19 December 2012

The Great Peruvian Adventure and a Lot of Goodbyes

Hey everyone!

As I write this I have exactly 9 more hours in Chile. I'm freaking out a bit. Ok, a lot. I guess what is scaring me is that I can't picture myself at home or at LC right now. Not that I don't want to go back; to the contrary, I can't wait to be back on campus. However, I've been here in Chile since mid summer and it weirds me out to no end to think that tomorrow morning I will be in the USA again. I'm not sure if I'm ready! I've already done most of my "lasts" and I'm pretty much packed. All that is left is to have a last lunch with my host parents. We had our last "once" (Chilean tea time that families have instead of dinner) last night with the whole family which was incredibly sad. I can't express how much I'm going to miss this family. I realized that I've spent more time with this family in the past 6 months than I have with my own family in the past 2 years. Crazy right? Anyhow, a "Transfer" (shared cab) is coming to take me to the airport this evening and will whisk me away back to what should be familiar but from here seems glaringly different. Phase one of reverse culture shock I guess. 

Enough musings! So, I just got back from Peru! I went with my friend Margaret from Santiago to the Northern most part of Chile (city called Arica), crossed the boarder in a shared taxi to the city of Tacna, took a 6 hour bus from Tacna to Arequipa and then a 10 hour overnight bus to Cusco! It was a lot of travel but WAY cheaper then flying. It is also how all the locals travel. When we got to Cusco we jumped right into exploring. I couldn't write about everything we did because this post would be about 57 pages long. So I'll just ramble a bit about some of the things we did.

One day we hiked up out of the city to the big Jesus statue that the Palestinian government (during British Mandate) gave Cusco as a gift in the 1940´s. From there we were not sure where to go so we hired a guide to take us on the unbeaten track to various ruins around. It was awesome and the whole morning we saw 1 other tourist. We hiked for 3 hours all around the hills above Cusco and visited 6 different formal archaeological sites (all just sitting there, free to go in) including a series of subterranean tunnels filled with carved out walls that the Incas used for offerings. The quality and state of the ruins was amazing. We saw a PRE-Incan house that still had the complete layout. I mean, it was clear no one had touched this place or rebuilt it and you could see the cross sections of all the rooms. The bathroom rock was even still there! We also saw this really cool site called ¨Piedra de los monos¨ which was this rock outcropping with dozens of monkeys and snakes carved into the rocks. Aside from the ¨formal sites¨ we passed so many things, like a series of Inca built artificial channels (all leading down to Cusco to provide the city with water) and lakes. The stonework there is incredible. The walls are built from boulders of all shapes that still fit together seamlessly. I have no clue how they did it. One of the best parts of the morning was our return to Cusco, because we walked back to the city on one of the original Inca roads! It reminded me of the Appian Way. There were fountains every 100m or so people could water animals and things. The coolest part? If you were to take the road away from Cusco and followed it for a long time you´d arrive in Chile! How crazy is that! I know I´ve heard and read about the infrastructure of the Inca Empire but seeing it (even in just a tiny tiny corner outside of Cusco) was nuts. When we were coming out of the ¨Templo de la luna¨ one of the places we visited which is supposed to be a sacred spot for women (our guide wouldn´t go in and he made us take our shoes off when we did) it started to thunder and look stormy. Our guide made us offer some of our water to ¨Pachamama¨ the local version of Mother Earth and what do you know? At that very moment the storm cleared out and some farmer started blowing something called a Pututu which is a conch shell horn. It was an creepy moment!!! After our morning we went to this little place recommended to us by the hostel and ate way to much of really tasty food. 

Of course we went to Machu Pichu which was intense. I'm not going to write too much about it, just that standing in the ruins (which by the way, according to the latest archaeological theory Machu Pichu was a royal training facility, AKA a private university! I hate to say it, but their campus is way prettier than ours at LC! And that my friends is hard to do...) there is just way to much to see. It is overwhelming. Do you look at the intricate detail of the stonework? The terracing running down every side of the mountain? The giant mountain peaks surrounding you? It's just too much to take in at once. Truly an amazing experience. 

Food is very important to me, and luckily to my friend Margaret as well. We spent a lot of time eating (there is a Chocolate museum in Cusco and I'm not ashamed to admit that one night we had chocolate there for dinner) and exploring the markets and eat in the markets. We didn't get sick despite some of the questionable (but delicious) things we ate.

Here are just a few pictures from the trip. My camera actually broke one of the first days, so these are just from the start of the trip!
 Lady selling herbs near the market in Cusco
 One of the many elaborate churches in Cusco
 View of the city from the Chocolate Museum. The rainbow flag is the traditional Incan flag.
Machu Pichu!

I have way more to say about Peru, but this has already turned into a pretty long post. Sooooooo, if you want to hear more or have any questions, comments etc. e-mail me at smiller@lclark.edu!

I'll try to post one more time from the USA. Until then,



Here is a picture of me and my host family. Notice the poodle butt on the ground. That is Mini the family dog.