This morning mass was held in two churches in Ollantaytambo. The services focused on the importance of El Señor de Choquekillka, one of the town’s prominent religious symbols. Prayers contained a fascinating mixture of Spanish and Quechua, the language of the Incas. After church, we congregated for lunch in a garden near El Tambo. However, today we ate Pachamanca-style. For those of you unfamiliar with this traditional Andean form of cooking (for shame, parents), a stone oven was buried underground to cook potatoes, lima beans, chicken, pork, and cuy (guinea pig!). We ate with our hands and washed it all down with chicha morada, a drink made from fermented corn (not to be confused with regular chica, an alcoholic beverage). All of our homestay families were invited as well so that we could enjoy one of our last meals together.
Later that afternoon, we continued the INTENSE COMPETITION of soccer with some members of our host families. Surprisingly, Señor Viacava’s team continued to come out on top. Alex maintained his famous streak of falling down before scoring, while Pancho (the organizer of the homestay families) lived up to his nickname as the “brick wall” goalie. Both of Alex’s hermanitos joined in, and one managed to score a goal too.
In the evening, we had our regular meeting to recap the day and discuss its highlights. Tomorrow will be our last full day with our homestay families in Ollantaytambo – we’ll miss them as we head off to Cusco on Tuesday.
Today we spent the day exploring the almighty Machu Picchu. We had to wake up super early, some of us woke up at 5 AM, and met at the train station at 6:30. Our teachers didn’t show up until 6:45, but luckily the train did not leave until 7. After an hour and a half of early morning train ride, we got off in Machu Picchu Pueblo, a town at the base of the mountain. On the train we were served brownies before any of us had the chance to eat breakfast. Next, we took a bus to the top of the mountain on very windy roads and hiked the last 20 minutes to the top led by our fantastic guide Eddy.
After a filling breakfast with our families, we went to work with them again. Some of us worked in the artisanal markets, while others worked hard baking bread and cooking food. In this photo, our fearless leader, Cornelia, is working her butt off at the market. At the same time, our other strikingly handsome leader, Jorjito, was sitting in another shop, reading his book.
Today was our second day of working with our families. Some of us were hard at work while others of us were hardly working. Grace, for example, woke up at 3am to make bread while Luke just stood and held a hose for a little while. A few examples of various tasks that we did were selling items in the market, preparing meals, and working on our family’s farms.
We started off the morning with an hour-long bus ride along the river and train tracks coming into Ollantaytambo. Along the way we paused for a moment to look at a hotel called “Sky Lodge” which was literally in the face of the mountain with capsules for bedrooms hanging off the side of the cliff. Before our day took off, we also saw a dude on the zipline coming down from the lodge which was pretty dope.
We began our second Tuesday in Peru by helping our families with various tasks inside the house and out. Some of us were graced with fairly light workloads; others, however, were not so lucky. Kevin, for example, spent approximately seven hours cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors (no joke). Meanwhile, Elena’s morning consisted of peeling 10,000 peas. Alex, Cornelia, and Ainsley attempted to convince grumpy old tourists (also known as certifiable curmudgeons) to buy products from their families’ stands in the artisanal market.
To begin the day, we went to Pancho’s house, the man who organized our homestays, and learned how to make baskets out of thin branches found in the high Andes. These are called canastas in Spanish and require a lot more skill to make than we initially thought. Pancho has been making these baskets for his whole life because his father taught him when he was very young. We started with a bundle of branches and weaved our way to a basket under the close instruction of Pancho and his wife Balbina.
Today, after a not so restful night in the tents, we got up to eat breakfast outside. With mountains surrounding us, it was a fantastic view while eating. A couple people got up early to watch the sunrise and exercise. For breakfast we had pancakes, fruit salad, honey, crackers, tea and coffee. What a great start to the day!
On Friday the day started for the group at 8:30 when we left Ollantaytambo for an overnight camping hike, but a couple of us woke up extra early to play soccer with some locals. The two of us (Max and Elena), Grace, and Alex met at a small fenced in soccer field at six in the morning and scrimmaged with a bunch of Peruvians for an hour. Elena made friends with many of the old guys.
On Thursday we visited the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo. The ruins were originally a temple for worshiping the sun, and there are many stones that align perfectly with the solstices and equinoxes. From the top of the ruins, we could see the whole town of Ollantaytambo as well as some smoke from a nearby forest fire. To get to the top, we had to stop three times as the climb was very steep and tiring. We were then told about a festival that is held in Ollantaytambo where many people run up and down the steps of the temple many times. We also climbed to the house of a priest which was located along a path with a cliff on one side. After our climb, we all went home and had lunch with our families. A common lunch with our families consists of rice and chicken, or arroz con pollo.
The Groton Peru Gang woke up after a restful night to this spectacular view. We spent the majority of our time looking up at the ruins and granaries that lined the mountain side before breakfast. After a delicious breakfast of fresh bread, scrambled eggs, and papaya juice, we set out into the town on a scavenger hunt. We walked all around Ollantaytambo taking pictures in front of places like the town hall, police station, market, and ruins.
The Peru GEO has arrived in the Sacred Valley! Although yesterday’s journey was long (27 hours from start to finish!), it was packed with beautiful views, delicious food, Spanish language practice, and an introduction to our guides and hosts for the rest of our trip.