Saturday, September 26, 2015

Week 36 - exploring Cusco, more wonderful families, a trip to the rope bridge - AND - a close call

Whenever we have a little spare time, there's always new and interesting places in Cusco to find, or visit that we haven't been to before.  Usually we have heard about them from locals or the other mission couples, but it's not hard to find interesting places that aren't on the "tourist" list that are equally as unique.  Plaza San Blas is a small square that we heard about, and yes, it is on the tourist list, but we wanted to see it.  It's just up the hill (in Cusco, most things are uphill) from the main Plaza de Armas, through a few narrow and winding streets.  It's not big, but has a very nice broad waterfall (that's actually turned one some of the time), a few art shops, restaurants, and a small tourist market on the weekends around the perimeter and -  -  -

 There's an American waffle shop - with milkshakes!  It's called The Meeting Place, is run by expatriate Americans, who contribute the profits to various local charitable organizations, which is augmented by the volunteers who contribute their labor, so it's a good place to patronize, and they do make food like we're used to in the US, and is so hard to find here.  Of course, anything is better with ice cream and chocolate sauce on it. 

 Lest you think that our life here is all milkshakes, we're back at work - this time with Hna Olga who needed us to straighten out her FamilySearch account, and "share" some of her family names with her sister, who's going to the Lima Temple next week.  Sharing ordinances directly with the Temple system is easy, but sharing with them with family and friends is a little more complicated, and involves emails, acceptance, and a few more details.  We were able to get it all done for her - and we got a phone call from her later thanking us, and that everything worked out just as she had intended.  I will have to say that I was able to take her phone calls myself, and understand and speak enough in Espanol to communicate, so our language skills are moving in the right direction, albeit very slowly.
Like all the members here, Hna Olga is delightful, and we have really enjoyed getting to know her.

Prepping for a Historia Familiar event in barrio Inti Raymi, one of the members - our friend Hna Denisse, brought her daughter, who took a comfortable nap while we were setting up.  These little kids are so cute, it makes us want to stuff a couple of them in our pockets and take them home with us.

Our camera and "magic" printer are becoming pretty popular, and we are happy to take photos of families, especially those who may not have a family photo in their home.  Hnos. Edgar and Feliciana can now hang this one on their wall.  They were at the Tullumayo chapel for a primary activity with their two hijos.

Hna. Hasler was the main event on the primary program.  She's got everyone's attention, including the adults.  We were glad our job was just to take photos.

Do I keep saying the Peruanos are clever?  Here's a security fence.  Just top an adobe wall with live, long-spined cactus, and who would want to try and get past this.  Works for all kinds of varmints of the 2-legged and 4-legged variety.

Our much-anticipated event this week was a trip to the Rope Bridge of Q’eswachaca.  This trip was set up by Elder Hasler, and he invited all of the mission couples, plus Presidente y Hermana Harbertson.  A day was selected that would work with the Presidente's schedule, and we were happy that they were able to come.  This is really a unique structure, in a unique location that's about 2.5 hours out of Cusco, toward Sicuani, the onto another highway into the campo and altiplano.  Elder Hasler rented an van and driver, and we got picked up at 7:00am, then drove out to pick up the Harbertson's about 7:30.  We enjoyed the company of all the "adults" in the mission this day.  It was a perfect day:  warm, light or no breeze, and a few puffy clouds.

I could go into a long explanation of this bridge, but the best descriptions are on the links below.  The first one gives some good background and history.  The 2nd contains a live link to a video of the history, traditions, and how it is made.  You really should go an look at this 3.5 minute video  - go to"play video"

This bridge and about 6 others like it were used on the main transport routes into the Inca Empire.  This is the only one that remains.  I understand that if they had known Pizarro's intent (which was to steal all their gold and enslave them), they could have cut the bridges and significantly delayed, or could have even prevented him from getting close to Cusco.  A few thousand Incas with their slings and stones, and properly led would have made getting across the deep narrow canyons pretty dangerous, if not impossible.  Anyway, what happened happened, and that's a whole 'nother story.   More about the Inca slings below

The road to the bridge turns off the main highway at Combapata, and is a pretty good road, paved most of the way, across the altiplano (high plains).  It is very twisty in places, and was about all Hna J could handle, despite a double-dose of dramamine.  Here are a couple of the local inhabitants, a young sheep and alpaca, just standing by the road as we drove along.

Lots of switchbacks as we drove down to the river.  This is the "dry" season, everything is brown, and doesn't look a lot different than some of the Snake River country in Idaho during the same season.

We've just parked, and are heading down the trail from the highway to the Rio Apurimac.  Again, looks like some of the country I've chased deer around back at home.  There are a (very) few deer here, and they are a small variety, we've never seen any.

Here is our first view of the bridge.  It's rebuilt every year in June, so it was pretty new when we got there.  It was a Friday, and our group was the only one there, except for the architect and builder (see him in the video) who was there to answer questions, and was happy to receive a propina (tip), which we were pleased to pay.  

This really is a marvel.  It is built entirely of rope made from q'oya grass (again, the process is shown in the video.  The only "structure" of it are small sticks that are placed crossways and woven into the decking to give a better foothold - no metal of any kind.  Humans and llamas can cross it.  I don't know if a horse could - the bridge could certainly support the weight, but if an animal spooked while crossing it, there would be a big splash below.  The ropes are anchored in live stone, with clearance cuts below what would be big crossbars, all cut by the Incas, so the ropes can be looped around below and tied.

The fearless Hna J was the first one across.  She just grabbed the handrails and started, and was nearly about halfway across before everyone got their cameras out.  The river is about 50 - 60 ft below the bridge, the water is clear, and you can see trout swimming.

Here are some of the ropes.  You can see how the dried grass makes a small rope, which gets twisted into a bigger one, then braided, til finally they have them the size the need for the main cable.  There were a few short scraps of the smaller twists that were laying around.  Looked like souvenirs to me.

On the other side, Hna J waited for everyone else to cross, and posed for a picture with Hna. Harbertson when she made it.  The Presidente is making his way, while Hna. Rhoades photos his progress.

Instead of always taking pictures, I finally get to be in one with the lovely Hna J.  Nice to have a few of the both of us in the same photo.

Presidente y Hermana Harbertson made the back crossing together. Note the sticks laid down and woven in for a little better footing.  Still plenty of gaps, but no worries if you're careful.  And not afraid of heights.  And not afraid of a swaying wobbly crossing.  There has not been a bridge failure - at least one that anyone will admit to.  Really, it was pretty safe.

Here's the guys, together with the architect and builder of the bridge.  See him in the video.  If you look very closely, you can see a few llamas across the river.

Another guy photo.  The Presidente plus the 3 of us represent the total of the senior Elder missionaries in mision Cusco.  So if any of you want to have these types of adventures, plus an opportunity to serve that's like nowhere else in the world, I think that with a little planning, the skids could be greased, and the right inspiration would make it into the places in the right sequence.  After the end of the year, Presidente Harbertson and Elder Hasler will be the only ones left, with no word of any other couples inbound .  .  .  .

  About a half-mile up the road, there is a modern steel bridge that enables cars and heavy trucks to make it across the river and through to other towns in the campo.  We stopped for a last view, and Hna Harbertson brought out some of her famous homemade chocolate peanut butter bars.  They were delicious, and there weren't any left over.  Back into the van for the trip back to Cusco.

Twisty roads aren't Hna J's strong suit, so she got the front jump seat between Hna Rhoades and the driver.  We left the river only a few km and saw a local Chechua woman with a couple of dogs and about 50 sheep near and crossing the road.  We slowed down to let the sheep move out of the way from the road in front of us, and there was a BANG!!! on the side of the car.  The driver stopped, we couldn't figure out what had happened??  We didn't hit anything, or run over anything, nothing had hit the glass, but there was definitely a hard impact of some kind.  The driver got out and walked around a couple of times, and then we figured it out:  The Chechua woman had thrown a rock with her sling from about 75 meters away - not to hit us, but to scare the dogs or the sheep off of the road.  The rock was about as big as a golf ball.  Either she was a really bad shot, or angels were riding with us, because it hit the plastic wind deflector just above Hna Rhoades head and broke it.  If we had been a foot to the left, or if the rock had been even an inch or two lower, it would have hit either Hna R or Hna J squarely in the side of the head, and with great force.  Again, everybody was reminded why we say our prayers every morning.

 If you don't believe it was that close, here's where it hit and broke the wind deflector.  And the window was open.

 About an hour and a half of twisty roads later, we made it back to Combapata and the main highway to Cusco.  We stopped for a break, some drinks, and were able to make some new friends.  These delightful friendly girls were playing with their puppies on the sidewalk, and was surprised that Elder Hasler could converse with them in Chechua.  In some places, and by some people (mostly the older folks from the campo), Chechua is spoken almost exclusively.  In other places surrounding Cusco and throughout what once was the Inca empire, it is still used and taught, and the youngsters know it as well, it's far from being a "dead" language.  I've been told its structure is more like English than Spanish, but it all sounds like a frog in a blender to me.  At least now I can usually tell when they switch to Chechua, or slip in a few Chechua words, most of which end in "a"

We had planned a nice dinner with the 8 of us at UCHU, one of our favorite restaurants in Cusco, but we were a little behind schedule, and the roads had taken their toll on Hna J, so we voted to postpone that event for another week.  It was a day to remember, and certainly was one of our most memorable with the unique sights, great company, and the 115+ photos I took, all in keeping with my motto:  "A new adventure every day in Cusco!"

1 comment:

  1. Cool bridge. That country sure looks desolate. Are you going to be able to leave your magic printer with someone to carry on your work?