A desert (puna) vignette – life out here

A vignette from the past few days:

Coffee by a thorn tree

The hot oven-dry wind plasters my shirt to my shoulders as I sit in the sparse freckled shade of a lone thorn tree watching the mercury-silver shimmer of the road twenty meters away.  On the other side of the gravel is a cinderblock hut, roof of plastic sheeting held by logs and rocks, a small wooden door, more propped than hung, in the doorway. Behind the hut is the white-bleached sky the sand wash of a desiccated riverbed, and corral of twisted sticks.

The woman returns with another armful of scrub wood, dressed in faded blue vest top and shorts. Looking like a slightly melted easter egg in shape. (Not all Andean indigenous peoples are photogenic hand-woven-shawl-wearers, thankfully).

I hear the man’s whistles and shouts long before I see him. I see his goats before I see him. I see his dogs before I see him. He arrives at the hut on horse back dragging the collected branches of thornwood.

The incessant buzz of flies around me is now punctuated by the thwack of machete as the man chops fuel. Ten minutes later the smoke is rising from the clay oven to the side of the hut.

Later seven grubby barefooted children, two in nappies, two in rags three naked, torment a scraggy bird in a 20cm cage, flick a plastic bag with a stick and roll a tiny mewling kitten over and over. There is not a moment when one of them isn’t crying.

I swill the last of bitter coffee, stand, nod once more to the man and get into my air-conned privilegewagon, pick some tunes from my phosphorant jab-screen and roll north to explore the visually diverting.

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