Tuesday, 4 March 2014

5) Working in village Pachapaqui

I'd started to feel a little rough before we went out on the Friday night, but we'd finally finished the seed viability tests so thought I'd better go...
I spent most of Saturday and Sunday feeling sorry for myself and rcovering, I think the altitude makes hangovers considerably worse!

On the Monday - Day 10, we went down the the bus station in town and got our tickets to Pachapaqui, a small village in the area of one of the field sites for the Puya. The man there was excited that we were going to Pachapaqui, and already knew Jamie (whom he reffered to as Yuri) and was chatting away to me in his own little world for a while whilst I smiled politely and said "Si, si" a lot. The bus journey was another one of those seat gripping experiences, with the coach driver overtaking anyone doing 1 mph less than him, whether it was on a straight stretch of road or a blind corner clinging to the side of a cliff, but the scenery was nice. The coach was full and there were a couple of stops before ours, in tiny villages where vendors would board and sell bags of nuts. One of the places looked as though it was built purely around this function too. We were about 5 minutes away from our destination when the heavens opened, big time.
Pachapaqui is a village based around a mining company down the road, and is a pit stop for truckers on their way to the next region of Peru. Apart from that it really isn't much else, with the people living off the land or herding sheep in the mountains. It was just us two getting off at this stop, and people looked at us solemnly as we edged off, probably praying for us.
Pachapaqui from our vantage point
The hail storm was intense. We grabbed our bags as quickly as we could and began marching through a back street of the grotty little village, the occasional passerby stood in a doorway watching us with curiosity. After about 15 minutes we crossed the river and began to climb, and the weather started to ease off, not before we were totally soaked through. We stopped for a breather as its about 1000 meters higher than Huaraz, and the effect of the extra altitude is especially noticable when carrying all your equipment on your back.

The views were breathtaking and I wished my family could see and hear what I could right at that moment.
As we climbed higher thunder rumbled in the distance over the glacier, and you could see lightning striking the peaks of the nearby mountains. It was EPIC and being the massive nerd I am, our journey was the spit of Sam and Frodo reaching Mount Doom.
After half an hour or so climb we found a spot to set up camp near a stream and a couple of valleys from the Puya we would be collecting data on and tagging. The tent was set up quite quickly and we got inside to assess the damage. EVERYTHING in my bag was soaked through, but luckily all the food was plastic wrapped, and my sleeping bag had avoided the worst of it. We got out the gas burner and cooked up some noodles to celebrate. It was late afternoon by this point, so it was worthless beginning work as the light was already fading. It was then that I realised we had literally nothing to do in the hours before going to sleep; the shit Peruvian phones don't even have snake. The time passed, slowly.
That night I managed to get in a couple of 20 minute bursts of sleep, and a dog down in the village barked without fail for 4 straight hours presumably before someone either closer to it, or with less patience killed it.
It's got to be one of the first times I have prayed for morning to arrive as soon as possible. I was down a few toes due to the cold, uncomfortable, damp, and that fucking dog!
Morning did eventually rear its ugly head, and we had breakfast of goopy porridge at 7 before heading down to the stream to fill up our bottles and begin the Puya work. As the crow flies, the places we would be working were not far, but the mountain was filled with ridges and valleys so getting there was quite a hike regardless. We mapped each one and collected data including associated flora and those releant to calculating growth rates in the future, and at 1pm stomped back to the tent as it started raining, for a lunch of more noodles. The altitude had completely obliterated my apetite but the work was hard so I forced down as much as I could anyway. In the afternoon we went down to the road that linked the mines to the village and headed along to where more Puya of intermediate sizes could be found.
Looking as rough as I felt!
The plants are absolute bastards to tag when they're small. If you can't be bothered to google them, they are a ball of outward pointing leaves, each covered in dozens of spines which hook round back into the plant. When you push your hand in to tie a tag around the leaf, you generally get hooked, but because its pointing away from you, the only way to release is to ease your hand further in and then manoeuvre the hand back out without getting hooked again. By the end of the second day we had 41 of the 100 we needed done (and I had just as many holes in my hands), and then black clouds started rolling in and it was getting late so we called it a day. That night I slept considerably better (now that the dog had been done in and I was drier), and we didn't arise till 7.30! Porridge is absolutely the worst thing to clean so we decided to gather our gear together and breakfast down by the stream so we could wash straight away. That morning we absoultely stormed ahead, getting loads of Puya done quickly, and come 2pm the sun was shining and we took a break, with only 10 or so to go. This turned out to be a big mistake, as after half hour or so in the sunshine, dark black clouds began moving swiftly our way, and a quick peek through the binoculars revealed cows across the way hitting the deck left right and center. We hurridly did enough that we only needed a couple more and hiked furiously back to the tent with the rain hot on our heels. Now I don't know what make the tent is (was) but they are NOT designed for wind. 5 minutes after returning to shelter, the wind had caused a tent pole to burst through the lining of the tent and then snap. We flung ourselves out of the tent and there was no hope for it.
As is typical in those sort of situations, the thunder started. Whilst shitting bricks, we got the tent down ASAP and flung all our gear on. Before long the band of rain moved off, and we decided we'd have to stay in the village for the night. On the way we finished the Puya, and tagged two more from Jamie's previous trip here. It was a long, long, loooooong trek to the village and after a couple of days of not eating much and trekking all day, I had absolutely nothing left at all, stomping slowly up the road to a building with "HOSPIDAJE" emblazoned on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment