Updated: Aug 14, 2021
We had timed our trip(s) to coincide with the dry season. Annual rain fall in the area is 250+ inches each year. My 1st night on the mountain was a shock. You could watch army ants cut off large leaves from a plant next to my hut and they carried away the whole plant by the next morning.
Everything grew. Every thing moved. Even as you watched, you could see the plants searching for sunlight and an open space to breath. (If you missed part 1, you can read it here.)
I woke up before the sun could break the mountain top only to look down and see a fungus or some type of algae growing on my cot, my backpack and the skin on my exposed arm.
This was going to be a trip worth talking about. The jungles of SE Asia and Panama had nothing on this forest. My hosts were nonchalant and went about cooking some type of coffee in a cast iron skillet that we brought along. That coffee would take your head off if you weren't careful. Nothing to see here. Move along.
The village had a common stove to cook on. A baked table of clay appx 1 meter across. Build a fire under this clay table and an hour later, you could cook. Right on top of the clay stove. No one in the village owned pots or pans. Using a flat rock and round stone, the women ground the corn and made tortillas for every meal. Dishes were a luxury none could afford. We had brought corn and beans and other staples as a gift. ($20 for the food stock, and $50 fine for not having a permit to carry food across a state border)
The tribal members were generous to a fault and would give you anything you asked for, including their last tortilla or cup of beans. We had to be careful not to bankrupt the village just by being a guest. They had almost nothing, but they would give you everything. ( A lesson learned the hard way.)
Years ago, I swore I would never again drink the black poison I was exposed to in the Army, but this coffee they served us took caffein to a new high. The coffee beans smelled amazing. I was starting to understand an insect vs the venus fly trap. Hoping against hope not to be trapped. With my new found energy ; we visited with near by neighbors and then started the expeditionary/ mapping trek down the trail to find the highway.
The other 5 Americans and the translators in my group stayed awhile and then took the main "trail" back to the trail head. They were older and wiser than myself. But, this was an adventure; so here I went. Off the side of a cliff and into the jungle.
Not to waste any energy, the two guides were taking huge baskets of a local fruit down to the roadside farmers market. There they would trade for corn and beans, and maybe some fabric or rope. These indigenous people were very small in stature. I never did meet one over 5'2". The teenagers seemed like small children to an American such as myself.
The goat trail we "traveled" was treacherous and the two men with me navigated the rocks and cliffs like nothing I have seen. 5'2" and the huge basket on their back was a sight to see. I later tried to lift one of the baskets. I could not budge it. It must have weighed over 160 lbs. I instantly had a new respect for these 2 small men.
Are you starting to get a sense of the work and resources involved to mobilize men, supplies, money, and regulatory documents from one nation to another.
At the time I made my 1st trip, crypto was not even an idea; but we struggled thru the old fashioned way, as we had no choice. After this 1st trip, I made 4 more trips. Each one more time consuming and more expensive.
Each trip was not only for planning, but to accomplish what litte we could given the rain and the Government involvement . The operational side seemed to bogged down in paper work , permits, union disputes ( yes the state electricians union) and the largest disputes were; which jurisdictions would have pervue. The one that had control over the building permits would be the one to collect the largest and the most fines. They would follow each portion of the project with their hand out for bribes and fines. State, District, or regional government.
If you were not careful, you were fined for walking down the road and if you drove, you were fined for driving. If your papers were not in perfect order or you did not "tip" the police, they would seize your vehicle.
In the end we ran power to a small building on the side of the mountain, and the locals tapped on to that and ran one line further up. The 1st night, all the children gathered at the elders hut and one of the older children read a book to them. And they celebrated.
They celebrated until later when they got the power bill for using one light and a fan. We had no idea how expensive electricity was in the region . A man that came down the mountain and worked all week, harvesting sugar cane; would make about $9.00 American. The 1st months power bill was over $100 American.
Almost 12 weeks of hard work just to pay your 1 month light bill. (We supported this village for almost 10 years due to our "helping" them.) During that time the government tried to take their land and later ; some unethical bankers loaned them money to build a small one room house that would serve as a church/school house and a meeting place.
One month after the room was finished, the bank foreclosed on the loan with a hidden clause in the contract. No adult in the village could read or write , but some how the bank closed the loan and loaned the money. Then they came back up the mountain and tried to foreclose.
We made another hasty trip and at the border, we exchanged $11,000 USD into the local money and hired guards to travel with us. This was a large suitcase full of bills. We made it safely to the bank and paid off the loan, hired a lawyer, and made them promise not to accept any more money from bankers.
Even a fast trip , traveling light and with the experience of all the men in the group, this round trip took 8 days. The loan on the building was for $600 dollars, but the bank somehow ran it up to $11,000.