Today, we drove through the crowded streets of Cuzco on our way to the small town of Chocco, where we are completing our service project. The first project we are working on is the construction of guinea pig homes. In Peru, eating guinea pigs is part of the culture. We got into assembly lines and carried heavy adobe bricks up steep hills, passing them along one by one. The bricks we lifted were extremely heavy and we all wore out quickly, but felt very accomplished at the end of the day. Despite the tough workout, I bonded with a lot of new people and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks will bring! The best part about GLA so far is that it brings together people from all over the world with one similar goal in mind: to help people.
Today was very exciting, as we get to go sightseeing today. We went to downtown Cusco where we picked up our tour guide, Dino. ¡Que hombre tan chistoso! Anyways, first we went to Saqsaywaman where we toured the Incan ruins. The structures built there were made of stones and were very precisely cut and smoothed. It’s amazing how well the structures were made considering the Incans did not have machines to facilitate the construction. Throughout the tour, Dino taught us many information about the Incans.
Then we climbed to the top of one of the Incan structures to find a rock slide. (Oh, by the way, we still die a little bit every time we walk upstairs thanks to the altitude.) We all slid down the rocks even though it hurt our butts and legs. Everyone cheered for each other as each of us slid down. It was so much fun. On our way to the next part of the tour which were the tunnels, we came across an old lady letting her alpaca get some fresh air. As we neared her she allowed us to take pictures with them for one sol. And we did.
Next we walked through Chinkana Chica which were underground tunnels (or maze) carved by water. After the tunnels it was time to go back to the bus to go to the second part of the tour, but before we were able to go on the bus we passed by women who were selling souvenirs like necklaces and llama keychains for cheap. We bought some and then it was time to go to the next part of the tour.
Next stop, Puca Pucara. We got off the bus and Dino gave us a tour of the area. Dino said that on the mountains closest to Puca Pucara, there is a path that the Incans took to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco. It would’ve taken them ten days. Fortunately, we will not be taking that route to get to Machu Picchu and it will also take less days too. Before leaving Puca Pucara our mentors allowed us to spend a couple of minutes shopping by the entrance where there were women selling souvenirs like blankets, necklaces, brackets, keychains, and other Peruvian/Andean/Incan trinkets.
By then it was already lunch time so we made our way to a restaurant La Casona del Inka. We were seated on the second floor which had a balcony with an amazing view of the city. The food was amazing and there was love music. Some of the girls started to dance and we had an amazing time.
Our last part of the tour was at Basílica Catedral and we ventured inside the beautiful Cathedral adorned with gold and silver. After that, we said goodbye to Dino and with the remaining one hour we had left, we split up into our mentor groups and either went to the market and had some ice cream.
We took the bus to get back to home base and we had dinner before Tami gave us a Spanish lesson in which we learned how to say simple phrases that will help us get around in the community and the markets.
Today was Day 2 of service, Day 3 of being here in Cusco, Peru, and so far the trip has been nothing short of a good time. Breakfast commenced at 6:55 am (still not quite used to the early morning wake up time), and by 7:30 we were on the bus, on our way to Chocco. Travelling through the streets of Peru has yet to bore us; the sight of the houses, people and environment is a perfect start and end to our days of service. We arrive at the base of a hill, jump out, and begin to climb to the property we are working on. Once we get there, we drop off our bags and then hike down to a house at the beginning of the village to pick up wood for the roof of our guinea pig house. Then we carry it back up to the house, passing villagers and saying hello to everyone we see (dogs and cows included). Work today merely consisted of adding rows of adobe bricks to our house and mixing/making mud. Yesterday we spent most of our time carrying adobe bricks from their drying spot to our building sight, so today we had all our supplies near us and ready to go. We listened to good music, gave each other Disney character names, and all laughed a lot.
After we got home from service, ate and showered, we all took a trip to a Shaman’s house to make an offering to Mother Nature. It was amazing to see the detail and tradition that came with the process the Shaman took to make sure the three wishes we all made were heard. After the offering we had the choice to pay 5 soles to have our fortune read, which was also very culturally rich and so interesting to participate in. All in all, this field trip was a great experience.
We came home for a delicious dinner and then a few name games until we were set off to play UNO and charades together. Then bedtime at never because our mentors are G’s. Truly a great day with filled with fun service, once-in-a-lifetime culture exposure, and funny times with good friends. Can’t wait for tomorrow!
PS: Mrs. Hale, your son loves you. Goodnight!
Today we took a break from service to tour Cusco all day long. Not only did we get to sleep in a little, we got pancakes for breakfast! We climbed on the buses at 9:00, picked up a tour guide, and were off to visit some of the city’s most prized sites. We saw Inca ruins, ancient Andean churches, and got to eat lunch at a yummy restaurant that looked over the entirety of Cusco. We were given a lot of knowledge about Inca and Andean theories and philosophies, so make sure to quiz your children when you see them. After the tour, we wondered around (supervised by adults, of course) downtown Cusco where we got ice cream and took pictures. We then came back home and headed off to the super market to grab some more exotic Peruvian snacks, like Doritos, Oreos and Coke. Dinner and games with the whole crew followed a little free time after we returned. Overall, today was a great rest day where we got to learn a lot about the amazing city we get to stay in for two weeks.
The experience we all had today is one that will never be forgotten. We visited a small girls’ orphanage that housed girls from ages 5-16. While there, we played on the playground- games including volleyball, catch, jump roping- and also learned how to salsa dance from the kids! I have never seen kids smile as bright as I did today, and it felt great that we were helping to create these smiles and to make a small difference in their day. The whole trip to the orphanage was truly inspiring and it was definitely my favorite part of the trip so far!
There are many things that I will remember about this trip. An easy one is the bright stars and milky way we saw on the night we camped. I will always have the memory of sitting on a cold blue tarp, talking to friends about any and everything while watching the stars shoot and appear in every available opening. Another lifetime memory will be singing off key to Beyonce, and falling while trying to dance in the hallway with people who started as roommates, then were friends, and eventually family. I will always remember the long, deep, and amusing conversations, that were rarely relevant, but incredibly necessary. As I spoke to other people, they had different memories. One said her favorite part was reaching the top of Machu Picchu, then looking back to see all of the rocks, steps, and hills she had conquered. Another said she love playing soccer with the kids during their recess. We all learn to never underestimate small children, and how much they are willing to play. However, the best thing that none of us expected but all found to be true was how close we got, and how much we needed each other. In the past two weeks we have all learn to hold each other up, and we will always have that, not only as a memory, but as a lifetime skill!
We were up right and early today to start our hike. Our duffel bags were already sent to camp so all we had to worry about were our daypacks. At 6am we were already on the buses that would drive us to the start of our hike. The bus ride was four hours and a lot of us were asleep because of how early we had to wake up. Halfway through the bus ride we took a pit stop at an overlook to go to the bathroom and take pictures. After that we had another two hours to make it to the beginning of our hike. Finally, we made it to where we would start our hike. Juan was our guide who was going to help pace us on our hike. First, we had to hike for fifteen to twenty minutes to our lunch spot where we had some pasta, soup, and bread. We took this opportunity to climb a bit higher to take in the view as well as rest and go to the bathroom. After a while it was time to start the rest of the hike. Juan set the pace for us again and we hiked uphill and downhill. It was very tiring but it was a lot of fun. Around 2:30 we hiked to a fish farm where we got to look around and see how this family-owned farm bred their fish. That was our last long break before the big uphill part of the hike, aka the hardest part of the hike. By 5pm everyone reached camp. All of us were so exhausted but at least now we get to rest until tomorrow morning. We got settled into our tents and changed into warmer clothes. It got so cold and so dark so quickly. Fortunately, the sky was clear that night and we had such a beautiful view of the stars as well as the Milky Way. A couple of us were even able to see a shooting star! Dinner time came around and we all gathered in a long tent where we were given our meals for the night. After that all of us either headed for our tents to sleep for the night or stay out to hang out and look at the sky. The next day we woke up early again to walk to the buses. The buses would be taking us to the railroad tracks that we’d be “hiking” to get to our hostel in the town of Aguas Calientes. On our way there we took bathroom breaks and were able to buy things we needed. Most of us slept throughout the bus ride, waking up occasionally. Then we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Afterwards, we continued our bus ride to the train tracks. The bus ride also consisted of us driving by the side of a mountain for about an hour which was pretty scary. Finally we made it to the tracks. And we started our very long walk to Aguas Calientes. Juan set a pace for all of us to walk and make it to the hostel before dark. By 5:00 we reached town and settled into our rooms at Inka’s Land, our hostel. We had time before dinner to rest and shower and so we did. We haven’t showered in days and we were so grateful to be able to be able to shower. After that, some of us didn’t bring enough clothes so Tami took us out to the markets and we shopped for some cool Peruvian tshirts and pants. There were so many people selling clothing and souvenirs. It was kind of a preview of the rest of the shopping we did the next day as well as the artisan market. At 7 we walked to dinner and had some really good food. Next we got to go roam the markets for a while until bed time.
Today was a wonderful day in the lives of the fearless GLA adventurers. We started our morning at6:50 a.m. with breakfast of eggs and rice. Then we were on the bus to Chocco to work on our service. Once we arrived, we finished all of the walls of our guinea pig house, and also had a small Spanish dance tutorial. We love being surrounded by the culture of Peru and also the wildlife. We enjoy taking small breaks from our service to watch goats and sheep pass by. Ricardo was in control of music today, and as a group we give him a 7/10 on his selections (none of us really speak Spanish or Portuguese). After we were finished with our work we played soccer on a cool concrete field right by our working area. 4-3 was the score. No need to mention who won, that simply does not matter. Service was in total a great experience, per usual.
After we returned home, we set out for our next exposure to Peruvian culture: music class. We traveled back to where we had service, and a local came to teach us about all the different types of instruments, dating back to the Incan times. The group’s least favorite were the sheep nails. All respect for the culture, but some of us were a little terrified of them. Again, mentioning those names does not matter.
Our day finished with a yummy dinner, an hour of wifi where we got to talk to our loved ones, and then some seriously funny games of ping pong. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s adventures!
– Adele Blanton
Instead of working on our guinea pig huts today in Chocco, we drove to a town that was a bit further away, where we worked with several local families. The town was so far up in the mountains that we could see all of Cusco below us. The roads leading up to the site were windy and narrow, which was a bit nerve wracking, but the view was beautiful and well worth it! While there, we prepared beans that were grown locally so that they could be eaten. The families we met were all very inviting and friendly and it was really cool to see their homes. They cooked us homemade soup and potatoes- both of which were delicious! While we worked, we listened to music and got to know more about the other people on the trip.
After our work, we played in a soccer match against the locals- of all ages. Even though there was a language barrier between ourselves and the locals, we were still able to connect with them throughout the game. After we got home from our soccer match and showered, we had dinner then met with the hike leader to discuss our upcoming journey on Monday. It is coming up soon and there is so much to prepare beforehand!
Today was the second to last day of service, so we worked on finishing the guinea pig house. We danced, laughed a lot, and had a great time. The last day of service will include putting the roof on the house, and we are very excited to be done with the project we have worked so hard on. After service, we headed home for a delicious lunch of pasta and chicken. Then we got dressed and headed to what many will call the highlight of the trip. (aka. Visiting the alpaca farm). There, we pet, hug, fed, and loved the alpacas and llamas. They were cute and fluffy, and everything we wanted them to be. Truly a wonderful trip.
When we returned home, everyone went up to their rooms and packed for our hike to Machu Picchu that starts tomorrow. Then we ate dinner of pork and rice and watched Moana. Since we have to wake up super early to get ready for the hike, our bedtime is earlier than usual. Some are afraid, some are excited, but all are ready for the journey to come, and for the memories to be made.
PS: Mrs. Logan, your sons love you.
– Adele Blanton
Peru – SSV – Start July 22nd – Day 13 Blog
Today is the last day of our GLA Peru trip, and to say it has been quite a bittersweet evening is an understatement. We have shared so many amazing memories and made so many lifelong friends, and although we all miss our families, we hate to soon be separated from each other. But who can be too sad when we have done things some of us never thought we would do. For instance: hike to Machu Picchu!
Four days ago, we started our trek to The Lost City. The buses rolled out of our hotel at 6 am, all of us packed up and ready for an exciting next three days. We rode through winding roads, stopping for bathroom and snack breaks. Eventually we arrive at our first hiking start point. We all begin to scale a hill to find a breathtaking view of snowcapped mountains and lush valleys in front of us. Lunch took place on the side of a mountain, where we overlooked our path for the next few hours. Truly the best picnic ever. Then we began our 2 hour downhill hike, over rivers and through beautiful grass fields. We stopped at a trout farm for a small break, and then hiked up to our camping spot for the evening. Once we arrived, we played games, ate dinner and hung out until it was time to go to sleep. Tomorrow would be a full day of hiking, so we were all eager to get a good rest in.
The next day we had breakfast, packed up all our things and jumped on the buses for a 2 hour drive to our next hiking spot. For about 3 hours, we hiked along the railroad tracks to Aguas Calientes, the town we would be staying in for that night. The views along the walk were beautiful, and the path wasn’t too difficult, so we all got to talk to one another without getting too tired. Once we arrived at our destination, we checked in to our hotel and then went out for a yummy dinner followed by treats from a bakery next door to our hotel. All a little sore, we headed off to bed, pumped for our adventure tomorrow.
Yesterday was the day! We, after an hour and a half of climbing stairs and cheering each other on, reached Machu Picchu! Seeing pictures on the internet or on post cards simply does this ancient beauty no justice; it’s breathtaking. We split up and were toured around, listening to a guide tell us all about the history of this city. After we were finished at Machu Picchu, we went back down into Aguas Calientes where we ate some dinner, hopped on a train, then a bus, and finally into our beds back in our hotel in Cusco. This hiking trip met and exceeded our expectations; the food, views and memories are sure to never be forgotten.
Today both service groups put the roofs on our guinea pig houses! Also, both the families we were helping came out to express their gratitude for us. It was a heartwarming experience to see and know that what we have been working so hard on would help these people. Because that is what most of us came here to do.
After service, we headed to a massive market where we all bought presents for our friends and family. Then we came back, got all dressed up, and went out to a great dinner where we watched dancers and musicians, and laughed with each other. Once we got back home, we all sat in a circle where paper plate superlatives were awarded, and kind and loving remarks were exchanged, because that was the last time we all would be together in Peru. After goodbye hugs to the ones leaving early in the morning, we went up to bed and finished packing.
We all want to thank you, parents, for letting us go on this unforgettable journey. For many of us, including myself, it was a life changing experience that we are beyond grateful to be a part of. So thanks, mom and dad. You guys rock. And for the final time, goodnight from Peru!