Leaving so soon

It’s hard to believe this month in Peru is coming to an end. The last week has gone by faster than I could have ever expected. After visiting Uros Island we went to the island of Amantani. We walked to the top of the island, sat in the middle of Incan ruins and watched the sunset.

That night we settled into our new home with a family from the island. They got us all dressed up and took us to a party. We danced and danced and danced…

The next day we took the boat to the island of Taquile for lunch. The view from the island was stunning. The water and sky were so blue and you could see the snow-capped mountains of Bolivia just across the way.

I have done and seen so many new things this last month that it is hard to keep track.  It is even harder to step back and take it all in.  I have spent nights watching traditional Peruvian dances…

Walking the Cusco streets filled with art and culture…

and meeting so many new friends…

I had no idea what to expect before I came to Peru. I knew Machu Picchu was on the list and volunteering at an orphanage.  I don’t think I could have ever imagined the lessons and experiences that I would take with me on my return.

Although I have learned so much from sightseeing and tours, I owe a great deal of thanks to these ladies…

They have taught me more about life than any tour ever could.

I believe the next few days will be both exciting and sad.  I am happy to return to my loved ones but will be very sad to leave this amazing country.

I guess I’ll just have to start planning for my next trip back!

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Trip to Puno- Uros Island

This weekend Ashley and I went to Puno.  We left Cuzco at about 10pm Friday and traveled all through the night till 4:30am Saturday morning.  When we arrived in Puno we slept in a hostel for 2 hours and then began our two day tour of Lago Titikaka.

The first place we went to on the lake was called Uros Island.  This is a small man-made island built completely out of  Totora reeds. A man from the island told us all about how they initially built the island out of reeds and how they have to keep it up weekly so that it does not sink below the water.

Then a woman named Yolanda put all the girls in the traditional clothing.  I loved all the bright colors they used! We were also able to get a peek inside her house.  The houses were so small and consisted only of a couple of rugs and a bed.  They hung the clothes on the wall and the kitchen was outside. Some of the families used solar panels to run certain appliances.

Then we went on a boat tour around the island.  We saw the little school house that the elementary school kids take a boat to every week day.

While we were on the boat a little girl from the village sang traditional songs to us as well as a very broken English version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

We could not believe the detail that went into making the boats, houses and the island in general. They told us that a boat could take about 1 week to make and about every month a new roof had to be built.

A couple of hours on the island was definitely not enough.  Every direction I turned I could see new structures built from these single reeds.  It was such a unique community but alas it was time to move on to the next stop, Amantani Island.

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Siempre Joven (Part 2)

The next morning Ashley and I decided to go on a hike to Mandor Falls. These two waterfalls are located at the beginning of the jungle of Quillabamba.

In order to get to the falls we had to first follow the railroad, squeezing next to the mountain walls while trains passed by.  Then we had to follow the Urubamba River.  We suddenly found ourselves surrounded by an endless abyss of green.

Around a corner of trees we spotted the first waterfall.

It was a small waterfall that reached up as far as we could see and ended in a little stream covered in yellow flowers. We headed on the path to see the next waterfall.

And made a little friend on the way.

We could hear the loud splashing of water up ahead.

We made it! Small drops of water covered our hair and face. It was refreshing after walking through the hot sun.  The waterfall was so powerful we could not take our eyes off of it. Everything around was completely still, no wind or bugs buzzing about, just the sound of the water cascading down.

We took our time to relax in the jungle and take it all in. From the bottom of the first waterfall you could see a hint of ruins from Machupicchu.

On our way out of the jungle, right before we hit the main road, I spotted a yellow flower in front of me.

Rest in Peace Morgan ❤

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Siempre Joven (Part 1)

On January 17, 2011 Morgan Petra Ashe died from Leukemia at the age of 23. Right before I left to Peru her parents asked me to take some of her ashes to scatter in a beautiful place.  Machupicchu seemed like that perfect place…

My new roommate, Ashley, and I woke up early on Saturday morning to go to the Peru Rail train station. From the town of Ollantaytambo we were headed to Aguas Calientes where we boarded a bus to Machupicchu.

The bus was a pretty quick ride along the side of the mountain. As we got higher and higher up we could see the massive Andes Mountain peaks through the clouds.  Everything was so green and beautiful.  Finally we reached the top and hiked to the famous look out point of Machupicchu.

We went on a two hour guided tour throughout all of Machupicchu and saw all the famous sites in the old Incan village. The first thing we saw was the Intiwatana stone.  This stone was made out of granite and used to measure time with the shadows of the sun.  It measures the winter and summer solstices as well as the spring and fall equinoxes. The four main points of this stone point north, south, east and west.

We also saw the Templo del Condor (Temple of the Condor). A beautiful rock that has been shaped into a Condor with its wings spread open.

This was an example of what the inside of one of the houses would have looked like in the Incan time.  Our tour guide was telling us that they know the houses looked very similar to this because many of the Andean people still build houses like this today.

La Roca Sagrada was a beautifully carved stone that appeared to look like three different things.  1) A guinea pig, which was a very sacred animal to the Incas and is eaten all over Peru. 2) A fish, which was also a very sacred animal. 3) It is perfectly sculpted to match the mountains behind it.

As I walked around Machupicchu I tried to think of the perfect place to scatter Morgan’s ashes.  I tried to think about what she would like the most.  Every spot was so beautiful and there was so much energy and life up on the peak. Then the tour guide took us to the heart of Machupicchu where an Orchid garden has grown. The little spot was blooming with all different types of Orchids of all different colors.  The tour guide told us that the Orchid is one of the most prevalent flowers in Peru and there are over 300 species.

Since Morgan’s favorite flower was the Orchid I felt very confident this was the spot.  However, I still looked around to make sure I was not missing an even better location.  Then I overheard a tour guide say, “And this Orchid over here is called Siempre Joven” (Forever Young). That was exactly what I needed to hear and I scattered her ashes amongst the garden of Orchids.

I sat down on the side of the Machupicchu to have a bite to eat and try to take in the moment. It all felt so surreal. I couldn’t believe that I was actually up here and I loved that I could feel Morgan right there with me.

Ashley and I walked around Machupicchu for a couple more hours and then made our way back to the town of Aguas Calientes.

We arrived at our Hostel and took in the gorgeous view out our window.

We finished off the day with an hour of relaxation in the nearby hot springs, a good dinner, a bit of It’s Always Sunny and passed out to the sounds of the Urubamba River.

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Gracias Eve!

Right before I left to Cuzco I met a woman named Eve who worked at a publishing firm in New York.  When I told her I was going to be working at an orphanage with kids she immediately offered to send some English books for them.  She sent so many beautiful books about all different topics and for all different ages.

On Monday I gave all the older girls their books. They were ecstatic! Gracias! Gracias! Gracias! They kept saying as they turned the pages. The girls immediately started asking questions about what every word on the page meant.

The girl with the Rainforests book chose this one specifically because she was from there. When she opened the book she began reminiscing about what it was like growing up in la selva. She knew almost every animal on the page and their special characteristics.  She could even pin point all the plants and fruits and tell us how she used to use them in her daily life.

We spent the whole day reading through the books.  I would have the girls read a sentence and then we would translate it together.  They learned all about animals, rainbows, the sun, dinosaurs and a brave little sheep named Charlotte.

They were so happy to have these new books and to be learning so many new things. They kept telling me to make sure to say, gracias Eve!

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Flu in Peru

I have not been able to post anything to the blog because I seem to have come down with the flu. I have not had much energy to do very much of anything and have been trying to sleep it off so I am nice and healthy for Machu Picchu tomorrow!

The night before I got sick Ashley (another volunteer) and I went to a bar near the Plaza de Armas to watch a band play. The bar was down this old road that looked like it had not been changed for over 100 or so years.  The bar was called the 7 Angelitos. The band that we saw play was a Doors, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd cover band.  They were so much fun and everyone was up dancing and singing!

I have been taking plenty of pictures lately and hope to have a couple posts up right when we get back from Machu Picchu (one post mainly about the beautiful street art of Peru).

I’d have to say even though I have not been feeling the greatest I have experienced the most TLC from strangers and new friends than I ever have.  My host mother has been giving me breakfast in bed, making me soups and making sure I take all the necessary medicine at the right times.

Because I was sick yesterday I missed out on a tour I had already paid for and most of the time the agencies cannot rebook it.  However, the woman from the agency came over to our house last night with a list of recipes for natural remedies and the good news that she was able to rebook my entire tour. I could not believe how helpful she was.  All of my hosts mother’s friends were also calling to make sure I was doing alright.

It’s definitely been hard being sick in another country but I’d have to say that through the help of everyone around me I have been feeling a lot better.

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From Cuzco to Awana Kancha to Urubamba and back

Friday I left the beautiful city of Cuzco to head to the town of Urubamba in the heart of the Valle Sagrada (Sacred Valley). On the way there we stopped by Awana Kancha, (The Palace of the Weaver), a live museum where a group of Andean people have come together to preserve the culture of weaving and textiles of the Peruvian Indigenas.

In this museum they raise the Alpaca and Llamas and shear them for garments such as hats, poncho’s, sweaters, etc. 

They weave the wool into colorful patterns right in front of you.  We also saw how they still to this day create the dyes for the fabric with different vegetables and herbs.

Then we got to feed these adorable animals! There were tons of them walking up and down the hills behind the museum.

After Awana Kancha we jumped back into the car and headed to Urubamba.  This was the front of the adorable house we were going to stay in…

And this was the inside. There was a huge garden full of all sorts of flowers and fruit trees.  And a small, very rustic looking kitchen and dining room set outside.

While we all got settled in we took a moment to have a drink and enjoy this little paradise.

And then we ate and ate and ate!

A well known characteristic of Urubamba is the street market. I have never seen so many vegetables, fruits, meats and toys in one spot.  There were so many people doing their grocery shopping while kids ran around, hiding under the food crates or playing with the dogs and cats that lurked about.

As I walked around and tried to take it all in I couldn’t help but find myself deeply drawn to photographing the people.  There were people who seemed to love talking about their produce and others that just seemed to be going through the motions, daydreaming.

The quietest woman would light up when you asked her about the zucchini’s she was selling or the rich flavor of the fruits she had with her. The word “rico!” could be heard from every corner.

But whether they were daydreaming, talking or even sleeping there was a strong sense of community that permeated the market and a sense of appreciation for what they had.

(I couldn’t help but photograph these little girls playing tag while covering their eyes with lettuce.)

And so my trip to Urubamba was starting to come to a close. From the moment we arrived this little girl made sure to watch us unload the car and now watched us pack it back up.

And we headed back to Cuzco.

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