The Road to Juliaca

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As we wound up and down the inclines and twists of the magnificent mountain road, I didn’t put my camera down, trying to capture snippets of this journey whilst lampposts, speed bumps and telephone wires got in my way.

I hope I will always remember these things from the journey.  

I'll remember the winding ice blue river, the ladies outside the bus, shouting, with their round, flat loaves of bread with a baby's face design in the middle, of which I’d never seen anything like before, and have now seen hundreds in a few days alone.* 

I’ll remember the market towns we wiggled through, the buckets of fresh cut flowers in a stunning array of colours, and the bright tin roofs sticking out against the moss green of the mountainside.

I’ll remember the ladies running for the bus, their little ones bundled into their shawls with fruit and vegetables.

I’ll remember the giant succulents and bright yellow gorse plants, the cactai which grow so thin and tall with a wiggle in their trunks, the pristine churches and the relief of a well maintained bridge to the other side of the water; the letters on the houses spelling the name of the town, the political inclinations emblazoned on walls in coloured paint and motifs burnt onto the mountainsides.

I’ll never forget the way that travellers ran alongside the bus until the door opened for them to jump on, or the banging on the cab door so they could get off, allegedly to nothing but the drop to the valley floor, or another hill to climb over into the wilderness.

I’ll remember my wonder at the way that the travellers knew when to wait on the roadside for the bus, when we are several hours late and there seems to be a constantly changing route; the way that bus-catching seems to be a very urgent task, but everything else I have observed is completely void of timekeeping or hurry.

I’ll remember the Mitsubishi ‘loaf of bread’ vans loading luggage onto their rooves, and securing it with a net whilst all the travellers throw their bags up to the driver ready be heaped high.

I’ll remember the tuk-tuks with gold tassels inside, and the ‘Benediction of Copacabana’ embellished in gold letters whilst we barely make it over another pot hole.

These things I can see in my minds eye even a year on, I will not forget them, from the road to Juliaca.

*I visited Peru during the festival of The Day of The Dead, where Peruvian families all over purchase or make two loaves of bread, one with a baby's face, and one in the shape of a horse. It is ancient belief that their ancestors will travel to their homes to bless the new babies of the family, and then, weary after a long journey, travel back by horse, represented by the horse loaf.

I began writing this whilst travelling by bus between Cusco and Juliaca, in October 2017, travelling to work with a women's group of knitters, you can read more about the project here.