This is “PERU part 2.”
And I know I should break these up into smaller posts, but I want to keep all these memories as close together as possible, so brace yourself for LOTS of pictures.
And Machu Picchu for crying out loud!
Here we go: the last half of our trip to Peru.
The tippy-top mountain village of HUILLOC
We took our little vans up the steepest, quite terrifying dirt roads (narrow cliffs, I swear our wheels must have been balancing on the very edge most of the time!), zig-zagging back and forth to get to Huilloc, the home of 15-year-old Eliana: the millionth patient CharityVision has operated on (in conjunction with other organizations, but still, pretty impressive).
We were I think over 13,000 feet in elevation there, so we were pretty woozy making our way trudging up the mountain across the little patches of grass Eliana’s extended family had put out to soften our journey to the top, three men playing flutes and drums marching along beside us as we huffed and puffed to breathe.
As a side note, when you look at these pictures you may think they got all dressed up just for us.
But this is really how the people dress in this mountain region. (In the big cities not so much, but out in the country, yes.)
En route to the top of the mountain we saw all kinds of people walking to their next destination…maybe to plant? Maybe to pick up supplies? We actually picked up a couple people walking that steep road and took them where they needed to be, and got to talk to them as we drove. The older gentleman in our car was on his way to help his grandson with his planting, all dressed up in his beautiful, traditional garb.
Back to Eliana’s home, we passed through two flower arches they had made and finally got to the top of the hill where they dressed us all in their traditional clothing when we passed through the last arch, wrapping flowers around us, and pulling us into their dance.
This is Eliana on the left below:
She is fifteen. She had had an injury in her eye from the time she was young and had lost her vision. It was a quick surgery to fix it, but it wouldn’t have happened without CharityVision’s outreach.
Which is pretty amazing.
These clothes though! Aren’t they so beautiful!?
We spent the whole morning up there in that village.
Among other things, we got to participate in their special ceremony to honor Pachamama (the Inca goddess for Mother Earth, I love that name) before they plant crops each year:
They worked on some kind of brew and had us take turns sprinkling it on the alpacas, (maybe a symbol of sacrifice??) to bless the planting season.
(I LOVE Eliana’s grandmother in the picture above, I wish there hadn’t been such a language barrier and limited time so I could have heard more about her life.)
Then they took us even further up the mountain where they plant their crops.
They taught us how they plant and plow the ground, all by human power and simple handmade tools (it’s so steep).
(Max and Abby weren’t feeling so great right at this time, so we were enjoying it extra for them.)
They fed us guinea pig (traditional Peruvian dish), actually pretty good:
They showed us how they make their alpaca yarn and dye it (much like we had seen the day before).
And we had the chance to buy some of the things they have woven..so beautiful!
This is a blurry picture from a video, but I wanted to share it because he was telling us about how they use this microphone to make announcements to all the neighboring little villages. The way the mountains are situated make it so that people can hear from miles away.
Pretty cool, right? (I’m still not sure where the electricity comes from…)
He also told us all about how when he goes to town in his traditional clothing some people ask why he doesn’t “get with the times” and wear something more modern, and others ask how they can get clothing like his.
Kind of interesting to think about the old and new cultures and traditions merging together.
As I pondered in the tippy top peak of those Andes mountains, I wondered how it would feel to be there at night.
How quiet it would be.
How the stars would look.
How I want more of that stillness in my life.
Doing the things that really matter most.
OLLANTAYTAMBO IN THE SACRED VALLEY
I must admit, we were all pretty relieved when we made it down that steep mountain alive. Phew!
From there we headed to Ollantaytambo (all of this was in the famous Sacred Valley) to see the Ollantaytambo Fortress which is the “Temple of the Sun” in that area.
See those buildings built right into the mountain behind us up there in the picture above?
Here’s a better picture of them down below:
The ancient Inca stored grain and food there. Pretty interesting. The Incas built them (they are called “qullqas”) because the wind and lower temperatures up there would help the food to stay more fresh. They have ventilation systems and everything.
I left my camera at lunch (Elle and I RAN back together to find it, heaving for breath in the high altitude, SO happy when Elle came out holding it in her arms).
Ticket to the fortress where we actually had to scramble for timing purposes to catch our train:
But we literally RAN most of those steps diligently and learned as much as we could cram in in that bright Peruvian sun.
Complete with the Incan signature perfectly carved stones at the top:
We scrambled back to the vans to get all our stuff situated, an overnight bag to take to Aguas Calientes and sending all our other stuff back to Cusco.
We RAN to get to the train on time, I lost my ticket (well, Dave took it and I didn’t realize he had it), passports all checked, and we boarded the train with a giant sigh of relief that we made it.
We got to take the “vistadome” train which was so cool, all rounded glass ceiling so we could see all that beauty out there as the seven of us played cards en route to the town (Aguas Calientes) at the base of Machu Picchu.
We had a jumbled evening trying to figure out what to do with an opinionated group, but ended up going to the actual “Aguas Calientes” (“hot water” like hot tubs with natural hot mineral water) with most of our group.
Yeah…would you want to get in there?? Ha! I have to say it was a little on the stinky, interesting side, but we chocked it up to a pretty funny experience.
Another early morning (every morning was early there…did I mention we were in a different hotel every night?), but this one, as I mentioned in my introduction, I jumped up literally shaking with excitement, my hands could hardly pack my backpack I just couldn’t believe I was actually there:
My long-anticipated chance-of-a-lifetime visit to MACHU PICCHU!
We waited in a long line for the bus that carried us up another dangerously STEEP zig-zag road:
And waited in the crowd to get through with our passports.
We walked up the incline little path…
…and then THERE IT WAS: the glory of those Inca ruins stretched out in front of us.
I was in deep awe.
Just thinking of how it was built, that part of it isn’t even excavated yet, picturing the people who carved out those stones so perfectly, built aqueducts (that are still working today), how they worshipped, how they lived, how they were taken hostage to the Conquistadors and the Spanish flu.
SO much going through my brain and heart as we explored.
I mean, how did they think to build this?:
…right into the mountain?
What kind of means did they use to haul all those rocks up to build this place on the side of a mountain??
Please google all about Machu Picchu to learn more, because it is fascinating, but my short little recap is this:
There are no written records for the Incas since they didn’t have a written language, so we don’t know a ton about how this site ran back in the 1400s (the dates estimated by archaeologists). We don’t know the names of the buildings or largely what they were even used for, but through the years archaeologists have gathered as much information as they could through the artifacts and tombs found there.
Can you imagine how it must have felt to be Hiram Bingham III (Yale professor in 1911) and come across those overgrown ruins hundreds of years later.
It is believed that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Incan Emperor Pachacuti (1438-1472), and was abandoned about a century after it was built because of the Spanish conquest. And recent research leads us to believe that it may have been called Huayna Picchu by the Incas who lived there.
Some of the ruins have been partially rebuilt to show how they would have looked.
Here are some before and after pictures:
I’m glad they didn’t change too much.
It is so incredible to explore and envision the terraces planted, the roofs thatched, the people and what their lives were like.
The Temple of the Sun:
The best leaders:
The signature Inca stone carvings:
There is SO much to be learned about this place.
So much awe running through my veins, and these kids too:
So much awe that we even got a little cheesy with the pictures:
I mean, how many times do you get to go to Machu Picchu??
Ok, see that mountain that creates the background for the iconic Machu Picchu backdrop below?
Well, we climbed that thing.
Climbed what seemed like millions of stairs up to the very tippy-top.
It was STEEP, and pretty exhilarating to sit perched at the top with that view that unfolded below.
We got to FaceTime with Claire while we were up there:
That picture actually makes me tear up a little, GOSH we missed that girl (and Lucy too!). But so fun to share some of the grandeur with her from our perch on that mountain.
The way down was an adventure as well:
We left feeling filled up with wonder and so much satisfaction to have walked those paths through ancient history.
Back in Aguas Calientes…
We had the BEST lunch:
And once again raced, scrambling to shovel in the last of our food, to run to catch our train back to Cusco.
(This trip would have been AWFUL for Lucy, I kept feeling so much gratitude she wasn’t with us even though we missed her so much, and kept feeling so sad Claire was missing it all…she would have sure added an extra element of fun I tell you.)
It was a long train ride with more cards and discussions and beauty.
And we had a little time when we got back to the city to find some souvenirs…
Back in our favorite little main square in Cusco:
…and some delicious crepes before an almost midnight dinner back at the hotel with whoever was awake enough to join.
The LAST day came, and we used it to visit the brand new CharityVision clinic in Cusco.
We got to hand out more glasses to adults:
Blow bubbles with the kids while they waited with their parents:
And also got to scrub up and observe some life-changing eye surgeries.
Most of us couldn’t stay in there long, got a little woozy watching, but Carson was right in there checking everything out. He is ready for surgeries I guess! Which is good, because they are coming!
They can do the cataract surgeries in 7 minutes each, most with huge white clouded lenses, rendering them able to see.
Dave had a pretty special experience he related to us though some emotion after: he got to give glasses to one of the women, and as soon as she put them on she started to cry. She explained (with a translator) that she hadn’t been able to see her kids for a while, she had started falling more often, she had been really struggling. And now she could see.
This was extra emotional for us all, hits so close to home.
We bid goodbye to that place…
…and headed back to the main square for a tiny bit of exploring before the airport.
One of my favorite things about this trip was getting to talk with our adult kids. I loved one night in the van when the kids were just spilling out all kinds of memories from growing up, so funny to hear the random things they remember.
We had our own little church one day, about the “three levels of obedience” that was really so interesting, and they gave such good insight.
We also had a chance to talk about philanthropy and our 71Toes Foundation.
Gosh it’s tough to let kids grow up, but I sure like who they are.
We had one last meeting with everyone on these steps, everyone recounting their favorite parts of the trip:
…and then we were gone.
Goodbye Andes Mountains!
Goodbye new friends and our children spreading out back to their own spots.
I’m filled up with gratitude for all of it.
And a sense of awe of goodness going on in the world.
There is so much light.
Other travel posts:
(Timely with the Queen’s passing yesterday, we got to see her a few years ago. So sad to say goodbye!)