Exploring Machu Picchu

We spent 4 hours exploring Machu Picchu.  We started our adventure with a Peruvian Archaeologist named Victor.  He was our guide for the afternoon, tantalizing us with bits of Andean history and lore as we discovered the secrets of the site.  We started our tour of the site atop a high bluff where we could look down and see the expanse of the entire site.  Looking down at Machu Picchu and out at the spectacular topography of the Andes made me a bit weepy.  Sappy I know, but the Andes are astounding to look at and are quite possibly the most beautiful mountains on the planet.  For a moment, looking out over the mountains with Machu Picchu laid out in front of us, Kate and I just stared in awe.  We did it, we made it here, we got all of us here – what a day!

I want to tell you everything, but I’m not!  I will keep you in suspense untill we return.  Today we will explore the central plaza of Cusco and shop in the craft market.  Tomorrow we leave for the jungle. No internet there.


The Road to Machu Picchu

Yesterday I stood atop the center of the world, where the Earth touches the heavens.  Machu Picchu, which means “old mountain” in Quechua is a sacred site, the axis mundi, or navel of the universe where the three levels of the universe, the sky, Pachu Mamma (earth), and underworld meet.  The world of the Andean culture stretches out in all four sacred directions from the site to the corners of the earth.

We started our pilgrimage at 6:30 in the morning, taking a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.  Once there we boarded a train for Machu Picchu Village – a 2 hour ride.  Then another bus up the mountain to the site.  A four-hour trip in all.  It was so worth it!  The air at Machu Picchu is tangibly electric.  My first glimpse of the site came as we rounded the last turn on the bus.  It was every bit as spectacular as I thought it would be.  

We spent 4 hours exploring the site

Hola Viernes!

Can you believe it is Friday already?  We have been in Cusco for a week.  Time has gone by quickly.  Today was our last day volunteering with the children and our last Spanish class.  I will miss our children.  I have grown attached to them over the past several days.  I also feel much more confident in my ability to understand the language and speak it.  Today we returned from Santa Rosa on the bus alone.  I am happy to say we were able to distinguish which bus to get on, ask the attendant the appropriate questions about the stops it made, and get off in the plaza without incident.

Manana is our trek to Machu Picchu.  We leave at 6:30 am to take the train and then a bus to the site.  We will spend the day exploring Machu Picchu with a Peruvian Anthropologist.

Hasta Luego Amigos!

Volunteering in Santa Rosa

Hola Amigos!

Yesterday and today we spent the mornings volunteering at a preschool in a neighboring town.  We took the bus to Santa Rosa de San Sebastian and meet our group of 3-year-old friends.  Our activities included practicing a dance for their fiesta this weekend, singing songs, painting, and helping the teacher to organize lunch.  We spent the afternoons in our Spanish lessons.  Yesterday Patrick and I played pictionary and charades as part of our class.  We have a Salsa lesson scheduled for tonight as well.

Habla Espanol?

Hola Amigos!

Tuesday morning started out with a tour of the Inkan sites in the Cusco area.  We spent the morning visiting Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, Q’uenqo, Sacsayhuaman and Quorakancha.

Several of us stopped for lunch in a local establishment in the square.  We were surprised to see menus in English and very familiar items on the menu.  Well maybe we will find some more exotic menu items next time!

We spend the afternoon in our Spanish classes.  Our classes are specifically geared to our particular levels.  My class in working with speaking in the past tense.  Just Patrick and I are in the class together.  Most of us are in classes with only 2 or 3 people.  The entire class in conducted in Spanish.

Last night, when we returned to our host family I practiced my new lesson.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings, Hasta Luego!

The First Day of School!

Monday was our first day of school at the Academia.  We started the day with a placement exam to see which class we will start with.  Afterwards, we went on an orientation tour of the historic district.  This was helpful to learn where the post office and bank are.  We also discovered some of the local murals recounting Peruvian history.

We returned to our host families for lunch.  Dona Maria made a wonderful potato soup and Lomo Saultado a Peruvian specialty with beef, onions, tomatoes, and french fries.  Good thing we walked back to school or I would have been muy sueno!

Our afternoon consisted of an orientation to the Academia and our service project.  We met the staff and maestros and they are all wonderful.  After orientation ended some of us went to Plaza de Armas in search of a cup of Starbucks coffee.  Silly I know.  We explored the plaza and then returned to our host families for dinner.

Llamas, Pisac Market, and Ollantaytambo Fortress

Our first full day in Cusco was action-packed.  We met at the Academia and set off to explore the rich history and culture of the highlands.  Our first stop was the Awakancha Breeding Cooperative.  We had a chance to feed the Al Pacas and Llamas and then learned how the wool from these animals is spun, dyed and then woven into beautifully intricate patterns.

After that we moved on the  Pisac Artesian Marketplace, where we got our fill of trinkets and treasures to bring home to our family and friends.  Some for me to of course!  

We spent the afternoon in the Sacred Valley at Ollantaytambo the gateway to Machu Picchu.  We had a guided tour and explored the ruins while learning about Inkan history.  

Kaisy  and I spent the evening with our host family showing them pictures of our families and the college.

Hasta Luego!

To the Andes Amigos!

Hola Amigos!

En Sabado de la Manana, we left Lima and traveled east to Cusco.  Upon our arrival in Cusco our host families were waiting for us at the airport.  Kaisy and I are staying with the Gomarra family.  Ruben is a travel agent.  His wife is Maria Leonora. They have two children, Alex and Elizabeth.  Alex and his wife and son  live downstairs.  Elizabeth and her daughter Valeria live with Ruben and Maria.  And I cannot forget Neron, a very handsome perro!

We had a fabulous lunch provided by our host families and then unpacked and settled in for a week in Cusco.  We spent the rest of the evening getting to know our new family and resting for our next leg of our journey!

The Nazca Lines & Vitivinicola

We left the Hotel San Marcelo bright and early this morning to investigate the Nazca Lines.  Our guide Luis explained to us that the best time to see the lines is early in the morning.  So at 7 am we were at the Nazca aeropuerto boarding 3 Cesna 207’s to fly over the lines.  I must admit that when I saw the size of these 5-6 seat airplanes I was a bit nervous.  It was the smoothest flight I ever have taken!  We spend 30 minutes flying over the line, such as the Hummingbird, Spider, and Monkey.  It was definitely worth the twinge of nervousness.  I am so glad we went.

After our flight we p at Luis’ Tio’s establishment for a tasty breakfast.  Once full and happy we climbed back aboard our bus to make our way back up the Pan American Highway.  Next stop was the Vitivinicola!

We returned to Ica to tour the Pisco making facilities at Dona Juanita’s.  Her family has been making pisco for tres generaciones!  We learned about the process of making Pisco brandy from the grapes in their vineyards.  After tour we sampled some of the different kinds of piscos made there.  There is pisco you drink straight, pisco for making Peru’s national drink the Pisco Sour, aromatic pisco and sweet pisco.  Who knew there were so many kinds?  We stayed for a sumptuous lunch of braised duck with cilantro rice.

Once again full and happy we climb aboard our bus and head back up the coast for Lima.  We arrived in Lima just in time to make a quick spin around the artisanal market, where many of us parted with a few nuevo soles.  I found a wonderful tablecloth.  We then made our way back to our hotel for a late dinner.

Tomorrow we said adios to Luis our guide in Lima and get on a plane to Cusco, where we will meet Diego from the Academia Latinoamericano and our new homestay families.

Buenos Noches Y’all!

Sea Lions, Penguins, & Indigenous History Part II

So where did I leave off?

After a yummy lunch of ceviche and paella we perused the local handicraft market for a while.  After our shopping fix we headed over to the National Museum in Ica to learn about the many indigenous peoples who lived in Peru.  Many people know of the Inca, but how about the Paracas, Nazca, and Wari Cultures?  We even got to see some Peruvian mummies.  The whole Pacific coast of Peru from Lima down to Nazca is desert.

After our guided tour of the museum, half of our group went dune buggie riding up the dunes and then slid down on sand boards.  The other half of us wandered around in the oasis and climbed up one of the smaller dunes on foot to watch the rest slide down.

After a long action packed first day in Peru we spent the night at the hotel  San Marcelo in Nazca.

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Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

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New Bern, NC 28562
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