Thursday, August 17, 2006

la peña - the easier mountain

i’m so happy! i’m back (and by back i mean, i got back last saturday) from my third hiking trip and it was so much more tranquilo than the previous one. i feel like i’m slacking a bit in the work department, but that’s just because there have been so many things scrunched up into the past three or four weeks. i haven’t really been slacking. i actually worked my butt off last weekend and on monday making these little books for the kindergarten and first graders about forests. see, most of the environmental education stuff that el salvador and even the peace corps puts out is not really geared for kids under fourth grade. and in my opinion, the littlest kids are the coolest because they are the ones most into everything. they love doing any kind of activity, they participate and they’re small enough that they are more likely to learn stuff and remember it. anyway, so i decided i’d make them these books that they could color and they are all about forests. like for the kindergarten it was more about what’s in the forest and things like that, and that we need to take care of them because they’re our friends. for the first graders it was a little more about why we need forests and why animals need them and how to take care of them and all that. so this past tuesday i was able to work with the kindergarteners. we read the book, and bessy helped – which is good because a lot of our work is supposed to be about getting the teachers involved so that when there’s no volunteer in the school anymore, they’ll still carry on what we were teaching. so the kids were awesome and then they colored them and i felt good about finding something to involve the kindergarten kids. this coming week i’ll work with the first graders and then do a more complicated charla with the 5th and 6th graders.

anyway, i left on tuesday afternoon for courtney’s site in chalatenango because it would have been hard to leave on wednesday and then hike that night. since the full moon was on wednesday night, we were supposed to be up at york’s site around 7:00 p.m. or so. so i hung out at courtney’s on tuesday night and on wednesday both of us were really tired and wondering if we were gonna be able to hike that night. plus, i was having a little hiker’s anxiety since the last hike was so damned hard. but we got our stuff together and left on the bus for york’s. it started pouring on the way up there and it was not looking good. we were both like – if it’s raining, we’re not going. but as we got closer to york’s, it started clearing up so that was good. once we got there we waited around for the rest of the crew, there were only 7 of us going, so it wasn’t a long wait. we loaded up on pupusas and caffeine and then left for the mountain. this mountain is called “la peña” and it is in northern chalatenango, near the honduras border. what’s interesting is the top of la peña is the same elevation as apaneca, the pueblo i live in. it’s so deceiving. when you’re riding the bus to apaneca, you’re climbing the mountains the whole way, but once you’re in apaneca, you don’t really feel like you’re at a high elevation because there are mountains surrounding the town. so you still feel like you’re at a low elevation because of all the high mountains around you – does that make sense? anyway – so we started the hike and since it was dark, we really couldn’t see much. but the moon was shining so brightly through the clouds, there were points where we didn’t even need our flashlights/headlamps. the first part of the climb wasn’t too bad – it was a good workout, but i never felt totally breathless or like i was gonna die or anything. the climb was gradual and there were some rock steps, but it was a pretty good trail and it was in the forest so that was good.

we then got to this area which york started off saying was pretty hard. it’s a cow pasture up on the mountain, so the first thing was we had to kind of try and not step in these humongous piles of cow poop every other step. i failed on that one...i stepped in this huge pile of it and it felt like my foot was never gonna stop sinking. it was really gross! but the good thing was the grass was wet from the rain, so walking through the grass pretty much cleaned my shoe off. anyway, this pasture ended up being almost vertical in some spots, and again, because of the wet grass, this became kind of a problem as our feet slipped a lot from not being able to find a firm hold. that part of the climb was really hard....i pretty much just had to concentrate on not falling backwards which would have been easy to do since my backpack was pretty heavy from having to haul up water. that’s the crap thing about get your backpack packed and then you realize you have to carry up a ton of water and while it’s not really wasted space (because water is super important) it still feels like you’re using space that you could use for other stuff...because on the way down you’ll just have empty water bottles and maybe one that’s got water in it. and water’s damn heavy!!!! whatever.

so after getting up this vertical pasture area, we entered into an area that york said was really kind of dangerous. on the left side of the trail was the mountain false step and you’d fall off the trail and the mountain. it wasn’t a sheer dropoff because there was some monte (small saplings and wild flowers and brush) that would prevent you from tumbling into thin air. but still, you’d get beat up pretty bad and probably break a lot of bones. on the right side was this same kind of monte.....not much to grab on to. and the trail was only big enough to put one foot in front of the other.....6-8 inches at most. and it being night and all, it was kind of scary. also, there were areas where the dirt that made up the trail was not very sturdy, like it was just made up of loose dirt and some roots from the monte. there were areas where it was washed out and you had to kind of hop over the space. but anyways, we all made it through that and after a little bit more climbing, we were finally at the campsite! i felt really good about it which was such a difference from the last hike. so we started by setting up camp, and bart had brought this tent that the peace corps has for youth camp events....and this tent was friggin’ huge. it was a 10 person tent – it had three separate “rooms” and when we unrolled the tent it was too big for the area that york had cleared earlier in the week for us to camp! you should have seen this was a mammoth of a tent! we ended up only setting up two of the rooms because the other one wouldn’t fit. after gathering firewood, we hiked up a little further to where the actual rock part of la peña is. we dumped the firewood behind this rock where mark was gonna try and start a fire and then hiked up even further to stand out on this big rock that gives a spectacular view of the town we had just come from, as well as el poy (the el salvador/honduras border town) and nueva ocotepeque, honduras. la palma and san ignacio (both in el salvador) could also be seen. it was so beautiful, and the moon was shining the sky was so clear. it was just really awesome. the funny thing was you could tell where the border of el salvador and honduras was because the color of the lights honduras they had more of an orange color to them, and in el salvador they were like bright white. what’s up with that?

anyway, kate and york brought up their ipods and speakers and put on some bluegrass tunes and we sat up on the rock eating snacks and drinking rum for a while. it was such good times! even if it was a little dangerous to be dancing around to bluegrass while drinking rum on the top of a rock that didn’t look like it would be too hard to fall off of. finally after a while we went back down to join mark who was having a hell of a time trying to start the fire. we were using old newsweek magazines and wood that had gotten a bit damp from the rain, but eventually we got it started. we drank some more, listened to more music and ate this sketchy looking meat that we grilled over the fire. it was good though! finally, around 4:30 a.m. or something we headed for the big tent to sleep. york went on this drunken speech about everything which was so friggin’ hysterical, i ‘bout died laughing. then he fell out of the tent. damn it was funny. the next morning i wasn’t feeling too hot, but it was ok i suppose. we hiked back up to the rock and were blown away by the view. the clouds were just sitting there, rolling by us and the vista was so stunning. the mountains directly in front of us were the mountains near kate’s site (montecristo) and we could see the ridge and mountain we had climbed looked so crazy high! we chilled out there for a while and then decided to make the trip back down. it wasn’t that bad as we could see this time, but it was super hot. by the time we made it down to el rosario (where we had started) i was hot, sweaty, tired, sore and in dire need of a shower. but it wasn’t to come because we had to catch the last bus from el poy to san we booked it back to where we had left our stuff and then we all (minus york) headed to the highway to wait for the bus. we decided to catch a pickup ride to la palma so we could get some food before the bus came, so we did that and we waited and waited and waited and it was forever before the bus finally came. and when it did there was a mad rush to get on the bus because it was pretty much full and there were a bunch of salvadorans waiting with us too.

so we get on the bus and we’re riding along and even though we didn’t have seats, i wasn’t that uncomfortable because there was at least a rack above to put the backpacks on. so we’re riding along and all of a sudden this fight breaks out between two guys. there was this drunk dude sitting behind this other guy and he started saying something about how he was better than the guy in front of him. like being really obnoxious about it and saying these weirdo things. the drunk guy had a friend sitting next to him that was laughing and kind of egging him on, but wasn’t saying anything to the other guy. it started to get out of hand and finally the guy that was being harassed started banging on the side of the bus yelling for the bus driver to kick the drunk guy off. the bus driver stopped the bus and turned off the music and just looked back in the mirror at what was going on. the cobredor did nothing, i don’t even know where he was. then the bus driver just started driving again. so then the guys start arguing again, and this time the guy that was being harassed was yelling back at the drunk guy. then the drunk guy starts standing up and trying to get out of his seat, but his friend wouldn’t let him. and when the drunk guy stands up, his pants are all undone. ????? kate walks down the aisle towards me and is like “dude’s taking off his pants...” with this scared look on her face. then, the other guy starts banging on the bus again and the driver stops and this time turns off the engine and i think he’s gonna throw the drunk guy off. but no! he starts driving again. finally, when the drunk guy gets up again, the guy in front of him takes his umbrella and shoves the point of it into the drunk guy’s face like three times and i was like “oh my god!” i thought for sure he was gonna take the drunk guy’s eye out. everyone was yelling and screaming, thinking that it was gonna get worse because you know, dudes carry machetes on the bus and shit...not to mention guns. it was so crazy. and all these salvadorans are just sitting there, watching this fight, but not really helping at all – kind of just like it was entertainment. some woman farther up front finally offers her seat to the dude that’s being harassed and he goes up there, but when he gets up there starts yelling at all of us up towards the front of the bus that the drunk guy is talking to us and then looks at my friend tara and says, “and he’s looking at’re the problem.” what the hell?? tara got all freaked out and turned around and faced the other way and everyone was staring at her and it was so crazy. then the drunk guy starts yelling really loud at the other guy and calling him “louie” and he just kept saying it: “louie! louie! louie!” and then kept telling him to look at him and something about the war and san salvador and other crazy shit. then he starts yelling at bart, who had gotten a seat with kate across from the drunk guy and his friend. he’s calling bart “george bush” and saying things like “anti-american! anti-american!” bart went up to the driver and basically was like – you have to get this asshole off the bus. but the bus driver never stopped and the cobredor didn’t do shit either. then because bart went up front, the drunk guy started getting louder with the george bush/anti-american stuff. at some point, all the seats around these two were vacant and this woman (who had actually ridden in the pickup with us from el rosario to la palma) sits in front of the drunk guy and is trying to calm him and make him shut up, but he just gets worse and starts insulting her. then he starts crying – i mean sobbing - saying stuff like nobody will listen to him and i don’t even remember what else. then he starts yelling “louie” again. finally we get to this town and that woman who had tried to calm the drunk guy down gets off the bus and when the bus goes around the park and back down the street to leave the town, she gets back on with the police. so the bus driver stops the bus and turns off the engine and the police get on and get the drunk guy and his friend and there was another fight between them and finally they all get off the bus. then we had to sit there for forever waiting for the bus driver to stop talking to the police. meanwhile, the guy who was being harassed was trying to yell at the police officers that the bus driver was bad because he didn’t throw the guy off earlier. and then this old woman gets in a fight with the guy because she was defending the bus driver saying that it is his job to drive people on the bus and not to kick people off of it. ugh! what a friggin’ saga!

so because of this whole thing, there was no way i could make it back to san salvador or to my site in time, so i just went back to courtney’s and hung out there. i ended up staying an extra day because we were tired and i wouldn’t have made it back to apaneca until like 2:00 anyways. so i ended up not coming back to apaneca until saturday. which was fine with me. but despite that craziness on the way home, the hike was really, really cool and i’m so glad i decided to go! so who knows where the next hike will be....but i’m hoping it’s more like this one! i think i only got a blister under one of my toenails this time...what an improvement!

here’s some pics!

york drunk and dancing bluegrass on the top of the rock

ok, this has got to be one of the most hysterical pictures EVER! it´s probably funnier to us that live here in el salvador, and it seemed to be the funniest thing anybody had ever seen the night that i took this....but i took the picture and looked at it and the first thing i thought was that it looks like courtney´s carrying that rock on her head. so i went around showing it to everyone saying ¨look! courtney´s a true salvadoran! she´s carrying that rock on her head!¨ and probably because we were all drunk, we all busted our guts laughing and we kept looking at it over and over. oh, and then there´s the mysterious ¨floating¨ churro bag on the side. oh my god was that hilarious.

york, me and kate

courtney and tara cooking the mystery meat

me (drunk with the rum we renamed ¨revive¨) and kate (drunk with a pupusa)

an AWESOME picture of the rock....actually, you climb higher than the rock to get to the rock, and this is the view you get as you come over the higher rock. that´s york, kate, mark, tara and bart down on the rock

wild orchids growing on the mountainside

view of the rio lempa below, which separates the departments of chalatenango and santa ana. the mountains on the other side form part of parque montecristo where kate´s site is, and directly across from where the picture is being taken is the ridge and mountain we climbed at kate´s site. that was the harder mountain.

all of us...york, mark, tara, kate, bart, me, courtney

a view of la peña from el rosario, the town we started from....the lighter green area was the vertical pasture we had to climb....