USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences > Blog

June 23, 2013

Up the Andes, but still in the central time zone and Cenozoic.

Filed under: Andean Fossil Hunt — admin @ 5:06 pm

Saturday, 6/21
A long day. We packed the truck in Lima about 8am, and arrived at our first major destination about 5pm. Now it’s about 9:15, and once again almost time for bed.

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I really love Peru. I feel very comfortable here. Largely Silvia is responsible for that. She’s made expert arrangements with geologists and companies, with the truck rental, etc. I get odd looks from many people, I guess because my blonde hair is fairly out of the ordinary, and I’m not generally on a tourists’ corridor nor am I traveling like one. That’s just as well; I’m not a tourist. After a second glance at me people just go about their business. A lot of workers seem surprised to see me in a mining truck, but they’ve all behaved very politely and respectfully. Silvia says, though it’s changing, that there are still pervasive issues of machismo and dismissal of women in mining and geology fields which are mostly populated by male workers. Around Lima I saw plenty of women in blue color positions; collecting garbage, unloading trucks. Riding from the airport the first night, I saw a female traffic cop who stood in front of a speeding bus, and when it finally halted right in front of her, she banged on the window and gave the driver hell for disobeying her directions. Geology and mining is interesting because it’s parts manual labor and parts intellectual. Silvia is very highly respected by all the senior mining personnel. She told me tonight that when she first came to this mine, as an 18 year old college student, her group drove all night to reach it, only to be told at the entrance that women were not permitted within the mine. A fellow female student told the mining employee, “That’s your rule, so it’s your problem, not mine!” As a compromise, the company finally allowed them inside, but only dressed in baggy men’s clothes, so as not to distract the miners. She said afterwards the miners laughed with them that it was still apparent what was happening. It’s good to see how far things have come. Already tonight our presence has raised some eyebrows, but everyone’s been very polite.

 

This is a motorcycle with a flimsy cover and rear wheels, like a disel rickshaw. In the back you'd see the Andean foothills if you could see anything but smog.

This is a motorcycle with a flimsy cover and rear wheels, like a disel rickshaw. In the back you’d see the Andean foothills if you could see anything but smog.

The road was long. Up the mountain. Up, up, up, up. I would have slept but the geology is too exciting, and the motion of the truck to bouncy. Up up up the mountain. People live all along the roadside, in small rooms built of hollow bricks, disastrous conditions in even a moderate earthquake. We passed the family trout farms, that use the water flowing along the deep valley by the road, in little carved out ponds on the steep cliffsides. By the time we made it up and over the highest peaks, I was so hungry I ate almost a whole grilled trout.

Homes and businesses and towns spring up alongside the main road into the Andes from Lima

Homes and businesses and towns spring up alongside the main road into the Andes from Lima

 

Snow on the peaks at the top  of the Andes here, near one of the sponge destinations. This time we drove on, headed for the far and rainy side.

Snow on the peaks at the top of the Andes here, near one of the sponge destinations. This time we drove on, headed for the far and rainy side.

After lunch we were disappointed to find that a main road was closed, so we needed to go around by an unpaved way, adding an hour to our already fairly delayed trip. But what a drive! Winding winding winding down the mountain, across the high planes, down into the jungle on the rainy side of things. Today I saw the biggest chickens I’ve ever seen, a few hundred lanky cruising dogs, hundreds of sheep, one llama, and also one of the nation’s signature birds: the freaking enormous hummingbird. I’ll have to check with Dave or the internet. This thing was the size of a parrot, but with a wide red tail and hovering in the damned air like a helicopter. I’m used to it out of their thimble sized friends, but this thing was huge.

 

The church and courtyard of a mining village on the high plains.

The church and courtyard of a mining village on the high plains.

People live on the sides of the road up the mountain, and in the high planes there are mining villages, each with a large church and courtyard at the center of dormitory style housing and sprawls of brick shacks. Down lower on the wetter side the fertile valleys were filled with terraced gardens with livestock and adobe houses. We passed two villages large enough to host active soccer games. Then down, along a rushing series of rivers, with constant water falls crossing the road and a big rainbow in the cloud-adorned sky, into the jungle. We were barreling down these unpaved roads, and now and then would stop to ask directions to our destination. Finally, in what seemed like the fifth tiny cluster of buildings in the middle of the lowering and narrowing jungle, at 5 pm Silvia announced, “We’re here!”

 

Mixed brick and adobe houses of villages on the high plains, as we made our circuitous way to the jungle.

Mixed brick and adobe houses of villages on the high plains, as we made our circuitous way to the jungle.

It was anticlimactic. An hour and a half of paperwork, medical checks, hard hat issue, showing our documents. We wanted to give a presentation to the geologists about what I’m looking for, but it will have to wait til morning. Finally we headed up a hill to the little cluster of smurf village accomodations, which are really quite nice. For dinner at 7:30 we had Chifa in the cafeteria – that’s a cafeteria’s version of Peru’s version of Chinese food. It was actually pretty good. Sweet tamerind sauce on meat and veggies with rice. The climactic scenes of Con Air was on in the dining hall, and I enjoyed explaining the plot to Silvia. After dinner we spoke a while – or rather she did – with a geologist colleague. I can follow conversations and generally understand 50-90% of what’s said, depending on who’s talking. Siliva and I have been taking turns speaking English and Spanish, and mostly she’s speaking English. I don’t know if its more for my benefit or for her to practice. She’s terrifically fluent but doesn’t get to use it as often as German. Its hard brain work, searching for words. So now I’m ready for bed. We thought we’d see some rocks this afternoon, but so it goes. I’d rather see them in the right context. One of the geologists we bumped into during dinner is fairly confident we can see the contacts I want, so I’m excited about the morning.

 

La Selva. The Jungle.

La Selva. The Jungle.

We don’t have internet until they configure our laptops somehow at the main office. Silvia let me borrow her phone and I sent text messages to my husband and sister, asking them both to update my parents, who would win the gold if worrying were an Olympic sport.

We’ll see what rocks I get in the morning. Can’t wait.

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