Day 16 – Machu Picchu!

August 31, 2013

Today our day started bright, early and freezing, at 3:30 AM. We were woken up and had a quick breakfast of bread and jam before being ushered out the door, into the freezing air and onto a bus. Most of us slept through the ups, downs, turns and bumps of the hour and a half ride to the train station. Once we arrived we groggily got off the bus and, once our tickets and passports were checked, hopped on board a PeruRail train. There we found our seats, which were comfy and surrounding a table, and admired the mountains, glaciers and villages that we passed. We were served a snack of either a muffin or dried plantains as well as a drink, coffee being the favorite.

After an hour and a half, the train pulled into the station in Heua Caliente and our excitement was at an all time high, we were almost at our destination, Machu Picchu! However, before we could celebrate, we had to board yet another bus, this time with our guide Mario. Twenty minutes and a hundred pictures later, we were finally there, well almost. First, because there are no bathrooms in Machu Picchu, we had to pay a whole sol to use the ones outside the gate. Then, finally, we flashed our passports, had our tickets stamped and entered the ancient city. Star struck, we gawked at the amazing town. After a few quick pictures, Mario led us to a set of stairs. Now these stairs looked innocent enough, they weren’t too steep and there weren’t too many, little did we know this was just the beginning. Not even half way up we were sweaty, out of breath, and wondering if it was possible to get hypothermia and heat stroke in the same day. Then, we reached halfway up, a beautiful spot where you could see all of Machu Picchu. While most of us posed for our own pictures, Ashlee, being a blond haired, blue eyed, fair skinned girl had people asking to take pictures with her. After the fans had cleared, we were back on the stairs headed to the top with the promise of an even better view and the guardhouse. We weren’t disappointed.  We got there, looking down you could see all the way down to the river, and looking up you could see all of the surrounding mountains.

Now that we were at the top, there was only one thing left to do, go back down. This time though, we got to go through the city. Entering through the main gate, which is higher than the rest, we headed toward the temple zone. On our way we stopped at one of the Inca houses, which is slightly sloped toward the center and has closed windows, protection from earthquakes. Carrying on we saw the most important building in all of Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Sun, which is round and has the best stonework, all perfectly rectangular. Right beside that is a long building with a straw roof, the Water Temple, which is the start of sixteen fountains that go through the city. Not far from that was the Temple of the Three Windows. Three is a very important number for the Incas, as they represent the Snake, the Puma and the Condor.  We then headed to the Temple of the Condor, which are two rocks representing the wings and a rock carved in the ground that represents the head. Finally we headed to the last stop of our tour, the Ceremonial Rock. This rock is the exact shape of the mountain behind it, as well as two of Peru’s delicacies, fish and guinea pig. After answering our questions and saying our goodbyes, Mario left us saying that Incas don’t say goodbye, they say, “See you later”.

Once we were on our own, there was something we had to do, with Stacey home by herself on her first wedding anniversary we had to let her know we hadn’t forgotten. So, with Wren guiding us, we spelled  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY with our bodies, showing off our flexibility, gymnastic skills and patience. Not to mentions all the strangers laughing, pointing and taking pictures. After we had finally figured the “A” and taken the picture, we had an hour of free time to explore. Some of us took the opportunity to sit and have our empanada lunch and take pictures, while others walked to a building on one of the highest points. Unfortunately our hour was over much too soon, and we were quickly back on the bus to Haue Caliente. With the time we had to wait for our train we browsed the small market picking up a few souvenirs and adding to a seemingly ending collection of sweaters and blankets. After we had enough souvenirs to prove that we had actually been to Machu Picchu, we walked to the train station and boarded. This time our seats were in groups of two and our snack was a spinach pastry and cinnamon bun. This time though, our ride came with entertainment, a masked man dancing up and down the aisles. He asked Alyssa for a dance, and got Emma to model some of the clothes for sale on the train. After our new friend was finished we quickly pulled into the station and got on our last bus of the day, back to Cuzco.     

100_3346 100_3351 100_3352 100_3361 100_3365 100_3369 100_3376 100_3394 100_3395 100_3404 DSCN1990

Day 15 – Cochabamba to Cusco

August 30, 2013

Today we had a lot of traveling to do. We woke up at six and took a bus to the airport. On the way, a car tried to squeeze between our bus and another bus. After risking getting his car squished he stopped trying to pass us. We arrived at the airport and said our last good byes to Juan Carlos.  

We flew from Cochabamba to La Paz.  From above, La Paz looked like a city of Lego covered in snow. We got off our plane and saw a snowman built just outside the building. After going through security to leave the country we headed outside and got onto the exact same plane we had just arrived in. We then flew from La Paz to Cuzco and on the way we flew over Lake Titicaca, which is huge. We landed in Cusco and took a bus to our hotel.

After settling in, we were all starving so we walked to a pizza place for lunch.  The pizza was delicious! Some of the Interactors tried a pizza with alpaca meat. Afterwards, we had five hours of free time to explore the area around our hotel and go into shops. Many students found lots of stuff in the side markets off the street.  A group of girls had a day at the spa and manicures whereas another group got offered to have their hair dreadlocked. For dinner we bought out all the empanadas in a bakery. The students returned and had hot showers. Actually, so many people were showering at the same time that some of us had cold showers! We knew we would be getting up at 3:30 a.m. so we were all in bed early.

Cathedral in Cusco

Cathedral in Cusco


Snow on the top of an airport vehicle in La Pa

Snow on the top of an airport vehicle in La Pa


Alley way on the way to lunch in Cusco

Alley way on the way to lunch in Cusco


Typical street in Cusco

Typical street in Cusco


Houses on the hillside in Cusco

Houses on the hillside in Cusco


View of La Paz from the plane

View of La Paz from the plane


Cusco here we come

Cusco here we come


Temple of the Sun about 3 blocks from our hotel

Temple of the Sun about 3 blocks from our hotel


Franciscan Monastery

Franciscan Monastery

 

 

Day 4 – Traveling by bus

August 19, 2013 

Today was Cole Chernoff’s 15th birthday. We woke up bright and early, loaded all our suitcases back onto the bus, and then went for breakfast. During breakfast we sang Cole Happy Birthday and gave him the card that all the Interactors and leaders signed as well as a beautifully decorated cake.

After breakfast we all rushed out to the buses and began our journey to Cochabamba. After about 20 minutes of driving, we stopped to switch onto our new bus. We took all of our stuff off the old bus and loaded it onto our new double decker bus. We then started our 10 hour bus ride. After driving for about 2 and half hours we stopped to eat lunch at Yapacana. For lunch we were served three courses, a peanut or noodle soup, chicken, rice and yucca, and a Bolivian desert. After lunch we continued our drive, and the scenes that we saw while driving were quite beautiful. We drove through country side that looked very tropical and saw many small towns.

While in one of the small towns most of the Interactors went and bought themselves some big bags of Coca leaves to help them with the change in altitude. We were all surprised at the amount of stray dogs there were along the road, either sleeping or wandering around. The most famous pass time for us on the bus was definitely playing cards and having random outbreaks of singing. Everywhere you looked on the bus there were groups playing games of Egyptian War, Crazy 8’s, speed, and many, many more. Some of us sat as a group at the top front of the bus and watched the road and the scenery. We came to the conclusion that driving in Bolivia is basically like a huge game of chicken as we almost hit multiple vehicles, a chicken, and a pig. For fear of getting altitude sickness Wren drank more than 6 big bottles of Coca Tea and water so she was probably in the bathroom more than 12 times and ate many coca leaves. When we finally saw Cochabamba in the distance, excitement came upon all of us…we had finally arrived.

Once we made it to the scout hall where we would be staying for the duration of the project, we had to get the luggage off the bus and drag them all up 3 flights of stairs. By this time everyone was beyond starving. After getting ourselves settled and our room assignments, we ate some chicken, rice, noodles and sandwiches. We then sang Cole Happy Birthday again, and ate the cake we had gotten for him. Joining us at dinner were various representatives from the Rotary clubs that included the Presidents of the Interact and Rotaract clubs from Cochabamba. We all helped with the cleanup and then went and cleaned ourselves up before going to bed. What we all had expected to be a long boring bus ride actually turned out to be a very eventful and fun day. Everyone is now VERY excited to begin working on our project tomorrow morning.

– Ashlee and Anna

Coca leaves

Buying coca leaves from a street vendor for 50 cents a bag

100_2860 100_2876