Category Archives: 2011 Peru Immersion
“Eventful” only barely manages to describe our last week. After finishing our service project on Wednesday – and eating a delicious meal provided by the parents of the students from the school – our next focus was on our trek to Machu Picchu, though a surprise party put together by the hosts mothers that night did take our minds off of the looming hike for a little while. There was an equal amount of nerves and excitement when we woke up at 3:30 Thursday morning to hop on vans to Santa Teresa, where we would start our hike. The windy mountain roads, though excellent lookout points, weren’t always friendly to the stomachs of some of the students, but everyone pulled through and started the hike together after breakfast. The hike was definitely challenging, but eventually everyone found their pace and stuck with it. We familiarized ourselves with various different types of terrain, hiking on trails carved into the side of the mountain, walking on paths through tall grasses, and even crossing the Urubamba river 3 at a time in a small-but-sturdy pulley cart. Our reward for the day of hiking was our stop in the hot springs, but even after the relaxing baths at the end of day one, we were all ready for the sleeping bags that awaited us in our tents at the campsite. The strong sunlight made the next day of hiking challenging in its own way – at least before lunch. However, following the PeruRail train tracks after lunch made up for the tough morning. We walked in the shade of the cloud forest and crossed bridges over what seemed like an unlimited number of pretty little rivers. That night we had some well-appreciated pizza for dinner in Aguas Calientes and got ourselves to bed so we could be ready for our early morning wakeup for our hike to Machu Picchu.
Though we were duly warned beforehand that the hike was virtually all uphill, it didn’t make it any easier once we started. Unfortunately, not everyone was feeling well enough to hike that morning and some students took the bus up to Machu Picchu, but we all entered the park together. Our first stop once inside Machu Picchu itself was Waynapicchu, the peak from which we could get a complete view of the archeological site and its namesake mountain. The hike up to Waynapicchu made some of us never want to see a staircase again, but it was worth it once we got to the top and had a complete view of not only the incredible ruins but also their extraordinary surroundings. The sights of the tree-covered Andes, the rivers between each mountain, and the snow covered peaks in the distance were worth all of the morning’s exertion. After carefully returning to the base, we met our tour guide Javier, who taught us about the names of the mountains, the traditions of the Incas, the purposes of the buildings, and the importance of animals like the Condor. Fun fact – Machu Picchu means “old mountain” and its opposing peak, Waynapicchu, means “young mountain”. Both the well-preserved sundial and the perfectly situated Temple of the Sun demonstrated to us the significance of the sun and its patterns to Incan life. Though it would have taken hours more than we had to really see everything, we left with a feeling of accomplishment and a lot of new knowledge about the Incan treasure.
After a quick lunch we hopped on the PeruRail to Ollantaytambo for a last afternoon with our host families. We packed our bags, ate our final meal, and said a sad goodbye to the parents and siblings who had warmly welcomed us into their homes and to whom we owe our great memories of Ollantay. With the thought of our next destination – the Amazon – in the back of our minds, it was a bittersweet night. We had plenty of time to reminisce on our 11 hour bus ride – enough time to make us all grateful to finally get to Puerto Maldonado, our first stop in the Amazon.
Though it was very humid in the jungle, we all got adapted pretty quickly. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and our excursions were awesome – from taking a boat at night to go searching for wildlife to eating a local dish on the shores of Lake Sandoval before swimming for a little while. One thing that our group had to get used to was some new wildlife – both the good and the bad. From giant spiders to scheming spider monkeys, our group experienced brief moments of suspense but at the same time, constant amazement. Around our bungalows we found everything from parrots to bats to plants that are used for anesthesia. After a month in a beautiful country, our stay in the Amazon solidified the sadness we feel about our impending departure. Though our trip has ended, we are left with incredible memories and a new love for all of the people we met and all of the places we visited.
Blog Written by Emma Neiman
Disculpa la demora, sorry for the delay! limited internet access in Peru, Imagine that!
Peru Immersion 2011: Photo Update: Biking in Chinchero, Ruins in Moray, and Las salineras (salt flats)
Saturday morning brought us a highly-anticipated weekend in Cusco. All we could think about on the bus ride back to the city was how nice hot showers were going to be. After settling in, the group gathered for lunch and a quick trip to the ruins that overlook Cusco. We learned about Incan rulers who had built Sacsayhuaman and experienced the “underworld” as our tour guide, Chino, led us through a narrow, pitch-black tunnel.
The following day, the students were told to gather at the hotel at 11 am. We were then given directions for the Photo Scavenger Hunt. In groups of 4, the teams were released with very few instructions. We were told to take pictures of all the items on the list and the leaders would judge the photos based on creativity and originality. Some of the items include the most expensive hotel in Cusco, a rock with 12 corners, 3 cathedrals, Qorecancha (The Temple of the Sun), and the narrowest street in Cusco. We were also given money for lunch and could eat anywhere besides McDonald’s or KFC- the boys were a little disappointed. We had an awesome day exploring on our own and returned to the hotel with all kinds of fun stories. At the end of the day, Groups 4 and 5 tied! (Jack, Emma, Clara, Olivia, Sarah, Caroline and Kelsea). Our prize was ice cream during work on Monday, which was much enjoyed.
Sunday night was just as exciting. Sara, one of our leaders, helped organize a dinner and private concert at The Frog – a swanky little spot where she performed with her former Peruvian band mates. The students loved it! We sat on bean bags for dinner and listened to live music with Spanish lyrics. We even ended the night with chocolate cake for Kira’s birthday!
We made our way back to Ollanta on Monday and were able to squeeze in visiting the sacred ruins here before lunch. After that it was back to work. We’ve just about finished plastering the entire cafeteria and have made great progress laying rocks for the cement floor’s foundation. The project has proved to be more exhausting (but also more rewarding!) than any of us expected.
Thursday we took another field trip to a huge outdoor market in Pisac- about an hour and a half from our village. Everyone was able to buy traditional Peruvian textiles and got to try out their haggling skills. The most purchased items so far have been colorful high top sneakers, jewelry for ourselves and/or our moms/sisters and alpaca sweaters in a variety of patterns, colors and styles.
Quite a few of us have had either upset stomachs and/or colds but we’re all hanging in their and working hard! The homestays have gone smoothly and our host moms have been taking good care of us- apparently coca tea fixes everything. Tomorrow we look forward to another break from work for an all-day bike ride through the Sacred Valley.
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO FROM CUSCO AND KIRA’S BIRTHDAY CONCIERTO:
Check out what the students have been up to!
-Teri Lyshorn, Media Guide
We arrived in Ollantaytambo on the 4th of July, not to fireworks, but instead to the host families eagerly awaiting us. After a brief introduction and welcome from the mayor’s daughter, we began settling in to our new homes. Nestled among the majestic peaks of the Andes, with a view of over 700-year old Incan ruins, “Ollanta” (as the locals call it) is alive with culture, tradition, and a new perspective.
Though the showers are a little chilly, and the food can be tasty yet unsettling, we go home each night with the pride of knowing that our service project is making an impact at a local elementary school. At Virgen de Fatima, the students come from agricultural communities in the mountains, most of whom walk at least 30 minutes to get to school. Due to the fact that this school has fewer resources, the faculty and parents often feel burdened to raise money and materials to enhance its facilities. As a result, the children typically eat their lunches in classrooms or outdoors. Our project in Ollanta is to continue building the “comedor,” or cafeteria, that the 2010 Walking Tree Peru Immersion group started last summer. Our goal is to finish plastering the walls and lay the concrete floor. We hope to have time to paint a mural as well!
The very first day we learned the traditional (time consuming) Peruvian method of plastering, which involves collecting water from the nearby stream and mixing it with hundred-pound bags of plaster we transported via bicycle cart from a shed up the cobblestone road. Half the group also braved the bumpy mountain trails to transport hundreds of large rocks that we will later use as a foundation for the concrete floor. We moved the rocks one-by-one into the school by forming a human conveyer belt. During work breaks, we play soccer, volleyball, and jump rope with the students, who embarrassingly destroy us and challenge our athletic skills (we’ll blame it on the altitude). See attached video composed by our awesome media guide, Teri.
Everyone in the group is experiencing unique challenges in their homestays, but we are adapting well, and the families are all extremely welcoming. We are all nervously awaiting our first time trying “cuy,” the Peruvian delicacy commonly known as guinea pig. While we miss home, many of us have fallen in love with Peru and can’t wait to continue our adventures!
**Blog post written by Peru Immersion students!**
How to Hit the Ground Running
Although we are currently only three days in to our Peruvian adventure, I think most of us would agree it already feels like three weeks. Since the group’s arrival on Thursday night, we have not had an idle moment. After a few short hours of rest, we boarded our bus Friday morning and headed right back to the airport for our flight to Cuzco. From Cuzco, a six hour bus ride delivered us to the town of Puno, on the shore of Lake Titikaka,
As the world’s highest navigable lake, Titikaka is located nearly 13,000 feet above sea level among the Andes mountains of Peru and Bolivia. For those of us not fortunate enough to be from the Mile-High City, this sudden change in altitude and drop in temperature proved to be a real challenge to adjust to. After passing out pills for altitude sickness and drinking countless cups of tea, the group took bicycle taxis from the hotel to the lake, where our boat and tour guide were waiting.
Our first stop was the floating islands of the Uros people. Since before the time of the Incans, these people have lived on islands made of layers and layers of reeds, in homes also made of reeds. They welcomed us to their island, and taught us about the traditional way of life that they have practiced for thousands of years. Some of the kids were invited to try on the Uros’ traditional garb, while others went for a ride on one of their boats (which, not surprisingly, were also made of reeds.) It was an unforgettable experience, and many of us left the floating islands with colorful textiles and jewelry to commemorate the day.
From here, we took the boat out to the island of Taquile, located in the center of the lake. We hiked to the center of town, where we had a delicious lunch of quinoa soup and trout. The subsequent boat ride brought us back to Puno, where the group finally had a night of rest before boarding the bus again and heading back to Cuzco on Sunday morning. The kids, although often feeling the fatiguing effects of the altitude, have remained in good spirits and are looking forward to meeting their host families tomorrow. Stay tuned for more updates and photos this week!
Tighe, Sara, Teri and David
Check out the Photos!
Catching you up-to-date with some photos and fun times along the way. Enjoy