Thurs 1/20/11, 0:57am
Part 1: Back to Nature
For a week riddled with heinous digestive complications, I’m walking my bike away [up and down crazy beautiful hills] with a lot of amazing experience under my belt.
First, just being out in the campo (country) feeds my soul like nothing else. It’s been too long, and even though every town I’ve been in is surrounded by plenty of natural wonders to explore and trekking opportunities galore, a grand day out is not the same as living in it.
My campsite for the week: high on a hillside in a lush green valley, midway up a series of six gurgling waterfalls, with an ever-changing panoramic view – does pachamama (mother nature) never run out of stunning manifestations? The clouds alone can paint a million pictures, hide the dozens of nearby peaks, or shroud them in a saturnine mist, and fashion every sunset and sunrise (worth getting up for!) A clear view of the 16th century Incan fort El Fuerte, dwarfed in magnitude and encompassed by the sublime form of a woman with child, our mother pachamama, carved not into a mountain, but the mountain carved into her. Those industrious Incas!
Most days were lovingly punctuated by extraordinary weather: deafening thunder crashes out of nowhere – at this altitude you can be drenched in the sunlight of a clear blue sky but suddenly visited by a storm (or sound of it) just over a nearby hill. It’s most fun when it’s ambient but not actually storming down: the other night amid my intense dreaming I was sure someone was outside my tent wiggling a giant saw! By day or night, nearby lightning storms last for hours. Samaipata (and more accurately where I was, Alta Florida, in the hills nearby) is playground of the gods, pure magic.
You can’t help but feel, in this perfectly wild paradise, that you came second to the world of plants and animals. At first glimpse it’s endless green, but just look a bit closer and there is a mind-boggling variety of plants and trees, many of them ridiculously spikey. I learned last week on a guided trek, a bit higher in the cloud forests, that the oldest plant species didn’t have these defense mechanisms as there were no animals to threaten them, so relatively, I suppose, they might not predate animal, (but they most definitely predate man).
But more sensationally, I love the bugs. I swear the same grasshoppers would visit my tent each morning, waiting for me to unzip my portal so they could hop-in. Furry caterpillars, long centipedes, poisonous millipedes (3-times more venomous than a scorpion), arm-length snakes and big hairy tarantulas, 3-inch black wasps, tiny but arresting black widow spiders (yep I found one while sowing), neon-glow worms, shiny blue/yellow/red and black bees.. it’s an everyday Animal Planet. And they have a black and white pig named Billie, who snorts all day, squeals like crazy at sunset, and always lets me pet him.