PERU ADVENTURE by Rosalie, Gogi student 2017
Day 1, April 15, 2017
Soaring over the mountain range that represented the Andes, the Gogi Abroad group of 2017 entered Cusco, Peru. After a seven hour flight from JFK airport from New York to Lima, Peru the group had become incredibly travel weary. Peering out of the window at the bright cotton shaped clouds, I could see a tall mountain range of sharp peaks jutting up through the cloud bank. Excitement filled my bones. Shortly after the group of us; Josh, Anabell, Chai, Cora, Benjamin, Katherine, Laura Nell and I, landed, we piled into a van which drove us to where we would be staying. We sped down narrow, ragged roads where we were able to experience the life of Cusco from afar. Shops with limited merchandise and dusty doorsteps lined the streets. Men, women and children hurried along calling out to each other and visitors passing by to buy their products. Stray dogs of all breeds littered the streets trotting freely from one destination to the next. Vegetation such as aloe plants and cacti flourished along the sandy roads growing without boundaries.
It was around 10 o’clock when we arrived at the Q’ewear project, our home for the next few days. We were welcomed with sunny smiles and warm hugs from the local people that lived there. Not long after we arrived we met Julio, the founder of the project who gave us a tour around the different workshops. The Q’ewar project is located in the town of Andahuaylillas. It is where a group of women work together in various workshops creating traditional Waldorf dolls that are then sold for a profit. The project is accompanied by a small kindergarten where young children learn the ways of Rudolf Steiner, the man behind Waldorf education.
After an informative tour we sat down to a prepared meal of traditional Peruvian food. We had stuffed tomatoes filled with various vegetables that were mixed with dressing and placed on top of a large lettuce leaf. This delicious food was inhaled by the Gogi students who were famished from the travels.
We relaxed under the sun and explored the village where we would be staying for a few days. The people were friendly and the mountains were luminous. I closed my eyes that night with an excited smile covering my face. I remember thinking I am going to learn so much!
Day 2, April 16, 2017
We woke up at 3:30 am on Easter Sunday with a surprise waiting. We made our way sleepily into the town where an Easter service was to be held in the town’s chapel. The architecture that framed the interior of the building was carefully crafted designs made out of gold with various artworks and statues interwoven within. I stared in awe, amazed at the detail and precision of the art. As the service began, everyone started circling around a bonfire outside the church. The priest lit a large candle with a figure resembling Jesus crafted on the front. The light was then passed from candle to candle held by those circled around. The people then progressed forward into the chapel. During the ceremony, the priest read a few pages out of the Bible accompanied by words of his own. The originality of the priest’s words enhanced the service making it unique and special. Concluding the ceremony the townsfolk brought a decorated statue of Mary out into the plaza where they paraded her in a circle.
After a replenishing breakfast, the Gogi crew helped with chores around the project that consisted of building a rock wall, picking up trash, and cleaning out a natural trench. The sun blazed and the birds sang as our day progressed.
In the evening we were invited to see a Shaman who was visiting the project. Liz, the leader of Gogi Abroad, had invited him and we were lucky enough to witness a traditional ritual of the Inca people. The Shaman began by laying out a variety of different materials that represented multiple aspects of life. He then passed out cocoa leaves to everyone around the circle and told them to focus on an intention. Next, he had people approach him individually as he pressed the leaves to their foreheads before adding flowers to the bundle. He finished with a prayer he blew into the bundle of leaves and flowers which he then had you repeat. After the ritual ended, the circle of people joined each other for a pizza dinner the Gogi crew had prepared with the help of Marcia and Thomas, the two head leaders of our trip.
Day 3, April 17, 2017
While tightening our hiking boot laces, we prepared ourselves for our first hike in the new altitude. Our hike was intended for us to collect a specific type of grass on top of a mountain that was used to build traditional Inca houses known as adobes. This specific grass would be incorporated into blocks which were stacked on top of each other creating a sturdy shelter. Our hike into the Andes in search of this grass lasted seven hours. However, we were lucky the sun wasn’t too hot that day. We finally arrived at the top where we found and collected the Paja grass which we then stuffed into sacks that we dragged down the mountain. This was a strenuous task, but very rewarding.
In the evening the group made their way back into town where we watched the nightlife stir. We smiled at the kids who laughed and ran around the plaza playing a game of soccer as the sun set behind the Andes. The town was peaceful. The shopkeepers and vendors began closing their stores and stands as dusk crept into the town.
Day 4, April 18, 2017
As the sun rose into the sky casting a bright glow over the town of Andahuaylillas the Gogi Abroad students ready themselves for a day of building. We walked up to a plateau that overlooked the town where a group of men awaited us, ready to instruct the adobe building process. First, we shoveled a mound of dirt into a flat pile. Next, one of the men streamed water into the pile while the Gogi group marched around forming a giant mud patty. We then used shovels and pick axes to stir the mud before sprinkling the Paja grass into the mud and mixing it in. The preparation of the grass before it was mixed, consisted of it being chopped into six inch lengths by a hand axe. The grass was firmly mixed into the mud by our feet as we performed a type of “mud dance,” one would say. After we let the mud settle for a bit we then poured it into wooden molds where the adobe blocks were formed. After a muddy excursion, the group cleaned up the caked mud from off our legs and out from in between our toes.
We spent the rest of the afternoon resting under the evening sun and working in the Q’ewar workshops helping the women make dolls. The night was topped off with a ceramics class taught by Julio where the Gogi group created clay birds. After our dinner meal we crawled into bed taking in our last night at the Q’ewar project.
Day 5, April 19, 2017
Piling into a van early on Wednesday morning the Gogi group waved their goodbyes to the hard-working members of the Q’ewar project, and we were off! Flying down the winding roads of Peru! We passed several villages littered with vendors and petite shops that sold various goods and essentials to townsfolk and tourists. Watching the Peruvian life flash by, we traveled deeper and deeper into the Sacred Valley. As I peered into the sky I could see the sharp ridges of the mountain peaks outlined in the sky with mist settling in the cracks. We snapped a few photos before resting our heads back and soaking up the warm sunshine, letting the breeze dance through our hair. We arrived in the town Ollantaytambo, where we boarded a train that whisked us along the mountainside to another small village at the base of Machu Picchu. We exited the train and were immediately met with a wave of thick, hot air accompanied by the bustling sound of tourists. Vendors filled the streets and constantly called out to attract customers. The sun beat down on us as we climb the steps hoping we were headed in the right direction to our hotel. “Lead the way!” Thomas called. And so we did. Hotel de Mystio was the name of the hotel we were looking for, it was hidden above a shop that sold handcrafted jewelry made with various gems and stones. The stairway leading up to the front desk was covered with detailed art portraying a variety of scenes from Machu Picchu with human figures incorporated into the landscape and an abundance of color interwoven. Some had women with hair that flowed into forests and others had old men blowing clouds out of a pipe in the sky above the ancient city. The hotel had a magical and mysterious vibe that contributed to the splendor of the Peruvian jungle we have now entered.
After exploring the village, the Gogi group slipped into their bathing suits and wandered to the entrance of the hot springs. While following along the stone path we noticed many rocks that jetted out of the earth, carved into various shapes. One was a profile of an Indian man with feathers in his hair. Another was a bird looking upward also with detailed feathers. These sculptures were all life-sized, decorating the path. Various vegetation lined the trail dripping water that moistened the earth and making the path softer to tread. The path led us to the entrance to the hot springs. Colorful, comfy chairs were placed, surrounded by artwork and lamps, that were set in the corners of the lounge casting a soft glow into the air. The hot springs were caged into ceramic pools that held milky beige warm water. We slipped into the steamy liquid which immediately began to soothe our muscles. Smiling at the strangers who were also enjoying the fresh natural warmth, I felt a happiness settle within me that wrapped my soul in contentment. We were surrounded by mountains, jungles and exotic wildlife. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of a nearby river bubbling down the mountainside as peace settled around me.
Day 6,7 April 20-21, 2017
Waking up before the sun on a dark Thursday morning I was greeted with the sound of a waterfall gushing right outside my room. It was 3:34 am. Gradually everyone began to slip out of bed and they sleepily slipped into their clothes and prepared for our hike to Machu Picchu. Meeting at the front desk, Marçea lead us through the dark town to the entrance of the mountain. We halted in a crowded line of hikers, all of whom were patiently waiting till 5 am when the gate opened. After some time, the line began to gradually move forward as hiker after hiker entered through the entrance.
Climbing stone steps through the jungle the Gogi group pressed on through the sweat and humidity. Every so often a view would appear through an opening between the trees revealing a member of the Andes mountains jetting into the sky. The hike was peaceful and the mountains were extraordinary. They mostly consisted of steep rock that climbed higher and higher, endlessly covered in dusky green vegetation. Finally, a peak formed at the top revealing a sharp ridge of rock. In the jungle vines were interwoven amongst the Aliso trees creating a unique habitat for many creatures including birds and insects. As we continued to ascend the steps upward, the fog that blanketed the forest descended. An hour and a half later we arrived at a platform which represented the entrance to the ancient city of Machu Picchu, one of the world’s ancient wonders. The city was magical. The ruins, sculpted out of stone, was only discovered in 1911 by a Yale professor. However, this lost city was home to the Incas thousands of years ago. The structures held rich history that emanated as we walked through. Even though a few facts are known about Machu Picchu, mystery still lies in its purpose. Many suggest that it was built for religious purposes or even for learning reasons, but none suggest that it was built for everyday life. The profound architecture was built so carefully that every stone molded perfectly to the one next to it. Swallowed up by the surreal experience, the Gogi group explored the ruins for the rest of the morning. Luminous mountains surrounded, creating a city in the sky. After soaking in the ancient history and splendor, we hesitantly descended hundreds of stone steps carved into the mountainside.
Arriving back at the hotel we rested for a while, laughing and chatting and continuing to learn new things about one another. After a quick lunch of pizza and mango smoothies we departed on the train back to the town of Ollantaytambo..
Day 8-9 April 22-23, 2017
Our last day was spent exploring the city of Cusco. The Gogi group paraded around together, laughing and chatting as we toured various streets and shops soaking in our last sights of Peru. We visited museums and churches marveling at the beauty and learning about the history. After a long day of sightseeing we walked, arm and arm, back to the hostel where we piled into the same van that had chauffeured us around. That van carried us to the Cusco Airport where we boarded and were whisked away as fast as we had arrived. Our last flight was at 11 pm from Lima, Peru to JFK Airport in NYC. As the engine rattled and the wheels began rolling forward, I reflected on the trip and the wonderful experiences it had taught me. I met so many unique and inspiring people. This trip holds a special place in my heart that I will always remember and hold on to.– The Gogi Abroad Peru Crew of 2017
Written by Rosalie Turner