Many blisters, high adrenaline situations, 3 liter bottles of Inca Kola, and inside jokes later, we have arrived at week 4 of our trip! While week 1 consisted of surveying the pipeline and data collection, weeks 2 and 3 have been full of trenching the pipeline and supervising the ongoing masonry. We now have a completed source capture, springbox, one of two reservoir tanks, and 6 tapstands connected to the main pipeline. Though water is not flowing through the pipeline yet, we have 3 of 3.5 km of the main pipeline trenched. In the next week, we will connect the reservoir tank to the pipeline and finish trenching and connecting the remaining tapstands.
The art and style of trenching.
In the time we have been trenching pipeline with the people of la Pitajaya Baja, each member of the travel team has developed his or her own unique approach to trenching. Some techniques could be considered a little unorthodox, but we somehow always get the job done. For example, Amanda uses every single muscle in her body to hoist the pickaxe over her head and slam it down, taking out any dirt, plant, or even human within 5 feet. Kasturi transforms into an incarnation of SuperWoman when she trenches to the most consistent two beat tempo. While Corrie uses trenching to release all the frustration from the past 19 years of her life (though I repeatedly hear mumbles and grumbles about freshman year all-nighters), Josh continues to try to dig to Australia with his trenches that must be twice as deep as everybody else´s trenches. Will finds that he gets the most work done with his shirt off....to which the team agrees to each his own. And me? I take inspiration from my golf swing with an across-the-body sweeping montion. I think it works pretty welll, though the community members often encourage me to just move to the front of the trenching line as they swiftly deepen and straighten my trench.
A dog named Rocco
We´ve developed some friendships with the neighborhood dogs, but one little black dog with floppy ears has caused more trouble than anything. Rocco belongs to Bernabe, one of the members of la Pitajaya Baja who will get water with our system. It started with innocently feeding him chicken bones from lunch. And then maybe a little cuddling and petting. We noticed Rocco didn´t get along with any of the other dogs and preferred to hang out with us. At first, it was no big deal, but soon he was leaving Bernabe to follow us! He came along on our hikes to check the Alta water system, to neighboring Casmiche where we had to leave him at a friend´s house because we couldn´t take him on a bus, even to Samne where we sleep. It was cute - he wanted to be our friend - but when he started biting through leashes and restraints to find our group halfway down the other side of the mountain, we knew it was getting out of hand. The story of Rocco is to be continued....
Fighting cacti with bare hands
The mountains that we are working in are covered in cacti and thorny plants, and multiple people have had rather unfortunate experiences with them. After the first day of trenching, I was excited to take a cold shower when I found a long cactus needle had been stuck in my leg for the better part of the day and I had not noticed at all. While trenching, Amanda fell into a cactus and had to have Kasturi, and later Corrie, take out pricks from her back. In a separate incident, Corrie and I decided to take a break and sit on what seemed to be a clear area in the dirt. As we stood up, I noticed something did not feel right. In the middle of the walking path with everyone in sight, Corrie had to pull out a collection of of thorns from the butt of my pants. Still, Will gets winner with the best cactus story. He, Amanda and I were on a very narrow, path with a slight drop-off on the side. Will grabbed the side of a big rock to stabilize himself, but unfortunately the rock had some prickly balls of evil! Several little cacti balls got stuck to his fingers! Will was ready to pull out the pricks himself but Juan came to save Will, leaving Will clutching his fingers for a few more minutes. All these events come with a smirk since the community we are working in, la Pitajaya, was named after a type of cactus!
Meet me at the springbox
Every Saturday, we have to hike up to la Pitajaya from Samne because our usual driver takes the weekends off. The hike takes about an hour and a half as we climb some 250 meters to the community. The hike is long and difficult, and I often only look down at the uneven, sandy path in front of me to keep balance. Catching my breath and finally getting up to the completed springbox is such a relief as a sign of our project´s progress and the group´s increasing hiking endurance. With the gorgeous Peruvian mountains always in the background, we are so excited about the project´s progress!
Amanda's trenching style...
(Note: Kasturi was not harmed in the making of this photo)
19 people. One day. About 800m trenched!
Loading the 2.5-inch galvanised pipe into the truck
The rebar for the tapstands being constructed