We left Ollantaytambo and headed to the bigger city, Cusco, where we would spend our last night and complete our final purchases before our flight to Lima and then to JFK. This was a nice hotel that had a beautiful outdoor courtyard with gardens and a breakfast room that was made entirely of windows. When we arrived in the afternoon we split off to do what we wished and were only told to stay in groups of at least four. I stuck with a group of five other girls and we decided to head right out and do some shopping. We had been consistently told throughout the trip to save our money until Cusco because everything would be cheaper there, so we were in desperate need of gifts for our families and friends at home. We walked down to the different markets where there were many vendors selling colorful tapestries, sweaters, t-shirts, jewelry, and other trinkets. It was hard to resist all of the beautiful things they had displayed. The vendors were pretty aggressive but we quickly learned how to bargain and were proud to tell our friends of the good buys we made.
The next day was free for us to spend as we wished, but we had to be back at the hotel by 2:30 to gather our things and head out on the bus to the airport. My friends and I decided to finish up our shopping and explore more of the city this way. We were out on the streets by 9 and it was probably a good thing that I only had a little bit of money left because I wasn’t sure how many more things my suitcase could hold…
After shopping we packed away our purchases and sat at this pizza place in the central plaza for a while, talking and reminiscing over different moments of our trip. The restaurant had a balcony that overlooked the square and had a beautiful view of the mountains. I tried to soak in my last looks and remember them really well.
The bus ride to the airport was short, and all of our trip guides and leaders came along with us to say goodbye. They stayed while we had our bags checked and walked us up to security, waiting until the last moment possible to say goodbye. They stood in a line and I hugged all of them, so sad to leave. Even though I was looking forward to all of the comforts of home and the people I missed, I had made new amazing relationships that were difficult to leave behind.
When we got to our gate, the morale of the group was low. We were all genuinely sad about the goodbyes and knew that we would miss Peru and the people we had met there, and the people we were able to be there.
After almost exactly 24 hours of traveling, we arrived safely in JFK and boarded the bus to Westtown. We were given our cell phones back and it was fun to catch up on things for a little while, but then I realized that I was shutting out the people and present-happenings around me. I discovered how valuable the unplugged challenge had been. There were moments over the trip where I craved a little “connection” or a talk with someone from home, but those were fleeting feelings and on the whole I didn’t miss technology very much. People on the bus back even started talking about how stupid it all seems now. If our crazy discombobulated group could manage to survive and enjoy our two weeks in Peru without communication devices, then what do we really need them for?
It’s funny because as I looked out the window somewhere in North Jersey on our way back to Westtown, I remarked how flat the land seemed, but how it is beautiful in its own gritty way. I hope to enjoy the rest of this year with the appreciative mindset and way of seeing things like a first-timer that I adopted and attained throughout my journey Peru.