Me, Machu Picchu and more
Eding discovers culture, challenges and beauty in Peru
By Erica Eding | firstname.lastname@example.org
You can usually predict what the most memorable part of a trip will be. When I left for the Peru study abroad in May, I knew that seeing Machu Picchu would be number one on my list. However, there were many other amazing moments that caught me by surprise.
We began by building clean-burning stoves in the rural village of Huatata. In the first house I worked on, we heard a strange squealing noise. It sounded like a guinea pig, or cuy, which in the Andes is a snack instead of a pet. We asked Wilbur, our host, if he had a cuy. “We have 25 cuy,” he exclaimed.
We hadn’t built a chimney yet, so we couldn’t see through the smoke, but we later heard the creatures scurrying around underfoot.
Another animal that will be hard to forget was Wilbur’s guardian donkey. It would stand at the gate and bray whenever someone came up the path. Unfortunately, the donkey seemed to have both emphysema and intestinal issues. It would become worked up and then wheeze and pass gas at the same time. We tried to stay inside when that happened.
Our group had the opportunity to explore many Inca sites. One of these was Moray, a ring of terraces where the Inca cultivated different crops on each level. When we hiked to the bottom, it was as if we were in a funnel. We couldn’t hear or see anything other than the mountains surrounding us. Our guide dug in his backpack and told us he’d brought an “Andean radio.” The radio turned out to be a wooden flute. He played several Peruvian songs as the music echoed back at us from the hills.
We also hiked part of the Inca trail above the town of Pisac. The narrow path would wind down the mountain, and we sometimes had to climb steep stone stairs. On our right would be a rock wall and on the left was a cliff. As I edged my way up the steps, I suddenly understood why Flagler College made us sign waivers for the trip.
Another aspect of Peru that I will not soon forget is the healthcare system. I nearly panicked when my host mom told me that not only would I need a shot for my cold, but I had to purchase the needle myself and then the pharmacist would inject me in their back room. My mom also gave me herbal tea which was so disgusting she called it “El Feo,” or “The Ugly.”
I took two buses, one train, three shots and countless cups of El Feo, but I finally made it to my dream destination: Machu Picchu. After arriving there, I wasn’t disappointed. We watched the sun rise over the ruins and stalked llamas in the morning mist. I had never anticipated that the entire trip would be full of unforgettable experiences.
I’d like to return to Peru as soon as I can. Next time, I will remember to pack some cold medicine.