Friday, December 17, 2010

A Part of My Heart

The best part of Peru were the beautiful people I met. They were part of everything, and now, they make up a whole new part of my heart. This post is dedicated to them.

It is something totally different, to come back from studying abroad. In the words of a friend, "it's like a part of you is missing." She told me that when I first got back to the states; I couldn't have agreed more (the first 2 weeks were awful). It is a whole other world, a whole new part of my heart, and it is difficult to explain.

But now I have been home for over 2 weeks. I have started to feel happy again, remembering why I love being here. My love for the USA and for everyone here goes so deep, but that is for a different post.

Every day I feel Peru, some aspect of it, deeply. Every day the Peruvian part of my heart is felt in so many ways: I feel the warmth of the people, I feel joy to remember and I smile, I feel longing, I feel sadness, I feel the tears at night when I think of the children in the jungle, I laugh, I feel gratitude- a THANK YOU! to God, I feel family there, I have questions. I feel all these things because I am not where I have just been. To have lived deeply in one place and then to leave it suddenly, I feel this and it is a worthwhile challenge. Above all, it is because I experienced it. My time there – though it was for but a moment – touched me, created a new world inside of me, and will be in me always. This is part of my story. It happened, and it is part of me now. My life was so enriched by everything and everyone there in Peru.

I want to dedicate some words and pictures to my Peruvian family and friends in this post. These people opened up their hearts to strangers like us, knowing that we would eventually leave. Warm hearted and relational, they always wanted to help us and wanted us to be happy. Peru has unparalleled beauty in its make, but even more so in its people. I believe that nations have destinies, hence I believe Peru has great destiny in regards to herslef, South America, and the world. I believe in her and I pray for her.

So here is to you, Peru. Here are my words to the people that are Peru.

Mi familia:
While in Lima, I lived with a family in a beautiful neighborhood. I had a housemate from CO named Haley. She will be one of my lifelong friends. We shared so many great experiences with our family. They showed us the culture through food and language, opened up their family to us, and they were the ones who shared the most about the Terrorism Age of the late 80's early 90's in Peru. They were so good to me and so I want to write a little bit about each one.

My mom Nancy is a beauty, I mean literally, she could be a model! She encompassed the gentleness of motherhood with her kind and nurturing ways. While we were there, her first grandchild was born and she loved being with him and holding him. I remember I was crying in the kitchen once, and she just embraced me, using the words that a mother knows to comfort me. Also, Nancy loved to give to those in need. Finally, she is such an amazing COOK! I loved her fresh strawberry juices and food from her garden on the roof. My favorite memories with her were simply sitting at the kitchen table at night, talking and laughing after supper was over and going parasailing with her - I love seeing the wild streak in people! That was fun. She is one incredible mother.

My dad Carlos Miguel is hilarious. I felt that we had a special bond, like a real daughter and father. He would always joke with me and teased me about my LOVE of picarones (a delicious Peruvian postre). Sometimes at the supper table he would go on rants about his thoughts and philosophies on life. I think he should be a professor, and Nancy told me he would have loved to be one. My favorite memories with him were simply joking around the house, I loved that.

My sister Ketty is super cool. She is in her later 20's and has an awesome boyfriend. She always had a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye, was so friendly and chatty, and was always up for a good time. My favorite memory with her was spending a night in her boyfriend's family's cabin on the beach. Kody, me, Haley, Cesar, Ketty, and Alfredo (her bf) stayed there talking and laughing. We also walked along the beautiful beach at night. It was so much fun.

My sister Karla is so beautiful. She is also in her late 20's and is very smart. She is multilingual and has a killer job doing smart things with a huge company and computer science. She is a very sweet and gentle soul. She reminds me so much of Nancy :)

The Arimborgos: This is the family I met in Iquitos, and it feels like we are family now. I stayed with Israel and Jennifer and their kids, it's like they're family now. Tammy, their sister, took me all around Iquitos and down the river just for fun. We had some great talks. The Arimborgo's are such beautiful people and they are doing so much for God, Love, children, youth, and adults out in the jungle through their lives, two schools, and church. The weekend I spent with them Iquitos is easily one of the best weekends I had during my time in Peru. Shout out to them!

Mis amigos: Peruvians are such fun loving people. They are quick to tease and laugh. They are also hard working (the ones I know). I made some good friends down there and I want to give a shout out to Hugo (such a sweetheart), Pablo (crazy and fun loving), Christian (fun!), Martin (my beloved cousin!) and so many others. Also, I wanted to dedicate some blog to some of these people who touched my heart for always:

Joel: Joel was like the dad of our PUCP - ISA group (PUCP- my university ISA- my study abroad program) He is one of the most gregarious and kind people I have ever met. He took us around town multiple times and genuinely cared for each one of us. I have three memories that stick out the most when I think of Joel.
  1. I was having a bad day when I ran into Joel on campus. Just his persona made me smile, but later he saw me sitting on a bench with 2 ISA friends and gave me a chocolate candy and ran off. It made my day.
  2. This one also involves food: One day I ran into Joel on campus and immediately he asked me where I was going and told me he would accompany me even though he had 20 things to do (like always). He told me to go to the café on campus and he would meet me there. He came and chatted with me, so genuine as always, and then left me to study for my big test. He had bought a cookie to eat but then gave it to me, telling me to save it for after the exam and text him when I was done so he could celebrate with me in spirit (which I did, it was awesome).
  3. Of the many memories, I will not forget chicken dancing, singing, and doing other silly things with him in all parts of Lima. He has such a great voice and is such a fun person. I loved sharing those moments with him!
Carlos (and Bart): I also met Carlos and Bart at PUCP, and I have so much love for these two goofballs. Carlos was like my brother, always teasing me. He also was a kind of ISA dad to all of us. I would miss him on the days when I didn't eat lunch with him and Bart (other amigo). Bart is a really kind hearted guy. We would always talk about faith. When I did eat lunch with them, they would usually drive me crazy, (especially Carlos and he knew it), but all the more, I love them! Here are my three favorite memories with Carlos and the gang:
  1. Carlos, Bart, and another friend came to watch us all run the 10K in Lima. They made us a sign and hung out with us after. I remember being dead tired, almost at the finish, and hearing "VAMOS MEGAN y LINDSEY!" only to look over and see CARLOS and BART! That is exactly something my real brother would do. Loved it.
  2. Going to Bart's soccer games with Carlos, David, and the girls. Laughter and teasing always ensued.
  3. Carlos and Bart came to see me off at the airport, Carlos being dad-like and Bart being his kind self. They came to bring me a gift and say goodbye. It was hard but their teasing made the night. Good times amigos, good times.
Cesar: Cesar was always at our house because him and Haley, my house mate, were super close. Us three had a special bond, and we experienced a lot together. Cesar is really laid back and goofy, at times a little reckless. He has a heart of gold and was always watching out for Haley and me. I have so many good memories with him but here are my top three:
  1. Spending the day with Cesar, Haley, and Kody traveling to 3 different beaches south of Lima. We hit the road, not exactly sure what we were doing, and had ceviche, Inka Cola, photos, laughter, and great memories at the end of it all. Cesar was so welcoming to Kody, they became good friends.
  2. Traveling to and from Mancora with Cesar and Haley. This was one huge adventure because again we had to wing it, but Cesar was always tranquilo/calm. He loved the adventure of not always knowing what would happen, him and I shared that (poor Haley) He always had a crazy idea or something funny to say, even after Haley and I got our ipods stolen (hahahaha its funny to me now)
  3. Spending my last days with him and Haley, going to the zoo then Help at night. I just LOVE these two people. They both have hearts of gold, and are very dear to me.
Willy: To put it simply, Willy is "lo maximo" – he was my adventure buddy and best Peruvian friend; I am forever grateful for everything he showed me while I was there and he holds a very special place in my heart. Also, I feel I need to write it, but I think he is going to do something really special for his country. Just a bit about Wilfred: he is very proud of his country, a visionary, smart, super competitive, super helpful, and wanted to show us the best Lima had to offer. He always answered my extensive questions about Peruvian culture and always made me laugh in the process. I understand much more because of him. Here are my top three memories with Willy:
  1. Shelly, Willy and I had plans to chill out on a Monday night and it ended up being a huge adventure (normal para nosotros). We went to Pascuale Hnos, which is a delicious sandwich place owned by the famous Peruvian chef, Gaston. Of course we had to be silly and dare each other to eat ahí (spicy sauce). After we began walking all over Miraflores where again, another competition started like this: If I drank from a nasty fountain, Willy had to too, and Shelly would document (kind of like a referee). We spent the night doing dares, laughing, taking pictures, and all the while having mini lessons about Peru. It was the first night that I felt like my true self, doing dumb things and experiencing Lima in a very special way.
  2. Jam Session Night: Cesar, Haley, Shelly, Willy, and I spent the night jamming, singing, and recording music. This was 3 nights before I left. All of our inside jokes were in full swing, all the memories in the music were being saved for all of time, and it was so special and perfect to do it with my closest friends. Willy and I recorded "Good Riddance" and it is something I will always carry with me. Music is the best way to spend time and end time with good friends.
  3. Help: The second to last day in Lima was a beautiful day. Willy showed me the end of Lima's coastline in Chorillos. The day was foggy and the ocean subtly raged. There is a cross high up on a hill at the end of the city's coastline, a trademark of Lima, and I wanted to see it before I left. Beyond and behind that final visible frontier of the coast is a small bay, if you will. There is a restaurant that sits on broken up cliffs in which the ocean crashes up against. We explored the area and then walked the Chorillos coastline. It was like the exclamation point to the adventure of Lima, and perfectly so with Willy because he was my adventure buddy. I had finally seen the whole coastline, and I felt like I knew Lima (meaning there was a fullness to that journey, a knowing of Lima in a more intimate sense, seeing its beauty and everything it is and could be and knowing it from the heart. This is what I mean. There is a whole side of Lima, the outskirts, squatter villages, and certain neighborhoods that I don't know at all, in fact its an entire world I have never experienced.) I returned home and got ready for that final night. All of us (everyone- ISA kids, Peruvian friends, EVERYONE) met up at a venue called Help! It was a tribute to the Beatles night so a band was playing all Beatles covers. I can't explain the feelings that flowed that night, but I got to tell everyone how much I loved them. It was like writing the whole story on my heart with each person I talked to. It was such a profound night. Willy was the last person I talked too, and it was really special as we talked about the whole experience in Peru. I will never forget that night.
In the end, I still have more to blog about, but this one is very dear to me. I am back in the States, but there are still so many things I would like to say, but these people will always live on in my heart. And I thank God for putting them in my path. I look forward to seeing them all again someday. (yay for skype!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mi Poesía :)

Que puedo decir?
Que cosa?
Peru, hay posibilidades en todos lados.
La historia es escrita en las almas, pequeñas y simples, y es escondida en los sueños, luces que iluminan el paisaje para ti.
Pero para mi, hay 2 sueños.
Y para mi, donde esta el sueño?
Peru, mi hermano, no voy a olvidarte.
Tu historia, tu canción.
Estas a dentro, has sido así del principio.
Que todo pasa por una razón.
Y así es la despedida
Hasta Luego, Solo Hasta Luego.

So I have and haven't forsaken this blog. I have big plans to have a massive blogging party and post pictures of two trips, my thoughts on Peru now, and my life in LIMA!

I would like to share some leeeetle nuggets of some things that I love as well as some things I have been up too in and around this big, crazy, problematic, lovely, profound, historical, full of memories city, that is Lima that I love.

Fotos: Inka Cola (my life blood and the most refreshing soda EVER), went parasailing with my family of the coast of Lima, Kody came and visited and we went to the beaches south, I always go on random city adventures with Haley (my lovely roommate) and we found this random military war hero park with that cue little fountain, and finally, PICARONES, my favorite desert here: fried dough with syrup piping hot off the street (kind of like fritters)


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Call of the Secret Place

This is something I was going to post in my facebook status. But it was too long, and it is personal to me, and so I want it to be documented here:

Ps 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I have enjoyed, experienced, been pierced by, fought with, struggled in, at times avoided, been disarmed in, been freed in, given enlightenment in, and been swept away once again by saying "yes" to God in the secret place: in my personal times of prayer with the God of the Universe, Jesus the lover of our souls and friend, and Holy Spirit, the comforter, helper, and guide. It is the place where man can be disarmed from inner battles or offense of any kind and receive and just be held in the intimate place of God. It is the place where man can gaze on the face of the One who dreamt about us, created us, loves us, and enjoys us. It is a very special place for me, and for many, now and throughout history.

I just want to post this, because even though there is so much I have gotten to see and do here, this still remains the most important activity and place to me, even when I feel I neglect it, it still is always in my heart and my mind. My heart is pierced by this calling of intimacy with God and I thank God for that, because the Secret Place always calls me back, it always finds me, and when I sit in my room and sit, pray, and wait, I find it too, because I find Him.

Anyone can find Him, when they seek Him with all their heart.

Blessings on you and your day

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Junín Trip - Day 3 & 4 - Tirol Waterfall in San Ramon & La Florida in Tarma

The 3rd day and the 4th day (just the morning) in Junín were spent in many places of the region doing many things. These two days were my favorite of the trip.

Top 5 reasons why they rocked:

  1. We went to las cataratas Tirol (Tirol waterfall) in the selva (rainforest). Junín includes the most western part of the jungle. Deep ravines with rich green vegetation and heat characterize this area. While we hiked to the waterfall, I ate the most delicious freezy pop of my life. It was made from fresh pineapple! When we got to the waterfall we played at the base and ran under the pouring water to stand behind the waterfall. It was so much fun.

  1. I had the best jungle lunch of my life. It was fried chicken, but in long strips (I am not sure which part of the chicken it was.) Completing the dish was rice and a whole fried banana. Fried bananas are delicious.

  1. I felt hot summer weather again complete with sunshine. Lima is in its winter time, and there is always a “London Fog” over the city. Enough said.

  1. The last two nights and the last morning were spent in Tarma, “The Pearl of the Andes,” with its eternal spring weather.

  1. We stayed at “La Florida” in Tarma, a 200+ year old hacienda converted into a ecolodge/hotel complete with cows to be milked, barn yard animals to be fed, three friendly dogs, and a secret garden. The rustic Spanish styled rooms and the beautiful German family that owns the place won my heart over. It also won my stomach over because for breakfast I had the most delicious homemade bread, honey, and jam of my life.

All of my pictures are from “La Florida”, the 200-year-old hacienda converted into an ecolodge mentioned above. The place was rustic and charming. I arose early before we left Monday morning to explore the gardens. It was as if they were straight from a Jane Austin novel; one garden was for leisure and the other grew all the fruits and vegetables used to make breakfast, lunch, and supper. The last morning at sunrise, it was just me and the three farm dogs in that enchanting place. Afterwards, I milked a cow (very cool) and fed a horse. I highly recommend “La Florida” to anyone who visits Tarma! I tried to narrow down my pictures of the beautiful place but still had many to show!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Junín Trip - Day 2 - Huataypallana

The second day of the Junín trip was spent on the mountain of Huatyapallana.

I am going to try to describe this experience with the best descriptive vocabulary the English language has to offer, because it was a very colorful experience, like a bowl of potpourri-sentiments that together make the aroma that was Huatyapallana.

We arose early, at 5am, to take a bus ride up the mountain to Huatyapallana. The ride up was very jerky because of all the rocks. Dust creeped in on all sides, so much so that I had to use my scarf to cover my mouth. When we reached the site where the buses park and the hike starts, I had to use the bathroom. It was a wooden stall, in public view with merely a hole in the ground. That was alright; I had my kleenex and anti-bacterial hand gel ready to go! ***Note to those who travel: always bring these two items everywhere. Toilet paper is often a luxury in public restrooms, as is soap and sometimes running water.***

We began the trail, which was a beautiful walk with slight rises and falls. Soon, a waterfall from one of the many glacier lakes came into view. The first part of the hike was breath taking, the kind of sights reserved for post cards. I saw at least four glacier lakes on the way up, each one more blue than the one before. I was ready for prancing Bambi’s to show up everywhere. But that was the furthest thing from what came next (if you really want to know I saw one cow the whole time, but back to the story).

The whole hike took about 6 hours for me, here is the beginning of my journal entry of that day:

“Yesterday was hilarious, and this is the story” (at the time is was far from funny, but here is the story of the last 3.5 hours of the hike)

I began to feel the strange sensation of quickening heart beats, short and shallow breaths, and lead filled legs. It only meant one thing in the rugged Andes: altitude sickness. The steep inclines that were after the glacier lakes began just as altitude sickness was taking out people in my group one by one, kind of like an Agatha Christie book. Anyways, I took my sweet time up the mountain, taking pictures and joking with my friends. I was in no hurry, especially when I could see the glacier top in front of me the whole time. It didn’t seem far, nevertheless, I began to use cookies to motivate myself and some other girls up the mountain. “If we make it to the third rock up, yes the giant one that looks like an old man, then we can all have a cookie break...” In this manner we slowly crawled up the mountain.

The issue with the hike was that the guides never really guided us, and we never really knew where we were at, how far we had to go, or how strenuous the hike would become after each phase. I was in one of the last groups, and when I saw the glacier, with little specs on top (other climbers) I thought it only was a little further. The guide then told us it was another hour to even get to the glacier, much less the top. My group was very exhausted with many sick, so we took a nap on the side of the mountain. I was very down about that fact that I wasn’t physically able to make it to the top, but in retrospect, I fully enjoyed my time resting under the face of that majestic glacier peak. I wouldn’t trade my time enjoying the beautiful surroundings with great people.

The descent down was the most rugged part of the trail, something we were not warned about. It was down hill, up hill, and sideways with loose stones and dirt. As I was slowly making my way down, just waiting for SOME sight of the end, I heard a stampede coming from behind. I really thought it was a pack of animals, but nope!, it was just the Andean children on a field trip. They hiked the whole mountain in half the time and ran (I am not joking) down the whole descent like little gazelles. I figured if they could do it, I would try, against my better judgement. It went surprisingly well, you just can’t stop until you reach a landing or else you’ll die.

The happiest point was when I saw the buses (a far way away). Then, to add a cherry on top of being done with the exhausting hike, there was a pack of llamas grazing at the end of the trail. Oh, how we bonded! I just love llamas.

The ride down was silent because everyone was wiped out, sick, or angry. It was such a funny experience after it had happened, because of the lack of communication, the insane trail that we had to climb, and the intense altitude. It was like the mountain and the guides played one giant joke on us. In the end though, I really did enjoy that beautiful mountain, (I have never seen anything like it) and I took away some great pictures as well.

That night, we rode bus a long way to a different city, Tarma, which is now one of my favorite places in all of Peru. But that is for the next entry :D

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Junín Trip - Day 1 - Train Ride to Huancayo

The 3rd weekend of my time in Peru was spent on a trip to the region of Junín. It is a beautiful area in the middle of Peru. It is in the Andes but includes the western most half of Amazonía as well as the central highlands.

Very early Friday, we met in old downtown Lima to take the train to Huancayo, a notable city in the Junín province (more about that later). The train ride lasted 13 hours and traversed 69 tunnels, 58 bridges, 6 zigzags, and 6 climatic zones. It also is the highest passenger train in the world, reaching 15,881 feet at the highest point. The train stopped at the highest point so we could get out and take pictures, but because of altitude sickness, I didn’t make it past my train car without getting extremely tired, nauseous, and dizzy. To avoid passing out, I made it back to my seat to enjoy the view from there (to be honest, I just went back to sleep so I wouldn’t have to feel altitude sickness). The beginning and end of the ride were the best. The caboose is an open air viewing car where one can hang out, take pictures, and even order drinks from a bar. I enjoyed looking at the landscape and taking pictures during the day (before the high altitudes) and dancing salsa at night (more like enjoying from the sidelines watching the Latin Americans rip up the dance floor doing salsa).

We spent the night in Huancayo, which was the home of the Huancas before Pachacuti of the Incas conquered the city. The city has a strong history of resistance, not only with the Incas (whom they ferociously battled), but with the Spanish as well. The city was eventually conquered and colonized, but it has no main plaza (just a few here and there). This says something about its history, because a main plaza was the trademark of the Spanish conquistadores.

Needless to say, we were all tired when we got to the hotel. Traveling through the Andes is never for the faint in heart. After some delicious juicy Chicken a'la Brasa (kind of like rotisserie chicken) with greasy french fries and ahí (spicy sauce here that is delicious) at the sketchiest dive I have ever been too, I drink a lot of Coca de Mate and went to sleep.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cusco Trip - Day 3 - Cusco

Our last day of the Cusco trip was spent in Cusco! Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire. Just a note to bring some light on how big the Incan empire was: The Incan trail (35,000 miles) is second to the Roman Empire’s road system (50,000 miles) and the empire at its peak touched 6 of what are now South American countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile). It went from settlements to an empire under the rule of Pachacuti. You can read more about this online!

Anyways, Cusco is located in the Andes, and when the conquistadores from Spain came, they either completely tore down Incan buildings or simply built right on top of them. Many buildings have Incan-cut stones for the base, and white washed walls where the Spanish built. See my pictures, its crazy! ***

While there, I had to try the infamous Cui or Cuy, which is Guinea Pig. I had mine roasted, and it came with teeth, claws, and the intestines still in its belly. I was able to get some bites down, but I didn’t like the taste of the meat. And I also felt a little bad, haha. Apparently, it is made other ways which are better, but for this experience I just didn't care for the meat.

Also, I spent some of the day horse back riding. It was hilarious, and I will attempt to explain why through a light hearted and dramatized contrast of USA ways and Peruvian ways:

  1. In the USA, we are time obsessive and organization freaks, for the most part; at least its a cultural pressure and value. Peru, and most of the world, does not particularly value time management. Nor is it as organized in some parts, either due to development and infrastructure issues or simply because it is not a value over other values.

  1. If I were to horse back ride in the USA, there would be a designated guide with a designated trail, and everything would be explained before hand so that there is communication and understanding. An American value is communication. It would be straightforward and uneventful as far as following the time allowed and the path taken. In Peru, it is somewhat a gamble on what will exactly happen, and don’t expect to be told where you’re going or what you are doing. The value is on enjoying the ride. Also, there was no specific guide, but many children horse keepers trying to keep the horses together while running on foot. We helped one with his English homework.

  1. In the USA, if there is a time to get off the horse, the guide will instruct when and where. In Peru, the horse decides when the rider is going to keep riding or get off. It let’s you know by leaving the path and heading to the river for a drink. Don’t think your special, if your horse goes, all the horses will go, so enjoy exploring the area by foot for a while.

  1. Finally, my favorite part, if I was going horseback riding to see some ruins, there would be officials and entrance workers to let me in upon arrival (like a museum). There would be signs set up, and parts in which I could and could not touch. In Peru, it is different (there are SO many ruins that just sit on the side of the road). We went to an old ruin site that was marked off by a single blue ribbon. The guide simply removed it and let us into the cave, which we thought was a little different but followed. We were walking all over sculptures and a ceremonial table, and I wondered why we could do it. It turns out we weren’t supposed too, because a man dressed in an official uniform appeared towards the end and asked us what we were doing. The guide just did it. We then returned home after convincing our guide that we didn’t have time to see the other ruins because it was getting dark and cold (note the time management perspective).

I hope that gave a mental picture to the horseback riding trip. It was so much fun!

Cusco is really pretty at night. Everyone is out walking at night: young people, tourists, and old couples! There is a beautiful plaza in the middle of the city and while we were walking around there was fireworks and two weddings going on!

I got up early the next morning to walk around and take pictures. Three friends joined me, and we checked out a 7am mass, just to observe it. It was in the grand cathedral of the central plaza. The insides were very elaborate with scenes from the Bible made out of gold.

A quick note: the picture of the dogs shows how many stray dogs there are in the Andean towns and in the poor parts of Lima. It breaks my heart every time I see a lonely hungry dog, it really is a problem in certain parts. I miss my Jetta!

Someday, I would like to return to Cusco (without the altitude sickness). It is a very interesting city.

Cusco Trip - Day 2 - Machu Picchu

*** Cultural Note: The rainbow colored flag is the the Incan/Andean flag. You see it hung everywhere in the Andes. The picture of me with the flag is on top of Machu Picchu, the highest mountain point in the Machu Picchu area.

The second day of our Cusco trip was spent in one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Hidden in the majestic Andes is Machu Picchu, a lost Incan settlement and ceremonial site. If one comes to Peru, one must go to Machu Picchu; it is to Peru what the Great Pyramids are to Egypt.

That being said, it was incredible. Even as I write about it, the experience of Machu Picchu in its majestic and solitude nature, sinks in. The Andes are the perfect location for this mysterious settlement, because the Andes are the most mysterious and rugged mountains I have ever seen (and I have seen a few mountains!)

To get to Machu Picchu one must do this:

1. Take the Incan Rail, the most magical train I have ever been on full of mate de coca and chocolates, up to the city of Aguas Calientes

2. Arrive at the city of Aguas Calientes (which just opened up again in May after horrible flooding) and take a bus up the switch backs to Machu Picchu

3. Arrive at the entrance site of Machu Picchu and climb up fights of stairs for about 5 minutes.

4. Turn the corner around some rocks and have your breath taken away at the site of Machu Picchu.

5. From here, feel free to explore the settlement of Machu Picchu, and hike up either Machu Picchu, the mountain, or Hyuana Picchu, the other mountain.

First, we toured the Machu Picchu ruins, and then we were set free to hike. The settlement of Machu Picchu is built literally into the mountain and on either side are two mountains: Machu Picchu (which means old mountain and is the highest point of the area) and Hyuana Picchu (which means young peak and though it is not as high up, it has very small paths which makes it a challenge!) I hiked Machu Picchu to the highest point. It was the hardest thing I have ever physically done, but it was absolutely worth it. When we began the hike, it began to rain, which is rare as it is the dry season. It rained all the way until I reached the top. Also, the hike up is all stairs and stones, and the altitude makes it difficult to breathe. My friends and I had to chew coca leaves and smell peppermint ointment to open up our lungs. Sometimes we would run into the Andean hiking guides in their traditional garb. While I was doubling over from fatigue, they would breeze on by and say a friendly “Hola!” It was quite comical and inspired me to make it up the mountain.

The experience of hiking in the rain, seeing the peaks rise and fall hidden by clouds of mist, chewing coca leaves, and finally reaching the top and seeing the rugged Andes in full view was an experience with not only good people, but God as well. When I saw creation on top of the world, something in my heart bursted forth and I had to worship the Creator. Again, God, thank you for mountains and beauty, and thank you for giving us hearts to feel alive!

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest.