A Life-Changing Experience – Peru 2014
We began our expedition with a long journey, much excitement and an anti-climatic arrival into the busy, dirty city that is Lima. With only a few hours to rest before our flight to Cusco, we were happy to get into the rich culture that everyone usually associates with Peru. Sleep deprived and lacking energy, our intrepid team of adventurers rolled into Cusco to be greeted by sunshine and friendly faces.
Due to the immense altitude in the Andes, we knew we had a few days to acclimatize and we were pumped to start exploring the rich culture in this South American country.
With kisses on both cheeks and hugs all around, we were happy to get on the road and start exploring the lost capital city of the Inca. We boarded the bus and headed straight to Saqsay Waman – a massive ruin overlooking the present city of Cusco. With Bernardino as our guide we explored the depths of Incan genius in architecture, science and philosophy – that is, until a libre of Llamas turned up and ‘Llama selfies’ become the flavour of the afternoon. The highlight of the day, however, was the dinner at the old Casa Mosqoy – the same facility that we would be aiding in the Exodus of just days later.
With all the volunteers, organizers, Mosqoy students and the Brentwood clan, we sat down and enjoyed a fabulous home-cooked meal prepared for us by Eibert, a current student in the Mosqoy program. The action climaxed with an unexpected surprise for one of our party, Robbie, who would be turning 17 in two days. The tradition in Peru is that the birthday boy must take the first bite of cake – well this certainly didn’t go as planned - he ended up with half of it on his face. Juan, the gentlemen who runs the house, may have had a hand in that! After many laughs and stories, we were ramped up for the experiences we would share together as we set out to work with Mosqoy. After all, it is all about the relationships!
Before the work would begin in earnest, we would venture into the sacred valley for some sight-seeing and some special visits to the homes of the Mosqoy students. Our tour took us to Pisak and some Incan ruins, Chinchero and a weaving community, Maray and the salt mines and, finally, in Ollantayntambo for a short stay. Here we would spend the day with Mosqoy students’ families. These were truly special experiences and memories from this day will certainly last a lifetime. Students dressed up in traditional clothing, performed a traditional dance and we ate a special meal that involved a cuddly cuy. After this special day, we had the opportunity to explore the magnificent surrounding area of this community. Students were able to explore more ruins, swim in a reservoir, hike mountains and shop in the local markets.
A special day on everyone’s calendar was the visit we would pay to Machu Picchu – it did not disappoint. With half a dozen hours to explore the Incan ruin, students had the chance to roam the buildings, hike to the Inca Bridge and the Sun gate and take ‘selfies’ with llamas. The weather held its end of the bargain and it was truly a memorable day. The scenery was fantastic.
Once our tourist activities were finished, the group collectively rolled up its sleeves and prepared to work with our partners at Mosqoy. Our job? A monumental one that involved cleaning, packing and prepping the Old Casa Mosqoy while at the same time the New Casa Mosqoy needed to be cleaned, painted, landscaped, decorated and have furniture constructed. While this sounds typical of any move, it cannot be overstated just how much work needed to be done.
At the Old Casa Mosqoy, conditions were horrific – it is very clear why the staff and students would want to move from that facility. Besides having no formal kitchen, there was no natural light on any of the four floors, the floors, walls, and bathrooms, all needed extreme cleaning, most of the materials in the house required organization, and the house was located on a busy, dirty street. While the facility at the New Casa Mosqoy were notably better than at the old one, a great deal of work was still required here too. Our students created a vast, meaningful mural and the amount of landscaping done was monumental. In the end, the move that took place has clearly set the Mosqoy students up for success in a quiet, beautiful neighbourhood in a facility that is full of light, joy and personality.
Our final conquest as a team would be the summit of the Lares Trek. Our two-day adventure would see us gain 1750 meters in elevation and achieve a final peak at 4800 meters above sea level! This two-day hike would challenge every single member’s ability to persevere in times of adversity. Despite slippery rocks that some mules struggled with (right Emily!?) and a lack of oxygen, every member of our group that started that climb finished it and celebrated on the second day with a plunge in the natural hot springs in Lares!
A life-changing experience, our whirlwind tour opened hearts and minds, fostered friendships, and provided a greater sense of ‘other’. We have fostered a terrific relationship with a fantastic NGO in Mosqoy and learned a great deal about a vibrant and exciting culture. The students that have participated on this trip are trail-blazers at Brentwood and have set the bar very high for the students who intend to follow in their footsteps!
Mr. Neil Robinson, Trip Leader