Monday 4 June 2018

Day 65 "I don't believe it!"

June 3rd, 2018

Heavy rain overnight that continues for the whole day

                I am up in the night a few times. The pain from yesterday has returned but this time is accompanied by diarrhoea. I never suffer diarrhoea. I am very careful over what I eat and drink. I won't have salads. I only have fruit I need to peel. I don't drink the tap water. I never suffer diarrhoea!
                Well I have got it now. The first time I have ever had it whilst visiting Peru. Actually in myself I don;t feel ill. I don't feel feverish or weak. I sleep and get up, do what is required and go back to sleep.
                Daylight arrives and I try to eat some breakfast. I don't eat much. There are two young Swiss girls who have been travelling for five months. Starting at Santiago in Chile, they have been to Paraguay and Brazil and are now heading for Lima. We chat and share experiences for an hour or so, a pleasure to be speaking English again after seven weeks of stunted Spanish conversation with limited variety.
                I make a shopping list and head off for the shops. I was planning to go back to Ampay nature sanctuary. This time I would pay the proper entrance fee for foreigners and the extra owed from yesterday. Well that was the plan but the weather and the tummy problem stops that idea. Instead I go to the internet shop and find that England need just two more wickets to win the cricket. Well that stops my thought that I could spend the day listening to my favourite sport, away from the sport of Green Birding that is.
                For some strange reason I am allowed by Google/Blogger to update my blog so do so. Recently they have sent security messages and blocked me. I then spend some time answering and sending emails and posting all photographs onto my Facebook pages.
                Suddenly I hear football noises from a TV at the other end of the room. I peep around my cubicle to see half a dozen people standing there watching the set. Peru are playing a friendly against Saudi Arabia in Switzerland and have just scored a great goal, a shot from outside the area. I go and stand with everyone and soon Peru score again, a shot that the goalkeeper fumbles and is put in from close range. Half time, I pay my internet bill of three Soles, about seventy five pence and return to the hotel in the rain. A crowd of fifteen or so people are standing outside a television saleroom, watching the game in the rain.
                Back at the hotel and feeling a bit rough I relax, watch the second half in the lounge area with the two Swiss girls from breakfast before going to my room and relaxing in bed. I fall asleep early after watching an Ice Age animation film in Spanish, the best bits of which are of Scrat with his acorn in space.

Green Year list :  211 birds                         average new birds to list per day  :  3.50 birds 

altitude : 7,504 feet

OK, thank you to everyone who has made a donation to Birdlife International and Chaskwasi-Manu over the last week. I really do appreciate it and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Day 63 Ampay Sanctuary - June 2nd 2018

June 2nd, 2018

Rain overnight, rainbows early morning, cloudy with occasional light rain, cool

                Off early to get to Ampay nature sanctuary. The roads are steep and the four mile walk to the reception buildings pass quickly. Sierran Eleanias and Rusty-bellied Brushfinch are in bushes as I arrive. Immediate embarrassment, there is an unexpected thirty Soles, around £7.50, entrance fee and I have thirteen Soles on me!

                They let me in. The forest trees are low with lichen, moss and large airplants on the trees. Birds are sparse and mostly silent. Sierran Eleanias are the most obvious with a gentle sweet call. Sparkling Violetears are perched prominently on Eucalyptus twigs  and a couple of Tufted Tit-tyrants show themselves. Birding is hard. An Apurimac Spinetail is in a bush very close to the path but getting good views of the bird are difficult. Easier to see is a Crowned Chat-tyrant that is hopping by the side of the path and is too close to photograph! It disappears down the slope amongst the vegetation by the time I have altered the ISO of the camera to cope with the gloom. Such a tame bird, surprised me by it's behaviour. It just wasn't concerned about me at all.
                Walking ever higher, step by step on this well maintained steep pathway, a small hawk suddenly glides through the canopy and lands on a branch close by. I carefully, quietly lift my binoculars and get a full eye view of a Sharp-shinned Hawk! A superb looking bird, it just turns it's head around and once again, as with the Chat-tyrant, seems totally unconcerned by my presence. It must have seen me but it doesn't fly away. A British Sparrowhawk would have been off immediately on seeing me. I do remember one bird, a large female bird of prey, that didn't fly off on my approach. That occasion was back in 2010 whilst on my first ever Biking Birder adventure. I was walking up Aber Valley in North Wales, making my way up to the waterfall there. There was very low cloud and as I came around a corner there was what I thought to be a Buzzard in a tree. Lifting my binoculars, I realised that I was looking at and being looked at in return by a female Goshawk. A goosebumps moment, the Gos' just stared at me before slowly lifting herself into the air to disappear in the cloud. The coincidence of that bird was not lost on me as I saw my first ever Goshawks in the same valley back in 1978.

                The Sharp-shinned Hawk eventually moves to another nearby branch and I carry on the climb.
                Other birds call in the trees and either give the briefest of glimpses or no view at all. I reach a bench and a viewpoint and a superb, iridescent blue hummingbird sits on the top-most twig of a nearby bush, a Purple-backed Thornbill, a well named bird. Actually I identified this bird incorrectly and was promptly corrected by none other than the world famous mega-year lister, Arjan Dwarhuis. Thanks Arjan.

                Sitting on the bench I suddenly have some extremely sharp pains in my lower abdomen. I crouch down and hold onto a rail as they get worse. Sorry to say this but I fart and the pain lessens. Maybe that's all I required. Two or three farts and the pain recedes. Alarm over the suddenness of the pain fades and I carry on.
                There are birds but I feel as though I should be seeing more. In fact I am kicking myself at my lack of success here. The forest is mostly silent with just the occasional utterance, usually from a Sierran Eleania. I have had three new birds for the Green Year list but I surely should be seeing or hearing more. Maybe it's the cool weather and light rain. Maybe it's the season. Early June is winter and the dry season after all. I think it's me and I get a bit concerned. We all have off days when we think we should be doing better but there really aren't any birds around to identify and list.

                I reach a small glacial lagoon, Laguna Angasqocha. The lake is surrounded by vertiginous cliffs covered in low bushes and shrubs. Still the area is silent and I sit on a rock to watch for avian appearances and am disappointed not to see one bird in twenty minutes. Moving on to go higher I find a break in the canopy and can see the tops of some trees. A long tailed hummingbird flies by but I don't have a prayer in identifying it. A small conebill species lands on a twig at the top of a tree but looking into the light I can't get much of its details, probably a Cinereous.
                My ascent of the trail has been slow and quiet and the hours have passed by. It is two o'clock in the afternoon and I decide to slowly descend and stop for sit and wait moments at various spots I have found on the way up that I feel might produce birds. A small group of Peruvians, with one young German girl from Aachen, stop and chat. One of the Peruvian girls insists on giving me a chunk of meat and some corn. They leave and almost immediately a mangy-looking dog appears. He is mostly white with a black mask over his left eye and I share the meat with him. A friend for life, Spot follows me for the next hour or so.
                On the way up I had seen a rarely used path that went horizontally across the hillside and I take this to find a spot where I can sit and see what passes. Almost immediately a Cinnamon Flycatcher lands on a branch close to. 

A gorgeous alert, small bird, it looks like a bright version of a Bran-coloured Flycatcher. There are around fifteen or so Band-tailed Pigeons perched on some tall Eucalyptus trees and at least another fifty fly past in a flock. In a bush to my left a small bird with a bright chestnut head appears, an Apurimac Brushfinch. It soon dives into the dense foliage on realising that I am sitting quietly there.
                Returning to the reception centre and then down to the city as darkness falls, a consider the fact that I have had seven new birds for the Green Year list. Seven, should I have had more? The average new birds to list per day figure at 3.35 is just below the target Dorian Anderson set of 3.39. I should be happy with that but somehow I feel I have missed a chance of some really good birds. Maybe I will return to the reserve tomorrow and go higher.

Green Year list :  211 birds                         average new birds to list per day  :  3.35 birds 

altitude : 7,504 feet

Day 62 Abancay. June 1st, 2018

June 1st, 2018

Sunny, scorchingly hot once more

                I am awoken by the loud sound of Disney's It's A Small World tune being played outside! Mind you it is seven o'clock and in Peru that is practically afternoon. Ablutions to do, I am up and soon enjoying the best, hottest shower. In the bathroom mirror I am amazed at how thin I am. I haven't been this skinny for twenty years! A mostly fruit and veg diet with an occasional lapse, is obviously doing me good and the proof that I have enough energy may be seen in the daily elevation, distance and altitude statistics. Incredible that I haven't had to use any inhalers once and, other than in Andahuaylas where the smog affected me, I haven't had any asthmatic or breathing problems at all, even at altitudes of over 14,000 feet. No need for coca tea!
                Showered, time for a have and then clothes washing. I eventually get out of the room at ten past nine, intending to find a computer repair shop. The Wifi adaptor's driver seems to have broken and that might explain why I couldn't access the internet at a few hostels that claimed to have Wifi. Back then it worked intermittently. Now there's zilch. I am greeted at reception by Simeona of Hotel Mica, the lovely lady, who was so helpful with my baggage yesterday when I arrived. Simeona asks me why I haven't come down for breakfast! This is a first, breakfast with the room. I have been used to being in hostels in Lima and Cusco where breakfast comes as standard but hadn't come across this anywhere else and had never thought to ask. Well do I remember the one last year near to the airport that, despite costing around £4 for the night, laid on a fabulous spread of different fruits and for an extra Sole, 25p, one could have a fried egg bap. So coffee, lots of it, bread, margarine and jam and a cup of herbal tea. OK.
                Into town, I need lip balm. No matter how much suncream block I put on my lips they still have gone a light grey colour and feel swollen. What with my pink nose that is peeling and refuses to brown up and my lips I must look a right sight. Yesterday I looked like a terrorist as I pulled my elasticated neck garment, given to me by my friend in Lima, Manuel, over my mouth and nose. It probably helped me by filtering out some of the filthy diesel fumes from the passing vehicles as well. The road over the mountains had been tranquil and mostly traffic free. Once however I had reached the main Lima to Cusco road how that changed! Strange to be on a road that I knew from times before. Cruz del Sur coaches have taken me along this route in both directions. When alone I prefer to go by coach than be carbon profligate and fly.
                I find an internet shop which has twenty or so small wooden cubicles with the usual old computers. For the next three hours I enjoy listening to Test Match Special on the BBC website. England are playing Pakistan and are doing every well. Indeed they have bowled Pakistan out in two sessions for under two hundred runs and I listen as Jennings, a young, new twenty year old is batting with the getting to be veteran Alastair Cook. They put on fifty runs together, which for the way England have played recently is good. Jennings is out for twenty none but the commentators are pleased with the way he has played and feel he has a future in the team. Just before the end of play, Alastair wafts at one going down the leg and it feathers his glove to be caught behind. End of play, England still have eight wickets left and are eighty or so runs behind. I adore Test match cricket and listening to it via TMS whilst sitting in a dingy room full of computers in Peru, is a strange experience. The splendour of the internet, it feels a privilege to be able to hear Geoffrey, Vaughan, Aggers and co.
                Still a problem over my laptop's Wifi drive, I return to the hotel after getting some food at the large market in the city. In it here are the usual mass of small stalls arranged in areas according to produce. All the fruit stalls, which by the way have none of their produce wrapped in layer after layer of nature destroying plastic, are on one floor. The meat stalls, mostly selling whole chickens with yellow skin and dangling legs, are on another floor. I find the hot food section and sit down on a bench with other Peruvians to enjoy a bowl of soup with pasta curls followed by a plate of rice, chicken and tagiatelli. Together with two glasses of juice the cost is fve Soles, around £1.50.
                Late afternoon is spent searching the nearby shoe shops for some suitably sized shoes. I need size 45 or 46, the largest I can find are size 41! It seems my blistered hobbling is going to continue.
Green Year list :  204 birds                         average new birds to list per day  :  3.29 birds 

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 35.00 miles

elevation : up 5,416 feet,  down 6,434 feet       

altitude : 9495 feet

Sunday 3 June 2018

Day 61 To Abancayo

May 31st, 2018

Sunny intervals

                The last day of the month and I am up at 4.00 a.m. Not that I want to be but my patience has reached it's end and the group of people in a room down the hallway, who have been talking, laughing and playing music all night, have finally got me out of bed and banging on their door. On the second round of my persistent knocks they open the door and my begging that at four a.m such noise is not on brings an English word, “sorry.” They carry on until 5! Oh well, I edit my three hundred and eighty seven photographs and listen to music.
                Five o'clock, they stop. A cockerel just outside makes his own persistent noise for an hour! I'll shoot the bloody thing. Another one replies to him. Aaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhhh! I give up trying to get a couple more hours sleep and get up, packed and ready to go.
                Pushing the bike up a very steep dirt side road in the village, to get to the main road at the top of the incline, two snarling dogs are surprised when instead of abuse and the threat of a pebble, they get some chicken bones instead. I always prefer sugar to a stick and they both stop their attack to fight over the bones.
                The road to the top most point, the summit as I call it, has me fooled. The map says it is only eight miles to it yet the gradient is one of the steepest I have had to push on so far and therefore the time taken to get there is longer than I had expected. Two women stop me before I reach that point and practically beg for one of my cuddlies. I go through the now regular reasons why that cannot be.

                At the summit, which is at the far end of an almost empty village, I meet the first cyclists of my tour. A Swiss couple from the beautiful city of Lucern, have been cycling from Patagonia for six months and are heading north. To cycle as a couple must be wonderful and I have pangs of envy. I often feel lonely and someone to share a tent with on a cold night would be wonderful. Any female Biking Birders out there?
                The cycle down is as rapid as the uphill struggle wasn't. I stop after just a few kilometres because some pale looking swifts are dashing around the fir and Eucalyptus tree canopy. I am surprised to find that they are a sub-species of the already seen Andean Swifts. 

Now I have been surprised and disappointed at the lack of swifts and swallows on this trip and hope that will change once I am walking down the Urubamba river valley to Aguas Calientes.
                Another stop to see what birds are in the large bushes as I munch some lunch. Red-crested Cottinga, Sparkling and Green Violetear show themselves. Now what was that cotinga-sized bird with the bright orange wings? No idea!
                The descent continues and the temperature rises. By the time I have reached the river the afternoon heat is incredible and as I turn to face north instead of south, as I cycle along, a strong breeze hits me. Unbelievable, from freezing ice two nights ago to tropical temperatures. Peruvian Andes, ringing the changes. A cafe attached to a petrol station saves me. I am tired and the thought of a ten mile push up to Abancay has me thinking of where do I camp. I turn in and find a table.

                Half an hour later, a cup of strong coffee inside and a litre of some sort of milk inside me, I am ready, refreshed and ready to face the hill. Headphones on, The Who . . . perfect!
                Two hours later, just as darkness falls and having faced the largest number of barking dogs on the trip so far, I arrive in Abancay centre and find a great hotel, chuffed that I made it.

Green Year list :  204 birds                         average new birds to list per day  :  3.34 birds 

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 39.63 miles

elevation : up 7,407 feet,  down 8,976 feet       

altitude : 7,504 feet

May statistics :

total miles : 596.7                  elevation : 74,622 feet UP!       81,696 feet down.   

New birds for Green Year list : 24

Solitary Sandpiper, Puna Snipe, Ornate Tinamou, Aplomado Falcon, White-collared swift, Streaked Tit-spinetail, White-bellied Hummingbird, Blue-capped Tanager, Black-backed Grosbeak, White-winged Black Tyrant, Sierran Eleania,Red-eyed Vireo, Scarle-fronted Parakeet, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Mitred Parakeet, Cinereous harrier, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Green Violetear, Red-crested Cottinga, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Rust & Yellow tanager, Azara's Spinetail, Rufous-webbed Bush tyrant and Rusty-fronted Canestero.

Day 60 Up and Over.

May 30th, 2018 

Sunny, cool at altitude, scorchingly hot with strong breeze in valley

                The flat tent is covered in ice in the morning. I suspected as much during the night for I kept wriggling my toes to warm them up! I get up, pack most of the stuff away and place the tent on a large boudler so that it faces the rising Sun and will thaw and dry as I bird. The most magnificent camping spot I have ever had whilst Biking Birding, to tarry a while, to have breakfast and admire the view, well it would be a sin not to.
                I walk down the ridge and disturb an Andean Tinamou that calls loudly as it flies low down the slope. A few Brown-bellied Swallows add variety to the list of birds that reflects yesterday afternoon's species. Seventeen species seen within such a small patch. Most of them have come to me as I have sat still against a large rock; a tactic similar to my woodland birdwatching back when I was a teenager. Then I would sit against a large tree and see what passed. Important to sit in front of the tree and observe, not behind it and poke your face out! Hide your silhouette.

                On the road around nine o'clock, I see eleven Andean Flickers before reaching the first bend. They really are a wonderful bird and reasonably approachable. The same can be said for American Kestrels and one almost dares me to see how close I will come to it perched on a telegraph wire before it flies away.
                The five miles or so to the summit seems to pass quickly enough as I try to photograph fly over raptors using the 'sports' mode on the Canon SX50 bridge camera. I haven't used this before preferring to take single shots of birds instead of a machine gun approach. Maybe the results for these fabulous birds of prey will persuade me to change my approach for flying birds. The results of single shot fly pasts have not been too good in the past. So every so often the long push is interrupted by a Variable Hawk, a Mountain Caracara or an Aplomado Hawk. The latter may be the same pair that I saw so amorously entangled yesterday for they are continuing their passion for each other, this time perched upon a telegraph wire. By staying in the shadows of some fir trees, my approach is slow and the birds allow close views.

                The push up has been delightful because of such frequent bird encounters but it has also been tremendous because of the amazing vista of snow-capped mountains over to the east. How high these peaks must be in order to have such an extensive covering that shine brilliantly in the early morning sunshine. This is by far the most magnificent view on the tour.
                At the summit of the road a large black dog has been walking about fifty yards ahead of me, always keeping ahead despite my offer of a cold egg and chips bap. A police car is parked beside the road and the officer inside gets out and together we try to coax the mangy, half starved animal to come and eat my offer. We chat as we do so and eventually he comes and wolfs down the bap and contents but only after the officer and I have backed off to the car. The officer, I never did ask his name, gets out a bottle and two cups and we enjoy a cold cup of coffee, much appreciated after such a cold night. There isn't a cloud in the sky and the Sun is shining brightly bringing some heat but the air is still cold and I wear a jumper and a RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds,the leading British environmental charity) sweatshirt.
                The descent begins and the road clings to the steep sloped sides of various mountains as it circumnavigates an immense valley. Stopping occasionally to give my hands a rest from the constant braking, I marvel at how quickly the kilometres pass when going down and how rapidly one one gets down. Looking back at the high roads it seems incredible that just a few minutes ago I was there.

                Trees appear again, mostly tall Eucalyptus, and I cycle through small villages. Rounding a corner I come across the area where the large landslide the officers yesterday so kindly warned me about had occurred. There are workmen shovelling and a large digger moving material away but the road is passable. Just before this devastated area there is a long wooden shelter covered with strong blue plastic and as I approach half a dozen women appear, each carrying some sort of food in polystyrene trays. They immediately turn their attention to my companions and one lady insists that I give her Tigger the Pirate. Once more I explain the significance and importance of each of my four friends and I get off the bike and ask whether they have some water. A young man, obviously attached in some way to a young lady in the last compartment of the makeshift shelter, fetches me a large mug of cold, sweet thermal tea and I sit down with them for a chat. I ask whether it would be alright to heat up the omelettes in a two baps bought the day before and I place them into a large frying pan on the clay stove fire. The older lady here adds a few cut Eucalyptus sticks to the fire and places a large piece of breadcrumb-covered chicken into the same pan. Once cooked I give one of the omelettes to her and I buy the chicken piece with six large red potatoes for five Soles, around £1.25. Vehicles stop every so often as I sit eating my lunch and on doing so they are quickly surrounded by all the women asking the driver and occupants whether they want the chicken or trout with potatoes. Six women each carrying a tray of food and each trying to get custom yet here is no friction between them, neither is there any turn taking. There must be some way in which each of the ladies sells their wares and rejection must be so common that their must be a general acceptance of it when it occurs and the unsold food is replaced in a large metal lidded, metal post to stay hot by the fire.

                On reaching one larger villages after saying goodbye to everyone, I ask a police officer standing in the square whether there is a hostal as I would like to bird the rest of the day. He takes me up a steep road past a Primary School and takes me into the back garden of a small hostel. There two ladies tell me that it is all occupied due to the workers on the landslide. The officer tells me that there is another village with a hotel about an hour away. I set off. A wonderful surprise is as I reach the village plaza once more. There are the two police officers that told me about the landslip problem. They stand and salute me as I pass!
                Once more most of the route is downhill and around yet another large valley with stupendous views. This part of the road also has a lot of rock break down areas and I have to be careful to concentrate as I pass rockfall after rockfall. Rather a shame to see so much rocky debris on such a good tarmac road. The road from the village goes around a very deep stream valley and the view back to it after a couple of kilometres reminds me of Rhonda in southern Spain. Back in 1999, my late wife, Karen and I had a week exploring the area of Southern Spain from Malaga to Gibraltar and had been to Rhonda to see it's famous bridge. The view from the other side of the valley of that bridge and the beautiful city was so memorable.

                Two hours or so pass before a final, very steep descent into the village of                            , so steep in fact that I overtake a car on my way down. In fact I see the car, which I admit wasn't going as fast as most cars, and make a sports commentary up in my head as I catch it up. “And here comes the British Green entry and it looks as though he could take the gold medal. Yes! There he goes. He passes the Peruvian carbon car with ease. Here comes the finish line! It's gold for Britain.! You get the idea.
                Walking the bike along the high street a woman calls out hello in English and I stop to talk with her. She is with three other ladies, all sitting in buckets outside a shop. They get me a bucket and I spend an hour talking with her. She translates our conversation for the others and children stop to look at the bike. One young boy has an album of football stickers for the forth-coming World Cup. A group of teenage lads gather around as I look through it and point out the best England players and ask about the Peruvian team. Everyone is so obviously proud and happy over Peru being in the World Cup this year. The English speaking lady, well she intersperses English words amongst a mass of Spanish but I understand well enough, tells me that she learnt English when working hard for an English couple that lived in Miraflores, Lima a few years ago. She, Marcella, insists on telling me how hard the work was for them. Marcella makes it sound like slavery!           

Green Year list :  204 birds                         average new birds to list per day  :  3.40 birds 

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 35.00 miles

elevation : up 5,416 feet,  down 6,434 feet       

altitude : 9495 feet

Day 59 Setting off For Abancay

May 29th, 2018

Sunny and hot during day, cold once Sun gone down

                After a day off yesterday in order to let my feet have a rest and repair themselves somewhat from the blisters, I am awoken at 4:45 a.m. By the noise outside of the egg and chip ladies setting up their two stalls on the corner of the road opposite. Yesterday's breakfast was two bread rolls filled with egg and chips, delicious at one Sole each, around fifty pence Sterling for them both. I had thought of having another of their items, omelettes, for lunch but by ten they had dismantled and gone, replaced by a sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks stall. People have gathered there with the ladies already and the sound of laughter and lorries filters through to my room. Peru gets up early and so shall I.
                I have around a hundred miles to get to my next destination, Abancay and there is, of course, a large climb to do before then. It starts right away for the road from Andahuaylas rises from an altitude of 9,495 feet to a summit of around 14,000 feet with a slight dip half way there. From the top the road mostly goes downhill so I hope to get to the city in two days, although on my planned itinerary I have given myself three days. I have three more climbs, well pushes really before the trek from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu and each one has a greater amount to get to the summit than the last. Today's 4,500 feet is superseded by the climb after Abancay, which is 5,000 feet and then the last climb is 6,000 feet. Oh well!
                OK, time for breakfast from the ladies and packing. The time is the title of a famous song by The Who, 5:15 from Quadrophenia and in my case it isn't a beach but the mountains 'where a man can feel, he's the only soul in the World that's real!' But that's another song for another time.
                Breakfast eaten and the bike takes me to the main road. It is very smoggy and the slight rise over the first two miles has me breathless. I am feeling worse here than if I was at 14,000 feet!
                A few miles later and a thousand feet higher I am out of the smog layer and the sound from my MP3 player, Freebird by Llynrd Skynrd, has me singing and the smog behind me can be seen as a layer over the valley. Three hours of battery so a lot of songs to sing as I push up the relentless hill. I am well into this a little later when I notice a couple sitting on the grass on the opposite side of the road. I hope they like Sympathy for The Devil!

                Cows pass lead by two women, a village passes and consternation from a teacher as all of his ten year old pupils surround the bike. One of them had called me a Gringo and on my fake anger saying, “please not Gringo, Amigo,” they all came running. They're all laughing and interested in my 'friends.' I apologise to the teacher. Lo siento.
                A police car stops me and try to explain that the road about twenty miles or so is blocked by a landslip. I say try because, as usual, my lack of Spanish makes it difficult for them. Eventually I get it and thank them. About an hour later though I notice that some vehicles are starting to come down the road and I feel confident that the road block has been cleared. I look on my map and see that there is a way around this if it is still blocked but it will take me along an un-tarmacked road and is a much further way around.
                Thy pass me again about three hours later and flash their headlights and put their thumbs up. What they say from their loudspeaker as they pass I don't understand but I get the gist that the road is clear.

                It's definitely potato harvesting time and I pass group after group of people bent over double picking up the exposed potatoes or carrying large sacks on their backs. I watch as I see four people lift a sack and place it on a man's back for him to carry it to the attendant lorry. Some of them are sitting together having lunch and one group wave me over. I don't know why but I feel shy and I wave thanks but gesture that I need to keep going. Another group shouts “Hola!” I love the way Peruvian people treat me as I cycle, pedal or push. They may be different with each other but the way they treat a tourist, a Gringo such as myself, is delightful. I ask two men how far to the top. They laugh and start at twenty kilometres then change it to ten and finally one! I might not believe these two.
                Joe Jackson, Laughter and Lust album, must have been going through a divorce when he wrote this. I sing along but lyrics sting as their truth and resonance with my own past hit home. Most days I think of my late wife Karen and most days, as soon as the thought of her arrives in the internal conversation that never ends with oneself, I have strategies for changing the subject. Karen was so fabulously beautiful but troubled and as I listen to each song in turn and sing along I hear echoes from a mutual past. Yet the album starts with a castigation of a pop star trying to stop a young man cutting down a tree in a rainforest. The over rich telling the ultra poor what to do with their land. So different to the political sounds from the next Joe Jackson album on my player, Blaze of Glory. The hills are alive with my anger at The Evil Empire!

                Seven and a half hours of pushing. I am bushed and so on seeing an area that is flat with large boulders that is unseen from the road, I decide to stop for lunch, some birding and setting up my tent. I rest up against a rock, get out my lunch and immediately fall asleep. It can only have been for a few minutes but refreshed I look around and see a White-browed Chat Tyrant on a rock close by. 

Further up the hill a Rufous-webbed Bush Tyrant is on a bush. As I sit still other birds come close and others soar overhead. I start to do a list and have fifteen species in the next hour. A fair number of Variable Hawks and Mountain Caracaras come over.

A Rusty-fronted Canestero shows itself well in a bush nearby. Two new birds for the Green Year list, I am enjoying this. To cap it all a pair of Aplomado Falcons land on rocks some distance away but then the female takes off and lands on the top twig of a nearby fir tree. The male then comes and mates with her!
                Sitting against my rock I watch as the Sun goes down and the temperature immediately changes. It is cold. Time to put up the tent. As I put the longer of the metal poles into it's slot it snaps. I get the repair kit out and as the light fades fix the break and get inside the tent to arrange the inflatable mattress and sleeping bag. The pole snaps again. I try to fix it but cannot see it well enough to do a good job and the tent immediately falls down. I get inside my sleeping bag and accept a night ahead with a flat tent. Memories of a lovely Dutch couple I met in The Camargue in Southern France in 2007. Both of them had small tents and the girl's tent had a broken pole also. I remember seeing her sunshine face poking out from her flat tent in the morning. I had slept in my car and we shared fig jam sandwiches in the morning, the start of a passion for such jam. Birding The Camargue, I have been there three times. The first time was in the summer of 1990 and I had hitch-hiked there. I walked from St Maries to La Digue, a lighthouse about half way across the seaward side of the area and had not seen a soul. I had slept in a sleeping bag in the sand dunes with the headphones of a Walkman to distract me from the billions of mosquitoes. Watching the star-filled night sky, a huge fireball went over and I stood up, still in my sleeping bag, cheering. In 2007 I was back there having driven around France for a few weeks and the changes were immense. Now there were dozens of people along that same pathway, using mountain bikes to access the area and there were hundreds of campervans set up along it. There were far fewer mosquitoes and hence far less dragonflies. The last visit was in 2014 with two great friends, Jason Oliver and Tony Barter. Great birding with great friends, a perfect visit thoroughly enjoyed. I remember standing on the roof of my car in order to get a better view of a reed surrounded lagoon. Well worth it.

Green Year list :  204 birds                         average new birds to list per day  :  3.46 birds 

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 18.00 miles

elevation : up 5,416 feet,  down 6,434 feet       

altitude : 9495 feet

BB 2010 Oops, crash and a motorway Abominable Snowman in Hemel Hempstead January 5th

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...