Joshua Bearman has long been one of my favorite journalists (he wrote the Wired story that was adapted as the movie Argo, and a profile of the super weird software mogul John McAfee). He's got a new, longform Wired story called "The Mad Scramble to Claim the World's Most Coveted Meteorite" and it's about the eccentric teams of people who look for meteorites in general, and a meteorite that landed in Peru in particular.
On the far side of the bridge, they came to a battered border control outpost. Inside, Peruvian police were surprised. Farmer’s Spanish was still pretty good from his Army days, so he did the talking. He had a high-pitched American accent, but when Farmer said they came to find a meteorite, the police quickly understood and agreed to take them to the spot. They hustled the group into two SUVs and sped off for the crater. The police were friendly, which Farmer took to mean they knew there was money to be gleaned from the gringos. He made sure not to reveal that they were carrying $30,000 in cash. Having that kind of money could be dangerous in remote places.
As they drove they got a sense of just how remote this area was. There was a reason Carancas could not be seen on Google Maps. The altiplano was a lawless frontier, the police said. “Watch out for the village people,” they added, warning of occasional instances of frontier justice. When the Aymara didn’t want to wait for the police, they’d been known to burn suspected criminals alive in the fields. “You need protection,” one of the cops said.
Farmer took all that with a grain of salt. He suspected the “protection” would be offered at an inflated rate. What he didn’t know was that his onetime mentor and current rival, Robert Haag, had just fled this very place. The veteran hunter had arrived a day earlier, rented a car, attached a portable PA system to the roof, and driven around broadcasting an offer to buy meteorite fragments.