I cannot resist taking one of the side streets. I can see that at the end of the block, the building spans over top of the street . I walk down the several stairs and continue on the street. There are several businesses and a hotel here on both sides of the street. Then I go out under the building that reaches across the street and see the road continues upward.
I climb up the narrow stone streets, sometimes in the street, sometimes there are stairs going upward. All the streets have solid rows of buildings on each side. Some are obviously stores and have the business name written on it; some are homes with sounds of chickens audible.
When I reach the top of one stairway, to the left around the corner and buildings, there are about 5 or 6 men huddled around a fire. They are all drinking from huge fat bottles of beer and it is barely 8am.
I great them as I turn to continue going up stairs away from them. One of the guys comes over and speaks to me. He notices the map I am carrying and points out where we are now.
And he points out the highest place on the map, the direction in which I am going. He wants to accompany me there. I thank him politely and tell him I’m going by myself. He shakes my hand and wants to give me a hug, a feliz navidad hug – I firmly hold him back and tell him no hugs.
Another man with the same huge bottle calls out to me. He has on a full-length black leather coat and matching hat. He points up to the top of the mountain and tells me he’ll show me the way. I thank him and tell him I am going by myself, sola.
And I continue up the steep stone roads and stairs. I see the united poor people of the barrio office and make a note to come back Monday, if I’m still here.
When I reach the end of the buildings and the last road, I see the stone road joins an asphalt road a block away. As I walk the stone road, I see a basketball court carved into the side of the hill just below the road, so one length of the court ends at the edge of the cliff, with a tall fence on all sides and the fence on this side reaching all the way up to where I’m at.
I start to follow the pavement a little ways until I see a red clay path up the mountain. I take that path. I climb and climb and climb. The path seems to have been made by pink cement or clay. And golden grass lays across it too where it has been recently mowed.
I stop frequently, to catch my breath, but to also gaze out over the city, and get my bearings so I don’t get lost – but I just have to head down and I’ll be fine!
I pick my way up the hill as the pink cement changes to little pink stones and then there’s no stones but just a mowed path. Suddenly a cave appears in the side of the mountain – a cave strewn with little, evidence of humans, maybe even living in this cave.
I peek in but do not go in. I keep climbing up the mountain, trying to figure out the right path. I get very very high when the path seems to end at really narrow, steep steps that disappear. I attempt to climb but then give up. I know if my friend Bridget were here, we would make it up the hill.
I go back down to a place where the path splits and this time I decide to take the other split. It takes me around the mountain to the opposite side. There is much more vegetation on this side and suddenly the path joins a narrow stone road and stone steps that appears to go up. Every few feet there is a stone cross in the side of the path upward.
I finally reach what appears to be the top. There is a huge building that looks like it could be a church on top and a stone road along the side that leads to another building. People are walking down the road from above, carrying their wares to the side of the road.