Getting to the Town above the Clouds

The locals call Pampas Grande "El Balcón Suspendido entre el Mar y el Cielo," translated as "The Balcony Suspended between the Sea and the Sky." Once you're there, you understand why. On a clear morning, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean. But later in the afternoon, when the clouds roll into the valley below, you realize that you're quite literally standing in the sky.

Getting to the balcony is no piece of pastel. This year, Sean Byrne collected GPS data on the last leg of our drive up the mountains, which is summarized in the image below. As you can see, while this portion of the drive was just over 57 miles, it took us about 4 hours to reach Pampas Grande-- meaning that our average speed was 14.5 mph. This tortoise's pace is more understandable when you see that we actually went 2 and a half miles upward. (See all the zig-zags?) It's no wonder that we're gasping for oxygen by the time we arrive.

Sean's GPS data shows us just how geographically isolated our site is from...well...everything. For people that live here, this makes finding and getting to health care a challenge. Even people that live just a 15 minute's drive from Pampas Grande often travel over 2 hours by foot or donkey to see the physician in the health post in Pampas Grande.

We've been trying to come up with ways to combat this geographical barrier to health care. For instance, this year during our visit, Dr. Paula Tamashiro, a physcian from Peru with whom we work closely, arranged for our van to go to each of the nearby villages to transport people to the health post. Additionally, University of Richmond students have donated a truck to be used as an abulance, should anyone from the community need to be transported to the hospital in Huaraz.

Check out this article about the efforts of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers to set up an infrastructure for telemedicine in remote areas of the Peruvian jungle: Providing Telemedicine to Peru's Medical Outposts. Perhaps this model could be used in Pampas Grande to increase access to medical specialists in Lima or other areas of the world. It is certainly an idea to explore further!