Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Sacred Valley, Pisco Sour, Machiavellian Sheep Dogs, and a New Remedy for Altitude Sickness

 Sunrise in the Andes
Friday, March 19th - After a 17 hour bus ride, followed by a quick flight from Lima to Cusco and a taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo I am now approximately 2 miles higher than I was when I enjoyed my last morning surf in Lobitos on Thursday.  Foregoing more traditional methods for combating altitude sickness I've been concocting my own remedy. The "remedy" consists first and foremost in ignoring any imminent signs of altitude sickness, including, but not limited to, dizziness, general malaise, shortness of breath, nausea and lightheadedness. From there the remedy becomes slightly more vague, but seems to call for 2-3 pisco sours, followed by beer and pizza to taste, and what seems in retrospect to be a strangely large bottle of hard cider.

Saturday, March 20th - Day 2 of this remedy should find you wholly regretting the decisions of day 1, at which point slightly befuddled thinking may cause you to climb aboard a van with fellow volunteers to notch another couple thousand feet on the altimeter as you head up to the Quechua village of Patacancha. During the drive to Patacancha, it is advisable that one listens to nothing but soft rock ballads and boy bands, and that you stop at least once to dig the van out of the mud. After an afternoon spent photographing the women's weaving community in Patacancha, and shooting a short clip to put on Kickstart in hopes of sending two of the girls to a textiles workshop in Santa Fe, we pile back in the van to head back to Ollantaytambo. Halfway down the mountain we meet Kennedy, Will and Frederick chugging up the road in a an overladen taxi filled with camping gear. Enter phase 3 of the remedy. Brazenly concocted in suspicious conjunction with the aforementioned pisco sours, this part of the remedy consists in driving back into the thin air of Patacancha and from there proceeding to ascend into even thinner air on foot. Eyeing the late afternoon sun suspiciously, and regretting the fact that I was actually prepared with a backpack for this very reason, Emma and I joined the others in the taxi and headed back up the mountain. Not equipped with the raw power and formidable clearance of the 4 cylinder van that had taken us up earlier in the day, our taxi got stuck multiple times, providing us ample opportunity to warm up for the coming hike with dead-lifts and lunges against the rear of the car. Eventually we arrived back in Patacancha, and after shuffling around gear and eating a quick meal, we set out under a waning mountain sun.

 Kennedy, Emma and Will leave me in the dust

One more ridge and surely we'll find a flat spot to camp...

Resting and hydrating above Paracancha

Frederik figures out where we are

I quickly established myself at the back of the group where I hoped my huffing and puffing would go unnoticed, and from whence I could pretend to snap photos while surreptitiously stopping to gulp a couple lung fulls of air. Acclimated and undoubtedly in better hiking shape than me anyway, Emma and Kennedy set the pace, stopping frequently to let my new born lungs catch up. Shadows crept across the valley, and as we continued to climb, the road and river below shrank to white ribbons where they met lush green of the mountain steppes. Legs like jello, and lightheaded, I wondered if perhaps my "remedy" was not as brilliant as it had seemed in my mind. Perhaps I was better suited to the surfing life I'd left on the coast. A few moments later we came over a last shoulder of the mountain and were greeted by a large meadow, sheltered against a hollow ridge. Dinner, the gradual return of oxygen to my system, good company, and a night sky sparkling over the mountains quickly assuaged prior doubts of the "remedy".

Sunday, March 21st - Up at sunrise....[click "read more" for photos and day 2]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life in Lobitos

 View of Lobitos from El Bole

Yesterday after asking around a bit, I found out that today would be Tuesday. With no contact with the outside world, days melt together under a fiery sun, and time seems to take on it's own lazy rhythm; ebbing and flowing with the pounding of the surf. This morning I made the 30 minute moto trip into Talara to use internet and book a bus and flight up to Cuzco on Thursday. It's the first time I've left Lobitos since arriving last week. I'm anxious to get out of the busy, dirty port town of Talara and back to the relaxed comfort of the Waves house and Lobitos. Comfort, I suppose, is a relative term. We ran out of water for showering and washing two days ago, there is only one outlet in our room that powers a fan which does little to combat the heat, everything is covered in sand, the power goes out frequently, and half the house has gotten some form of food poising. Writing all that it sounds bad, when in reality it's quite relaxed and comfortable. The human being is an adaptable creature. We've got a rack of surfboards, an endless supply of waves, Inca Cola, spikeball, plenty of food, a french press, the beach, the camaraderie of a dozen volunteers and staff, and our new friends Sebastion, Matias, Jesus, Aaron, Alejandro and a gang of other local kids who float in and out of the house.
 The Waves house
 Sebastion working on an art project with Jen and Vanessa

During my orientation, Naomi stated quite simply that the mission of Waves for Development is to "surf and do good". While there is certainly a great deal over overlap between the goals, mornings and evenings are often dedicated to surfing, while the afternoons are usually spent working with the local kids, teaching english, guitar, surfing, swimming, environmental education, photography, ect. Other larger projects take place too, such as beach cleanups, and the first annual Waves regional surf competition that we hosted for the kids from Negritos, Mancroa and Lobitos on Saturday.
 Alex and Matias before the competition
Sunset - the pier
una buena ola - the pier
Thomas enjoying sunset after an evening session at el Punto
 Alex - El Punto
Sunset at Piscinas

The exchange between volunteers and the local kids is interesting to observe and be a part of. Coming here it was hard to imagine what 'good' we could really do by surfing and teaching kids about things like guitar and photography - things which require tools to which they haven't the means to access except through what we provide at Waves. Being here though it has become apparent [click 'continue reading']