We had planned on seeing quite a bit while we were in Bolivia, but on the day that we went to Incallajta, our guide treated us to a couple of unexpected treats. As we drove from Cochabamba into the surrounding mountains, we stopped at a tiny village. This was the first time that our guide had taken this route and he was excited to find a little Spanish church that he’d never seen before. Then, after we visited the ruins, our guide took us to what he called a “ghost village” where almost all of the inhabitants had moved away. Neither of these stops were on our agenda for the day, but they made for some of the most interesting memories of the trip.
As we drove through the countryside filled with farms where the people worked the land as they have for hundreds of years, we stopped to talk to a couple of villagers. Well, we didn’t talk to them because they only spoke Quechua, but our guide and driver spoke to them. The person who had the keys to the church wasn’t there, but we peeked in through a tiny window to see the altar. This tiny little church probably hasn’t had foreign visitors in all of its history, but we were excited to see the unexpected treasure.
Visiting the town of Chimboata left us emotionally drained. Our guide, Remy, took us to the Spanish colonial village for us to see a traditional Bolivian village. He told us about an old man that he used to visit whenever he would take people to the town, but he had recently passed away. As we walked through the empty streets we came upon a woman laying in the doorway of an abandoned building. He spoke to her in Quechua and she sat up and showed us the yarn that she was spinning. Remy told us that she had seen our camera and had said that it was okay for us to take her photo. She was literally just waiting for her time to come and it was extremely heart-wrenching to see. As we waited by our van, Remy and our driver looked around to see if there was anyone around to take care of the woman. Eventually they found a man who told them that she was being taken care of, but sitting in an abandoned building did not seem like being taken care of to us.
As we drove out of town, we came upon a group of children on their way home from school. One of them was a five year old girl named Bellina who had a three mile walk ahead of her to her house. So, we offered her a ride and took her the rest of the way. She smiled bashfully and spoke quietly as we drove her to her home. Her youthful smile was such a contradiction to seeing the old woman in the village. These people live without electricity and their only concerns are growing food and taking care of family. The thought of politics, world conflict, or anything that doesn’t have to do with their day-to-day living doesn’t ever cross their minds. Our visit to their village or farms was probably quickly forgotten by them, but will be remembered by us forever.
It is often the case that the unexpected parts of a trip are sometimes the most interesting. We are extremely thankful for our guide, whose enthusiasm for sharing Bolivia with us took us to see things we might not have otherwise seen. Despite all of the historical and beautiful sites that we saw, it is the people that are most fascinating. The thought of that poor woman laying on the floor will remain entrenched in our memories as will the smile on the little girl who we gave a ride.