June 13, 2006

Day 4: Pacchar/Chilipahua

The trek began today from the Parpichu Bridge. Students climbed Watuq’asa pass (12,795 ft / 3900 m) where there is an Inca wall and fortress known as Qosqoq’awarina (“the place where one can see Cuzco”). Students descended from the pass to a small valley with a stream running through it called Anapahua and then headed up the valley to their campsite at the settlement of Chilipahua (12,140 ft / 3,700 m).

Live field report

Dispatch 4 // June 13 // Ryan Charlston

Today began the commencement of the “Fellowship of the Andes” Trek. We went along some rough spots at first but we soon recognized this would be par for the course. “Mildly annoyed” described a hospital visit looking drop-off. “Severely pissed off” described a visit to the morgue, or a death fall. It was funny how potential death lay lurking over every ledge, but mental beams of joy couldn’t help but radiate the atmosphere, producing at the least a smile.

Pictures of this first day almost became a nuisance as every next step held at least five pictures; you do the math. It got even more adventurous with our cameramen jumping, dodging, and what not, just to get a good shot of our experience. They should have had parachutes instead of packs!

Company met us along the trip in many different shapes and sizes. There were random dogs that appeared. They seemed as if thy came with the mountain! Their rough life showed by their malnourishment and their countering and inquisitiveness faces of fright and uneasiness. Later on, I am told, company was hiding behind a bush, odd! When others in the group tried to speak to these hidden faces in Spanish, only hisses and funny yet somewhat criticizing gestures were made. It left them feeling like the dogs, inquisitive and uneasy. Although, later they admitted to the randomness and hilarity of the situation. Lastly, company met us in the forms of goats and cows. The cows chanted their deep mooooos and the goats sang an almost high-pitched child sounding baaaaa!

Patience and persistence crowned our day! Love and joy radiated its atmosphere. We lastly sat down to another fantastic meal and after some singing and conversing, no, not Cumbaya, we took to our tents.

We have woken up this morning to smiling faces! Some shy and some eager to meet! These children travel hours in the early morning, over the dangerous cliffs and through the rushing streams. A girl, of what looked like age 6, passed through the rushing stream with what could have been a brother and a sister, way younger, or friends. The bonds these people have are so strong! The little girl put the little boy on her back, crossed the stream, came back for the other child and luggage, and was done after what was about a 15 to 20 minute process of such focus and care, after hours of focus and care!

They have been playing with a new gift this morning, a soccer ball! We are camping on their school’s soccer field, but they find a hillside to play on, which seemed to prove more fun! An older boy throws ball. Many times they run after it so playfully, sometimes rough though, but always caring. How is it possible that these little children have trekked so far and play like it was nothing? It is the joy in such hardships that they live in day to day that is precious to see that joy. Where does it come from? It is the responsibility and over-bearing joy. It is precious to see such little men and women acting like experienced adults. Their strength and joy doubles that of any American! I almost cry out of love, of seeing such love and life in these little guys. The school we are to paint today, for the children, will be well worth it.

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Letters of Support

Congratulations to all participants in "Leading the Way!" A great accomplishment has been attained just by qualifying for this trip. I look forward to viewing your travels from Oklahoma, though my heart is there with my Arielle. Wishing each of you safe travel on an experience of a lifetime!

Debra Alley

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