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.     

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Day 14 – A final celebration

August 29, 2013

Today we got to sleep in, but our whole room was strangely up before we were supposed to be.  As usual, we had our breakfast and then headed to Cereco to work for the last time. There wasn’t much work to be done today besides the finishing touches. A few students helped with wheeling loads of concrete while the rest cleaned up around the site. After a couple of hours the monument was completed and everyone gathered excitedly to place their handprints in the cement. The project was officially finished and ready to be revealed to the Cochabamba Rotary Club. We rushed back to the scout hall to wolf down a quick lunch before hurrying back to the worksite. The Rotarians joined us shortly after we returned to take pictures and thank us. They all seemed quite impressed and presented us with a plaque to add to our monument that explained the project and who we are.

This afternoon we had our final cold showers and quiet time for two hours. Everyone got a chance to relax and hang out at the Scout Hall for the last time. We had four hours to kill before our events started for the night. Most of us spent this time organizing our things, packing our suitcases, playing soccer with the kids, and getting ready to go. We then walked over to Cereco for our Canada-Bolivia celebration. We watched five cultural dances from the different areas of Bolivia performed by the students, staff and parents of Cereco. Sergio is one of the individuals helped by Cereco.  He specializes as a clown .  During his performance he sat Sophie in a chair and danced around her. Her embarrassed face was hilarious. We were then fed fried dough and a strange drink made of corn and chocolate. We tried to be polite but for most of us it was hard to get down. We then hopped on a bus and were driven to the Rotary Tunari Hall. We had a Rotary meeting that consisted entirely of thank-yous and presents. We received Rotary Tunari pins and Bolivian passport/money holders. We had dinner and then said goodbye to our new friends from the Interact and Rotaractor clubs. Some people were sad but we knew we would be seeing each other in the coming months. We took the bus back home and tiredly cuddled up into our uncomfortable beds for our last night at the Scout Hall.

Lots of love,

Raissa Chernoff and Jessica Trickey

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