Friday, January 12, 2007

Once Upon a Time in the Project

This here water project has been the cause of many frustrations, panic-stricken nights and at times sadness at the slow progress we’ve made over the last few months. While there were many contributing factors, one in particular was our concern that the work we’d been doing to set up the organization was not going to realistically continue given that we were only really working with one other person here.

Before Christmas this changed when serious disagreements with our one employee led to him no longer continuing with the organization. We spent some of our time in Samaipata developing a new project plan for the next few weeks and interview questions to hire a couple people in the community. All the prep work was worth it because this past week we successfully hired two people to fill the roles of a Filter Technician and a Community Steward.

So far they haven’t let us down. We’ve been so impressed by their excitement for the project and truly enjoy hearing the suggestions they offer us in attacking some of the project’s major problems. There is also some sign that at least one of them will want to continue with the organization in the future and they both seem open to training any new staff that the organization may need to hire.

While there are certainly still many obstacles ahead, we feel like we’re more on track now than we’ve ever been.

Happy B´Day (Yesterday) Trevster!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

In Search of El Fuerte

Sorry for the lack of blog posts for the last little while. Hope everyone had a great Christmas and that the New Year is treating them well so far.

We headed back to Santa Cruz for Christmas Day and soon after escaped to Samaipata, a sleepy tourist town about 2 hours SW of Santa Cruz. The town itself is pretty unique since it is where Bolivia’s lowlands meet its highlands. This makes for some pretty spectacular landscape. Our appreciation for the Andean ranges started with our drive down there. Our shared taxi driver zipped through the mountains with ease despite his excessive speed and distractions like roaming donkeys, dogs, rock debris and newly established creeks flowing across the road along the way.

A big part of Samaipata’s draw for tourists is El Fuerte, a Pre-Columbian archeological site. It’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in particular because of the significant work preserved on a large surface of rock a top of a mountain peak. We were certain that we had to check it out, but thought it would be cool to go on an alternative route to the site that we’d heard about on New Year’s Eve.

Long story short we got lost. And although we managed to see some spectacular views, when we realized that what we presumed to be El Fuerte was still two valleys and a significant peak away, hiking back to Samaipata before a) we ran out of water and b) the sun went down, became our new priority,

Ín the end we ended up having to cut through privately owned forested area to get to what we thought was the main road to Samaipata. Instead, it was a scenic view (not what we were hoping for at this time) to a ridge overlooking the town. From there we hiked down to the bottom of a valley which once again was supposed to lead us to the main highway. One last ridge climbed and we were on our way back just in time for sunset.

So 12 after hours of hiking through more than 30km of rough terrain we arrived in Samaipata, downed water and juice and tried to relax while children lit firecracker after firecracker outside. Overall, it made for a pretty incredible, but strange New Year’s.

We did make it out to El Fuerte a couple of days later. While it was certainly an interesting place, it’s safe to say that it would have had to be pretty darn marvelous to live up to the expectations we had created for it during our long journey to find it.

Photo: a back country valley in the Andean foothills, taken during our search for El Fuerte. Lots of nice scenery, but no tour of pre-columbian ruins that day.