14.05.2016 - 23.05.2016
As we arrived to the town of Mariana when it was still dark, we had to wait for the taxi drivers to wake up, before catching a ride to Samaipata.
Samaipata is a small, laid back town, set in beautiful, tropical forest covered mountains, and filled with people leading green, ecological lives.
We started our search for work-asking if anyone knew of any opportunities nearby-in anything permaculture, agriculture, building, or generally green related. After a couple of false starts, and a few unnecessarily walked kilometres, we made our way to a campsite, with just the intention of pitching our tent.
During a conversation with the owner, who seemed to know everyone in town who might need help building something, Pedro arrived. With his bare feet, floppy knitted hat, and a basketful of freshly baked bread, it turned out he was just the person we were unknowingly searching for! After a chat with Juan (which I mostly followed) Pedro drew us a tiny map, and sent us on our way. We were in search of Ecoaldea Espiral de Luz, Pedro's home, an ecovillage "somewhere near the football pitch of Paredones..."
We began by buying ingredients to make bread, after being promised the use of the bread oven! And then tracked down a taxi willing to take us as close to our destination as possible.
A couple of kms out of town, 8 kms down into a valley on a very muddy, holey road, we got to a river. With only a pedestrian bridge, the taxi could go no further, the rest we had to walk. Now following Pedro's map we headed down the side of the football pitch, and set off along the river. We had been told to keep an eye out for red markers painted on to various trees/rocks, so we followed these faithfully, including twice across the river. I mean, through the river, no bridges here. At thigh deep for me, this made for an interesting crossing, complete with mochilas, tent, guitar, food supplies...!
1 km downstream and we arrived at the gate at the edge of Pedro's land. We passed a couple of large tents, before seeing the sole building of the 'village', the communal kitchen. The pride and joy of Pedro, this open-sided structure housed a 'horno Chileano' for the bread, a rocket stove for cooking, a brand new 'fridge', a table, and a few benches.Lovingly constructed, but still not quite complete, this kitchen was the heart of Pedro's dream.
Nothing else but forest, the river and the birds. The middle of nowhere, but a little slice of heaven.
Until we heard vague noises and human voices, we thought we were alone, as Pedro was not returning for 3 days. We followed the sound to the river (under a sign which read 'washing machine') and found...Jaco and Maud! A lovely couple, from Italy and France respectively, they had been at Pedro's for one month, so quickly showed us around and helped us settle into this foresty paradise.
We pitched our tent under one of the large blue tents, which gave us extra protection from the rain and dripping trees. Food was cooked by candle and torch light, over fire on a rocket stove. The toilet was a channel dug into the ground. The shower was, wonderfully, the river! Trees all around provided the daily dose of tangerines and limas (a cross between a lime and a lemon?!) plus any number of shrubs for tea or medicine making.
We made pizza and cookies with our bread ingredients. And drank enough mate to hydrate a small army.
There was a huge rock overhanging the river, with just about enough flat surface for yoga and meditation. There was also a specially cleared and designated 'meditation space' which I used when the rain made the rock less enjoyable!
Unfortunately, here was where I first got ill! Not the most ideal place. Having to rush up the hill to the toilet-channel was not particularly pleasant. I think this was down to the water, which I had been warned about in Bolivia! Have I mentioned already that the only way to get water was to walk back along the river to the school, next to the football pitch, fill up your bottles, and then make the return journey?! The river water was not an option as it was raining a lot so the water was completely dirty. And we didn´t have enough buckets to collect the rain water. (Something Pedro should really get in place!) Dodgy stomach was promtly followed by a urine infection (yay!) probably because I wasn´t drinking enough water! Juan and Pedro were determined to cure me of this with an assortment of natural medicines*; it was too much effort to get into town for medicine really! So I obediently drank all of the plant-based concoctions, and chewed all of the leaves that were passed to me.
- *I have to admit, as soon as we reached a city again, I ran straight to the pharmacy for some pills. Lima leaves were just not cutting it for me!
As much as Juan and I were keen to help out as much as possible, we quickly realised that Pedro´s motivation seemed to be somewhat lacking. He had had the land for over 3 years, and still was yet to complete the kitchen, the dry toilet, a more permanent home for himself...Three years of living in a tent, and a rented room in town. We understood that the process of building in this location was rather more challenging than in ordinary circumstances, but both felt a lot more could have (should have) been done already. It seems as though Pedro had rather lost faith in his dream, which was incredibly sad to see, as it could be an incredible project.
We offered to work on the dry toilet, and set to work finishing the floor. But after a day or so work, and discussions between ourselves, decided that it was sadly a waste of our time/energy to carry on. Instead, we decided to simply enjoy the atmosphere, energy and tranquillity of the forest, (and made hypothetical plans for the village of course!)
I would have loved to have shared photos of this beautiful place with you, but as yet haven´t managed to get the photos from my camera onto a computer. I only have this photo from my phone....
This was just after a very sweaty climb to the top of a mountain, which gave us fantastic views further up the river and down the valley. I forgot my camera on the first occasion, so later set out by myself so that I could take pictures. Although we had initially followed a well trodden path, somehow I wandered off of this, and ended up fighting my way through bushes, following the cow path, and at one point, scaling a tree to get myself out of an unexpected ravine. (Again, sorry Mum!)
So it was with heavy hearts (and heavy bags) that we decided to leave Pedro´s place, and make our way back to civilisation. Juan had a flight back to Colombia from La Paz, in about a weeks time, leaving us with just enough days to get up to Lake Titicaca...