A Brief Look at an Incredible Experience
26.07.2015 - 10.08.2015
Well, I'm home from Peru! It was an absolutely amazing two(ish) weeks! So much happened during each day that it felt as though I lived an entire lifetime there. There are so many stories and pictures that I felt a chronological recounting of my time there would take weeks to finish, so I plan to make a few posts like this- bite-sized Peru stories! If you want to know more, especially about the way this trip affected me personally, drop a comment or hit me up in person! Here goes!
1. The Cusco Skyline
The majority of the mission team's time was spent in Cusco, where we worked and lived at ATEK (more on that in a second!). One of the many cool things about Cusco is the location. It is located in the Andean Mountains at 11,200 feet (3,400m) above sea level. The city was built up and down the sides of the surrounding mountains, which makes for some steep streets in places! The city is extremely vibrant, with more colours, sounds, sights and smells than I can describe. A few of these include the incessant barking of countless stray dogs that roam the streets. Every breed you can imagine has a home in Cusco. Also, very much unlike here in Canada, they rarely acknowledged you and carefully avoid you. I believe this is because the Peruvian people treat them as pests, not pets.
This is the compound that the team spent the majority of time at. We ate, slept and worked here, alongside the Peruvian staff. As with all the residences in Cusco, it is surrounded by high walls with a metal gate (for protection I suppose) leading onto the street! Behind the main building (pictured here) is a small courtyard where we spent a great deal of time playing with the local kids whose mothers were at the compound for a two week conference. Behind that courtyard were the small dormitories we stayed in and the kitchen in which the amazing ATEK staff prepared us and all the women and children meals.
3. Andean Villages
This is a picture I took above a small village the team visited tucked hours (by vehicle) into the Andean mountains. The crazy zig-zagging line that is visible on the mountain opposite the one the village is on is a road similar to the one that we had travelled to be there. It was a crazy steep dirt road that was very narrow and had no protection from the treacherous drop-offs that bordered it. Our Peruvian drivers, however, weren't fazed by the danger, as they ripped along the roads much faster than seemed right, making for a white-knuckled, heart-pounding ride at times, especially when we took those crazy switchbacks at just under 50km/h!
I took this picture on a short hike that the team took above the village to see an orchard that ATEK had initiated. Even though the hike was short, the elevation tuckered us low altitude dwelling Canadians out quickly! The fruit that is yielded by the orchard we hiked to can be sold by the villagers for a profit. It was really humbling to see the way the villagers lived, and cool to see how ATEK had been working with them, teaching them various agricultural, nutritional and hygienic practices.
4. Our Ride
This 1980's Toyota Landcrusier is somewhat a legend at ATEK, being indestructibly solid and reliable, despite its wild life amongst the mountains. I took this picture while we travelled to the previously described village. We had to keep making rest stops for the driver's sake, as this beast had no power steering and was a standard. So driving this was sort of like wrestling with it instead!
While travelling to the village, the team rode in a newer van, but since we were short a few seats, Jeff and I volunteered to hop in the back of the Landcruiser. I would describe riding in the back of that thing sort of like how I think I would describe being tumble-dried in a dust storm! We bounced around in the back with our bags bombarded by dust from the open windows (this thing obviously didn't have air conditioning!). It was a super fun ride though and was full of laughs!
5. Jeff Photographing the Beautiful Andes
I was surprised to see how many photos I have of Jeff taking pictures on this trip! So here is one of my favourites- Jeff soaking in the rugged beauty of the Andes.
While we were there, Peru was in the midst of its dry season/winter. The mornings all started off near zero degrees celsius and reached scorching temperates midday. There was no rain in two weeks, and probably will be little or none until the wet season. Thats why this little rainforest oasis we drove through in the mountains was a little bit of a change of environment!
7. Playing with the Kids Part I
Jeff put it best when he said that everybody smiles in the same language. It was incredibly special to be able to connect with these kids at ATEK how we did. They could be tiresome at times, but were extremely lovable. Here is a picture of Seth giving a piggy-back ride to a little guy whose name sounds like "hoof". I have no clue how to spell it!
8. The Market
During the trip, the team visited a market where we were able to try our hand at bartering. It was quite fun, but a little tricky with the language barrier. I think I got pretty good- I got this hand-carved wooden mask that Spencer is posing with from 45 to 20 Sol (the Peruvian currency, one Canadian dollar is worth about three Sols), but didn't end up buying it. Instead, I bought a sweater made from the fur (wool?) of an Alpaca, a chess set with wooden pieces that were hand-carved and a few more small gifts for friends at home!
9. The Ruins beneath Huayna Picchu
Would any collection of photos be complete without at least one from the ruins at Macchu Picchu? Probably not, so I had to toss at least one in. Although this place was unbelievably photogenic, I was frustrated by the crowds with people in many of the pictures I took! However, it was to be expected, especially considering that we were at one of the World Wonders! I learned so much about these ruins and took a few Llama selfies, of course!
One of things I learned was that the name of the ruins is not Macchu Picchu. Macchu Picchu is the name of a mountain that overlooks the ruins (behind me in this photo).
10. Night Life
There isn't much to say about this photo, except it's a picture that I really liked and thought adequately captured the atmosphere of Cusco at night. Taken on the roof of ATEK.
11. The Park
I don't appear often in my pictures, since I'm usually the one taking them! So I was thankful when a team member (either Sammi or Heidi I think) offered to take this one! From left to right- myself, Shakira (probably misspelled), Lindsey and Nephtily (also probably misspelled, it sounds like "neff-ta-lee").
This picture was taken right by the park (in the background) that we often took the kids at ATEK to, much to their delight. It was tiresome for us to be in the hot sun pushing kids on the swings, catching them on the slide and so forth, but their glee made it absolutely worth it!
12. Urban Peruvian Driving
I tried a pan-motion-blur shot for this because I thought it suited the driving style there- fast and crazy! Any street was constantly bombarded with the honking of horns and the revving of engines. Lane changes were sudden and often to shoot crazy gaps in traffic, speed maximums were ignored, and driving in the oncoming lane is the norm there! All the vehicles we saw were standards, even the full-size buses, which I thought was awesome. Knowing how to drive a standard isn't really mandatory in North America, but everywhere else, you probably would have a real tough time getting by without knowing how. Learn how, people!
13. Playing with the Kids Part II
Another shot of playing with kids, since it was a huge part of our ministry there. Kaitlyn is pictured here, along with baby Flo and Noi (yet again, probably misspelled... pronounced "noy"). The kids never really got Kaitlyn's name, so she was often mistakenly called 'Helen', 'Kate' and a few other things!
14. Hyaena Picchu... Again
I thought that Huayna Picchu was much more photo-worthy than Macchu Picchu, so consequently I have way more photos of Huayna Picchu! It may not be very visible for you, depending on whether or not you are reading this on a phone, but there is a horizontal darker green line that goes across the face on Huayna Picchu. That, is a trail the Inca people used...It is less than one meter wide and has a sheer wall on one side and a vertical drop of over a thousand feet on the other. I thought that was pretty wild!
Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read this, I plan on posting a few more stories/recollections from the trip over the next while, so check back!