Lee in Latin America


random notes from my wanderings

Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico

Home Because this trip was more casual than usual, this report is more casual (less structured) than my more formal travel reports, which concentrate on telling short stories or presenting themed clusters of photos


This year I left home in late November, 2012

flew to Arequipa, Peru

it's known as the 'white city,' because so many buildings are constructed of an off-white stone known as sillar.

including the cathedral



which is also stunning at night




sillar is used in many buildings, including churches


Crossing into Chile I did a 30-hour bus ride the length of the Atacama desert

(1,000 miles)

where desert meets sea, and even poor people have waterfront property




to get to  Vicuña, my favorite desert town


where from my hostel window I could see the trails I hiked four years ago, in the Andes Cordillera



I had a delightful time meeting old friends from four years ago


but after two months there I was restless

and hopped a bus for San Pedro de Atacama



 famous for its lunar landscapes


Valle de la Luna


I arrived back in Arequipa

and addressed major leg cramps with several massages from Cristi, a blind masseuse with astonishingly strong hands


walking to one of these sessions, a drunk lurched and bumped into me.  Half an hour later, lying on the massage table, I heard a ruckus in the reception room

peeking out the door, I saw that the drunk was causing trouble




Cristi and her husband Cesar and Soledad (another masseuse in this office--also blind, here behind Monica, the receptionist, who is sighted) were trying to get him out of the office

I quickly dressed, then grabbed one arm while Cesar took the other, and we manhandled him to the sidewalk, while Cristi followed with a bucket of water to douse him with

(though how she hoped to aim the water, whew! these blind folks are amazing!)



From Arequippa I flew to San Jose, Costa Rica

where I had a grand time re-uniting with Sergio, a friend I'd spent time with in Damascus


he's a professor at University of Costa Rica





he wrote a book, and used one of my photos on the cover


it shows men sprawled on the floor of the main mosque in Amman, Jordan

during Ramadan

weary in late afternoon after fasting all day


then a few days  in Montezuma


my hotel sat right on this beach


great swimming



grand sunrises




a short hike to a waterfall




where the locals gather



then I flew to Mexico, to stay two weeks with an old friend from Massachusetts days, 40 years ago


here in plaza of Fabrica La Aurora, a textile factory converted to artist workshops and galleries




in San Miguel de Allende, a city with a huge expatriate community


and some exquisite architecture

plus a lively cultural life



then I hop a bus to join Tom, another friend from Massachusetts


he spends part of every winter in Puerto Vallarta


we shared a few day trips (here, our water taxi returning from Yelapa, a remote village), and many enjoyable meals



here with Bailarines De Vallarta, a sculpture along the malecon...




... the boardwalk-like walkway along the sea in Puerto Vallarta


along which are numerous whimsical sculptures




including this set of casual rock structures




created by this enterprising woman




and along which numerous street musicians vie for the tourist dollar


One night around 11pm I was cruising the Malecon (like a boardwalk) when I came to an amphitheater they’d built, where many amateur acts can perform. As I arrived there was a woman mime, really excellent—funny, quick, brash. I stood behind the last row of seats, and had been there less than a minute when she saw me, pointed to me and whistled loudly, dashed to her kitbag of props, pulled out a tall Santa Claus hat and again pointed to me. The crowd cheered, and I responded with a big Ho Ho Ho. Great fun. Haven’t had that kind of recognition since 5 years ago in Chile, when my beard was even fuller, and every day on the street youths would break into Jingle Bells or Feliz Navidad.




Mexicans are big on mural art, even in restaurants


especially if the subject is Frida Kahlo


(wife of preemininent muralist Diego Rivera)


After Puerto Vallarta I spent a few days in the Tlaquepaque area of Guadalajara

it has one of the busiest, most social zocalos (central plaza, common to most Latin American cities that I've visited)

one evening two guitarists and a singer entertained us



Jorge, in white, is a powerful vocalist

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