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Monday July 9, 2018
We are so excited that our Session 2 Crew made it to home base in Lamay! Everyone arrived on time, and everyone’s luggage made it with them! We drove to our home base and we had a great lunch and a great dinner. We covered orientation in the afternoon, and now everyone is resting up and settling in to their rooms. We start our full schedule of service, leadership, and cultural activities tomorrow!
Thursday July 12, 2018
Hi Parents! Here’s a recap of day 4!
Within our small groups we got the chance to participate in health studies of the indigenous people of Peru. Each group went through five different rotations where we got the opportunity to take vitals, do blood tests for glucose and hemoglobin, make posters for awareness and listen in on a Gastrointestinal research study. Along with the chance to further our medical experience we got to appreciate and interact with the locals. The particular group we got to work with today consisted of elders (60+) who spoke both Spanish/Castellano and Quechua. Through this experience we saw the traditional Peruvian clothing which consisted of multiple beautiful and unique handmade sweaters. We also noticed the intricate way Peruvian women styled their hair, some woven with thread or cloth, but almost always in braids. Some of the challenges we endured involved dehydration of the patients which caused difficulties in taking blood tests. Even with a language barrier we still made our best efforts to connect on a personal level. We all enjoyed this special moment for our first time leaving home base and look forward to continuing our medical journey.
The Incan Ruins
Later in the day we drove to the Incan ruins in Pisaq. The ruins consisted of buildings made of stone and clay, a tomb with approximately 2,000 mummified corpses inside, and terraces that were used for agriculture. That’s a lot of ghosts. The ruins were constructed thousands of years ago. The ruins are chock full of fascinating history such as: very exact architecture and tombs that related to the status of the people, and terraces that were used to acclimate crops to elevation. The ruins were atop a mountain. When we reached the top, we were treated to breathtaking views of the scenery around us.
After hiking, we descended into the valley below to the Pisaq town market. The bustling market offered a variety of goods, such as gloves, hats, woven bags, alpaca sweaters, blankets, and socks. The market gave us a perfect opportunity to practice our bargaining skills… in Spanish! Outside the seemingly small market, there were several traditionally dressed people holding baby goats, lambs, and small alpacas available for pictures…..for a price. Once inside the market, we realized that it was actually very expansive. Vibrant colors exploded at every stall and intricately made alpaca figures roamed the tables. Overall, the independence that the market gave us a new perspective of life in Pisaq.
Sophia K., Tessa, Jayanna, Emily (Hi mom!), Georgia (sup dad), Adrienne
Saturday July 14 through Monday July 17, 2018
On Saturday the 14th we went white water rafting on the Urubamba river. After waking up at 7am, we left for a two-hour drive to the rafting center. The drive was monotonous until the end where we came upon a car crash. We pulled the bus over and our mentor Scott helped administer first aid because he is an EMT. We later learned that both people injured had broken bones but are recovering well. After the situation was cleared, we continued to the rafting center where we zip lined across the river. We then changed into wetsuits to prepare for the adventure. Our energetic river guide gave us a quick safety lesson and made us feel more comfortable with the situation. We then proceeded to the river in groups of five to six. From the launch point, we rafted 11 kilometers through cold waters, relying on each other to carry us down the river. The rapids weren’t too scary, but we had a ton of surprises with drops in the river. We reached our destination chilly but excited. After the ride home, we had a nice dinner while we were prepped for the three-day Soqma trail hike.
The following morning, we left at 5:30am for a two-hour bus ride to the mountain town of Soqma. Upon arrival, we were introduced to our trek guides and given advice for the challenging task ahead. Loaded with snacks and gear, we began the journey. Some students enjoyed the trek more than others, but the views were breathtaking to all. On the first day, the mostly uphill trail led us for three miles to our campsite. Along the way, we discovered an incredible waterfall pouring out of the mountainside. We stopped for a snack break at an Incan archeological site and received a brief history lesson about the Incan trails, which extend in the four cardinal directions from Cusco. Afterward, we continued to our campsite. The endpoint gave us much relief from the steep trail. The trek chefs provided with absolutely delicious food for the entire endeavor. Then, we wrapped ourselves in layers to sleep for the night.
We rose with the sun and were given coca tea to begin our expedition on day two. After a satisfying breakfast, we started the hike. Unfortunately, a few of our friends were unable to continue the rest of the trek due to altitude sickness, but the rest of the group charged ahead. Similar to the day before, the hike was uphill and challenging. After struggling for a few hours, we reached the mountain pass and were greeted with an amazing view. The snow-capped peaks were mesmerizing and made us forget about the struggle uphill. From there we proceeded to lunch where our chefs did another outstanding job. Afterward, we packed up our stuff and continued to the next part of our hike. The trail was calm with gentle hills before it became a dramatic incline and subsequent decline. The campsite seemed out of reach for a while, but we arrived at our destination safely with glee and soreness. After dinner we were greeted with incredible stars and found ourselves exhausted and settled down for our last night on the trek.
We got up at the same time the next morning with determination to finish the journey strong. Continuing with the steep decline, we proceeded to the town of Ollantaytambo. We were able to see our destination steadily get closer, and before we knew it, we had arrived. Luckily our guide was able to get us a ride to the restaurant where enjoyed a hearty lunch before returning to Home Base. On the ride home, we were able to reflect on the challenges we faced and lessons we learned whilst trekking through the Andes. Once we arrived back at Home Base, we spent the rest of the night recovering from the journey, so we could prepare for the service project the next day.
By: Noah, Ben, Emerald, Lydia, Riley, Clarissa
Wednesday July 18 through Friday July 20, 2018
On Wednesday, we went to the Calca clinic to learn some more medical skills taught by Dr. Francisco. One skill we learned was how to take an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to produce an image, or sonogram, of the inside of the body. Using the probe, we were able to see the abdominal organs as well as the heart and its valves. It was fascinating, especially seeing the valves pump blood through the heart. Another skill we learned was how to check someone’s ears for any occlusions. We used an otoscope, which gave a view of the ear canal and the tympanic membrane, or eardrum.
That afternoon, a local family from the sacred valley came to Home Base to share traditional Andean arts with us. The family preformed beautiful Andean melodies for us. We learned many different traditional beats and had the chance to play the different instruments. We all had the opportunity to try drumming in front of the group.
It wasn’t as easy as it seemed! We learned about the origins of these different music styles. We also had the opportunity to sculpt pottery to whatever we wanted to create. Some pottery designs that had been created were bowls, ring trays, and a llama! We completed our pottery by painting our designs.
This Thursday we started renovations at the clinic in Taray. After a flood last year, the clinic has been in desperate need of a face-lift to help encourage the local people to come in for check-ups. Everyone worked together to sand the walls and fence posts to smooth out any chipped paint or rust in preparation for a fresh coat of paint.
On Friday, the whole group split up. Hal of us went to a nearby school while the other half stayed at the Taray clinic to spackle walls and clean up the outside area. As a part of the gardening team, we pulled weeds, helped maintain the plants and flowers, and used pick-axes to clear away most of the long grass that was covering the walls we’ve been preparing to paint.
The rest of the team filled most of the holes in the walls of the building with plaster to provide an even surface for when we begin to paint later on. Cleaning up the clinic in Taray has been a really cool experience and a great way to participate in a different kind of service other than the hemoglobin campaign. We can’t wait to see the finished product, and we hope the local people are as excited about it was we are.
The rest of the group walked to a local elementary school to run some tests on the students. At the school we rotated through stations of anemia testing, vision testing, blood pressure, and finding their height and weight. Afterwards we got to play, talk, and genuinely bond with the students. By the time we had to leave, we were swarmed with hundreds of hugs and goodbyes.
After service we had took an hour-long bus ride to a town called Ollantaytambo. While we were there we had 4 hours free to walk around the market and the town square. It started raining as we were wondering through the town, it stopped after we sat down in a restaurant. There were amazing quesadillas and some really good pizza. After our dinners we went out for some poppin’ ice cream.
By Ali, Madison, Sophie P, Sari, and Abby
Saturday July 21 through Monday July 23, 2018
Saturday July 21, 2018
We arrived at the Antonio Lorena hospital in Cusco in the morning and were given a tour by Dr. Francisco Morales. He explained the different facilities in the hospital and the challenges that face the nurses and doctors due to the lack of funding. While showing us around he also explained the basic medical care patients generally receive while in the hospital.
Plaza de Armas
After the tour of the hospital, everyone was given a chance to explore the Plaza de Armas. While some braved the rainy and cold weather in search of souvenirs, the majority headed in search of the warmth and comfort that only Starbucks can provide.
After the coffee break at Starbucks, the GLA crew regrouped for lunch at Tunupa, in the Plaza. The restaurant was buffet-style with options for every palate. There was sushi, pasta, salad, a dessert bar, and even alpaca. Most importantly, the bathroom was fully equipped with toilet paper AND soap.
After lunch, we went up a precarious mountain road and visited the ancient Incan ruins of Cusco. We even had the fortune to see llamas and alpacas perusing around the ruins. Unfortunately, it was rainy, foggy, and cold; so we only stayed for a short amount of time. We loaded back into the buses and then went to a llama and alpaca farm. At the farm, the GLA crew was able to feed them, take pictures with them, and shop for traditional textiles made from the Alpaca fur. We even got to see the textiles being made. It was a great end to a rainy day.
Sunday July 22, 2018
Maras: Salt Mines & Moray
The next day we visited the Maras Salt Mines. It was incredible to witness the process and hard work that goes into creating the unique Peruvian salts. There are 7,000 salt ponds at the mine, and all of it is naturally produced from the saltwater in the mountains. Later we hiked to the Moray Archeological Site, and our tour guide gave us some facts about the ancient ruins. The structures were built to grow and farm food such as quinoa and coca. Typically these foods could only grow in warm environments like the Amazon, but the ruins were built using levels so that the lower levels were built into the Earth, making them warmer. They were able to mimic the environment of the Amazon using the levels, and could produce the quinoa and coca. We also learned about the measurement system that the Incans used, called Kintu. This system was based on colored string with knots tied into them, and the number of knots represented the number of goods produced. It was fascinating to hear about the intricate ways in which they communicated.
After a delicious lunch at Mamacha Juanas, we took a bus ride to an authentic textile market, where we were able to browse and purchase various hats, bags, and blankets. Overall, we had a great day learning about Peruvian life.
Monday July 23, 2018
On Monday we headed to our service project in the town of Callarrayan. We did health check ups at a rural school which included eye exams, hemoglobin testing, height and weight measurements, and blood pressure exams. We met almost 50 students as part of this service project.
After that we headed to the Clinic in Taray to repaint and just do a whole new makeover in order to bring it back to life. We redid the garden, and painted the building together. The doctor and nurses are hoping that more people in the town will visit the local clinic for their medical and health needs.
We departed from home base at 8:00 to begin our next adventure; the Lares trek. We drove
along winding roads arriving at snowcapped peaks. We took a break at the mountain pass,
continuing to a small town where our drive was delayed due to an Independence-day parade.
From there, we continued driving to our place of lunch, after which we hiked three hours to the
campsite at 14,600 feet. During our walk we saw multiple alpacas and met local people selling
their wares. At night we were able to stargaze and watch Mars rise over the mountaintops.
The next morning, we were woken up with a cup of coca tea, packed our things, and had some
Once more, we started our journey up through the snow-covered mountains. Soon,
we reached the highest point of our trek, a majestic overlook of mountains, valleys and llamas.
The beauty did not cease as we made our way to a lake tucked into the side of the mountain.
After resting near this lake, we continued forward along the mountainside until we reached
Patacancha, that day’s lunch spot. After lunch we drove to Ollantaytambo where we took time
to explore the town and from there took a train to our next destination of Aguas Calientes. At
Aguas Calientes we stayed at a hostel to prepare for the next day’s adventure of Machu Picchu.
We awoke at the hostel where we ate a 6:00am breakfast and then took a brief walk to the bus
station to depart to Machu Picchu.
After a brief winding bus ride through what felt like the
jungle, we reached the ancient Incan city where we were split into three groups to learn about
the ruins’ history. We learned about everything from the sacrifice of llamas to the meaning of
double doors during the ‘three-hour tour’ of the Incan city. Afterwards, we took the bus back to
Aguas Calientes where we had the opportunity to explore the town a little before lunch. And
after lunch we went to the train station to catch our return train to Ollantaytambo. Upon
arriving, we took our bus back to Home Base to eat dinner and go to bed; exhausted.