Today, half the group hiked up to Patiñeque, where EWB installed a water system almost two years ago, and the rest of the team stayed in Japura to help with the installation process. Patiñeque, which is approximately an hour and a half hike from Japura, is a small community high in the mountains – even higher than Japura, which is pretty impressive. It is mostly a seasonal home for individuals from Japura Suyo, who bring their alpacas into the mountains to graze. Villagers from Japura had complained to us about the system malfunctioning, so we decided it was very important to send a team up to see what was wrong. One of EWB’s biggest goals is to make sure that our systems don’t fall into disrepair, so the continued maintenance of past projects is extremely important.
According to Wesley, the student leader of the Peru project, “Every five steps felt like a thousand feet; my legs would get so tight in those five steps that it would be hard to move and also the lack of air made me lightheaded and dizzy from time to time.” One of our team members, Tyler, decided to challenge the EWB record time for climbing to Patiñeque. Though he took a wrong turn and did not make it to the conventional finish line, we maintain that he did beat the record and he was awarded the title “Hombre de las montañas” or “Man of the mountains.” He was almost given the name “Hombre de los cuys” “Man of the guinea pigs” because he and Wesley discovered a guinea pig farm near the top. Wesley said, “The guinea pigs were out in the sun, making their cute little squeaking sounds while grazing the mountain grass. And then we started chasing them… One dashed to the side and Tyler, trying to turn, slipped and slid several feet down the little slope, covering his leg in mud.
At the top, the team was surrounded by green foliage, white peaks, and even a rainbow. After taking in the scenery, the team hiked to the water system and found that there was a restriction in the water flow somewhere high up at the beginning of the system. As we decided to take apart a connection, we realized that Wesley had forgotten to bring up the appropriate tools. Our Peruvian partner, Pulsiano, gave him a hard time for it (in good fun, of course) because while still in Japura, he had asked Wesley if he had the tools in his backpack to which Wesley responded, “Si, si, si.” Pulsiano bugged Wesley about this for the rest of the day!
Without the tools, we decided instead to take apart a pipe where the cross-sectional area decreased from the normal area. Our hunch was that the smaller area held a bunch of rock and dirt. After cinching Wesley’s belt to the pipe connectors to unscrew the pipe connections (what a pipe wrench would do, but he forgot that in Japura!), we flushed the system and found lots of small rocks inside the pipe that restricted the flow of water. By this point, it was nearly dark, so the team had to start heading back.
Meanwhile in Japura, our team of four had been helping to dig holes, plant poles and cement, distribute materials, and cut wires. The team had to take several breaks throughout the day because of heavy rainfall, which will start sporadically and last for an hour or so. Towards sundown, the team was invited into a local restaurant for a meal of lomo saltado (French fries, fried tomatoes, onions, and meat on a bed of rice). By the time they finished, it was dark and the rest of the team still wasn’t back. They waited somewhat anxiously as it became darker and darker… Had the others been injured? Gotten lost? Been eaten by pumas?
At almost seven pm, more than an hour after our usual departure from Japura, the team spotted several cell phone lights appear on the mountainside. While waiting for them to descend, the team watched the stars, which without light pollution are absolutely spectacular. Those hiking down were able to see something pretty impressive in Japura. Tyler said, “As we descended to Japura, we could see tiny shimmers of light from solar panels being set up everywhere around the community.”
When the team was reunited, we loaded on the bus and headed back to Camp Chuquicahuana for some much-deserved supper and rest!