Time has been flying by here in Peru and we can’t believe it is almost time to head back to the USA! Thursday we headed to the Sacred Valley of the Incas to begin our service work in the tiny village of Pachar. After a two hour bus ride from Cuzco, and a 30 minute photo shoot with a group of llamas on the side of the road, we arrived in Pachar to a rockstar’s greeting. Our bus was immediately swarmed with a group of school children, many of whom had never before seen a white person, let alone 10 white people that would be staying at their school for the next four days. We arrived right as school was wrapping up so we quickly stored our things and went outside to play with our newfound friends. The boys gravitated towards Jamie as he showed off his soccer skills with a ball that we brought as a gift for the kids, while the girls and younger children joined Sarah in a game of “pato pato gonzo” (duck duck goose). When playtime was over we unpacked our things in the school’s lunchroom that would serve as our lodge for the next few nights, and sat down to a delicious three-course Peruvian lunch (most meals are served in multiple courses) prepared by our resident cooks, Señor Pedro and Señora Maria. After lunch our day was filled with constant visits from inquisitive school children coming to play games or simply catch a glimpse of their guests from the west. Kate quickly became enamored with the daughter of Pedro and Maria, Daisy. Wherever Kate went, Daisy was sure to be close behind. Exhausted from our journey and time in the spotlight, we finished the day with a walk along the Urubamba River and an evening circle talking about our “Bucket Lists” under the atmospheric stars of the ancient Incan Empire.
The next morning we began work on our first project: painting the outside of the school which had not seen a brush in quite some time! We first sanded the walls then mixed the paint under the guidance of señor Pedro, who in addition to being an excellent cook, knew a thing or two about painting. Everyone had a great time painting with Sean’s top notch attitude and Emily’s long arms leading the team in the effort! In the afternoon we scampered up a nearby mountain led by beloved Lucho, our local guide, an entourage of local children in tow. Coming upon Incan ruins as we crested a hill, any shortness of breath quickly dissolved as we reveled in a brilliant view overlooking the Sacred Valley with our new Peruvian friends.
On Day 3 our team task was peach and avocado tree planting in a new garden adjacent to the school. Annalisa led the effort by maning our singular shovel; a handful of blisters by days’ end as proof of her diligence. Working hard all morning in the hot sun, we finished the watering just in time to watch the school’s annual “Achievement Day” celebration. Complete with a presentation of song, dance or skit by each grade followed by an exhibition of student work, the ceremony was a welcomed break and and one of many cultural experiences on our Peruvian adventure. That night we braved the cool winter temperatures, set up tents and camped out among the whimsical clouds of the Sacred Valley.
Waking up to a hearty breakfast of pancakes, bread, hot chocolate, coco tea and fruit, we embarked on another painting project, this time Jennie serving as our team poster child, hardly relinquishing her sandpaper or brush until each and every inch of the backside of the school had earned a delicate fresh coat of yellow paint. Our time with the Pachar community finished with another glorious hike, this time with a hike leading to an ancient Incan religious sight. Saying good-bye to our Pachar friends, Pedro, Maria and daughter Daisy, we were off to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, a tiny tourist town with inviting natural hot springs at the base of World Wonder Machu Picchu!
Amid ephemeral early morning haze hanging high over the snow-capped Andes, the ancient archeological enigma of the Incas was more than we could have imagined. Following a 5am wake-up and a hike along the famed Intipunku (sun gate) trail, we meandered among the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu itself with our guide Lucho. Learning about Hiram Bingham’s discovery of this “Lost City of the Incas” and leaving with dozens of glamor shots with Wayna Picchu poised perfectly behind, Machu Picchu (“Old Peak” in the local language of Quechua) left us with an immense yet mysterious impression of that which is the ancient Incan Empire.
As we hopped back on the Inca Rail we left with a newfound appreciation for the natural world in which we live and the rich architectural beauties and diverse cultures which we live among. Today we set off up and over the picturesque Andean “Altiplano” Plateau towards Puno, the gateway to Lake Titicaca. Tomorrow we embark on our final adventure together as a Wilderness Venutures family_ a visit to the floating islands of the Uros people and the indigenous community on Taquile Island, with fearless Molly stepping up as Leader of the Day! As we savor the final few days, continue practicing our Spanish and bargaining skills in the local artesian markets and discovering new Peruvian delicacy “Cuy” (guinea pig!), we could not be more grateful for that which has become one of the most impactful experiences of our lives. See you soon! USA here we come!