Huayculi or Bust

…to ready ourselves for Tuesday.

Truck gassed up. Friend to watch the littles. Big kids prepped with pep talks about what to expect and what I expect from them. Camera with extra batteries packed. We’re all set to get this adventure going.

The morning called for hoodies to nip the chill, unless you were a Bolivian, in which case you would be dressed in three woolly layers, a scarf wrapped half a dozen times around your neck and a hat and gloves to ward off the cold and the colds. Our guide showed up on time in his own car. He also had a girl of 11 with him. We made room for Fernando and Clara in the truck and we drove.

Cochabamba’s hustle and smog were left quickly behind. The pavement eventually took a leave of absence as well. Hillside farms with adobe dwellings dotted the dusty landscape. Shepherdesses with knitted legwarmers under their knee-length, layered and pleated velvet skirts tended the flocks of goats and sheep. Alongside the roads stood college students talking on their cells waiting for a ride into the big city. We rounded the lake called La Angostura and I knew we were close to Tarata on our way to Huyaculi.

A narrow cobblestone street with ancient buildings growing old and tall from the curbs led us to the historical plaza. We pulled up to a little store so that I could buy a phone card and the guide could ask directions for finding the town of Huayculi. Another time we can take the time to tour this little city of good tales.

Back on the trail we rumbled the couple blocks out of town and the across the dry river bed to the twisty dirt paths leading us to the clay workers. A man was walking so we stopped to ask him if we were headed in the right direction in this place unburdened by silly street signs. Yes, we were, keep going passed the pine trees, three more kilometers. Our guide and I were satisfied by the indications. We continued.

A building had the name Huayculi painted on the side. We were close. Working with picks and digging what seemed to be a ditch alongside the road were men, women, youth and children all lined and bent over their task. Fernando suggested we pull over to talk to them. Not two minutes later he returned and let one of the workers get into the already packed full truck. No matter that he had the scent of sun and musk and only one of my windows could open. He was our man. We rolled down the hill about a block and he told me to stop at the open door. This is where we all got out, finally.

It was nice to stretch our legs after the bumpy hour finding our place. The fresh village air had traces of lunch being cooked over an open fire and the evident presence of animals living about the simple human homes. We unloaded ourselves by the pile of abode bricks.

“Pase,” [pah say] said the man to let us know we could come into his place.

“Permiso,” [pear mee soh] we said as we stepped across the threshold.

Chance, divinity, coincidence… name it what you will; the clay worker had been found. Paths converged, crossing hemispheres, mixing languages, blending cultures, putting us all in the same tiny little plot of land. The dirt we came from drew us together.

To be continued…

Click to enlarge. Photos taken by my dad: Ronn Houtz


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