We just got back from our trip to Cuzco and Combapata (an area where the Columbans have a parish) and the trip was good and bad.
Because the area where theses two places are is so high (+/- 3,300 meters or 11,000 feet above sea level) it takes a couple of days to get acclimated to the altitude so when we arrived in Cuzco we just took it easy for two days before heading to Combapata. With the altitude comes fast exhaustion, a slight headache, and for some a bit of a stomach ache. I think because we took it so easy we just had a little bit of the headache which was easily alleviated by drinking some coca tea. We were both a little skeptical about drinking coca tea seeing as how it is the base for cocaine. But in the tea there are no drug effects; it tasted just like green tea to me and it really helped.
After our allotted time to recover and sufficient time to see the basics of Cuzco, which is a beautiful city, we headed to Combapata, the real reason for visiting that region of Peru. As we hit the road we were immediately taken aback by the beauty of the “sierra” (the mountain area of the country). The mountains were breathtakingly picturesque, the colors were vivid, the rivers were raging, and to top it off, the people in their traditional attire was absolutely intriguing … and all of this from the bus on the ride to the parish!!! We also saw rain for the first time since arriving in Peru, which was a real treat.
We arrived in the parish in time for the annual town feast which was in honor of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary). It is a really big deal for this small village and the surrounding area. Every night at the parish center where we stayed there were groups of people practicing their traditional dances for the weekend celebration. As we moved into the weekend we could not believe how many people actually came to the event and how loud the bands were that played for the dances and processions. After one night of the festival we had to relocate because our room was right next to the plaza of the church where all the action was. And here in Peru the music goes “hasta las ultimas consecuencias” as they like to say, which means until the final consequences … or in other words, until the beer is gone, which never seems to happen. Unfortunately Meri and I were also getting over the flu that same night so we were really beat the next day.
As the festival came and went we met a lot of really great people. The priest of the parish, Fr. Don Hornsey, was a great host and while we were there he had some other visitors as well: a guy he knew from his days in Brazil and two couples from Australia. He was returning home to New Zealand for a little vacation so we decided we would leave the same day as he did to head back to Cuzco; we couldn’t believe how fast the 9 days in the small town went.
Before we left Cuzco to head to Combapata we had arranged a trip to Machu Picchu so we were excited to get back and see the fabled land of the Incas. We intentionally budgeted two days in Cuzco to take pictures before we started off on our next journey. The first day was overcast and not a good day for pictures so we postponed until the next day which was the day we were actually going to go to Machu Picchu in the late afternoon. On the morning of our travels we had a few errands to run before taking the pictures of the town, like getting my shoe fixed at a place where I had had my other shoe fixed a week-and-a-half earlier.
While we were in the shop (the size of a closet) getting my shoe fixed a woman entered and started asking the shoe repair guy questions about what things would cost. As he answered Meri and I would go from looking at him to the lady thinking nothing about it and then she left. After she left Meri and I continued peppering the guy with questions about the culture and his views on politics; we like to do that whenever someone gives us the chance. He finished and I paid him the $1 for his work and when we stood up to leave our bag was gone … the woman who entered the shop had stolen it!!! Because we were on our way to take pictures our nice camera and both of its lenses were in the bag along with our passports, Meri’s glasses, some books, and a few other things. We went to the police to fill out a report and that took several hours. Although it really seemed like a bad thing to happen we were happy that it was not a violent robbery and that neither of us was hurt. Of everything we lost we were most sad about the pictures from our time in Combapata…the rest of the things can be replaced.
That little incident kind of put a dark cloud over our trip to Machu Picchu but we went anyway. Machu Picchu is everything everyone says it is and we were happy to have gone but our hearts were just not into to it. By that point in the trip we just wanted to get back to the safety of Lima. Isn’t that funny to call a city of nine million people a safe place? But to us it is home and we know what to expect.
We arrived in Lima and the family who owns the building where we live were excited to see us…and sure enough our little friend Mitch the cat had been gifted to another family in our absence. We got back into our routine teaching catechism classes and as usual, as I had mentioned a few blogs ago, the kids have this power to always put us in a good mood.
As we look back on the trip, think about the classes we are so lucky to be able to teach, ponder the friendships and people we have met on this missionary journey we don’t even know where to begin to thank God for all the blessings we have received.