July 14 & 15
Before we settled into Paucartambo for the annual Fiesta de la Mamacha Carmen, we took a side trip to an old hacienda that has been in the family for as long as I can remember. My dad took my mom there on her first trip to Peru, and it has always held a special place in all of our hearts. It is called Pumachaca, which I think means the bridge of the puma. I must have visited Pumachaca maybe three or four times when I was a child. I remember celebrating my 7th birthday there. My grandmother, Mama Carmen, sprinkled rose petals over my head while the family sang me happy birthday. That is a vivid memory. I also remember putting my white, monogrammed cardigan sweater on one of the dogs because he looked like he was cold. I might or might not have gotten fleas as a result. On one of the childhood trips to Pumachaca, my mom’s parents accompanied us. So not only do I have memories of my Peruvian grandmother there, but also of my American grandparents. It’s one of those places that even though I didn’t spend a ton of time there, it is a pillar of my childhood memories from Peru. As kids, my brother and I explored the farmland, played in the river, and made friends with the animals. We had freedom to roam all around the main house, the guest houses, the animal pens, the old mill down by the river, and the river itself. The grown-ups stayed in the house talking and cooking like grown-ups did. Michael and I struck out on adventures.
This time it was only us. No kitchen filled with voices cooking, no family crowds gathered by the fireplace. But it was perfect. Just like I remembered it, with a rustic, patina sheen over the whole experience. We arrived with Hugo, Marichley, and a distant cousin Ivette. I had never met Ivette before, but by the end of the trip I truly felt like she was family. She had so many great stories about all kinds of relatives. We found the turn off to Pumachaca just off the main road about 30 minutes past Paucartambo. We had been warned by my cousin Susan that there is no longer a bridge. So Jeff and Hugo rearranged a few rocks and plotted a course for us to cross the river in our trusty Honda.
While Jeff and the car made their way across the river, we walked over a pedestrian bridge that was soon occupied by other visitors.
We pulled up to the old hacienda and in so many ways it looked exactly the same. A modest house, with just the basics. The house overlooks fields below, and a river that glistens in the sun. You can see the old mill in its current run down state, but the old mill stone is still in there (not pictured).
We had a lovely picnic by the river. Just like Michael and I used to do, the kids ran off and explored the river, climbed on rocks, took off their shoes and socks, and got dirty.
And then the animals! Pigs, piglets, chickens, chicks, cows, puppies, frogs, guinea pigs, oh my. One of my all time Peru highlights is catching one of the piglets for Carmen. It was hilarious–the mama pig was having none of it so Jeff would lure her to one side while Carmen and I tried to grab a piglet. They were so cute, but I think we might have traumatized the mama. When I finally did catch one it squealed so loudly and the mama pig went nuts. She was tied up and couldn’t get to her little one. I gave the piglet quickly to Carmen and then we let him go soon after. Jeff thought the pigs were so cute that he has refused to eat bacon since.
The house is definitely rough around the edges since no one is really looking after it closely. But here are a few shots of what the Rancho Paraiso look like now (that is what Tia Lucha and Tio Lenny called the hacienda).
Once the sun went behind the mountains, Hugo, Marichley, and Ivette left us to go to Paucartambo to catch the beginnings of the Fiesta there. The air chilled quickly so we asked the caretaker to help us cut some wood for the fireplace.
Jeff manned the propane stove, and we put together enough a dinner to tide us over until morning. We spent the evening just as I remembered spending the evenings with my parents, sitting by the fire, telling stories, playing card games, and enjoying the heat of the fireplace.
Carmen and Charlie got the living room nooks for bedtime, while Jeff, Cooper, and I shared the main dormitory. It was warm and cozy from the fire, and we slept so well.
In the morning we had a picnic breakfast in front of another fire. The kids ran off to play with all the animals again. We could have stayed there another week or at least another night, but Paucartambo awaited. I hope to return again someday. I’d love to spend a month fixing the place up, cleaning the kitchen, repairing the rough spots, planting flowers, and sitting by that fireplace. What a magical place.