Lares is a beautiful and picturesque town where time seems to have stopped. People treat you warmly and well as if you were members of their family. They make you feel at home. It is a place where you are always welcome, no matter where you come from. The only requirement is that you respect them as they are and you protect their environment.
On arriving at Cuncani around four pm we were moved by the warm welcome we received from Hilario’s family. He is our porter. On his property we put up our tents. Dressed in their traditional clothes and showing warm smiles they helped us build our camp next to Hilario’s home. It was on a large field of grass near where he had is stone corrals for his alpacas and his llamas. The animals had still not come home from their day grazing.
When we finished putting everything together we decided to rest for an hour, while our cook prepared our dinner. Really, though, no one rested.
The beauty of the place, surrounded by mountains with one that even had a snow covered peak, made us not want to rest. There was even a waterfall completing an amazing view. Instead of taking a break everyone began walking around and taking pictures. We were all very happy.
After I decided to help the cook in Hilario’s kitchen the passengers decided to come in. They were curious to know how people lived in these stone houses with no electricity. They especially wanted to learn how they made their food on a wood and manure fire in a traditional fogón, or stove. They were also surprised to find in the kitchen a lot of guinea pigs scurrying around.
The passengers asked Hilario’s daughter and wife about their colorful clothing that was their daily dress and felt fortunate to share with them these moments where we all seemed a big family living unforgettable experiences in a place where the simplicity of life filled you with so much happiness. Nothing else existed, only that moment, only us.
After our delicious dinner we all went off to sleep because he next day we had a big soccer match. The children from the community had challenged us to a game. I am sure all night long the passengers thought about playing against the kids. We all wanted the hours to pass quickly so that it would be tomorrow.
When morning came everyone got up early to see the dawn. We had breakfast and, as we had planned, the team of kids between 9 and 12 years old were ready, waiting for us in the playing field. Putting the tourists and I together formed a team of 11, a full team. We were ready to go forth and conquer.
When the two teams first met, the local kids were a bit shy at first. Who wouldn’t have been. The members of our team were tall, around 6’2” to 6’3” and all were good. We introduced ourselves made some jokes and quickly became friends.
The captain of the local team suggested that we first exchange our “uniform shirts”. Our team agreed, but the tourists were laughing. Our shirts looked way to big on the kids. Theirs were little hand-woven ponchos that were small.
After the exchange the tourists weren’t the ones laughing. Instead the kids found it funny to see the giant tourists wearing such tiny ponchos. All in all it was a fun beginning.
Once the game began every one ran up and down the field. The kids were so fast that it was almost impossible to catch them. Everyone laughed. The game finished with a score of 8 to 5 in favor of the local team. We were all tired and some fell to the ground with exhaustion, their faces bright red.
We were all sharing bottles of soda when one of the kids said, “we are the champions. What is our prize?” At that moment Hilario appeared with a box we had prepared the day before. It contained pencils, notebooks, and books. We always planned on giving this gift to the kids, since we were sure it would help them in their schooling. But we gave it to them as a prize for winning the game.
On seeing the box all the kids got very happy, their eyes huge with surprise. They ran up to Hilario and we handed out all the school supplies. The tourists gave their T-shirts to the kids but, they did not give us their ponchos.
It was a morning filled with sport and sharing. We all had a great time. Don’t miss the second part of this story in which the tourists make lunch over rustic stoves, fogones. To be continued . . .