Friday, April 1, 2005

Hide and Seek

We continued along the ridge; we could see the next village off in the distance. This village was considerably bigger than the one we had just left. The settlements were always on the valley floors and surrounded by hills of different heights. The bigger the valley, the bigger the village. The road we walked on rose and fell with the contour of the ground. The slopes on both sides were terraced, cultivated with meticulous care and order.

We trudged toward the village in the same direction the military vehicle had just come from. In the back of our minds we wondered if there would be another encounter with the stone faced military guy. Soon the village was directly below us; we looked for the entrance point on the crude hand written map we carried. We deciphered the directions, turned left, crossed a bridge, and descended into the village. Immediately we met a man and woman. We spoke to them in their language, giving them the customary greeting. I gestured toward my camera for a picture. The woman shook her head back and forth adamantly -- there would be no picture taken of her!
Once again we turned west and set our sights on the back edge of the village. The procedure never changed: go through the village and make sure the drops were behind you. Never retrace your steps -- ever!

We were always being observed. Every time we attempted to make a drop, someone would be watching. They weren't watching with the curiosity we experienced in the last village; they were keeping an eye on us. We could feel a tension. We also noticed that we did not see one child outside. We believe the villagers had been warned to avoid us.

Next, we came upon a man seated on the ground splitting pieces of wood into ever finer strips. After observing for a few minutes, we could see he was making chop sticks. I managed to get a picture.

Pretending to take pictures, we used our camera as our own means of surveilance. If the coast was clear we would make a drop -- at least 75% of the time it was not! Creativity prevailed and we managed to find a few places where the Great Treasure we left behind would be found.

At this point we had ridden a bus for 2 1/2 hours, ridden a tuk-tuk eight miles, and walked three to four miles. It was a beautiful day, and a gentle breeze kept the 85 degree temperature very comfortable. We crossed a thin land bridge that separated rice paddies and walked along a field of indigo. With another mile behind us, we turned right and headed east.

Our game of hide and seek continued.

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