Peru Update #4 — From the Orphanage to the Trek

Editor’s note:  Our group has returned to civilization after their first week at the orphanage (very limited Internet access) and their second week on the Salkantay Trek (no Internet access).  Now two emails in one day seems like a flood.  Fortunately, our team now has enough bandwidth to send photos.  Apologies for the unavoidable delays in communication.  More stories and photos are coming!

Studying with Kids

Studying with Kids

Suzy writes:

We managed to finish the chicken coop!  The last blog post ended with a photo of us standing proudly in front of it.  The more we got into it, the more the project became an epic battle: On one side,  us, and on the other, the poor quality materials and vague instructions we had available.  In the end, we had to obtain two hammers, a new saw, and a pickaxe, and went through dozens of nails due to trying to hammer low quality nails into incredibly hard eucalyptus wood!  In total, we made eight separate hardware store runs, and spent four afternoons and an entire Sunday getting the thing to come together.

Roofing the Coop

Roofing the Coop

The orphanage folks were really impressed with the finished product.  And Señor Martine, the groundskeeper, was delighted with the new tools, paint, and paint thinner we left in our wake.  As soon as it was finished (late at night, by headlamp) the children wanted to climb on it, hang from it, mess with the sign, and go in and out of the little door. It was great fun — but we had to caution them about its lack of durability and the sharp edges of the chicken wire and sheet metal.

It was wonderfully satisfying to provide them with a lasting structure that will help them become more self sufficient, since they go through dozens of eggs each day.  It will also allow the children to learn about chickens and help out with their care.  I have to say that, for a bunch of gringos with little building experience and ill-fitting, rustic materials, the thing looks pretty great! We learned a lot, about construction, about communication with each other, and most of all, about patience.

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Orphanage Farewell

Farewell!

After tearful farewells, our intrepid Explorations Adventurers left the orphanage and headed — through a series of buses and trains — to a hostel in Cuzco, where we temporarily stored much of our gear and prepared for the next phase of our journey:  The Salkantay Trek.  Not a lot of sleep was had in the transition, though…

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Anna writes:

About to start the trek!

About to start the trek!

Of the four day trek, the first day was by far the most challenging in both mental and physical realms.  We got up before the crack of dawn — the true crack would not develop for a few more hours — and drove for a very long time, and only then could we start the ten hours of hiking that would get us to our camp for the night.

Valley at Start of Trek

A trek in the Andes!

The going started easily, but we were steadily headed into larger and larger mountains.  After a while the ground became snow-covered.  We ate a deluxe lunch that our guides completely made and set up for us in a beautiful mountain valley.  Immediately after lunch the hiking got much more difficult as we traversed over many switchbacks.

Heading Up

Not much air up here.

It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.  When we reached the top of the pass at 15, 223 feet, I was 100% exhausted.  I had needed to take breaths from the oxygen tank the guides brought just to get there, and I was absolutely ecstatic at succeeding.

After we crossed the pass it was almost all downhill and with every step of descent my breathing got easier.  As soon as I wasn’t working as hard to walk, I began noticing the landscape and appreciating it in a way I had not before.  Both Salkantay and Humantay (mountains) are spectacularly beautiful.  Everything was covered in snow, and there were rocks of all descriptions.  At one point we stopped to catch our breath, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something in the rocks. Upon further investigation I spotted two wild chinchillas playing on the rocks.  So much cuteness!

Cold 2nd Morning

Brr!

Because we had been going slowly earlier, we ended up having to hike in the dark for the last hour.  The wind was howling.  Arriving at camp where guides had our tents set up, hot coca tea prepared, and snacks already on plates was amazing.  As soon as I finished eating the fantastic dinner they had prepared for us (lightly fried trout, mashed potatoes, rice, wild potatoes, and a peach gel for dessert) I put on all my layers, curled up in my bag, and promptly fell asleep.

 

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