I was invited on a hike through a high mountain town called Lares located in Peru. The plan is also to visit some of the high mountain people and end our journey at the hot springs.
One stop was in a community where they only speak Quechua (for more about my stay with the Quechua mountain people, click here). As we walked through this small community, we are invited in for tea and lunch.
As I sit down, I look out the door and see a little boy across the dirt road standing in the doorway crying for his momma.
Momma gets up from her mud cooking stove to see what’s happening. All is good with the little guy. He appears to be about 2 or 3 years old and such a little sweetie.
Momma brings him into the kitchen and sets him on a chair. He is so dang cute with his hair split into two pigtails wrapped into two little buns. He has one sock on and the other is nowhere to be found.
It is a native tradition here for boys to grow their hair until they are 4-7 years old. They then have it put into small braids and family members begin to cut each braid. There is more to the tradition I have yet to learn.
The dirt floor kitchen is making a mess of him but nobody seems to care. After he gets comfortable with us being there, he begins to show us his only toy, a plastic dump truck.
I find an orange in my bag and peel it for him and remove the seeds.He is loving his orange!
Here, high in the Andes (15,000’+), they do not have access to a wide variety of food. Potatoes, corn and meat are about their only options. So an orange from the jungle is surely a treat!
I hear birds chirping on the other side of the kitchen and glance over to see a momma chicken with her four chicks!
My first thought was, “wow, the chickens here in Peru still know how to hatch babies!”
Momma of the house sits on a short stool in front of the stove and makes us an early lunch consisting of an egg, boiled potatoes, potato and pasta soup, a hunk of alpaca meat and some fresh floral tea that tasted wonderful (to read about how a vegetarian can survive in these communities and not be rude or offend the local people, click here).
Awhile later, papa comes in for his lunch and greets us. I don’t know what they are saying because they are speaking Quechua, but I can feel their hearts are open and their intentions are pure.
After lunch, we share a bag of coca leaves with the family, a tradition here.
Coca leaves have many uses. Some people do coca leaf readings (like tarot readings), some use them as a form of prayer and offerings, and some chew leaves during social gatherings.
This is also the plant that cocaine is made from. Cocaine is certainly illegal here, but the leaves themselves, in their pure form, are very beneficial. Coca leaves and coca tea also help to alleviate altitude sickness.
It is time to say our goodbyes and continue our hike (to read more about hiking with a seventy year old man who is really a machine, click here).
We offer a few more oranges for the family, they offer us a bag of dried corn called maiz, and we are on our way to the hot springs!