Sillustani

After a few hours of shopping, because as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not only our favorite thing, it’s also what we’re good at, especially bargaining, we had lunch and took a bus to an archeological sight that our teacher had recommended.

The sight is home to tombs from the Incan empire and before, where many mummies have been uncovered. The history was intriguing and the views were spectacular. We even watched a thunderstorm in the distance as the lightning struck down on the mountains.

After an extensive history lesson, we traveled to the home of a local family where we tried some local delicacies, including potatoes with clay dip (literally a dip made from combining the clay found naturally in the soil with boiling water and salt), and fried quinoa dough with cheese. Oh and of course we saw 20 alpacas, llamas and other breeds of cute furry animals.
Oh and the craziest thing, we went on this tour who our new friend Catherine, and not 2 minutes into the tour did two of her housemates get onto the bus, expanding our group to five. Which we eventually increased to six by dinner when we invited an England-born, Italy-living, UN-working friend to join us also.

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Puno: Uros Floating Islands

Diana and I arrived on an overnight bus to the town of Puno at 5am on Saturday morning. Not needing to waste a moments time we went to a hostel a friend had recommended and booked a tour that left at 6:45am to Uros and Taquile. The hostel, offered us a very inexpensive breakfast while we waited and then we were on our way. After a moderately long boat ride we arrived at one of the 45 floating islands of Uros.

The Uros floating islands are built on top of soil that is filled with dried out roots causing them to float. On top of the soil the locals thatch together locally found reeds, which they also use to build houses, and boats; as well as it being a source of food supply. These reeds also float very well. The locals catch fish and hunt; as well as make tapestries and other figurines from reeds. They rely on tourism as well, and rah day a different island is visited to spread the money across them.

Our guide, with the help of a local, explained all of this to us, and then we were given time to take a boat ride around the lake, and buy handmade goods.

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Puno: The Island of Taquile

After a short visit to the floating islands we took the motorboat onward to the island of Taquile. This island was naturally formed, therefore not floating on reeds, but was a magical beauty in its own. We hiked up a beautiful walkway to an outdoor restaurant where we ate trout, quinoa soup, beet salad, bread, and tea; all while overlooking beautiful Lake Titticaca. Afterwards we participated in traditional dances with the family and enjoyed the views.

As we traveled onward we were continuously greeted with amazing views and wonderful local children who sold us beautifully handmade bracelets, hats, and belts (because clearly if there is one thing Diana and I know how to do best it’s shop).

We headed back to the mainland, and arrived around 5pm, where we quickly caught a cab to our hotel, which was actually a restored boat from the 1800s.

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Puno: Uros Floating Islands

Diana and I arrived on an overnight bus to the town of Puno at 5am on Saturday morning. Not needing to waste a moments time we went to a hostel a friend had recommended and booked a tour that left at 6:45am to Uros and Taquile. The hostel, offered us a very inexpensive breakfast while we waited and then we were on our way. After a moderately long boat ride we arrived at one of the 45 floating islands of Uros.

The Uros floating islands are built on top of soil that is filled with dried out roots causing them to float. On top of the soil the locals thatch together locally found reeds, which they also use to build houses, and boats; as well as it being a source of food supply. These reeds also float very well. The locals catch fish and hunt; as well as make tapestries and other figurines from reeds. They rely on tourism as well, and rah day a different island is visited to spread the money across them.

Our guide, with the help of a local, explained all of this to us, and then we were given time to take a boat ride around the lake, and buy handmade goods.

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The Yavari: our home for a night

The Yavari is a boat originally built in 1862 that traveled through 6 countries to make it to Peru… (Read the full bio here )

This was our hotel for the weekend.

We arrived around sunset and met our new friend Catherine, who was staying with us for the weekend because she takes Spanish classes with our housemate Sanna from Sweden. Unfortunately, Sanna could not come on the trip because she was dealing with parasites in the stomach, but Catherine still came even though none of knew each other, and we had an amazing time.

The boat was absolutely magnificent, with a lot of the original hardware still there. We slept in bunk beds with potholes overlooking the lake, and not only did they provide us with hot tea, they also have us hot water bottles for our beds.

In the morning we were greeted with an awesome breakfast spread, including eggs, smoothies, coffee, tea, and bread, at a table that was a part of the original ship. Afterwards we were given a tour and then clearly held a photoshoot, before departing for the day.

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Cristo Blanco, Cuy, Cabellos

In staying with our hiking streak, Diana and I woke up early again on Monday, and walked all the way to the Jesus Christ statue here in Cusco. We then discovered a small house, or maybe a restaurant, that rented us horses to ride around, which proved to be horrifying and we hardly made it an hour. On our way back into town we stopped by the house-restaurant, saw that their kitchen was full of live guinea pigs, regretted ever eating one, and then went and had a big glass of Chicha, beer made from corn.

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Hike to the Incan Caves

The couple that also lives with us organized a hike to some Incan caves last Sunday afternoon through Loki Hostel. We hiked for around five hours total, stopping to explore the caves, which in the dry season you can actually walk through.

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Tia’s Last Morning

One of our housemates is from Germany and on her last weekend here, we decided to have as much fun as possible so when her flight was switched from Saturday to Sunday we decided to wake up at 4 am on Sunday and walk to the 6am mass in the main square, Plaza del Armas. It was an enchanting service, and even though we didn’t understand everything we were able to grasp a lot of the sermon, and were truly moved. After mass we walked to Jack’s Cafe in San Blas, had hot chocolates and cappuccinos, and a delicious breakfast, before sending Tia on her way.

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Our Spirit Animal, Pedra

One of the most memorable days was last week when we were walking home from school. We had been walking for only about ten minutes when I looked down and realized there was a dog following us. We didn’t touch, or feed, or really talk to the dog much, and thought it would go away, but it continued to follow us for over an hour. We even went into the supermarket to try and lose it, and it was waiting for us when we came outside. Oh and to make matters worse, our little dog, was in heat, so every time she passed a male dog, the other dog began chasing her and trying to make puppies. Needless to say, we felt like her security guards/mothers, and also changed the name we had originally given it from Pedro to Pedra given the circumstances.

When we arrived home, we showed our host-mom the dog, explained the problem, and began thinking of solutions. We could definitely take her to the shelter that our host-mom’s friend runs, but first we had to make sure that she didn’t already have a home. [side note: dogs here roam freely in the streets during the day without leashes or collars and are usually let into the houses at night.] We hopped into the trunk of our host-mom’s daughter and son-in-law’s SUV with their dog, and their daughters, and retraced our steps back to where we had found Pedra. Pedra was very scared and was laying on our laps, but suddenly realized she was in a car, got very excited, looked out the back window, proceeded to get motion sickness, and then threw up on the floor. We finally arrived at the place she had started following us, and got out of the car thinking we would have to go knock on people’s doors and ask if she was theirs, but our new friend seemed to recognize where she was, and ran off into the alleys. We look for her everyday, but still haven’t seen her again.

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Free Walking Tour

It was our housemate Tia’s last day, so we decided to pack it full of as many things as possible. One of these was the free walking tour offered in town. Even though we had already been here for two weeks, we thought we could use a refresher course on the city, and so we joined a tour on a Saturday and visited several restaurants, shops, and landmarks. Our guide Luis was full of energy, very fun, and showed us some great places we hadn’t been to before. We even got to try playing some new instruments at his friend’s house!

After the tour we went out to lunch, visited San Pedro market, and got hot chocolates at a small cafe our teacher had reccommended.

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A Buddhist Lecture, Salsa Lessons, and Drinking

Last weekend we stayed in town and could not have done more. On Friday night a few of us went to a Buddhism, or Budismo in Spanish, lecture, where even though we did not understand the language, we were able to participate in a group meditation and meet some interesting people.

After the lecture, everyone that lives in our home-stay met up at a local bar that teaches salsa lessons for free every night from 9-11pm. Diana got her face painted, and we drove the DJ crazy requesting Beyonce, and Ke$ha, but all in all it was a really fun night, and was much needed after a hard week of school and volunteering.

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Our First Volunteer Project

Our first volunteer project in Cusco, is located a short bus ride away from our homestay. We can’t communicate with the woman that runs the program, and can only sometimes communicate with the children, but we have an amazing time coming up with ideas for the lessons we teach. So far we have had several English lessons, and many art projects; including, painting self-portraits, drawing family-portraits, making animal flashcards in English, and making Valentine’s Day cards. The children come from a small town with dirt roads, and despite the language barrier, have been so much fun!

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Tipòn

We took a local bus out to the small town of Tipon, and walked to the Incan ruins at the top of the hill. Catching a cab at the last minute where you cannot walk any farther. These ruins were especially interesting to me because they were a system of aqueducts that were built to take water to the crops, which are still running today, without any electricity, and no sure sign of where the water actually comes from.

After the ruins, we drove back into town and had our cab driver introduce us to a woman that took us to her “restaurant” where we ate the local delicacy, Cuy, or guinea pig. The pigs are fire roasted outside and served over potatoes and noodles. Many families in these areas raise guinea pigs to eat, and Peruvians generally enjoy them on special occasions.

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Fiesta

On Saturday we decided to have a small party in our apartment, because several new people were about to arrive, and a few people who had arrived with us are about to leave. We gathered everything we needed at the San Pedro market, including llama jerky, olives, bread, two types of cheese, puffed corn snacks, and fruit. Two of the volunteers gathered the alcohol, and Diana and I made some toasted cheese sandwiches, while everyone else cut and organized the spread. We had an amazing time all hanging out together and eating and drinking, but went to bed fairly early to prepare for our trip to Tipon the next day.

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Cooking Class in Cusco

The five girls in the house decided to participate in a cooking class last weekend, at the Choco Museo. We arrived at 5pm, and went with our chef to the market where we bought all of our ingredients. Then we went back to the kitchen and learned how to prepare a salad, a chicken dish, and pisco sours. The chef treated us to chocolate fondue at the end of class, with fruit we had chosen at the market.

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