I usually drive on my own out to visit the projects, but rarely am I alone for the entire ride. There is always someone hitching a ride on the isolated mountain roads. Sometimes they are walking down from the community to take their animals to pasture, or often are heading back up after visiting the market in the nearest town. It’s a great way to get to know some new people, hear local gossip, learn about the different places, and practice my Quechua!

On my trip to Huadhua yesterday to attend our mid-term project evaluation event, called dia de logro, or achievement day, I was stopped by a woman who was heading back to her community located a bit lower down the mountain than Huadhua. I picked her up but let her know that I could take her only to the turn off for her village, as I was continuing up the mountain on to Huadhua. The half hour walk she would have from the turn off was much better than the three hour walk from where she was, so she hopped in.

As we were coming around a sharp turn in the mountainside, I noticed her attention leave the conversation and begin focusing on a green area about 200 meters from the road. She suddenly asked if I could stop the car. Her bulls had slipped their ropes and were heading into farmland to eat some li ma beans that still hadn’t been harvested! I pulled over and watched as she, somewhere in her 60’s, began running up the side of the mountain, down into a ditch, across a stream, back out of the ditch, and continued up the mountain. When she reached the bulls I thought she was talking about, she continued.

She ran and ran until she was just a speck of red from her sweater on the vast green and brown mountainside. I even lost sight of her for a moment and wondered how long I would have to wait. She left her lliqlla, a blanket filled with belongings and carried on the back, with me so I knew I couldn’t leave her. Plus, she was just getting into the details of what happened with the old mill that used to be there! But she appeared again and by squinting I could finally make out the brown specs that had blended perfectly into the dirt as she pulled her two bulls back to the stake where they were tied.

As she turned to come back I quickly lost sight of her again, but in an amount of time that makes me believe that she teleported, she was back at the passenger side door, hopping up into the truck. I gave her some water, she gave me some toasted corn, and we continued on our way as if nothing had happened.

She’d probably do pretty well in the next NYC marathon.