BootsnAll Travel Network

Down On The Farm

We were woke up in the morning by a phone call saying that the truck was leaving earlier than expected. After speed dressing and running down to the street we manged to find a car to take us to the truck as we didn’t know exactly where it was. The back of the truck was overflowing with people and supplies when we got there. They were all going to various remote settlements. We managed to find a small spot to squeeze into near the rear of the truck. I managed to arrange it so I was sitting up on my sleeping bag so I could see out but my feet were tangled in with at least three other peoples and girl who seemed to sit right on top of the tangle. We spent about three hours or so in the truck as it climbed higher into the Andes. The road was dirt and at times narrow. The drive topped at around 15,000 ft so the wind was cold.

The truck eventually stopped in the middle of nowhere at the top of a ridge and we were informed that this was our stop. Fortunately, there was a man who lived in the community where we were going as I don’t think we would have known where to go from there. We followed him over a high ridge and began to descend into a valley. I don’t exacty know how it all happened as I don’t speak Spanish but during the walk it was arranged that we would stay at his house for the night. As we descneded into the valley we could see several houses around a small stream which ran along the valley floor. The area was completely treeless except for around the houses and the hillside was covered with grass and sheep. We arrived at the house where we would be staying and put our bags down. The house consisted of three different buildings with thatched roofs and dirt floors. The kitchen had a stone wood stove under a chimney. The second building was the sleeping quarters. The beds were made of wood slats that looked something like bamboo and were covered in woolen textiles. The third building looked like a general purpose space. There was no electricity and water was provided through a gravity system from pipes higher up in the valley. We met our host’s wife who immediately set about cooking a lunch consisting of potatoes, some sort of root, and boiled eggs. All the crops here grow underground as it is too cold for things like wheat or corn. His wife had a two week old baby near the stove who they hadn’t named yet. When we asked to take their picture, they first made of wait until they changed into their bright traditional clothing and then let us snap away.

After lunch, people from all the nearby houses came by and set up a weaving demonstration. Lucia began to work with them going over the details of the products her company was looking for. We got to see the whole process. The wool is first turned into yarn by pulling it. Then it is put in a pot with different plants to dye it various colors. The wool is then spun on spindles to maybe strengthen it. Finally it is ready for the loom which is made by putting stakes in the ground and using bone or wooden sticks to thread and compact the yarn. It was interesting to see that both the men and women were involved in the process. The women did the actually weaving while the men prepared the yarn for use. The children ran around playing and kept wanting us to show them their pictures in the screen. I bought a woolen scarf that I thought would look good on my fireplace from a lady who was weaving. It took her about a month to make the piece. I paid her the equivalent of $33. She was very happy as they usually have to wait a long time to be paid for their work. The people joked that she would have to feed everyone in the community that night. I took a picture with her as it is rare to actually get to meet the people who produce the things I buy when I travel.


In the evening we ate supper at another house. The supper consisted again of potatoes and eggs. We did learn that the residents of this house kept a family of about twenty guinea pigs under the bed which was in the kitchen.  Guinea pigs are a main protein source here. When grass was stuffed under the bed for them to eat, you could hear all the squeaking. Some of the guinea pigs did make an occasional appearance and did laps around the room. I guess having them so close to the pot makes it very convenient just to grab one if you are hungry. That night we slept in the sleeping compartment. Our hosts slept in the kitchen with baby.

After getting dressed the next morning, we ate a breakfast of potatoes. Our host asked if either Justin or I would like to be the godfather of their baby. It is a common practice to here for families to ask people they perceive as better off to be the godparents of the child. With it comes an expectation of looking over the child as it grows up. We had to tactfully decline saying that it would be better if the godparents were actually going to be in Peru. There was a little bit of an awkward silence when we declined but it was eventually settled that we could serve as fake godparents and that the family would find some people living in Peru to fulfill the actual role. We left a letter for the baby to read when it gets older introducing ourselves. If in about twenty years, a Peruvian man shows up on more doorstep to say Hi I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

After eating breakfast, we gave them fifty sols ($USD 16) for hosting us. We spun it as money for our new godchild to make it easier for them to accept. Leaving the house, we walked with our host for three hours to the settlement of Bon Bon. Here he had another small house which I guess you could call the city house. We hoped that we would be able to get some sort of vehicle to take of to Chambre(?) which was an even “bigger” town where we might be able to get onward transportation. The whole area had only gotten rode access in the last month so cars were still a rarity and a big event when they showed up. We were going to walk it if no vehicle was available but it was a very long and grueling walk across a steep valley. It turned that a dump truck was expected in the afternoon which was delivering a load of stone. We would be able to catch a ride. We spent the morning visiting with the people in town. Most of the women were at the church waiting to be seen by a nurse that came by every so often to weigh and check on the children. We ate lunch at house which also served as a small restaurant. The menu consisted of some sort of steamed greens which were actually very tasty and all the potatoes you could eat. The mayor of Bon Bon invited us to his house to wait for the truck. His house was just a bigger version of the simpler houses in the town. The truck arrived around 1:00 pm. The mayor said that the truck was only going as far as Chamre (?) and that we would have to spend the night there. Unfortunately the community is not on the tourist path as roads just arrived so we had no where to stay for the night. The mayor wrote us a letter of introduction so that we could stay at the house of someone in Chamre(?) (remember no electricity so no phones). The whole experience made me feel like I was traveling in the nineteenth century where letters of introduction were a common means of getting places to stay as you traveled in foreign lands.

The dump truck ride was fun. We rode in the back and stood up looking out over the cab. The dirt road seemed really narrow due to the width of the dump truck. We caused quite a stir when three white people came roaring into town in the back of the truck. We spoke to the truck driver  and he actually was going further that day to Challabamba which was finally getting back on the main Peruvian transportation routes. He first had to make some stone runs. There were some hot springs near the town that he said we could wait out as he was still going to be a few hours. We jumped back in the truck along with about ten men who were going to help load the truck with stone. We drove out of town and were dropped on the road and told to be back at 4:30. The men in the truck along with help of a bulldozer began to load the truck with stone. We started walking down the road and soon realized that we wouldn’t make it back in time as the hot springs were too far. Coming back to the spot where we were told to wait, we ran into a woman sitting on a rock. It turns out that she was the aunt of the truck driver and she helped run the bulldozer.  The bulldozer was heading back to town to catch up with the dump truck that was collecting stone at a point closer to town. She let us ride in the bucket of the bulldozer along with three other workers who needed to meet up with the truck. This was another first for me.

Catching up with the truck, we rode back into town. After the truck dumped its last load of stone, the driver asked for 30 soles ($10) to take the three of us to Challabamba. He seemed a bit shy about asking but we happily paid. The three of us rode in the back since we couldn’t all fit in the front. We thought the ride was only about one hour but he informed us it was five!!! hours. Off we went down roaring down the mountainside again looking over the cab of the truck. It was great to be so high up in a vehicle. The road paralleled a fast moving river. It grew dark after about 1.5 hours and grew colder. We eventually had to give up our positions looking out over the truck and sit on the floor. The actual ride took about four hours. We arrived in Challabamba about 8:30 pm. Hunting around we learned that there may or may not be a shared van to our destination of Paurcartambo which was where we really wanted to stay the night. It turned out the “may” was correct and we had an hour van ride to Parcautambo. We checked one place to stay and decided it was too dirty as the covers on the beds were all stained. Checking at a restaurant where we ate supper, we were told of a nicer place which turned out to be full. Exhausted we tried one more place which had space. After checking in, we followed a guy out of the building and through the streets of the town. The town was putting in a sewer system so all the streets were dug up and full of trenches. We went into another building and were showed a room with six beds. The beds looked clean but the floors were nasty. Not really having any other options for the night we stayed there. The water was out all over town so we just went to bed sleeping in our sleeping bags on top the covers.

In the morning, the water was back on so we managed to wash off with cold showers in a mildly clean bathroom. We checked into the tourist office to look into transportation options to a small town (I forget the name) in the Amazon region of Peru. We were out of luck in that the normal buses didn’t run everyday and today was an off day. They told us that we might could catch a ride on a work truck going that way. We went out to the main square and were told that we just had to wait and ask trucks coming through if they were going that way. We spent all day waiting without much success. While eating lunch, we apparently missed a truck that was going that way. It was interesting to spend the day observing the city though. At one point a helicopter landed in town and literally the whole town appeared to go running to where the helicopter was. You could see people running down from the houses that were in the hill above the town. A drunk guy came by and made some moves on Lucia. Justin, Lucia, and he started getting in a heated argument. An older woman intervened saying that she would get the police as we were sitting right outside the station. The drunk man started screaming police for a while and then eventually left. The police never came outside.

Finally at about 7:30pm we decided to just give up, stay the night at a better hotel, and go back to Cusco in the morning. Right about then we ran into a young taxi driver and his wife who were parking their car where we were sitting. I guess they were going to sleep in the car for the night. After speaking with him, he said he would take us on the five hour drive for 135 soles ($45). We agreed and got in the back with his wife in the front. They had been married for only a few months. The road to the Amazon turned about to be much worse than we imagined. Not 2o minutes after we set off, we ran over a dog which went screaming into the bushes. Lucia an avid dog lover made us stop to try to find it.  We never did. I was glad we didn’t as if we found it, I am sure either Justin or I would have had to finish the job as there was really nothing that could be done for it. The road climbed into the mountains above the town. There were many streams flowing across the road and the car kept bottoming out. The driver didn’t seem especially skilled at driving in these conditions and seemed to keep hitting every rock. I am sure he did not have a spare tire. The road eventually began to descend toward the jungle and the forest eventually came up right to and sometimes onto the road. About halfway through the trip, after hitting a large bump, the latch holding the driver’s door shut broke off the car. We found it but the door wouldn’t stay shut without it and we had no way to fix the door. Out comes my trusty duct tape. I often get teased when people see I am traveling with duct tape, but this is the second time in my travels that I have had to use duct tape to repair a car. We got the driver to sit back in th car and I proceed to tape his door shut. This appeared to work and we were off again. A little while later the driver was going a ltoo fast and ran over a large rock, you could here it tearing loudly under the car. A long ridge appeared under the carpet on the floor where the rock had pushed up into the car. Surprisingly the car worked still worked. As the damage was in the rear of the car, the driver didn’t know about it until we showed it to him upon our arrival. We arrived in town around 12:30 am. We gave the driver some extra money as we felt guilty about the car damages. We thought they were going to spend the night in town but they turned around and drove the five hours back. After banging on several hotel doors, we found a place to stay. We lucked out as the place that opened up for us was one of the nicer in town. It was spotless and we were able to get our on rooms. I had trouble sleeping at first as the air was really hot and humid. It felt very heavy after having spent the last few weeks  in very dry air mostly above 10,000 ft.

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