After an onerous but soaringly beautiful day-and-a-half of travels, the Peru with Purpose group has landed in Ollantaytambo, Peru.After we said our goodbyes at the Newark Airport, we embarked on our three hour plane ride to Miami. Once there, we already noticed the uptick in Spanish speaking, and we hadn’t even left the U.S. yet. We then took the longest leg of the trip: a six hour flight to Lima. We stepped off the plane quite literally (in Lima, the passengers take outdoor stairs to the tarmac and take a shuttle to the airport terminal). We took an extremely tight car through Lima and stayed at the Hostel El Patio, a humble but gorgeous open air hostel behind a gate filled with plants and scenery. Our second-floor room had a massive window and, if you stepped outside the door, you could look over the balcony and see the full beauty of the place.
We had breakfast after a solid but unfortunately short sleep. Our breakfast consisted of bread, jams, papaya-orange juice, and Coca tea.
We took the final leg of our trip, a one-and-a-half hour plane ride to Cusco. Then, we took the most scenic drive I’ve ever experienced in my entire life, filled with sweeping mountain ranges, serpentine uphill roads, and beautiful villages. We had snacks including banana chips, sweet potato chips, fried corn, and a Peruvian version of Chex Mix.
We are currently staying in the Full Moon Lodge, a hostel in Ollantaytambo. The hostel is hidden behind a near-magical, tight passageway of greenery and enclosed by towering mountains (Looking up in the sky and seeing the stars encircled by the tips of mountains is now an indelible image in my mind.)
We met and had dinner with Johan and Adela, who have already offered us invaluable life lessons, with Johan teaching us to live life in the moment when we asked about tomorrow’s activities, and vital messages on safety, in our activities about facing our fears and “AMPing up” (risk management process of “Analyze, Manage, and Prepare”). Our dinner included a warming quinoa soup; a beef, rice, and potato entree; and a wild-mint tea with chocolate cake for dessert.
On the topic of expectations, I think the greatest shock was how well these past two days have gone. The journey is oft considered the most unpleasant facet of a trip, so to find all of us healthy, engaged, and excited (albeit a little exhausted) is a wonderful turn of events. We’ve been edified by each other, we’ve met amazing friends like Adela and Johan, we’ve wondered in the traditions of Peruvian cuisine, and we’ve experienced some of the most other-worldly cityscapes and landscapes I’ve ever seen. If the journey gone so well thus far, only the future knows what will follow in the coming ten days.
Some more notes: our Spanish muscles have all been flexed, even mine, being someone with near nonexistent Spanish on Saturday. I’ve learned more than I’ve expected to learn the entire trip, and it’s only been two days. My most notable mistake so far: saying Buenos Aires instead of buenos dias.
Another note: having no phones has been challenging but very enlightening. Not being able to Google the answers to random questions, like “Who is Anne Putnam?”, has been an affront to our instant gratification needs. It has, however, also been a welcome one. We all collectively agree that not being able to shove earbuds in has very much abetted our learning goals.
With the groundwork laid and the teamwork built, we’re all very excited to continue exploring Ollantaytambo and to begin launching the academic portion of our trip, with our visits to Awamaki and Sacred Valley Health on the horizon.
Until the next post,
Text by Miroslav Bergam
Photos by Bailey Romano