North Shore H.S. Peru 2016
April 21-22, 2016
After two flights, one bus ride and lots of rushing around airports, we have finally arrived! We got to have our first glimpse of Cusco at a stop in the beautiful Plaza de Armas, an iconic place to see 16th century Spanish architecture built upon Incan foundations, and exchange our dollars for Soles. Even though traveling was quite exhausting, an evening of talking, eating and exploring the serene Samana Wasi retreat together has made us super excited for the days to come.
April 23, 2016
Now that we’ve all pretty much adjusted to the high altitude, our first full day not spent in transit here was wonderful. Waking up early this morning to the warm sunlight and the panorama of the Andes Mountains surrounding us made it easy to get out of our beds and ready to start the day. After a delicious breakfast of huevos, tropical fruit and hot chocolate, we got to meet some truly native Peruvians: llamas and alpacas! Not only did we pet and feed the animals, but we also got to see demonstrations by expert weavers on how their wool is woven and dyed into gorgeous garments and shawls. Then, we enjoyed sweeping views of the Sacred Valley on our bus ride to Pisac market, a vast sea of vibrantly colored Peruvian goods where we wandered and shopped for hours. Pisac market gave us our first chance to immerse ourselves in the Spanish language as we haggled and negotiated prices with locals and lunched on empanadas. Later we stopped off at the Urubamba coliseum to observe a variety of colorful traditional Andean dances. After having another wonderful dinner, we are ready to rest up for our adventure-filled day tomorrow.
April 24, 2016
Today was the day, rafting! Although we were all pretty anxious to get onto the water, in the end, it was one of the most breath taking experiences of our lives. With an intense instruction lesson, briefing us on the dos and don’ts of the river, we headed off! We started off with a 40 minute calm water trail, taking us to see ancient Incan walls, built thousands of years ago, still standing tall and sturdy. After, we were shown a mountain shaped as a giant condor, who the Incas used to pray to due to its intimidating size. If that wasn’t enough, we were shown the watch towers, built high on the mountains that the ancient Incas used to climb and scout their enemies with. Finally, we saw the world’s largest hummingbird, living in nowhere else other than the incredible Peru. Our instructor explained to us that the river we were rafting on was actually a sect of the Amazon River, one of the most studied rivers in the world. After our calm trail, we set off on an adventure of a life time. As the waves became more intense, we as a team had to unite and row through the incredible obstacles. It was a whirlwind of adventure, filled with joyous moments, laughter and friends!
April 25, 2016
Bright and early, we set off to the local elementary, and primary school to fulfill our task of community service! The lovely principal of the school greeted us with nothing but kindness, expressing his gratitude to us for helping with his school. We then split up, and went into different classrooms in the school. We were welcomed with classic Peruvian songs, which all the kids were eagerly presenting to us. In return we sang American songs we thought the kids would enjoy, including the “Macarena” and “Cotton Eye Joe”. The kids were ecstatic, each one jumping up to join us in dancing! Overall, being with the children taught us the joy in small acts of kindness. It didn’t matter that we spoke different languages because each of us knew how to make each other happy. After, we put our working gloves on and got to work! The children’s sporting area was in bad condition, with rotting goal posts, and chipped paint- this place needed a makeover. For hours we scrubbed, dusted and painted the area until it was spick and span. The goal posts were now glistening and the paint job had been completely redone! We really bonded in this moment, each of us coming together to create something beautiful for these kids. Seeing the looks on these kids’ faces as they saw their court being transformed was magical. We were all forever humbled by this amazing opportunity. We then went off to lunch, and after met the principal again to play a game of soccer. Their team consisted of nothing but pure talent, agility and precision. However, we also had a few players that carried those same traits, and in the end, we won! Coming from someone who was nervous about playing sports, I could honestly say I laughed the whole time. The Peruvian team made jokes, sang songs and congratulated us when we won the gold!
Finally, we walked a couple blocks down to a jeweler who taught us how to make our own silver rings. It was amazing to see a slab of dull metal, being transformed into a beautiful ring that we made ourselves. The most anticipated moment of the night was the snack we would be having…guinea pig! The body was still intact, including its two front paws and hind legs! We learned that guinea pig is a celebratory meal, eaten only on special occasions! Surprisingly, this odd meal tasted delicious! Someone even dared to eat the brain! Overall, it was an action packed day, but with all of us together, we pulled through and made memories we can never forget!
April 26, 2016
We woke up bright and early to a delicious breakfast to start our long day of hard work at the Sacred Valley project. During the bus ride over, we discussed what the Scared Valley Project entailed. We were told that we would be building a fence for a girls’ dormitory. We arrived at our destination, anticipating the challenges we would face. Once we got to the dormitories, we lugged the wooden fence poles to the top of the mountain and realized we needed not only more sunscreen, but also more will power. Although the task looked difficult, we knew what had to get done and we were up for the challenge. Quickly, we divided up into groups of two, and began to dig the holes. Faced with many rocks and roots, as a group we managed to dig twenty holes, each two feet deep. We stopped for a break, making avocado and cream cheese sandwiches. After our long and tiring experience, we felt very accomplished and proud that we could contribute to the Sacred Valley Project. We brought our tools back down the mountain, and filed back into the bus, heading back to Samana Wasi. Once getting back to our hotel, we had to quickly pack, eat and have a cooking lesson, before catching our train to Machu Picchu. The cooking lesson was a great experience! We made Papa Rellenas, which was a potato that was filled with various fillings, such as eggs, chicken, and vegetables. We then fried the potato and when everything was cooked, we eagerly ate this delicious treat with the traditional blue corn drink, Chicha Morada. Once we were all packed and ready, we took a short bus ride to the train station. During the two hour train we ate our personalized boxed dinners and rested, knowing we had a long day ahead of us. After arriving at the hotel, we headed right to bed, and set our alarms for 5am.
April 27, 2016
Although usually waking up at 5am sounds torturous, this morning was different. We were all filled with excitement for the long and eventful day ahead of us. We were about to embark on our journey to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World, you can’t say that every day! After a big breakfast, we loaded our bags with snacks and extra water. To start off the journey we took a short walk to the bus that would take us to the base of Machu Picchu. The bus was about twenty minutes, consisting of some of the most beautiful views we’ve ever seen. Once we got to the base, we stopped for bathroom break, grabbed our passports and started our walk up to the ruins. Mario, our tour guide was incredible at informing us about the history behind the ruins and the Inka people. We walked into the ruins, turned a corner and saw something so surreal. We were looking out into the ruins we’ve only ever seen in photos. It was a breathtaking view to say the least. After hearing much about the history behind one section of the ruins, we proceeded to discover the different aspects that make Machu Picchu special. We got to see the sun dial, the sacred rock and llamas that roamed the valley. After a long adventure, we hiked up to a great location for a group photo. Afterwards, we had the option to either continue to explore the ruins, or hike up an hour and a half to the peak of one of the mountains. The majority of us embarked on this journey, knowing how rewarding the view would be. Taking a few breaks for photo ops (and water), we finally made it to the top! Looking out at the view was more beautiful that anyone could have imagined. The additional hike was definitely worth it. After resting at the top for a while and taking in all the scenery, we began the hike down. The hike down was much easier and faster than the walk up had been. After making it all the way down to the bottom, we equally had accomplished something amazing. The positive energy was felt amongst us all, making us very grateful for having this opportunity. We piled back on the bus, stomachs ready for a big lunch. Served a buffet of many foods, we were satisfied at “Inka Wasi.” When lunch was finished, we were given free time to roam the area and shop. Being as tired as we were, getting on a two hour train ride back to Cusco was not a problem. When we arrived, we were in awe by our last hotel we were staying in, Ninos hotel. The hotel rooms were all designed as if we were staying in an art gallery. This made us particularly happy that we would be spending our last two nights in Peru in this spectacular hotel. Before bed, we had a late dinner at the hotel, that was very tasteful. This hotel not only is visually gorgeous, but they donate money to children in need. Each room was named after the original group of orphans that they helped. We are looking forward to learning more about their child aid project tomorrow. What a great hotel to end the trip in!
April 28, 2016
After a long day at Machu Picchu we were awarded with a leisurely wakeup the next morning and a delicious breakfast at the Niños hotel in Cusco. After a filling breakfast we set off to San Pedro Market in the magnificent city of Cusco. In the town we split up into groups of four to begin a scavenger hunt. For our exciting task we were granted 50 soles to fill up a bag with essential items for people in need; some of these items include hats, gloves, and food. After filling the bags to the brim we found locals in need on the streets of Cusco, and each group donated their bag as a gift. The locals we donated the bags to were beyond grateful, not only did it change their lives but it also changed our lives. This experience definitely gave us a different outlook on the world and the positive impacts that come from doing something small. Following this activity we were able to browse the market in search of souvenirs to bring back home. Then, we headed off to Inka Museum where we were able to views magnificent artifacts ranging from mummies to stone soldiers. Peru has an unbelievable amount of culture that we are all fascinated by in every which way. After exploring the museum we were able to choose any restaurant in town to dine at for lunch, with a few of our newly formed friends. Many of us feasted on some classic American food such as pizza, hamburgers, and pasta. After filling our stomachs with a yummy meal we headed down the block to the niños project which supports children in need by giving them an education, food, showers, and more. We visited their kitchen, library, and TV room- this project inspired many of us. The day continued with Salsa lessons at our hotel. Even though it was tricky at first, many of us got the hang of it quickly. From moving our feet to spinning your partner it was hard not to step on their feet! This was definitely a highlight of the day! All of our stomachs were grumbling now after some rigorous dancing, so we began our journey down town to an adorable restaurant. With live music being played and delicious food being eaten, it was a dinner to remember! We even had a surprise birthday celebration for Isabella who turned 18, with a giant cake and ice cream! So after a long day exploring and dining on fine cuisine we journeyed back to the hotel and fell right to sleep the moment our heads hit the pillow.
April 29, 2016
Today we woke up in the beautiful Ninos Hotel for our final day of this memorable Peruvian adventure. We had a delicious breakfast of fruit, eggs, bread, tea, coffee and juice before packing up our things ready for the journey home and heading out to the colonial Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas that was built upon Incan ruins in the 16th Century. We were told all about the Cathedral’s history and saw all the unique architecture and artwork that is on show inside, including the Andean Last Supper with guinea pig, Andean potatoes and chicha morada as Jesus and the disciples fare. We then went for our lunch of sandwiches and juice before strolling down the main street of Cusco, ‘Avenida del Sol’, for our final shopping spree at the main artisan market in search of gifts and memorabilia for our families and friends back home. The place was full of color and life and we practiced our bargaining skills and had fun with the local vendors. Then we walked back through the historic streets of Cusco to our hotel, with an ice cream stop on the way. We held a final reflection of the trip to look back on all the incredible things we had done and experienced during the trip before heading to the airport. We checked in and had a surprise pizza delivery to fill our bellies before the long journey home before saying our final sad goodbyes to Peru. I like to think that they weren’t just goodbyes. We were saying see you later, and thank you Peru for filling us with positive energy and giving us a new perspective on life. Hasta luego Peru! Gracias!