And How Do You Like Your Tea, Sir?

I’m an innocent most things. A true child. A Naivete on legs.

We spent this morning at the British Museum at the Peru, a journey in time exhibition. There was a lot on the various civilisations who have peopled the western edge of the Andes over the last 5000 years. Amazing if some times a bit grim. Fr’instnace this is a funerary shroud form some 2000 years ago where each human figure carries a severed head. As you do because it symbolises how to keep life and nature in balance. Today we obsess about the right amount of fibre. It’s fair to say I’m happy living now.

That apart, Peru is extraordinary and I was lucky enough to visit in 1987. Up to that point the Textiliste and I had limited ourselves to Europe. It was a bit of a departure and whetted the appetite for wider travel.

We were warned about the altitude; at points we would be above 14,000 feet which was a step up from the 472 feet above sea level at which we lived in London (and that included the fact we rented a second floor flat). However, the trip was carefully planned so we would start low in Lima and gradually work our way up.

Only that was rubbish. On our second day and still adjusting to a time zone that was last experienced in Lost In Space! we were offered an optional trip to the Colca Canyon to view the Inca farming shelves and, if we were lucky see a Condor fly.


We set out after breakfast though in truth it could have been after a temporary lobotomy given how I felt in a minibus driven by a taciturn Peruvian with a cheery guide. If you’d asked me who was likely to make my day, I’d not have given you big odds on the driver.

It all went pretty well as we followed one of those snaky roads up the side of a mountain, with the trees then the grass and finally the air being left somewhere behind.

After a couple of hours we were offered a chance to stretch our legs.

They should have said our lungs. I walked to the edge of a rather scrabby lake and wondered why the in-out movement of my lungs had no affect. It was devoid of oxygen. At some point I’d dozed off and we were in the Sea of Tranquillity, Moonside.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really given oxygen much thought. It was just there. Like gas bills. It turned up unannounced. But unlike the utility bills, I doubt I’d miss them if they skipped a quarter. Oxygen, on the other hand would be much missed.

In no time I went from feeling middling to distinctly mortal. It was horrid, sucking madly at nothing and wondering where the bloody gas was hiding because the others all seemed to be managing.

I felt dreadful. Seriously discombobulated. We set off again, with me hoarding every little bit of O2 that I could find. At some point we stopped and saw a Condor. I have a vague memory of this but at the time I was more anxious that it didn’t see me as an easy buffet lunch.

The guide made some inappropriate jokes at my expense but the driver was a better man. We made an unscheduled tea stop at the sort of roadside shacks that feature in kidnap movies and not in a good way.


Who was I to disagree? A cuppa had to be bit of a pick me up.

Pick me up? This stuff was the soft porn of beverages. Talk about a stimulant.

‘What on earth…?’

Everyone else seemed to know except me. ‘Coca tea.’

They recommended we didn’t buy a box of tea bags to take home as a souvenir. Something about sniffer dogs and class A drugs

The effect didn’t last, but for the short period we shared a small intestine it was bliss and it got me back to sea level. It didn’t stop the tooth ache which the altitude also bequeathed me, but that’s another story.

So, today, when I saw a 1550 year old pouch with dried coca leaves on display it took me back to that driver and that shack. My Peruvian hero alongside Paddington bear.

Sadly the shop only sold books and pottery. If you ask me, they missed a bit of a trick.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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40 Responses to And How Do You Like Your Tea, Sir?

  1. Sadje says:

    Padington is the cutest Peruvian I know. Don’t know much about coca tea!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PST! I have lots of dried leaves if you want to buy some!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. arlingwoman says:

    Lucky for you that driver stopped! Altitude sickness can happen anytime over 6000 feet. Years ago I was in the Gila Wilderness slightly above 6000 and I didn’t feel much but a little light-headedness during the day, but it was hard to get a good night’s sleep because I kept waking up because my body wasn’t getting enough oxygen. We only had caffeine…But what an adventure. It’s a lot of fun to see exhibits from places you’ve been because 1) you see what you missed and 2) you have better context.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That altitude change is tough, Geoff. My brother hiked a portion of the Inca Trail, and they had him acclimate for five days before even starting the walk. I’d love to go to Peru. What an interesting place. I’m glad you found that supercharged tea. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Erika says:

    I can only imagine how you must have felt trying to breathe and managing the altitude change. That’s quite a difference. But really great that you had the chance to go there. And maybe it was even more of an experience back in the 80s than it would be today.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry, Geoff. I read this to may daughter and we laughed so hard I could hardly keep reading. I know a enough of oxygen deprivation to know it really isn’t funny. Since I now carry a Portable concentrator wherever I go and am moving back up to 6200 ft when I leave Germany, I get the importance of oxygen. But my god, man. you just had me rolling tears with this story. It takes at least 3 weeks for normal people to acclimate. Not sure how long it will take me this time but I will think of you with each hopeful breath. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great story, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    As someone who gets altitude sickness at four thousand feet I can totally sympathize. I have heard about this marvelous tea!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. CARAMEL says:

    Altitude sickness is not much fun at all. Love the British Museum ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. willowdot21 says:

    They sure did Geoff, they sure did. Merry Christmas to you and all the LePards 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A taciturn driver has an alert mind

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is timely, Geoff. Just finished reading The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley. A book full of Peru, altitude sickness, moving statues, living forever, and marmalade. I might be lying about the marmalade.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rowena says:

    I hope you never taken that magnificent museum of yours for granted, Geoff. I recently wanted a doco about their Pompeii exhibition awhile back. It looked magnificent. Dare I mention the Elgin Marbles?!! Or, the cricket while we’re chatting. Geoff just called out from his chair that “the balmy the army is singing on the deck of the Titanic trumpets playing with one wicket to go”. I’m getting a bit of a running commentary as he sips on a bottle of cider called “Scape Goat”. Your cricketing mates might be looking for one of those and some coca tea might help as well.
    I’ve been thinking of you with covid madness and hoping you and the family are okay. A friend of mine flew over last week to see her daughter. Thanks to covid, she’d missed her daughter’s wedding in London and getting over there has been an effort right down to waiting for the dastardly covid tests to come through. I’ve heard the Queen has cancelled Christmas. I know the feeling. We’re off for our boosters this week and goodness know what we’ll be doing Christmas Day.
    Wishing you and the family a Merry and Blessed Christmas and let’s just say 2022 has to be an improvement. Then again, that’s what we said last year.
    Love and best wishes,


    • TanGental says:

      Yep, it continues to be bonkers up here and no the cricket doesn’t warrant a mention right now. I hope you have a fab xmas, covid goes on holiday and we win a test. One out of three probably…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        Hi Geoff,
        We have had a fab, but rather unconventional for us Christmas at home with the four of us and thankful for the three dogs to bolster up the numbers.
        Covid’s gone berserk here. They got our vaccinations up and then let everything go to wrack and ruin. It was only when the numbers rose to 5,000 in a day that mandatory masks were reintroduced indoors. Churches fought to allow unvaccinated people to attend and staunchly fought against a vaccine mandate. However, in doing so made it risky for vulnerable people. I haven’t been able to go to church for six months. We were going to go to the 11.00pm service Christmas Eve which would be fairly small but all services were cancelled as cases of covid mounted at church.
        We got a new premier a few months ago and this one is a real wally. As the numbers were rapidly increasing, he was continuing to reduce restrictions and clearly going the wrong way. We have been doing so well as he’s dropped us in it. He and the prime minister are talking about people taking personal responsibility. That’s great in theory but too many people seem to think they’ll be immune, are stupid. I don’t know.
        I want our old Premier, Gladys, back.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Marsha says:

    Geoff, I hate to laugh at your expense, but I did throughout this post. We lived in Colorado Springs for three years – altitude 6,300 ft above sea level. If that wasn’t bad enough, friends took us up to Pike’s Peak for a day of picnicking and hiking – elevation 14,000 above sea level. I was young, but hiking about did me in. When we took our parents up there to see the sights, they couldn’t even walk, and we had to leave pronto. No coca tea available. LOL Now we live at 5,300 ft above sea level, and it’s taken me a year to adjust. Anyway, great post – you have such an amazing sense of humor.

    Liked by 1 person

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  16. Hi Geoff.
    Like Marsha, we too spent just over 3 years in Colorado Springs and took that trip up to the same mountain one day. Pro traveler tip – high altitudes are easier if you take one aspirin with lots of water, lie down on a warm surface, then don’t move for about 4 months until your lungs just get over themselves.
    I don’t know how to help with the tooth thing. I doubt that added much to the trip which otherwise sounds like loads of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      The tooth ache was a real bind. At one point I couldn’t open my mouth more that a sliver and was forced to squeeze papaya through the slit for sustenance. Oh me, what a martyr!


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