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Highway to the Sangre de Cristo mountains

August 30th, 2011 No comments

road to Sangre to Cristo mountains, Colorado

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In Colorado to ride horses in the mountains.  One of the first times I’ve been in rural America – most of my previous visits have been to the cities – and I’m blown away by the scale and wilderness.  The largely empty highways seem to go on forever.  The mountains are chunkier than I’d expected as well – we’re a stone’s throw from Pikes Peak at over 14,000 feet.

 

Even the apples are bigger in America. And there’s a reason for that.  They grow a thousand times as many apples in the States as in Britain, but they prefer theirs to be ‘meal-sized portions’ – so they export the little ones to us, with our smaller appetites and orchards.

We take a pack trip into the Sangre de Cristo mountains, south-west of Colorado Springs, and spend some nights at over 10,000 feet with nine wonderful horses who pick their way surefootedly across some difficult terrain.  The forests are a rich mixture of aspen, spruce and pine, with wild raspberries growing underfoot and a few bears lurking around to add spice to the mix (we have a large Great Dane with us called Guinness, who is said to be more than a match for any bear, as they are notoriously afraid of dogs).

I’m with my old friends Gary Ziegler, who has led trips with me in Peru many times, and his wife Amy Finger.  Their Bear Basin Ranch lies on the old stagecoach route to Westcliffe, and has over 4000 acres of fine riding country to explore.

By coincidence I’m just re-reading John Steinbeck’s excellent Travels with Charley, in which he also travels across America with a large dog, who at one point barks at a bear.  It’s almost exactly 50 years old, written in 1961, published 1962, almost his last book and a fine tribute to his love for the wide open spaces of America as well as a melancholy forecast of some of the changes he could see coming.  It came out the year he won the Nobel Prize and was subtitled ‘In Search Of America’;  perhaps helped by the Nobel Prize, it was a bestseller and deserved to be for the simple, direct approach he took to travel writing, and his perfect ear for American dialogue:  ‘the Badlands of Missouri are like the work of an evil child…’

 

The Pinball Of Peruvian Politics: A New President

August 6th, 2011 No comments

Every year, the Lima seafront becomes more Californian; not just the surfers hanging out in the Pacific breakers and paragliders spiralling around the cliffs, but the sense of affluence:  there are families strolling along the promenade after eating at one of Lima’s increasingly fashionable seafood restaurants and the shopping malls are full of  IPods, boutiques and tropical fruit flavoured ice cream.

But this is the first time I’ve been here when even the taxi drivers aren’t complaining. The Peruvian economy is booming, with a 7.1 percentage growth rate that European countries can only dream of; the Peruvian football team, serial underachievers, have done well in the Copa America, beating the old enemy, Chile, along the way. And they have been celebrating the centenary of the discovery of Machu Picchu, not only as the symbol of the country’s glorious Inca past, but because they finally managed to get back all the artefacts that American explorer Hiram Bingham took with him to Yale in 1911.

However, having told me all this, the taxi driver will then usually shrug and say “but now, quien sabe, who knows?’  For the recent elections have delivered a shock result that may take the pinball of Peruvian politics off in a completely new direction. Read more…