Andes Farmers

Andes Village

Andes Village

When touring the Andes mountains, the presence of farming is everywhere.

 

A drive along the endless narrow mountain roads reveals two things.  One,  due to the steep and isolating mountains, only people who generate their own products can live here.  Two, they have been living here for centuries.

 

Woman on her way home to the farm

Andes farm

The longest continental mountain range in the world, the Andes go through seven South American countries, including Peru, seen here.

 

It is the highest mountain range outside of Asia.  More Andes info here.

 

Peru, crop yields

Peru, crop yields

Potatoes are prevalent, with 400 varieties still grown today.  Maize or corn includes many varieties.  Andean grains (quinoa, amaranth), legumes, and roots are also farmed.

 

Corn is consumed in many ways, including a popular maize beer called chicha (more here).

Bottling chicha

Bottling chicha

 

The survival of Andean farming has been attributed to peasant farmers over the centuries.  They have preserved traditions and plant species, and adapted cultivation techniques from their Inca ancestors.   (More Inca agriculture here.)

 

Incan ruins, Pisac Peru

Incan ruins, Pisac Peru

While visiting Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we saw well-preserved ruins of irrigation and terracing techniques used during the Inca civilization (1400s, 1500s).

 

Andes woman (photo: B. Page)

Andes woman (photo: B. Page)

Fast forward to today, and there are still similar farming techniques throughout the region.

 

Terraced farms and farmers turning potato crops were common sights–small houses surrounded by quinoa fields, and locals selling their yields in nearby towns.

 

In all the towns, whether large or small, I always enjoyed looking for the chicha flags–a colorful “flag” indicating their shop sold chicha.

Andes Village Market

Andes Village Market

 

It was refreshing and fascinating to see productive families and communities farming and living as their ancestors did.

Chicha flag, photo: world-adventurer.com

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander unless noted

 

With Gratitude…

Andes Mtns, Peru

Andes Mtns, Peru

I see skies of blue,

and clouds of white,

 

 

 

 

Giant Eagle Owl, Botswana, Africa

Giant Eagle Owl, Botswana, Africa

The bright blessed day,

the dark sacred night

 

 

 

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world.

Lamar Vly, Yellowstone, WY, USA

Lamar Vly, Yellowstone, WY, USA

To my blogging friends across the wonderful world:  thank you for inspiring me every single day.

 

 

 

So many thanks, too, to Athena Alexander, for her awesome photos.

And Lyric credit to:  “What a Wonderful World” by Weiss, Douglas and Thiele

 

Northern Potoo

Northern Potoo

Northern Potoo

Nyctibius jamaicensis is a rather large neotropical bird at 15-18 inches long (38-46 cm).   They sit motionless on stumps, camouflaged and still, until it gets dark when they feed.

 

Noctural hunters, potoos eat large insects, mostly moths and beetles.   More info here.

 

Armando and the boatman

Armando and the boatman

We were in the Mexican town of San Blas for birding, and had three days with a marvelous local bird guide, Armando.

 

This small community lies on the Pacific coast, where there are many estuaries that wind through an extensive mangrove forest.

 

Family boarding boat, San Blas, Mexico

Family boarding boat, San Blas, Mexico

That afternoon we birded from a motorboat.  We had seen many local Mexican families all afternoon, adventuring in motorboats.  We also saw numerous crocodiles on the muddy banks.

 

At dusk we cruised beyond the mangrove forest, and the boatman turned off his motor in a reedy swamp.  Here, in the boat, the four of us waited for darkness.  There were a few quiet fishing boats and some dead tree stumps; but as the day turned into night, the fishers disappeared.

 

Sanderlings, Mexico

Sanderlings, Mexico

He told us to sit still, which was nearly impossible because in this hot, airless swamp, the mosquitoes were thick.

 

As daylight dwindled, we watched wading birds silhouetted in the sunset, heading for their nighttime roost.  Although there were no people, it was not quiet.

 

Mangrove forest, Mexico

Mangrove forest, Mexico

There was hooting and high-pitched cries, and occasional splashes in the water.  The northern potoo has a frightening guttural sound, click here.

 

Armando whispered to Athena to get her camera ready, had his spotlight in hand.  Then he pointed the light at a dead tree stump as a potoo flew off the stump, snagged a moth, and returned to the stump.

 

The moon was out so we could see the potoo repeatedly leave the perch, hawk a bug, and return; did this over and over, a nocturnal ballet.  Every once in a while Athena and Armando would coordinate a light-and-photograph moment, diligently working to get a good capture.

 

Out of respect for the bird, we stayed only 15 minutes.  By then the tide had come in.

 

Our one hour ride back through the mangrove forest had changed dramatically with much more water, closing us narrowly into the mangrove roots.  It was the wildest boat ride I have ever had, but it was definitely worth it for a quarter hour with the potoos.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

Blaring Red Trumpets

Chihuly glass sculpture

Chihuly Trumpet sculpture (Space Needle in the upper left corner)

This robust sculpture resides in Seattle, at the base of the Space Needle.  A tower of scarlet glass trumpets, it stands over six feet tall, at Chihuly Garden and Glass.

 

The artist, Dale Chihuly, was born in Tacoma and has spent many years in the Pacific Northwest.  The entire exhibit is a permanent collection, displayed indoors and out.

 

I spent a wet and rainy day at the museum in Seattle last year, and it lit up the gloom in the most extraordinary way.  The garish colors, colossal sculptures, and outrageous creativity are a true indoor marvel.  Then you go outdoors, and more brilliance awaits.  Info here.

 

Outside there is a refreshingly unique garden studded with glass plants and this sculpture, an edifice of glaring red blaring trumpets.  Click here for more of Athena’s photos of the Chihuly Garden exhibit, part of a series I wrote.

 

What I like most about this wild, one-eyed sculptor and his art is his message:  be bold, be brave.

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

Grauman’s Theatre

Grauman's Theatre, aka TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, CA

Grauman’s Theatre, aka TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, CA

The ultimate draw at this popular tourist attraction is a small plaza of solid concrete between the movie theater’s entrance and the busy Hollywood sidewalk.

 

Imprinted in the concrete are handprints, footprints, and autographs of nearly 200 famous movie stars.

 

Over 80 years of entertaining, and the theater still hosts moviegoers every day, including premiere films with an entourage of celebrities and fans.  Now called TCL Chinese Theater (and boasting the new James Bond film in IMAX) it has had many names, many owners, many face-lifts…and millions of visitors.  Read more here.

 

Grauman's,-people-millingThere was much noise and activity surrounding this hotspot on Hollywood Boulevard:  street artists, impersonators, souvenir hawkers, and tourists.  But I found that once I was in the plaza with the prints, the chaos melted away.

 

Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth

For here I was looking at the shoe prints of Rita Hayworth, the delightfully talented feet that had fluttered across my TV screen so many times.

 

 

Michael Jackson and stilettos

Michael Jackson and stilettos

Artists as far back as the 1920s and 30s had mingled here–Mary Pickford (original co-owner of the theater), the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson.  And hundreds more silver screen friends were here throughout the rest of the 20th century, and into the 21st.  View the list here.

 

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe at Grauman’s Theatre, 1953

People I had never actually met, but whose body and face, voice and gift, instantly sprang up in my mind.  Here were the artists from every stage of my life, and my parents’ and grandparents’ too–they entertained and enlightened me, in sickness and in health.

 

We all paused and admired our own special heroes, stood in their footsteps, honored their essence.

 

In a few quiet corners I noticed there is still some space left for future celebrities, because yes, the show must go on.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers

Grauman's,-Hollywood-Blvd.

 

 

 

American Flamingo

American Flamingo, Galapagos

American Flamingo, Galapagos

This iconic bird breeds in many tropical locales of the western hemisphere, while its close relative, the Greater Flamingo, lives on the opposite side of the globe.

 

Those seen here breed in the Galapagos Islands; live in shallow, brackish water.  We had the fortune to watch them on Floreana Island, as they searched for shrimp.

 

American Flamingo, Floreana Island, Galapagos

American Flamingo, Floreana Island, Galapagos

With their large size and pink color, Phoenicopterus ruber are not a typical bird.  They are about 50 inches tall (127 cm), owing much of the height to its long legs.  Carotenoid pigments in the diet add to their glorious rosy color.  There are many other unique features.

 

Flamingoes have a specialized beak used for straining food, and it also has a salt gland.  A four-chambered heart, very long trachea, and unipedal stance are additional interesting elements of the flamingo.  To read more, click here.

 

Flamingo feeding, Galapagos

Flamingo feeding, Galapagos

The only flamingo in North America, American Flamingo does not breed in the U.S.

 

Besides the Galapagos Islands, they also live and breed on tropical islands in the Caribbean and other equatorial locations.

 

On Floreana Island we found them in lagoons, and were lucky to see them from a high trail, affording observational perspective as they carved paths in the mud.  Known as ecosystem engineers, they help clarify the water by filtering it.

 

Flying Flamingoes, Galapagos

Flying Flamingoes, Galapagos

Mesmerizing to watch, each flamingo moved swiftly across the lagoon, sifting, endless sifting.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander