I lay here on my bed, listening to Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons while watching the snowflakes fall down, covering the Main Green in inches of snow. Alas, I should be studying for my final exams next week, but unfortunately, I’ve reached the point where no matter how hard I try, my brain can’t seem to digest anymore information. Henceforth, I’ve decided to write about my adventure in Peru this summer, in order to take things off my mind. I really should’ve done this a long, long time ago, but I’m a Professional Procrastinator, which is why I haven’t really had time to do so.
Hmm, where should I start? I guess probably with why. I received an invitation to travel with People to People to Europe, last fall, and although I really wanted to travel to Europe, I opted to go with Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) to Peru instead—the idea of doing community service seemed more attractive. Therefore, on the 18th of June 2013, I packed my bags and flew 5,000 miles to Cusco, Peru.
The first few days were spent acquainting ourselves with the environment. On our second day, we had a treasure hunt around Cusco. In the process, we got to see the Cusco market (both the one that sells groceries and the one that sells arts and crafts), the landmarks, and downtown.
Notice the rainbow-colored flags in front of the cathedral. At first, I thought they were gay-pride flags, but no no no, they were actually the flags of Cusco!
Along the way, I also met this cute little kid. Little did I know, this actually became my favorite photo from the entire trip.
So the core of the trip was to do community service. To be exact, we built a greenhouse for the school kids about an hour drive from Cusco. Okay, we didn’t exactly build an entire greenhouse, that would take ages, and we were only there for two weeks. Instead, we built the foundation for it, and the next group of students would take over from there.
The work wasn’t exactly the best job ever, but it was interesting as I’ve never really done any hard labour jobs before. We would wake up early in the morning and have breakfast at 7, and then leave the compound at 8. We’d arrive at the work site at about 9, and then we’d get to work. At about 11, the school kids would have recess, and we’d get to play with them for a bit. I’m (unfortunately) not really good with children, and I don’t really know much (if not, any) Spanish, so I didn’t really get to interact much with them, but I did manage to snap some shots.
Fun fact: the kids absolutely love being photographed. When they saw me walking around with a camera, they would approach me and repeatedly say, “Foto!” and after I take the photo, they would run over to me and look at the camera screen. I ended up taking dozens of photos of them.
On our last day of working, the school kids actually prepared a song for us. It was very sweet!
We’d go back to the compound at 1pm to have lunch, and then in the afternoon, we’d have different activities each day. We had Quechua lessons, Spanish lessons, a trip to a llama farm, a trip to the Shaman, and many more.
On the weekends, we’d take a break from the greenhouse, and we went exploring around the city. The first weekend, we visited the Cathedral of Cusco, and also some Inca ruins. The ruins weren’t exactly in the city—we had to hike up, and it was then that I realized how ‘fit’ my body was. Yeah, I really need to exercise more.
We also visited Julio’s village where we planted some trees and played football (the British football, not the American handegg). Julio was kind of like our guide for the work site, and also our tour guide. He’s such a nice guy, he even took us to see his house!
The second (and last) weekend, we did the Inca trail. We hiked up the Andes for three days and two nights in order to see the super duper breathtaking Machu Picchu. What I had in mind was: hike up the forest, and at the end of the journey, you’ll arrive right at Machu Picchu, but in reality, we hiked up close enough to Mahcu Picchu, and then took a bus to a hotel nearby. It didn’t really matter much though, because I was already exhausted from all the hiking (it was my first time hiking!) and I really needed to get a shower. The camping experience was actually really fun, I think if I have the chance, I will definitely want to go camping again. The only problem was that it was super duper freaking cold! I don’t know exactly how low the temperature went (didn’t have a thermometer, and didn’t have service on my cellphone), but I’m pretty sure it was freezing. The highest altitude we reached was about 14,000 feet if I’m not mistaken, which is pretty freaking high. I have a history of Asthma, which kind of made it hard for me to hike (or maybe I’m just making up excuses), and I’m ashamed to say that I was probably one of the slowest hikers on the trip. However, in the end, we all made it, and that’s what’s important.
Machu Picchu wish simply spectacular. The moment I laid eyes on it… HAHAHA okay. Stop it. Now it sounds like a love story. But anyway, the moment I saw Machu Picchu, I was literally in awe. My jaw was probably wide open. It’s one of those things where you’re like, “How the hell did they make this?” If I’m not mistaken, the archaeologists and historians actually haven’t arrived at a conclusion yet as to how exactly did they construct Machu Picchu. The didn’t have machines to pull the stones up there, and the stones weigh a ton! See what I did there? *insert meme*
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of Machu Picchu on my DSLR. I only brought my 50mm f/1.8 lens with me, and with the 1.6 crop factor on my DSLR, there was no way I would be able to get a photo of Machu Picchu in its entirety. That was probably one of my biggest (and probably only) regret about the trip though. I should have probably brought my kit lens with me to take photos of the scenery. But I guess being able to say that I’ve been to Machu Picchu is already a big achievement.
The last night of our trip, we had a farewell dinner together at this all-you-can-eat restaurant in Cusco. On one side of the restaurant, they had this stage where the performers did different dances, and at one point, they had some people from the audience come up to dance with them, and it’s not the usual kind of dance. They had this candle strung to the back of their pants, and while they were dancing, the person from the audience would be given a candle, and they’d have to try to light their candle by bringing it close to the dancer. From afar, it would look like you’re crouching down to admire someone else’s butt.
All in all, I had a really amazing trip. It’s probably one of the highlights of my life so far, and I’m hoping that I’ll get to experience many more amazing trips like this. Not only did I get to visit a country I never thought of visiting before, but I also got the chance to interact with the people and actually make a difference (even though it might not be that much). If you ever have the chance to do something similar, I would strongly urge you to do so.
If you’d like to find more information about the trip I went on, go and check out GLA’s website. To see more photos from my trip, go and check out my Flickr page. I uploaded 129 photos on there, but in reality, I took about 2000 photos. Last but not least, I have a five-minute video of my experience in Peru. I actually have about 4 hours of footage, and I’m working on a several-part vlog series about Peru. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to work on it during this winter break.
Anyways, happy holidays, and peace out.