Peru Trip – the exploration side
Although our trip to Peru was mainly a medical mission we also took the time to do a little exploring in the country. This gave the volunteers a chance to meet new people, and learn a little more of the culture. No one should visit Peru without seeing Machu Picchu.
Inca ruins and Incan culture are all over and around the Cusco area. Cusco was the center of the Inca civilization, and the name means navel, or center of the world. The ancient Inca’s language continues as many of the population speak Quechua. Cusco is considered one of the oldest cities in the Americas. We walked down streets paved with large stones laid by the Inca builders, marveled at Cathedrals built by the Spanish, and walked home along these stone streets enjoying street lights and passing cars and buses.
On our last full day we took a trip out of Cusco to see one of the Modern Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu. The trip started early. A bus picked us up at our hotel, before breakfast or coffee. The bus took us through Cusco, climbed the hills and passed by old fences, stores and homes. We could see people walking to work, waiting on buses and sweeping their courtyards. Once out of town we began driving through grasslands with snow covered mountains in the distance. As the sun rose and mist burned off, the views were spectacular. We passed a farm with llamas in the front yard.
These two pictures were taken from the bus
The bus stopped in the town of Aguas Calientes, where we boarded a train. The train was modern and clean, and full of windows. We sat in booths, and were served coffee and muffins and breads. The train ran alongside a river, and we watched the landscape change from hardwoods and eucalyptus trees to vines and jungle plants. The train ride was very pleasant, and with windows along the side and over the roof we were able to see everything. Finally the train stopped and we disembarked into the middle of a tent-covered shopping mall full of tourist items. We walked in tightly squeezed lines beside stores selling water bottles, snacks, and t-shirts. Our line moved so slowly we all bought extra water bottles and never left our spot. Finally we loaded a bus for the final drive from the town of Machu Picchu to the historic site of Machu Picchu.
This final dirt road zigzagged its way up the side of the mountain. In Cusco we were at 11,000 feet above sea level. We had climbed a pass to leave the town, and then slowly worked our way down to the town of Machu Picchu. The bus took us back up to 8,000 feet. We finally arrived, showed our passports and received a stamp. We walked along a tree lined path, climbed a little, turned a corner, and there it was. The beautiful Inca camp arose before us, filling all our vision, everything we could see. We stood in awe, enjoying the view of the stone walls, green terraces, and the tall conical shaped green mountain looking over the whole valley.
The view was almost overwhelming, and for a while we stood on the path, blocking the way for other visitors. Luckily we had a member of our church who was also a local tour guide. He led us up to a ledge where we could listen to his information and learn a little of the history of the area.
Socrates stood at the edge of this ledge while we backed up against walls to listen. He pointed out to us the terraces, the layout of the living area, work area and the area for worship. He explained to us that the stonework was of extreme high quality, but the worship and priest buildings had the best workmanship. Next the royalty had high quality work, and then the still good but lesser work was done for the common people. We could see terraces, the buildings and even a few alpacas keeping the lawn under control.
The Inca’s built aqueducts to bring water in, and waterproofed them with agave pulp. The first king that commissioned the city had it laid out for agriculture, living and worship. As we walked along a pathway we came to an area that was a known fault line, nothing had been built on it. We wound around through buildings and courtyards. At one spot we came upon a rock laid out perfectly with the four corners of the compass. Some areas of the walk bothered people that had a fear of heights. At first it was hot and sunny, then a huge storm formed on the mountains. We felt cool breezes and watched the rain on the mountains. Thunder rolled, but the actual storm passed us by.
After the official tour we wandered along paths, snapping pictures and generally enjoying every minute. Two ladies and I found a grassy spot to just sit and snack and look. Later we returned to town for a late lunch. It was restful to eat on a balcony, looking over the town, and listening to the roar of the river below.
Finally we took the train back and boarded the bus. I could see stars for the first time all week. I saw Orion, and then the Milky Way. In Spanish it is the Celestial Space, el espacio celestial. There were so many stars, and with us climbing up in altitude, the sky looked like a carpet of stars just out of reach. With tears in my eyes I prayed. It was a close to God and full of wonder moment at the end of a magical day.
While in the bus many of our group fell asleep but I couldn’t stop looking at the stars. There are times when nature just reaches out to me, to talk to me and to let me know there is a beauty beyond our understanding. I get glimpses, such as the wonderful views of the mountains and the preserved history, but that night with such a clear and star filled sky, I could almost hear angels singing. I took this mission trip with a hope that working with other Christians would help increase my faith, and it did. Even so, that night bus ride, at the end of such a special day, with a sky so filled with stars that the immensity of it all was beyond imagining, that was the moment I needed. Thank you.