June 19, 2006

Day 10: Machu Picchu / Cuzco

Students took a guided tour of Machu Picchu, learning about the history that makes this such a special place. They returned by train to Cuzco.

Live field report

Day 10 // Jill Millkey // June 19, 2006

Waking up today was, well, strange. It sounds a little ironic to me to say this—but we have been thrown out of our daily routine and back into reality—the reality that the water in our bathroom would most definitely NOT be hot (even though we are in Agua Calientes…the town with twenty pizzerias AND the town which of course, can’t supply enough hot water to our hotel for 20 quick showers even though there are hot springs down the road), probably still smells like rotten eggs like it did after the celebration last night for some unknown reason, and the reality that we would have to act like normal human beings because we would be around people today.

Sharp right, sharp left, sharp right, sharp left, SCREECH stop—precariously on the edge of the curvy road that will take us to Machu Picchu. At first glance, this road could be labeled as a one lane road—and it probably is—but that apparently doesn’t stop the Machu Picchu busses from passing each other on the road. As our bus begins to motor rather quickly up to the tourist entrance of the archaeological site again, the number of tourists began to steadily increase. Entering the site today was a totally different experience from last night—people were everywhere. When we entered, if you just took one glance over the landscape of cultures in front of us, you could tell that people had come from all over the world just to see Machu Picchu. Speaking of people, towards the end of the tour we encountered a nine year old blind boy traveling with his family. Being the friendly large group that we are, I am sure we probably overwhelmed the kid—but it seems so random, yet so perfect, that we ran into him.

Back to the tour, I’ll bet you didn’t know that at Machu Picchu there are 16 ceremonial fountains, a sun temple as well as a sun gate, an urban sector, an agricultural sector, and even a sacrificial stone ( archaeologists aren’t quite sure as to what exactly they sacrificed…). AND there are three sacred animals—the condor, the puma, and the snake—each standing for things like intelligence. Oh, I almost forgot—the Indiana Jones movies were based upon the journey of finding Macchu Picchu. These were the types of random facts that we learned over the course of the tour while scrambling up stairs and around the occasional llama who had claimed the path as its own. Then of course, you can’t forget that there is a sacred sundial at the highest point that as a rule NO ONE gets to touch. Julio, our guide however, somehow managed to jump through hoops when talking to the women keeping an eye in the sundial and, to our surprise, arranged it so that our 5 blind students got to touch it.

As the sun rose to be high overhead, the tour had to come to a close. We had the chance to see, hear, and touch so many new things today that words wouldn’t do the experiences justice. Our adventures were far from over—who knew there was an actual market in Aqua Calientes? Or that it is a regular practice to have fashion shows complete with Peruvian disco music on trains? I believe our reactions just started to be: “Only in Peru…”

To my fellow Super Incas:

Every time I talk about the trip when I get home, I am sure people will ask me “Was Machu Picchu as a-m-a-z-i-n-g as it sounds?” And, of course, I will reply “Yes—oh my gosh yes!” But, I believe that it would be a shame to give the spotlight just to Machu Picchu. Yes, in all due respect, those old buildings gave us a reason to be here in Peru, but—I think that seeing it wouldn’t have had such a powerful effect on me if it hadn’t been for you guys. To be honest, in all of its beauty, without ya’ll, Machu Picchu could have been just another ancient Incan site. But—it isn’t in my mind because I now associate it with all of the Super Incas. I have no doubt that for every description of reaching the Sun Gate and touring Machu Picchu I give, there will always be at least 4 or 5 memories spinning through my head of how everyone scattered at the Sun Gate to find “the perfect shot” in reaction to finally reaching our destination, the curiosity (and probably sometimes boredom) that latched onto us on our tour, and even memories from the trail—like being well “outrun” on the soccer/cowpat field by our guides or having splashing wars in the frigid stream after the service project (with all of the kids watching from the safety of the bank-probably thinking “Crazy Americans…”). So thank-you for all of the memories we shared and will share in the future—because we all know that we will get together again, whether it be this fall at the movie premiere or next summer at Kili.

I haven’t really experienced enough to give “Life Advice” but I do agree that life isn’t about cruising along without challenges, but instead, as Elise said during our wish/promise session last night “it is important to have challenges for they help you grow and expand-however unpleasant things may seem at the time” This group began with the obstacle of how to interact with each other—I, for one, had never met a blind person let alone guided one. To be honest, in the month leading up to the trip I was rather worried that I would lead someone off a cliff (on the trip I realized how seldom that could happen because whenever I said right instead of left, the blind student would say “Are you sure…?” and proceed to feel around with their pole and step left anyway.)

Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end. Likewise, we were brought together by Global Explorers and thrown, without having met each other, into a flurry of fundraising, conference calls, and even homework. We bonded at the retreat, completed last minute paperwork and flew to Peru—where the heart of our story developed. But we, unlike most stories, are what I would call cliffhangers. We have no clearcut ending because the end of our jaunt was not the end of our journey. We leave everyone who has witnessed this trip guessing what stunning things we will do next—individually and as a group.

As they say

“Don’t be afraid to reach for the moon”

Until next we meet, Supers-

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Hi Trekkers,

I just want to say it sounds like you are doing an excellent job. You are setting goals, achieving goals, and proving that disabilities are not insurmountable obstacles.

As difficult as some parts of the journey may be, you will have this experience and these memories for the rest of your life. When facing some future obstacle, you will look back on this journey…

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