Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Getaway to Guanay

The final stop on an almost month-long trip away from Villa Serrano would be to a place I never thought I would end up. It is a village far into the tropical lowlands called Guanay. I was toying around with the idea of preaching there and visiting the local brothers for a while. Until I decided to be spontaneous and just go for it.

I knew it wouldn't be a comfortable vacation getaway like Iquique. It was the exact opposite. An eleven hour bus ride from La Paz to Guanay. My longest bus ride yet in Bolivia.

On some of the worst roads you could think of.

Initially, I honestly believed in order to get to this village, you had to take the Camino de La Muerte. The DEATH ROAD. What they called the world's most dangerous road.

Here's a quick glimpse of the actual Death Road in the Yungas valley of Bolivia.
This is a photo from one of the Swiss girls who went on a bike tour on it.

And here's a photo I stole from the interwebs to show you just how bad it really is. Narrow, one lane, giant precipices, and in the rainy season, common landslides.
And landslides ARE common. Especially now that it's the rainy season. The swiss girls came across this one..
So the point is... to get from La Paz to Guanay, you have to cross through the treacherous terrain of the Yungas Valley that has claimed countless lives.
Fortunately, I did not go on the world's most dangerous road. Little did I know, this road is now blocked off for commercial trucks and buses and it is now purely touristic...
They built a much better road to get through the Yungas. I did not know that beforehand... thinking that I was going on the Death Road, I was freaking out, calling my friends and family, telling them this might be the last time we speak if my bus falls of the edge into the abyss... being all dramatic...
Anywho... the trip wasn't on the Death Road.
Here are some photos:
You start the trip at the tippy top.. at the "Cumbre" somewhere like 3,800 meters or so...

Couldn't see too well in the Yungas valley. The rainy season makes it hard to tell just how far down a drop it really is when everything is shrouded in mist and clouds.

The new road, as in, the road that's NOT the Death Road, has tunnels.

Of course, no 11 hour bus ride isn't complete without the occasional break-down...

An example of the better, safer road in the Yungas valley

As you descend, the landscape becomes warmer, humid, and more lush and green.

Still some sketchy parts of the road. It's always nerve-wracking when these psycho taxi drivers pass the buses on narrow roads at faster-than-what-is-wise speeds.  It is because the taxi drivers are trippin out on coca leaves... an milder effect that cocaine can have on a person. A stimulant.. Not a good situation by any means.

The rainy season brings water falls down the sides of the mountain roads.

After a long bus ride...Leaving La Paz early in the morning, finally arriving to Guanay in the evening.
A beautiful little town, roughly the same population as Villa Serrano. But a completely different climate. Guanay is at 400 meters above sea level. A huge difference from 3,800 at the start.

The brothers ! The difference in Guanay is that the majority of pioneers are brothers whereas in Serrano, the greater majority are sisters.  This is Juan Carlos. A single, special pioneer brother from Argentina. He is a former Phys. Ed. teacher, so he loves exercising in his free time. The two special pioneers assigned to Guanay are single brothers and they have the meetings in the back of the house they rent.
Next, is the highlight of my visit to Guanay...
There are seven publishers who live in a village near Guanay, about 20 minutes via taxi, called Alacalani. These brothers travel to get to the meetings in Guanay with their truck. The day before I arrived, there was a huge landslide that cut off the only road to get to Guanay. As a result, the brothers in Alacalani had to miss the Sunday meeting. I arrived Sunday night, and the brothers in Guanay decided to have a public talk and watchtower consideration just for the brothers in that town since the road was cleared the next day.  Here are the photos of our trip to have the meeting in Alacalani, a village that doesn't have a congregation.

The six of us from Guanay pile into the taxi.

These are the four pioneers of Guanay, from the left, Valentina, from La Paz. Abraham, who is from Potosi. He is the one who invited me to come and visit Guanay. I met his family in Potosi during the Special Assembly day. Juan Carlos, one of the special pioneers, the Argentinian. Alejandra, who was visiting for a month, and Frederico, the other special pioneer from Santa Cruz.

We had the meeting in an old school. It's summer time here, so the kids have off for vacation. So the building was vacant for us to use for the meeting.

It was pretty trashed, so we had the cleaning beforehand.

After the cleaning, I spent some time with the local brothers and their families. It is so hot and humid in this tropical part of Bolivia, the only way to cool down is to swim in the river, which has surprisingly cool water. After it rains, the river has a dirty color. But that doesn't matter. There are two large rivers in this area, one is called the River Maipiri, and the other is the River Tipuani. A kid died not long before I arrived to Guanay. When you are not careful, you can drift to the deep part, the current can take you, and if you're not a strong swimmer, that can be the end.

A scene from Alacalani.

The brothers in Alacalani

Before the meeting, we go to waterfall to wash up. Since running water is scarce in their homes when it rains, (less water, when there's more water... makes no sense) this is the way we shower.  The water is still muddy, but a bit better than the river water.
Don't have a clear picture of the group from the meeting... but it was an amazing turnout. The brothers were expecting around 30 at best. 6 of us from Guanay and 7 publishers in Alacalani. Along with some of the studies... Turned out to be so much interest in the meeting, that 60 were in attendance by the end! Such an encouraging event to be a part of Alacalani's meeting. People just kept showing up! It shows the immense potential and interest within this village that does not have a congregation.
Out in service with Juan Carlos

The mighty river Maipiri

Frederico coming back from a call

Mangos grow in abundance in this tropical climate. Hey I think I can count 8 mangos.. and you know what the number 8 stands for in the Bible... 1 more than 7 ...

The beautiful town of Guanay, a town in between two rivers.

Out doing studies with Frederico.

Crossing over a rope bridge over the Tipuani river.

A study with a kid with a fro.

The rainy season has it's toll on the roads. Landslides are very common. Eventually the people just create their own footpaths across the landslide.

A long wood pole. The quick fix for a landslide.

Service meeting in Guanay. They have a larger congregation than we do in Villa Serrano. About 40 publishers and with studies, they have a nice amount in attendance.

The congregation of Guanay ! Such a loving group of brothers and sisters.

Me and Abraham

The lil mono. This kid loves climbing and hanging on stuff. He is surprisingly super-strong. His parents named him, Joao, a Brazilian name.

My Bolivian "twin" .. This kid has the same name as me! Jason! But his name is spelled in a way I've never seen: "Jheison" .. Never have I seen my name spelled with an "H" before. Very interesting.

The two single, special pioneer brothers, Juan Carlos, and Frederico, who were very hospitable and let me stay at their house.
Visiting a different part of Bolivia and be with the brothers was refreshing and faith-strengthening. Guanay is a much harder place to live than Villa Serrano... very little running water, the brothers have to collect rain water when they run out. Very hot and humid. Mosquitos with dengue. A long 11 hour bus ride back to the closest big city. But it seems like the places that are more difficult, the preaching is more productive. There was a huge interest in this town for the Kingdom News. It was a privilege to see the work taking place in another part of the country.
After a long, long trip away from Serrano, I was definitely missing my home big time. And couldn't wait to get back to the studies and routine.



While in the La Paz area, I took a half-day trip to the Tiwanaku ruins site, which date back to before the time of the Incas!

There are two dominating native peoples that you will find in Bolivia. The Aymara and the Quechua. They say the Quechua are the descendants of the Inca, and the Aymara are the descendants of the people of Tiwanaku.

Here are some photos of the ruins:

A neat monolith in the center of the Kalasasaya temple

That's some nice masonry work

I like the monoliths.. they remind me of the heads from Easter Island.. not quite the same. but still cool..

symmetry of kalasasaya temple

Creepy stone heads built into the temple walls.

Like the Inca, who came much later on, the Tiwanaku people knew how to make precision cuts in the stones.

Shama shama shama... after spending so much time with the Argentinians I've decided to pronounce my double "ll"s in Spanish as "sh" sounds like they do.


Had to include this pic.. One thing you can always be sure of when you go to a ruins site. Japanese tourists! I remember Machu Picchu was packed with Japanese visitors. And Tiwanaku was the same. I always get a kick when they see something interesting, like the llamas, and they all have the same mind, when they say in unison, "oooo photo photo photo!"

The view of Kalasasaya temple of Tiwanaku Ruins.
Next post will be the last and final phase of the almost month-long trip away from home in Villa Serrano. To a place called, Guanay.