I cannot believe that my journey in Peru is already over. It seems like just yesterday that the 21 of us stepped outside of the Cusco airport to the crisp air and the endless view of mountains. Over the last two weeks, I experienced a whirlwind of new experiences, friends, and memories. Since I did not have Internet over the past two weeks, I will be blogging “backwards” recounting the countless events that made up our wonderful trip.
After over 24 hours of traveling, I stepped outside to a sight that literally took my breath away (probably because of the altitude). We drove around 2 hours to the town of Ollantaytambo, our home for most of the trip. The first few nights we stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast on the edge of the town, while we tried to become accustomed to our new home. Our first night, we went through our norms, expectations, and concerns with Randall and Javier. Both of them served as our leaders for the trip, teaching and reassuring us the whole time. We all talked about some of our concerns which consisted of the language barrier, the food, sickness, and getting to attached to Peru. Some of our expectations of course had to do with seeing a llama, getting to know the locals, and cultural immersion. Those would all be met (thankfully!). We also learned about a nightly ritual that we would do every night of the trip called ANCHOR. Two different people would lead it every night, and would go through Appreciations, News, Concerns, Hopes, Obscurities, and Reading (ANCHOR).
(our view from the hotel)
The second day of the trip would end up being one of the most interesting. We all participated in a scavenger hunt that would take us all around the town. After breaking off into randomized groups, the competition began and my group did not want to lose. We set out needing to fulfill all different types of tasks, and had a blast running around the city,probably looking like idiots. The craziest part of the hunt was the fact that the carnival festivities were in progress. Carnival is a month-long festival that involves lots of water and soap throwing. To this day, nobody seems 100% sure why Carnival happens but we all do know it is a great source of entertainment and a ton of fun. While we were trying to find the answers to our clues, kids and adults (mostly teenagers) threw soap and water on us. We would walk down a street and try to sprint away from the endless water attacks, laughing the entire time. Though we didn’t win the scavenger hunt, we had a great time.
One big lesson we learned from the trip is the HUGE importance of sunscreen. They told us from day one that the sun in Peru was not the type that would make you tan, but instead it was relentlessly burn you to a crisp. I learned that very quickly, becoming super sun burnt on the second day and which would last almost the entire trip.
On the third day of the trip we headed to the Inca Sun Temple ruins which were located in the heart of Ollantaytambo. Walking up the endless stairs was a huge struggle due to the lack of oxygen that seemed to kick everyone’s butt. Despite the issues with the altitude, the ruins were beautiful and we were given a really great tour throughout them.
That night we also went to a Despacho ceremony. We all gathered at a place called “The Full Moon Lodge” around an elderly shaman who did a long spiritual ceremony with us. A message that I will definitely take away with me from the ceremony is how important it is to treat the Earth with the respect it deserves. The ceremony was really interesting and something that I will never forget.