Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Utterly Peaceful Moorlands

Otherwise known as the Páramo de Sumapaz, a vast stretch of high-altitude moors, marshlands, mountains, and lagoons.  I met up with a group of travelers and ex-pats and we went on a guided tour/forced march up and down the mountains, through the bog, marveling at the strange flora, mainly the frailejon, a stumpy little cactusy thing with fuzzy flowers shooting out from in all directions, and keeping an eye out for the alleged spectacled bear that inhabits the Páramo.  Of course my camera died right before we got to the good scenery, the otherworldly canyons and deep, dark lagoons and whatnot, so this is the one photo I got:

Like a fool I showed up in tiny shorts, not realizing that we were in for six hours of being blasted by wind, rain, and hungry clouds, so our cool guide Hernán lent me his long pants... and his wooly Andes hat.... and his raincoat.  

My other recent big tourist foray was to the Gold Museum, which was fascinating both for the wide range of shiny objects as well as the anthropological look at ancient indigenous cultures of the area. I learned so many new Spanish words, like cacique and murciélago.  And, man, those ancient chieftains were obsessed with jaguars, and with turning themselves into birds.  So many tiny gold figurines of jaguar-men and bird-women, it was great.  There were ceremonies where the chieftain of a tribe would take a raft out into the middle of a lake with all his high priests, and then he'd just toss gold and emeralds overboard as an offering to the gods.  All in all, the Gold Museum made me very excited about humankind, with its thousands of years of imagination and weird artwork.  

I haven't had much time to knit since I got here, though I have a friend who sells macrame and sometimes I'll hang out and knit with him.  Knitting seems to be a pretty common pastime down here, and you'll see women working at kiosks just hanging out knitting scarves to pass the time.  So I was shocked at how it seemed like nobody had ever seen double pointed needles before.  I'm working on a pair of fingerless mittens on super-fancy yarn - part wool, part spun bamboo, and if I had my way I would never knit with anything else - that will have an owl pattern on them.  (The cabled owl pattern is my new favorite thing... it's deceptively simple to knit, and it's very impressive looking at the end.)  

Moreover, after two weeks of exploring Bogotá with a vague craving for new yarn but unable to find any yarn retailers, I finally found the secret street where they hide all the yarn and textile shops.  Bogotá has this weird way (and I'm assured it's like this all through South America,) of putting all the stores of a certain caliber in one district.  So you have the hardware district, the bookshop district, the nightclub district, the haberdasherie district, et cetera.  It's very frustrating, and also strikes me as bad for business, if you specifically set up your shop on the same street as twenty competitors.  But anyway, I bought three skeins of yarn, with which I am planning on knitting a tiny coat.  TINY!  Tiny things are much cuter than big things - it's a well-known fact.

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