(The Ovalle Valley, Chile)
It is still dark when we set out to visit Flores de los Andes, a lapis lazuli mine that lies high in the mountains of Ovalle, central Chile, at an altitude of 4,200m. It is only accessible for three months of the year, February to April, when the snow has melted. The boys are wrapped in blankets in the back of the 4WD. Juan, a miner, accompanies us. He speaks no English, I speak no Spanish. We communicate with exuberant hand movements and tonal inferences. He is a sweet man, short and stout, with a weathered face and watery brown eyes.