We’d finally reached the point of the trip the entire group had been waiting for- a visit to Machu Picchu, the most famous site in all of Peru. Machu Picchu is an old royal estate of the Incan Emperor Pacha Kuti, located in an incredibly unique environment with characteristics of both the mountains and the jungle. The group got off to an early start and hiked Wayna Picchu, a mountain that sits above Machu Picchu. From Wayna Picchu, we had an amazing view of the ruins and also got to take some great shots with the mountainous background and jungle scenery. Although it was tiring, everyone agreed it was worth the hike!

Student Kristen E. captures an epic shot of Machu Picchu.

Student Kristen E. captures an epic shot of Machu Picchu.

 

Students and leaders squeeze together for a frame-worthy moment!  Photo by trip leader Lina Collado.

Students and leaders squeeze together for a frame-worthy moment! Photo by trip leader Lina Collado.

After Wayna Picchu, we began our exploration of Machu Picchu itself. First, we all took some great photos of the site from above, where everyone could truly appreciate the marvelous view. Then we learned all about Machu Picchu’s history and the meaning of each element. Everyone found it to be a spectacular experience that we will never forget. Later, we grabbed lunch at a local restaurant, where some of us got the chance to try Alpaca and other traditional Peruvian dishes. We boarded the train and headed back to Ollantaytambo, where we all got some needed sleep after the incredible day.

It was then time to make our way back to Cusco!  On the way, we made a special stop in the small town of Chinchero. Here, we visited National Geographic grantee Nilda Callanaupa’s textile center where women of nearly all ages practice, learn, and master the art of ancient Andean weaving. We got to see how they dye the yarn, to understand how they accomplish various complex patterns, and to even try out weaving small friendship bracelets ourselves.

A woman at the textile center demonstrates ancient Andean weaving.  Photo by student Sarah K.

A woman at the textile center demonstrates ancient Andean weaving. Photo by student Sarah K.

Cami, Francis, Megan, and Mitchell dying alpaca yarn while learning the textile process at the Centro de Textiles. Photo by trip leader Lina Collado.

Cami, Francis, Megan, and Mitchell dying alpaca yarn while learning the textile process at the Centro de Textiles. Photo by trip leader Lina Collado.

After browsing and shopping in the small marketplace full of scarves, sweaters, tablecloths, and more (all made at the center), we were treated to lunch. Here, we were served the Peruvian delicacy we had all been waiting for: cuy! Nearly every one of us tried the guinea pig (cuy), and although few of us liked its salty and tough taste, we were glad we’d given it a chance and were true travelers!

After lunch, we boarded the bus and soon arrived at our hostel in the heart of Cusco. We spent the late afternoon working on our On Assignment projects, and by the time dinner rolled around, we were itching to get out and roam the beautiful night life of the city. So, that’s exactly what we did: we all got dressed up for the first time on the trip, went out to a nice restaurant for dinner, and spent an hour or two turning the restaurant into our own private salsa dance floor! We ended the night excited for the new adventures this city would bring for our last week of the trip.

Students get out on the dance floor and salsa.  Photo by trip leader Lina Collado.

Students get out on the dance floor and salsa. Photo by trip leader Lina Collado.