pawprint.gif SPEAKING
pawprint.gif BIOGRAPHY
pawprint.gif DOGS without BORDERS ~ Book
pawprint.gif LOS MUTTS ~ Book
from DOG ~ Book
pawprint.gif CAIRO CATS ~ Book
pawprint.gif SHADOWS in the SAND ~ Book
pawprint.gif GIFTS



in a




Lorraine, Dog and Bruiser playing in the market area of Copacabana, Bolivia. ~ photo Ixchel Saucedo



Since February 18th, myself, Dog and Bruiser have been camping on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in Copacabana, Bolivia. It really is as good as it sounds. These people are now my 'neighbors'. I've heard a lot about how the indigenous people are very aloof, even unfriendly to outsiders. I've found this to be true - until I bring out my camera to photograph their dogs. Tobin is 8 years, a grand age for an animal who's never had vaccinations. I've met one other who is 15. The owners, a fishing family, credit his years on a good diet. According to the locals, there's too many dogs in Copacabana. They verge on being a nuisance. There's only one vet in town, and he devotes his time to the care of livestock.


This is our back garden for three nights. Wild flowers are in bloom, and the weather hasn't been bitter cold for the past few days - a relief.

street scene

The skies go on forever at this altitude in the Altiplano of Peru.

vendors orange

Bruiser being less than friendly to the first Andean hound we encounter. And, we're on his turf... He is typical of the mountain dogs we're seeing. This dog's female companion was killed while scrounging for food on the road the day before we arrived.

living statue

The first two nights after leaving Arequipa, we camped less than two hours away. Dog warns these donkey's to stay away from our campsite.



Animal Lovers
Lovers of Travel

May 28, 2008

With one day remaining on finalizing On a Mission from Dog, I discover there's been an error in the second batch of my recordings, and I have to redo 25 chapters!!! If you've ordered, please be patient. The good news is it'll be more perfect this time around. ;-) If you haven't ordered, you've now got a little bit more time left to order at the discounted price.

May 20, 2008

I think I've got it sussed. I couldn't even find the 'rustic' kind of pots I'm finding half broken where I'm camped, much less the fancy-shmanzy variety they show in the pic on the website. No matter. I've got two huge ones, that fit inside each other. Both are broken, so air can circulate so the candle doesn't die. Amazingly, it doubles as a shield for the alcohol burner, and you know I was nervous about using that inside the van. And, while I cook, the clay absorbs the heat from the flames. So it's a head start for the night.

Then I came up with another idea for the metal pots. I've found many banged up and rusted enamel cooking pots. Two were teapots, but the spouts have been broken off-again, a way for air to enter when you turn them upside down and use them to heat. The metal gets so hot, you can use it as a toaster-not kidding! Since I'm in desert, it's dry. So dry, that when Dog is laying on anything nylon, we give each other static electricity which is not nice. I'm always looking for ways to add moisture in the air. I found a banged up metal cup (many actually) and poked a pin hole in the bottom and have hung it just above the upside-down metal teapot. I light the candle underneath, and little droplets of water land on the metal, and voila! Steam!

May 19, 2008

Yesterday, I started the van to make sure I don't run the battery down. My spare, finally really died and I dumped it several towns back. Today, I start the engine up, and it was dead. Damn. Hadn't planned to leave for town till tomorrow, Monday, since I fear there'll be 'explosivo's' in town, which always scares the dogs. Nevertheless, I don't want to walk out to the road and try flagging someone down for a jump. What about the sun? Though it's well below freezing at night, it's HOT in the afternoons. I lug the battery out and put it in the sun for a few hours, and voila! It starts without me needing a jump! Now that, made me feel like I'd accomplished something, as I hadn't tried that trick before.

May 18, 2008

It was too hot. Within two hours, the heat from the candle had heated it so much it melted. Back to the drawing board...

May 17, 2008

The experimentations with heating vehicles in cold weather inexpensively continues. Not getting any work done today, but certainly am having fun. I've got a metal hanging basket which contains a candle. I've moved it, and made the chain a bit longer, so it's further from the carpeted ceiling. I've got a tall metal can, (almost a foot) which I already put short candles in, and then put the alcohol burner over the top for a minute to heat the fuel so it'll light better, since it doesn't light when cold. Because the candles are short, this thing heats up so much you can't touch it. Another rather dangerous accoutrement...

If I put a tall candle in it, in the beginning of the night, hopefully about 3 am to 6 am in the morning when it's coldest, that's when it'll really heat up with all the metal around it! I'll also go back and grab that broken pottery jug, put it over the top, and see what happens. Can't wait to test it tonight.

It's the night I'm always concerned about, as I've taken all the tinting off the back windows, and make sure I angle the van so first sunlight hits them full on. Really has made a huge difference. If it's cloudy, I can make endless cups of tea.....

May 16, 2008

I found fabulous camping on the outskirts of Oruru, Bolivia, which is rather a lot like Carrizozo, New Mexico. Similar terrain, and many adobe houses. I'm VERY happy camping here. It's a little pueblo, but most of the people have left for higher ground this time of year, until the rains come and wash all the salt away. Then, they return to farm. So, everyday on a bicycle ride, the dogs and I poke around people's houses. Well, the gardens, the doors are all locked. Have found a ton of broken clay pots. The dogs love it. It's really the first place in so long all three of us have been so happy. I love the fact they wander off by themselves, for sometimes an hour at a time, to dig for rodents. This trip is for them too, and there's been so little wildlife. Here, many raptors soar in the area, and a small herd of vicuna chased past. It's great for recording, as there's no interruptions and it's desert, so very quiet.

May 15, 2008

I reach Oruru and despite initial negative impressions, once I found the main market area (have my doubts there's a supermarket) really enjoyed it. What I liked best, was when walking along, camera in hand as always taking photos of dogs, I 'felt' one behind me. He followed me on my errands, but when I bought dry dog food, wasn't interested in eating any. We lost each other a few times in the crowd of shoppers and traffic, but always found each other again. As time went on, I knew I HAD to return to my own dogs who were waiting in the van, and a separation was imminent. I braced myself. We had a bond. When we got to his home turf, he frolicked with dogs he knew well. I bought candles. And left. Five minutes later, on a completely different street, he bolted past, looking for me. I called him, but he doesn't know my voice. I never saw him again.

May 14, 2008

Sleeping with a few layers to offset the cold (always below freezing in these parts) made sure I'm not too sore today. I'm looking forward to get a number of chapters recorded this morning. Which is why I'm camping in places rather bleak and isolated. I'm longing for forests, but these types of places are where it's very quiet.

Now, if I can do something about the power cord for my laptop....In LaPaz, the Apple people never fixed it, instead, as I was leaving town, offered to sell me the loaner I'd be using for $35. A great deal since they're over $100. Within days, I was miles away, and that cord isn't working correctly. Having been in and out of LaPaz five times, I'm not going back. There's a few other Apple dealers in Bolivia, none on my route. Next time I travel, despite being a Mac supporter for many years, I'll get a PC. With their immersion and success into iPod's, they certainly no longer need my support. And, no more two wheel drives....

May 13, 2008

Resumed heading south again, towards Oruru, with the intent of finally buying two new tires. Looked over to some hills off the side of the road and thought, "I want to be behind them. Then in the morning, any traffic noise will be diminished and I can do more recording for On a Mission from Dog.

Dust gave way to a white surface. A salt lake! A miniature Salar de Uyuni, a huge lake on the iternary of most who come to Bolivia. And with five flamingos! I stopped by it's side and the dogs and I bicycled around and found a great spot on the other side, Bruiser chasing after two alpacas a few hundred meters away. In the van, I followed tire tracks, while Bruiser ran after the van, mouth agape and smiling. Alas, I followed the wrong set of tire tracks and almost at the other side, the back wheels, the set of tires I desperately want to replace, began spinning, and digging through the salty surface, down into dark mud. I came to a halt.

I looked at the sun, and as has happened before upon getting stuck, I was at the perfect angle for getting the most sun streaming in the back first thing in the morning-important when it freezes at night. And it was a glorious spot, possibly with a better view than where I was heading.

I wasn't too worried about becoming unstuck, as there were a few trucks pulling in and out of a mining area nearby. But, with the angle I was facing, I hoped the sun would dry out the back tires and mud the next morning.

A neighbors dog came by in the night, Bruiser woke me up desperate to chase it off 'our' property. I slid open the door, both dogs shot out, and were back within a few minutes.

In the morning, frost covered the salt lake, so it was impossible to tell what was salt, and what was ice. The problem was, the ice made everything damp and by the end of our morning walk, my boots were caked with a few inches of spongy moss and salt, as were the dogs feet. Dog jumped back into the van, and tried to clean it off, leaving a trail of what looked like cow dung-fortunately, without the smell.
"Can't do anything about this, until the sun gets warmer," I thought.

The sun got warmer, and higher. But it wasn't shining where I needed it to be hitting the back left tire, the one which would propel the van forward. Whereas the two front tires had enough tread to keep them on the surface of the salt, the back two did not-and sunk. I spent three hours edging the van forward, hauling 4 bucket loads of dirt from nearby to lay in the path, and it was really looking good. Ten meters away from hitting the coarse grass at the edge of the lake, I hit a wet patch. After all that work, I had to accept defeat.

Why didn't I ask the truck drivers, or even walk to where there was a back-hoe?? Good question. I've been stuck so many times in the past year, mostly because my last two vehicles were 4x4 and this isn't. And then, there's the trannie. Having never had an automatic in my life, I erroneously thought the fluid was something that was checked when you got an oil change. Wrong. Or, at least not down here. So, my reverse is weak, and L1 and L2 shot. I'd planned on getting the work done, but the parts have to be shipped from the US, that's problematic and time-consuming, and I'm guessing I'll only have the van till the beginning of next year. I've gotten tired of having to rely on others to get me out of scraps. People are always willing, if you ask. I'm tired of asking.

And sadly, if you don't ask, you often don't get helped, as was evident here, when two men in one of the trucks saw me trying to dig myself out, and slowed down to stare, and then drove on. This is so common in macho countries I could scream. I remember back in Cairo seeing a beautiful woman in high heels trying to maneuver a hard-drive out of her car. The men standing near-by, just watched. This has nothing to do with female rights, it's just common courtesy. If you see an elderly person having difficulty crossing a street, you help.

I hid in the van for almost an hour, a few tears, hugged Dog, ate a peanut butter sandwich and a huge salad, and felt better. Then saw one of the workers from the mine (or whatever it is) walking down the hill. I was wrong, someone was coming to help! I quickly put boots back on, and began maneuvering dirt around the wheels. And as just as well I resumed my task, because the man was not coming to help, instead, he turned and walked the other way.

I had a brainstorm. The rubber mat under the pedals had track. What if I laid that out in the path of the tire? Another half hour of juggling the rubber, and a small carpet that lay underneath that, and I was on hard soil. Yeeha!! I gave Bruiser, who'd been standing nearby, a huge hug. We were free.

I drove to where I'd originally intended to camp, and collapsed. Did I feel an incredible sense of satisfaction? Some, surely. But like the tire, I felt in a bit of a rut too. My pigheadedness proved I was right about Latin men-but at a great expense of time. Time I want to spend finishing recording On a Mission from Dog. If this was one of the first times I'd dug myself out, yes, I'd feel victorious. But it isn't. I need life to be easier. Earning a living while traveling is difficult enough. I don't need to make it harder. Did I make it harder? No. I followed a bad set of tracks. I had no way of knowing I'd sink. This is, an incredibly valuable lesson if I intend going to Salar de Uyuni. If I do go, I'll make sure not to veer off known tracks, and take plenty of supplies.

I still will be the first one to stand by the case that you can do a trip like this on a very limited budget-I just wish mine was a little less limited!

And tomorrow, barring unforeseen emergencies, I will definitely buy two new tires! And hope I don't wake up with too sore of muscles. Funny, I've met a few men travelers on motorcycles who've complained about the weight they've gained sitting in the saddle all day. Travel with me, and enjoy the weight coming off while lugging 5 gallon containers of water and digging me out of sand or whatever!

May 3, 2008

Hello all!

I've been on the road for exactly one year. Or rather, I left my little house by Costa Rica's Pacific Ocean one year ago. I've had no problems with security, which is the greatest concern of most people. I've had minor mechanical issues, but nothing major-the Chevy van is 30 years old! I hope choosing an older and cheaper vehicle which can be dumped at the end of the road, or sold for parts, (or possibly even sold in it's entirety for profit) encourages others to do a trip like this.

The trip of a lifetime, need not take a lifetime of savings.

There's been some unexpected surprises about this journey. I thought I'd be at the southern most tip by LAST December. I'm only half way through South America. But since I'm not on a time schedule, that's not a problem. I'd been warned campsites were rare until Chile and Argentina, but I figured I'd find plenty of open spaces. Wrong. I've camped mostly on farmland, more than I ever thought possible, where anything larger than a mouse has been eradicated. I'm sure there's much wildlife to observe in tropical areas, but travelling in the heat with dogs is stressful, and their welfare is always a top priority.

Because of the lack of formal campsites, this voyage has been lonelier than I'd hoped. However, on this last trip to LaPaz, I met four other vehicles overlanding; French, German and Swiss. I hope to see Canadians and Americans further south. Come join me!!!

Today, I'm heading to Sajama, the highest mountain in Bolivia. Around this area, next to the border with Chile is the wide open space I long for. There are puma, flamingos, and vicuna amongst other species. I can't wait! It is amongst these animals I want to record the final chapters of On a Mission from Dog. I did not make my self-imposed deadline of May 1st. I realized I was rushing a project that has taken five years. I expect it'll be finished in the next few weeks. If you'd still like to order at the great reduced price, you may do so at

I will be going into Chile, but not extensively, as gas prices are $5 a gallon, even higher than in the states, though still nowhere as great as England, where I'm told the price is almost double. I'll be returning to Bolivia, where gas is $2 a gallon, and then venture into Argentina, where it's $2.50. It's a relief to pay these prices, as you can imagine, after two years of paying more than in the US. As I said, come join me!

best to everyone,

April 19, 2008

While finishing On a Mission from Dog, I really don't have time to blog, but would like to share something that happened recently in Bolivia.

To cross Lake Titicaca from Copacabana (yes, these are real places) you have to put your vehicle on... basically, a slab of wood with a motor attached. As rickety as these vessels are, buses are transported this way, so I felt fairly certain (in a world where there are no guarantees) we'd survive getting to the other side.

Fingers crossed, I drove onto rickety flooring and paid a few dollars. Dog and Bruiser were leary. A man tried to get his donkey 'on board.' The donkey was clearly stressed, and got it's leg stuck in a hole in the floor. The owner seemed barely to acknowledge his animal's distress. I went into the van and pulled out a few carrots and handed them to him in the hope food would calm him. The man, plus the only two other passengers, thought this hilarious.

We crossed without problem, me taking photos, and the two men talking. Before reaching shore, I noticed the man scratching his donkey's back. Not just a casual scratch, but continually, for almost five minutes, as if he was trying to relax his donkey before disembarking. 'Your donkey is very intelligent, isn't he?' I said. 'What's his name?'

The man broke into a broad smile, then proudly told me the name of his donkey was Milagro, which means miracle. The other man began to laugh, and then looked confused. Was this all a joke. NAME a donkey??? These are creatures thought of as dumb beasts of burden all over the world, and many give them no respect, and treat them harshly.

But the owner, who at the beginning of the journey showed no sign of affection towards his animal, clearly did care for it. I presume, he was embarrased to scratch the donkey's back in front of total strangers. I find signs of this all the time: people coming home from work, their dogs leaping along to greet them, and they'll mock-kick their animal. Then the front door opens, and when they think no one is looking, they reach down and pet the animal. Often, people share their animals eagerly with me, because they see me with my own. And every chance I get, I tell people their animals are, 'preciouso' or 'bonito', pretty. Sometimes they look incredulous. Most times they smile and say, 'Gracious.'

There's often a public, and private world many share with their animals. I completely understand this, as there was a time when I felt embarrassed to stroke my own animals in public. Now, I shower them with affection, so others who feel hesitant, know for certain that there are others out there who love animals.

I hope all is well in your worlds,

February 19, 2008

Couldn't resist one last note. I just got to BOLIVIA!! I'm staying on the shores of Lake Titicaca (really, the place exists!), in the little town of Cocacabana. A real place... I'll be here a week I suspect, as the town reminds me of the best place I shot in Colombia. It's waaaay tourisity, but has great atmosphere. And the plus of it being touristy is that there's lots of ammenities like laundry services, and it just feels EASY.

February 18, 2008

It was in 2000 that I first got the idea to write in a beautiful and changing landscape. It hasn't always been easy, but I never regret following the dream. It's Monday by the time I leave. We've camped here for three nights and I've gotten so much writing done!

February 16, 2008

Again I've camped on farmland, but not like any I've experienced before. A rare dirt track led up a hill. I park at the bottom and we walk up to what looks like a little used quarry, surrounded by terraced farms in the style of which has been used since Inca times. Amongst the rocks are scores of rabbits with thick bushy tails - heaven for the dogs. Again, the van will be very exposed, when what I prefer is to be hidden. However, what anyone will see from a few hundred meters away is a large white van. They'd have no idea what they would find if they braved the long stretch of dirt track to reach me. Could I be a bandit? Certainly, they'd never suspect a lone woman and two dogs. Most associate my van with smuggling. This gets me pulled over at check-points frequently. This time, I'll be using that 'look' to my advantage. Guaranteed Bruiser will run down to greet any unwelcome guests.

There's thunder, lightening and rain in the night, and I'm delighted that the triple layer of rubber seal to fill the gap made by the weight of the spare tire on the back door works great. No leaking. The morning is glorious. I discover wildflowers are everywhere when we take a morning walk into the hills. I realize their colour and that of the grasses is incredibly vibrant because of the cleaner air at this altitude. I spend the day writing. The dogs disappear every few hours to chase the rabbits in the quarry. It's far enough away that the rabbits will know they're coming, and I don't have to worry about gratuitous killing.

February 15, 2008

I wake up in the morning surrounded by a brilliant sun and fields of yellow flowers. It's quiet. There's a water source for the farmers nearby where waders cry. The bad feelings have passed with my stomach bug and I feel myself again. On our morning walk, I wander over to a house where I'd heard a dog barking. I talk to the man, who seems friendly enough while we chat about the vegetables he's growing. I ask if I can take a picture of his dog, who I can now see is roped to it's dog house constructed of stone. He seems ok, though not enthusiastic about the idea. As I approach the main house, his wife comes out and waves me away angrily, just as the man with the dead dog did. I leave while laughing. This time I'm not bothered.

I've found Peruvians to be the most suspicious of any group of people I've ever met, surpassing even Americans in their fear and paranoia. ;-) The first time I brought out my camera to photograph a dog in the street, the owner closed the door. When I knocked, to ask why the animal had a necklace of limes around its neck (old folklore remedy to heal a bite), the door was opened just long enough to slam it shut again. I didn't find this attitude prevalent in the cities, but now I'm in rural areas, I seem to be encountering it again.

I do some writing and at 1 pm head to Puno. I have to find somewhere to fax a contract to an editor. There's tons of internet cafes, and places to telephone and copy documents. Eventually I find a place. The machine says the number isn't valid. I find another number on their website. All this takes time. The dogs are in the van, in the shade. I'm relaxed. A firework goes off. In Costa Rica, Bruiser had jumped out of the van because of fireworks. I'd lost him for four days. This time I'm concerned for him, I know he'll be nervous, but I've learnt my lesson. Every time I run errands, I roll the windows up and leave about four inches open. Enough for him to put his head out, but no more. Today is no different.

This time, the fax just won't connect internationally. More fireworks go off. It's Friday afternoon, about 3pm, and there's a fiesta. Just like a year ago in Costa Rica. I tell the girl to stop trying, and leave, buy some bread, and run the remaining three blocks back. I open the van door, and Dog has the same look on her face as when Bruiser jumped out before. I don't need to look in the back of the van to know he's not there. Shit, shit, shit. How can a dog that large fit through an opening so small??

This is a town neither of us have ever been. I have no idea where he'll run, or whether he'll seek shelter. Last time, he headed back to where we'd been camping, miles away. He'd run across country, not via road, so had become lost. That time, and another time when we lived in Kenya and he was missing, I'd contacted Ronni Hall, an animal communicator. Both times she's been instrumental in me finding him. Immediately I wonder how long I should wait before contacting her again. Puno is not a place I want to stay. It has a reputation of having plenty of thieves and pickpockets. I will have to camp on a side-street where I've parked until I find him. I try and quell panic.

With no idea where to begin looking, I do nothing. I just stand in the square. I remember what Ronni Hall had said: "Imagine a piece of string connecting the two of you together." I'm calm. I soundlessly call to Bruiser and say, "I can't look for you, you have to return to the van." And within a minute, I turn back to our vehicle, and there he is running along the sidewalk.

To contact Ronni, or read her latest newsletter, go to:

I quickly go through the rest of my errands, never letting the van and dogs out of my sight. From now on, the window will be rolled up to two inches, unless I'm there.

February 14, 2008

I had fantasies of returning to the dog loving man and taking wonderful photos of him with his dog, while llamas grazed in the background. Later, I'd photograph them making their way through the amazing rock formations. All fantasy.

I feel like crap in the morning. Water I'd left outside froze solid. I have a hunch I need to get to a pharmacy to make sure the dosage of medicine I'm taking for a parasite is correct. So, I crawl over to the farm, not sure we'll be here later. Bruiser and the dog clearly don't like each other and have a tussle. The man is clearly annoyed to see me. "Why haven't you left already, it's sunny!" And waves his hand. For lack of something better to say, I ask if I could take pictures of his llamas.
"They're alpacas. That'll be $3."
I decline. I ask if I can buy eggs from him, he says come back tomorrow. Cleared this isn't going as I envisioned.

I bid farewell and head back to the van. His dog catches up to us. I take pics of him and the three, until Bruiser chases him away from the van. The dog heads out to the road where his female companion was killed. It's too far away to see clearly, but I imagine him snuffling at her in mourning. Then I realize he's looking for scraps. A truck honks its horn. I'd thought the female was killed while herding alpaca's across the road. Instead, she was looking to supplement her diet. This is something I'm to see later on.

I decide to wash my hair with lukewarm water. My solar shower went kaput, so I've devised a shower using the old tube, and the inner tube of a car tire. Unfortunately, even in blazing sun, the rubber is too thick for the sun to penetrate much. So I boil water and pour it in. I'll need to find another solution at the hardware store. I need something black, or maybe clear, and thick enough to hold water, but not too thick...

I'm too sick to write, and so driving some distance is a good use of my time. It's cold. I turn the car heater on and there's a horrific noise. With much fiddling, I get hot air, but the noise comes and goes. Something which needs fixing. I pass incredible scenery. We're now in the Altiplano!! Incredible clear skies and wide open landscapes which remind me of New Mexico. We take a fifteen minute break at a huge lake, and then a river flowers along the road. This is the time of year to be here, it's great and soon there'll be spring flowers.

And then begin the dogs. I'd heard about this phenomenon. Every kilometer or so there's a dog by the side of the road. Waiting every day for a source of food which would come flying out the window from one of many vehicles or tour buses. The dogs seem like they were in the middle of nowhere, but on closer inspection, I see there are tiny pueblos tucked away behind hills. It seems a gross, modern-day distortion of how dogs sat around our campfires thousands of years ago.

It's two hours till I find a town which has a pharmacy - all closed for lunch. We walk the streets and find people incredibly friendly. Alas, I feel crap and don't appreciate it. I check email, get more medicine, and we head to Lake Titicaca, and get hopelessly lost in the town of Juliaca, despite asking directions four times. In the process, I see more dogs than I've ever seen in one place ever. Pack upon pack roam the streets and trawl through the garbage, their food source. Clear up the garbage problem, and the amount of dogs would diminish. I'm amazed so many are tolerated. I wonder if this town puts down poison, or not.

I take a wrong turn and instead of north to go around Lake Titicaca to reach Bolivia, I've gone south. The weather patterns are interesting here. The mornings are brilliantly clear and so warm that some days I've worn flip-flops, tank-top and shorts. Around noon a cool breeze picks up and by nightfall it's bitter cold. The overcast sky has prevented me telling north and south. I've had enough for today. I've bought two dinners, one for me and another for the dogs to share. I need a place to camp. I'm pissed off, hungry and cold and crabby. Gone are the incredible landscapes which I was sure would stay with me for several months. I'm confronted with filthy villages and no tracks. I eventually find a place off a farm track.

It's almost dark and we take a walk along a river. I'd stumbled upon a wonderful place to camp, despite being twenty minutes from a big town. I take another look at the day, and realize it was all just fine. I decide instead of trying to find the way north again, since I'm heading south, I'll continue in that direction.

I'd emailed a fellow traveller I'd met at to tell him of my northward journey. It's always a mistake for me to do this. Events often take unexpected turns on the road.

February 13, 2008

I've arrived. I have no idea where, but somewhere between Arequipa and Puno, Peru. We passed the turning to Machu Pichu. I decide not to go there this trip. If I could take the dogs, I'd go. I even have a free hotel room for a few nights. Also, I've found places I discover on my own seem to give me greater satisfaction. I can return when one day I go to the Galapagos Islands, another place I couldn't take the dogs. Even so, I stall at the crossroads, buying supplies and gas from a man who pours it from a five gallon container. I want to head towards Lake Salinas, but take a wrong turn on a dirt track. I'm a bit relieved. Bruiser is hating the bumps. And it's off the beaten path. I'm new to camping at these elevations. We're at over 4000 meters. It's very cold. Cold scares me far more than heat.

An hour later I come across amazing rock formations. Herds of llamas, the first we've ever seen, cross the road. Dog barks. I roll down the window to get a better view. I smile at the little boy helping to herd. He smiles back, amazed to see dogs in a van, and a Gringa. Instead of searching, sometimes in vain for camping spots, as was the case throughout Central America, Colombia and Equador, now I debate which of many dirt tracks to take which will lead me to a wide open space. This one isn't right, so I head back to another I'd seen. At the turning lies a dog, recently hit by a car. An unusual site as there's no villages around.

The track leads straight up to the rock formations. I'm a few hundred meters from the main road. For security, I prefer being completely hidden. For this environment, I'm willing to compromise. Besides, once it's night, no one will be able to see me on the side of the hill.

The dogs and myself clamber up amongst amazing formations, which must've been spewed from a volcano eons ago. It's hard going, I haven't adjusted to the altitude and it's bitter cold. But it's worth ever second. We're in a fairytale land. Once at the top, a valley lays before us, over 100 llamas dotting the landscape. We descend. I've wondered for months how the dogs will react to these creatures, and envision them scattering herds all over the landscape. Instead, they seem to instinctively know this is lifestock - untouchable.

We head towards a series of buildings. There doesn't appear to be anyone around. And then, the bark of a dog. Such a familiar and welcome sound. This one is covered in lots of hair, the same as the few I've seen in the past few hours, and so different than indigenous ones I've encountered thus far. Everything is suddenly new, new, new. Bruiser and he sniff, and we're again on familiar ground.

A few women come out, and like many Peruvians, are suspicious. Why am I here? I say some pleasantries and then an older man comes outside. Immediately he asks about Bruiser. 'Is he male?' I say yes, and that he's castrated. I say I have another, but she's nervous of his dog. Dog sits 50 meters away, waiting for me to return. The man misunderstands me, or perhaps hopes what I've said is that I have puppies with me. No, I don't. He is sad.

He tells me that yesterday his female dog was killed on the road. The dog we just saw... She was just over a year old. I commiserate. The man is almost in tears. Obviously an animal lover, he asks what I feed my dogs. I tell him eggs, milk, bread, dog food, meat, everything. He does the same, and adds soup to the mix. While we've been talking, (me in my abysmal Spanish) his dog Chochee has gone to visit Dog, delighted to have company again. He trails us to the top of the hill, and I sit, not wanting him to come to the van with his. The man had warned me of the road, nervous my dogs will suffer a similar fate as his.

Shortly, someone calls, and the dog bounds down the hill, presumably to herd the llamas in the coral for the evening. Repeatedly, I find my dogs open some very interesting doors. I believe if they weren't with me, the man would never have told me about his deceased dog. He wouldn't bother sharing information about feeding habits. There would be no reason to, I'd just be a solo female traveler passing through. Instead, I discover many, many people who have a deep kinship with their animals.

February 12, 2008

I spend the first two nights not more than 1 1/2 hours away from Arequipa. I realize from previous experience that after a spell in the city, it takes time to regroup and regain my camping legs. Traveling like we do, I need to be sharp, and constantly aware of my surroundings. City life turns me to mush. And, the van is a mess. I've bought quite a few items of warm clothing, necessary for the high altitudes of the Altaplano. I need to store warm-weather clothes and make sure everything is easily accessible.

I need to wait for anti-parasite medicine to kick in. I've become victim to Inca Revenge. I need to get the hang of two new stoves I've bought, one which burns kerosene and the other alcohol. I try the alcohol burner first, and almost set the van on fire. Slowly, slowly.

We're camping in what seems to be a pumice stone quarry, and take walks down into a wash. The second afternoon when we return, I see a small herd of what I think are llamas around the van. I can hardly contain my excitement. I wrap my scarf around Bruiser's neck so he doesn't chase them. I need not bother, they're donkey's, not llamas. They've knocked over the burner, and ruined one of the dog bowls. They chase Bruiser, and Dog and he cower near the van in-between barking madly. All good fun.

pawprint.gifUNLEASHED DOG TRAVEL ARCHIVESpawprint.gif