Sunday, June 7, 2015

To the Mountains: Camping with my Gente

It always makes me smile when my neighbors talk about how “developed” our little village is.  “Ah, but Geli, there used to be so many animals.  And so much more monte around! Just look at all the houses there are now.”  We have no electricity, our water comes from a spring-fed aqueduct and frequently goes out, and there are less than 10 houses in the immediate distance.  It’s not exactly what I would consider “developed.”

So, if that’s modern, what do my people consider to be really out there?   I asked the same thing, and in response they told me all about the Cordillera- a wild, beautiful place where they had a house.  There are no roads, and the only way to reach the house is by making a 6-hour hike along the ridgeline or by the river until you reach their plot of land.

Having heard from the previous volunteer that this trip, though difficult, was a great experience, I made plans to go a few months ago and was sadly letdown as I had to spend the entire time in my hammock, sick with another mystery illness.  Of course, that just didn’t sit well with me, so my neighbors and I scheduled a second trip to the mountains during the school vacation this past week. 

Since reaching the trail that runs along the ridge requires spending at least two hours getting to the top of the muddy, slippery hills, the kids and I voted to take the river trail.  Though slightly flatter, the trail ran along slippery rock surfaces and required more than twenty river crossings.  It’s a good thing Massy likes to swim.

Along the way, we stopped to visit several “neighbors.”  Even though they lived very solitary lives away from other families, communities, and businesses, they were quite happy to chat with us and offer us food and drinks.  One family even gave us a huge slab of freshly butchered pork to take with us!

After a long, arduous nine hours, we finally made it to their mountain home, and true to their word, it was one of the most tranquil places I’ve visited.  From the porch you can see the small creek nearby and hear the rushing river a few minutes downhill.  Without people around to hunt, the area is still abounding with wildlife and as we fell asleep at night, we fell asleep to the sounds of still singing birds, screeching monkeys, and nearby croaking frogs.

We spent the following days looking for waterfalls, swimming in the river, and scavenging for local fruits and veggies to enrich the rice, beans, and pork that we brought.  There were fresh bananas, culantro, peppers from an abandoned garden, cinnamon leaves, and calaloo- a small green fern which we chopped up and served in our rice. 

After three days at our mountain retreat, it was time to make our way back, which we completed measurably faster at 6 hours instead of nine.  And just like that, we’re back to work, development, and amenities.  At least, that’s how they see it. 

But mom, I'm sooo tired.  

Back to town?  Apparently.  

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