Days 14 and 15 in Peru: Free day in Cusco, Pikallacta, Tipon

April 26th and 27th

**I am truncating this post as it is quite long with lots of pictures. Please read on to see more!

On Saturday the 26th, we had a free day in Cusco.  We had planned to go to the orphanage, but the kids had a field trip, so instead we just had the day free to do as we wished.  We started off the day at Dirección Regional de Cultura Cusco: Museo Historico Regional, which is a museum of Cusco’s history back to the creation of the continent (pre-humans).  It was a really interesting museum and we learned a lot from the tour about the entire history of Cusco, including the pre-human era, the Pre-Incas, the Incas, the conquisition, up to more present times.  The museum is housed in the former home of Garcilaso del Inca, who wrote the first official history of the Incas, so there was also a room about him and his books (unfortunately, photos weren’t allowed).

From there, we went to a restaurant that was a bit more off the beaten path.  We ate outside and the food was pretty nice.  Our professor then went off to do her own thing and the rest of us walked to the artisan marketplace we had gone the weekend before to do some last-minute shopping because we were going to leave Cusco on Monday.  After much deliberation, I finally decided to get a bag I had been eyeing all afternoon.  On our way back to La Plaza de Armas, we stopped at a small ice cream place with wifi.  We had all been craving ice cream and wanted to find wifi in order to contact our families and write our college blog.

From there, we headed back to the plaza and ate at Ciccolina, an Italian restaurant.

On Sunday the 27th, we took a day trip out to Pikallacta and Tipon, stopping along the way at a town where they make bread.  We went first to Pikallacta, stopping closes by first at Huancarpay, a small town with a small laguna (originally there was a large lake here, but overtime it has become much smaller.

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Days 8-13 in Peru: Cusco, Orphanage, and Peruvian Lit Class

April 20th-25th

**This post is truncated because there are a lot of photos.  Please read on to see more!

We returned to Cusco just in time for Easter Sunday.  We hadn’t really packed church-appropriate Easter attire, so we decided not to try to go to a local mass.  Instead, we walked around some.  We actually ended up at one of the churches.  The doors were open, so we were able to catch the tail-end of the service, which was nice.  We then headed towards La Plaza de Armas, where we went to an ATM to get more money and then headed to a museum with lots of various artwork from Pre-Inca and Inca times.  There were a lot of really amazing ceramics, which I loved.  We then grabbed lunch, then we all walked to the large artisan marketplace.  I bought a couple of blankets and such.  After awhile, we all met back and headed to dinner.

Easter celebrations in La Plaza de Armas
Easter celebrations in La Plaza de Armas

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Day 4 and 5 in Peru

**I am writing these posts quite a bit after the fact, now that I am home.  This post is about April 15th and 16th.

We got up really early (3:00 AM) on Wednesday the 16th to board the bus for a very long bus ride on a very windy road to the place where we would be departing from for the trek (we were going to do 2 days on the Lares Trail, which is very remote and high in the mountains, and then the third day on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu).  When we woke up, I was feeling that great, but thought it was probably just from getting so little sleep and it being so early in the morning.  The bus ride was rough and at one point, we had to stop for another girl in our group to throw up on the side of the road.  The road was extremely windy and bumpy, which certainly didn’t help with things.  As we got closer to our destination, I was feeling even worse than I had originally and was rather nauseous, but I thought maybe I was just getting really carsick.  When we arrived at Lares, the head of the trail, I knew that I needed to inform the professors that I wasn’t feeling well.  They, along with our guide, Daniel, decided that it would be really unwise for me (and the other girl) to do the trek, as it is at a very high elevation (up to 15,000 feet altitude) and a very difficult hike.  I really wanted to try, but I wasn’t really given the choice.  We joined the rest of the group for breakfast, and then the two of us drove back to Cusco with the bus driver (it really wasn’t fun to drive those roads again, but we both made it).  The driver was really nice and stopped a couple of times, once so that we could take pictures at a scenic overlook and once so we could squat on the side of the road, since it would be a long time until we hit a town again (I’m pretty sure a man on a motorcycle passing by got a pretty nice view of that- there wasn’t much coverage).  When we arrived back in Cusco, we returned to the same house we had been staying in and proceeded to sleep the rest of the afternoon.  What I thought was just carsickness was apparently some sort of stomach bug, and the two of us were both in pretty bad shape the next day and a half.  In the late afternoon, we figured we should probably go to the plaza and find some food, so we made the 2-mile walk there, then proceeded to sit idly in a smaller plaza for over an hour, as we were both too weak to do anything else.  After our hour long rest, we were able to get some food (which we luckily kept down), then very slowly head back to the house, where we immediately went to sleep.

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We were served breakfast in the house on Thursday morning, then went right back to bed.  Around noon, I tried to take a shower, and realized I still wasn’t feeling to great, so I rested some more.  I was able to do some of my assignments for the coming week’s literature class and slept some more until late afternoon.  By around 4:00, the two of us were both feeling quite a bit better and again made the trek to the plaza to get dinner.  We ate at Jack’s Cafe (really good food!), then walked briefly around the plaza before returning to the house and packing for the 3rd and final day of the trek (the Inca Trail), for which we would be able to join the rest of the group.  Knowing we needed to get up really early again the next morning, we went to sleep pretty early.

Day 3 in Peru: Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, and Pisac

**I am back home now, so over the course of the next several days I will be catching you up on my trip- I never realized this post wasn’t published (oops!), so I wanted to note that this is about April 15th, not yesterday.  The rest of the posts will likely be a bit shorter, but then again, I have lots of photos, so you never know. Enjoy!

Our third day in Peru was yet another busy day.  We started off the day with breakfast at the house (pancakes- they even had maple syrup!), then headed by bus to the Sacred Valley.  Our first stop was in Chinchero, a town and Inca site.  Here, we viewed some ruins that were, for the most part, not destroyed by the Spaniards.  Instead, the Spanish just built upon the Inca structures.  There is a very famous Spanish church here that is built on to Inca ruins.  According to our guide, Daniel, this is a very popular place for weddings and such.  I can see why- the site is gorgeous.  There were a number of terraces, which the Incas used to grow crops.

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Also in Chinchero, we went to a house where several different families create and sell their textile handiwork.  One of the women did a demonstration for us, showing us how they make their dyes and prepare the wool for yarn.  They use dyes made from natural sources, mostly plants, but also some animals, such as the blood from certain bugs.  They create a shampoo from a certain type of root, so even that part of the process is natural.  After the demonstration, several of us bought some of the things they have made.  They then allowed us to wear their hats and shawls and take some pictures.

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We then headed on to Ollantaytambo, which was about an hour drive.  This was a very important Inca site and, unlike Machu Picchu, a lot is known about the history of the town.  It is also an Inca town that the Spanish mostly left untouched.  There is also a modern town there.  Daniel, our guide, described how the Incas created terraces and how they used these terraces to grow a wide variety of produce.  They would experiment by first planting things on the first terrace and then gradually move them upward, allowing them to grow things at a much higher altitude than normal.  We walked up the steps to the top of the terraces (up 230 feet!), where there were several buildings.  It was a bit of a difficult climb.  The buildings at the top were temples and religious buildings.  Across the valley, we could see the granaries where the Incas stored their food.  The granaries were located in a place that got little sun, allowing the food to stay cool throughout the year.  Down below, the remnants of the Inca village remain.  The village mostly functioned as a place for travelers to Cusco to stay on their journey, and it was also a place where royalty lived.  The town was divided into two sections: one for the royalty and priests and one for the regular people.  We walked across a path and descended a second set of terraces.  At the bottom, there was a temple of water, with two fountains: one for girls and one for boys.  It was a really gorgeous site.

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From there, we went back to Urubamba to eat lunch at a restaurant called Hacienda Alhambra.  It was a very nice place, with outdoor seating and several animals, including llamas and alpacas that you could take pictures with.  It was like a mini oasis.  The lunch was wonderful.

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We then had another hour-long bus drive (during which we all had a siesta) to Pisac, another Inca site that has a modern town as well.  We climbed the ruins (lots and lots of steep stairs), and our guide further explained the Inca agricultural practices.  This site was a rest stop for Incas travelling to the jungle and also housed several tombs for kings and other important Incas.  The tombs are still there, but most are empty due to the Spanish and looters.  We then headed back into the modern city of Pisac, where there is a large open market.  We all bought some souvenirs there (I get a small statue of a turtle every place I travel, and was finally able to find one here- apparently they aren’t very common in the Cusco/Sacred Valley area).

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We headed back to Cusco, ate dinner at Pucara, then returned to our rooms to pack for the 3-day trek through the Andes.

Evening of Day 1 and Day 2 in Peru

**I am truncating this post due to the large amount of pictures. Please read on to see more!

Well, I have to say the last three days have been both very busy and full of interesting adventures (to say the very least). On Sunday evening, we walked around Cusco a bit, mostly in the Plaza de Armas area, then went to dinner at a local restaurant. I don’t remember the name of it, seeing as when we arrived I started to get rather and quite suddenly nauseous.  It was a three-course meal, and I ate very little of it at all (as in 3 spoonfuls of the soup).  We then walked back to the house we are staying in.  As we walked, I got more and more nauseous.  There is a fairly short but very steep hill up to the house we are staying in, and the climb combined with the altitude caused me to get sick right outside the house.  I’m not sure if it was altitude sickness or something else, but I definitely did not feel well at all.  I then went to sleep right away. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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