We woke early again to a chilly room, 62 degrees. At least this will be our last night here. It is really a nice hotel and the views are beautiful, if only they had heat!. Our luggage is outside our door at 7:30. We have breakfast which for me consists of some eggs, lots of fruit and chesses washed down with about 3 cups of the excellent coffee. We are on the bus at 8:00 AM and on our way to the first adventure of the day.
Part of Overseas Adventure Travel and Grand Circle Travel’s philosophy is the principle that they should give back to all the countries in which they have tour. This is done through The Grand Circle Foundation. To this end they help support three schools in Peru. The one we are going to visit is “Pucruto”.
When we arrive at about 8:20 the entire student body is in the courtyard having a “parade” to celebrate one of the national holidays. They line in formation and sing several songs. After the ceremony, the principal introduces our group and the students make their way back to class, all except the 4th grade class we are to meet with. They quickly approach us and each student selects a “friend”. I was fortunate to be selected by 9 year old Anyela.
The students quickly herded us over to a large world map painted on one of the school buildings. Here they wanted us to point out where we lived.
The young man on the left, I believe he was 12, suffers from polio and is incredibly agile on his home made crutches. He seemed to fit right in with the rest of the guys.
Following a brief tour of the school, we returned to the class room where we had an opportunity to interact with the students and review some of their work.
Here Frank is trying on his amigo’s hat to his amusement. Bill, as always, is engaging a youngster. Everywhere we traveled Bill seemed to have a special affinity for the children and they all responded to him.
Kay’s partner is showing some of her work. I was amazed at the math level these 4th graders were doing. Math was about the only thing I could evaluate since I don’t speak Spanish and none of the children spoke English.
Anyela drew a self portrait for me and wrote a note. I later got Edgar to translate for me. It said “My name is Anyela, I love you so much. I am giving this to you so you can remember me. To Wendell”. The children were neat and clean although many had very worn clothes and shoes.
After our individual time, the class using Edgar as the translator told us their names, how far they traveled to school and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Anyela only had a 5 minute walk to school, but one child had to travel for an hour each way. Most of the girls wanted to become teachers and a few doctors. Anyela was the only one who wanted to be an attorney. The boys overwhelming wanted to be tour guides, a very good job in Peru.
Afterward we had a group photo with the children and their teacher.
After leaving the school we traveled to Ollantaytambo to board the Inca Train for Machu Picchu. We had only a few minutes to walk some of the narrow streets which date back hundreds of years.
I of course had to take a few photos of some of the locals going about their daily routine.
Our train departed at 11:15 AM, already a full morning…..
In addition to the beautiful scenery on the train, Kay and I sat opposite a very nice couple from Miami. It made a very pleasant one and one-half hour train ride. During the train trip Edgar supplied us with a box lunch which again was both nutritious and delicious.
After arriving in Aguas Calientes Village, at the base of Machu Picchu, we walked immediately about 2 blocks to the bus station for the trip up the mountain. The only access to Machu Picchu is by bus or by hiking up the mountain. I believe a bus ticket is $19 and that trip in itself is an adventure. The road is dirt and one lane. There are innumerable hairpin switchback and absolutely no guard rails. Your life is in the hands of the driver and the mechanical condition of the bus. If you meet another bus, the descending bus must back up until you reach a place wide enough to pass.
After reaching Machu Picchu all I can say is that the trip was worth the effort. We stayed in the park until the last bus returned to Aguas Calientes. I will let the photos speak for themself.
Photo from the bus
Edgar, our trip leader. He did an excellent job of giving us an overview of Machu Picchu and its interest in the observation of the sun and moon. A great emphasis was placed on the sun and in many places there were sundials and special alignments to mark the solstice. His timing was perfect, we arrived in the early afternoon just as many of the day trippers were leaving and by the time we left at 5 PM, the park was almost empty. I never thought I would have the opportunity to photo Machu Picchu without hordes of people, but I did!
Joel, he was our second guide while in Machu Picchu. Joel spoke excellent English which he said he acquired in the field. Joel loved American idoms and was anxious to pick up new ones. We assisted at every opportunity. Probably his favorite was one Carl gave him. “You don’t want to be the richest man in the cemetery”…. enjoy life.
Janet, Kay, and Ashleigh
Kay and Wayne
After returning from the mountain to Aquas Calientes, we went immediately to dinner. Several of us decided to eat at Totes, a restaurant just a few buildings down from our hotel. I was pleasantly surprised. I had read about how expensive everything was in Aquas Calientes since it must come in by train and you were essentially a captive audience. We had a very nice pizza, 3 beers, salad bar and the manager provided us with a complimentary pisco sour. The total bill with tip was only about $24. Edgar was kind enough to point out what to avoid on the salad bar. There are just some things our sensitive stomachs have problems with in Peru, mainly lettuce and other “ground close” vegetables that are not cooked or peeled.
We finally made it to our hotel at about 8PM. This was really the first dissapointment of our trip. We had been warned by OATS not to expect plush accommodations in Aquas Calientes but I was still dissappointed with our room. It was clean and adequate but it was literally a portion of the hall which had been closed in to make a room. We had about 18 inches of space around the bed. It was a good thing that we had repacked to carry only small bags for this overnight trip. Our regular luggage would not have had any place to stay. Not everyone had such small quarters, some in fact had quite large rooms. The redeeming fact was that we were only to spend a little over 8 hours here….
Carol, Pat, Janet, Bill and Carol when we arrived at the hotel. The “Flat Rock Society” had elected to delay dinner for their traditional glass of wine. They are meeting just outside our room. You see the curtains on the right? This was our room view. Pull back the curtain and our tiny bed was on dispaly!
The rest of the group, Carol (again), Candy, Wayne and Edgar.
Bill is telling us about his experience. After arriving at the hotel, he had a knock at the door. A porter asked if he would like to see a magic trick, he said sure. The porter said show me your wallet and when he reached for it it wasn’t in his pocket. The porter then produced it for him. Apparently he had left it at the restaurant an and someone there tracked him down and brought it to the hotel. It’s nice to know there are honest people still… Edgar did warn us that unfortunately not all people in Peru are so honest. Well neither are they in the US….
Got to bed about 9PM for an early 4:30 wake up call.