La Paz, Bolivia

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The cathedral of San Francisco was right next to our hotel and backed onto the Witches Market, so our walking tour of the city was remarkably concise, useful at this altitude.

San Francisco, La Paz

La Paz sits in the bowl of a valley with the cheaper suburbs up above on the surrounding hills. It means that there’s a lot of walking up and down, and given how high we were, it makes for quite a slow tour.

Government Buildings La Paz

There were two separate protests on at the time we visited, street vendors complaining about the suggestion they might need to register and pay a fee per stall and most of a village down south come to town to complain about a corrupt mayor.

But also there were just a range of people trying to go about their everyday business.

1960s bus La Paz

Street Scene la Paz

Another city, another museum thoughts one focused essentially dealt with textiles, pottery and masks/feather decorations.

Textile Museum La Paz

Hat for aliens – misshapen heads for the hierarchy

There is something vaguely magical about a national museum that seems focused on wooly hats!

Festival masks

There were a small but significant number of African slaves imported into Bolivia and the minority group has a difficult representation within the festival masks ranging from villainous to laughable, but rarely heroic.

The pottery exhibition was very reminiscent of the museum in Cuzco.

Ceramics, la Paz

But uniquely there were also some extraordinary feather decorations from belts to headressses.

Feather decorations, la Paz museum

And bizarrely ending with a display of home-made violins.

After the museum we headed back towards the hotel, in a large circuit that came across a protest from two separate groups: local (women) market traders and protesters from a distant district complaining about a corrupt mayor.

Before heading over to the market, through the various everyday lighting stalls to the “medical” llama foetuses etc.

All the way to the ladies selling coca leaves.

By the end of the holiday we were positively relaxed in la Paz (just so long as we were allowed to take our time walking uphill) but it was definitely one of the most idiosyncratic places I’ve ever been.


Basic Pasta

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Pasta with tomatoes and chilli

The key to success here is cooking the arrabiata sauce low and slow – a little patience will transform a dish you thought you knew into something far superior. Be sure to use whole rather than chopped tomatoes.

An arrabbiata sauce – AKA tomatoes, garlic and chilli. Simple, satisfying, cheap.

Serves 4
400g dried pasta
500g tinned whole plum tomatoes
190ml olive oil, plus a glug
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (more if you want)
½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper

1 Strain the tinned tomatoes through a colander (the juice tends to be acidic and makes the sauce too wet – set aside for another use).

2 Heat a glug of olive oil on a low-to-medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the garlic and chilli and fry until just starting to change colour, then add the strained tomatoes and stir. After 5 minutes, turn the heat down to low, add the 190ml olive oil and the sugar and simmer for 2 hours. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn’t catch. Taste and check for seasoning, You can store this sauce in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

3 Bring lots of water to a rolling boil in a large pan and add plenty of salt – it should taste like mild sea water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

4 When the pasta is cooked, add a splash of pasta cooking water to the pan of tomato sauce and put the sauce on a low heat. Remove the pasta from the water and add it to the pan of sauce – keep the cooking water. Vigorously toss the pasta in the pan for at least 30 seconds to work the gluten, adding a splash more starchy cooking water if it starts to dry up. Continue tossing the pasta until the sauce emulsifies to a viscous sauce. Serve immediately.

Pasta with Marmite

This Anna Del Conte creation makes perfect sense: the marriage of pasta, fat, and two hits of umami, Marmite and parmesan. Adjust the quantities to your taste.

Serves 2
200g pasta
30g butter
1 heaped tsp Marmite
Grated parmesan, to serve
Black pepper

1 Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of generously salted boiling water, according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Just before you drain it, reserve a cupful of the cooking water. As the pasta drains in the colander, set to work on the sauce.

2 Melt the butter (in the same pan that you cooked the pasta in) with the Marmite and pour in the reserved pasta cooking water, then tip the drained pasta back into the pan. Toss it around to coat the pasta completely, then transfer to bowls or plates, cover with a healthy mound of parmesan and a grinding of black pepper, with more of both on the side.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

It is said spaghetti alla puttanesca (the last word translates as “in the style of a lady of the night”) originated in Naples. One story goes that it takes as long to cook the dish as it does the lady to take care of her clients. Either way, it has all the heritage of southern Italian cooking: chilli, tomato and olive oil. For me, the spicier the better, with as much dried chilli (or pepperoncini) as you can take.

Serves 4
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped
400g tin of tomatoes
Salt and pepper
375g spaghetti or linguine
2 tsp small capers
A pinch of chilli flakes
10 black olives, chopped
12 white marinated anchovies
Flat-leaf parsley to garnish

1 In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil, add the onion and garlic and sauté without letting them colour.

2 Add the tinned tomatoes, season with freshly milled salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes, until it becomes a nice thick sauce.

3 Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water, according to the packet instructions (normally about 12 minutes) until al dente.

4 While the pasta is cooking, add the capers, chilli and black olives to the tomato sauce.

5 Drain the pasta well, toss in with the sauce and finish with the anchovies and chopped flat-leaf parsley. Finally, check the seasoning and serve.

Spaghetti with lemon, parsley, garlic and chilli

How much you make of this is of course entirely up to you, depending on how many somersaults you want to happen in your mouth. However you make it, it is an invigorating yet comforting meal.

Serves 4
2 large unwaxed lemons
A big handful of flat-leaf parsley
500g spaghetti
6 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
A small dried chilli or pinch of red chilli flakes

1 Grate the zest from the lemon and very finely chop the parsley, then mix the two together and set aside.

2 Bring a large pan of well-salted water to a fast boil, stir, then add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, very finely chop the garlic and chilli.

3 In a large frying pan, gently warm the olive oil, garlic and chilli over a low flame until fragrant – do not let it burn. Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain it – or better still, use a sieve or tongs to lift the spaghetti and just a little residual water into the frying pan. Stir, add the lemon and parsley, a pinch of salt and, if you like, a squeeze of lemon. Stir again, divide between plates and eat immediately.


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The problem with ordering your bulbs early is that when they finally arrive, you’ve forgotten what you planned to do with them all. This is somewhat compounded by waiting for six new bare root roses to be delivered so I could plant them all up in the new bed.

In theory this new bed comprises:

  • a row (or two) or blue iris, primarily Yosemite star, just planted with some stragglers from pots and described as “Yosemite Star. Blended blue wisteria self. Ruffled. Mid to late season ie. around May Strongly remontant throughout summer and autumn. Ht. 90cm“, and behind;
  •  one row of white David Austin shrub roses, Susan Williams-Ellis described as “extremely healthy with an exceptionally long flowering season. Charming, pure white, rosette-shaped flowers of Old Rose beauty. Strong Old Rose fragrance. Exceptionally long flowering season (June-August). Extremely tough, healthy and hardy.” growing to a height of around 90cm (3ft)

Plus whatever bulbs I fancy planting in amongst them.

Apparently, bearded Irises must enjoy full sun and sharp drainage. They disdain the miseries of shade and clay. Interplant Bearded Irises with plants with scanty foliage: alpine pinks, late flowering alliums….

I have already received and planted up some crocus, white muscari, small repeat tulips ( saxatilis bakery) along underneath a hedge, but set the alliums (Mount Everest X 10, Allium aflatunese ‘Purple Sensation’ X 10) and fritellaria (X50) to one side.

Now I have a mammoth bulb session ahead of me with these plus tulips, gladioli (The Bride) and some scilla siberica (X75).

Type:                            Name:          Flowers:                               Thoughts:

  • Gladioli  x50  – The Bride   – May              -60cm   – roses
  • Allium    x10      Mt Everest-June/July   -90cm   – roses
  • Tulip     x25 Angels Wish    -May               – 60cm  – White new bed
  • Tulip     x25 Queen Night  -May                – 60cm  – Black, new bed
  • Tulip     x20 Survivor            -May                – 60cm  -pink,    new bed
  • Tulip    x 40 Shirley               – April               -50cm  – White new bed
  • Tulip      x35 Angelique        -Apr                 -45cm   – Pink    new bed
  • scilla       x75      Alba               -Mar/Apr     – 6cm     – in front of iris
  • Fritellaria x50 Alba               – Apr/May    – 30cm – in amongst of iris

  • Tulip     x25 Queen Night  -May                – 60cm  – Black, back bed
  • Allium    x10      Afflat.           – May/June  -80cm  – back bed roses
  • Tulip      x35 Angelique        -Apr                 -45cm   – front garden
  • Tulip     x25 Angels Wish    -May               – 60cm  – White for shade
  • Tulip     x10 Apeldoorn       -May                – 60cm  – Scarlet, front bed

rose&2alliums pattern

x    //    x     //   x    //   x   //    x    //    x

I’m going to treat the gladioli like summer flowering tulips, planting the corms deep (10cm) to try to reduce the need to stake. They arrive before the roses with the iris so I’m thinking I’ll plant them as a dos between roses and iris and see what happens.

Whose problem?

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In America domestic Violence Awareness Month is drawing to a close.  The Violence Policy Center has just released its annual report on domestic violence homicides. According to the report, about three women are murdered every day in the United States by an intimate partner, which means that during the month of October, at least 93 women lost their lives to domestic violence.

Many of them were murdered after they left, and yet the most common response to abused women is “Why don’t you just leave?” We rarely ask “Why did he do it?” or even “How did we not stop this?”

I recently read an article from a campaigner describing a trip to work with the school system on a program to address teen dating violence. When they arrived at the hotel, they were wearing a pin with photos of the three DV homicide victims North Carolina man Alan Gates had killed (including his daughter).

There were two women behind the desk. The younger woman, who checked me in, asked me if the people on the pin were family members. They told her no, they were victims of a domestic violence triple homicide. She said that her sister was in an abusive marriage. She told me that she had lost a cousin to DV, and that she had experienced it but had managed to get away. Now, she said, she wanted to help her sister escape.

As they were talking, the other woman behind the desk, who was probably in her 60s, listened. The more they talked, the more she leaned in.

She finally said, “I wish I could have found help like this when it happened to me and to my best friend.”

She explained that she grew up in Boston, in a very Catholic Irish family. She was being horribly abused by her husband, and her best friend, who lived in the apartment next door, was being abused by her husband. When she tried to talk about it with her father, he told her that if she broke her vows, he would disown her. Her priest said he would excommunicate her.

She and her friend developed a knock on the wall so that when one of them was about to be beaten, the other one would come get the kids out of the apartment.

They both worked at a hotel in Boston, and they took the bus together to work every day. Finally, they both decided they’d had it, so they stood up for themselves and separated from their husbands. The woman behind the desk told me that she decided she’d rather run the risk of losing her relationship with her father (which she did) than continue to live with the violence.

Shortly after she and her friend left, they were riding to work one morning. Her friend’s estranged husband was waiting at the bus stop. When it stopped, he immediately got on the bus and shot and killed her, right in front of everyone, including the woman I was now talking with.

This is one story of hundreds. Each one of these homicides (or homicide/suicides) represents a massive failure of the systems that could have stopped abusers in their tracks, but sadly, too many states and communities routinely turn their collective backs on their chief source of intelligence: the victim.

Women can predict, with frightening clarity, what the abuser is capable of, and yet often little is done to stop the murderous trajectory.

But many communities across the country have begun to come up with some innovative ways to identify dangerous abusers and place appropriate sanctions on them.

  • The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina has implemented a pretrial release program for domestic violence offenders. The sheriff’s department attaches GPS monitoring devices in certain cases, and multiple, strict requirements are placed on them upon release. Law enforcement officers are highly trained, and the sanctions are strictly enforced. If the abuser violates any of the conditions, he is charged (at the very least) with witness intimidation and his bond is significantly increased.
  • The Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, created the Domestic Violence High Risk Team model that brings together community partners (domestic violence advocates, police, probation and corrections officials, health care professionals, prosecutors) and uses the DA-LE (Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement) and the Danger Assessment Tool developed by Jacquelyn Campbell at Johns Hopkins University, to determine which abusers have the potential for lethal violence.
  • Law enforcement agencies across the country have started using a tool called the LAP (Lethality Assessment Protocol), a specialized version of the Danger Assessment, just for first responders, to make determinations on the scene with the domestic violence victim and get her immediately connected with supportive advocacy services, including shelter and help with orders of protection.
  • The Los Angeles Police Department has developed a program called DART (Domestic Abuse Response Team) that sends out two patrol cars to domestic violence calls. The first officers to arrive secure the scene; the second car includes two more officers and domestic violence prevention advocates who start working immediately with the victim. California also has court commissioners on call 24/7 so that officers can get orders of protection issued immediately.
  • In North Carolina, the High Point Police Department has started a program for domestic violence offenders called the Focused Deterrence Program. It was first used to reduce gang violence. “What’s most interesting about the focused deterrence–based High Point model is its emphasis on uncompromising accountability for the offender,” said Susan Scrupski, executive producer of the documentary High Point 10-79. “This philosophy is shared throughout all levels of law enforcement, judicial system, and the local domestic violence prevention program. The message is amplified and reinforced by family social services programs as well as the general public itself. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

It is encouraging to see these and other innovative domestic violence homicide prevention initiatives start up across the country, but any new law or program is only as good as those in charge of their implementation and enforcement. And of course, funding is critical. Domestic violence is a costly crime, not just in terms of the amount of money spent reacting to it, but also in how it disastrously rearranges families for generations.

By members of the criminal justice community need to remember that the victim is the chief source of intelligence while also remembering that domestic violence is a crime that involves a pattern of behavior, homicides and felony-level assaults can be stopped.

By placing the focus where it belongs — on the offender — a crime that has been deeply misunderstood for hundreds of years will finally be appropriately addressed. Abusers choose to be controlling, coercive, abusive, and violent. Domestic violence victims and survivors should not be required to upend their lives, and the lives of their children, to avoid this intimate terrorism.

Lake Titicaca: Peru & Bolivia

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Puno from Lake Titicaca

We have seen a number of floating villages now, notably on Tonle Sap but in many ways this was both the prettiest and the saddest.

Lake Titicaca

Th islands are built of reeds that grow within the lake and must be constantly renewed and replaced.

Floating Village, Lake Titicaca

The islands are tethered in case of storms and parked up separate to their original family groups. The communities would originally have used boats made from reeds also but now use modern boats with engines. Paying for the fuel for these takes hard currency, which is where their barter system with the mainland falls down and tourism cash steps forward.

Running Errands, Titicaca
Tourist Boat, Titicaca

Each island comprises a group of friends, grouped together to make a living. Each vies for the attention of any new tourist group and each responsible tour guide will try to share out the tourists between the islands.

Once there you get an explanation of how the islands are put together, before being presented with some crafts, usually woven, that are for sale. As always it’s better to buy something than simply donate money.

On our trip we met up with a relatively young group. Although education is compulsory to around 16, most kids marry young and have children so Norma aged 19 with her 1 year old Elizabetta was not that unusual.

Norma & Elisabetta

With the money from tourism these people would not survive. The lifestyle out on the islands is not “real” in that sense and very different to the living communities deep on Tonle Sap who rarely saw tourists.

Ladies who boat, Titicaca

The villagers can live long lives though they tend to be vulnerable to arthritis and chest infections from living so close to the water. Obviously living so exposed to the sun tends to increase the chance of skin cancers also.

But it is a persistent life choice for much of the community, maybe in part because they are not as well educated or well accepted by the people living on the mainland.

After visiting the floating islands we made the trip to Bolivia crossing the border near the lake and visiting a couple of islands on the way.

It is remarkably difficult to remember that you are essentially on the top of the world, very high up, given how flat it all looks. For someone from the UK, altitude inevitably involves high mountains and valleys, not plains.

Views around Titicaca

Our first stop across the border was Copacabana where a festival was underway with both the local priest and shaman busy blessing cars for the year.

Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

The Virgin of the church, who was “black” ie. looked more like an indigenous person than most of the statues, is one of the more popular so the church was busy.

Though not as busy as a very jolly, quite young looking priest.

Priest blessing the cars, Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

From there we headed out to the islands of the Moon and Sun to see some ruins and have a bite to eat.

Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

Pre-Inca ruins, Island of the Moon, Titicaca

These islands are said to be where the original Incas came from and where they made a pilgrimage to each year.

Catamaran, Titicaca
Inca, Spring of Life Island of the Sun

Hmm. Not so sure the spring of life was that exciting, certainly not as exciting as crossing over to the mainland on the barge.

Catching the barge towards la paz

After a long and tiresome ride complete with detour to avoid an angry protesting mob on the motorway, we arrived in La Paz.

La Paz

Unlike European towns, the best housing is at the bottom of the valley to avoid altitude rather than the top, to catch the breeze and avoid pollution. We headed down.

Whose Problem? Who is the problem?

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The recent Weinstein scandal is ricocheting around the world. The UK parliament is caught up with accusations of sexual misconduct and assault floating up to the surface and everyone left wondering where the mud will stick.

Yet the interesting thing about the way this is taking off, is that by it’s nature the story is all about the perpetrators, about who has committed the crime rather than the victims. & in some ways this seems so reasonable. Articles reporting crimes typically focus on the criminal looking at their background and trying to understand the reasons why they’ve turned to crime, or occasionally just demonising them.

Not for sexual crimes though. As a society we focus on the victims of the crime and it’s a short step from focusing on victims to blaming them and erasing the perpetrators from the narrative entirely.


  • John beat Mary; becomes,
  • Mary was beaten; and eventually,
  • Mary was a beaten wife.

John is the criminal and is gradually erased from the story with all focus moving onto the person beaten, the passive victim.

& it’s just a little bit ridiculous isn’t it? We don’t talk about theft in terms of the people robbed.

Over time there has been much more discussion about victims of male violence, more research into the type of people who become victims, than there has been research into perpetrators.

But recent research suggests that there are some commonalities between the men who rape. Scientists have been gradually filling out a picture of men who commit sexual assaults.

The most pronounced similarities have little to do with the traditional demographic categories, like race, class and marital status. Rather, other kinds of patterns have emerged: these men begin early, studies find. They may associate with others who also commit sexual violence. They usually deny that they have raped women even as they admit to non-consensual sex.

& obviously focusing on the criminals and understanding why they commit crimes, why they rape and assault women, children and other men, is the most realistic path toward changing behaviors that cause so much pain.

“If you don’t really understand perpetrators, you’re never going to understand sexual violence,” said Sherry Hamby, editor of the journal Psychology of Violence. That may seem obvious, but she said she receives “10 papers on victims” for every one on perpetrators.

This may be partly connected to a tendency to consider sexual assault a women’s issue even though men usually commit the crime. But finding the right subjects also has complicated the research. Early studies relied heavily on convicted rapists. This skewed the data, said Neil Malamuth, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has been studying sexual aggression for decades.

Men in prison are often “generalists,” he said: “They would steal your television, your watch, your car. And sometimes they steal sex.”

But men who commit sexual assault, and are not imprisoned because they got away with it, are often “specialists.” There is a strong chance that this is their primary criminal transgression. More recent studies tend to rely on anonymous surveys of college students and other communities, which come with legal language assuring subjects their answers cannot be used against them. The studies avoid using terms such as “rape” and “sexual assault.”

Instead, they ask subjects highly specific questions about their actions and tactics. The focus of most sexual aggression research is acknowledged non-consensual sexual behavior. In questionnaires and in follow-up interviews, subjects are surprisingly open about ignoring consent.

Men who rape tend to start young, in high school or the first couple years of college, likely crossing a line with someone they know, the research suggests. Some of these men commit one or two sexual assaults and then stop. Others — no one can yet say what portion — maintain this behavior or even pick up the pace.

Antonia Abbey, a social psychologist at Wayne State University, has found that young men who expressed remorse were less likely to offend the following year, while those who blamed their victim were more likely to do it again.

One repeat offender put it this way: “I felt I was repaying her for sexually arousing me. There is a heated debate among experts about whether there is a point at which sexual assault becomes an entrenched behavior and what percentage of assaults are committed by serial predators.

Most researchers agree that the line between the occasional and frequent offender is not so clear. The recent work of Kevin Swartout, a professor of psychology and public health at Georgia State University, suggests that low-frequency offenders are more common on college campuses than previously thought.

“It’s a matter of degree, more like dosage,” said Mary P. Koss, a professor of public health at the University of Arizona, who is credited with coining the term “date rape.” Dosage of what? Certain factors — researchers call them “risk factors” while acknowledging that these men are nonetheless responsible for their actions — have an outsize presence among those who commit sexual assaults.

Heavy drinking, perceived pressure to have sex, a belief in “rape myths” — such as the idea that no means yes — are all risk factors among men who have committed sexual assault.

A peer group that uses hostile language to describe women is another one.

Yet there also seem to be personal attributes that have mediating effect on these factors. Men who are highly aroused by rape porn — another risk factor — are less likely to attempt sexual assault if they score highly on measures of empathy, Dr. Malamuth has found. Narcissism seems to work in the other direction, magnifying odds that men will commit sexual assault and rape.

What about the idea that rape is about power over women? Some experts feel that research into hostile attitudes toward women supports this idea.In general, however, researchers say motives are varied and difficult to quantify.

Dr. Malamuth has noticed that repeat offenders often tell similar stories of rejection in high school and of looking on as “jocks and the football players got all the attractive women.” As these once-unpopular, often narcissistic men become more successful, he suspects that “getting back at these women, having power over them, seems to have become a source of arousal.”

Most subjects in these studies freely acknowledge non-consensual sex — but that does not mean they consider it real rape. Researchers encounter this contradiction again and again. Asked “if they had penetrated against their consent,” said Dr. Koss, the subject will say yes. Asked if he did “something like rape,” the answer is almost always no.

Studies of incarcerated rapists — even men who admit to keeping sex slaves in conflict zones — find a similar disconnect. It’s not that they deny sexual assault happens; it’s just that the crime is committed by the monster over there. And this is not a sign that the respondents are psychopaths, said Dr. Hamby, the journal editor. It’s a sign that they are human. “No one thinks they are a bad guy,” she said.

Indeed, experts note one last trait shared by men who have raped: they do not believe they are the problem.

The Road to Puno

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The most unpleasant part of the trip to S America was a day long drive from Cuzco to Puno, lake Titicaca in the tourist bus.

Turismo Bus

The bus itself was large and comfortable enough, with plenty of stops along the way for the loo and to allow people to stretch their legs. As always, photographs within churches were not permitted which makes some of those stops a bit frustrating.

The ornate baroque 17th century church at Andahuaylillas was first stop.

But in many cases of course the outside of the building has it’s own interests.


Not to mention the roof decorations on the grooves of houses around and about.

We also stopped at an Inca settlement more obviously influenced by the Aymara culture, Raqchi.

Inca-Aymara Ruins

The Inka site at Raqch’i was a primary control point on a road system that originated in Cusco and expanded as the Inka empire grew. It is located in a valley known for sacred sites. Most of the Inka structures are enclosed by a 4 km-long perimeter wall, but just outside it, on the Inka road that entered Raqch’i from Cusco, an enclosure with eight rectangular buildings around a large courtyard was probably a lodging house for travellers.

The complex of Raqch’i consists of several different areas each designated with a specific function. Some have noted that these buildings may have been for religious and administrative officials. Others speculate that these buildings, paired with the scale of defenses may have been used as barracks to house troops.

Nearby are approximately 220 circular buildings, likely used as storehouses, called qullqas

Grain Houses


The Road to Puno
Adobe bricks

But it was the views along the way that were probably most interesting, from the scenery through people going about their business and even the political graffiti.

Wild Llama herd

The change from the valleys to the high anti-plano was sudden and shocking.

Political Graffitti

But by the time we hit the pre-Inca museum at Pucara, we’d all had enough. If I was doing it again, this is the bit that I would throw some money at in an attempt to speed my way through.

Pre-Inca Museum

Roof Decorations

Instead of which it dragged on for another four hours. Not even flamingos could cheer us up.

Flamingo Flock

By the time Puno came into sight, we were all just too fed up to enjoy the view.


Carrot Halva

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6 cardamom pods
25g ghee/butter
500g carrots, peeled and grated
250ml evaporated milk (or condensed milk but then no need to add 100g sugar)
50g white sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
Pinch of saffron
Handful of raisins/sultanas/cranberries
20g milk powder (optional)
Handful of pistachios, almonds or cashews, roughly chopped

Serves 4

Squash the cardamom pods to remove the seeds, then roughly crush these to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Heat the ghee in a wide, heavy-based pan on a medium high heat and fry the powder for a minute or so until aromatic, then add the grated carrot and a pinch of salt.

Fry for five minutes on a medium heat, then turn up the heat and fry for another five, stirring all the time. Repeat if necessary until the carrots are soft and dryish – this should take 10-15 minutes in total.

Pour in the evaporated milk, add the saffron and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer, stirring regularly, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add the sugar and dried fruit and continue cooking, stirring so the mixture doesn’t catch, until thickened, then stir in the milk powder if using and cook for another minute or so. Allow to cool slightly before serving with the nuts on top.

An alternative even richer halwa substitutes the 500g carrots with 500g grounds almonds.

Stuffed Peppers (zeytinyağli biber dolmasi)

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Bell peppers stuffed with rice, raisins and pine nuts.

This is the classic Turkish rice filling for vegetables to be served cold. Choose plump bell peppers that can stand on their base. I prefer to use red peppers because they are sweeter and for the colour, but in Turkey green ones are more often used.

Serves 6
onion 1 large, chopped finely
extra-virgin olive oil 6 tbsp
short-grain or risotto rice 250g
salt and pepper
sugar 1-2 tsp
pine nuts 3 tbsp
currants or tiny black raisins 3 tbsp
tomato 1 large, peeled and chopped
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
ground allspice ½ tsp
mint a handful, chopped
dill a handful, chopped
flat-leaf parsley a handful, chopped
lemon juice of 1
green or red bell peppers 6 medium
natural (full-fat) yogurt 250g, mixed with 1 crushed garlic clove to serve (optional)

For the filling, fry the onion in 3 tablespoons of the oil until soft. Add the rice and stir until thoroughly coated and translucent. Pour in 450ml of water and add salt, pepper and sugar. Stir well and cook for 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed but the rice is still a little underdone. Stir in the pine nuts, currants or raisins, the tomato, cinnamon and allspice, mint, dill and parsley and the lemon juice, as well as the rest of the oil.

Retaining the stalk, cut a circle around the stalk end of the peppers and set on one side to use as caps. Remove the cores and seeds with a spoon and fill the peppers with the rice mixture. Replace the caps.

Arrange the peppers side by side in a shallow baking dish, pour about 1cm water into the bottom, and bake in an oven preheated to 190C/gas mark 5 for 45-55 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Be careful that they do not fall apart.

Serve cold, accompanied, if you like, by a bowl of beaten yogurt, with or without crushed garlic.

Peru: Agua Calientes, A Walk in the Garden

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Aguas calientes, the town that grew up to support tourists visiting Macchu Pichu, is a bit of a dump. As a Brazilian woman sitting next to us on the train back to Cuzco said, “How can a place with so much money passing through, be such a favello, an unfinished slum?”

But with a morning to fill, we found ourselves balancing a revisit to the Inca site versus a gentle still around the hotel garden and being told of the hour long queues for sunrise, plus the likelihood of rain and fog, the garden walk won. Easily.

It was suggested that 6am would be the best time to see any birds and other fauna. We balked. In the end we decided to head off at around 11am and aim to enjoy the flora.

& although this was sold as orchids, turns out there weren’t many in flower

But we got lucky with some rare-ish birds such as the ‘cock on the rock” or Rupicola peruvianus,  a large passerine bird of the cotinga family native to  Andean cloud forests. It is widely regarded as the national bird of Peru.

And is a very weird thing to see indeed unlike the various tanager birds to be found.

Thankfully there were plenty of brightly coloured birds to be found even amongst the densest of foliage, helped by the gardeners putting out bananas and syrup feeders for the wonderful hummingbirds.

Which of course are incredibly difficult to photograph but very beautiful to watch.

In many ways the orchids were the least interesting of flowers, but it’s always strange to travel half way around the world and find familiar bedding plants such as fuchsias and begonias.

And of course, being warmer, wetter and lower, there were a fair number of bugs about and even some mammals.

And a lizard mid-moult hiding on a rock

And at the very back of the garden a rock face carved with some pre-historic glyphs suggesting it was a significant gathering place, long ago.

We made the right choice – the garden walk was lovely.


All about me!