This weekend was an interesting one. It seems like each time I go somewhere new around the area, it has less and less amenities. On Saturday, I went on a purchasing trip with the organization to a tiny village called Kelkanka. 5 of us hopped in the organization owned truck and drove 2 hours to the middle of the mountains…a scenic drive. On the way were sheep, alpaca, llamas, pigs, horses, cows, bulls, donkeys, dogs…on the road, in the fields, everywhere. There was only one road to this town after getting to Patacancha, as it winds and works its way up the mountains. These roads are only meant for walking or a 4 wheel drive truck (or horses, as some people take).
We got to Kelkanka and the women were waiting for us just sitting in the grass with all of their textiles in hand. There were about 15 women there, some along with their kids. All of them had on the traditional clothing that I assume was pretty much all made right there. In the background were the houses made of stones (literally large rocks) and the glacier on the high mountain in the distance. The women only speak Quechua, so the Peruvian guy who works for the organization also comes to translate from Spanish to Quechua. The women laid out all of their clothes as the organization leaders made sure the quality was good enough and they negotiated prices. Since buying from Kelkanka is relatively new, the prices and items aren’t standardized yet. Some of the products are similar to what they make in Patacancha, but in Kelkanka they make a lot of scarves from alpaca wool. I assume that the prices will be pre-negotiated sometime in the future based on designs, lengths, etc.
One thing you have to love here is just how anything goes. They don’t have plumbing, so you just go to the bathroom outside. So you’ll see a guy in the distance standing there peeing. During the meeting, one of the women had her baby with her, so at one point just pulls up her shirt and starts feeding the baby (and this is when it’s 45 degrees outside).
Every Saturday, a few big trucks come to Kelkanka for their Saturday market. This is the only day that there is a market in the town. The trucks arrived the same time we did, so soon after we saw people bringing their horses and donkeys to help carry the food and supplies back to their homes. Fruits, vegetables, bread, chicha, chocolates, wheat, etc, were all available. I went over and bought 2 rolls of bread, 2 bananas, and a small package of wafer cookies and paid about 50 cents. I haven’t bought many things at the market before, but I see now how cheap things really are here. I am definitely overpaying when I pay $270 each month for housing and 3 meals per day. Normal rent should be about $80 per month and food shouldn’t be more than 2 or 3 dollars per day. This means that I’m paying about double than if I were to be living on my own. Because of this, I might move out of my host family’s house at some point, but not sure when yet.
On Sunday, I went with my host father and his daughter on an intense hike to a place called Inti Punku, which means the Sun Gate in Quecha. It’s an ancient structure built by the Incans at least 600 years ago and is on top of one of the mountains overlooking valleys and rivers. The hike definitely pushed me to the limits as far as the intensity. I was dying pretty much the whole way up, the combination of the altitude and the 6.5 hour round trip hike. On the way, there are some other Incan ruins, and beside it is a little rock quarry. This took about 3 hours to get to from Ollanta, but many of the structures in Ollanta were built with rocks from this place. There are still remains of some of the rocks that were cut into the shapes of large poles which never made it to Ollanta. Remember that this was at least 600 years ago. Also in this rock quarry are some small caves under large rocks. In these small caves are tombs of what I assume are Incans. Well, you can just walk right into this little cave and still find the skulls, vertebrae, legs, everything, of people who were buried here. I was a little freaked out (naturally), but my host father went right in and started sorting out the bones, picking them up and showing them to me. The dog even ran off with an arm before dropping it, which I then had to go pick up and take back. Apparently there are also mummies in some of the tombs, so I hope to go back and find those.
Overall, a good and interesting weekend. Still trying to improve my Spanish and working on a few projects with the organization. Hope everyone is doing well!