On January 1st, I had the incredible joy of meeting my girlfriend Bridget at the airport in Santiago Chile. It had been nearly 6 months without seeing her, so it was a much needed visit. With an even shorter visit than by brother and dad had, there was surely no time to waste. Day one was spent exploring Santiago and getting Bridget caught up on sleep after her red eye flight the night before. We hit up all the hot spots such as the fresh fish market, Chile´s capital building, and Santa Lucia as well as enjoyed a few glasses of delicious Chilean wine while watching the sunset from atop a hill called San Cristobal. Although I had seen all of these things, it was so enjoyable to just walk the city streets and catch up with Bridget.
(yummy fish from the market!)
(Enjoying her first Chilean empanada)
Bright and early the next morning, we were hopping onto a bus and were off to a city by the name of Valporaiso which is known as one of the most unique cities in all of Chile and quite possibly in all of South America. We spent the day wondering the winding streets and getting lost in the maize of hills and beautifully colored houses. My favorite part of our short time in Valporaiso was a visit to an old prison that had been converted into a graffiti museum. The contrast between the hard ridged old building and the unique artwork was outstanding.
-Ernesto Che Guevara
(Salt flat in Northern Chile)
After Puno, I was on the road heading North West for Cusco, the Incan capital of the world. The city is a bustleing city, full of tourists from all over the world. Despite all of the tourists, it is quite an incredible city that has been fun to explore. Upon arrival in Cusco, my plan was to take two weeks of intensive Spanish classes, and then be on my way to do some volunteering elsewhere in Peru. But things have not really gone as planned. The first week went pefect. Taking Spanish classes was just what I needed, and it was really great to focus on improving my Spanish and my abilities to communicate in a new language. Then came the weekend, which started out with a bang, and went straight downhill from there.
On Saturday afternoon, I hopped on the train, and was off to visit the famous Incan city, Machu Pichu, for the weekend. In order to get to Machu Pichu, you have two options: hiking the Incan trail which takes 4 days, or taking the train to a city named Aguas Calientes and taking a small hike up to Machu Pichu. There is not a single road into this city. Only a hiking trail and the train tracks. Because I had classes the following Monday, I chose the train. I arrived in Aguas Calientes later on Saturday evening, and checked into a hostel to get some rest for my early morning walk up to Machu Pichu. The doors open at 6 AM and only the first 400 people get a special ticket to go to a different part of the Incan city. I was number 107. The day started out incredibly foggy and rainy, but by about 11 or 12 o´clock things cleared up, revealing the largest of the preserved Incan cities, Machu Pichu. I spent the following 12 hours walking around the ruins, taking myself back in time, and admiring how unbelievably advanced the Incan civilizations were for their time. At about 4 PM, I began my walk back to the small mountain village of Aguas Calientes to catch my train back to Cusco. But things didnt necessarily go as planned.
Throughout the entire experience, there was one small incident that will stick with me for a long long time. After the 4th day of being trapped, I ran into three middle aged Peruvian women, who didn´t appear to be wealthy by any standards, and were handing out free bread and coffee to the tourists. These were three women who had plenty of things to worry about themselves, as food supplies for them were running short and their town was being destroyed by the flood, and here they were handing out food and coffee to tourists who have probably never had to worry about a meal in their life. This act of kindness that may not seem to big to many people of the world, was no small act, but rather the largest showing of kindness I have seen in a long time.
By 4 o´clock on Thursday afternoon I was being rushed on to a helicopter for the first time in my life, and was flown through the beautiful Peruvian Andes Mountains which left me speachless. At least I got an exciting helicopter ride out of the deal along with a story I will never forget.