Gnarly Tunari

Trip Start Sep 17, 2012
Trip End Dec 06, 2012

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, October 7, 2012

Salutations all!

The Mallco Rancho portion of our journey has come to a close. The past week can be best described as busy, to say the least.

Last Tuesday our team had the opportunity to visit both past and future service projects taken on/to be taken on by other Youth International teams. The past project was a public school called Viloma, which was full with students from every grade. Our group was extended an invitation to watch a presentation put on by the students, in which we were shown many of the traditional Bolivian dances, in honor of the Day of the Tree, which was only the day before. The future project, another school, was great to visit as well. Our group wishes good luck to the future Youth International teams!

Wednesday was yet another big day. Our team went out to visit an Incan archeological site, where we saw the remenants of old sylo-like-structures used by the Incans to store corn and other grains which were to be shipped accross the empire. Some of the sylos had been rebuilt to give visitors an accurate image of what the sylos probably resembled, while others were nothing more than circular foundations of rocks protruding lightly from the dirt.

Following our visit to the ruins, the group received a traditional Bolivian blessing, which showcased the popular hybrid religion between Christianity and traditional beliefs.

Thursday was the day of our farewell feast, a chance to thank the people of Mallcho Rancho for their continued generosity and hospitality, as well as an opportunity to celebrate the work we have done on the community center. Some of us stayed at the worksite all day, while others volunteered to help cook for the 68 people joining us for dinner later that evening. This was an excellent opportunity to immerse ourselves in the local culture, of which food always plays a major role.

The fiesta that night was a great success, with every member of our team serving their respective host families food and drink. The music even had some of our group members up on their feet, struggling to put on an adequate interpretation to a traditional Bolivian dance.

The next day, Friday, was our last in Mallco Rancho.We were able to put some finishing touches on our construction work at the community center, and we bade our friends farewell (Christensio, Felix, and Vladi, the directors on the worksite, as well as Jean-Carla, our beloved local contact). We thanked our homestay families a final time, and by 5:00am on Saturday morning, we were off, water bottles filled and bags packed.

Our group drove back to our old hostel in the city of Cochabamba, where we dropped off our bags and boarded another bus destined for Tunari National Park. Tunari is the home of the highest peak in the province of Cochbamba, at an elevation of roughly 16,500 feet (over 5,000 meters).  The hike, needless to say, was a challenge for everyone, but we would all agree that it was worth it to summit such a massive mountain. We also learned the lesson in the value of layers, and the unpredictablility of mountain weather. As we were descending, we found ourselves in the middle of a hail storm. By the time we reached our bus, everyone was feeling the chill, and everyone was grinning. For many of us, summiting Tunari has been the most memorable experience of the trip thus far. There is something incredible to be said for munching on a well-earned sandwhich whilst atop the highest geographical point in all of Cochabamba.

 - Evaline and Tyler
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