Chapter 36::Table of Contents::Chapter 38
Then there’s my fucking little toes.
We took a trip out to Incallacta which is 120 k by paved road from Cbba and another 20k by foot. The countryside was beautiful. About 1/2 way there we got to a little town and asked for directions and perhaps a beer. The directions proved we were on the right road and rumor had it beer was to be found a little ways farther on. We came upon a fellow just coming up from working in his field. We asked him about the beer and he said he had some at his house. We had been chewing leaves all along so our mouths were numb and stomachs not too hungry. He took us to his “house”, an adobe job with a thatched roof. It was furnished with a couple animal skins hanging from the rafters, a few odd pieces of wood and pottery scattered about, several empty beer bottles and a huge ceramic pot burbling in the corner. The beer was shade - cool and chicha was brewing in the pot. Every once in a while the chicha would burp. When the chicha is done a white flag is flown from a tall wooden flag pole hung out over the front yard. Everybody makes their own. We finished the beer and were told we had “casi 9k” to go.
An hour or so farther on some folks motioned us over to their house. There we tried the finished chicha. Rather piss awful. We were told we had to make a turn and take another road to Incallacta. Up to this point the route had been fairly level but from here on it went up & down, up & down. Our energy was sapped after having had only a cup of coffee and a roll for breakfast and 31/2 hours walk behind us. The next 21/2 hours seemed endless. We had started walking at 11:30, thinking we would arrive at the ruins and have time to see them before sunset. Then we could camp and walk back the next morning. However, my toes began to blister; and when we finally pulled into a suitable camping site just at sunset, the lack of time and my toes changed our plans. We ate half our dinner food (we had brought food for only one day) climbed into the tent and fell asleep.
The next morn, we built a fire and cooked up some avena with dried peaches. There was a nice rock circle for the fire, a dead tree nearby for wood, and rock - free ground upon which to pitch the tent. After breakfast we climbed up the trail to the ruins. They were ruined. Completely overgrown and crumbled. Several walls with niches remained along with one main wall maybe 2 stories high. It was very difficult to walk around due to underbrush and stones laying everywhere. We took a couple pix and then it began to cloud up. I came back down and soaked my poor toes. The night before I had pierced the blisters but they were still very sore. I soaked them in the near by river. Cold! N returned and then it began to rain.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the tent. The hot coals from our morning fire were still hot enough to start another fire. We piled on wood to protect the coals from the rain. Once the rain stopped I climbed out and got the fire roaring. We had eaten only sardine sandwiches the night before and had only dried soup and some noodles this night. We ate dinner early, both being starved. We crashed out just after sunset.
The next morning we got up before sunrise and struck camp. The tent was wet from condensation so we just rolled it up loose inside the ground cloth and stuffed it in the bag to be dried out later. I taped up my toes, we ate our remaining two pieces of bread and off we went. By 9:15 we had reached the chicha site of two days before. We thought the worst was over. My toes weren’t too bad and the rest of the road was more or less level. I tightened up my boots and we continued on.
About an hour and a half later my toes were screaming agony. We stopped along the road and I again drained the blisters and re-taped them. The taping may have done more harm than good. The last hour was pure pain. Every step felt like somebody was stabbing red hot needles into my little toes. I had taken off one pair of heavy sox to help relieve the heat but it didn’t seem to help. Once we came around the final bend and had only 2 k or so to go, my feet were dead. Only mind over matter kept me from sitting down in the middle of the road and crying.
Then the wind began to blow straight into my face. By this time N was far ahead and I was left alone with my thoughts and my pain. There were times the wind blew so hard all I could do was lean into it to keep from being blown over. Walking forward was impossible. I plodded on, my feet like clubs, each step stabbing pain into my brain. “This isn’t my idea of fun” I thought “I came on this trip to have fun, not to torture myself” “What is your Idea of Fun?” I asked myself. “To be bike riding around lake Calhoun” I answered. I swore never to back pack again. Finally, at the point of collapse, I made it to the road.
We waited for a truck to pass and take us to Cbba. Once in the truck, it hurt just to sit. The tape had forced other parts of my toes to blister plus it had stuck to my sox and pulled on the skin. I took off my left shoe (the worst of the two) and rode the 3 hours to Cbba one shoe off, one shoe on, little dittle dumpling, my son John. The pain had subsided by the time we reached town. I got out of the truck but could not walk. We took a taxi home. At the house we showered and I reviewed the damage. Not as bad as the walk to Quilotoa, just longer.
The family was in the midst of hauling away chopped tree and plant parts. When the truck came N asked me if I would help. “No” I said. “If I were you” he said “I’d suffer” He is devoid of sympathy. I didn’t help, but fell asleep. When I awoke I was starved. He came into the room and I asked if we were going out to eat. “I thought your feet hurt” he said. I repeated the question. I could tell by his tone of voice that he was either pissed at me or just gruff in general. Despite this we took a taxi to the Moulin Rouge and ate Chateaubriand and had Kolberg wine. I tried to soften him up but he seemed determined to be contrary. The wine did more good than my talk.
Back at the house we had received a notice from the Aduana that our film was in. We also received a note from Amy saying that Leslie had hep. and to come out and visit. I went to sleep and slept well for the first time in two days.
This morning I got up and tested out my feet. The skin had hardened somewhat. Yesterday I had worn my tennies to dinner but today I tried the boots. Not too bad. I hung the wet tent out on the line and decided to try to walk to see Leslie & Amy. I asked N if he wanted to go for a walk. “I thought your feet hurt” he said. I left him to read his Spanish book and walked out alone.
The walk was short and my toes fared remarkably well. I didn’t tape them and had no weight on my back to aggravate the problem. Once at the “country club” I sat around and talked to the ladies. Leslie was laying in the yard, topless, getting a tan. When I showed up she put on a top. What a beautiful lady. Amy went down to the store while Leslie and I talked about hepatitis, its symptoms & cures. Tomorrow I get a gamma globulin shot. Amy returned and made some scrambled eggs and toast for me. I tried to help them fix the electricity but before I could fix anything, it fixed itself. Just a balky fuse or something.
Popcorn and eggs later, Leslie retired to sleep while I started teaching Amy about photography. I gave her a roll of film and she went off shooting anything that moved. Leslie came back out as the afternoon wore on. We took some pictures of each other and they cordially invited me back out again. I left just before sunset. On the walk back some folks motioned me over for some chicha (much better than the other stuff) mote, and a piece of chicharron.
Back at the house N was playing Banco Russo with Monica. He was still being gruff. I don’t know what his problem is. The whole family came over for tea. The little kid crapped on the kitchen floor. After tea the rest of the family left. N, Martha, Cacho, & Maria sat around watching the 6 Million Dollar Man on T.V.
My toes and reflections thereon have further increased my displeasure at my present situation. Spending the afternoon with Leslie and Amy was so much more relaxing and satisfying than sitting around here mind gaming with N and staring at the walls. My long distance packing days may be over before they’ve really started. What alternatives does this leave me? As it turns out, Dan Friedman is an old semi - flame of Amy’s. When he shows up in a couple weeks he and N are going to go off to walk the Inca trail. What are my feet going to be like after 5 days of hard - core packing? No way can I make it. But our film is in.
Where do I go from here? Photoing without packing is a possibility. Laying myself at Leslie’s feet is a possibility (not a likely one). Going back, somehow, despite everything, seems like a retreat. Given the developments of the past few days, the Bolivian Connection may be one iota closer. But given N’s contrary attitude, it may be harder to get any cooperative efforts off the ground. This attitude will, in all probability, fade without a word. One moment here, next moment gone. (All of this on the assumption I don’t get hep. That’s a whole new wrinkle.) Amy says Gringos have an easy time getting laid in Lima “What am I doing here?” I asked her. But she wants me to come out and teach her more photography. That’s something to do for a couple weeks. Then they, too, go off to Cuzco. Where does that leave the kid? It’s been almost 8 mos. away from “home” but it seems like a drop in the bucket. Perhaps the solution (the only real solution) is one day at a time. Just one day at a time.
Chapter 36::Table of Contents::Chapter 38