Angela's Andean Adventures.
Peru and Bolivia 2001 - Part 10.
My Birthday in Ilo.
The Ruins of Moquegua
The flight was only half an hour and a smooth one. Another nice take off and landing which I always enjoy. Once I collected my baggage and made my way through I could see Elva waiting and waved and we hugged each other to death, we were so pleased to see each other again. In no time we found a taxi and were on our way to the bus terminal. Once there we found that the next bus to Ilo wasn't until 12 noon and here we were at just gone 9 am. We went upstairs to a cafe - me choosing that one because Rocoto Relleno was on the menu. The first thing was a glass of water for the ducks and I held first one and then the other until the glass was empty and the waiter brought another and they finished most of that as well. Just as well as we had a long hot journey ahead of us. Meanwhile Elva was downstairs trying to find another bus company with an earlier departure and she came back and said there was one departing for Moquegua at 9.30 and that buses left there for Ilo on the hour so that would be quicker than the long wait until noon.
Soon we were seated on the bus, the ducks on my lap and I cuddled them most of the way to Moquegua, a journey of just over four hours. The weather was unbelievably hot - I could hardly comprehend the difference just a half hour flight away. It was quite hard to stay awake, so the most intrepid of the ducks I put back in the bag, (and its little head popped out to see what was going on almost continuously like a jack in the box). The other one was more tranquil and once snuggled into my neck stayed there without moving. Thus I was able to sleep without fear of losing it.
At the first stop we awoke as each time buses stopped street sellers got on selling their wares and we bought two bags of tangerines, which were really refreshing in such heat. The scenery was mountains and desert, and we noticed the state of some of the roads that had collapsed on some bends and were built up again with piles of rubble. I was getting worried about the ducks after a while going so long without water so when I opened a bottle of Inca Kola to drink I tried pouring some into the bottle cap and they loved it. Each one had about 10 capfuls each and hardly batted an eyelid at the different taste.
When we finally reached Moquegua and were driving into the town the sights that met us were heartbreaking - houses that had disintegrated into piles of rubble or with walls teetering at angles and tents precariously perched in the remains of their homes. The damage to property was horrendous. Even houses that were still habitable had gaping cracks down some walls or the roof half caved in.
When the bus stopped we heard a man shouting he was going to Ilo and Elva called through the window that yes we needed a lift. As the bus stopped the taxi driver came over and helped us with our things and soon we were in the taxi - me in the front and we were sharing with another couple. Just before it departed another man tried to get in the front as well but there was no room with the ducks so he had to sit in the boot (it was an estate car). We finally reached Ilo at 3.30 and the taxi driver took us right to the door. It was great to arrive safely and I soon found a corner of the garden to cordon off and you would never think they had been travelling all day. They tucked into a bowl of food, had a drink and bathed in a saucepan of water and were at home in no time. Elva got busy cooking and we enjoyed a nice meal in time for Hugos return and around the same time Hugos Mum arrived who Id not met before and we all had a chat.
It was certainly much warmer down there on the coast than it was up in the highlands. Considering it was the middle of winter their weather is not so bad. A few days later I asked at an Agency dealing with the Iberia Airline about taking the ducklings home and was told that there was an embargo on the transport of livestock and no way that I could take them home. This meant I only had another 9 days with them, because if I could not take them home I would be leaving them in Ilo when I left for Cusco on 18 July, Elva and Hugo having a large back yard which is completely enclosed by a high wall, so they would have a perfectly safe home. I wished I could take them though. The pair of them were so affectionate, one of them, probably the female, especially so. Earlier that day we had been to the market - where I bought enough warm material to make three sets of bedding, food and drink containers with lids etc, ready for their long journey, to no avail. We paid another visit to another agency where Elva has a friend working, only to get the same result.
On a brighter note I had a really nice birthday on the Sunday. First of all at 7.30 in the morning a huge floral arrangement was delivered of red roses, red carnations, some white flowers and greenery, all spray flecked with gold and tied with a huge white ribbon. This was from Elva and Hugo, their sons Hugo and Willy and Willy's family. This adorned the table indoors until the afternoon and later was the centrepiece outside which is where family and friends joined us for dinner - Elva having specially made a huge lace tablecloth big enough to cover the table-tennis table in the front yard. Elva made me a beautiful tunic style blouse with lace insets at the front, secured with pearlised buttons - I dont know how she achieved such a perfect fit without premeasuring me but she did. I also had 2 bouquets of flowers from Willy's children and a set of kitchen utensils from Tita his wife - so that I wouldn't forget them, she said. As if I
could! I would always remember the great time I had with them all here.
All morning preparations were in progress - Lechon being the dish of honour - Roast Pork Bolivian style - along with various accompaniments. At the last minute a quick visit to the market to buy a bottle of Pisco, limes and angostura bitters to make Pisco Sours - a really delicious cocktail - they made enough for everyone to have two each. After the meal we all had a bottle of my favourite Cusqueña beer and then Hugo produced a jug of punch made with rum, sprite, lemons etc and he kept making more throughout the evening. All the while my favourite Andean CDs were being played and we all danced later which was great fun. Considering I was far from home, it was a great birthday, thanks to such wonderful friends.
On the Monday, as mentioned, we visited the feria - once in the morning to get all the ingredients for a meal I would be booking next day - then home for lunch - then back again in the afternoon to visit the whole of the market. These incredible markets and the vast array of produce available endlessly fascinated me. Everything - rice, sugar, different types of flour, is portrayed in huge sacks with the tops rolled back - even herbs - imagine sack-loads of oregano etc. Shopping is never this interesting back home. You could not beat that lovely interaction with the people selling their wares. Not just stalls galore, but for example, an old man with a wheelbarrow full of bags of carrots shouting his wares, a child selling tea towels, etc. I could spend all day just browsing and looking and enjoying the atmosphere of those fantastic markets. The next day I would be cooking lunch for the same people who came to my birthday party. Id decided on Rocoto Relleno for starters and a chicken curry for the main course. For those who don't know what rocoto relleno is, it is peppers - or rocoto chillis with the seeds removed - stuffed with a mixture of aji amarillo, garlic, peas, finely chopped carrots, minced lamb, coarsely crushed peanuts, oregano and fresh parsley and seasoning. This is served with small cooked potatoes, topped with a slice of cheese. The whole lot covered with slices of hard-boiled egg and then a pan-load of scrambled egg is poured over the top and baked in the oven. Its the most delicious concoction imaginable, believe me!
A couple of days later on Hugos day off we were planning to go to Tacna for the day and would be leaving at 8 am as it was a two-hour bus journey. There is an enormous market there every day and I was especially looking forward to it because as well as selling all the everyday things as per the markets in Ilo, there would also be a vast array of artesanial crafts, which I loved browsing through. I must have explored all the best shops in Cusco and La Paz where artesanial crafts were especially concentrated.
That first week back in Ilo was fairly quiet as I started feeling unwell in Cusco the day before travelling back to Ilo and it was only a week later that I began to feel more like myself. I lost my appetite altogether! On the Tuesday when I cooked lunch for the same friends who visited on my birthday I found it was quite a struggle to eat any of it, even something as delicious as Rocoto Relleno, which along with Lechon were my two favourite South American dishes. Ilo was a lovely tranquil place to be when feeling under the weather, especially with someone as delightful as Elva looking after me. For three days she put me on a special diet of thin chicken broth, gelatina (jelly) and tea with cinnamon powder and aniseed seeds added - which with one sweetener was really refreshing. Considering I hated tea until then I got quite partial to it. And amazingly, this diet worked and I was recovered in time for the weekend excursions.
All week I had been enjoying the two little ducklings, and wracking my brains for ways to get them home to England. A few enquiries at this end didnt look too hopeful so I wrote home so that enquiries could be made at that end as well. Not holding out too much hope I became more and more tempted by the idea of smuggling them home. They were so tame and affectionate that I decided to get them used to my body movements without squawks of indignance by carrying them around in my shirt pockets for part of each day. The one shirt I had with two pockets was okay but one duckling being bigger than the other it was a tight squeeze. So that is how the idea of bigger pockets was born. Elva put two pockets in each of three shirts much deeper and wider to allow for growing room and this proved a great success as there is nothing they loved more than being carried around with me, either snuggled down inside the pocket but if they stood upright they could just peer over the pocket top. They didn't much like the plastic bags I put around their feet and nether regions but this was essential! Once tucked into the pocket though they settled down happily enough.
I carried them like that for four hours the first day and they loved it. They would take food from my hand or sip water from a glass whilst still in the pocket and I was feeling really hopeful that it might be possible to smuggle them home through four flights. On two days I even took them out with me. This worked especially well in the shirt which still has its original pockets inside the new ones as the smaller duck tucked into the inner pocket could see easily over the top of the outer pocket and was so content that it did not budge the whole two hours we were out. The other one could see okay standing upright in the outer pocket. It was hilarious - eg getting on the bus and the looks of amazement on peoples faces seeing two ducks peering out of the pockets and the delight of all the children we passed who all wanted to smooth them. In fact most people were enchanted with them. I had to buy more duck food as they werent too keen on the variety purchased a few days earlier and the seller let them try a few varieties to see which produced the most enthusiasm, which I thought was really kind. Its just this kind of thing that made me love shopping there in the markets so much, the interaction with the sellers, many of whom were humourous and really friendly.
Because of the ducks contentment at being carried around like that I was feeling quite confident that I might be able to smuggle them home, so was devastated when the results of enquiries at home were reported back to me, that Iberia Airlines wouldnt carry livestock under any circumstances, would be fined if they did, and if I tried and got caught I would be fined thousands of pounds and possibly even worse. That even if the airline did give consent I would need vaccination certificates both here in Peru and in the UK and it would probably cost thousands as well in quarantine costs. I was so disappointed and dreaded tuesday night knowing I would have to leave them behind.
I made the most of their delightful company in the meantime, spending several hours with them every day. In the evenings after dark when we brought them in I usually cuddled them all evening until it was time to put them in their box wrapped in fleecy cloth for the night. I hoped they wouldn't miss me too much when I left. If nothing else I would have have been a surrogate mother to them for two weeks - I was convinced they were too young to have been separated from their mother at the time I bought them.