Before the awful civil war broke out I travelled through Syria, and Lebanon, many years ago. It was a fabulous trip, full of discovery about the ancient civilisation and culture in the region, and lead by a well trained Syrian guide. He spoke good English. We travelled over the eastern mountain range, past the ancient cedar forests, and into the Bekaa Valley. The vegetation changed sharply, with arid hill-sides giving way to the lush valley below. Our guide described this as a “fertility bottom”. We resisted a snigger as we all knew what he meant. From that moment onwards, every fertile valley floor has been a “fertility bottom” to me.

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There are many in the Andes of Ecuador and Colombia, and they all appear as important for sustaining local populations as any I have seen. They vary in size. Some are little more than a plot with vegetables and a goat. Larger ones have a variety of vegetables and fruit, and several goats. Some are terraced, and some are naturally flat valley floors. Others are mature, well cultivated, and commercialised. They not only sustain local populations, but provide employment and profit. However, they are all still fertility bottoms.

bananas

bananas

sugar cane

sugar cane

Riding northwards through the near desert-like landscape of coastal Peru, the road starts to run diagonally inland and rises towards the Andes in Ecuador. Large tracts of fertile planes have been maximised for their potential. I rode for at least 100 miles with nothing but banana plantations on either side of the road. They eventually gave way to sugar cane plantations, pineapple production including canning, as well as passion fruit, papaya and other exotics.

coffee beans

coffee beans

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a large pineapple!

a large pineapple!

Crossing into Colombia, and at higher altitudes, the coffee bean is king. The bushes seem to cling to every richly-soiled hillside, without needing a fertility bottom.

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