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Hiking the Inca Trail – Peru, Ecuador & Galapagos

To conclude our time in the Sacred Valley, Peru we headed back to the little village of Cachicatta where we learned how to make adobe bricks from the locals. Adobe means “mudbrick” in Spanish and that is essentially what the bricks are. To start off, we asked for a couple volunteers to take of their shoes and really jump into the activity—by literally jumping into the mud! The villagers, especially the local children, showed us how to mix straw into the mud using our feet. The mixed mud was then shoveled into wheelbarrows and brought to the brick making stations to be poured into molds. Ryan and Lee definitely won the award for the most productive brick making station, as they made 22 bricks which was nearly a quarter of all the bricks made! Afterwards we said goodbye and hopped on a train heading to Aguas Calientes, a little town at the base of Machu Picchu. The train was beautiful and had huge panoramic windows to watch the landscape of the Sacred Valley roll by.

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The next morning we were so excited to begin making our way up the mountain to the amazing Machu Picchu UNESCO World Heritage site. Before heading into the site, we stamped our passports at the souvenir stamp. To begin our adventure, we decided to hike up to the Inti Punku (The Sun Gate), the entrance during Incan times, and we were rewarded with unbelievable panoramic views and some of the best vantage points to see the city of Machu Picchu. This unique hike also allowed us to walk the last portion of the famous Inca Trail! After we descended to the city where our tour guide showed us around and explained it’s mysterious history to us. Machu Picchu is truly a testament to the Incan Empire at the peak of its power. The site is a citadel of carved stone that fits together without any adhesives; it is so tight that its cracks still can’t be penetrated- not even by a piece of paper. In 1911, a Peruvian guide led Yale professor, Hiram Bingham up the mountain and into the jungle where he became the first Western scholar to lay eyes on the “lost city” of Machu Picchu. While indigenous legends spoke of the site, Peru’s Spanish conquerors never found it- which probably contributed to its  preservation and mystery. Part of the allure of the site was definitely imagining the modern explorers coming across the citadel in the middle of the cloudy Peruvian forests. Next, we hopped on a train to Cusco where we listened to information about the regions we were passing through and were treated to a dance show by an Incan saint. Everyone was thoroughly entertained when Lauren accepted an invitation to dance with the saint down the aisles of the train. Happy Fourth of July! We celebrated by decorating the inside of the bus with American flags and tossing around red, white and blue balloons!

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In the morning, we made our way to a ranch on the outskirts of Cusco where we took off on a horseback riding adventure. After our lesson we were matched with a horse and set off on a ride around the beautiful landscape. It was a really interesting experience for those of us that had never been horseback riding before and it was fun to get to know our horse’s personality a little better. For example, some of our horses were happy to stroll along at a relaxed pace, but Solitary and his rider Matt, wanted to lead the pack. In the afternoon we explored the city of Cusco on a tour and a highlight was marveling at a beautiful Incan temple.

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Our next stop was in the Peruvian desert at a little oasis town called Huacachina.  We enjoyed the warmer weather with a dip in the pool and relaxed as we made friendship bracelets and thank you cards for our local Peruvian guide. Many of us hiked up a sand dune that had to be one of the biggest in the entire desert. At the top we had an incredible view for miles and in the afternoon we got to experience the desert again—this time by sand boarding after riding in dune buggies! Everyone was excited by the new experience and we were impressed when Wolfie took his turn and seemed to continue gliding across the sand for ages. He definitely had the longest walk back up the dune to go again!

After our exhilarating day, Dayna, read an amazing poem she had written about our time in Peru which left us all teary-eyed. Before heading off to bed, we performed the bracelet ceremony where each trip member was given a bracelet and provided with the opportunity to recognize or thank a friend for the many ways in which they contributed to each of our trips so far. Most of the trip members gave shout outs to the new friends they have made thus far on this adventure. The night was filled with laughter and sentimental moments, as we all recognized how grateful we are for how close this family has grown.

On our last morning in the desert, a few enthusiastic trip members woke up to hike back up the dune for the surreal experience of watching the sunrise. An exciting part of the hike was the run back down the dune, which takes about 1/8th of the time dedicated to climbing up in the first place! Next, we were off to a cooking class where we learned how to make some Peruvian delicacies!

Trip members Carly and Lee summarized their time in Peru nicely, “At this moment I reminisce about my time in Peru. I am so thankful to have met these amazing people and share these adventures with them. They have made the journeys we went on way more memorable and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to travel the world with them, especially Elias (our Peruvian guide). From exploring Machu Picchu to sand boarding in the desert, the experiences we have had on this trip will last a lifetime.”

Stay tuned for our adventures in Ecuador!

The Westcoast Blogger

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