Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mexican Fishermen in the Andes

Since we needed a day to acclimatize to the altitude, where it is strictly advised that one refrain from strenuous exercise, we figured it was a dynamite idea to spend that day doing a mountain bike tour. What could possibly go wrong? (That´s a motto too, by the way).

We met up with our tour guides Daniel and Garri, and two other participants, Mario from Argentina and his French girlfriend Marie. The day started with a bus ride to the start of the bike trip, such that the bike ride itself would be "mostly downhill". The bus ride was fascinating in itself. At the bus station, surrounded by Andean colours and clothes, a guy put down two bags next to us which subsequently started moving in an eery fashion. "Que tienes aqui?" "Gallinas" -- chickens. I was briefly reminded of a scene from Borat, but then these chickens got to ride on the roof rack of the bus.

"Mostly downhill" -- quite a bit of it being rather technical... No waivers or anything. What could possibly go wrong?

The bike ride took us past some magnificent vistas of the Andes and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. There were little farm houses everywhere in the middle of absolute nowhere, with various farmyard animals. These people were far away from the stress of city life, of career, of insurances and mortgages. They really were the Mexican Fisherman -- read that story if you have some time.

The tour took us to two culturally significant sites. The Inca site of Moray contains a system of terraces that the Incas used to grow crops. Through different soils and elevations they created microclimates, allowing them to grow different crops at different levels. The microclimates ranged from rain forest at the lower levels to high Andes at the upper levels.

The lower levels are perfect concentric circles.

The other site we visited was a system of salt mines. The salt crystallizes from water that originates from a spring just above the salt fields. The saltiness comes from volcanic deposits through which the water rises to the surface. The fields are divided into many small rectangles. Each local family owns one rectangle that gets handed down from generation to generation.

At the end of the trip Mario and Marie gave us their phone number and email address, so we have a contact in Buenos Aires. Woo hoo!

The Mexican Fisherman -- do read that story if you have some time.

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