A few years ago, Mike had worked on a clean water project through Engineers Without Borders in a very small town southeast of Trujillo. This trip may be the best chance he ever gets to return, so a visit was a must.
Llacamate is a town of just over 100 people situated in the foothills of the Andes, about 2 hours east of Chao (which sits right on the Panamerican and is not worth so much as a wave if you're drivin through).
(beautiful ride along the Huaradai River. this pic taken on way back down)
As any small community mainly reliant on agriculture must be, the Llacamatians (that word is not real) are extremely hard working and resourceful. That is evident with the monumental effort they put forth to bring clean water to their community. The physical labor that went into this project is jaw dropping: around 5 km of conduction line buried in steep, rocky hillsides; over 3 km of distribution lines buried in rocky terrain within the far-reaching community; nearly 2 tons of sand, gravel, and concrete transported by hand and donkey down and up a steep valley to construct the spring catchment/protection box, let alone the construction of the catchment itself; and the list could go on. On top of the community providing all of that labor (which is far above a stereotypical labor commitment for a community project) they also had to contribute financially initially, as well as monthly, to receive water service. That is the bigger sacrifice for most of the community, but so important to ensure that the water keeps flowing. All of their payments are collected by their community water committee to be used as they see fit. While it's impressive that this project was completed, it is even more inspiring that the water is still flowing and that the water committee is still functioning years later.
(the community extends from where we are standing down valley a few kms, stopping on the ridge at about mid-frame)
(household tapstand. Prior to this, untreated river water was channeled into open wells near each house that were full of microbes and yuckness, but were still the source for consumption)
(along the conduction line)
All that said, it was fun to see some people in Llacamate that Mike hadn't seen in nearly 4 years. They were full of smiles, and all wanted to know when our next visit would be. I did my best to leave that open ended (although my attendance at Zidane's 18th birthday party in August of 2023 would be greatly appreciated).
(eating with Adenali and Zidane)
Zidane is growing up to be quite the man of the house. He is very well thought out with all of his comments and answers, especially for a 7 year old. One of my favorite conversations with him was when he was calling me out for trying to pass ham off as pork. Jill and I had brought some pita bread, ham, cheese, and mayo to make a snack or meal. One night after a long day we shared with Andrea, Adenali, and Zidane. The review was mixed, at best. Andrea did eat all of hers. And when asked initially, Zidane replied that the food was good. But minutes later it was clear that not all of the food was good, as the ham and cheese were all out of his pita and on his plate. Asking more details went a little something like this:
- Do you not like the ham and cheese much?
- I like the bread and mayonnaise.
- That's okay. These foods are a bit different.
- What are they?
- Well this is ham. It comes from pigs (chancho).
- It is not chancho.
- Yeah, it started as chancho, but then was processed to this ham.
- Chancho has fat.
- This also has fat.
- No, chancho has large, white pieces of fat.
- The fat in the ham has been processed to be much smaller, but it is still there.
- Chancho has thick cuts of stringy meat.
The conversation went on a little longer, but you get the idea. In the end, the dogs got Zidane's ham. And I don't blame him. They don't eat chancho except on very special occasions (and I mean very special, as in about once per year for Christmas), but if grilled pork were the only form I knew of pig - and they see or participate in the entire process, so there is no doubt that is chancho - then I probably wouldn't be too stoked with processed ham either.
(Adenali and Andrea)
(Keiko, the little one, Katy, and doņa Ynes)
One day, we accompanied a group of soccer players up to the campeonato a few towns away. We were swayed to go by them telling us it's relatively close, but Mike should have seen through this - the Llacamate soccer team walked 6 hours - one way - for a match at a neighboring town during one of his previous visits. Sure enough, the town ended up being about a 3.5 hour ride away. Made even worse by the uncomfortable 4 up situation of us transporting Andrea and her daughter Adeneli. Never again. At least we made it safely.
(in late afternoon they ran these bulls around the field, scattering many spectators, who then followed the bulls back to the hacienda to slaughter them for a feast the next day to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the school)
After a quick couple of days in Llacamate, it was time to get moving, but only so far as Chao. One of Mike's friends from Llacamate is now working in Chao, so we met Cesar for a good pollo a la brasa dinner and caught up for a few minutes.
The sunset (and maybe that chicken dinner) are about all that Chao has to offer. We were happy to get moving again after just a few hours in that town.