Home travelPeru Alpacas, eye screenings, and hiking a portion of the famous Inca Trail in Peru

Alpacas, eye screenings, and hiking a portion of the famous Inca Trail in Peru

by Shawni

The intro to this post (along with two backstories), is in the last post back HERE.

We all fell in love with Peru.

The people:

The colors:

The culture:

The architecture:

The history:

That “Sacred Valley” filled up with all it’s beauty.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Because even that was an experience.

We flew into Lima late at night and flew with our group (explained in the last post) to Cusco first thing the next morning.

Cusco is 11,152 feet above sea level perched in the middle of the Peruvian Andes mountains.

And it is gorgeous.

There is definitely something with that high altitude I tell you! We all felt a little rocky when we landed in Cusco in that thin air, but luckily it didn’t affect us too much.

EYE SCREENINGS

We took some buses directly to a school where we got to do vision screenings with the kids.

As I mentioned in the last post, we went to Peru with this organization called CharityVision and we got to be fully immersed in what they do to help give the gift of vision to those who are in need.

This school was one where they were doing some outreach to find out which kids may need glasses.

(CharityVision also took care of us the whole time we were there, which was SO NICE not to have to worry about the schedule…and they did such a great job mixing in sight-seeing and some great opportunities to interact with those they serve there.)

I loved watching my kids jump into action to help, Grace and Carson practicing their Spanish, surrounded by happy kids all dressed neatly in their red school uniforms glistening in the slanted morning sun.

This girl was determined to share her whole report with us, that was exceptionally well done, and taught us more about Peru.

Lingering discussing it all…

QORICHANCHA TEMPLE TOUR

We went to a museum built around Inca temple ruins and it was pretty fascinating even in my post-travel stupor.

How did the Incas build like they did? Such precision in how they cut the stones they used for building…no grout, not sure which kind of tools they had, but before steel and they were able to perfectly align these massive stones.

It’s really quite incredible.

Our tour guides, Jimmy and Luis, were so awesome and told us all kinds of history.

(I don’t have enough time to write down all the history but google it!)

Looking out over Cusco from the museum:

It was devastating to think about how the Spanish conquistadors came in and wrecked everything bringing the Spanish flu as well as just taking over.

So interesting to see the Christian influence on art and culture as the Spaniards elbowed their way in.

We checked into this beautiful hotel with windows as a roof…

…and the girls and I walked around the main town square to explore (Dave and Max had altitude headaches they wanted to sleep off).

We sat at a long table, all 24 of us, and Anadine from CharityVision showed us a little slideshow all about the work they do. It is pretty impressive.

Went on a late-night search for good Peruvian chocolate.

Let’s just say it wasn’t the most impressive late-night treat, but loved sitting with these kids of ours and discussing the world together before bed.

HUMBERTO HERRERA SCHOOL

The next morning we went to a school to help distribute glasses to the kids who had already been screened and tested for prescriptions previously.

Some of them were so taken by those glasses and others just kept them protected in their little boxes we gave them.

The teenagers all played soccer with the school kids in between handing out the glasses…

This was my favorite interaction:

This girl led her friend (maybe brother?) over to our little station with so much animation, SO excited to show him where she got her new red glasses.

Loved watching them walk away, hand in hand.

We also worked on a project to replace a makeshift little playground fence with a fence made out of old tires that we had to dig down deep in the rocky, tangly root-filled soil to situate and then paint.

It was quite a project I tell you, but everyone worked together so happily.

I loved these teenagers.

One of them gave me my favorite experience at the end of the trip when we were talking about what we learned. He was in full, unable-to-talk-tears because of what he experienced and felt while on this trip.

It was the sweetest and made me cry too.

Our awesome guides: Javier and Anadine, the best!

After we situated those tires, we painted.

…and also played a few games trying to bring the kids in too…they didn’t quite fall in love with this one:

Ha!

But let’s check out that masterpiece of a fence!

Woohoo!

Love all these people who make things happen:

TRAVEL

We covered a LOT of ground in the six days we were in Perul. And much of it was in these vans (some on trains as well). Here’s our tour guide Jimmy en route to our next stop showing us the coca leaves that are supposed to help with altitude sickness and are also considered sacred in Peru (used in sacred rites and rituals):

They were so awesome filling us in on all the facts and history along the way.

CHINCHEROS

We stopped in this little mountain village…

…where we got a little tutorial on how they make yarn with alpaca wool:

How they dye it:

And how they weave all their colorful fabrics.

So interesting.

Then we headed up the mountain to start our hike of a portion of…

THE INCA TRAIL

The Inca trail is a pretty famous hiking trail that leads to Machu Picchu.

It passes through parts of the famous Sacred Valley, ancient steep little paths high up through Incan ruins in the Andes Mountains, and you can hire porters to help you set up camp and bring along food in all kinds of varieties. (There’s a four-day route, a seven-day route and I think even possibly an eleven-day option.)

But our group did the 7km variety:)

Which was perfect for the amount of time we had there.

Our group at the beginning:

Our favorite couples:

…and our favorite girl who was so pleasant to have around as what she claimed to be a “7th wheel.” Ha!

Abby had my camera and caught this funny picture of Max:

We passed through picturesque fields spotted with picturesque sheep and alpaca watched over by picturesque people in their colorful Peruvian gear.

And then miles of just dry beauty all around, all the while my ankles got gnawed on by aggressive bugs.

(Boy howdy, Peruvian bugs sure have some strong kind of poisons!)

See our little trail down there?

…and then further away here?

We hiked that little crevice through the mountains all the way down to the little village at the bottom called URQUILLO,

Gotta have a tunnel at the end…

And this cilantro someone had just harvested filled up the whole air around us with such a beautiful fragrance!

URUBAMBA

We drove back to Urubamba for dinner, and had such an interesting discussion about service missionary work overlooking the down square.

And en route home and in the lobby of our little hotel in Yanahaura we stayed up with our kids discussing what we want to have accomplished by our 80th birthdays.

Those kids make me laugh and also tear up with their goodness. There is nothing in the whole wide world like having your adult kids discuss the world with you, and also be able to contribute to intelligent conversations so beautifully with others they just met. (Oh they definitely have their problems too, adult kids are the trickiest part of parenting I’ve ever come across, but this part? Golden.)

Oh there is SO much more to say, but for now I have to be done.

Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get to a tiny village of people who dressed us up in all their traditional dress, showed us how they live, and MACHU PICCHU as well as some eye surgeries.

Hooray if you made it through this “part 1”!

Part 2 is HERE.

XOXO

Other travel posts:

Iceland and the Golden Triangle

Bonjour Paris!

From One Desert to the Next…One Day in Dubai

China!

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22 comments

Catharina September 8, 2022 - 2:50 am

Hey, Shawni,

I am coming by just to suggest something. I know you appreciate beauty -mostly from nature, etc – thanks to your parents’ teachings. There is this movie I have watched that is SO BEAUTIFUL and made me think you’d enjoy it. It’s japanese, from the Ghibli studios. Its called The Tale of Princess Kaguya. It’s this animated movie which has this aesthetics of ancient japanese illustrations with SUCH a beautiful message. Really, I cried so much (out of joy) in the end. You should really give it a try.

Have a nice day,

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Shawni September 11, 2022 - 3:41 pm

Thank you for the recommendation, I’ll have to check it out!
xoxo

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Catharina September 12, 2022 - 2:06 am

You are welcome! Thank you for the nice pictures and posts 🙂

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Lea Pisarik September 8, 2022 - 3:24 am

So beautiful! Thanks for sharing:).

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Shawni September 11, 2022 - 3:42 pm

xoxo

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Jenny also September 9, 2022 - 6:47 am

Weird to use other people’s children as props in photos of your own children doing “good.”

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Shawni September 11, 2022 - 3:43 pm

Oh they were the ones doing “good” to us, never the other way around. We just got to be along for the ride.

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Heidi September 9, 2022 - 7:20 am

Oh what a beautiful organization! I’m so glad you could be apart of that, especially with it been so close to your heart. What an amazing experience❤️

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Shawni September 11, 2022 - 3:42 pm

Thank you Heidi! xoxo

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Jessie B. September 9, 2022 - 7:35 am

I agree with Jenny. I had to quickly scroll this post because I began to feel uncomfortable. I’d feel betrayed if someone came to offer help to me and then I found my children’s photos all over their website detailing how they helped us and how darling we were. They should be allowed to receive healthcare privately, just like we expect in the US. This is one of the services that should be private, for the dignity and respect of these people and their families. I wish I could talk you into removing all images of the children that show their faces. Jen Hatmaker writes about poverty tourism in her book, For the Love. She’s definitely made me rethink whether I’ll still send my kids to HEFY, as I’ve hoped to do for many years.

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Shawni September 11, 2022 - 3:54 pm

This is an interesting thought. I am with you on the dangers of “poverty tourism” so we are really careful what we chose do to when we travel with different organizations (we have sure learned a lot about this over the years, thanks in a large part to blog readers). We are still learning and growing in so many ways and I always appreciate different perspectives. But we do feel like there is SO MUCH BEAUTY in learning about different cultures and opening our eyes as to what is happening not only right in our own neighborhoods but in different corners of the world.

Vision loss is a big weight on our hearts so we were so glad we could get to know this awesome organization that has restored vision to SO MANY. This is not Americans coming in and trying to “fix” things. This is people in their own countries doing good because they can change lives, donating surgery hours, trying to lift.

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Jess September 13, 2022 - 12:43 pm

I agree in that photos of any child should have consent to be shared. I don’t think that’s malicious or mean to say either. If someone was taking photos of my kids and putting them online without talking to me about it (my family member is an influencer and wanted to but I told her no), I would feel very sad and nervous.

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Jess Cashman September 9, 2022 - 5:08 pm

I love reading about all of the places you and your family visit, and the pictures……wow!! Of all of the places you have gone, if you had to pick your favorite, where would it be? And, what is on the top of your bucket list of places you would still like to visit?

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Shawni September 11, 2022 - 3:59 pm

Oh this is a great question. I have learned so much from every place we have been! But if I had to chose a favorite, it might have to be Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. We were there with all our kids, when everyone was still at home (well, not at “home” because we lived in China at the time, but no one had left for college yet). I call it one of my “thin places” and I tell all about it back here: https://71toes.com/2014/11/ha-long-bay-and-thin-places/

As far as bucket list, I think everywhere I haven’t been is my “bucket list.” Ha! There is just so much beauty in the world!

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Helene September 11, 2022 - 1:13 pm

I agree, Jessie. We travel a lot as a family and we also have a family foundation through which we donate to worthy causes. Those two things do not overlap. Any charity would is better served to receive a big donation without the visit. Confusing good deeds with visiting locals is poverty tourism plain and simple. It’s sad that charities and local people around the world have to plaster smiles and stand for photo ops when they would be better off getting on with their mission and their lives. I realize that’s not what the visiting “do good-ers” are TOLD because this is an unfortunate business model but by 2022 (I mean, by 1999 really) most people know. Write the check, take the vacation and let people stop dancing for these dollars. I would think that Shawni would be sensitive to this sort of thing. How would she like it if Lucy had to bring “visitors” to her school every week, to show them how she navigates through her day? That sort of performative display shouldn’t be attached to donating to their blindness charity.

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Shawni September 11, 2022 - 4:03 pm

I disagree on these points. If some organization is doing good in the world, I believe word of that good should be celebrated and spread far and wide. And I think anyone who benefits from that good would agree. How is the “good” going to be spread if we are too worried to share it?

As far as Lucy bringing visitors to show them how she navigates, I answered that question in the next post (perhaps from you under a different name?) but I will post here as well, because maybe it will help you (and others) understand my perspective a little better:

If someone donated to the cause of BBS, I would be (and am, because many blog readers have donated to help fight the devastating effects of BBS for which I am so very grateful for) more than happy to introduce my whole extended family, as well as introduce my whole culture in sincere gratitude.

But perhaps that isn’t a fair answer because I do that anyway here on the blog. To get to a more personal level, if there was any organization who could actually cure Lucy’s eyesight, we (Lucy and our whole family) would want to shout our gratitude from the very rooftops. Until you have a child with significant vision loss that affects pretty much every single aspect of her life, you perhaps couldn’t fathom the depth and breadth of that gratitude.

It would change her life.

It would change our lives.

And I would want, with ALL my heart, to share that joy with anyone else who’s life it could change. I would want others to have that same life-changing gift. So if someone wanted to come in and take pictures and share our story, share the story of that amazing organization who took the energy and might from their own lives to change my daughter’s life, I would beg them to come. I would beg them to share. Because maybe it could help them too. Or maybe it could help their cousin or their Aunt, or someone they don’t even know who they could connect. We need to share good things!

Perhaps that hits a little bit too close to home, and I’m sorry if this sounds a little bit over dramatic, but we are in the thick of this vision loss right now and it is extremely close to our hearts. We know from experience how something like that could change lives.

Anyone who has enough courage and fortitude and strength to go out and change lives like CharityVision is doing should most definitely be celebrated. The people affected by the good they are doing in their own country are so grateful. (This happens here in the United States as well, they have outreach all over the world, we just happened to get to experience Peru.)

I think when you are proud of and grateful for your culture you want to share it. I know I sure want to share mine! This family was so excited to show us how they live. They dressed us in their traditional clothing because they love it. They let us join in their spiritual rituals. They showed us how they live life. I can so relate because that’s exactly what I try to do here. I want to share goodness. We gain so much from each other by sharing and interlinking and learning from each other!

Also, they were so excited to share the joy that the gift of sight has given them. Maybe pictures just can’t do it justice. Eliana is one of the MILLION people who’s life has been changed through CharityVision because she is able to see. It was amazing to talk with her through a translator and have her tell us how her life has changed. It was amazing to hear the story from the Peruvian outreach who found her (or she found them), and to hear about the change in how she conducts herself, how she can now look people in the eye, how much confidence she has gained because she can now do the everyday tasks she couldn’t do before. Her whole future is changed (a future that weighed her down with worry before). Her entire life perspective is different because of a seven-minute surgery.

I think that deserves some celebration.

Maybe the reason for some of the pushback in this and a few other comments is because people are getting the impression I’m saying we did this or that we are the “helpers.” I deeply apologize if that is the impression I gave. We did nothing except for donate to a good cause and were so thankful to have the opportunity to have our eyes open to the good that is happening in the world. It was an amazing opportunity and THEY were the helpers (the people we got to visit with as well as CharityVision).

I’m so glad CharityVision does things like this because it helps spread awareness that there is still so much GOOD in the world! There are people giving their lives to help and lift and breathe life and light into uncertainty and hopelessness. And I think that in our world today there cannot ever be too much of that. Or too much sharing of that. Ever.

We need each other! I love anything that interlinks cultures and people, and as I share these things here on the blog I hope it can give that “interlinking” to people who may never go to Peru. I hope it will help people fall in love with another culture so different yet so similar. (We loved this culture!) I hope it will help people appreciate their vision more. I hope sharing what CharityVision is doing will spark in all of us a desire to reach out more and love more like they are doing in so many good ways.

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Helene September 12, 2022 - 10:05 am

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I appreciate how you always reply with such great care to all these comments. (Also, no, not me posting on a different page/under a different name. You can probably see by the IP addresses where the comments come from. I only make a point once and move on but clearly some of us feel the same way regarding this type of travel.) I guess my only response to your comment would be that we don’t have to travel somewhere to see/feel/understand need. Just like your readers don’t need to run the Turkey Trot in order to understand the good that your family does in this charitable event … and we don’t need to travel to Wisconsin to understand the good work the doctors there are doing for Lucy and others … neither do you have to travel to Peru to show us the good work that CharityVision does. Every organization like CharityVision has lots of promotional material that they can send for exactly the type of outreach that you are doing. It’s the travel to/inserting yourself into the story that is problematic for many of us. We don’t all have to insert ourselves to understand need and to help financially (which is basically what these organizations want). Again, I do appreciate your kind response. We can just agree to disagree on how best to target our charitable giving.

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Shawni September 12, 2022 - 11:40 am

I appreciate your kind response as well. I do have to disagree with you when you say that it’s the same to send money and to go and experience for yourself. I would never be as passionate about this organization had I just seen pictures of the things they do. To get right in there and actually see first-hand the good they are doing is incredibly poignant. If you came to the Turkey Trot and experienced the energy there, the happiness, the armies of helpers giving their all, you would be much more endeared to it as well. If you came to Wisconsin with us and held Lucy’s hand while she got her blood drawn every time, over and over again, you would have a much deeper understanding. You would feel her pain. You would understand more where she’s coming from. Where WE are coming from. There is nothing like a personal experience.
Each of us four families who went on this trip to Peru will be forever partnered and wanting to spread the good that CharityVision is doing. Even with having my own daughter losing her vision, just looking at pictures of the good they’re doing just cannot compare.
That being said, I agree with you 100% that there is so much good to be done without traveling. But it’s not the same thing. There is something about being immersed in a different culture that changes your heart. We cannot be everywhere and donate to every good thing. But we can find the ones that speak to us and do our best to support them any way we can. Oh there are needs to lift and build at every turn in our own neighborhoods, even with people we would never know are struggling. The point is to get in there and get into the details, in whatever way works personally for you.

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Jess September 13, 2022 - 12:45 pm

I think there is a documentary called “the last tourist” that deals with the dangers of vouyerism and how we become mass consumers instead of simple travelers

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Shawni September 14, 2022 - 10:42 am

I’ll have to check that out.
I appreciate all the views shared here and that we can learn from varying perspectives. We are all coming from such different angles and from such different backgrounds, so interesting to learn from each other.

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Kelly September 12, 2022 - 12:59 am

What an amazing experience! Bonus to experience a place you already planned to visit, but with added experiences with ChirityVision. The sweetness of the children is so tender. I worked at Disneyland and often the Hispanic children were the ones that nearly brought me to tears. They were so loving and affectionate. It was one of the things that planted a desire in me to become a mother. These photos reminded me of that.

It appears that many children needed glasses. Maybe it just seems that way, and if children in an American school were gathered together it would be the same. I’m not really sure. My husband and I read the book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” years ago and it makes me always think of diet. Our children do a lot of reading and, at least right now, only our two oldest have needed eyesight help (they wear contacts at night while they sleep). The younger two were born after we bettered our diet, but also after I became more aware of trying to protect their eyes. I don’t know, it’s all learning. Regardless, I’m grateful that there are ways to help to improve eyesight!

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Shawni September 14, 2022 - 10:40 am

Me too! And thank you for sharing your thoughts about diet, that could definitely make a difference. One thing that I think causes a higher percentage of kids needing glasses in these little towns in the Andes mountains is that the sunlight is so harsh at the high altitudes. This causes the retina to deteriorate faster than it would otherwise.

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