Pre-Incan Ruins

Smack-dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Miraflores, is a ruins sight that once spanned many blocks, but now only has this one block left. The ruins, were formed thousands of years ago, and once stood as a tall pyramid. What is left of them is able to be viewed by guided tours. You will see where mummies were found, and learn about the native plants to the area as well, and of course you can see some llamas and alpacas!

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Parque de la Reserva

We spent an incredible evening walking for over an hour to the Parque de la Reserva, or as some call it, the park of fountains. All day and night for most of the week (not Monday and Tuesday) this park houses over 12 water fountains. Some are meant for gazing, and some are meant for playing, but either way the park is magical. Three times a night there is a laser light show at the Fantasia Fountain, and right next door you can find the original fountain built here in the 1920s, that gave way to all of the other fountains constructions.

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Eco Truly Village

We ventured outside of the city to an eco-village called Eco Truly for a few days of volunteering and relaxation. All of the housing at Eco Truly is built out of mud-bricks, and the buildings themselves are actually called trulys. We spent our morning doing yoga and meditating, and then volunteered for a few hours after breakfast, usually helping to prepare the day’s lunch.

Everyone that lived in the village permanently followed a specific Hinduism path, practicing Hare Krishna. We were able to go to their nightly temple service and experience an amazing energy from their practies. We came back to the city a little earlier than expected because we truly missed our home here in Miraflores at the Backpackers Family House hostel. If anyone is traveling to Lima, I highly suggest staying at Pedro’s quiet, clean and relaxing hostel.

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Spanish Class at ECELA

While we lived in Cusco we took classes at a small Spanish school called ECELA, from an amazing teacher named Erik. We had so much fun and were always laughing in class. It was just the two of us and since we really have no real use for Spanish, we decided that sometimes we would have class at restaurants where we could just practice instead of studying grammar. We highly recommend this school, which ended up being more professional and organized than the large-scale Maximo school in town.

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Our Homestay

I haven’t said much about our homestay, but I wanted to take some time to mention how great they were. We lived with our host mom, whose daughter, son-in-law, and two beautiful grandchildren were visiting for the summer. We lived with other students and volunteers from Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, and America. We had so much fun and have truly made some amazing friends that we hope to visit in Europe soon. We also had a housekeeper Toti, a handyman Yorky, and our hostmom’s oldest son Renzo the racecar driver was our roommate on the 2nd floor.

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Awanacancha: Learning the Process

On our first few days we learned how the yarn was dyed using natural materials, including a parasite that grows on cactus, which produces one color naturally, and several others when activated with salt or lemon. Then we learned how to turn the wool into yarn by hand using a spool. And finally we learned how to weave the yarn into something using handmade looms.

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Awanacancha: Llamas

Our next volunteer project was called Awanacancha and its main mission was to preserve the culture of the Andean Highlands by raising llamas, and alpacas, to then turn into beautiful handmade goods, woven by the local communities, some projects taking months to complete. Every morning we cleaned the llamas’ cages with our boss, Lady, who was 16 years old. Then we fed the animals, and after that we learned about the process of turning wool into yarn into blankets.

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Puerto Maldonado: Victor, the boat, and the monkeys

On Sunday we hired our own boat, captained by a different Victor, and road down the Tambopata River taking turns driving, and laying in a hammock. We visited an animal conservatory that housed Howler monkeys, and several species of birds.

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Maldonado: Kerenda Homet

One of our visits to a nearby lodge, gave us a look at the conservation occuring in the jungle in regards to medicinal plants and other types of trees. The owner, Victor, also introduced us to some of his many animals and his wife made us a flavorful lunch.

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Our Favorite Places in Cusco

Our time in Cusco has come to an end, and I feel like I haven’t said much about our favorite things in this beautiful city. We spent most of our time at our volunteer projects and Spanish class, but towards the end of the stay we tried to see as much of the city as possible. These were our favorite things, minus several of the ones I have mentioned in other posts:

Chaski Shoes: We all had boots handmade from our choice of fabrics and suede, by the happiest Peruvian I met. If you like them, don’t worry because we are going to start importing them for all of our friends soon!

Jack’s Cafe: For a little taste of America we would head over to Jack’s for huge portioned breakfasts and coffees. My favorite was the huevos rancheros, but the pancakes, and vegetarian breakfast was great too. Oh and they sell breakfast all day.

The Meeting Place: This was an interesting cafe because all of the profits are donated to charity and all the workers are volunteers. They make huge belgian waffles with various accompaniments and offer a comfortable setting for hanging out in San Blas.

La Boheme: A wonderfully quaint creperia that along with crepes served tea infusions, amongst beautiful decor.

La Valerina: This cafe had amazing brownies and drinks, with a very fancy, and clean environment.

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Niño Fiesta

Our first volunteer project came to an end of a few weeks ago and we threw a party for the children with cookies and sodas, and small presents for their good behavior. We both miss the kids very much and hope that they are continuing to have a good time at their summer program.

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Puerto Maldonado: Kapievi

We took a weekend trip to the jungle, 10 hours from Cusco, where we stayed in a jungle lodge with daily yoga and meditation. They fed us delicious meals, and helped us arrange visits to some of the other areas of interest around us. We were able to use the pool next door to cool off, and slept in a cute little bungalow with mosquito nets around our beds and a roof made out of palm frawns.

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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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