¡Cusco! (…or Cuzco)
This past weekend I was lucky enough to travel to Cusco, Peru and beautiful Machu Picchu. The trip to Cusco is one of two we take with IFSA-Butler, so our transportation, accommodations, tours, tickets and 2 meals a day were already organized and paid for. We were only gone for 5 days, but we did so much within that short period of time I’ve split it up into 2 posts and 2 videos.
Our trip started out with a 3 hour wait at the airport as our plane was delayed. Once we arrived at the airport, our Resident Director, Laura, picked us up from the airport. Our plane delay ended up cutting into our time to rest. Cusco is 3360 meters above sea level, so we had to be careful about overexerting ourselves. We ate a quick, light lunch and headed out on our tour. The first place we visited was Sacsayhuamán. Our guide told us that this site was a ceremonial center built by the Incas. It is constructed with the precision the Incas are known for. Some of the rocks were enormous and it was hard to believe they were transported from a far away quarry. We got a beautiful view of the city and slid down some Incan slides.
The next morning we wok up bright and early to drive the three hours to la Casa Refugio Mara de Nazareth, a home for girls who have been raped and come from abusive homes. When we got there, we found out the girls had prepared a show for us. They performed some dances Peruvian dances, including la marinera norteña. We were then invited to participate in the show. Two girls from my group decided to juggle and then we all did the electric slide. Then, it was time to give the girls their gifts. Most of us had “adopted” one or more of the girls and bought them each a present. It was very exciting see how enthusiastic the girls were about their gifts. One of the tiniest girls showed everyone her brand new toothbrush and many were enamored with their new teddy bears. At the end of our visit, the girls sang us a song and we said our goodbyes. Before we left, the nun who was the director of the home thanked us for our visit and began to cry, as did many of the girls. There are not many safe homes for victims of rape or domestic abuse in Peru– none that are state-run– which makes the work these nuns do all the more important. Our visit there was certainly eye-opening and allowed us to see a different aspect of life in Peru.
After leaving the girls, we visited an organization devoted to sustainable farming. We learned how one community was able to recycle their water and visited a sustainable, organic farm. Then, we visited the organization’s headquarters, where we saw the various projects (such as solar ovens and showers) that were being constructed. After our second lunch that day (the nuns served us one unexpectedly) we headed back to the hotel.
Out third day in Cusco was filled with more sightseeing. In the morning, we walked to a cathedral in Cusco which was built on top of an Incan place of worship. From there, we journeyed to el Valle Sagrado. Our first stop was was a llama and alpaca farm. We got to feed the animals, and I even managed to hug one! After playing with the llamas and alpacas, we learned about the natural dyes used to color the thread. They also had a beautiful shop filled with hats, sweaters and other tapestries. We then journeyed to the ruins of Písac. These ruins, like many of the ruins we saw, were filled with agricultural terraces. Next, we went to Ollantaytambo. One of the things I found most interesting about this site was the unfinished Templo del Sol. Our guide told us that there are large rocks scattered about the surrounding area, one of which is called la piedra cansada or “the tired rock” because it didn’t made it to its destination before the town was abandoned.
In Ollantaytamo we did some souviner shopping, ate a quick dinner. Then, we hopped on a train that took us to the town of Aguascalientes where we spent the night before heading to Machu Picchu bring and early the next morning.