Monday, July 11, 2011

Group #2, Bad News, and Palomar

July 5-7, 2011

About an hour after we said goodbye to our first group, the second group came through immigration. I almost missed them due to constant trips to the bathroom, I am still having stomach issues. Good times. We had two international students that came in on earlier flights, Carlos from Madrid, and Asmita from India. The other 16 came in and we headed out to the bus and our first night hotel in Lima. There are two girls from Detroit as well, good to see Michigan represented!

On the way out of the airport, I got a very interesting phone call. It was Gabe (my boss) telling me that we were switching guides at the last minute. Instead of Max, Allen’s twin brother, we are now going to have Raul as our guide. He has always led the mountain biking and river rafting portions of our trip, but is now going to do everything. He is a great guy and working with him will be interesting. His English isn’t so good, so I also get to use way more Spanish, this is great for me.

Wednesday we got up and flew back to Cusco. I had laundry waiting for me that I dropped off the previous day, and Molly and I grabbed our packs from the hotel. I did discover that I lost a black stuff sack with two pairs of Smartwool socks, long underwear, regular underwear, and a winter hat. Not cool, everything I packed had a specific purpose for Rustic and the motorcycle trip. But whatever, I will try to replace it. Good news though, on the way to lunch we ran into Allen. He had amazing news. He just proposed to his girlfriend the previous night!!!!! Allen is engaged! I know the kids from the first group will freak out to hear that.

After lunch it was off to Pisac. It is such beautiful city and the hotel is so nice. We had a good evening and the sun was actually out. It was the first time in a week we had seen it. We interviewed the students and took our last shower for a while. Asmita told me how she studied Pisac specifically in one of her classes. They talked about the negative impacts of tourism. The city depends entirely on its extensive market. The market contains so many beautiful items and is great to see, but apparently people have stopped farming and working in order to take advantage of the opportunities to sell to the dozens of tourist filled busses.

Thursday morning we hit the famous market and then headed off to lunch at Urubamba. We didn’t meet the mayor because it was the 100th anniversary of Machu Picchu to the day. The authorities had the day off. Alex met up with us at lunch. He is the president of the Sacred Valley Project and had dire news. The city lost the lawsuit and the dorm is going to be leveled. It is a good portrait of how corruption works. The man is highly connected and has done this many times before. He pays off police forces, lawyers, and judges in order to win lawsuits, and builds hotels. Apparently he is dangerous enough that I shouldn’t even write about him here. The education of young, indigenous women matters nothing to him. Worst case scenario they have to be out in five days and the project will be cancelled for the remainder of the year. If that happens, I am not sure what I will do, but I will worry about that later. Best case scenario, they are allowed to stay until the end of the school year and will start building the new dorm on the land promised by the mayor of Urubamba. When I get details I may start asking my community at home to start raising funds to help with this cost. At least with the new dorm they will have their own title and no one will be able to take it away.

At lunch, I had the best conversation with Carlos, the student from Madrid. It turns out he has hiked El Camino de Santiago twice! He made me promise that I will finish what I started someday, as I have only hiked it from Pamplona to Burgos. He also has a trip planned to bike from Madrid to Paris. He talked about a Spaniard he knew who did a long distance motorcycle trip and I thought it was an appropriate time to talk about my trip. He is definitely a student after my own heart and we talked a lot about stories of great travelers. I also borrowed Walden from him and hopefully will finish it during this trip. During the bus ride to our village, he pulled out his guitar and started playing. Song after song he played were ones I had in my set when I used to play at coffee shops. It was great and made me miss playing, hopefully I will have more time after Rustic is done.

We then reached our new village, Palomar. The people greeted us with music, flowers, and confetti. I love these greetings we get at each new village, and our campsite is awesome. We are on a very nice soccer field with an amazing view of the mountains around us. And we have a bathroom!!!! Yes. We played soccer with the local kids, had tea and dinner, and went off to sleep in our tents. We are only at 9,300 feet so it is much warmer. That is a nice break for Molly and myself.

Welcome to Palomar

Tomorrow we meet the families and get to work on building the galpones.