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Mud, Mache and Motorcycles

October 29, 2008

It’s Tuesday and I just arrived back from my most recent trip to the sierra.  This time, I traveled with Karina the loan officer to five meetings in the towns of Mache, Lluin and Agallpampa.

here i am!

here i am!

Karina and I planned to meet at 6:15 am on Monday morning so we could catch our three hour bus ride to Mache…  Except that “bus to Mache” really means “bus to Lluin and then, dirt bike to Mache”.  That’s right, I rode a motorcycle for half an hour through some crazy mud puddles to the next town because cars don’t service the area.

 

oh  man

oh man

 

 

 

 

 If you know me well, you know I hate motorcycles passionately.  But here I am admitting it: I actually enjoyed my ride.  That is, when I wasn’t scared out of my two pairs of pants and two pairs of socks (it’s cold up here).  Karina and I got off the bus in Lluin at a small crossroads where men in ponchos and cowboy hats sit atop not burros or horses but flashy, bright blue and red dirt bikes.  S/2.00 ($0.66) buys you a half hour ride to the country hamlet of your choice.  Karina and I mounted the same bike – yes three people on one of these lil things! – and off we roared to Mache.

The mining companies are “donating” a cement highway to the region to thank the people  for letting them tear all the gold they want out of the hillside.  And, coincidentally, their trucks and mining equipment won’t have to drive the dirt paths anymore.  We stalled here for ten minutes while the construction company worked on the new road. I like this picture because you can see my consternation…

 

looking worried

looking worried

 

 

 

 

Dirtbike Mike would like this picture I think.  All the mud you could ask for. I was surprised though that we didn’t get soaked in all the puddles we ran through.

 

on-road off-roading

on-road off-roading

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Mache in one piece, albeit a little dirtier.  Breakfast was fresh melon shake from an outdoor stand.  You can also see cups of jello in this picture in the display case.  To steal a line from my fellow Peruvian adventurer, Hannah: “Jello is a perfectly common dessert in Perú.”

 

un refresco

un refresco

 

 

 

 

Mache has some paved roads (unlike Cuyuchugo where I was last week).  But most of the homes lie along dirt paths and the mud is at least three inches thick.  My sneakers have had it.  Like a lot of other communities up here, the people mostly raise animals for sale to mayoristas – people who buy meat or live animals in large quantities and hire trucks to transport the product to cities for wholesale.

 

las socias

las socias

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture of one the meetings of the communal banks.  Almost all of the women (and most people in these town) also have small plots of land where they grow potatoes, corn and wheat.  If they raise cows or sheep they will also dedicate a portion of their land to pasture.  So, effectively, most of the women have two businesses: the one that their Manuela Ramos loan helps support and a subsistence farm that feeds their family. 

 

Here in Mache, many of the women are menorista cheese-sellers.  They will travel through the caserillos (tiny 7 or 8-family hamlets of 30 people or so) buying cow’s milk cheese.  They will then will bring it back to their homes to sell to mayoristas who come to town twice a week.  It’s hard to make any sizeable profit working as a menorista :  the women earn maybe $0.30 profit unit they sell for all their efforts traveling throughout the mountain towns.

 

selling cheese from  home

selling cheese from home

 

In the town of Lluin, I got to visit an artisanal bakery where a man and a wife have been baking bread traditionally for thirty years.  They wake up at 1am every morning to bake rolls, turrones and cakes.  They never take a day off either because, “the people need their bread.”

 

 

bakery in lluin

bakery in lluin

 

 

 

 

The couples’ children all live and work in Trujillo, but they don’t want to stop working even though their family can now afford to support them.  The woman says she’s accustomed to the schedule and she prefers living up here “al aire puro” [in the fresh air].

 

deelish

deelish

 

I like it up here too.  I love the meetings and talking with the women.  The vistas are really wonderful, the air nice and clean and I have all the farm animals I could possibly want.  I stalk the little piglets like a crazy person.  I just think they are so cute!

 

cuties

cuties

 

 

 

It starts to rain and the clouds swallow whole portions of the town.  Karina and I head to Agallpampa where we’ll be spending the night and conducting tomorrow’s meetings.  We’re staying at Hostal Nazareno.

 

home sweet hostel

home sweet hostel

 

 

 

It’s probably the most basic place I’ve stayed in a while.  The door is secured with a padlock and up here in the sierra there are limited hours of running water, or so I’m told.

 

hmmm

hmmm

 

 

 

To brush our teeth and wash our faces we scoop pitchers of water from these trash buckets.  Well, I think, “if Karina is swishing this water around in her mouth I guess I can too.”  The stalls at the back are combination shitter-showers, but I decide to save my shower for tomorrow when I get back to Trujillo.

I have to say though, they have the best blankets in Hostal Nazareno.  It was freezing outside and beneath two layers of fuzzy (alpaca? wool?) quilt I was snug as a bug.  The next morning I got my first taste of avena which I thought was oatmeal and I think still is maybe… just different than any kind of oatmeal I ever had.  It was like oatmeal and applejuice had a baby.  A steamy, comforting baby with pieces of stewed fruit.  Yummm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we have two more meetings today before we head home.  When the sun is out it’s gorgeous. The school kids run around in one of the pastures playing soccer and the sheep and pigs wander around eating whatever they can find.

 

nice, no?

nice, no?

 

 

 

I thought this was fun: cows wandering the streets just outside our meeting. 

 

moooo

moooo

 

 

We’re finished by noon and we decide to have lunch before the bus is to arrive at one.  We got a full meal and cokes for under a dollar a piece.  And we were sitting pretty in the sun waiting for out bus.  Here’s a picture of the plaza… before the rain.

 

 

I’m learning that it’s going to rain every day in the sierra no matter what else happens.  It’s too bad because it’s pretty dreary on top of being ridiculously chilly.  Four shirts and a rain coat and I’m still shivering.  I was glad when the bus came and whisked us downhill to the Trujillo sunshine.  Tomorrow I’m going with Karina to the La Rinconada neighborhood here in the city.  Hopefully I’ll get one or two more jaunts up to the mountains again before I leave.  Till then…

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4 comments

  1. rennie,
    i am having so much fun reading your blog. i feel like i am partaking. if you are anything like your mother, this motorbike ride will be the one you will remember and think that it is one of the most fun!!! helmets? what helmets? seatbelts? what seatbelts? i am laughing soo hard.
    what do you mean shitter/showers?
    thank you for sharing.


  2. oh yeah, better get yourself one of those alpaca/wool
    ponchos, hat and gloves so you can be warm.


  3. Wow – that seemed like quite an adventure. You didn’t tell me about the motorcycle ride – you daredevil.

    Say hi to the cows and piglets.


  4. be careful, JENNAY!



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