Saturday, November 21, 2009

the naked earth - concluding thoughts

To conclude - the earth is hiding nothing - the earth is nude and making new earth, and also by the apparent layers and wrinkles and folds, the earth is old - old, old. The history of lakes that once were and coral reefs that were, and magma that bubbled and cooled was revealed in surprising places during the four-day desert crossing. Thanks Tupiza Tours and to all my traveling companions - it was real!

the earth gets naked - part three

When you go to the naked earth you go from many things on your horizon to few things - grand things. Leaving Cochabamaba Bolivia - I left a scene of humans caught up in much activity - surrounded by their structures, sounds, and smells. Busy, busy place.

Three days later passing through a desert where a particular rock formation stood out distinctly - the stone tree - I thought, "how restful."

A nude mountain and blue-green lake, two things to look at. Next, a red lake full of flamingos. The thoughts I had were simple and quiet, "they match the lake . . or the lake and the birds, like, match."

Pay attention and remember.

At lunch, a fancy affair that came from the back of a jeep, which I ate off a plate in a desert over 12,000 miles above sea level, I was visited by a curly-tailed rabbit looking creature - the vizcacha.

It is true - all of it. There is a red lake, and a green one, and a rabbit with a long tail and I ate a vegetable medley off a porcelain plate the day I saw a stone tree and a nearly full moon in the day-time sky.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the earth gets naked - part two

Our Tupiza Tours expedition rolled out at the crack of 9:30am, took dirt roads and dry riverbeds, and climbed up to over 4000 meters into an open, uncovered eroding land. Trees and plants and organic matter, I think, dress the earth, and where those things are missing – the earth gets naked.

I thought this while I traveled across the exposed stretch of southern Bolivia. It was exposed, but not unadorned. The earth let it all hang out - stratigraphy and folds of time; it’s gray geyser juices, and its sulfur breath. The mountain peaks had not gone bald – no trees had ever lived there.

Peaks melted like piled Neapolitan with rose and cream, chocolate and mocha chip layers. We crossed by land rover – for four days. Here you could be mostly alone if you forgot to bring some company. You could freeze at night, sunburn, and windburn and dry out by daytime.
Few people live here and those that do tend llamas and wear so many layers they look big and thick, but small again against the landscape. It’s too high to grow anything – even potatoes.
This land is good to go into – wide open for thinking, but not humane enough to stay. This is not the tender place that makes you imagine a gentile mother earth that provides for her creatures. The earth would let the wind rip you away from her surface.
If you were this naked earth you wouldn’t be alone - or ashamed. You would have the company of skinny legs needling into your pitted skin: flamingos and the rare vicuña.
Grass clumps, that occasioned your surface, would grow as resolute as the oak, blades with the integrity of cactus spines. Proudly you’d display your ores and minerals from within – rust and lavender, green and yellow, and sometimes pure white. The heat that builds in you could vent and spew.

The earth doesn’t have resentment; it has volcanoes.

the earth gets naked - part one

Good place for a nap - Tupiza, Boliva.

I couldn't leave Bolivia and return to my New Mexico desert without a visit to the high, dry south of this country. I went for it's geothermal action, big salty flats, volcanoes, flamingos, and fanciful animals like spindle-legged vicuna and curly tailed rabbits. I'd only read about this desert realm. Could those fables have truth to them? To find out I joined my friends, Audrey and Dan of uncorneredmarket in Oruro, west of Cochabamba where we'd pick up a train south to Tupiza - but not before having juice. Fresh juice is a meal - and I try to have it several times a day, like other meals.

Oruro to Tupiza is 12 hours by train and out my window the view looked like a western. We were traveling into Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid territory. The stories you read say they met an untimly end near the town of Tupiza. It was odd to think of them in Bolivia until I arrived in its desert south. They may have felt as at home as I did in the dry, red rock country. Tupiza was sleepy and laid back - like its street dogs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


What on earth? Is this Earth? If a planet can be called Dune - we should call this one Over-sized Monster Egg.

Dawn on the Salar de Uyuni in southern Bolivia - the salty fossil of a prehistoric lake.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

cochabamba hike and summit

One recent Saturday, I hiked in Parque Nacional Tunari, beyond 11,000 ft and above the tree line; so far above Cochabamba that the city’s watching Jesus (Christo de la Concordia) looked like a tiny plastic figurine stuck on an anthill. I hiked with Eric Hartman, the Amizade director, and 5 of his US university students. The students are completing a semester of service learning and volunteering projects while studying Latin American history and politics.

It was good to climb thousands of steps but I suffered with Gumby legs on the way down.

Even far above the city I could still hear it – its tiny people making noises that spread beyond their bodies and streets. A festive roar could be discerned apart from the city sounds – and at its center, a stadium. Crowds gathered there for the Latin American Presidents Summit. There were presidents: Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), and other dignitaries. You can read an account of this event from a report by the Democracy Center, based in Cochabamba and San Francisco.

They gathered to discuss new economic models, to talk about trade with one another, a regional currency (called the Sucre, which they propose will compete with the US Dollar), and yes, they talked about climate change. These nations seem to be saying they want to be separate from US style capitalism; they have basic ideological differences with the US and other nations. They were saying it all loudly from the stadium. The Democracy Center’s blog has a video that takes you inside the noisy stadium. I was up on the mountain during the summit and read about it afterward. I was further above the city than even Jesus, and enjoyed my escape.