Student Directed Travel in Cuzco

By Patrick Harris

Patrick here. I am writing this from Cuzco, where the first night of student-directed travel starts. I will be writing about the previous 11 days. Nov. 5 to the 14.

This tale starts in Ollantaytambo, here the only set in stone activity was Spanish classes for 3 hours a day during the week. That being said it is hard to call it class when half the time we would go for walks to the local market, museums or the Incan ruins only a few blocks away. To further cement this image of how great the life we are living is, on the last day of classes my group of 4 including the teacher went to the market. We bought the necessary ingredients for us to make guac and chips to go along with banana pancakes/tortillas de platano. It was incredible as Kayla and Alex would surely attest to. We were mostly in groups of 3 which encouraged a lot of great learning and conversation in Spanish. We had every meal with our homestay families eating lots of good food and more talking in Spanish.

The group spent a lot of time researching, debating and booking Student Directed Travel. To do this and the fact that we haven’t had much internet service as of late, the group spent a lot of time at the internet cafe. On Saturday we went to a salt mine. It included a bus ride and a hike. It was not what anyone expected. The mountains were red with not much vegetation, it looked like we were in the Southwest. Honestly, I can’t describe what the salt mine looks like but it was cool and a great experience. I would recommend looking it up or going. On Sunday our last day in Ollantaytambo our great OE´s, Dan and Laura, gave a CDL on how to travel on a budget. The two of them combined shared a wealth of knowledge on the topic based of personal experience. Everyone gained a lot from it including an increased desire to want to travel more after this trip.

Monday we took a bus to Patacancha where we stayed for 2 nights and 3 days. As a town upward of 13,000 feet of altitude and of 900 people it had its similarities to Quenco (where we stayed the week before). Both were high up in the mountains, cold and our more rural homestays. Our first day was spent making a bracelet by hand and starting a headband. The headbands were very difficult to make and were very frustrating and time consuming. Lucky we had some of the local women to help and teach us, The second day we did a hike up in to the surrounding mountains. After lunch we finished our headband and after dinner we had bonfire. Today we went to a Alpaca ceremony which was concluded by the shearing of a baby alpaca and the marriage of another two alpacas. That concluded our stay in Patacancha. We said our goodbyes and thanks to our amazing hosts and to Awamaki. Awamaki is the organization that we have been working through in Ollantaytambo and Patacancha. I leave Liam with the daunting task next week of blogging about all we do for Student Directed Travel. To summarize everything is going well and we are all having way too much fun.