By Darin Wahl
We were hiking in a narrow valley along a small creek wending its way through the rock maze. It was one of those creek valley combos that made me wonder at the power and mystery of water in a landscape: How did this little creek carve this beautiful canyon? The sky clouded over. And a drizzle began that quickly turned into a proper rainstorm. We rushed under a small overhang for shelter. Rainstorms here are quick affairs. The creek was 6 or 7 meters away from our hideout and at least a meter and half down. We chatted unperturbed about easily forgotten things. Not thinking about what, obviously, we should have been thinking about.
Gustavo was quiet and watchful. Which was his MO. He was our guide. Constantly, checking in on us, ‘you ok?’ ‘you need a rest?’. So, it was a bit of a surprise when he, almost as an aside, said, “Ok” and proceeded to billy-goat up the valley side. ‘Where did he go?’ We wondered. ‘Maybe he’s checking on something,’ we thought. Two seconds later, after exclamations of ‘get your shit get your shit!’ we hurriedly followed him, if not nearly as gracefully. Five minutes after that, our “shelter” was underwater and the creek wasn’t a creek but a rushing, gushing, dare I say, angry river. “Oh, ok. I get it.”
We made it safely back to town, and settled in for another meal of boiled potatoes, boiled or raw carrots, and parboiled rice. It took us a couple days to ask, because we were worried about being dicks, but finally: “Hey Gustavo, what’s up with all the potatoes and carrots?”
“I am very sorry. It’s the blockades. Food deliveries can’t get through. We haven’t had fresh food in weeks. This,” he gestured across the street to the market that displayed its two piles of plenty, “is what we have left.” His look of shame confirmed that yes, we were dicks. So the next day, when I found a boiled worm in my boiled potato, I cringed on the inside, cussing silently when I realized that it was just half a worm. Outwardly however, my face stayed calm, my chewing barely slowed, and I didn’t even rush when I grabbed for my water bottle. I looked out past the few buildings of the village, across the creek to where dinosaurs roamed and dark earth mysteries lived, feeling the sun on my face and the mountain breeze at my back, and re-considered this potato. Delicious, I now thought, popping the rest in my mouth.