Hola again from #ThePeruCrew!
We can’t believe we are more than halfway into our trip! After an incredible time in the Amazon, we headed to Ollantaytambo for an action packed three days. Our adventures began with white water rafting on the Urubamba River. Trip members and staff enjoyed the rapids, singing songs and splash fights as we made our way down the river surrounded by a beautiful mountain landscape. Later, we headed to the town of Pisaq for an afternoon of exploring the local markets. Trip members were excited about viewing different products made by various artisans. Following our market trip, we learned about the animals at Awanacancha, which included llamas, alpacas, and Vicuñas. Trip members were fascinated to learn about the similarities and differences between the three animals. For example, llamas spit, alpaca fur is used to make clothing, and Vicuñas are the national animal of Peru. Plus, we learned that camels are part of the same family as these animals in the animal kingdom. Who knew?! Trip members had a blast feeding the animals and attempting to take the best “llama selfie.”
The next day at service we had the opportunity to learn about how some people live in the countryside of the Andes Mountains. Our project was to help the Cachicata Community build Adobe bricks. Adobe is a building material made from mud. These hardened mud bricks are used in the community to build houses and other structures. After a brief introduction to some of the community members, trip members worked in an assembly-like fashion to build the bricks. Some trip members jumped into the mud pit to shovel mud into wheel barrels. Other trip members cut hay to be spread in the mud pit to help hold clumps of mud together. Trip members took wheel barrels full of mud to other trip members who placed the mud in wooden molds to form the bricks. After three hours and almost 200 bricks later, we sat down for a delicious lunch prepared for us by the community. Trip members enjoyed learning about the local culture’s cooking methods and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.
In addition to the excellent meal, the community members were so appreciative of our efforts that they invited us to return to the community in the evening for a campfire and dance party. Before the campfire, all trip members and staff wrote down three facts about themselves and put them in a bag. At the campfire, everyone took turns pulling facts out of the bag and reading them out loud so everyone could guess which fact belonged to which person. It was a great bonding experience, learning more about the lives of our new friends! Later, some trip members went into the community’s restaurant to use their speakers to have a dance party. Those that wanted to continue a relaxing evening by the fire took out a guitar and had a jam session. By the end of the night, we were all singing together, and there could not have been a better way to end such a wonderful day!
After an awesome time in Ollaytantambo, we headed by train to Aguas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu! Trip members loved the train ride as the train cars on the Peru Rail have huge glass windows that allow travelers to view the beautiful scenery. Upon arriving in Aguas Calientes, we dropped our bags at the hotel and then headed out to explore the town. After an early dinner, we went to bed early in preparation for waking up to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu the following day.
The next morning, we were up bright and early to catch a bus up to Machu Picchu.
All trip members agreed that the early wake up was well worth it. Watching the sunrise over Machu Picchu was completely surreal. No picture can capture what it feels like to be up in the clouds, watching the sun climb over the surrounding mountaintops, as its rays shine upon the ancient city. The scene was absolutely breathtaking.
After a brief tour of the ruins, where trip members were able to learn more about Incan culture and the discovery of the site, we took a short hike to look at an Incan bridge. Of course we stopped to take pictures as the view became better and better. Visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World was for sure one of the biggest highlights of our trip so far!
The next day, we returned to Cusco for a few days of community service. In Cusco, we volunteered for three days at San Judas Orphanage, a local orphanage that is the home of around 34 girls between the ages of 6 and 16. On our first visit to the orphanage, we were given a brief tour of the facility, and met a few of the girls. Our first project was to clear an area of grass, rocks and weeds so the girls could use it to plant vegetables for their garden. Trip members worked together to break up the soil and remove the unwanted material. In the afternoon, when the girls returned from school, some trip members enjoyed playing on the playground with them, while the rest of the group started a friendly game of soccer. The following day, we added a fresh coat of paint to the back wall of the orphanage, and again spent the afternoon playing with the girls. In the morning on our last full day in Cusco, we went on a tour of the city. Trip members especially enjoyed visiting the Koricancha archeological site and loved the view of the city from Saqsaywaman. After the tour, we returned to the orphanage for the last time to throw a little party for the girls. We brought them snacks and drinks, and the smiles on their faces said it all.
Today we are off to explore Puno and Lake Titicaca! We will kayak, visit the floating islands, and much more!
Saludos y ¡Hasta Pronto!
The Westcoast Blogger
Are you interested? Check out our 28-day trip for community service in Peru and get involved by its history, culture and people.