.......well LA soon!
18/08/2010 - 26/09/2010 16 °C
Last time I wrote I was saying goodbye to my dear Jana (yep thats right first sentence and she already got a mention). But i´ll spare you the romantic writings this time, and just tell you about all the macho adventures that I have been on since!.... The stories of crying myself to sleep every night really wouldn´t make for enjoyable reading
So back in Yanapay, and some new friendly faces to get to know. There seems to be something about this place where only good people come to stay.... I´ve met a lot of nice new people since returning, and shared some great times with them along the the way.
Getting back into the swing of the things at the school was easy, with the smiling kids how could it not be.....even when they do like to play their extremely amusing game of hiding under the tables! With the low levels of volunteers in the off season, my spanish has been put to the test as I was placed in charge of a family (class) for the first time. I was with `tigres´ for one week and then onto `cielo´for the remaining weeks. Some of the themes covered in school have included food, english and Judaism, and I must say I think i´ve learnt just as much as the kids. For food week, we composed a song with lyrics worthy of winning the mercury prize. The groundbreaking tune encompassed the typical foods of all the volunteers country´s -- "i like to eat, eat, eat, meatballs and potatoes (sweden), i like to eat, eat, eat, hamburgers and french fries (U.S), i like to eat, eat, eat, fish and chips (England). Sadly we have no video....
Now my spanish, I certainly would not say has even reached a comfortable level, but I am pleased that I have at least made some improvement on my starting point of "hola". My vocabulary was seriously stretched when trying to teach about Juadaism, where I have to confess my knowledge in english alone is at a premium. But through the power of speach (not so much), acting, body language and whatever else I could conjure up we got through it.....and I think the kids may remember a couple of things from it.....even if it is only the apples and honey that they ate to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).
One weekend with some other volunteers, I returned (once again) to the market town of Pisac. However this time the purpose was to visit the impressive ruins situated high up in the hills. So after a little look around we set off up into the hills for a climb back through history.
The climb is not a difficult one, but a rest every now and then to catch your breath is needed! At the top we were fortunate to encounter a nice wooden flute playing fellow. After offering to take our picture he proceeded to give us a mini guide around the ruins. So off we skipped following him along the path as he played his flute (hoping not to be rats led off of the cliff).
He told us how he was studying herbal medicines and had some of his potions with him.....so we tried the one that helps you to breathe easier at altitude (sniffing chemicals from strangers is probably not what the lonely planet guide book suggests, but he seemed a trustworthy enough fella). We didn't all collapse in a heap, instead got a nice insight into the ruins from a local. He told me he has one english and one french textbook that he reads and teaches himself so that he can communicate with the tourits that he meets....how nice.
Whilst staying at Yanapay I celebrated my birthday for the first time away from home. It fortuitously fell on a friday, so it was nice to all go to the restaurant for a meal. I was lucky enough to even receive a gift from the fellow volunteers in the form of two miniture naked pacha mama and pacha papa figurines........and through the marvels of modern technology, close ones are never far away and some skype birthday messages were welcomely received.
With all my time spent in Peru and Cusco, I´ve visited many incredible sites with one notable ommission.....Machu Picchu!....with just a couple of weekends left in Cusco I made plans with three friends from Yanapay to go visit the pre-Columbian Inca site. With the need to save funds for the next part of my travels, I opted for the cheapest method of visiting the breath taking site. Public transport to Santa maria, then Santa Teresa and finally onto hydroelectrica (a hydro electric power station) followed by a walk along the train tracks is the thrifty way to arrive. Our first bus broke down a couple of times and the repairs took a little while (not surprising when a pic axe is in use). However luck was on our side, as later on whilst we waited for road works to be cleared - another bus offered to take us directly to hydroelectrica. With a 2-3hr walk ahead of us, this was a great opportunity as ideally you want to do the walk whilst it is still light - for the views, safety and the ability to spot and avoid the swarms of mosquitoes!
The walk along the tracks, despite being a very popular option with tourists still fills you with a sense of adventure and feelings of being an intrepid explorer. Through tunnels, crossing bridges, tracks through the jungle and meandering rivers, we made it to our destination of Aguas Calientes just as the last remaining glimmers of light were disappearing. It had been a long day, leaving at 5.30am and arriving sometime shortly after 6pm.... So after buying our passes and bus tickets for the following day we enjoyed a well earnt dinner, then checked into a hostal for some rest. Our aim the following morning was to climb Huayna Picchu when at the site, and to achieve this you need to be an early riser as it is limited to just 400 people a day. The first bus leaves at 5.30am and we joined the queue at 4.30am!
We were succesful and I received stamp number 92 for our entrance. It truely is a magical experience watching the sunrise at Machu Picchu. As the mist lifts, mountain upon mountain is revealed, each one greater than the one that precedes it..... The climb up Huayna Picchu, although very steep, is not too much of a challenge....mainly because the altitude here is actually a good 1000m lower than Cusco.. So we raced to the top to try and be one of the first to take in the views that day, and we were not disappointed.......It was also a chance to keep a promise i´d made about 9 months earlier, when i told my friend Nick I would wear his bands T-Shirt when at the top. I´m a man of my word
Once back down, the site had become extremely busy (another benefit of arriving so early, is to see the area before it is filled with the 2500 daily visitors) but you can always find a little quiet spot to appreciate the surroundings. We spent a few hours exploring the ruins and listening in on other groups tour guides
Although it would have been nice to spend the whole day in Machu Picchu, we did have to leave in the early afternoon as the return journey still awaited. So it was back along the train tracks.....and this time you could clearly see where we had been just a few hours earlier, high up in the mountains....(on the way there I think I must have announced that nearly every mountain was Huayna Picchu, "i think that one is it, actually no this one looks more of the shape, or perhaps this one").
Despite following the exact same path back, its incredible how different the scenery can look in reverse and the walk was again a fascinating one.
We arrived back at hydro electrica at around 4.30pm and started on the numerous bus journeys home. Extremely tired from the days activities, the bus seemed to last an absolute age. Returning to the Yanapay hostel at near 12am for a hot shower was the perfect end to an incredible 40 odd hours. The entire trip went really well and I would do it again in an instant..... in fact i'm pretty certain I will return at some point in the future....maybe save up for the Inca trail!
I spent some time preparing for my upcoming trip to the States during my last week at Yanapay, and I have some great things to look forward to. Then when friday came I got to see my last show at the school. This weeks theme saw a return to country's with Greece, Germany and Sweden all represented. The kids provided great entertainment as always, and i'll certainly miss the joy that they bring.
So now its time to leave Yanapay and Cusco, and the great home that it has been for me. I have so, so many happy memories of this place, with the things i've done and more importantly all the amazing people I have been fortunate enough to meet. Aldea Yanapay is truely a wonderful project and I wish Yuri and everyone else involved the best of luck, may it continue to grow and do great things for the children of Cusco.....
I strongly recommend anyone who plans to visit the area or are just interested in the project to find out more and help in whatever way you can - http://www.aldeayanapay.org/
.....next stop LA LA land!!!!!
(as I did not have a camera for most of my time back in Cusco, a big thank you to Ellen, Annie and Nicola for providing the majority of pictures).