Majes Valley, near Arequipa

This is all a bit of a contrast. From hobnobbing with New Romantics to being eaten alive by mosquitoes in one of the remoter parts of southern Peru. Never a dull moment.

I’m now in the Majes Valley, a green oasis surrounded by huge dusty mountains, to study petroglyphs (carved pictures on great big lumps of rock, to the uninitiated). My host, Julio Zunigo, has a small lodge here, and is very generously giving me board and lodging in return for me helping him to document his interpretations of the images, created by the Wari tribe about 1000 years ago.

Had my first encounter with a mummy the other day (if you exclude the badly dubbed version of The Mummy Returns they were showing on the bus from Arequipa). Julio pulled up at the side of the road, and pointed down the embankment towards a field. ‘Look there’. I clambered down, and (after an understandable hesitation) picked up the small skull and upper torso of a mummified child. The back of the skull was covered with short, coarse hair (hair conditioner presumably in short supply in the aferlife), and scraps of cloth wrappings had more or less melded into the bone over the years, covering the mouth. Some substance I didn’t want to examine too closely lurked in the eye sockets. I couldn’t quite believe what I was holding in my hand. And when I did believe it, I put it down in a hurry.

These bones are lying around everywhere here, like so much roadside rubbish. They recently built a new road along the valley, uncovering a whole load more bones, which just lie exposed to the bleaching sun. It’s unusual, you could say.

I really feel like I’m living in the real Peru now. I’ve just taken public transport down to the seething metropolis (pop 3,000) of Aplao – the transport consisting of 9 of us crammed into a very small car, 2 people in the driver’s seat alone. And can you believe it, they have speed bumps here – vague concern that the overloaded car wouldn’t quite make it.

So lots of dust, bugs and bones. It’s been a steep learning curve of adaptation, shall we say, but it’s been really fascinating to switch into a different lifestyle. Or maybe not SO different…. Julio has a small vineyard, and makes his own wine and pisco!

(Photos to follow, but not sure when….)

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