Study Abroad Peru, Part 4: the Andes

After our second week in Lima, we departed for a 9 day trip into the heart of the Andes. We visited Arequipa, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. We flew into Arequipa early Friday morning and stepped off the plane onto the tarmac to view an airport surrounded by the peaks of dormant (?) volcanoes. Because Arequipa is about 7,500 feet above sea level, we went directly to our hotel to rest and gradually acclimate to the high altitude. At this point some of us started taking Sorojchi pills to help prevent or alleviate any altitude issues.
Airport in Arequipa
Our hotel courtyard through the front gate
hotel courtyard
One of the highlights of Arequipa is the Santa Catalina Monastery. While part of the property still operates as a monastery, the majority is available to the public to view this historical and cultural past of this part of the Andes.

Santa Catalina Monastery
Santa Catalina Monastery
Kitchen at the Monastery
Monastery Kitchen
Students dining out in Arequipa
Alpaca was on the menu this night (seriously)!
Students dining in Arequipa
Students Dining in Arequipa
Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, the old town main square
Plaza de Armas in Arequipa
Street vendors in Arequipa
Street Vendors in Arequipa
After one night in Arequipa, we departed by bus for Puno, a village on the banks of lake Titicaca; at 12,500 feet, the highest navigable lake in the world. Along the way, we passed vicuna grazing in the wild. This relative of the llama is prized for its fine hair, but does not do well in captivity. The Uros people make floating islands from reeds growing on the lake. Our visit involved a presentation by the some of the Uros people illustrating their life on the islands followed by a chance to dress in local costume. A few students also took advantage of the opportunity to take a dip in the lake.

The floating islands of Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca
Several Students decked out in the traditional garb of the Uros
Students in traditional dress
We were on the road again the next morning and as we passed from the Puno region to the Cusco region, we made a brief rest and shopping stop at 4,335 meters (over 14,000 feet) above sea level. This was about our highest altitude of the trip (and it felt it). We made a few other stops along the way to see more Inca ruins and an early Spanish church.
Across the street from our hotel in Cusco there exists a former Inca temple over which a Catholic church was built by the Spanish. This was the first stop on our tour the next morning. It was interesting to note that the buildings built by the Incas were more earthquake resistant than those built by the Spanish.

Santa Domingo in Cusco across from our hotel.
Santa Domingo church
Inside the church the Inca ruins can clearly be seen.
Church built on Inca ruins
The class and lady with Llama; Cusco in the background.
Students in Urco
Traditional weaving
traditional weaving
Students evaluating their shopping haul!
Students shpping
During our third day in Cusco, we took a bus tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Moray are circular terraces that the Inca built to experiment with growing a variety of crops in different soil altitude conditions. Stone steps facilitate going up and down. Once at the bottom, it’s a long way back up.
circular terraces of the Moray
Next stop – Salt flats. A salt water spring pours out the hillside and is caught in hundreds of terraces so the water can evaporate and the salt can be collected.
Salt Flats
The trek to the Inca Trail started at 6:30 with a bus ride to the train station and then a train ride into the heart of the Andes. We had one car just about to ourselves and everyone was pretty excited anticipating the hike and the visit to Machu Picchu. The train cars had overhead windows so that we could appreciate the mountains that loomed over us as we rambled on. Students disembarked at Kilometer 104 where there was absolutely nothing by a footbridge across the Urubamba – the start of the Inca Trail.

The train to kilometer 104. The windows in the roof allowed us to appreciate the views!
Train ride
Beginning the ascent
Inca Trail
Break for a photo op!
Students on Inca Trail
Hiking above the clouds!
Inca Trail above the clouds
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

After their first view of Machu Picchu, the hikers descended to Aguas Calientas for the evening. Very Early the next morning we would take the bus back up to Machu Picchu for a guided tour and, for some, a chance to hike up Huayna Picchu, the large peak overlooking the ruins.

Touring the ruins.

touring ruins
Students touring ruins
Back in Cusco we decided to check the local Market for a less touristy shopping option.
Cusco market
All good things must come to an end and we returned Lima on Saturday. The upside was that we found a place to watch the Packer game and it was good to be able to cheer them on even while we were in Peru.

One entertainment option in Lima is the water fountain park. It is best seen at night when they a Disney style light show:
Lima, Peru light show
Lima Peru water show
Watching the Super Bowl (yay Packers!) in Lima!
watching Super Bowl in Lima

We arrived back in the states on January 25, 2011. Great trip!

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