Thursday, 28 January 2010

Back in Spain

Jet lag, rain, grey skies, mudslides, snow, flooding, leaks in my roof, part of the track infront of my house collapsed , stories of extraordianry dramas of cars, caravans and bridges being swept away, and many lovely hugs from treasured friends were what greeted and enveloped me when I returned to Spain. It then felt like I slept for the next ten days .

And now three weeks later, parts of Peru are experiencing the same kind of flooding, but worse. Most of the villages where we went to distruibute the hot chocolate and presents are high in the mountains ,so they haven't been distroyed, but many settlements in the Sacred Valley leading up to Machuu Picchu have been. Machu Picchu is inaccesible.

Today I'm especially remembering the little girl on the bus I wrote about in the last blog who, as we were driving beside the fast flowing muddy river (which gushes right through the Sacred Valley) , told me that ten mermaids live in the river, that five of them are princesses and five are enemies. I wonder what she and her amazing imagination are making of all this? I hope she and her grandmother are safe.

That same river we drove beside has swept away all the bridges leading out of the valley, so everybody is trapped in their own village. Tourists have been helicoptered out of Machu Pichuu to Ollantaytambo where now there are food shortages. No tourists can get to Cusco, so everybody is stuck where they are.

And Haiti.
What dramas, what unimaginable heartbreaks, what feats of courage and endurance, and what golden opportunities for helping each other are happening world wide.

It was market day in Orgiva today and the sun shone and the sky was blue, and American Captain Jeem sat outside Gallindos playing his accordian as he often does on market day. A young woman traveller whith very short hair stood close beside him , revelling in his happy music , swaying and smiling and tapping her feet. And we who were sitting at tables nearby, sipping coffee and swapping news, clapped every time he stoped. I tried very hard to whislte with two fingers in my mouth, but failed completely. Unfortunately I haven't yet learnt that knack of appreciation but, if anybody out there can teach me, aged 64, I'm up for learning.

So as always, and with much gratitude, there are always reasons to smile whatever is going on on the inside and the outside of my life.

More soon about the adventures in Peru and Bolivia.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Happy New Year from Cusco

Hi dear friends,

Happy, happy New Year wherever you are .

I'm right on the last lap of this Peruvian adventure. Arrived back in Cusco this afternoon after spending New Year in Ollantaytambo with my young friends Wither and Tatiana and their four year old son Mauro.

New Year and last week are a bit a blurr !

I remember buying yellow flowers for my friends here (a Peruvian custom signifying good luck for your house) , resisted buying yellow knickers in the market for them, also for good luck (!), and I remember seeing everybody in the street on the 1st, covered with yellow confetti, a very important Peruvian custom for New Year.

I remember having lunch with Tatiana's whole family on New Year's day, her mum sitting in the corner of thier very humble abode making chici morada, a drink made from maize, and local mountain people calling in every ten minutes to fill up all manner of containers.

Our lunch consisted of roast guinea pig, roast chicken, rice, spagetti and mountain potatoes. There are literally hundreds of varieties of spuds here. After this huge lunch, which was followed by beer and other beverages, Tatiana and I went to the square to watch the annual skittels competition. This entails many of the high mountain village folk coming down for the day for this competition, to meet each other, and to generally have a huge fiesta. There were free drinks, lots of laughter, and it was a wonderful, fabulously colourful gathering.

Half way through this event, I rememeber being pulled into the middle of the square, given the six wooden balls, and told to knock down as many skittles as I could. I failed miserably! Not a single one fell down. Each skittle was a sawn-off table leg, decorated with a bunch of flowers tied to it. The wooden balls were not round, so they went all over the place, much to everyones amusement!

The New Year week blurr has been casued by altitude sickness, not booze!

I'm hesitating to share this horror story, but just to say my time on the islands in Lake Titcaca was very challenging healthwise (because of the very high altitude and strenuous hiking), and when I retuned to Puno last Tuesday evening, I thought I was dying. I just couldn't breathe!!! I had lots of oxygen. It helped while I was actually having it, but as soon as I staggered back to bed, I was gasping again.

Anyway, obviously I've suvived this but since then, I feel like my life energy has evaporated. Everything is a struggle. Walking uphill is impossible. Finally I went to the local doc and he told me my blood pressure has shot sky high and hasn't come down, thanks to the adventures (hikes) and high altitude on the islands.

Well, I'm sure I'll be fine very soon.

I really want to share a little jewel of an experince I had yesterday with you all. As I said when I started this blog, if it was your blog, I'd really want to know what touched you on your travels. This story touched me deeply. This trip has been peppered with little jewels like this one , in between the huge desafios ( challenges).

Yesterday after saying goodbye to Wither and Tatiana, I left Ollantaytambo in a bus for Pisac. Local buses here are very different from our Alsa buses. They are small, usually old and
battered, and work on the principle of never refusing a passenger, if at all possible. There was one part of the journey when we were totally chock-a-block, by that I mean the standing passengers were glued together and most seated passengers had at least two bodies leaning over their faces. The boy who was in charge of admitting passengers shouted 'Who'll give up their place for this old woman? She's ill!'

Nobody moved, so we left her by the roadside. I felt awful.

Moments later, the grandmother sitting next to me, with her beautiful granddaughter on her lap, dug her elbow in my boob by mistake! We laughed and then the seven year old started to talk to me. For the next half-hour she had me enthralled.

As we drove along the road beside the fast flowing muddy river in the Sacred Valley, she told me very clearly that there were ten mermaids living in the river and that below the surface there was the most beautiful, clean castle where they all lived. But, she said five of the mermaids are princesses, the other five are enemies. And so the story unfolded. At one stage a man who was listening made a rude remark and the little storyteller hid her face in her granny's chest and wouldn't come out. With some gentle coaxing, she continued. She then became unstoppable. Her story was pure magic! She was still talking as I stumbled though the mass of bodies when the bus came to my stop.

She'll be a writer when she grows up, I told her grandmother, and I tumbled into the street clutching rain jacket, back pack, water bottle and bag of gifts for friends. Grandmother only spoke Quechua, so she didn't understand me. But she smiled and kissed her granddaughter and the child kept on talking, waving to me through the window.

May we all be so wonderfully connected to our imaginations!