“Red sky morning, sailor’s warning” is no wive’s tale. We were up before dawn to go in search of condor with Lorenzo Sympson, a noted Andean condor expert. This involved a good 40 minutes driving off-road across dry, rugged terrain to reach a small mountain refuge built for the express purpose of observing a group of condor nests tucked into the rock face. About half way there, this red dawn ominously broke above the steppe. Traditionally it portends bad weather on the horizon and indeed, after we arrived at the refuge it started to rain. We did however see a condor: an enormous glider with a 6+-foot wingspan.
What happened next was nothing short of terrifying: we had to get back down the mountain. The hard rain turned the clay not to mud but to a surface as slick as ice. Our car skidded and slid the whole way down – at times very close to careening off the edge of the mountain. At first we tried to make small talk but then quickly turned silent, gripping the door handles and seat belts in anticipation of a horrible rollover into the gorge. When finally down on the flats we all breathed a sigh of relief. Little did I know that as I was up front having a conversation with Jesus my photographer was in the back seat praying for a quick death.