[an error occurred while processing this directive]



Field Notes From
Andes Empires

<< Back to Feature Page

On Assignment
View Field Notes
From Author

Virginia Morell

On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Photographer
Kenneth Garrett

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett


On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
Andes Empires

Field Notes From Photographer
Kenneth Garrett
Best Worst Quirkiest
Lake Titicaca is one of those great wonders of the world that just about everyone wants to visit. It’s located in a large high-altitude desert. Although it’s really dry in the Andes, it’s still very beautiful. Near the lake it was much easier to grow food. In order to live at 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) or more in a freezing-cold desert, the people irrigated all the crops. But the main reason they went to Lake Titicaca was because they believed it was sacred. Even now when I go there, I get a feel for that. I go up on those ridges and watch the sun and the mountains. And I know there was a reason why people wanted to be there. It is a sacred place.

We participated in a large pilgrimage to the place where–according to Indian mythology–the universe originated. People came from all over Peru to go to the top of Copacabana mountain and burn incense for blessing ceremonies. The town of Copacabana was full of people, and both the scientists and the hotel staff warned us there would be lots of bandidos.
Virginia Morrell and I were at the fireworks display until midnight. When it was almost over, we started back to the hotel. We walked between some parked buses and a building with a retaining wall. We were half a block from the hotel when I heard footsteps behind us. It was dark. By the time I realized what was going on, four thugs raced up and grabbed me and Virginia by the throat. I started kicking and beat them up, so they didn’t get anything. But Virginia is really tiny. They dropped her on the sidewalk with a broken larynx. She couldn’t talk for two weeks.
The police found them two days later because they were robbing other people in the town.

When we got back to our hotel after the mugging incident, the door was locked. The armed security staff were inside the hotel because it’s safer there. They had chained the gate shut and were waiting in the lobby while we were being mugged out on the street.

© 2002 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe