The trek ended on Saturday with a long walk through the bottom of a valley to reach the thermal springs at Lares. What most struck me when passing through these farming communities was the huge probability that the children here will never really know anything else. There is a primary school, but after that, the kids go to work - at the age of 11.
The Lares baths looked at first glance like any outdoor swimming pool, albeit an outdoor swimming pool 3 hours' drive from the nearest settlement. The water in the pools was an unappetising yellow-brown, and comes hot out of the side of the mountain. I can safely say that after two days' trekking, sliding into one of the pools at 8 in the evening was one of the best things I have done since I arrived.
So the trek as a whole was a great success. All of us felt slightly awkward at the level of service we received - mules to carry most of our luggage, cooked meals, general kindness and hospitality. Yet we paid for it, and by doing so supported the main source of income in these parts. And watching the mules climb the steep, rocky mountain paths was astonishing.
As I mentioned above, the drive back was 3 hours, during which we passed no more than 5 vehicles. I have some stunning photographs of empty valleys, huge herds of alpacas, and snowy peaks. One of the vehicles was a taxi which had half slipped into a ditch at the side of the road. We all got out to help, and with a combination of piling rocks and pushing we got it out. This was one of those places were you can't just drive on by when you see someone in trouble like that. I'm not sure the alpacas would have been very helpful.
The beginning of this week has been a bit of a sharp return to reality. Which is to say, I am still finding the teaching totally exhausting, though far from boring. I could only smile yesterday when some the girls in my top year classes asked me whether I was married. My students are also trying to teach me Quechua, though so far I have only managed "My name is", "How are you?" and "Where are you from?".
This in fact leads me on to an interesting point. For many of my students, Spanish is a second language. This sometimes becomes obvious, as yesterday, when I asked a boy a question and he replied "no sabo" to mean "I don't know". This is logical, but wrong (to know is "saber", but I don't know is "no sé"). Often, when I ask them to do a particular activity, someone will turn to their friends to explain in Quechua.
This is of course another challenge. Tomorrow I have to teach the use of "do" and "does" as auxiliaries to my fourth year students. I am beginning to think that English must be quite difficult to learn properly.