Last week WindAid Institute got back from an amazing trip to Cajamarca! Gean, Lewis, and I spent three extraordinary days visiting communities, planning out wind turbines, and meeting an incredible array of people in the Andes!
We set off from Trujillo on a hot Sunday afternoon by bus only to arrive at the bustling city of Cajamarca six hours later, ravenous and exhilarated. Standing in this city you are nestled in a valley between mountains that seem to emanate with hidden magic in the dying sun. We immediately set off on a nice walk around town, found a great meal at Don Paco just off the town's Plaza day Armas, and settled into what turned out to be a very nice new hostel a few blocks more outside of the Plaza.
We rose with the sun on Monday, and set off in the direction of San Marcos. WindAid has done work in the Cajamarca region before, and we have always been fortunate to be able to have the support of Victor Acosta whenever we do. This trip was no different as Victor happily welcomed us into his house in San Marcos, and we were able to catch up with an old friend and his family including his daughter and their small farm of animals on the roof of the house: chickens, guinnea pigs, and a rabbit!
Victor had arranged for us to visit the much smaller town of San Carlos that same Monday, and we saw the first wind turbine of the trip! Though we would have loved to have stayed longer in San Carlos, we had been invited to stay at Victor's place for the night, and so we made our way back down the hill. Soon enough though, we'll be able to stay longer as we come back in August to service the turbine, and train up the new community technician as to it's use and maintenance!
As Tuesday rolled around, the mountains were transformed from a beautiful vista all around us, to become an integral part of our journey. Leaving before sunrise with our driver Pascual we arrived at the town of Nueva Manzanilla; a small remote village nestled up in the mountains. The kindness of everybody we met on this trip can not be overstated, and that was especially true in Nueva Manzanilla: within an hour of arriving we had been offered two breakfasts, ate one, and stole our amigo Santos away from his days work on his farm to talk about everything we had missed in the months since we last saw him. We of course checked out the town's turbine too, which is also up for servicing in August, and then set off on the days adventure.
Here I will pause to give just a little bit of back story. This was only my second time visiting these villages, and there is a town named Canlle that is inaccessible by car, and for a local an hour or two walk away. From Canlle, you can continue to walk out to the other side of the valley, and catch a completely different road back into the town of San Marcos. I had done the walk with Jessica in the reverse last year, and she and I vividly remember being flabbergasted with how much energy it seems to take hiking around at that altitude. I had been thrilled to get back and tackle that trail again, the only problem being... there isn't really a trail for half of it!
So, Tuesday morning, Lewis, Gean, and myself set off from Nueva Manzanilla with a house at the peak of a hill as our first guiding point. From there the idea was that Santos would run up the hill (we were not to stop, he would catch us), point us in the right direction, and then run back and continue working on his farm. Well, we made it to the house at the top of the hill, and a young man we met on the way up had pointed us in the direction we should continue, and we happily did so. The route had struck me as familiar, so we followed it along until I felt it was time to check our bearings. As Santos had never shown up (perhaps unable to find us), we hiked along to a couple houses, and got pointed a couple different directions until finally running into somebody who had never even heard of our next destination! This, my friends, was an adventure!
It is hard to explain the kind of peace that land and those people give. We had been hiking for only a couple hours, but it was a gorgeous day, and in every valley in that area you can see at least a house or two scattered along the way. The idea of getting lost here isn't something to worry about, it is something in which to revel! You connect with your friends, with yourself, with the earth who continues to give to us all we can possibly take, and more than we sometimes should. Add to that the fact that every single person we met along the way was kind, and though in many respects a little lost, we could not have been enjoying ourselves more.
As the day wore on however, and we kept going deeper into an increasingly unfamiliar valley, I could feel the hike and the altitude taking their toll. We had made it a goal to check in with Canlle, and still be able to make it down to Cajamarca that same evening! Ever optimistic, the sheer expanse of this unexplored mountain range began to dawn on me. We started checking houses with nobody home, and as we got deeper into this valley I began to fear we might have to hike up out of it again, a much more daunting task than the descent we were taking looking for someone to guide us towards Canlle....