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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.