Last weekend Ben Marx (fellow SIM team member) and I visited Maqueruyo, a fairly remote village about 8 hours' drive away. As the crow flies, it's about 140km from Arequipa... but we haven't seen many crows around here, and even if there were they couldn't fly in a straight line. Here's why:
The reason for the trip was to meet with and encourage the ETE (Spanish version of TEE, 'Theological Education by Extension') students at their annual gathering in the Tisco area. Ben drove the 4WD, a reasonably tired old Nissan. As it wasn't a turbo model, its power dropped off as the altitude increased. But when driving through the Andes, it's always safer to go slower than faster; after all, you never know what is around the next bend, or about to bolt across the road in front of you.
We arrived in Maqueruyo late afternoon. Some early rains meant that there was plenty of snow on the mountains around the village. Here is Ben (below) with one of the Peruvian TEE teachers we picked up along the way. The church in Maqueruyo celebrated its 60th anniversary on the weekend of our visit.
At this altitude, it's only possible to raise alpacas; nothing else except hardy grasses, lichens and mosses will grow. One of the challenges with farming alpacas in the Andes, though, is that they are preyed upon by Andean foxes. What to do? Get yourself a posse of large, tough dogs. Here (below) we have Rambo (yes, that's his name), top dog in the village. If all that matted hair on his tail bothered him, he never showed it. There is no such thing as a dog kennel, because the farmers don't want the dogs loafing around during the bitterly cold nights. No, you want them on patrol, sorting those foxes out. Rambo & Co. do a pretty good job of that.
If you're keen, it's possible to play soccer at 4400m. I wasn't that keen, so opted for the role of Maqueruyo FC photographer instead. Most of these guys don't get to catch up that often, so flogging a ball around a rough and sloping field is a great way to get reacquainted!
Morning tea time: a good chance to chat and catch a few rays of sunshine (whenever they managed to poke through the clouds). An alpaca had been butchered to feed everyone for the weekend. So whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, we ate alpaca and potato soup -- varied with a few different ingredients such as herbs, pasta, and some sort of flour for thickener. The wonderful hospitality of these Quechua brothers and sisters was humbling.
A couple of the kids who accompanied mum & dad (below). Their cheeks are burned a reddy-brown by the cold atmosphere.
Purchasing the ETE textbooks for next year, and associated paperwork:
Two mums with their charges in the Sunday morning church service (below). By this time I was well and truly suffering with altitude sickness: ripping headache, feeling a bit sick, some dizziness, and loss of appetite. Ben wanted to know if I was going to die on him. "If I do," I said, "just bury me in the village cemetery down the hill!"
The scenery on the way home was something else:
Just about home (below). The volcanoes Misti (l) and Chachani (r), with Arequipa (at a much more manageable 2300m altitude) on the other side of them.
Next trip: another ETE shindig in the town of Salinas Moche on the 17th Dec. A lot closer to Arequipa (45km ATCF) but still pretty high at 4300m. Stay tuned!