Category: Machu Picchu Peru Vacation
My volunteer vacation: Almost live from Peru!

Sept. 10, 2010

Machu Picchu yesterday.  I had a moment where I stood on the edge of the world looking at the mountains and I was overwhelmed and in awe.  I was on some seps that I snuck off to, all by myself, off the path the tour was taking.

I hope the power of this moment lasts with me forever.


My volunteer vacation: Almost live from Peru!

Sept. 8, 2010

  • ¨I didn´t know there was such a thing as a perfect day¨ – Dave, the 90´s music fanatic last night. Our day began with rockin out to Ace of Base. And ended rockin´out to Ace of Base. Peru loves the 90´s, as does our little Davey, who has been creating some awesome 90´s nostalgia for all of us this week.
  • we had an unexpected adventure last night! we suggested to Rocia after dinner that we wanted to hit the town. she mentioned a festival going on this week, Festival Natividad. the eve of this festival was last night and there are NO WORDS for what we experienced. 30ft tall bamboo contraptions all over the place with spinning wheels of fireworks, shooting from the top and falling from the sky creating the image of the virgin Mary in the sky, kids hanging out under the fireworks as if it´s normal. we were asked to dance, and my partner yanked my hat off my head and gave me his sombrero. apparently my head is huge or his hat was made for shrunken heads, regardless, it was fun. this was possibly the most dangerous situation we´ve ever been in, but holy hallelujah, it was beautiful and full of culture that we would have never experienced otherwise.
  • sidenote: there really is no other way to see a country like this than with someone like Rocio who can show you the REAL stuff. tourist attractions are amazing, but our our experiences thus far have been amazing beacuse they have been so off the grid. also, i´m so glad she went with us. she hadn´t been since she was a kid, and it was so heart warming to see her giggling and having SO much fun. i´m really going to miss her when we leave.
  • back on track: there was a bit of local ¨danger¨last night, since Meaghan and i stick out like a sore thumb with our yellow hair. Meaghan got flashed, therefore reminding all of us not to respond to ¨hey lady.¨ however, i ventured off to try and get some good shots of these bamboo firework things that no one will ever understand from my descriptions, when Mr Drunky-didjaredoo popped up. there might have been a little tongue on ear action before i spun around to look for Dave. since he´s 22ft tall, he regulates well for us. Dave came over and the guy tried messing with him in a way that can only be described as a wet willy to the belly button. Dave obviously protested and this guys response still has me laughing: ¨oh, not cool?¨ um. no. not ever. anywhere.
  • this morning we headed off to the VERY TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN to a town called Rondocan (i think?). we went to build a stove for a kindergarten. it was a two hour dive, white knuckles on the steering wheel the whole way, as the roads are directly on the edge of the mountain. don´t ever look down! i´ve decided that Peru is not a good place for an animal activist. i´ll be haunted forever by the horses we saw with their front legs tied together. Rocio says they do that so they don´t move outside the land. it basically traumatized me. anyway, we arrived, and the kids are stinkin´ adorable. poor things have little charred cheekies because of living so close to the sun. we spent some time while they sang songs to us and we entertained each other with large gestures and loud talking…ehrr, they speak only Quechua, the highland language, so communication involved a lot of funny noises and faces.
  • stove building = a rockin´good time. R-O-C-K-I-N´. to create the clay, get this: we had to stomp around barefoot in mud and water! like grape stomping, but not at all, and totally awesome. once the general architecture of the stove was finished (ie, sheet rock, etc), we spread the clay around it to fit specific pans, and it set the chimney in place. you won´t believe the before and after pictures. cannot tell you how pumped i am to have ¨stove builder and clay stomper¨on my resume. hollaaaa.
  • we expereinced a slightly terrifying drive back down the mountain. OUR DRIVER FELL ASLEEP. Everyone in the car was asleep except for me and Dave and he notice the Mario´s eyes in the rear-view mirror. um, then i looked and he LITERALLY PASSED OUT. holy hillside. Dave saved the day and struck up some convo, Marie offered her gum, and we cranked up some 90´s music. and survived.
  • we headed back to festival Natividad for a few hours this evening. did i mention that last night was a celebrating BEFORE the festival? so today is the official celebratory day. they celebrate the virgin Mary every September 8th, and today was the parade full of dancers and masked men. and the virgin´s homecoming. had too much fun yelling ¨the virgin is coming, the virgin is here! ¨ erhh, then we realized people were really serious about it and praying and crossing themselves, etc. oops. anyway, fun, lots of bands and costumes, and as always, inappropriate remarks from men. Meaghan and Dave finally grew enough plums to try some pieces of guinea pig. they said it was pretty good, though Dave still seems to be having issues with the fact that he ate it. we had a sweet bevvy as well, and Rocio told us the tradition is to pour your first sip of the drink on the ground to give it to the earth first. how cool is that? Mother Earth is hungry too, kinda forgot.
  • tonight the students had a fiesta for us. they organized dance routines and made us super sweet cards. my favorite little orphan, Christopher, played his recorder for the first time. kids got skills. i had a dream the other night that i adopted him, Angelina Jolie style. i want to put him in my pocket and ship him home with me. he´s such a little Peruvian Dennis the Menace. we got a cake for the fiesta since today is Meaghan´s birthday, and it was muy delicioso. MUY. apparently the routine here is to smash a bit of the cake in the birthday honouree’s face before eating? since we were celebrating Meaghan´s birthday, along with the other September students’ birthdays, this made half the cake awesomely un-eatable.
  • can´t believe tomorrow is Thursday. Macchu Picchu should be exciting. have had such an incredible time here so far. despite the tough time i´m having with all of the stray dogs around here and the horses i saw today. i have a kitten curled up in my lap right now and will probably cry when i have to put it down. erghh. the lesson i am learning is that what i know and what i work hard for at home is a luxury and that the rest of the world is not so lucky. despite the need here, it is a beautiful culture with phenomenal people and the land is beyond describable.
  • forgive the typos, i´m shivering, have to be up to see sunrise at Machhu Picchu tomorrow, and the internet cafe is closing.

warm kittens in the lap fo´evah´-


My volunteer vacation: Almost live from Peru!

Sept. 7, 2010

  • stick a fork in us, we are DONE.  the place looks great and we survived the fumes!  we literally jumped for joy.  next up: greenhouse!
  • more good eatin´and more good laughin´.  and some good tunes, today.  i discovered a 70´s cover album in the cabinet.  hello donna summer en espanol.
  • we had some free time after painting today since a storm rolled in.  Dave and i played 2 on 1 basketball with Cristopher.  he wanted it that way, crazy kid.  he´s got some moves, i tell ya.  a few others joined in and we rocked out on the court.  i learned that the rule is when you´re tired…you just leave.  so our game dwindled and grew a few times, and Dave really bonded with a little future NBA star, Marcello.  they played one on one for quite a while.
  • a clarification from a previous email:  the alpaca sanctuary is called Awanna Kancha.  Confusion beacuse we discovered this crazy awesome ¨popcorn¨called Cancha.  the way it is made is a SCIENCE.  they stop the kernel from popping JUUUUST before it actually turns into a big white puffy piece of popcorn.  so you eat the seeds and inside it´s fluffy.  science, i tell you.  anyway, so we started calling the sanctuary ¨i wanna cancha¨ instead of Awanna Kancha.
  • meaghan and i just came from playing hangman with some of the girls.  it´s a good way for them to practice the alphabet in english.  however, they are little tricksters and were using their crayons when we were doing colors.  sneaky sneaky.
  • tomorrow is Rondocon stove building.  ie, clay, mud, clay and dirtiness.  heck yizzah.

i want a cancha!


My volunteer vacation: Almost live from Peru!

Sept. 4, 2010

  • My flights were seamless…how strange! DFW -> MIA -> LIMA -> CUZCO.
  • I didn´t sleep much on the 5hr flight from MIA to LIMA because my seat was extra springy and wouldn´t stay in one reclined position. Despite having the whole row…each seat was faulty. ah well: delirious kate will be more fun for the orphans.
  • For now, i´m chillin´ in the internet cafe for the next hour and 20 minutes until Globe Aware comes to pick me up. i´m staring closely at the other American-looking people and playing a guessing game as to which 3 are my fellow volunteers for the week. Surely they are sitting around wasting time as well? I also got myself some cocoa tea to keep the altitude sickness away, though as i´m typing this, there is a bit of a tummy rumble. this could get interesting.
  • i must say, flying over the mountains from lima to cusco was AMAZING. they are covered with snow, so that mixed with the view from above the clouds was heavenly. can´t wait to get hiking around in them. though i´m beginning to realize my efficient 1 bag packing rule may not be condusive to winter weather. shiver me timbers!
  • random fact: i just learned that to get this symbol: @, you have to type alt and the number 6 and the number 4 all at once. crazy peruvians.
  • i guess that´s about all. my entire peruvian airport experience has been good, thus far. one more hour to go, perhaps i will successfully pinpoint my fellow vols.
  • until i type again, my friends. pahrooooooo, parhoooo, i´ve come for yooooo!

Kate Watts

Our Volunteer Vacation in Peru, Part 2

Stephen Hauge was kind enough to share his story of high adventure, investigation and discovery while on a Globe Aware volunteer vacation to Peru. This is Part Two (CLICK HERE for Part One). For more volunteer vacation stories, information and travel opportunities, be sure to check back or, even better, subscribe to Globe Aware‘s RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed by entering your email address in the Volunteer Vacations RSS Feed form in the right column.

cuzco-peru-volunteer-vacationsOn the first Sunday, we visited the Incan ruins at Tipon (a spiritual place with terraced fields and rock water courses, perched on a mountaintop and reached only by numerous switchbacks) and Pikilacta (a more ruined location yet with a long highway down the middle of “town”). Everywhere stones were piled in different arrangements, and one had to use one’s imagination to envision the purposes of the past.

On another day we visited a hillside overlooking Cuzco, overseen by a smaller version of the Brazilian Jesus, with outstretched arms. To his side was an Incan sanctuary and temple called Sacsayhuaman, again with marvelously intact and tight-fitting boulders in walls over 360 meters in length.

Our other trip was to a llama/alpaca/vicuna zoo where we were able to feed grasses to these distinctive white, brown and black animals before proceeding to a retail outlet that offered products from their wool.

We ostensibly were there to lend a hand (actually, both hands and legs and sinews and . . .) to whatever projects needed to be done. Rob Underhill, a dentist, had a specific skill that could be leveraged, so his family rose every morning at 5:30 to be driven into the upland villages to minister to the locals.

On one day we went with them, driving over passes through the lovely land, which stretched out in quilt patterns around us. Twice we had to get out of the van due to the rutty road, but we achieved our destination. Our job was to “build a stove,” while the dentist ministered to 30-35 locals, cleaning where he could – giving novocaine and pulling teeth where he had to – passing on mouths that were too far gone. One boy had a piece of sugar cane right through the center of his tooth, so both came out when the tooth was removed.

Building the stove required the kids (and the dauntless Meg!) to stomp dirt with water into mud and mix in straw for adobe bricks while John, Ram and I cut lengths of rebar (metal rods) with a dull blade. When we were done, we were informed the lengths were too long so we operated again (ah, for the maxim of measure twice and cut once). Otherwise John and I lugged professionally-made bricks on our back from a nearby site to form the base of the stove. In time it was made, though it had to dry before we could add the stovepipe to channel the smoke out of the house (this had to be done the following day). Throughout, locals came to the dentist – the field hands leaving their tools stuck in the ground – while other locals helped with the stove. It was a nice coming together of the “village.”

At the alburgue, our projects were primarily manual labor — moving large rocks, clearing and centralizing debris, knocking down a wall with a pickaxe and chopping down its poles with an axe (we sharpened it in a nearby carpentry shop). The first Monday, after 2.5 hours of this, I was so physically exhausted, I caught a nap after lunch. I had forgotten the altitude (above 10,000 feet), and we had simply gone after each task at full bore.

At the same time Meg, Sangeeta and the boys created several walkways of stone in our overall beautification project.

Had we discussed in advance what skills we had and how they could be leveraged (like the dentist’s), we may have been more productive. Perhaps next time.

Machu Picchu
Our major trip, at the end of our stay, was to Machu Picchu. As landslides had devastated the railroad and tumbled the rails into the turbulent Rio Urubamba alongside, operations had been shut down for almost two months as the Peruvian Department of Interior (so to speak) frantically rebuilt the railway and retaining walls (often using large rocks in wired cubes, which I first saw in Jackson Hole 20 years ago). The key length of track was re-opened only two days before we were due to take it, so we were marvelously lucky. From Cuzco it was a van drive of 90 minutes, followed by a two-hour, 20-kilometer train ride, made more glamorous because a kind woman attendant, taken by John’s and my twinship (as she had had an ex-boyfriend who was a twin), allowed us to occupy the paneled car, instead of a regular one.

We arrived in the town below Machu Picchu and were met by our landlord, who escorted us to the hotel. Since it was dinner time, we went to Indio Feliz, which turned out to be a highlight of the trip — marvelous food; a nice ambience with the packed house, low-slung ceiling and business cards stapled to the walls; solicitous hosts (when I told the male owner that everything was “formidable” – with a French accent, as he was French – he appeared overcome with gratitude). I had a superb French onion soup, chicken with mango, orange pie (alas, the promised ice cream was absent), and a Fanta orange soda – all for $25 (including tax and tip). And management threw in freshly made, warm garlic potato chips as well as keepsake small pots with the restaurant’s name as their “business card.”

Hector, our guide, arrived early in the meal to discuss arrangements for the following day. We proposed a schedule; he told us the schedule, which we duly accepted.

Accordingly, we were up at 4:45 a.m. for “breakfast” at 5:00 and in line at 5:15 so we could see the dawn rise. What proactive timing you may assume until you saw the line of 150 fellow tourists already ahead of us and waiting for the modern 28-passenger buses that left at 5:30 and every five minutes thereafter. Thus, over the roiling Rio Urubamba gorge and up a steep set of switchbacks, we arrived at Machu Picchu, the only unlooted Incan site, re-found in 1911 by Yale professor Hiram Bingham. Mist covered everything. Fortunately Hector had a “back story” to tell so we listened as the mist wore off, and we saw an amazing collection of steep terraces, rock structures, and seemingly endless, connected buildings, all amid steep mountains that the Incans worshipped as divine beings. Although the site was used primarily for spiritual and astronomic purposes and housed only 500 souls, its building is a remarkable accomplishment. Hector said granite from the “quarry” at the site was often used and the actual construction went on for over a century – one could well believe it. The Spaniards supposedly were unaware of the site so never attacked it, but as it had no military value, one could agree. Nevertheless, it is rightfully deemed one of the modern Seven

Wonders of the World
After the informative two-hour tour (and the sight of llamas acting as grass mowers), we returned to the buses, the drive down, the train and the bus back to Cuzco. The only break was at Ollantaytambo, where we had lunch (I had a trout ceviche in honor of Camden’s birthday), and John and I looked quickly at an impregnable fortress there, built of ramped terraces and stone bulwarks, where the Incans thwarted Pizarro’s 1536 attempt to defeat them.

Overall Perceptions
Peru is a lovely country, with soaring mountains and colorful, rocky hillsides — but the poor are everywhere evident, always walking, often carrying something. Red mud brick buildings with red tile roofs dot the landscape. The food is filling if simple, though perhaps too reliant on the staples of potato, rice and bread. Everyone looks the same: short, dark hair, dark eyes, and the older folks are old before their time. Yet, like the mountains, the people are rocky and resilient.