Signs that the wet season in the upper Amazon (starting in Iquitos, Peru) has started are the flooded rivers and luring freshwater dolphins swimming through the trees.
Unlike marine dolphins, botos (Amazon dolphins) have fat foreheads, elongated beaks and neck vertebrae that allow them to bend at up to a 90-degree angle, these facilitate grasping fish from unraveled branches, digging in river mud for crustaceans, and gliding through trees.
The Amazonian folk wisdom describes botos as encantados (enchanted beings who sometimes take on human form, coming out of the river to lead men and women into their magical underwater city.)
Unfortunately, boto population in the Amazon has declined by half over the past seven years. There is an urgent need to establish conservation policies to avoid fishermen hunting botos for bait or killing them accidentally in their gill nets.
As in many places in the world, drought in some parts of South America is a big problem.
In Lima, the capital of Peru, rain is very scarce. But thanks to the efforts of biologist Kai Tiedemann, villagers outside of the city center are coaxing water out of the air. The method: harvesting fog.
I am really impressed to know that fog catchers have been installed in many arid areas where fog is dense. For example, fog catchers in the Atacama desert (Chile) are converting this dry region to a livable place.
Born well above the tree line, in the extreme high-altitude regions of the South American Andes, vicuñas were considered sacred by the Incas. Only royalty were allowed to wear their precious fleece. Cousin to the alpaca, the llama and the wild guanaco, the vicuña is the smallest member of the camelid family, it weights around 100 pounds and it is almost never taller than three feet high.
Vicuña's incredibly buttery soft fabric, usually undyed to preserve its softness, makes even cashmere seem harsh. Its fleece is the rarest and costliest natural fiber in the world, because of that, vicuñas were enthusiastically hunted from the time of the Spanish conquistadors through the 1960s, when they were near extinction.
Today, vicuñas are still worshipped as sacred animals by the Aymara Indians of Peru and Bolivia, and thanks to conservation efforts, they have made a strong comeback. It is really nice to see that many designers like italian Loro Piana are using its golden fleece in their winter collections.
This is very good news, with the comeback of vicuñas; people in the Andes will have a sustainable income for years to come.
While reading the Economist today, I was puzzled and saddened by the fact that forced marriages are a long-standing tradition in Afghanistan. Young girls are often used to settle disputes and debts, or raising money.
Do you know that around 60% of Afghan girls are forced to be married before they reach the legal minimum age of 16?
Photographer Stephanie Sinclair has documented some of these stories in a slideshow. What do you think? Please write your comments.
Yes, I know, everybody is opting for sharing their lives with the world through the net (facebook, tweeter, blogs, etc). But have we stopped to think how technology is affecting our behavior?
I definitely understand the value of social media in business. Listening to customers and establishing conversations with them is very important if we are committed to providing good products and services. But I still would like to believe that we will choose to call a friend instead of just texting, or better yet, we would make time to meet them and have a long chat over a cup of coffee. Yes, it sounds old fashioned, but it keeps us human.
Rather than spending another 4th of July at the beach, my husband and I decided to join a group of hikers from the San Diego Hiking Club in a backpacking trip to San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains.
To avoid preconceptions of any kind, we decided to go with the flow and not research the area. After all, our hike leader, Gloria, had hiked the mountain at least 3 times.
Well, on July 3rd, after a substantial breakfast in a cafe in Escondido, and a root bear break on route 38 (Mentone), we arrived at the Vivian Creek trailhead (at 6,000 feet) at around 11:30 am.
With backpacks loaded with stuff for 3 days (including our bear-proof canister), we started walking on the steep and narrow path towards the campground (Half Way Camp, at about 8,000 feet.) The day was very clear despite the large clouds spotting the deep blue sky. It seemed to be a wonderful setting until we realized that this was one of the most challenging hikes we could have done. It took us 5 hours to cover the 2.5 miles to campground. We arrived exhausted and rushed to set our tents. We needed a nap before dinner!
At 9:00am on July 4th, we left the campground and headed up to San Gorgonio at 11,503 feet. That meant, that we would need to gain 3,500 feet in 6 miles before arriving to the summit!
Knowing the long way ahead, we paced ourselves and tried to enjoy the beautiful views along the way. We were only carrying our day pack with some snacks and water.
It was 2:00 pm when we reached the tree line (at about 11,000 feet). We were almost out of water and the rest of the way was very arid and hot. This was the most difficult part of this trip!
I considered giving up without reaching the summit at least 3 times. The path seemed never ending. All our hiking companions, including a couple in their 70’s had gone ahead of us!
We finally reached the summit at 3:00 pm. This had been the longest hour in our lives! We did it! Could not believe it! Our feet were numb!
The view was breathtaking! A 360º panoramic view of SoCal including the length of Big Bear Lake, and San Jacinto!
At 3:30, we started our way down. Our only goal was to reach the tree line again for shade. We did not have more water! And the next creek to replenish it was at least one hour away….
I know I promised to talk about San Gorgonio, but I think I will leave it for next time. This week, my mind is embracing the idea that even in these hard economic times, Paris can be affordable. Hurrah!!
I used to be an avid hiker in my college years. My classmates and I organized innumerable outings to the Peruvian highlands every time we had a school break. Those were wonderful times!
I have not done much hiking since I moved to the United States in 2000, but I am trying to retake the hobby, so look up for my next postings, I will give you insights of my recent trip to San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest peak in Southern California.
In a recent trip to Malaysia, I was introduced to Durian (the King of Asian Fruits). I knew that my mother-in-law had forbidden the fruit from the house, but it wasn’t until I experienced on my own its distinct smell, that I understood why.
I am not going to say more, but if you get a chance, try it, you might like it. I have learned not to judge things from their appearance. I rated it 7 out of 10, how about you?
I was born a globetrotter. My mother, an afro-peruvian, born in the sandy dunes of Trujillo (the third largest city in Peru), and my father, a mestizo born in Iquitos (the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest) took my brothers and I around the country since we were born. I have been lucky! I can say that I have tasted the many “flavors” of Peru.
Now, my husband and I travel the world not only by air, land and sea, but through the books we read, and the friends we have, so I just want this to be a channel to share with you my experiences, and I hope you feel free to share yours. After all, we are all citizens of the world.