Hola familias!! Welcome to Part Two of Student Directed Travel!!
We started off part two of the week by leaving the sleepy mountain community of Lares, loading up the van with all of our bags and snacks to prepare to for the long journey to Pisac. Ater a few snack stops at fruit markets and warm lunches of rice and lentils along the way, the car finally rumbled nto the cobblestone streets of Pisac, where the sites of small artisan stands and cozy local restaurants greeted us as we drove up to Hostal Inti, the beautiful hostel of homey, rustic rooms where we would be staying for two nights. Outside, we all explored the bustling community, where the streets were filled with tents of people selling unique necklaces, sweaters, chocolates, and to Josh’s sweet surprise, a booth that sold large stone heads of roaring pumas, sold at the steep Peruvian Price (with some bargaining done by Josh) of 430 soles.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and finding places to eat. Our eyes sparkled at the sight of “PB&Js”, “Falafel Burgers”, “All You Can Eat Pancakes”, and, to the shocked surprise of Renee and I, a whole backery stocked with the rare sight of gluten-free and vegan cakes, cookies, and pies, making the both of us grin at eachother knowingly that this…. is definitely the week to treat ourselves.
After satisfying our stomachs with the food we had missed so much from home, we took a long drive up to the archaeological site of Chinchero, where Naomi, in the role of Nat Geo, told us the story of the ruins. The theory is that the beautiful stone structures were once used as a vacation site for an important Incan in the area. She also talked about how the colonial church next to the ruins, built in the 16th century by the Spaniards, was constructed over the remnants of an Incan Temple. Next, we went to Moray, an archaeological site consisting of large stone terraces which were used to experiment with crops.
We got back to Pisac in the evening, where Brian, Cole, Chris, Renee, Miki, Naomi, Claire, Anya, Lauren, Matt, and I all eagerly went out to dinner where we all ordered our favorite foods that some of us have been craving since Quito, making for a large arrangement of pizzas, spring rolls, fresh salads, and the famous “Pisac Carrot Cake” which the whole town is renowned for. We ended the night with very happy stomachs to say the least…:)
The next morning was Market Day. Pisac has been holding one of the biggest and most unique artisan markets in the area for years. In the morning, Claire, Anya, and Will beelined to the fresh fruit stands where they stocked up on sweet delicacies like mangos and vegetables while the rest of us explored the market, picking up last minute Christmas gifts for friends and families, and trying to possibly find a way to fit it all into our bags (that are starting to look like they all might just explode on the plane ride back to the States….:0)
In the afternoon, Renee, Claire, Anya, Will, Brian, Kate, Julian and I all drove up to the top of the mountain, where large ruins stood in the clouds. Renee, being in the role of Anthropólogo, did an AMAZING job (we would rate both Renee and Naomi a 10 on TripAdvisor if we could) touring us all around the ancient Incan town, baths, and even a burial site (where the bodies of Incans were placed in small holes in the side of a mountain!) We all had fun taking pictures and getting a close up view of a city that had been so important to the Incans all those hundreds of years ago.
When we came back, the group gathered around to listen to Renee and my PSU presentations. Renee talked about Globalization and I talked about the history of religion in Peru…surprisingly, our presentations really corrolated well with each other, providing interesting discussion topics for the group to later think about on their own.
We all went out to dinner, where we all savored the great, familiar food of Pisac one last time. Before bed, and after taking a last nightime walk around the illuminated cobblestone streets, we all started packing up our things for our morning ride back to the comforting, familiar, city of Cusco.
With the help of Lauren and Miki, our two hardworking captains of the week (a VERY hard job to have during Student Directed Travel…) and Will, our chofer who helped us all peacefully get back to Hostal Atawkama, we made it safely to the city. We then went out to the market to pick up some of our favorite foods to cook for lunch before our drive up to Qqenqo, a small indigenous community where we got to……wait for it…..HERD LLAMAS!! Sometimes it’s hard to believe that this is real life…!
Qqenqo is a chilly village high in the Andes, where the kind local people poured petals of flowers on our heads and welcomed us with hot coca tea, popcorn, and fresh potatoes. After everybody did a traditional dance with the community and we all got a turn to gently hold a one week-old baby lamb that one woman brought to the ceremony, we all walked with the llamas to their sleeping place as dusk fell over the mountains. During the walk, Kate and Brian shocked the group with their seemingly natural llama herding skills. By the time the llamas were done migrating and were safe and sound for the night, the stars were out and it was time for dinner.
That’s all for Student Directed Travel! Now, Machu Picchu is the next adventure that awaits and all the students are buzzing about it.
We can’t wait to see you all soon!
Sending love from Cusco,