North America, South America · 12 Days · 20 Moments · May 2018

Jean's Adventure of a Lifetime: Peru


25 May 2018

THE END: I flew home beginning on May 24, and arrived home completely intact, although tired, on May 25. It was a wonderful trip. I met great people, saw eye-popping things, learned a lot of science, gained a better understanding of an ancient culture, and had a terrific lot of fun photographing. What more could I ask for? I am so grateful....

23 May 2018

FINAL DAYS: We checked into the Hotel Senorial in a quiet area close to the ocean in Miraflores. We had a great ocean view that night, but generally at this time of year the weather is cool and gray. Most of the team left the next day, but I remained for a few days. Deborah worked with the people in Lima on official business related to our studies. Her connections in Lima are impressive. Meanwhile, I enjoyed myself. I went to the open air market. I thoroughly enjoyed Lima’s art museum, which had a terrific Miro show. More importantly, I learned about the art and photographic history of Peru. Both interesting, and just now developing into a new national voice incorporating modern times with indigenous culture.And I loved the Larco Museum, which has artifacts of Peruvian culture. I gained a new appreciation for Peru as a cradle of civilization. Their textiles, pottery, metal work is impressive. They have a very sophisticated ancient culture.

20 May 2018

I arrived in Lima Sunday eve about 7:30 pm. We drove from Sexi to the Chiclayo airport at 8 am, taking about 3 1/2 hours to get down the mountain. The beginning of the trip was on a one lane road with switchbacks, and we were worried because the rain had been causing a lot of problems on the rutted, dirt roads. Our drivers were excellent however. We only ran into one problem when we got to a huge pile of dirt dumped to fill a hole. The drivers moved enough of it by hand to pass through. The roads were dry enough that we did not slip and slide along. It is both wonderful and strange to be back near civilization as I know it. A hot shower in a clean tiled bathroom was fabulous. Hagen Das ice cream today spectacular. Catching up on the news not so much. It is a culture shock, being is such surroundings again. The people in the town called Sexi are so nice, but they lead a rough, simple life. Dirt floors or concrete floors covered with red dirt and dust, no heating.
DAY FIVE: May 18 Last evening, about 30 people had come to our community meeting,among them some of the town’s teachers. They had expressed interest in coming out to the site, so an invitation was extended to come to the site today. When we arrived, the teachers and all their students, plus various townspeople and officials were there. About 40- 50 people altogether. Each of the scientists gave an explanation of the work they were doing. All the visitors were engaged and interested in what was being done, and in the wood and the history of the site itself. Even our drivers listened. This took most of the morning, walking, talking, and answering questions. It was a valuable use of time. Education and goodwill are two ways to ensure that the value of this site is understood so that preservation efforts can commence. In the afternoon, we went to a different site traveling on one lane roads over the mountain and partially down the mountain. Then, we hiked down...
DAY SEVEN: May 20 We left early as we were not sure what the roads would be like due to the rain. We ran into one issue: a large pile of dirt just plunked down to fill a hole. The drivers moved one side of it with their hands, we skirted around the edge, and went on. It’s a beautiful country, the scenery spectacular. My ears popped as we came down from the altitude. We reached Chiclayo in time for lunch and two meetings. One with two young men interested in starting adventure travel trips to the Sexi area. They wondered what was needed to make this appealing. We had a lot to suggest.... The other meeting was with University students conducting research in the Sexi area. It made me hopeful that so many people are interested in preserving, restoring,and understanding this wonderful part of the country. Deborah stayed behind to mail the rock and soil samples home, and to lecture at the university. The rest of flew to Lima where hot showers and a restaurant meal awaited us.

19 May 2018

DAY SIX CONT: May 19 On the last day, I also visited the Museum in Sexi. This was a project spearheaded by Deborah Woodcock and Herb Meyer several years ago. It contains several large specimens of the palm trunks as well as tables full of petrified wood. There is more potential for development here. Also on the last day we visited a weaver in Sexi. She wears the loom! The threads are attached to the ceiling, and then the loom itself is worn, braced by a belt around her waist. As she pulls the threads, she leans back to tighten the threads. Remarkable to watch! We said our goodbyes to the multiple people who helped us... the cooks and the local guides and to all those interested in what we were doing. I was sad to leave, as it may be my last trip here. However, I was really ready for a hot shower!
DAY SIX CONT. May 19 When you walk through the town of Sexi, you do not see many people, even on the nicest days. The narrow sidewalks are used, but the muddy streets make strolling difficult. I was always surprised to see so few people out and about. However, I understood this much better after photographing the kitchen gardens. In the back of each home is an enclosed area. It is lush and green. Here is where clothes are washed and hung. One home had a parrot. And the gardens contain many edible plants that supplement the diet. I am remembering a fine squash soup that we had for dinner one night. Children play in these areas. They are green and lush, a visual change from the brownish orange muddy streets. I worked hard today to photograph trees and plants constantly blowing in the wind. Later in the afternoon I had an opportunity to photograph the front of the houses, or what is visible in the street. This was for myself, and not for any study!
DAY SIX: May 19 Meet Susan Aragon. She is a vegetation ecologist, and has been studying in Sexi for several years. On this trip, she helped to coordinate our activities with the people in town. She also assisted with translation at our town meetings. She has been engaged in studying the ecology of kitchen gardens in Sexi, trying to document the core plants of the area. Roxanne and Jean Carlos, from a Peruvian University, assisted her in plant identification and collection. Over the last few days, I photographed some of the species on the site of the petrified forest. Because of the recent rains, there were small orchids and a lot of other flowering plants. Today, I went with Susan to photograph in the house gardens in the town of Sexi. The kitchen gardens were a revelation to me. They do not look organized, as I know gardens, but they are packed with vegetation, most edible.

18 May 2018

DAY FIVE CONT: May 18 Our purpose was to see if any more sites could be found similar to the paleosol sites at Sexi. The hike down was beautiful, with an elevation drop of some 800-1000 feet. On the way down, we heard thunder and found evidence of a paleo- times ( if there is such a word) river bed, complete with a cracked mud flat bottom. There were limestone deposits, evidence of a lake or river bottom. And lots of wood which looked like it was flowing out of granite. And lots of evidence of what extreme erosion can do to a site. What goes down must come up. And by that time, some rain had begun. By the end, I felt like I had run a marathon. On the way home, by the side of the road, we did find the paleo soil we were looking for. Dennis was very excited!!!! We did not have a lot of rain where we were, but over the mountains in Sexi, it had rained hard. The muddy one lane roads were slippery going. When we arrived in Sexi, one car got stuck up to its hubcap.

17 May 2018

DAY FOUR cont: May17 More on preservation. We saw a lot of evidence that people come and move petrified logs and other smaller pieces of wood around. They build cairns, tip the wood upright, and change the site by walking through it and over it, not necessarily on paths. In the eve, we met with the community of Sexi. We told them what we were doing in the field. Deborah and Herb are well known to them, as they have been here so often in the past, but the rest of us were new to them. The townspeople are concerned about this site. It is their heritage and their economic future. It is complicated because they are so connected to it, but the Cattleman’s Association owns the land, the government of Peru owns the fossil wood after declaring it a Patrimony of the Nation. The Ministry of Culture often gives permits for fossils to be taken without letting Sexi people know. Deborah and Herb have been walking though a minefield of politics and permitting each time they come.
DAY FOUR CONT: may 17 Meet Herb Meyer, a paleobotanist who works for the National Park Service at the Florissant Fossil Beds, a Park I hope to visit one day. He has worked tirelessly with Deborah to help in preserving this priceless petrified forest in Peru. He is quiet, thoughtful, and thorough. His assistant is Sarah Allen, also a paleobotanist. Shas been working with Herb in Colorado, but is about to begin a new post as assistant professor in a PA university. She is very much like Herb: quiet, thoughtful and thorough. The efforts to preserve this site are hampered by many things, most immediately by erosion. The land is owned by the Cattlemen’s Association, which allow free range cattle and goats to forage in the area. Salt licks are evident, but the foraging is devastating to the plants. If no plants, the soils are easy targets for erosion during the rainy seasons. There is also an issue with theft of the wood, as there is no surrounding fence for protection.
DAY FOUR: May 17 Each day, breakfast at 7:30 am, out to site, lunch brought out to site, work the rest of the afternoon. Dinner at about 6:30 pm. In the eve, hot ( or cold) showers, write notes, clean cameras, to bed early. On this day, work continued in the field. Dennis did his second trench and soil sampling. Deborah excavated a mysterious wood root or trunk, not sure which. It is not clearly a palm tree, but perhaps. She took samples. We found fossil evidence of roots and leaves in the level of soil that Dennis thinks is the paleosol. These have been found before, so no new news, but exciting in that they confirm Dennis’ hypothesis of exactly where the paleo soil begins in the piles of rocks and dirt. One other aspect of this study is about geo-preservation. Two paleobotanists, Herb Meyer and Sarah Allen ran this part of the study. They had photos of 15 sites taken in 2005, I believe. They used those photos to compare the same sites today and re-take the photos.

16 May 2018

I cannot use my cameras photos at all. However, I can use iPhone pics, when I remembered to take them. Have included some from our daily life. Chickens, cattle, sheep, dogs and turkeys roam freely downtown. Elba was one of our local guides. Sexi mud on the boots, always present and sometimes adding about a 5 lb weight on my feet. The streets were always like swampy mud crossings. The dining table, with tamales for breakfast. The person in that photo is Roxanne, one of the Peruvian botanists. The next to the last photo is of our bedroom. We were bunked in 3 different houses, mine being the only one with a hot water shower. The bed was rock hard. The door to the outside leads to the back garden, typically used to grow quite a bit of food, do laundry and etc. the last picture shows the path to the bathroom, which is just beyond the red bucket hanging on the wall. A cold walk at night, and sometimes slippery too if the mud was wet in the rain.
It seems this thing cuts me off before I say all I’ve got to say. Also I am having trouble with the photos. Guess I will muddle along without until I figure it out or get better WiFi. I did not miss the digital issues while in Sexi. Life seemed better when one had to be present in everyday life, just getting by, without distractions.... Back to Sexi, a town of about 450 people. We did have flush toilets. The showers were heated with a small heating component, wires hanging down near the water. Sometimes it did not work. Food was plentiful with rice, meat and a few vegetables. We had fresh trout and empanadas too. It was simple food, but always enough. Sexi does give new meaning to Mud Season, tho. A deep, red, and always present mud. The car got stuck, the boots were filthy, red dust everywhere. Fog was like a living creature, rolling in and out of town, sometimes within an hour. Rain came and went, but the days were mostly nice. Will start at the beginning...
DAY THREE: Rain overnight( think mud), clearing overnight. It was overcast, but cleared for the sun in the afternoon. On top of the mountain, it is always cool, sometimes windy, but the sun warms it up quickly. Meet Deborah Woodcock. Deborah is from Massachusetts and Clark University and is a paleoclimatologist. She has been studying this forest since the 1990’s. She has identified about 40 different types of trees and has been one of the driving forces for further studies over the years. As we walk about, she stops often to pick up wood, examine it closely. Yesterday in Lima she used the diamond cutter to slice and dice samples of the latest pieces of collected wood. Her priority for this study is to gather more information and gain resolution about the environment of the site back in time. She wants to understand what this forest was like at that particular point in time and understand the series of events that made the area.
DAY THREE CONTINUED: On Day One we arrived. Day two was an oversight of the site, with lots of discussion and problem solving going on. A site was chosen for sampling the paleosol. On Day Three, the sampling began as other studies concerning geo-preservation began. Meet Dr. Dennis Terry: a geologist with a specialty in the soils of paleo times. He looks like an old time prospector with a wide brimmed hat for the sun and his main tool, a pick for digging. He twirls that pick, and uses it to pick up rocks without bending down. He obviously loves his work. He stops and takes a long time to examine the landscape. When he sees something exciting, he shakes his hands in front of himself, and I often heard the word “Wow”come from him. He began sampling the soil today, taking home a bag of rocks to study when he gets home. He will have the most info on Deborah’s question about what this site was like way back when. His work will be crucial.

15 May 2018

DAY TWO CONTINUED: The volcanic material capped the area protecting it over time. Sometime around 8-10 million years ago, the tectonic plates moved, moving the land upwards, creating what we now know of as the Andes. It pushed this temperate forest site up to its current 8000 foot level. One reason this site is so unique and special is because it contains hardwoods, as do other world sites. But it also contains fossilized palm trees and that is unique. It is also unique because it is so well preserved and there is such a sheer volume of wood. I am so mad as I cannot get my photos in this app. They appear completely blurred, which they are not. Have emailed the help desk and will add them as I am able. Sorry. It’s completely frustrating to me as I am excited by the photos and would like to share.
DAY TWO: The day was cloudy, but the rain held off until the eve. We drove out to the site, which is just up the road from the town. Our drivers are always with us, and stay with the cars. In one of the pics above, you can see the town of Sexi from the site, with the road winding up to it. At the site, one is literally on top of the mountain, with the town in a caldera type area close by, and with deep canyons surrounding the other sides. The sheer scale of the place is difficult to describe. The top and sides are covered with prices of petrified wood. There is probably similar wood locales on the other surrounding mountains, but have not yet been studied. The events that originally conspired to create this locale happened approximately 35 million years ago. There was a forest with palms and other wood, probably in a temperate climate close to water. This was buried by volcanic events with ash and volcanic flow which buried and eventually mineralized the wood.

14 May 2018

Arrived in Lima at about 5 AM. The plane had the least amount of legroom that I have ever experienced. Not fun for 6 hours. Currently happy to be upright and walking. My cameras were on board with me, again with the help of a kind person. Now waiting for the flight to Chiclayo and then a long car ride into the mountains... I am grateful to be here, glad to be Meeting the team in a little while, and looking forward already to bedtime tonight

13 May 2018

You know what they say about best laid plans. I SHOULD be about an hour away from Lima right now, looking forward to a bed and a warm shower before flying out to the northern part of Peru tomorrow. Instead’ panic ensued as my flight out of Boston was cancelled and then I was rerouted twice. I am now in Dallas waiting for an overnight flight to Lima. If all goes well, I will meet the team at the Lima airport where I will land at 5:18 AM. Hopefully my luggage will be there. I will need my jacket ( chilly) and hiking boots, not to mention my tripod and other camera gear I will say a word or two about traveling with camera gear. This airline is extremely restrictive in carry on luggage, both in inches and weight. My stripped down camera gear exceeds the limit without a bag to put it, and I have to employ every diplomatic trick in the book to prevent them from putting my gear into the baggage hold as the flights are so full. American Airline personnel has been good so far, tho.....