Eight Feet in the Andes by Dervla Murphy

By Dervla Murphy

The 8 ft belong to Dervla Murphy, her nine-year-old daughter Rachel and Juana, a chic mule, who jointly clambered the size of Peru, from Cajamarca at the border with Ecuador, to Cuzco, the traditional Inca capital, over 1300 miles to the south. With in basic terms the main uncomplicated must haves to maintain them and spending so much in their time above 10,000 toes, their trip was once marked by means of severe ache, occasional probability or even the transitority lack of Juana over a precipice. but mom and daughter, a powerful duo, have been unflagging of their sympathetic reaction to the perilous good looks and impoverished humans of the Andes.

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She stood motionless, only her ears twitching – forward! – as she happily received Rachel’s fulsome compliments. Having at last secured the girth and got the crupper on I relaxed; given this degree of good behaviour, the day might even come when the crupper could be left attached to the saddle. Loading was easy. All our gear for the next four months is tightly packed into two small attached saddle-bags (made in England) and our two Diana-bags – one small, the other smaller. Hard, heavy objects – books, emergency food rations – go in the panniers, cushioned with clothes for Juana’s sake.

Ample helpings of rice and beans, and a little tough mutton, cost us 100 soles each. A mile outside San Marcos, beyond a wide, almost-dry river bed, we found this roadside site where short green grass grows between small unfamiliar trees. The main attraction was a neighbouring field of well-grown alfalfa, some of which we hoped to buy. This ground looked like common land but as we unloaded the owner arrived – a lean, severe mestizo – and forbade us to camp. ” whispered Rachel. So I did, and all was well.

He spent twenty minutes going through our passports, scrutinising every document however irrelevant, and then he questioned my credentials as a writer. When I produced a letter of introduction from my publisher, mentioning all my books, he shrugged and flicked it aside. ” he asked insolently. ” Grinding my teeth, I was about to point out that people don’t normally walk through the Andes carrying seven large volumes which they have no wish to read. But luckily Amelia – faithfully by my side as interpreter – got there first with a sweet-toned, casual reference to a telephone call she had had from the British Ambassador in Lima asking the Calderbanks to assist us.

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