Hailstones kills 200 animals in Colcha K, Potosi:
"Residents of the area have called for immediate help from local authorities…the population of the community of Pozo Cavado, for example, said that they base their living on rearing llamas, sheep and goats: the natural disaster killed their only source of income" (Today’s news, La Prensa)
In the evening gloaming, the village stretched out lazily down the valley. The flickering-green trees, fields of fertile crops and stalky-grass, that spread up from the trickling stream, contrasted with the monotone-brown hills and the vast open flat plain that spread out at the valley mouth.
In the distance, under thickening rain-black clouds, a woman hurried towards the village with a flock of contented llamas trotting ahead. The adobe-brick village seemed to be asleep; the large black church door like a half-shut eye.
At 10.30pm, we headed back into the village centre following the muffled sounds of a brass band. We breathed in the rain-cleansed night air, our heart beats quickening as the music got louder.
We gently pushed through a crowded doorway into a hall bedecked with green and white balloons and crammed with improbably-large loudspeakers. People shuffled rhythmically in the centre of the hall as a large brass band, that needed no amplification, belted out popular tunes.
We stood awkwardly at the edge of the room, until a woman came over and garlanded us with streamers, threw confetti over our heads and thrust the rich-green fronds of a fennel plant into our hands. It clearly felt like permission to dance as we moved into the centre, and entered the hypnotic dance that filled the room.
Gradually the circle unravelled into a snake-like chain.
A young woman with fashionably-cut short hair and a dark red pollera (traditional pleated skirt) soundlessly grabbed my hand. We whirled out of the hall, twisting along and back through small adobe-lined streets before unfurling into the village square.
Another band and group of dancers swept into the square. The merging and clashing of sounds and movement blasted light and music into the star-studded sky. Occasionally I caught glimpses of Juliette and Graham caught in the same relentless dance.
My dancing partner seemed to gain new energy, whisking me faster and faster around the square which filled ever more thickly with people. As she energetically galloped me around, landscapes that had accompanied me in the last few days spun in front of me – vast white plains of salty nothingness, mountains that seemed to dissolve into the landscape like watercolours into blotting paper, lakes whose subtle tones of colour no artist’s palette could recreate, a bubbling earth that thumped, groaned and belched volcanic minerals into the air, the planet’s metallic offerings which so dramatically paint this border-country landscape of Southern Bolivia.
Suddenly the music came to a abrupt halt. A few formal words were uttered from a balcony, a small glass of sickly-sweet champagne was thrust into my hand, fireworks crackled and exploded. I turned to Gloria. "I thought Colcha K was such a quiet place," I said breathlessly. She smiled gently. "But you really know how to party. Happy new year. I wish you all the b…" But she had gone, leaving a faint infusion of fennel and perfume in the night air.
As we wandered back to our simple guesthouse, Colcha K seemed infused with a sense of energy after the explosive celebratory farewell to the previous year. 2007 seemed to beckon with hope.