2019 Colorado Academy Middle School Peru Program

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A Day Full of Steps

Written by Harper Hodgson

We woke up to a filling and delicious breakfast of eggs and fresh fruit. After our breakfast we gathered in the lobby to go over our plans for the day. We then gathered our things and headed off to the ruins of Olltaytambo. We arrived at the ruins and our eyes widened; there were many stairs, but we where ready for the work out. As we headed up the stairs many of us stoped to take pictures of the breath taking views; and to take a little break; but many of us sprinted up the stairs like they were Usain Bolt. Once we got to the top we took time to take pictures and self reflect. We spent 10 minutes taking in the beautiful views and thinking about our favorite parts of the trip. We walked back down the array of stairs to go stroll around the small market at the base of the ruins. Many of us spent the last bits of our soles on trinkets like llama hats, alpaca blankets, bracelets, and decorative pom poms. We then headed to lunch where the majority of us played cards and ordered Alfredo. Then we headed back to the hotel to grab our bags and get ready for the ride to Cusco. We hoped in the van and started our scenic drive to Cusco. Once we arrived in Cusco we realized we had to trudge the flight of stairs to our hotel once again. Slowly we started to file into the hotel; every one arriving at different times. We then got our room assignments and went to our rooms to freshen up before a full evening of dinner and chocolate making! Once we were all ready we started to walk down the flights of stairs to the Choco Museo to learn about and make chocolate. The chef, Abby, taught us the basics of chocolate making and then she gave us a tutorial on how to make our own chocolate. Most people made milk chocolate, but some made dark or white. After, chocolate shopping and making, we headed to our final dinner in Cusco. People got pizzas, pastas, chicken, soups, and some of us even tried cuy (guinea pig). We ended the night with a final meeting and all went to bed early for a day full of travel tomorrow!

Machu Picchu

Written by Holland Burkett and Lilly Bierdman

We slept in this morning to prepare ourselves for the long day ahead. We went to breakfast a little later than usual and ate our delicious meal. We packed up all of our stuff and loaded it onto the van. We did a final check of our rooms and we were off on our fantastic journey.

After a bus ride we got on a train for a tiresome ride. We talked, played cards, and watched as the city turned into the jungle. Finally, we arrived in Aguas Calientes. We got on a bus to finally make it to Machu Picchu. We learned many things about Machu Picchu, from the history of the agriculture to the architecture. We learned many theories, some of our favorites include that the Incas deserted Machu Picchu because they were curious about the Spanish invading Peru. We also learned that Machu Picchu is the center between the upper world and the under world, and that they used better building techniques when they made religious buildings compared to buildings used for other purposes.

The ruins far exceeded our expectations and we were blown away as we saw the ruins in person. It was way more than we could have imagined as we saw how they lived. No words or photographs could describe what we saw and felt. We were not only surprised, but also were stunned by how well the Peruvian Ministry of Culture was able to restore it so exact. It was worth the wait to see it in all its glory. Sadly, we eventually had to leave and we got back on the bus to begin our trip to our hotel. We made it back to Aguas Calientes and had a great dinner, where a daring few tried alpaca burgers. “Good,” said Lee, “kinda like meatloaf,” said Cash. We continued our journey and got on the train once again for the final stretch of our very exhausting day. Finally we arrived back at our hotel and got some well deserved rest. We are looking forward for the last couple of days of this fantastic trip.

Biking Adventure

Written by Mattie Mielke, Zoe Cope and Arantza Pereira

We started our day by waking up to a beautiful morning in Urubamba. We ate another delicious breakfast before driving to our destination to begin our mountain biking adventure in Huillac, a rural community close to the town of Ollantaytambo. When we arrived, we were fitted for bikes and helmets, and then rode to the trailhead. The trail was very bumpy due to an extensive amount of rocks, potholes, and ditches. Along the ride, we passed through towns and saw the Peruvian culture from a different perspective. Towards the end of the ride, our guide led us down a more challenging route. This route included steeper hills, narrow bridges, and small streams. Some students found this demanding, but they all persevered with a good attitude. The challenges we encountered included cramping hands, cold weather, and rocky surfaces. Overall, we are grateful we got to have had this opportunity.

Next, we ventured into a different town called Pisaq. We sat down and the at a restaurant near the Plaza de Armas and ate a plentiful three-course lunch. Afterwards, we explored the renowned Pisaq market. Here we split into small groups of three or four and shopped for our personal preferences. Many bought blankets, flutes, bracelets, and other souvenirs. Here, we learned important bargaining skills that will be useful in the future. After shopping for one hour, we drove to the camelid farm where we able to learn about the different types of camelids which include llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos. Also, we were able to feed a variety of these animals. While we were visiting this farm, we met a little Peruvian girl that loved to play by poking us with her stick. In addition, Georgia taught this girl how to use her camera which fascinated the girl.

After exploring this farm for an hour we ventured back to our hotel where we ate pizza for our dinner. Following dinner, we all participated in a fun, lively talent show. The winners wrote and preformed a parody to Old Town Road and changed the lyrics to a song about Cusco. In conclusion, we would like to wish all of our loving fathers a Happy Father’s Day! We are grateful that you are so supportive of our decision to go on this trip. We hope you all had a wonderful day. We can’t wait to see you all soon!

A Different Perspective Of Peru

Written by Georgia Burstein, Anna Baumbusch, and Taylor Slutzky

Today, we started our morning with a delicious breakfast at the La Quinta Eco Hotel. Soon after, Edwin, the owner of the hotel informed us on how he and his family have been impacted by Peruvian Hearts, and how we were going to go visit some of the girls houses today. After an hour of driving in the bus, we arrived to the first home of one of the girls. Peruvian Hearts had just recently re-done Norca’s bedroom. She was so thankful because the rest of her family’s house was open roofed and dirt floors. It was also dark and cold. It made us all feel so grateful for what great lives we have in the U.S. From there we made our way to Diana’s house. Peruvian Hearts had also redone her bedroom and her brother’s bedroom, much better conditions than before. Leading down to her house, there was flights of stairs that her family walks up and down everyday. We struggled after just one attempt. Once we were done visiting Diana’s house, we were on the road again headed towards Cusco. Finally, we arrived and we had a big feast with all of the girls at the Peruvian Hearts apartment.

With full bellies, we walked over to the local soccer fields and played a game of fútbol. Everyone participated with a smile on their face. There was so much joy and laughter floating around! Although we were playing for over an hour, it felt like it was only 30 seconds because we were all having so much fun! Unfortunately, our smiles turned to frowns when the girls had to leave to go to meetings and university. Everybody was so sad to let go of our new friends. To finish the day off, we visited a third house, Jennifer’s. To get to Jenifer’s house we had to walk through a market filled with people selling everything from shoes to barbie dolls to llama fur. Once we arrived, we all thought her house was the huge hallway space until she told us her and her family only rented one room for 300 soles a month. That is half of what her mother makes per month. We then said our goodbyes to Jenifer and her little sister, and drove back to the hotel in Urubamba. Dinner was served at a local restaurant called Las Ñustas. They were serving chicken, steak, or pasta. Our eye-opening day ended with reflections of the experiences.

These are only some of the quotes shared by the rest of the participants of this program:

“It is amazing how the girls came from nothing and now they are where they are today.”

“Today was an eye-opening experience. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“It was amazing to see what Peruvian Hearts has done to make their homes better.”

“It was upsetting to see what terrible conditions the girls live in.”

“It’s inspiring to see how hard they work.”

“They girls were kind and brave to show us what kind of conditions they live in.”

“They were always so positive.”

“You can’t tell what people’s struggles are by just meeting them.”

“I felt spoiled for what we have compared to them”

“What we may call small opportunities, the girls consider them a dream come true.”

Exploring the Sacred Valley

Written by Blake McAfoos and Fatima Garcia

After waking up we started our day with a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and tea. We left the Pension Alemana soon after breakfast to make our way to the small town of Chinchero. In Chinchero we visited a weaving market called Urpi. They demonstrated how to create the alpaca thread and the different ways they dyed them. They used beetles found on cacti for red. They changed the shade by using salt to lighten the color and lime to darken it. It was amazing how they worked the wool to make products such as blankets or toy guinea pigs. In the market there were llamas, puppies, and guinea pigs. Everyone loved the puppy, giving him even more attention then they were giving the tour guide. After that we visited the ‘salineras’ (salt mines). We had a tour guide to lead us through every step of making salt. The salt mines are owned by about 5,000 families. We were taught about the process of converting the water from a nearby spring into salt. Those salt mines have existed even before the Incas! We got the opportunity to taste the mineral rich water before it going into the mines, and a taste of the salt once the process was all finished. After that we traveled to these amazing farming ruins made by the Incas called Moray. The Incas were able to alter the environment to grow different crops. The farm was abandoned when the Spanish introduced money and their culture. Although no one knows exactly why these structures were built, most people have theories that they were built to see what crops would grow in different micro climates. We had planned to bike for the remainder of the day, however we couldn’t get the bikes to the starting point so we had to postpone that to a couple days from now. Instead of biking to the hotel we ended up taking the van. Once we got to the La Quinta Eco Hotel we settled into our rooms and got ready for diner at the Alhambra Hacienda. The dinner was a lovely buffet with tea, salads, meats, and deserts. The restaurant even had llamas and alpacas on site. In general it was an amazing day. We are all looking forward to meeting up with our friends from Peruvian Hearts tomorrow, because we will have more time to get to know them better.

Meeting Peruvian Hearts

Written by Cash McCoy and Oliver Ebel

After a great night of sleep we started our day with breakfast. We ate breakfast on the roof top of our hotel with a beautiful view of Cusco. Then we made our way to San Pedro market to start our scavenger hunt. Everyone was challenged to speak in Spanish, and to get photos of things ranging from a guinea pig to an exotic mustache. There was a specific challenge to take a photo with a cows head. Oliver even knocked all of the cow heads on the ground! The locals were laughing at us hysterically. It was a competition all over Cusco! There was a festival of culture with lots of dancing, singing and colorful costumes all over the Plaza de Armas, the main square. Next we went to the ruins of an Inca village, Saqsayhuaman. Our guide Jorge, was excited to be our guide. We learned so many facts about the Inca. Like, Inca was not the original name of the civilization. The real name is Tahuantinsuyu, which means the four regions. Jorge then took us to the rock slides. The rock slides were as slippery as a water slide! We went down the slides with smiles on or faces! Afterwards, we came back to the hotel to freshen up to go meet the Peruvian Hearts girls. When we pulled up to their apartment their faces lit up with joy. When we said hola, they hugged us and threw confetti on our heads! They were so excited to share their stories with us. When they shared their stories with us, we were moved and grateful for what we have. All of the girls had gone through very tough times in their life. For example, some of the girls’ parents had past away or split up. Peruvian Hearts changed their  lives for the better. Finally we all walked to a ‘chaufa’ restaurant (Peruvian Chinese food) where we had a feast together with our friends from Peruvian hearts. We got to chat and get to know each other better over dinner. We are so excited to see our friends from Peruvian Hearts again in a couple days!

Exploring Cusco

Written by Lee Morrison and Calvin Schumacher

Our day started with a nice breakfast at el Hostel El Patio. Later that day, we made it to the airport and onto the plane after a chaotic, but controlled airport experience. After the short flight, our group arrived in Cusco. Our first glance getting off the bus was directed at llamas and a large flight of stairs leading us to our hotel. The hotel was a cozy and cheerful environment. After resting a bit at the hotel from a morning of travel, the group moved on to their next adventure for the day. Our day started by our group navigating the cobblestone streets of Cusco to meet our tour guide Eddie. Eddie led us to a stunning cathedral and explained the intriguing details of its history. He also explained how the original structure used to be an old Inca worshiping temple for the sun, moon, and rainbow, but was later built over by the Spanish and made a cathedral.

The tour of the cathedral soon ended and we move onto to our next destination, the San Pedro market. The market was filled with things spanning from stuffed llamas to freshly made smoothies. We all split up into groups three and four and explored the market, and shopped on our own. Twenty minutes later we all came together with our new souvenirs and walked to Cuzco’s main plaza. Eddie then dropped us off and we were greeted with energetic dancing and astounding statues and buildings. As the sunlight faded, we headed to a nearby bakery while we waited for dinner to be prepared. At the bakery we all received hot chocolate and shared our thoughts on the trip so far. The time passed quickly due to card games and joyful conversation. After everybody had finished their delicious beverages, we all were led by JP, our leader, to our tasty dinner. In the small and warm restaurant we all sat and ate while sharing stories and telling riddles. As all the students began to drift away into sleepiness, we all headed back on the cobble stone streets under the night sky to our comfortable hotel.

Our First Day in Peru

Written by Ellen Clowes and Anabelle Twite

After a long seven hour flight, we landed safely in Lima, Peru. Although there was some turbulence, both flights went exceptionally smooth and the layover was a much needed break between flights. We landed in Lima, all quite tired but ready for our adventure that awaits! We grabbed our bags with ease and headed to our bus, which took us to our quaint and beautiful hotel, Hostel el Patio. After a light breakfast, we headed of to our first experience, swimming with sea lions! We boarded a small boat, enjoying the foggy horizon dotted with mysterious islands. We stopped by several islands, seeing some of the following animals: Crabs, Pelicans, Penguins, Sea lions, Jellyfish and other marine wildlife. We stopped by a large island, which was covered in hundreds of Sea Lions. To conclude our experience, we had the option to get in the water and swim with the hundreds of sea lions. Although some of us were hesitant to jump in, most of us ended up doing it. As we jumped in, we were overcome with cold, but that feeling soon faded into excitement of swimming among the Sea Lions! Our tour guide Rodrigo helped us in the water, we created a formation so that we would float together. The Sea Lions floated and playfully swam among us, and it was truly an amazing experience none of us will forget. We then headed back to our hotel for a shower and relaxation. Many of us chose to journal during this time, as we found it helped release some of our nervousness of traveling. Finally, we headed to a local restaurant for a delicious dinner. Our first day in Peru was a complete success!