie and Mia! just coming back from their afternoon frolic. They were hungry, coming home to eat. I opened my bag and offered them buns. They each took one, thanked me and went on.

Often in other countries, I am asked for money by children. Not here in Peru. I have been over charged by taxis, but not often. Peruvians, like their ancestors, are a proud people, they don’t beg-at least where I have been so far. The folks I’ve met have been open, honest and giving.

The exchanges I’ve had have been genuine. I’ve had intimate conversations with a few folks now, and have made friends. Each place I go, I find it difficult to leave.

 

 

 

 

Kuelap

It takes over two hours to get to Kuelap. Most of the road is dirt, bumpy, and frighteningly  narrow  as it  winds around the mountains. It felt like a Jules Vern Journey. Along the way our minivan shared the road with sheep, llamas, motobikes, and horses, most carrying burdens of wood, or goods to trade. Once I saw a child of 4 or 5 and his older sister, by a couple of years trying to coax an unwilling horse along the edge of the highway.

Kuelap is mind-boggling from anyone’s viewpoint. Looking at the massive stone wall, you can see why the dead were buried in it. It makes the perfect mausoleum. The round houses, had living space, kitchen, with large grinding stone, and small place to keep guinea pigs. The Chachapoyan architecture was only recognized in 1843! Roaming around on the site were llamas and  horses probably owned by the folks who live on the mountain. El Tintero is the circular turret in the shape of an inverted cone, said to be a challange to the laws of gravity. It’s placed  at the south end of the oval shaped fortress, and used for religious ceremonies, that, yes, involved some human sacrafice, but not as much apparently as the Incas who managed to subdue the Chachapoyan warriors about 800 years later! Dates Known  by the Inca pottery.

Kuelap, a mountaintop fortress city, rivals any ruins in the new world and comes complete with living quarters for thousands of residents and a stone wall fortification reaching 60 feet high running in circumference to the city 110 meters in width.
Kuelap is considered the largest stone ruin site in the New World and is comprised of massive stone blocks nearly 10-times the volume of the blocks used in the Giza Pyramid. The fortress of Kuélap consists of massive exterior stone walls containing more than four hundred buildings. The structure, situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley

in northern Peru, is roughly 600 meters in length, 110 meters in width, and is thought to have been built to defend against the Huari or other hostile Peoples. Archaeological evidence shows that the structure was built around 500 AD and occupied until the mid 1500s (Early Colonial period). (when the Spaniards showed up.)

Truly fascinating and important history. There are many articles on it inc. one from Nat Geo you can google.

 

 

 

Nasty Monkey Hostal

Just for the record, I didn’t want to stay there.  I wanted to be in town where I had freedom to walk around day and evenings. Plus, I am always  sceptical of anyone who keeps wild pets and yet ignores starving domestic dogs and cats. I was there for one night because a new friend had made reservations.

The owner of Alto del Aguila,  known as the frier, keeps, according to the Lonely Planet, a few monkeys and a pair of mcaws that will “gather around you’ one would assume in a welcoming manner.

Having been there long enough to dump my stuff, I was standing in front of Claire’s cabana when suddenly the frier appeared. Simultaneously 3 squirrel monos were on me. “No.No.” I said. He trust a teaspoon of sugar at me. I took it because I was already in the game. When the sugar was gone two of the monos left, but one stayed. He was sort of hanging upside down on my midriff. “That’s enough now,” say I. The guy laughs. The mono’s ass in my face  was not any prettier than any other ass might be. I touched him, gently, but with a downward motion. “Go now,” I say.

Pissed that monkey off!  It turned and bit my wrist, came up toward my face which I was hiding, bit my upper arm, and put two small gouges on my chest. Maybe the owner got him off me, really I lost track of the sequence. The mono, now back under the eves of the building, the owner, muttering as he made a brushing motion down, “Defense. Defense, as he led me to the community room where he put something like iodine on the major bite.

The asumption was that It was my fault. I made the mono angry by brushing him off. I, a stupid tourist, didn’t know monkey lingo. Hell, I’m struggling with Spanish.

So later that evening a guest from Ireland,told me the macaw, that I called Lucas because he was under Cabana Lucas when I first saw him, that can’t fly, tried to bite her shoe, but when she put her hand down to stop it, it bit her finger. She clearly was ignorant in the macaw language.

When I woke up the following morning, Lucas was at my door. I made him a deal. “I have a mango. I’ll share it with you if you let me out.” I took a couple photos of him, then closed the door a little to move him back. I got a knife, cut the mango and gave him the meaty seed and skins because, although I am an ignorant tourist, I keep my word.