We are BRAVE!

Posted by Kathryn Schmidt; photos by Lena Charles, Bekah Shrag

Believe us, the view in our dreams was spectacular.
Believe us, the view in our dreams was spectacular.

We’ve just come back from a whirlwind of a week; we survived Machu Picchu in the rain!  Also: a harrowing bus ride down into the Sacred valley; hiking galore; awe at the beautiful ruins and Incan artistry at its absolute finest; exploring the lovely work of local artisans and buying some souvenirs; hot springs; and many wonderful meals together.  This week we all had some amazing experiences we will certainly never forget.

But first: below you will see some pictures of a beautiful afternoon we spent at the famous artist Victor Delfin’s home.  He is an incredible person, who is widely revered for his inspirational pieces, but also for his activism, peace marches and social justice pursuits.  He shared some wise words with us and reminded us to always follow our hearts!

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The view from his home/studio/gallery
The view from his home/studio/gallery
Victor Delfin's breathtaking pieces
Victor Delfin’s breathtaking pieces

Back at Buen Pastor, the students had a wild dance lesson and learned some Peruvian folk dances that definitely got them sweating.

A dance lesson!
A dance lesson!

Our time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley was rich.  The 6-day schedule was jam-packed and included airplanes, buses, trains, and tons of walking.  Thankfully we managed to literally “do it all” even with some mild ailments (ongoing intestinal drama, colds, allergies, and general fatigue.) This group is brave!  In fact, I told them this so many times they started to mock me.  I’m ok with this.

Like this one!
So cute in their ponchos!
So cute in their ponchos!

Our first few nights were spent in the Cusco area; we rested the first afternoon to over-come altitude sickness symptoms, and then took in the beautiful sights at  Sacsayhoaman (sounds a bit like Sexy-woman).

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The students spent 2 nights at new host family homes which was an adventure.  Some got to witness Cuy being prepared (read: they watched a guinea pig meet his maker); others laughed at the phrase “being snug as bugs in a rug” because they were literally sleeping beneath one.

Then, it was off to Ollantaytambo, where we stayed in an amazing hostel with an enviable flower garden courtyard, and breath-taking mountain views.  We all enjoyed meandering through the charming town center, hiking up the mountain-side and exploring the work of local artisans.  The Incan terraces at Moray were incredible. Apparently, this site was once an experimental “greenhouse”– a place for the Incan gardeners to hone their skills in elevation.  No kidding.

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Taking the PeruRail train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town for Macchu Pichu was a real highlight. (Jonah and Zachary enjoyed a rare moment of calm!)


The train follows the Urubamba River, which is a raging, wild sight.  Aguas Calientes is a touristy town that provides wonderful food, hot springs (hence the name!), even affordable massages.  Que suerte!

Our Machu Picchu day was a long one.  We all had to get up at 5 a.m. in order to head on the bus up the mountain.  We left in the rain, which was slightly ominous, but spirits were still high.  As we arrived at Macchu Pichu, and started climbing the rocky steps in our ponchos, our energy dipped.  However, once we arrived at the beautiful slopes of the terraced hills and saw those alapacas wandering around, witnessed the Temple of the Sun and hiked up Huaynapicchu, students were laughing again.  (Or maybe it was those handsome Chilean hikers.)

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What a place.  It’s hard to describe how it feels to meander up and down the stone steps of this city that was lost for 500 years.  The Incan artistry and engineering is truly awe-inspiring. Isn’t it amazing how they provided drainage and irrigation to these fields perfectly, so that they will always be green and never muddy?  And of course the sheer magnitude of carving all of those rocks, and fitting them together like perfect puzzle pieces with no mortar needed . . . unbelievable.

The Incas were geniuses with water engineering
The Incas were geniuses with water engineering

And despite the rain and cloud, we still got some glorious views of the Andes mountains that we all will never forget.

Believe us, the view in our dreams was spectacular. 12698415_10153852620185120_6350922502577459263_o

As you can see here, the rain did stop once in awhile, giving our 6 year old a chance to take a picture of this SST director!  As we collect memory cards from more students (or continue to stalk Facebook pics!) we will share more pictures soon.  Stay tuned!

Hasta pronto!