Last Day on Ausangate [August 26, 2011 – Friday]

We woke up and there were some kids watching us. I suppose we were pretty entertaining because they stayed there for almost an hour until they had to go to school -- Photo by Sang C.

Malachi was still there in the morning, which I half hoped he wouldn’t be, as it was freezing last night and he probably had a home to go to.  We had our customary oatmeal (or quinoa flakes) mixed with granola and powdered milk, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I ended up giving some to Malachi — by some I mean basically half.

We were all packed up and ready to leave at 9:30 AM for the two-hour hike back to Victor’s house.  God, this part still breaks my heart, but Sang had to throw a rock at Malachi so that he wouldn’t follow us all the way back to Victor’s… and Malachi’s face was just so sad and confused.  Rock-throwing is the understood sign for get-out-of-here (supposedly, if a dog seemed like he was going to attack, you could just pretend to pick up a rock and he would skedaddle).  I gotta tell you, I considered figuring out a way to bring him back with me, but everything logistical-wise just didn’t work out (Where would he go while I was traveling around Peru with the rest of the group?  How would I pay for all the vaccinations I probably have to get to bring him back to the States?).  I can’t believe I fell for a dog that I knew for less than 24 hours, but he is an amazing dog.

Filling up our water supply before we head out. -- Photo by Sang C.

When we got to Victor’s at around 11:30, we unloaded the horses, spread some blankets, and pretty much fell asleep for two hours.  When we woke up, Paulina had prepared lunch for us… that amazing two-course alpaca meal that began with alpaca-vegetable soup and ended with spiced alpaca and potatoes.

Paulina had just finished laundry when we got back. -- Photo by Sang C.

Victor's sheep

After unloading the horses, we promptly passed out for two hours. -- Photo by Megan E.

Spiced Alpaca meat and potates. One of my favorite meals throughout the entire trip, I was so happy when Paulina made this dish again for us on our last day haha. -- Photo by Tim B.

Afterwards, Paulina set up a weaving demonstration and some of the women from the co-op Paulina was part of came and laid out their textile goods to sell.  I wish I could go into more detail about the weaving, but I honestly could not comprehend how it was being done!  I mean Paulina was confident in what she was doing, and it seemed like second-nature to her, but hell if I knew what was going on.  It was surprising to hear that a wider scarf could take a week of weaving at five hours a day!  I bought a great deal of their textiles, around 200 soles (about $66 USD), but I didn’t mind since I knew where the money was going and how it had been made.  Completely different from buying scarfs and such from the Craft Market in Cusco, where a single type of good was mass-produced and sold among the vendors (often originating from a single vendor) and usually always that type of “tourist-oriented” design — you know, things that have “Peru” woven into them or identical alpaca motifs.  The textiles were all traditional “natural” alpaca colors (white, tan, beige, black, and brown), i.e., not dyed, and patterned according to the culture of that region.  Found most of my “gifts to bring home to family” with them.

Paulina is part of a women's co-op, where they weave textiles and sell them as a group. -- Photo by Sang C.

Paulina showing us how the weaving is done with a backstrap loom. The process is still beyond me. -- Photo by Tim B.

Suddenly, it was time to go.  We had to leave by 3 or 4PM to catch a bus back to Cusco.  The goodbyes were really hard, and I felt like I had gotten close to Victor and his family in our 5 days together.

Portrait of Paulina, Victor, and Peter. I'm so thankful for everything they did for us and I learned a great deal from them in such a short amount of time. I miss them! -- Photo by Sang C.

When we got back to Tinqui, we realized there were no buses going back to Cusco leaving from here.  There’s not really a bus schedule, you just wait around for a while (maximum of 1hr), and if no bus shows up, then no bus shows up.  Ocongate is a bit more populated than Tinqui and just 30 mins away, so we took a taxi there to see if we could catch a bus.  Our taxi driver was using his horn quite freely (as is custom in Cusco and the Andes), which is actually a courteous gesture as it warns kids off the street and just generally makes the car’s presence known.  I suppose such a constant reminder is necessary as the driving/pedestrian boundaries can get quite blurred, especially in town (really no traffic lights or consistent stop signs to speak of).  Tim pointed out to me that our driver, instead of depressing the middle of the steering wheel to honk, held a wire coming out of the horn and touched it to the key in the ignition, thus completing the electrical circuit to make the horn sound.  Basic physics.

Luckily, there were two buses at Ocongate about to leave for Cusco, so we each paid 30 soles and boarded one of the buses (this one had a lower compartment for luggage, instead of having to lash it to the roof).  The bus ride back actually, and believe me this is surprising to me, made me nauseous, which has never happened to me.  I think it was the combination of the driver gunning it down the windy roads of the Inter-Oceanic Highway (now going downhill), the blaring music of what was probably the same Quechuan song looped, and strong incense smells (have no idea where those came from, but tons of people board and get off the bus at various stops).

Finally at about 10PM, we made it back to our beloved, familiar Hostal Alfonso II and its amazing beds and the existence of a showering device.  I was bunked with Mekdes and Stephanie, but to expedite the showering, I went down to Megan’s shower.  The way the shower was set up was really odd, because there was no shower door, and the space was just enclosed by 3 ceramic walls and a slightly raised step on the fourth wall.  Well that’s not really the weird part, the weird part was that the fourth side opened up directly in front of the mirror, opposite the shower head.  It was a revealing shower haha.  The shower kept on going hot and cold for some reason, which meant I lathered myself up when the water was cold and then quickly tried to rinse myself when the water became warmer than room temperature.  I think the bipolar water temperature was because they were about turn off the hot water.  It wasn’t the most satisfying shower, but I was clean.  I cannot describe how great it felt to be in a bed with a clean and tired body that night.

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