on seeing the hats again

It was on the way here that we turned up at the wrong place, lost each other buying provisions, and took a taxi backwards, before scrambling onto the bus.

It was hours later that a man called Pablo met the bus and cooked us banana pancakes. It was here that I slept on a mattress with no sheets, stumbling across the black courtyard to clean my teeth before morning.

It was a mile or so away that we drank sweet tea, and ate bread and boiled eggs, as the sun rose pink against the far snow. It was at Cruz del Condor that the condors rose swirling from the canyon below. For an instant they drew level with us, then up, gone, away.

It was here we parted ways. It was heading back to Cabanaconde that the man overcharged us such a small amount, but the woman sitting next to me rebuked him and reminded him to welcome these strangers.

It was from the mountains that two bearded Americans appeared, holding an empty, blue plastic water can. It was here a child played in the muddy street, and offered us lúcuma, a melon-peach fruit that we peeled with a pen-knife. Sunset fruit. It was in the square where we whiled away the afternoon sun, watching kids play football outside the white church.

It was here an old man, alone in his house, made delicate hats of black woolen cloth, steamed into shape, and covered in embroidered flowers and birds. It was in this tiny village that the women wore plastic bags over their hats to protect them against the rain.

It was here, years later, a friend read in the guest book that I had hurt my finger; but I don't remember how.

It was from the canyon's edge that far below we saw a footprint of green, El Oasis, and a boy offered to take us there on his mule. It was in the plaza that I would have eaten roasted llama, had it not been for a friend's warning shout.

It was from here that we caught the wrong bus back down the valley.