Friday July 14, 2018
Hello Friends and Family!
Despite delayed flights and missed bags, almost all of us have arrived safely to our home base of Ollantaytambo (Ollantay)!
Upon arriving at the airport, we loaded up onto passenger vans to make the hour and a half trip to Ollantay, located in the heart of the Sacred Valley. Along the way, we passed through open golden fields, winded through snow capped mountains, and ultimately followed the bank of the strong Urubamba river home to our lodging, where we will live for the next two weeks.
Here in Ollantay, we are located in a river valley, nestled by tall mountains speckled by Incan ruins. Upon arriving at home base, we received a tour of our accommodation and ate a hearty lunch. Our afternoon was relatively lax, as we all took time to rest, settle in, and begin to adjust to the altitude of 9,000 feet! In the evening, we engaged in orientation-lite— establishing house norms and participating in several get-know-you games before dinner.
Lights out will be pretty early tonight as we prepare to launch head-first into our Service in the Sacred Valley program tomorrow. We will be beginning our day with more orientation, before taking a tour of Ollantay and the surrounding ruins.
We are still waiting on two of our students and are excited to greet them with open arms! Stay posted for our group photo coming to you shortly!
With Anticipation and Zeal,
Service in the Sacred Valley Staff
Sunday July 15, 2018
Hola from Peru! We started off our first full day by watching the final match of the World Cup. Our local director, Raquel, told us about the history of Ollantaytambo and explained the culture to us. We went into the town for a delicious lunch, then walked to the ruins that are in Ollantaytambo, visible from Home Base. Before entering the ruins, we walked through a small market and some of us bought our first Peruvian souvenirs.
We had great tour guide who explained the history of the ruins and the stories of the land that we are living on. We explored the ruins for a few hours, and then some of us explored another area while the rest of the group played games and did yoga. On our way back to town, some of us stopped at the chocolate store. The chocolate was delicious. We then enjoyed a nice pasta dinner back at Home Base. We played a guessing game that determined our mentor groups, then met with our groups and played some games to get to know one another.
-by Cecilia, Edgar, and Max
Monday July 16, 2018
Today we met our nonprofit partner, Awamaki, an organization which teams up with women cooperatives who make handwoven goods, helping them create a more stable and reliable source of income.
After being briefed on what kind of work we would be doing, we split into groups and explored our home town of Ollantaytambo. We participated in a scavenger hunt to become further acquainted with the surrounding ruins and alleys. Following the scavenger hunt, we visited an alpaca and llama farm and had the opportunity to feed the animals and learn more about them.
After, we drove to the village of Pisac for lunch and stumbled upon a massive festival which included large floats and marching bands walking through the town center. After a delicious lunch at a local restaurant called The Blue Llama, we visited the market and many of us purchased traditional alpaca clothing, blankets, and bags.
Finally, to close out a long day of adventure, we visited and climbed up the ancient ruins of Pisac and got to see parts of mountains that had been carved out into caves and tunnels to serve as burials for Incans. We had a very full and adventurous day; now for hot showers and some good rest!
Service in the Sacred Valley
Tuesday July 17, 2018
Today was our first day of service. After driving up to the worksite in the village of Huilloc, we were split into groups to dig up rocks, create mud, carry buckets of water, and sift dirt.
We worked for about three hours and then met some of the women who are involved with Awamaki. They greeted us with Peruvian flower necklaces and made us corn and potato soup for lunch.
We then went back to home base we each got to make our own object out of pottery. After we finished, we learned and played native Peruvian music, using flutes, djembes, and a cajón! Thanks for keeping up to date with us; stay tuned for another full day of fun tomorrow!
Service in the Sacred Valley
Wednesday July 18, 2018
Today was our second day of service at Huilloc. Like yesterday, we were split into groups and we preformed a selection of jobs.
Some of us were making bricks out of mud that we made yesterday, removing rocks from the area that will be a patio, and sifting dirt to make the mud.
After our half day of service we returned to the base camp for lunch. After lunch we had the opportunity to go into town and get snacks for tomorrow’s hike and exchange money for future purposes. We also had the chance to connect to WiFi in a local cafe and get something small to eat.
Afterward, we returned back and had a briefing about the trail we will be hiking— the Lares trek. We had dinner and prepared for the hike. Overall, it was a great day and we are all excited for tomorrow.
Thursday July 19, 2018
Today we started our exciting 2 day Lares trek!
We began with a 3 hour bus ride with gorgeous views and then began our hike. Although it was raining, everyone was in high spirits and ready to get started. We hiked 2 hours to lunch and ate an amazing 4 course meal in a small town on the side of our trail called Wacawasi.
Afterwards, we continued our hike which became even more difficult due to the increasing elevation, something none of us even thought was possible. Three hours later we finally made it to our campsite.
The campsite consisted of many tents surrounded by the Andean mountains. After we got to the campsite, we shared snacks and then rested until dinner. We had a four course dinner and then headed to sleep in the freezing cold. Despite the challenges, it was an amazing day.
Friday July 20, 2018
We started off our day with an early breakfast in the beautiful town of Aguas Calientes. After breakfast, we ventured out into the rain to get on the bus to Machu Picchu.
The rain was discouraging, but everyone was still excited to see Machu Picchu. We climbed up many, many stairs to get up to the ancient city, and everyone was surprised when we got up there and couldn’t see anything because it was so cloudy. After a few minutes, the clouds cleared and we could see Machu Picchu in all of its glory. Everyone was wowed. The light clouds surrounding the mountains made it look magical and mystical. We spent a while taking pictures and taking in the view.
We split up into tour groups to learn more about Machu Picchu. We learned about the techniques that the Incan people used to built amazingly strong buildings that have stayed strong for hundreds of years. We learned about how these people used light from the sun to measure time, and we learned about symbols that they used to represent the land.
After exploring the ruins, we took a bus back down to Aguas Calientes for a delicious lunch. We then got to explore the town and pick up some souvenirs at the local market. The train ride back to Ollantaytambo took almost 2 hours, then we ate dinner back at home base.
To end our day, we had a speaker come in and share some very interesting philosophies and perspectives with us about the world.
-Service in the Sacred Valley Team
Saturday July 21, 2018
Hola from 14,000ft! Last night was an unforgettable experience. After a long six hour hike, we settled down at base camp. We quickly fell asleep, excited for the next morning.
Day 7 started with snow flurries and a beautiful sunrise. After a quick breakfast, we began our second day of trekking. From 14,000, we hiked up 600ft to the summit where we learned about Incan culture. Next, we descended the mountain towards a village for lunch and our bus ride back to Home Base.
We arrived at Home Base and promptly packed our backpacks for the Machu Picchu excursion. We took a roughly two hour train ride to the town of Aguas Calientes and quickly settled down in our hotel. We were all excited for the next day’s adventure.
Sunday July 22, 2018
Finally we see the sun. We began our day bright and early and after a hearty breakfast got comfy on a bus for 2 hours. Our destination was a cozy, outdoorsy stop where we prepared for our thrilling rafting experience. The wetsuits, jackets, shoes, and life jackets were a bit too wet and cold for comfort, but we eventually got used to them and the outcome was totally worth it. This was a first time rafting trip for many us and I think we all agreed it was tons of fun.
Although our hands were numb, the close calls, teamwork, and competitive splashing made it worth while. The rafting trip felt way too short but the amazing guides provided us the opportunity to zipline over the river afterwards. Going against many of our fears we did it, and although it was short and simple, it was quite exhilarating. After another 2 hour trip back to home base we enjoyed a fabulously made meal and celebrated Kaitlyn’s birthday with a yummy cake. Pacha Mama blessing us with clear skies for star gazing was just the cherry on top to this amazing day.
Monday July 23, 2018
The day started at 8 am amazingly as it hadn’t for a while. We ate breakfast at a preferred and normal time and went right to work at the weaving center in Huilloc. We endured around five hours of physical labor with a great lunch break (fried rice!), and afterwards drove back to Ollantaytambo for a well deserved break. After the hour and a half long relaxation period, we headed out to one of the most amazing dinners of the trip. We ate different pizzas (cheese, Hawaiian, and even Alpaca), and everyone seemed as happy or happier than they had been for a while. We even got another surprise when the mentors took us out for brownies and ice cream. This put a cap on a great day. We went back shortly after and did mentor groups until around 8:30 pm. The rest of the night was relaxation and sleeping, and it served as a satisfying finale for a wonderful day.
Tuesday July 24, 2018
Buenos Días Everyone,
Today we were finally blessed with beautiful weather! After having breakfast, we made way to the service site in Huilloc and everyone applied some SPF before getting to work.
We made some progress today and definitely became more efficient at our human chain system. We saw a lot of hard workers today and had loads of fun learning and helping to the best of our abilities.
After lunch, back at home base, we split up into two groups: The first group went to the chocolate museum first and learnt about the Peruvian art of making chocolate. The second group went to the city centre first to go shopping and change money and then joined the chocolate adventure after the first group had finished.
Both groups first made two types of hot chocolate (the way the Mayans made it and then the way the Spanish changed it) by grinding cocoa and adding lots of ingredients and then everyone made their own chocolate molds.
After loads of fun and a sugar rush we all regrouped at home base and then had dinner together. We ended the night with a bonfire under a clear night where we played some song battle games, told scary stories and had a bunch of laughs.
What a fun day!
Thursday July 26, 2018
We began our day by walking to the plaza to meet up with our bus driver for our last day of service in Huilloc. Sadly, Max, Ethan, and Isaac could not join service because they were under the weather. We had a very productive half service day; we sifted, made cement, and leveled the patio. Everyone worked very hard today. After service, we went back to Ollantaytambo for a delicious lunch.
After lunch, a Peruvian shaman came to home base and performed a sacred ritual to bring us blessings for our future. The shaman displayed his beliefs through a ceremony.
After the ritual, we got the choice to play soccer in town with the locals or stay at home base and relax. Later, we sat down for a chicken stir fry dinner. And then everyone enjoyed an exciting trivia game night.
We woke up and had a nutritious breakfast and then made our way to Huilloc.
We stopped to look at some pre-Incan terraces and learned their purpose and history. We also stopped again to visit a small colonial church, tucked away among tall mountains.
We arrived to Huilloc and the women greeted us with open arms and muña tea. They demonstrated how they weave and dye their textiles, and then thought us how to make our own bracelets. After, we ate a large, traditional lunch.
We then beaded back for home base and got ready for our farewell dinner. After a short walk into town, we are s beautiful meal at a local restaurant, topped off with chocolate cake! We then returned to home base to begin packing.
It’s a bittersweet feeling as we prepare to leave Ollantaytambo and our new-found friends, but we are excited to come home and see all of you!
Service in the Sacred Valley