The past couple weeks here have been pretty mind-numbingly boring. I’ve been grounded to site having used up my free days early on in January. The most excitement I’ve had this week, other than work, was experiencing a sudden onset of vertigo only to realize that the house was really moving. But, it was just a mild tremor.
To occupy my free time I’ve been hiking around my site and dragging my host sister with me whenever possible. Today I looked out the window and saw a church way up on a hill outside my town. It’s in the back of the photo at the left, but you can’t see the church just below the peak of Cojitambo.
I didn’t know how to get there, and Lilia wanted to drive to it, so I went alone. I started out around noon and figured I get lost and come back, find the way and come back, or not come back. Either way, it would be more exciting than any of my alternatives. Once I got beyond the first set of hills, I couldn’t see the peak, so I just kept following the road. There were lots of cows, stray dogs, llamas, corn fields, mud brick houses, a very long-haired donkey, and eucalyptus trees. I said “Buenas tardes” to everyone I saw mostly to be friendly, and maybe to create a trail of witnesses so that the police could easily find “the only gringa that had ever passed that way” when I didn’t make it home again.
Eventually I found the church, briefly looked in the door, then decided to climb Cojitambo. An indigenous woman in a pollera with a gigantic load of grass on her back passed by. She stared at me. I said, “Buenas tardes.” She replied, “Ya va a llover.” She was right. The sky was dark and I was going to have to wait it out.
The downpour started. I huddled next to an outcropping on the church. I put my pack cover over my legs and curled up against the wall. It rained and haled and rained. Everyone disappeared except two kids who were curious about the ball of goretex next to the church. They got very wet trying to see what I was.
I looked at my watch and thought I could still make it to the top if it stopped raining in an hour. I dozed off, woke up, watched the rain, and focused on how cold I thought I was, then I remembered the people who first climbed Mt. Everest wearing tweed jackets. I considered climbing to the top in the rain so I could properly suffer, but I decided against it.
The woman in the pollera passed by going the other direction towing five mangy sheep behind her. She looked over to see if I was still there. The rain didn’t seem to bother her.
It was 5PM and the downpour continued. I decided that the rain could have Cojitambo for today and I caught the bus back to my site. Yes… the bus was there the whole time.
Before I went home, I stopped by to see my host family. I told them where I’d been. My host sister said she wouldn’t forgive me for going alone. I apologized. Froilan, my 84-year-old host dad, told me he used to make that hike and beyond Cojitambo in an hour, and back then there wasn’t a road. I told him next time I went, I’d shoot for an hour.