Over the Mountain

We are currently hard at work to complete the “community needs assessment” in all 7 pilot communities where Sacred Valley Health is launching a community health worker program.  This entails traveling to 7 unique (and quite rural) communities of predominantly Quechua-speaking people to obtain basic demographics and resident opinions on the general health of the town’s population.  Ideally we will design the curriculum for teaching our promotoras based on the survey results.  Thus far, the Oscar for most common illness/malady goes to… gripe.  Congrats to the common cold for making the life of the residents of KelccankaYanamayoPatacancha,Huilloc, PampallactaPiscaccucho, and T’astayoc more difficult than it already can be!

Yesterday my mission was to travel to Yanamayo from Ollanta to give our “community needs assessment” to the residents of the small, but vastly spread-out community on their market day.  This visit was strategically designed so that we would encounter the most people without having to walk miles to each individual house.  But it also involved me waking up at 5:15am and driving for 3 hours in the back of a crowded fruit truck transporting at least 15 other Ollantaytinos and loads of market goods to be sold in Yanamayo. Sitting on top of a sack of potatoes and driving up a mountain past several small villages was surreal.  I’ve had plenty of moments like this in Perú, but I think cresting the top of the 13,500ft mountain range (with snow-capped peaks in every direction) and being flooded with hues of pink, red, and orange sunlight tops the list. Once we reached the high point and started the descent into yet another expansive Andean valley, the temperature started to rise.

Finally arriving at the spot on the road where people had gathered to greet the market vendors from Ollanta, Susannah and I hopped out of the vehicle and started to make the trek up a mountain to our promotora’s house.  We found a puppy along the way (a classic Peruvian moment) and named him “Moose”.  Unfortunately, once we made it to the summit of the rather steep hill to where our promotora’s house sits, Viviana was nowhere to be found.  Instead we happened upon a pack of llamas indulging in the scarce mountain grasses.  A bit disappointed, we scaled the hill back to el mercado in hope that we might encounter our promotora (which never happened).

The interviews were few and far between.  But with the help of a few Ollanta market vendors who were generous enough to translate Quechua to Spanish, Susannah and I spoke with about 15 Yanamayans.  During downtime, we sat on the roadside and reveled in the beauty of our surroundings, chatted with kids from the town, and indulged in a few bags of the classic Andean popcorn (my new snack obsession).  It was quite picturesque.

At around 1pm, the truck started to fill up with chunks of firewood, sacks of potatoes, and of course the people of Ollanta.  We spent about an hour climbing out of the valley and stopping occasionally to drop off Yanamayans who lived in the outskirts of the village and to pick up even more potatoes.  By the time we reached the summit of the mountain, there were thousands of potatoes in several sacks, a few butchered lambs, and 15 Ollantaytinos practically stacked on top of each other (I got sat on by 2 rather large women…which didn’t last long as I ended up sitting on the guard-rail of the truck above everyone else).  Definitely the most fun I have ever had riding in a vehicle and reminiscent of my experience in Haiti.

We pulled into Ollantaytambo about 12 hours after we left only to get stuck in a HUGE traffic jam in the middle of the Plaza de Armas.  Thankfully, Susannah and I wiggled through the guard-rail to escape the inevitability of sitting in a crowded fruit truck for another 30 minutes.  We then tiredly walked toward local cafe La Esquina to find friends and food.

Just another epic day in Peru…

Written by Sacred Valley Health volunteer Julia Curry

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