Saturday, 27 November 2021


It is really stuffy in my flat at the moment, with all the windows and door closed. The public areas in the building are being fumigated today for mosquitos and cockroaches. This occurs every few months and we are always warned to avoid these areas for a few hours while it is being done, especially with pets. The pesticide is obviously toxic and white clouds come billowing up past the windows during the process.

I´ve taken the precaution of spraying insecticide round my door to stop any fleeing cockroaches coming in. I haven´t had any here for years thank goodness, as they give me the heebie jeebies. Later on there will be dead ones lying around in the car park and dying ones staggering about on their last legs. Not very pleasant! Toby will not be going out today.

Monday, 22 November 2021

Trouble ahead


The reservoirs which supply water to the city of São Paulo are down to about 25% capacity with a forecast for 17% capacity by next April. This is due to a large shortfall in the amount of rain over the last few months, less than half what we usually get. I imagine water rationing will be on the cards.

Basically, water vapour rises from the vast Amazon rain forest to form huge clouds which travel down the continent on an air stream, dispensing rain as they go. This phenomenon is known as the River in the Sky and is an essential part of the ecosystem in South America, especially Brazil. Tampering with any aspect of this cycle, such as deforestation, will have and is having serious consequences.

Presenting misleading figures to downplay the extent of the deforestation at international climate summits (hoping for nice fat grants?) doesn´t really work as the truth will out. How the powers that be can ignore the long-term effects of their policies is difficult to comprehend, one can only hope a change in government will improve matters since the Amazon is being destroyed at a rate never seen before.

Our poor planet.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

A Christmas present

I´m thinking about buying myself an early Christmas electric treadmill. They are not cheap but I think it may be a good investment.

I really need to up my daily walking but there is nowhere round here to go apart from busy streets. This is not only boring but risky as well. The chances of being mugged are worrying, but also I tend to trip and fall over from time to time, going down pretty hard although I have luckily never broken anything (yet). Also the new European Covid wave will eventually reach here and we will probably be locked down again.

With a treadmill I´d be safe in my own home, no muggings, no virus and out of the hot sun. Also there are bars to hold on to so less chance of going head over heels...seems like a good solution.

I wonder if I could teach Toby to walk on it? Haha.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Sods Law

Well, there you are, I was feeling all virtuous with my new resolution and the weather has interfered. 

I am hoping to set off on one of my walking adventures within a few months, Covid permitting. My last plans to do the Camino de Santiago fell apart a couple of years ago when the pandemic started. Since then I have been stuck indoors a lot of the time and far too sedentary. Consequentially I am very unfit.

Yesterday at my six monthly check-up the doctor said ok, so I decided to start getting back into shape with an exercise regime. In the square next to my condominium there is a set of exercise equipment, ideal for a daily workout first thing. I was just getting ready when I looked out the window´s raining! We haven´t had any rain for ages, it is most aggravating!

Monday, 15 November 2021

Poor little dead duck...

I believe there is a medical term for the condition where someone mishears or misinterprets what they hear, although I can´t remember it. When I was a child I did this often and even now do it occasionally.

My parents used to enjoy listening to The Platters when I was young, on vinyl 78´s, that´s how long ago it was. One day, I must have been about eight at the time, I commented to them that although I liked most of the songs I found one in particular rather sad, I believe it was Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, but I can´t really recall. When they asked me why I explained that the song was about a poor little dead duck. After much cogitation and actually playing the record so they could hear what I was referring to, it turned out it was the chorus which went...du diddle de du! Needless to say that became a family joke.


Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Machu Picchu - part six - finally there


Looking down on Intipata (the place illustrated on my trail permit). How on earth do we get way down there, where´s the path?

Made it somehow! Note my footwear...I did 90% of the trail in sandals. Boots are recommended but I had a foot problem which made closed footwear too painful at the time. I´ve since had operations on both feet and am fine now. There were comments and tut tutting from other walkers on the trail and one member of a German group actually took a photo of my feet in sandals! He thought I hadn´t noticed.


We were getting close now. This final part of the trail had some exceedingly steep steps you had to virtually crawl up. They led to Intipunku - the Doorway of the Sun.

 Once through the 'doorway' you are at a high point overlooking Machu Picchu in the distance.

I couldn´t believe I had made it...I must confess there were tears in my eyes. We still had some walking to do to get there but it was a gentle downhill stroll compared to what had gone before. Partway along you reach the point where the classic photo is always taken.

This is actually a jigsaw I have hanging in pride of place in my study, it is a far better picture than the one I took! When we reached Machu Picchu late afternoon, we went straight down by bus to Aguas Calientes to finally have a very welcome shower, relax, eat and spend the night and meet up with the rest of our group. Next morning we went up the mountain again by bus and had a proper tour with a guide. It was a truly awe-inspiring experience, everything you imagine and then some, and well worth all the blood, sweat and tears to get there!

This, believe it or not, is the road the bus goes up and down! It is about a 30 minute ride. Aguas Calientes, at the base of the mountain, is a village on the Urubamba river where there are hot springs. We had hoped to relax in them but a serious flood the previous day had destroyed the pools as well as some village houses.

When it was time to leave we returned to Cuzco by train, had a final night there, flew to La Paz and then on home. What a trip!  I am so glad I did it and proud that I actually made it. I certainly have some wonderful memories.


Monday, 8 November 2021

Machu Picchu - part five- the Inca Trail

My trail permit. The picture is of a site called Intipata, with ruins and terraces for growing food. When we passed through it I felt quite dizzy because it was so steep. The Incas apparently were experts on creating micro-climates.

The first day of the trail was a long slow climb from Llaqtapata up towards a pass. Thankfully we stopped and camped about halfway up. It was really hard work because of the altitude.

Looking back down the trail. Although we didn´t know it, this part was easy compared to what came later. As the trail became steeper it turned into rough rocky steps. These were all uneven heights and it was impossible to establish a rhythm as you went up.

On the second day we reached the pass, the highest point on the trail. It is aptly called Dead Woman´s Pass, or Abra de Warmiwañusca, at about 13,900 ft.

I was so focused on getting to the pass that I hadn´t thought about what happened next, assuming we would camp nearby. Unfortunately I was mistaken and it was a difficult slog down steep steps to our camp over an hour away. My legs were like jelly when I finally arrived.

One of our camps. We each shared a tent with another person. That night the temperature went down to -5C.

Dawn at the same camp and still bitterly cold.

The smelliest toilet on the trail, with no running water I guess it is understandable. Imagine being caught short in the night and having to find your way down to it with a torch.

To be continued (again!), last one though...

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Machu Picchu - part four - The Sacred Valley

Near Cuzco is the Sacred Valley where we spent a day, it is full of history and most interesting. Here we actually did some 'real' walking.

Here I am resting after a very hairy ascent...I don´t have a head for heights! The tiny white dots behind me along the road in the valley are houses.

 Some colourful local ladies in Pisaq.

 A typical home in Ollantaytambo.

A look inside. The guinea pigs running about underfoot are food, not pets, rather like free-range chickens I suppose. Although I hadn´t become a vegetarian at that time, this was a step too far for me and I never tried eating one despite their appearing on restaurant menus several times. I must admit I tried llama steak once but even that made me uncomfortable.

Finally the time arrived for us to start the Inca Trail. Not all the group were going, some had decided it would be too strenuous and demanding and were happy to continue sightseeing in the local area, then meeting up in Machu Picchu after four days. We went by coach to the trail-head and met our porters and local guide. Everything is strictly controlled nowadays and you each need a permit and go through check points, the group has to be escorted and the porters' burdens are weighed as they are not allowed to carry more than twenty kilos each. In earlier unregulated times they had been overloaded and overworked. We each had a small day-pack and had been allowed to take two kilos of clothes etc to be carried for us. The rest of our things stayed at the hotel for later transportation. Since you have to camp you need a fair number of porters as they have to carry tents, sleeping bags, our loads, all the food and cooking equipment, a gas cylinder (!), table and chairs etc. For six of us we had about ten, I think. They never stood still long enough to be counted. 

These men worked exceedingly hard. We´d be served breakfast and then set off walking, they´d break camp, overtake us at a jog on the trail,  prepare and serve lunch in a tent, break camp and overtake us again to prepare our camp for the night and feed us. When we staggered in we were always received with a bowl of warm water and a towel to freshen ourselves up! They were amazing.

Part of our intrepid group. I´m in the middle.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 3 November 2021


How lovely to hear some good news for once...young Cleo being found alive and well after eighteen days. I can´t begin to imagine how her parents are feeling.

Monday, 1 November 2021

Machu Picchu - part three- Cuzco and beyond



Above is a photo of me taken at La Raya Pass, the highest point of our road trip at 14,222 ft. By now thank goodness I had recovered from my altitude symptoms and was feeling fine. The vast altiplano (high plane) we traveled through in Bolivia is an arid and bleak place with only the occasional tiny farm struggling to survive in a brown landscape.We continued heading towards Cuzco for the rest of the first week, visiting many ancient and fascinating places along the way, including the Pukara Temple and the Raqchi Palace ruins.

This church is known as the Sistine Chapel of the Andes. From the outside it doesn´t look very impressive but inside it had the most incredible baroque decor. Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside.

 Eventually we arrived in Cuzco. This sign by the lift amused says 'please do not use the lift during an earthquake'! It was nice to actually be staying in one place for a while and we spent a few  days sightseeing with a local guide, Adriano. He was also a shaman and rightly placed a great deal of importance on performing brief cleansing ceremonies as we visited sites sacred to the Incas. These were chants in Quechua, the Inca language which is still the native language, accompanied by special gestures.

A happy group!

These niches were for mummies. The trapezoid shape protects the structure from earthquake damage. Clever people, the Incas!

One place we visited, Q'enqo, was a centre of religious worship. It was a rough, rocky place and Adriano said to follow him into a narrow rock tunnel. It was low and roughly finished with rocks protruding from above and the sides. I was ahead of the group and I went in, crouched down so I wouldn´t bang my head and feeling my way slowly as it became pitch dark. I couldn´t see anything at all and I couldn´t hear anyone behind me and started to feel lost when I heard  Adriano chanting in the distance so I headed towards the sound. It was the most surreal experience, feeling my way through the dark guided by a voice chanting in the Inca language. I eventually reached Adriano who was waiting in a dim chamber lit from a gap in the rocks above. Here I could stand upright again. As the rest of the group arrived we were told it was a funeral chamber and the slab of rock in front of us was where the bodies were laid. There were grooves chiseled in it for draining away the blood. Rather gruesome and a strange experience altogether.