Monday, April 13, 2009

equipo inca

According to my guide book, we only walked an actual distance of about 35 miles. So it was unequivocally the near 13,00- ft. descent during the period of two and a half days that proved to be the most challenging...for my left knee, at least.

When we arrived at the summit, the sign for the Choro Trail led the way through clouds and rain.

Yet despite the pain (and the cold, wet nights...and days), hiking the Choro Trail was a thrilling Easter break adventure. The scenery, in particular, was nothing short of spectacular. The first day, walking on top of stones placed ages ago by Incans who used the trail as a passageway linking the luscious Yungas to the barren Altiplano, we passed rustic homes where people make their living herding livestock (sheep, llamas, alpacas, etc.) or growing potatoes. Life, we observed as the clouds mysteriously lifted throughout the day, seemed to be of another time period.  

"What do you think the hopes and dreams of these people are?" I asked UAC-CP students Maria Eugenia and Berta as we navigated slippery, moss covered stones. Together, we concluded that the people who live there must take each day as it comes; they work hard just to survive.

Sonia Paredes, Maria Eugenia Bolaños, Erica Sarmiento, and I pose next to a rushing, glacier stream.

The trail is remote--which means the few people who live there must transport all of their food and purchases by foot from La Paz.  The eggs, the gas tanks, and the inevitable bottles of Coca-Cola are all carried on their backs or by mule. "The cement for the basketball court?" I asked at one of the few small villages we passed through. "We carried it," replied a local.  A four-hour walk from the summit with a bag of cement tied to his back. 

On the second day of the hike someone from our group asked a local nine-year-old boy where he goes to school. I didn't recognize the name of the village until Maria Eugenia pointed out that we had passed through there the day before. Every week this boy makes the four-hour, uphill climb. "High school?" I asked.  "La Paz," he responded. The way of life for the people in this remote part of Bolivia is nothing short of unbelievable.

A house along the trail; people live simple lives in these small, stone homes.

Of course there is also something incredible, magical almost, about hiking and camping in a group--getting to know people in a real, raw form. On our second day, fearful of spending another restless night trying to escape waterlogged tents, we decided to rent a small, thatched-roof/dirt-floor hut owned by a local man. And despite some debate, we all managed to squeeze into the humble abode. There, stuffed into sleeping bags lined head to foot, laying in the pitch dark, we laughed until our sides ached (or mine did, anyway). And I couldn't help but relish this precious little moment--the randomness of all of us being brought together to sleep in a little shack on the side of a mountain in rural Bolivia. "Life is ironic," I thought, as we teased Sam, in both English and Spanish, about his muddy, stinky feet.

UAC-CP volunteers Andy Engel and Sam Clair lead the way.

So I do recognize that the hike wouldn't have been the same without the stellar cast of characters who made up "Equipo Inca," as I took to calling our group. Gracias to Fico, Carlos, Andy, and Sam for making me laugh harder than I have in a long time and for, quite literally, holding my hand and helping me up the many times I fell.  Gracias to UAC-CP students Sonia, Erica, Berta and Maria Eugenia for your giant smiles and positive attitudes--your spirit-filled energy always seemed to find me when I needed it most. 

Also, gracias to Prisca, a short-term UAC-CP volunteer and my logistics woman who kept me sane and organized before the trip (unfortunately, she fell and hurt herself 10 minutes into the hike and had to go back to Carmen Pampa).  Gracias to Tara Nolan for the use of your tent and Kirsten Anderson for the use of your sleeping bag--without these things I would've been a miserable icicle.  Gracias to Alexander Parkes, the inventor of plastic--I'm not sure how the Incans lived without Ziplocks!?  And last, but not least, gracias a la Pachamama--your wonders never cease to amaze me.

1 comment:

Jean and Lee said...

Very good description, Sarah. - Lee