Hello and good day!
Don Lucho, his wife Maria, and their two small children, a little boy and a little girl, packed their meagre belongings and said goodbye to their shack in the coastal desert.
In the big desert on the outskirts of Chiclayo, they survived off a small plot of sugar cane that they watered from a puny creek that ran through their tiny village.
It was hot and dusty and flat where they lived. The sky was always blue and cloudless.Tan rubble stretched out in every direction.
The houses were built with sun-baked adobe brick and the roofs were nothing more than weaved palm tree leaves. It never rained and a roof's sole purpose was to keep out rays of burning sun.
They were not sad to leave their town, even though they had spent their entire lives there.
The town itself was sad.
Finding a way to leave was a cause for celebration.
They hitchhiked by van and truck from the coast eastward into the Andes.
As they climbed into the mountains the weather changed. It became cooler and greener as seawater gathered into rain clouds that rained into rivers used to water rice, corn, potato, and herb farms.
Dairy cows and sheep grazed in the fields.
Crossing the peak and descending down a curvy road along the eastern mountain face, they entered into a rain shadow and the world became dry again.
Finally, they came to a river valley running down from the north and cutting along the base of giant, dry, brown mountains.
There was life along the riverbanks, farms, people, and livestock.
Don Lucho, Maria, and the kids rode in a van, staring out the windows at the river and the people on their land, pulling up herbs, carrying sticks and babies on their backs, coaxing bulls by bits in their mouths, and hauling water in buckets from the river.
The river curved through the valley and life flourished along it.
Finally, the van turned away from the river and drove straight down a road that ran between mountain ridges on either side. These mountains were not brown and dry, they were covered in dark green bushes.
They were jungle mountains.
When the green mountain ridges ran down into the ground, the landscape widened and opened up, and the road led into the bustling city of Jaen.
The van driver dropped off Don Lucho and Maria and the kids at the Plaza De Armas, the town square. Lucho paid the fare and looked around. He had no idea where he was.
He reached out and touched the shoulder of the first man he saw.
"Sir, where can we find Chuchuasi, the river crossing for the Chinchipe?"
"Go east to the San Ignacio-Jaen road and then go north on it."
"Thank you, sir. Sir, is there a van or a car that can take us that way?"
"No. Only horses and donkeys and mules can go down that road. Car tires sink into the mud."
"How long is the walk? "About 8 hours."
"Thank you, sir."
The family had been traveling in cars and trucks and vans for 3 days and they were tired. They sat together on a bench in town square and ate bread and cheese and bananas from one of their packs.
Don Lucho went to a restaurant across the street from town square to buy coffee. The kids ran around and climbed in trees and rolled in grass. Maria rested her head against her husband's shoulder and slept.
After an hour, Don Lucho gathered his family and their luggage, and they began to walk east. Eastward they walked along the Amoju river.
They couldn't believe the size and green fertility of the land.The plants and trees were dense and crops on farms grew in a way that felt miraculous with abundance.
At the San Ignacio-Jaen Road, they turned north and walked through broad, interminable, luminous green countryside, filled with flat cleared farms, wild fruit trees, and rolling jungle hills. It was nightfall when they reached the Chuchuasi river crossing.
Many pioneer families, just like Lucho and Maria's, were resting on the riverbank.
Lucho walked up to a man who was sitting on the ground, leaning back against a tall grey rock wall that ran straight up to a cliff overlooking the Chinchipe.
"Sir, what do we do now?" asked Lucho.
"Sleep my friend. Tomorrow the rafts will take us across," said the man.
"Thank you, sir," said Lucho.
Lucho and his family found an open spot on the damp, dirt ground. They laid out a blanket taken from one of their bags and curled up, piled on top of each other. Their bags were in the middle so that nobody could rob them in the night.
It was hot, but not raining, and they heard the rushing white noise of the river gushing down relentlessly through the jungle night. In the morning, the rain began, and it rained harder than Lucho, Maria, and the kids had ever seen.
It almost never rained where they were from.
Their clothing and possessions were immediately soaked through from the downpour.
The river was fat with murky brown water, crashing along in a fast current, jumping, splashing, and washing over the riverbanks.
Men were yelling across the river to one another, but their voices were barely audible over the rushing noise of the water.
Lucho hadn't seen them in the nighttime, but two rafts were bouncing violently in the middle of the river, lashed in place by thick ropes that were tied to posts on the opposing shores.
Maria grabbed her husband's arm. She was afraid.
"What is going to happen Lucho?" asked Maria.
"I don't know darling. We have to wait and see now," said Lucho.
A group of ten men came walking down the hill from the main road. They were lean and muscular, tanned brown from hard jungle sun, and wearing tattered clothing. They nodded and waved at the waiting people before signaling to men standing on the other side of the river.
The men on the other side signaled back and with that, the two groups of ten men each, each group on their own side of the river, began to untie the ropes.
On the side where Lucho was standing with Maria and the children, the men began to pull the two rafts towards the shore. As they pulled, the power of the river pushed on the rafts and flipped them so that the rafts were doing summersaults on the lines.
It took all the men's strength to keep the ropes from slipping through their hands. If the rope on either side were allowed to slip, the rafts would be mercilessly jerked away by the churning water and dragged down the river into oblivion.
Rain poured down in heavy drops that splashed apart wherever they fell, and the river rushed.
Pioneer families stood on the shore, awaiting their turn to climb onto the rope tied, stick rafts, to cross the Chinchipe and claim their land.
I'm out of space for today.
I will continue on tomorrow.
This is how many of the farm families from whom we buy cacao originally came to homestead their land in the 1960's. It was a modern-day frontier movement.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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