The sun feels hotter as we lower ourselves from the mountains. We skirt the edges of the farms, sometimes following overgrown tractor roads following the property boarders but other times meandering onto the back roads within the farm communities. We meet women working in orchards, men cycling along the roads, and grandparents sitting on stoops. Children pause their soccer game to curiously examine our maps and follow us. I hear lots of giggles and sure enough some are impersonating how we are walking with our large backpacks. We all laugh as we imitate them back, play games of walking funny, or dance.
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The next day we climb over the pointy wires of property fences and walk the mountain’s labyrinth-like boulder fields and meandering waterways. The terrain is very manageable, but we are headed for higher, extreme mountain terrain— and with approaching extreme weather to add more difficulty. We constantly double-check our navigation, weather, and ability to manage it all. Our day becomes an odd walk balancing between easy terrain but stressful walking.
As we consult the maps yet again, making sure we are headed up the correct area of the mountain, we see the escalation of weather moving to greet us.
We are forced to make a decision whether its safe to continue. After a group discussion, we agree to retreat down the mountain. Light rain and darkness cover the midday sun, but walking back to the lowlands releases all of our tension and keeps the group’s sprits raised even in the foul weather.
I take my time walking slowly behind the group, enjoying the moody weather and somber afternoon. With the grey and wet of the day, the colors have a muted vibrance — reflective of the vibe for the afternoon.