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A Week In Peru

Emma with local Peruvians

Emma with local Peruvians

Dec 19, 2012

Emma Spires is a backpacker with a perpetual case of itchy feet. Her first journey was a solo trip to Ghana, West Africa at aged seventeen to participate in a volunteering project. Here is an account of her trip to Peru..

Friday 2nd: The flight From Rio de Janeiro to Peru was a turbulent one, and as we began our descent we saw Cuzco nestled admits mountains and it became apparent just how high this city was.

At the airport we met Hugo, a grey haired man with a crooked smile who owned the orphanage that we were to be volunteering at. On our drive to the volunteering unit he took us on a guided tour around Cuzco, and animatedly pointed out all of his favourite sites. So immersed was he in his role of tour guide that he had a number of near crashes!

When we arrived at the orphanage we met Hugo’s wife who showed us to our room. That night we met the other volunteers and all had dinner together before heading out to sample Cuzco’s nightlife. We sat in a Cosy Irish pub next to a roaring fire with beers in hand and immersed ourselves in good conversation. Soon enough we were ready to hit a bar called “Muse” which we heard were paying live music; we spent the night observing young locals dance the local Peruvian dance and tried our hand at it ourselves!

Saturday 3rd: We spent the morning with the young girls living at the orphanage and joined in with teaching activities, songs and dancing. That afternoon we headed into the town and had lunch at a quaint café before visiting various tour agencies to look into options for visiting the Machu Picchu.

We also did a spot of shopping at the local market stools; colourful hand knitted items spilled out from every corner of Cuzco; hats, gloves, socks and scarves. We hadn’t packed for the cold weather of Cuzco and so gladly stocked up on warm clothing. We ventured into a local supermarket for diner supplies and  I came across a box of Twinings English Breakfast Tea which I quickly snapped up… there’s just nothing quite like a hot cup of tea on a cold night!

Sunday 4th: We headed into town in the morning and booked up a tour to the Machu Pichu – a two day train trip including a visit to the Sacred Valley. We also booked a horse riding trip for the following day. We spent the afternoon at the orphanage and watched a show that the children had been rehearsing for International Women’s Day; they sang, danced and gave us cards that they had made. It was such a pleasure to be a part of their joyousness. At the end of the show the children came over to us volunteers and took our hands and we all danced in a big circle to local Peruvian music.

Monday 5th: We were up early for our horse riding session. It was a fantastic ride through scenic mountains and we visited The Temple of the Moon.  In the afternoon we left the orphanage; we said Adios to Hugo and his wife and to the girls which was really sad. They hugged us and kissed us and gave us homemade friendship bands which they tied onto our wrists.

We checked into a hostel in central Cuzo; we’d booked our Machu Pichu tour from their travel bookings desk. We met an English couple who’d just arrived from Bolivia who happened to also

be doing the same tour as us the following day. We spent the evening drinking local Peruvian drinks and chatting about our travel expeditions.

Tuesday 6th: We were up t 5:00am to catch the bus to the Sacred Valley to begin our tour. Our first stop was at a local market which was selling local knitted clothing and other homemade merchandise such as journals, photo albums and alpaca woollen slippers! We then headed to Pisac which hosted beautiful ruins; the tour guide explained about the holes in the walls which were caves for tombs. Years ago, people would put their dead into these tombs in the foetal position; they believed in reincarnation and that this position would enable the dead to be “born” into their next phase of life. These people believed that human beings were the “mid-level” of being, and that when they died they would transcend to the “higher” being and then after that life they would start over again as a “low” being”; life to these people was viewed as an on-going cyclical process.

After a delicious picnic lunch our tour guide handed out some coca leaves; this is a Peruvian tradition by which people chew on these leaves in order to combat fatigue, boost energy  and relieve altitude sickness. The next stop was the Ollantaytambo ruins which was absolutely stunning and we listened eagerly to our tour guide’s rendition of the “white bearded man;” on one of the rock faces at the Ollantaytambo site there is a composition of rock that is shaped like the profile of a man, and it is this legendary “white bearded man” whom people believed it to resemble. Apparently, the legend refers to early explorers  and is an indication of Europeans in Peru.

Wednesday 7th: We got up at 6:00am to catch the bus up to the Machu Pichu. The scenery was breath taking; clouds hung on the mountains either side of the sun drenched beautiful ruins. We enjoyed a two hour guided tour before heading off to climb Huayna Picchu (Wayna Picchu). It took about an hour to get to the top; it was a tough climb, especially towards the top when the steps became slippery and dangerously steep but it was satisfying to make it and so worth as the views were spectacular.

That evening we had a farewell meal with the English couple Cat and Rob at Aguas Calientes before catching a train and bus back to Cuzco.

Thursday 8th: We spent the night on a bus travelling to Arequipa and arrived at 6:00am; it was just getting light as we stepped off the bus, bleary eyed from little sleep. An array of snow-capped mountains framed this picturesque town. We checked into a hostel that we’d pre-booked and were happy to find that for only 30 soles we had a lovely private room (and the shower had hot water – a rarity in Peru!).

That afternoon we headed to the town and booked a tour to see the Colca Canyon and also booked a bus to Puno and Copacabana. In the evening we have dinner in the central plaza and have stroll around the town eating ice creams.

Friday 9th: We were picked up at 8:00am for our tour to the Colca Canyon and we stop off at a number of places en route. The first stop is at a local village whereby there is a man with a huge falcon letting people pose for photos! The drive to the Canyon is a long one, but worth it when we get there. The canyon is vast and magnificent, and soaring above it, graceful and elegant, are what we came to see: Wild condors…

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