Wednesday, November 20, 2013

They Woke Us With Coca Tea

So I went to Cusco...

The architecture in Cusco reminds me of Spain.

Looking out the window of where we ate lunch.

The city from up above, looking down.
I had an awesome time.
El Christo Blanco (White Christ) looking out over the city in a way that not-so-subtly reminds the visitor of the city's history of Spanish imperialism.

I even hiked one of the famous Inka Trails! Here are my journal entries:

Chantelle, Courtney, Britt and I. Note how cold we look- we were freezing!

It looks like a green screen behind us, but it's actually Saqsaywaman: Incan ruins that make even the most mature English speaker giggle as their name is pronounced like, "Sexy woman." Hehehehe.
Day 1 of the Inca Trail:

Rain dances on the tent’s canvas roof as the porters, cooks and guides chat in their own cabin. My back and shoulders are well aware that I have spent the day hiking through the Peruvian mountainside on my way to Machu Picchu. Our first day started early as we needed to first drop our bags off at our hostel and then make our way to the travel agency where we met the other hikers. The past weekend was spent with the Augustinian priests of Cusco and included some sightseeing of the city center. Back to the hike!

Coca leaves are supposed to help with elevation sickness- and they seemed to work!

Day 1!

We are led by two guides: Juan and Raul. Juan seems to be the main guide and is full of interesting historical and cultural information. The countryside is simply unbelievable and no picture could ever do it justice. Hiking alongside us are about 15 other people from all over the world. The good news is that they are all very nice and our conversations are very interesting. The food, so far, has been delicious and basically gourmet! I’m really impressed and enjoying myself and looking forward to the rest, although tomorrow is supposed to be entirely uphill… sounds great.
Casual Incan ruins along the trail...

Day 2!
Day 2 of the Inca Trail:

The rumors are most certainly true… day 2 of the Inca Trail is most certainly and almost entirely uphill. The guides told us that today’s hike would be in 3 parts: 1. the most challenging and completely uphill 2. Fairly challenging and yet still uphill 3. DOWNHILL. More challenging than all of this uphill work is the fact simultaneously dealing with the high altitude which makes oxygen intake and general breathing very difficult. Proving to be quite challenging, yet doable, the first part of today’s hike did not take our group very long. All of the porters and guides were surprised by how quickly we hiked. Almost more challenging than the first section (at a higher altitude), the second part was very difficult. Every few feet I found myself stopping to try and catch my breath, my pulse pounding in my forehead. To top it all off, a light rain fell down on us and made a hot, sweaty poncho a must. Robert Frost’s words, “and miles to go before I sleep…” echoed in my head as I make this part of the trek by myself. This hike is completely doable, but very difficult.

Super fun uphill section in the rain.

The last part, although downhill, was still a strong pull on my muscles but passed easier as I hiked with Britt and Courtney (a friend of Britt’s from college who currently lives in Chile but met us in Cusco). We are still having a great time with the other trekkers and really enjoying getting to know everyone better. It sounds like tomorrow will be another hard day, but I’m honestly loving this. Every time this just seemed like too much or too hard, I just smiled wider and trekked on.
Day 3!

Breathtaking views,
Day 3 of the Inca Trail:

Today was a long, slow day along the Inca Trail. Although mostly downhill, the trekking was fairly difficult as the stairs are very steep and slippery. I think that I fell twice which bumped my number of falls up to 4! Oops. Although very slow moving, today offered the best views so far along the trail. We found ourselves hiking through ancient Incan sites and alongside llamas. Awesome. I’m really going to miss all of the great people that we’ve met in our group, but look forward to our finally reaching Machu Picchu!
More casual ruins in the clouds.

Self timer shots are always fun.

All of the porters, cooks, trekkers, and guides.

Iconic llama shot.

With her finger on Machu Picchu mountain.

Agricultural steps.

That's right... I knit llama gloves... and I'm standin next to a llama.
Jumping in front of the Urbumba Valley (pretty sure I just butchered how to spell that... sorry)

Day 4 of the Inca Trail:                       (not recorded that day, but recollected after the fact)

At three o’clock in the morning, they woke us with Coca tea (as they did every morning) and encouraged us to move quickly. This was our final day of the trek and our chance to finally see Machu Picchu. After a delicious pancake breakfast, we hiked to the check point and got in a long line of trekkers waiting to begin the day. The goal was to get to the checkpoint early so that we might reach the Sun Gate at sunrise. Directly across the valley from Machu Picchu, the sun gate offers a fantastic view of the entire archeological site. When we first got there, thick clouds completely obscured the few, but Juan insisted that they would soon burn off and we would not be disappointed. For an entire hour, we waited with baited breath: joking, laughing, chatting, and soaking in the suspense. It was glorious! As the clouds slowly moved away and the grandeur that is Machu Picchu came into view, the hard days of hiking, the soreness in our muscles, and the exhaustion clouding our brains all became worth it. Hiking around Machu Picchu was a dream and it is unsurprising why this is one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Patiently waiting in the clouds (note Raul and Juan in the background!)
What's that appearing?
Machu Picchu!
Hiking up!
Finally there!
Casually at Machu Picchu. Whatever.
As the trek ended on Thursday, we spent that next weekend enjoying Cusco and delightedly acting as tourists. We even hung out with Raul and Juan (our tour guides) as they invited us to a cookout and soccer game put on by all of the tourist companies in Cusco. Luckily, their team even won! It was difficult to say goodbye to this amazing city which honestly has so much to offer and such a welcoming feel.
Juan, our main guide.

Raul, the assistant guide.
With Padre Lizardo, the awesome head Augusinian in Cusco. Here we're visitng the Augustinian school during their field day.

Cusco is gorgeous. A Spanish monastery built over Incan stones.

There was no electricity at work (making it hard to teach computers), so my students came to my house, made ceviche, and we ate it. Educational?

Me, Urula, July, Veronica, Kelly, Cindy, Fabiola at a march to stop violence against women.

Kelly, Fabiola, Ursula, Cindy, Yesvy, Jean Pier, Hector, Rudy, and I
This past weekend, we travelled up into the mountains again to visit Pacaypampa where there some Augustinian priests live and work. It was neat to meet them and check out this adorable, quaint town. Sunday night we stayed up late celebrating Britt’s birthday (which was on Monday) by shooting off both confetti and fireworks!
In Pacaypampa

Typical Sierra food-- Up top: Songo, At left: Roscones, At right: Cheese

On our way home from Pacaypampa, we stopped in Morropon to visit Augustinian, Padre Wilder. Much to our surprise, our provincial Padre Fidel was there too!

Decorating for Britt's birthday. Bronco's colors.

Instead of cake, alfahores! A delicious Peruvian cookie sandwich.
Waiting to surprise Britt at midnight with confetti cannons.

Three weeks. That’s all that’s left. Excuse me while I go cry…

Love you!

Lighting off a firework to celebrate.

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