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Friday, December 12, 2008

take a hike



One of the outings we looked forward to most was a hike to the waterfall in the mountains near the compound. Much of the big group wanted to go, so we took six of the Ethiopian teenagers as guides, and set off one beautiful morning. We were warned repeatedly that it's a tough hike, about two hours to the falls, on rough terrain. Rick and I poo-poo'ed all that, since we were used to hiking here in Taos, at high altitude. Well... somebody should really be in charge of telling people the truth about this particular hike... It was brutal. I should not have done it. But I'm glad I did.

We started on the "flat" road outside the compound, walking with friendly farm animals. You have to watch where you step, for so many reasons...



After a slow and steady climb through the flat lands, we came to the edge of the forested part of the hike. I was already lagging far behind the rest of the group, but I'd planned to do that anyway. I don't love hiking in a herd, unless it's goats and donkeys. When I was a kid, my dad would take us hiking now and then, and it was always like a competition. I hate having to prove I'm rough and tough and can keep up with the big boys. I just like to be out there, taking my time, enjoying the scenery, taking pictures. So that's what I did here too. Rick and one of the kids usually hung back with me. The kids wanted to be sure they didn't lose an old firengee, and I think Rick liked not having to power up the mountain with the rest of them. We're just more leisurely hikers than most people... OK, and we're not in very good shape...






The views of the mountains and valleys were amazing. I could have stopped every ten steps just to take a fresh look. And because the path is really a "foot road" used by locals who live in the mountains, it winds through people's yards, connecting the community as far as you can see.







A lot of people farm up there, and we stopped to chat with this woman and her children, who were harvesting something - not sure what - and would later be making baskets.




This is my favorite picture from this day, and one of my favorites from the entire trip. I love this boy's beautiful, open face.



Local kids would follow along with us sometimes. At this rest stop, someone in our group pulled out a bag of balloons, a huge treat for kids who normally play with sticks and rocks.




But sticks and rocks are certainly more practical toys in this place... balloons have a pretty short life span with plants like this around...



Lots more climbing, lots more visiting, lots more resting...









The path turned from a narrow and slippery dirt path to unmarked piles of boulders. Goats hopped from rock to rock, mocking my clumsy struggle to make the finish line.



And finally, when I was about to give up and sit pouting on a rock by the stream, there it was. The waterfall...





OK, to be honest, I didn't really care much about the dang waterfall at this point. I was exhausted, and a little worried about how I was going to get my sorry self off that mountain. I'd already slipped and landed in the river up to my knees, so getting wet was no longer an issue. Staying on the "path" wouldn't matter much. I could just "creekwalk" down if I had to. I was a Girl Scout, after all. But after resting for a few minutes, I caught my breath, my knees stopped shaking, and I started to notice what was going on around me. Our group was mostly sitting on rocks, resting, drinking water, sharing snacks. Local teenagers scrambled up to where we were, stripped down to shorts, and jumped into the pool to shower in the waterfall, followed by a few of our own group. It did look refreshing.

There was a group of younger boys standing near me. They were there when I got there, and just seemed to be watching all of us. I suppose we were good for some sort of entertainment value. These kids were skinny and dirty as dirty can get, but with sweet faces, and a great curiosity about the "Larabars" I pulled out of my bag. I had several bars with me, being in Mom-mode that morning, and thinking some of the others might like a little snack at the falls. But once I took a good look at those kids, the rest of my group was on their own. Those boys looked hungry. The kind of hungry that never really goes away, even in the best of times. So, one by one, I opened my precious fruit-nut Larabars, and broke of pieces for each of them. They stayed close to me, hands out, mouths chewing, eyes smiling, until the last bite was gone.




I don't know, but I think the whole reason for me to go on that bleepin' hike was to meet those boys, and give them some food. It was enough for me. They followed us down a ways, showing us the easiest route to take, which I really appreciated. They left us eventually, but a little girl soon picked up where they'd left off, and walked with us the rest of the way down the mountain. She was on her way to the hospital, to buy some gauze bandages. Rick still had some almonds in his bag, so he shared the rest of them with her. She had him stop in front of a house - not her house - for a photo. I wonder if it was a house she hoped to live in one day... a Barbie Dream House compared to the mountainside tukle she probably shared with her family.





We left her at the hospital, and trudged along the last stretch of road, back to the compound. We'd been gone about six hours, and all I could think about was a shower, a beer and a nap.



As we walked down the road, all the kids in all the yards called out to us and waved. This little trio came out to the road for a closer look, and asked for "one camera", meaning "take our picture", so we obliged. They'll never know they made it to the World Wide Web, if they even know what that is. But aren't they beautiful? We can send them some long-distance love, and I know they'll feel it somehow...



I didn't get a beer that day, but I did get a shower, some Advil, and a rest. I hobbled around for a couple of days, and I'll never take that particular hike again. But really, I'm glad I didn't listen to the warnings this time. It was such a great day.

1 comment:

devon said...

Dear Kim,
How fun to read of your trip to the waterfall. I did the hike in 2003 with a much younger group (I was easily double the age of the oldest hikers....) so I feel your pain. I didn't have a Rick but two of the young boys from the compound stayed with me. I was so busy looking at everything (did you see the forge and apiary?) there was so much to see. We returned via the little Orthodox Church (unfortunately closed) and many little farms. My companion on the way down was Gete's brother, Endashaw, who was so delightful. As we descended Endashaw would see farmers he knew. I'm sure they asked what the crazy old white woman was doing. One of the questions all the farmers had was how many children I had and when he would answer one, they were astounded. Endashaw told me he would say "family planning" (which was and probably is still a big push) and then the heads would nod. Many of these poor, poor farmers would have 2 wives with a minimum of 2 kids each so that was certainly the right thing to say. The hike was a very special experience for me: an opportunity to see the countryside, to see children I recognized from the school, and to get to know such a charming young man.We had wonderful conversations. Incidently, he told me the path to the waterfall was a regular training run he did all the time and it took him less than one hour to reach the waterfall....
Boy what a long haul and I too was tired and sore afterwards.... The picture of Tammy, Cindy and me with our beading girls was taken later that day. I am still surprised I could even stand let alone smile but it is a day what I will always remember and treasure. Again, so happy to have you share your experience.