Expedition Chicas Locas: Pilcopata

Gotta Pilcopata.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
After spending almost the entire night awake, it seemed that I had food poisoning.  Or… something else.  I had no appetite, no energy, and my stomach growled like some angry mountain lion.  This was the day we were leaving the native Wachiperi community in Queros for Pilcopata.  How was I going to walk two and half hours in the heat with my stomach churning like Dr. Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror?
Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about that quite yet.  “Chicas locas,” Dioni called out for the umpteenth time.  “We are going to have an archery competition now, okay?  The Wachiperi will show us how to do this.”
My stomach continued to turn, but not as much now that it was empty, and I didn’t want to let down the audience that had gathered to watch us embarrass ourselves, so I followed the chicas locas to the middle of the lawn where a bullseye had been taped to a soccer goal.  Eddie stood by as the older gentleman who had sang and danced for us that night before beamed at us, bow and arrow in hand.  He held up the weapon and shot at a point in the distance.  The arrow flew through the air and pierced the grass at the far end of the field, feather pointing toward the sky.  He made it look so easy, but as with most things in the jungle, it really wasn’t.
Shooting the arrow was like trying to shoot a pool cue with a piece of floss.  On my first try, the arrow collapsed a few inches in front of me.  “Well this is promising,” I thought to myself.  On my third try, I mustered all my concentration, pulled the arrow back with all my might, and let go.  Miraculously, the arrow grazed the target.  I looked at the old man who smiled at me.  Now I understood why a seventy-something-year-old had biceps like Schwarzenegger.
All the chicas locas improved over time, and the laughs from the locals came less frequently.  By the end, we had hit the target multiple times; Hanako even managed to knock down the entire thing, which for some reason sent Eddie into a fit of uncontrollable, unending laughter.  Erica was the master, and with one final well-placed shot, she won the championship by several points.  Her prizes were a necklace, an arrow, and a woven purse she got to paint with dye made from crushed purple seeds.  But just like the Ellen show, no one went home empty-handed, and the rest of the chicas locas got necklaces and arrows decorated with macaw feathers.  As I ran my hands over the beautiful craftsmanship of my arrow, I thought about how much fun it was going to be trying to get a weapon with feathers from an endangered animal across security at the airport.  Lots I was sure.
Sarah beastin’ the bow and arrow.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
After our impressive display of athletic prowess, it was time to leave Queros.  We came, we saw, and we were conquered.  Between the bugs, moon shine, and possible parasites that were dwelling in my guts, I was ready to go.  But I wasn’t ready for the two and half hour walk that was necessary to get to the main road.  Once again, Dioni managed to swoop in at just the right moment, possibly saving my life: “Chicas locas, today we are not walking.  We will take a car to the road, okay?”
The car was like a tiny clown truck you’d see at the circus, and we piled way too many people in, accordingly.  It was a bumpy, bumpy ride, and at times, I clutched at my stomach like a soon-to-be mother with labor pains.  Hanako and Sarah sat with their backs to the driver and I was in charge of warning them of incoming branches, which turned out not to be the best idea, since I kept forgetting about my charges and they were continuously being beaten in the head.
Loading up the clown truck.
Toward the end of our journey, the truck stopped in front of a small bridge stretching across the river.  “Okay, chicas locas,” Dioni addressed us.  “Now we are going to walk because last week the bridge broke and two people died.”  Right.
We jumped off the truck and steadily walked across the bridge, getting vertigo by watching the river crashing meters below between the floor boards.  Thankfully, we all survived the crossing and safely reboarded on the other side of the river.  Soon we were at the main road where another slightly larger automobile drove us to Pilcopata, Dioni’s hometown.
Staying alive.
Pilcopata was more of a “city” than our dear old Salvación.  There were more cars, more stores, and more people than livestock.  Young people filled the square who stood around looking at each other, trying to exude coolness and sophistication.  Erica and Hanako laughed as they filmed two curious teenage boys who had settled on a small decorative bridge behind us, playing Justin Bieber on their mp3 player.  In the distance was a large tent filled with carnival games and prizes that only a handful of children were taking advantage of.  There were even coolers with ice cream in that place.  My stomach was feeling better, so I gladly ate an ice cream cone as we sat on a bench, taking in the scenery.
In Pilcopata.
Taking it all in.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
No matter where you go, you can’t escape Bieber Fever.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
Pilcopata’s permanent carnival.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
Dioni strikes his model pose.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
“What do you want to eat for dinner?” Dioni asked us.  None of us really minded, and after the ice cream, my stomach was beginning to object, so Dioni made the decision.
After we returned to our hotel for a bit, he took us to an empty restaurant.  No one was talking very much- we were all exhausted from the trip.
A young woman brought out some soup.  I looked down at my bowl.  Normally I have a voracious appetite, but the sight of the watery liquid sent my stomach into spasms.  I hate leaving food on my plate, especially in the jungle where it was considered disrespectful to the cook and wasteful, but after a few bites, I couldn’t stomach any more and pushed the plate away.
Suddenly, everything went dark.  Not the apocalypse, just a power outage.  I turned on my headlamp as the waitress dashed to light the candles on all of the tables.  After a few minutes, we were once more thrust into the light, nullifying the warm ambiance of the candles.  Just as our eyes had finally adjusted, we were sitting in the dark again.  Back and forth, back and forth it went.  By the time we left, my eyes were as confused as my stomach.
Back in our hostel, Sarah and I talked about things back home and played card games until the lights cut off again.  We forgot to turn the light switch off before we fell asleep, and we were so tired that we didn’t wake up when the lights came back on, so they blazed on for hours.  We were in yet another hotel without a real ceiling so Erica and Hanako wondered what the heck we were doing up, and our other neighbors were probably not too happy with us either.  I felt a bit guilty, but not too much considering one of our neighbors had taken to traipsing about in the nude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s