Peru is a charming place to visit. Aside from visiting and witnessing the reverential Machu Picchu and seeing an alpaca or two what else do you think of when you here Peru? I know what comes to mind after spending about thirty days in a country that possesses thirty of the world’s thirty-two climates. I think it was the trickiest place to prepare for because four days you will be submersed in the roasting Amazon Rainforest and the subsequent week you’ll be winding down the side of a glacier-capped mountain. The variety of weather was only the tip of the iceberg for the interesting facets of Peru.
A group of school-girls meander away from their group preparing to march in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru.
One place of character and beauty is Ollantay, which is located in the Sacred Valley of Peru. We slept under heavy alpaca blankets in a humble pueblo named Pachar where our students were paired off with families for a full immersion experience. The days consisted of Spanish class in the mornings and community service in the afternoons. Here goliaths surrounded our presence and made the existence of man seem minuscule.
Ellen and Rolando walking back to the Sacred Valley Project girls dormitory after a full day of service.
Aside from the service and language classes we were exposed to many parts of the Peruvian and Incan culture. We ventured through ruins, marketplaces, villages, farms, mountains, rivers and lagoons. We saw smiles from boys and girls, mamis dawned in their chompas and monteras, and men escorting their bulls. I distinctly remember hearing running water, there was always water – even in the desert oasis Huacachina! We ate cuy (guinea pig), alpaca, fresh fish, smoothies with frogs, and chomped on chichi morada.
Saturday morning offers opportunity to visit the local markets where exchanges between the community can occur. A woman wearing a montera, traditional to her region in Ollantaytambo, is having a conversation with a merchant in the distance.
The monteras we wear: A mother prepares her son to exit from a truck that just arrived to the local market.
A woman walks the street toward the market wearing her montera distinctive to her region.
I couldn’t write something about Peru without exposing my experience about Machu Picchu - it is everything that people say it is. The mystique, the presence, and the beauty in craft are beyond description and even the photos used to depict the occasion.
Early morning mystique of Machu Picchu
A different perspective of the ancient site – the presence.
Students learning about the Incan history from our co-leader Raul – the beauty.
After departing the wonder we visited a pueblo located near a lagoon – Huancaya. This is where I gained first hand knowledge on how to experience altitude sickness. The pain was relentless throughout the night but I could not help but appreciate that experience because I believe seeing such pristine beauty was worth every distressing moment.
The lagoon at Huancaya as our boat makes its way to a breathtaking waterfall.
Not only in the darkest of night do you feel the presence of the surrounding mountains, but you know the heavens are gazing upon you in irony. Huancaya at night.
The last great memory I have in Peru is when our last week was approaching and the amazing experience we had at Huacachina. The surrounding desert humbled our presence as you would gaze upon a horizon stretched across with massive dunes that resembled a frozen sea of sand. Being there was certainly an experience I think every man, woman and child should experience. Surround yourself with desert and feel the presence and absence of self.
A torn Peruvian flag atop a sand dune truck as the vast presence of the Atacama desert stretched in the background.
A great “last” moment that warms my soul - A fine group of students for the Latin American Spanish Immersion and Community Service Gap 2015 fall semester.