My Trip to An Inca Rope Bridge: What I Learned About Community
In June 2019 I rode 4 hours by car from Cusco, Peru to a small community called Q'eswachaka with Jorki our driver, Hubert our guide, Beebe my gringa friend, and Mario, one of our company trail cooks. (Who was surely sent from heaven to let earthlings know that when we it's our time to cross into the pearly gates, divine dishes will be waiting. But that's another story for another day!)
We planned to camp for 3 days and observe the once-a-year process of replacing hand-made ropes for the Queswachaca suspension bridge. I wasn't surprised to hear that the 4 communities "coming together" to make it happen were not in total harmony with each other. They weren't openly fighting, but they were fussing and arguing about decisions that needed to be made about sharing expenses and charging fees, restrooms, campgrounds and things related to hosting an event that now attracts outsiders. Resolving conflict is a skill that even with years of training, can be difficult to facilitate, let alone achieve.
It was the children that captured our hearts and with whom we spent the most time chatting about life in the Andes. For the festival, local women set up tables, outdoor kitchens and mini-markets with everything from the lastest fashionable sombreros to toilet paper. And energetic kids, not about to let this potential money-making "lemonade-stand" moment pass, brought their wares to the roads and camps. They crafted mini-bridges out of scraps of grass, they bagged giant kernels of "Maná" corn and filled baggies with tea. On our first day, little 8 year old Solidad wandered alone into our camp with a bucket of knotted plastic bags each filled with a brewed sweetened tea. This was the perfect chance to meet the kids and ask about life in Qeshuachaka.
Later we met Antoinette alone on the road selling bags of popped "maná." Imagine "Corn Pops" cereal on steroids! And while we were chatting up Antoinette, along comes Solidad. We asked if the girls knew each other and surpisingly they didn't. But we realized by their clothing that they each came from different communities. It was then I came up with an idea. I bought a bag of tea from Sofia and gave it to Antoinette. Shortly after we moved on.
The next day as we were walking around, we noticed Solidad and Antoinette walking together into camps to sell their products. It was one of those moments where you realize something good just happened. Two girls, each from different communities at odds with each other, had formed the beginning of a social bond. Now to let nature take it's course and see where it goes.
Next year Adios Adventure Travel plans to return to Qeswachaka with a small group of travelers and I hope to see the girls again. Will they be able to connect during the coming year and cultivate their friendship? Will they team up next year to sell their goods? I have no expectations but part of me has hope that at the very least a little friendly seed was planted.
For more information about traveling to Qeswachaka with Hubert and me in early June 2020, please send me an email. Make sure you mention Qeswachaka 2020 (and Mario!)