Looking for a Body in the River

This morning I woke up early, for some reason. I could have used more sleep but instead I was awake at six in the morning and trying to go back to sleep. It was nearly eight in the morning when Jorge came by feeling bad about our guide screwing up and Silvio having to move to a different, and much more expensive, hotel. He seemed genuinely sorry, but we told him it wasn’t a huge deal. We found our own way around the site and enjoyed it.

Silvio explained what we were going back to Machu Picchu for, and then he waited with Raul while we ate breakfast, such as it was, and packed the rest of our gear. On the drive I used Silvio’s Gopro to film the streetscape. There are a hundred pictures that you see as you fly past with a driver honking and pulling around slower vehicles and those are ones that you never get. I hope to be able to capture stills from the shaky camera held out a window.

We came to the train station much more quickly than I expected. I recognized it from the cobble stone street which it is illegal to tarmac because it is an Incan site. The walls are by times shaped rocks as well, although many of them are roughly placed rather than shaped. Silvio ran around dealing with finding the tickets while I waited near the gate with the packs, for they are heavy and not worth dragging around, and even though the time was late for the train, one of the train workers was informed about our mission, and he went ahead, claiming we were part of the rescue team. They held the train, and we were escorted onto the car.

Once we were on the train, we spent our time examining the video Silvio had downloaded about how to use the drone. It was pretty boring watching, but there were part of it that Silvio didn’t understand, so he got me to translate, or at least explain. Once the train arrived, I had more of the tech information about the drone in my head than I really wanted, but at least I can help him with the drone while he is flying around and amongst the trees and rocks.

We waited a little at the station for the Argentines to arrive, and then they—the Argentine consul from Lima, and a forest ranger from Patagonia, escorted us to the hotel. We checked in, it met Silvio’s standards, more or less, and we set our equipment to charge. The team met us downstairs a few minutes later, and we went with them, as well as a forensic psychologist, along the river. No one really knew where they were going, unfortunately, so we ended up following the railway track until we even went through a tunnel. The trains here clip very close to the electrical poles and the sidewalls of the tunnels, so we would be a bit freaked out if a train came. I found a way down before the next tunnel, since there was a fine road below. I have no idea why we were on the train track anyway, since we would be going along the river.

Once we were on the road, the going was much easier. I have no idea why they didn’t organize a drive out to the area where we needed to be, since it was four or five kilometres along the river. Once we saw where the guy had likely crossed the river, I could see where there might be a problem, especially if the water was high enough. The relatively shallow but fast meltwater river looked tricky, but just below a person who lost their footing would be swept into the large boulders and thrashing water. I went over the bank to get a closer look at the rocks, but when I was on my way back the ranger guy came after me and told me—very seriously—that if I was going to be going with their team I had to stay with them. I agreed with him, and we carried onward, him showing me the way up the hill as though we were climbing a mountain.

We went further along the railway tracks, and there were many tourists walking beside and in front of us. There are a few camping spots along the river, as well as special lodges which claim to be environmental, but that seemed to have no effect on the tourists who threw their water bottles away once they had finished with them. Once we found the area, there was a bit of a quilombo about how to get down the bank, although it was straightforward enough. We went to the sand bar, and then, as a light rain started, Silvio and I tried to configure the drone. It only managed to get into contact with a few satellites, so it was confused and would only go a few feet off the ground. We reset it, but it didn’t help. The rain became heavier and we waited under a tree, and then tried it again in a brief window between storms. It acted no differently, and didn’t pick up any satellites at all this time.

We walked back in the rain, and the scene was familiar. The Argentines never have any problem completely ignoring someone in their midst, so I walked along as they talked about something and nothing. I was wet, but the rainforest is beautiful, the tourists funny as they go by pretending no one is around them, and the rapids in the river interesting to watch. I saw a bird Christiano could have identified easily enough, a large red breasted bird with an iridescent blue cap on its head. It was a bit larger than a robin, and sat on the gravel bank at the edge of the stream.

Once we were back at the hotel, they let us go, promising that the third bed in our room would be taken by one of them, and the ranger drew the short straw. He came and him and Silvio talked while I wrote. I need to go over the past few days and fix them up, for I have been remiss with the blog lately. I’ve been writing, but we only have time late at night when I am exhausted. The altitude sickness seemed to have worn off, although I am taking it easy, depending on what you call walking ten kilometres in the rain along a railway track. I feel better though, and we have tomorrow to try to get the drone working so we can at least check the river with it.

Silvio is trying to get my tablet to work with his phone so he can control the drone from it while he is flying, but it is more frustrating than useful and I think that it might be a waste of time.

About Barry Pomeroy

I had an English teacher in high school many years ago who talked about writing as something that people do, rather than something that died with Shakespeare. I began writing soon after, maudlin poetry followed by short prose pieces, but finally, after years of academic training, I learned something about the magic of the manipulated word.
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