My current desktop

5 12 2009

I was looking at some of the pile of photos I gathered from South America the other day. Yes, it has been 2 years and I haven’t done anything meaningful with them. If there is anything meaningful to be done.

Some of them made it onto the desktop. This one is there currently:

The gunmen

The gunmen

I did add the black/white effect. But it doesn’t really need it.

This was an interesting moment. Want the story? Too bad, you’re going to get it.

I was quite deep in the mountains of Peru, on the way to Ayacucho (at a place called Astobamba). I was crossing the highest road pass in South America (5,000m!). At least I thought I was – it turned out just to be a high pass, the highest is in Bolivia or Argentina somewhere. The altitude was 4,400m (I know that because I had camped at 4,093m in a disused railway tunnel, the hammock laid out on the ground, the night before, and climbed up a few hundred meters to this place in the morning, and the map says so). I was half a days ride from the nearest large settlement – a day and a half from the nearest town of any size. It was 9am, I had passed nothing but llama (or vicuna) all morning, and only abandoned buildings. Breathing was kind of tough – although you get somewhat acclimatised, it is still hard at 4,000m+. A pickup drove past. Nothing exceptional. This one was full of men in balaclavas. Full. Interesting. There was a guy on the back holding a machine gun. I think it was an AK47, but it would have had the same effect if it was a WW1 rifle. It’s fine to be academic about guns in the safety of civilisation; It was a gun. If his mates had a toothpick, I was still out-gunned.

Mind suddenly focuses on the reason you are way out here alone, on a bike, going from one place you’ve never heard of to another. Suddenly lacking a reasonable explanation, I stopped and my jaw hung open as they drove past. I gathered my courage (rapidly returning since they didn’t look like stopping… or shooting) and snapped a photo before they rounded the bend. I wont lie, they were a fair way away when I took this. I wasn’t giving them to many excuses to turn around.

I wasn’t much of a target, and they were obviously organised (I think I would have been in more danger if it was a guy alone who decide to cause trouble). I guess the balaclavas were because it was cold. The guns as a show of force to dissuade people attacking the mines (some precious metal mines around the area).

All’s well that ends well, but this certainly focussed the mind. I wonder what Afghanistan is like this time of year…


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