I made it through the night and joined everyone for breakfast in the morning. I had bread and a crap ton of coca tea. Lesson learned. I wouldn’t be eating heavy food for a while.
After breakfast, the plan was for us to all get on a bus and have a tour of Cusco and some surrounding villages. I cannot explain how happy I was that we were not starting our hike that day.
The first stop was a monument in Cusco – a statue of Jesus, overlooking all of Cusco. The view was breathtaking. Thousands of little houses all scattered across the horizon.
Being predominantly a Catholic populated country, several churches could also be seen from the place we were standing. The churches were covered in details and stood grand in the city. Our main G Adventures tour guide, Pedro, explained that as more and more people came to live in the city of Cusco, people began living in the mountains. This is a good time to also introduce Flecher, our second tour guide
Pedro had said that Peru is a poor country. On our drive up to this monument, I took photos of the homes we passed, made of mud and cardboard. I recognized my privilege, and appreciated the fact that I was able to travel and experience other ways of living. I was thankful that I was able to witness the poverty that majority of our planet lives in and hoped that I would not forget what I had seen when I returned to North America. I also thought to myself how resilient and resourceful the people of Peru are who live in these homes, and how much respect I had for them.
Our next stop, was to have lunch in a small village. The food was fresh and was served with care. It was the first of many delicious meals to come on this trip. Luckily, most of the food was light – meaning I could eat it without dying of stomach pains. Anyone who knows me, knows I like to eat. There was one girl on our trip, Emily, who was a bit of a picky eater. She was apparently vegetarian. I say “apparently” because it turned out at the very end of our trip, that she wasn’t. Everyone would chuckle as our tour guide would poke fun at her as she would try the different foods and leave unfinished portions on her plate.
As I walked out of the area we sat for lunch back to the bus, I noticed the quiet that surrounded me. Solidarity. Silence. Serenity. No sound – just mountains, birds and the sound of the breeze. It reminded me of being in the mountains in Tucuman, Argentina, back when my biological father took my family there. I could only wish I could bottle that quiet and bring it home with me.
The next stop, would be to visit a women’s Co-op program, supported by G Adventures. On our way to the Co-op, our bus stopped by a group of women. One of the women got into the bus and began sharing information about the women’s Co-op in Spanish. Pedro translated for us.
When we arrived to the women’s Co-op, we were surrounded by colours and patterns. The women who lived on the Co-op sat together and spun, dyed and wove wool from alpacas and llamas to create beautiful pieces of work.
The woman who joined us on the bus, continued to teach us about the Co-op, showing us the processes involved in cleaning and dying the wool. I was easily distracted by the adorable children playing with blankets and running around. I wished that children still played so innocently and simply in North America. When I bent down to talk to one of the children, she grabbed my glasses and attempted to put them on herself. Her mother quickly came by and gave them back to me. I took a picture of the child, and she wanted to see her photo. I showed her, and she then wandered off to play with her friend. Earlier, they had been playing under a blanket together, she now had the blanket wrapped around her shoulders like her mother.
Before we left the Co-op, we had the chance to purchase items from the women. It turned out to be quite the overwhelming experience, as all the women approached me asking me to buy from them. Given my limited Spanish and inability to say no at times, I had left the Co-op spending 400 Soles, after only visiting the booths of two women. I had purchased a table runner, two scarves and mittens (which I later on gave to a man who was homeless in Montreal months later without thinking – which I slightly regret now).Later on, Pedro had stated that it is good to buy from multiple women so they all make some money…well thanks for that tidbit after the fact.
We finished day two in a beautiful inn, in Ollaytatambo. The inn was quiet, and surrounded by mountains. Emmie and I arrived in our room and were happy with how clean it was. Minus the washroom, which had a number of spiders. Emmie had mentioned that her throat was feeling sore and that she thought she was getting tonsillitis. One of my worst fears was getting sick on this trip, given how active the next few days were going to be. I felt bad for her.
Shortly after we had arrived and settled in our rooms, we were off again on another excursion to see the first set of ruins (and llamas) of many to come. We walked to the ruins and Pedro provided full-detailed history on all we saw. The ruins were a good warm-up for the next day’s workout – we climbed dozens of stairs. Pedro had pointed out the different types of stone used within the ruins. Some of the stone used, had been dragged by people for miles from other parts of Peru. I was exhausted only carrying a water bottle.
After walking through the ruins, we gathered at a local restaurant for dinner. The famous alcoholic drink in Peru is Pisco Sours. If I were to describe this drink, it would be lightish green in colour, topped with egg white with a sweet yet sourness to it. It was an acquired taste – and, most of the group did not have it.
We ended our night at the inn, where some sat in quiet watching the stars, others trying to connect to wifi to e-mail loved ones and some who went right to bed to rest for the beginning of the Inca Trail hike the following day.