We were at 24,000 feet, unpressurized and on oxygen, as we crossed the Peruvian Andes eastbound toward the Amazon basin. I had selected Talara, Peru, to spend the night before the crossing. In the morning I refueled, checked the weather and notices-to-airmen, and filed our flight plan to Iquitos, Peru. Our twin-engine Piper Navajo was running like a Swiss watch, and that was important, for at all points east, beyond the Andes, any aircraft problem would mean very long delays.
We departed, climbing to the northeast, and when we passed 12,500 feet, I turned on the no smoking sign and told the others to go on oxygen. We continued climbing to 24,000, the safe altitude for crossing over the Chiclayo pass, and then descended into the Amazonas to follow the Marañón River to our destination—Iquitos, Peru. View more
Today is the big day at Emilio’s and Lucrecia’s hacienda, a cotton farm in the coastal desert strip of Peru, five hours by car south of Lima. Soon, my Peruvian in-laws will get ready to butcher a goat and a lamb to honor our annual arrival from the U.S. We’ll have a feast.
It is Christmas 1976, and the summer heat in the sun is extreme. The white concrete dwelling, at the heart of the estate, is open and welcoming in the shade of a royal poinciana tree—the blazing splendor of its blossoms showers the ground like a crimson carpet. Cumbias, waltzes, huaynos, and boleros blast from a radio wrapped in plastic to protect it from the mortifying sandy breezes.
Lush masses of purple bougainvilleas drape the adjacent patio where my husband, children, and I are cooling off after the morning Cessna flight over the nearby Nazca Lines—the mysterious desert geoglyphs, two thousand years old, seen only from the air. Surrounded by our solicitous native relatives, among them my quiet mother-in-law, Señora Baldomera, we sip maracuyá juice, passion fruit nectar, chatting in the oasis of a peach orchard. (More…)