At what seemed like 4 am, smeone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Sucharit. "I am going on a mountain wiht some folks. I´ll be back in the evening." I must have mumbled something incomprehensible, because I don´t remember what happened next. I woke up a few hours later and started my day with a watery drink called mate de coca. It consists of water boiled with coca leaves to help with altitude sickness. Toasted buns with delicious jam, yogurt drenched fruit, and papaya juice are also part of the five soles breakfast at the Casa de la Abuela. I downed my breakfast and prepared for yet another trek to a village or two. It was just Nikhil and I.
It was only after I got off the autobus at Huahlva that I realized I´d left my camera on the vehicle. Stay positive, I thought, stay positive. Sure, there were times during the day when I missed my digital companion, but it´s not the end of the world. It´s just a camera. All the more reason to observe more and write with greater description.
In Huahlva we watched a wrinkled gem of a man spin thread from alpaca wool, and then weave it with colorful yarn into one, unified fabric. He had a patience I´ll probably never gain, placing each thread into the criss-crossed loom and working with a purpose to create geometric designs that appeared out of nowhere. I learned that he has been weaving since he was a child, is happily married for thirty years and counting, and liked Fujimore more than the current president, Garcia. He was a sincere man and a pleasure to be around. After an hour and a half, we continued down the road.
As we were walking through the quaint town of Huahlva, we ran into a marriage procession. It was similar to an Indian baraat in that the guests were dancing and a band was playing jovial music. However, this band used instruments unlike those used in Indian wedding processions. For example, one man was carrying a harp...yes, you heard me...on his shoulders! The guests were dancing in a circle, holding hands. As this circle rhythmically moved down the road, the bride and groom pranced in the middle of the circle. This is exactly the type of tourism I wanted - unscripted, unguided, and spontaneous.
A straight road took us to San Jeronimo, another small village. While Huahlva is known for its wool craftsmanship, San Jeronimo residents specialize in silver jewelry making. On our way there, we stopped at a food stall, protected from the harsh heat by a blue pastic sheet. "No carne, por favor." No meat, please. It´s a simple request, and I thought it was met as I chowed down on the spicy noodles and steamed potatoe cubes. I encountered a rubber substance on my plate I assumed was a vegetable and swallowed it down. I assumed wrong. Apparently sheep intestine does not quality as carne.
An hour and a half later, we were in San Jeronimo. The silver shops were quite touristy and didn´t interest me as much as exploring the Inca Ruins on the mountains. We crossed from a grass-carpeted mountain to a rockier one with hardly any vegetation. The view as beautiful as we silently climbed higher and higher, stopping frequently for hydration and breath-catching. I was not planning on repeating yesterday´s mistake of staying there till sundown, and we were exploringthe town´s cathedral before it got dark.
Two women led us into the hallowed halls of this large structure. As I perused through the ornate carvings and life-size statues, the women lit up the candles at the alter, one by one. Draped in their shawls, the they were servicing their religion slowly and steadily. When we left, they were cleaning the wooden benches.
When we arrived back at Abuela´s, we found Sucharit fast asleep. We woke him up and heard a familiar voice. It was Youjia, the girl we had roomed with at Hostal Espana. Fate is a strange thing. The four of us caught up over dinner and headed out to La Cabana after dinner. La Cabana is a restaurant right across the street with phenomenal live music. I danced quite a bit with Sucharit and Youjia, and eventually Nikhil joined us, smiling awkwardly as he let go of his inhibitions on the dance floor.