GREEN-COLOURED GLASSES

Bolivia and the altiplano welcomed me. I could almost feel her arms envelope me in a gesture of greeting. There had been a democratically elected president, followed by yet another military coup and the resulting emergent dictator in the time I had been gone. The currency had fought its way back to a spineless stability.

Dinner rush, lack of tables and chance meeting with a Swiss businessman named Peter Iseli. He asked if I minded sharing my table with him, and soon we were crunching through mouthfuls of conversation and food. He had lived and worked in Africa and had now resided in Bolivia for the last twelve years. Business ventures supported a little known business adventure.

Two days later we drove up and out of the urban bunker of La Paz, up onto the wind swept altiplano. It was here, some three hundred metres above tree-line, that he promised something special. Rocky tracks led us hill over hill. Then after slowly negotiating a long pull to the top of a rise, we came to a halt. In the valley just below was the first square of his green patchwork quilting.

Method in his persistence. He'd been sent samples of trees which grew in high altitudes all over the world. Canadian, Mexican and European varieties came through. His aim was to achieve what was generally considered lunacy, and quite a senseless waste of time. But the smooth grey undulations of the altiplano were rudely interrupted by his farm. Rows of trees grew healthily to four and five feet high, a supporting stitching of legumes, mainly a high nitrogen producing bean, held the ground together in between, producing further composting material for the somewhat lacking soil. Beans in excess. But it didn't stop there. He had vegetables of every category, a fish farm and goats. It was a truly remarkable sight; a man of unique vision. A forest that shouldn't be!