Moro’s Zamser Superwoman

After a rather short stop in the resort town Tortugas, out-of-season, deserted and rubbish strewn as it was, we made our way towards a town called Moro. It was where we would be meeting up with Bidi, a friend from Liechtenstein who worked for the LED (Liechtenstein Development Service). He was on a tour of some projects that they backed with Moro’s being one of them. The project was founded and run by a few hardy Zamser sisters who had been posted out there for over 20 years. At the small town’s main plaza, over the counter of a small café, all it took was a mention of a certain Sister Rebecca and sure enough within 5 minutes she came roaring up in her habit at the wheel of her big 4x4 to lead the way back to the compound.

The compound was a small piece of Austrian homeland out in the Andean foothills of Peru. The well-kept, fenced in grounds contained a guesthouse, a restaurant, a girl’s dormitory, a juice and jam factory, a textile factory, a garage for the upkeep of the equipment, a hall for events, a museum and at the back a small vineyard, vegetable gardens and livestock and that was just the start of an ambitious enterprise with more projects extending up the valley and onto the highlands. Once we had spend some time with Sister Rebecca we came to understand how all this had been achieved.

That night after a typical meal of the finest ceviche (raw fish with lemon juice and spices) and cuy (guinea pig) washed down with a ‘weissbier’ or two with Sister Rebecca, we decided to try out Moro’s night life with Bidi. It being a Sunday, first came the obligatory stop at the church followed by a selection of Moro’s hangouts which we were surprised to find all rather full of drunken men and women. Didn’t they have to work the next day? Towards the end of the night a fight broke out and it got a bit too exciting when someone fired shots into the air. The ‘someone’ turned out to be the cops but that wasn’t very reassuring. Time to go to bed!

Over the next few days we were lucky to get to know the multitude of projects and Sister Rebecca better. The launch of the first aid kit campaign meant we could get a look at the far-flung projects via one of the most ambitious, the newly built Rio Loco road. All the LED representatives , us and the ‘Caminemos unidos’ agricultural expert were squashed into two 4x4’s to climb the steep and rocky terrain of the ‘Crazy river’ valley. Sister Rebecca shared a few anecdotes with us about the difficulties of building the road and the ups and downs of the conveniences that it brought.

The lower part of the valley was lush with avocado and mango trees but as we climbed the landscape grew wilder and more barren and the temperature dropped. Arriving at the school where the ceremonial handover of the Kits would take place we were greeted by live music and hordes of brightly dressed kids from the primary school. The nominees, some of whom came from remote villages with no access to the road, had been trained in the administering of basic medicines and now posed for pictures in front of their gleaming white and red cross adorned boxes. In the background a doctor worked his way through a queue of patients and tall-hatted Moms looked on calmly spinning wool with their free hand. After the ceremony we were invited by the village elder to a meal and after passing the myriad of cute, fluffy guinea pigs in his shed we all breathed a sigh of relief when ‘Cuy’ wasn’t served.  We carried on up to the pass and onto the Altiplano before turning onto a ‘better’ road that would take us back to Moro. At the crossroads we glimpsed our planned route to Hauraz in the famous Cordillera Blanca. It looked pretty rough.

A constant drizzle made the descent even hairier than it already was, slick and with steep drops on the valley side I gripped the armrest tightly and got sicker and sicker. Eventually, we arrived back in Moro, tired and happy to be back in its balmy climate. We had realised that with a combination of the start of the wet season and the possibility of a loosening of the cylinder bolts we couldn’t chance the isolated and torturous roads that led over the highlands to Huaraz. There went the plans to see the mountaineering centre of South America. 

On our last evening we were treated to pachamanca:  vegetables, maize and meat cooked slowly in their leaf wrappings under a mound of soil. We relaxed together with some of the workers and Sister Rebecca, drinking beer and listening to guitar strummed songs written in her honour. All we had left to do now was to pick up our ‘samdiaries’ T-shirt order before we hit the Panamericana north again. Our jar of ‘Moro, Mango and Passion Fruit’ jam would be finished soon but our memories of Moro would last a lot longer.