These past few weeks have been some of the best so far. Following my last post, I had the trip of a lifetime to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, and also got to experience one of the biggest parties of the year; Independence Day. I am becoming more and more comfortable in this beautiful place and I am continuing to enjoy each and every minute, as this journey is already half way over.
On September 11, a group of 6 girls including myself, set off for an amazing adventure to Peru. We landed in Cuzco, the former capital of the Incan Empire, that is 12,000 feet in altitude. Prior to my trip, I was very concerned about getting altitude sickness, as it is very common for people visiting Machu Picchu. Luckily I had no symptoms what so ever. After arriving in Cuzco, we took a van down to Ollantaytambo, a beautiful city centered in a valley surrounded by mountains and at an altitude a bit lower, in hopes of acclimating before our hike in Machu Picchu. The very next day we woke up early in the morning to take a famous train called The Peru Rail through the valley and up to Aguas Calentes, the lovely city located at the base of Machu Picchu. The rest of our day was spent exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu National Park, as well as, hiking Machu Picchu Mountain, the highest mountain in the Park (10,000 feet). Everything about this place was absolutely stunning and breathe taking! It was the most graceful, gorgeous, and fascinating place I have ever been to. It’s really hard for me to put into words the beauty that this place holds, but hopefully some of the pictures below can provide it justice.
After visiting Machu Picchu, I had the opportunity to visit the highest navigable Lake in the world, “Lago Titicaca,” which is half in Peru and half in Bolivia. This was a very cultural experience for me and the other girls on the trip. On our first day in Cuzco we talked to a travel guide and set up a 2 day tour of the floating islands and 2 natural islands on Lake Titicaca. We took a boat from Puno, Peru and visited a floating island that is home to 5 families. They speak Quechua an indigenous language of South American Natives. The island was probably 50 feet by 50 feet in total with no electricity or running water and the houses were made of reeds that kind of looked like straw. We eventually made our way to a bigger natural island with around 3000 people living on it. This island was slightly more developed with more sturdy structures and solar power, but still did not have running water, and electricity was very minimal. We had the opportunity to experience the Quechua culture and some of their many traditions followed by an overnight stay with a family. Everything we ate was grown on the island because they don’t have easy access to a grocery store. On the island they produce a lot of quinoa, which originated in the Andean region of South America. We ate quinoa soup and root vegetables that they also grew on the island. Our host mom cooked everything over a big pot of boiling water in a small dark room near the kitchen. We explored the island with our host sister who knew Quechua and Spanish so we were able to communicate with her. We weren’t really aware of the no running water part until we arrived in Puno, so unfortunately for those around us we had all been going on 5 days without a shower. We also of course had to save our phone batteries, as we weren’t able to plug them in for 2 days.
On Wednesday September 16th at around 7:45 pm, shortly after boarding our plane in Lima to Santiago there was an 8.3 earthquake that shook most of Chile for 3 whole minutes. We did not feel anything in Peru but were immediately notified by the flight staff and our flight was delayed. This was one of those times when having a slight grasp on the Spanish language came in handy. Many people on the flight were immediately on their phones with family and friends back home and many people were distraught. I was able to contact my family and every one was ok. I was slightly curious about what an earthquake would feel like, but following the original quake there were many aftershocks of up to 7.1 magnitude that I got to experience. These usually only lasted a short amount of time and were actually kind of interesting to feel, since I have never felt an earthquake before. Many hours after the earthquake there was a tsunami that touched down about 30km down the coast from where I live. Luckily there were very few deaths and most everyone remained safe. I will always remember that I was in South America for a monumental earthquake!
Following our return from Peru, the following day, was the start of Chilean Independence weekend. This is by far the biggest celebration of the year in Chile. They had two big events near me, one in Viña and one in Valparaíso. They were called “Fondos.” They are somewhat similar to a fair, with multiple food and drink booths, as well a,s rides and other fun shops. On the day of September 18th my family had an asado (BBQ). The weekend was filled with empanadas, teremotos, and other traditional food and drinks. 4th of July is my favorite holiday so I was really happy to experience Independence Day in Chile.
I am a little over half way through with my journey abroad, and I am so thankful to be here. I am making the most of each and every day and I am so excited to be moving into warm weather. I have been to the beach countless times, and have been able to whip out the shorts on numerous occasions.