It all started on April 13th at Auckland Airport. After a long goodbye from friends and family, we set off for Peru. We were a crazy mix of terrified and exited but there was not time to hesitate, as we took two long flights travelling from, Auckland to Santiago de Chile and at last to Lima, the Peruvian capital.
Once in Lima, tired and hungry but still super exited, we met our great guide Saby, who taught us about the fascinating history of Lima. Then at last we made it to our hotel ready to collapse in to bed. Others decided to join the group of late diners. We can’t wait to see more of Peru.
Zoe Ries, Annie Zhou Year 11
Peruvian Sights and Shopping
In this mighty prosperous land, we have encountered many life changing experiences, visiting historical sites and a shop. The historical site was immensely interesting! We decided to don llama hats and traditional Incan ponchos in a bid to live the culture.
By Jason Yang and Larry Lambourne
Introduction to the Misminay Community – Quechua lessons
Today we visited the village Misminay where local villagers welcomed us with warm greetings and cheerful tunes. Quechua lessons were undertaken before lunch, we learnt basic greetings in Quechua such as good morning, how are you, I’m fine and you, what’s your name, my name is, goodbye, thankyou. Watch here>>
Something that was new to the most of us was that in Quechua, people would call their friends and anyone who is not even their sibling their “sister (ñañay - female speaker/panay – male speaker) or “brother(turay/waygey)” as a sign of friendliness. I noticed that although this doesn’t occur in European cultures, there is a similar custom in many other cultures, such as the Chinese. In Chinese we would call anyone who is older than us “big sister/brother”, unless they are way older than us then we would call them “aunty/uncle/grandma/grandpa”. Likewise, for people who are younger than us we would call them “little brother/sister”.
Maggie Yu Year 11
Visit to Misminay Community
After the Quechua lesson we had a delicious lunch served with muña Tea which was very soothing. After a filling lunch we walked up to a viewpoint of the terraces we had seen yesterday. I was very puffed out after walking for 30 minutes (3500m altitude) and wandered how was I to survive The Inca Trail this weekend. The scenery from the lookout point was especially magnificent as the clouds looked as if they were resting on the surrounding mountains and it felt like this trip had so far been just view, after view, after view.
We then experienced a ritual that the Quechuas perform before agricultural activities to ensure that the harvest is plentiful. During the ritual I found it especially interesting that they would recognise the mountains of the area and when Señora Maldonado went up to perform the ritual was asked to recognise the mountains of New Zealand as well.
Azaria Eddy –Year 10
Anccotto School, Misminay
My role during our visit was to help in the kitchen. It cannot be denied that being a hand in the kitchen of Anccotto school was a fantastic experience as we were cooperating with the experienced kitchen staff.
Although I have had cooking experiences at home, preparing food for almost 100 people at the same time is a completely different concept. This took place at around 11am after the welcoming ceremony. At the start we were told to wash 3 piles of potatoes in a bucket of water. The moment the potatoes were immersed in the water, it became muddy. It took a long time to get all of the potatoes clean, or rather relatively not dirty.
After that the chef led us to a greenhouse where lettuce, one of the main ingredients of salad, was growing. My school mates and I learnt how to cut the lettuces off the soil properly. We also peeled peanuts and sliced avocado and cheese. I made a mistake during the cheese cutting, trying to show off my cutting skills. However, I chopped cheese squares, and I was meant to do slices.
Everything was done in a “massive production style”, which was definitely quite different to a home kitchen. Overall, I enjoyed this activity a lot, not only because I could eat some cheese while chopping, but also because off the satisfaction I gained when everything that we had peeled and chopped was becoming an indispensable part of the dishes.
Kevin Liang Year 12
Class activities at School Anccotto, Misminay
The excitement flourishes through our veins. We pushed ourselves, by meeting new people and embracing a new culture and sharing our own. Today we were warmly invited into Anccotto School with dancing and a Quechua song sung by some of the pupils at the school which, set the standard for our Maori song ‘Tutira Mai Nga Iwi’. As the students welcomed us we were presented with handmade gifts. Slowly we were divided into five groups and assigned to different classrooms to teach English and help improve our Spanish and Quechua!
While all the groups decided to teach different topics, one of the groups were teaching the year 8’s the days of the week using a boardgame which I created. It went down well with our Peruvian peers who were thoroughly focused on the boardgame. We then went on to play football, Kubbs, volleyball, tic-tac-toe and of course touch rugby before lunch. It is amazing how sport can bring people together no matter what their culture, background or language!
We had a small snack at the school where we were able to talk more one to one with everyone at the school. The snack consisted of 3 types of local potatoes, crackers, juice and salad from the organic garden, grown at the school. We were able to eat in their dining room with newly bought benches and tables which we fundraised for. While we were waiting for the food to arrive we played 21, which all our Peruvian friends (and us) enjoyed.
Unfortunately, our time at the school ended too quickly. We said our goodbyes, shaking hands with an endless stream of our newly formed amigos.
Rohan Farmer Year 11
Making Mud Bricks and Bathroom Flooring
The welcoming culture of the Misminay community made me feel like home. “We are all people”, we share the same earth, soil, and exchanged smiles of our own. With little energy we dragged ourselves towards the van to unpack the toilets, bathrooms and basins. We layed them on the ground which looked like the patterns embroided by the Quechua into their Ponchos.
We split up, and were distributed into different households to create the ideal building blocks of the house. At first the job seemed simple, little did we know we needed to step in mud. The dirty gooey horrific dark brown wet mud was the horror I dreaded to come across. But it was there, right in front of me staring at me. I gently placed my big toe into the first layer of the mud. As it sunk to the bottom, my life flashed past me. My parents, siblings everyone I loved perished into thin air. Was this the life decision that I was going to regret forever. As I lifted my muddy toe, I came to my senses. It was for the community. It was not home, not for me, but for others in need. I was always spoiled with all my wants but these people did not have some basic needs that we take for granted. The beauty of life was re-entered into my soul. Why was I so greedy? So materialistic? I energetically continued to create the bricks for the community. We mixed the mud mixture with dry hay to form a more flexible substance. I used my bare hands to lift the mud mixture, my life nearly flew past again, but I reminded myself it was for the community. My emotions were very heavy, nearly as heavy as the bricks. We shaped them, like how parents are shaping us for the future.
We put the bricks onto dry grass so the sun evaporates the water to make the mud bricks. I glanced, I felt my mother was watching me, proudly watching her son.
Edward Xu Year 11
Mud bricks and Alpaca Wool
Today we made the bricks the people in the community use to make all the buildings. These bricks consist of mud, more mud, hay and water. For 45 minutes we all stomped in the mud to mix all the components. The noises your feet made going in and out of the mud was slightly uncomfortable. We then had to shovel the mixed mud into a wheel barrow (very difficult and we sucked).
We smoothed the mud into the brick template and lifted it off to reveal a large wet muddy brick. The massive bricks take about a month to dry before they can be used. This process was incredibly exhausting and knowing some of us had to move many, many, many bricks many, many meters and others had to dig large holes, to prepare for a bathroom saddened us deeply. However, after a luxurious lunch we were rearing and ready to go with great enthusiasm. Hannah and I along with three others (the toilet team) slowly dug the foundation for a bathroom. After about an hour of digging a local came and did twice the amount of work we did in an hour in about 10 minutes. This made us sad. However, we kept on digging and eventually made pretty good progress. After an exhausting two hours we were taught how to weave and die the Alpaca wool to make the colours.
It was truly incredible watching all the natural ingredients used to die cotton into fabulous vibrant colours. Overall it was an extremely gratifying, wonderful and eye-opening day. A fabulous experience.
Hannah Burns and Alessandra Cammelot-Allan Year 13
Community Work in Misminay
Today was our second day of community service in the village of Misminay. We worked with local builders to build cooking units containing ovens and stoves out of adobe mud bricks that we learnt how to make yesterday.
Some of the jobs that we had to do were shovelling and carrying mud into the house, helping lay mud in between the adobe brick layers, aiding in installing the chimney and stove, using the mud to stick it all together and admiring the cute guinea pigs, cuy, that all three of the kitchens contained.
Through this experience we began to appreciate how hard the locals must work to create safe amenities that we would take for granted back home. It was a fun and rewarding learning experience with us practicing our Spanish while we assisted the builders and home owners and getting our hands dirty which resulted in us being extremely proud of the work we had achieved. Now we believe, with some trial and error, that we would be able to make some quite solid ovens of our own.
Shania Reithmann, Victoria Graham and Elinor Graham Year 13
We started our day on the wrong side of the bed. Senora Schnibbe-Bhargav, Katie, Olivia, Leo and I were allocated a house around the donkeys, next to a steep cliff. We met our master builder and were shown the building space. In the dark room that was soon going to be the kitchen, the walls were aligned with cooking utensils, only the necessities, some little Guinea pigs scrambling around the dirt floor and many little bowls full of harvested beans, corn and potatoes.
We weren’t really allowed to do much as it seemed that it isn’t in their culture that girls to do the hard building work, and they basically thought we were incapable. Two LONG hours of sitting bored in the sun went past and it was soon time to re-group at the community house. We found out that there were lots of jobs to be done. Two huge piles of gravel and concrete stood before us as we filled the potato sacks with the heavy dirt and began walking.
Two exhausting trips later we were summoned to another job building a kitchen at a local house up a gradual hill around 100m away, however, this was when we realised that there was no wrong side of the bed, it was just an obstacle that we had to overcome. The next house was completely different. “Take it out on the mud” Senora Maldonado chanted as we sunk the heavy sharp tools into the dry mud, re-activating it for further use.
We really took our girl power to the next level. We carried heavy adobe bricks, smeared mud, smashed bricks to size, cut holes, spaded heavy mud, positioned bricks, fetched water and filled in holes all to create an amazing adobe brick oven and stove for Willy’s family to heavily enjoy. Richard, our master builder really guided us and allowed us to do what we wanted and what we thought was right which was really cool.
It was really satisfying to start and finish an oven all on our own and enlightening to know that we are capable of doing something so amazing.
Emily Davies Year 10
Farewell from the Misminay Community
Time has fled since we first arrived in Peru with the novelty of travelling in a South American country, but as we are building a stronger relationship with the Misminay community and a closer connection with nature, this unsettled feeling of being tourists gradually wore off.
The last three days of community service was tiring, but also worthwhile - when we climbed up to the viewpoint on the top of the mountains, short of breath, but energised and amazed by the marvelous landscape; when we greeted the locals with broken quechua, calling each other sisters and brothers, the distance and language barriers don't seem so significant anymore; when we finished the stoves in the kitchen so they don't have to walk all the way down town to cook , we could feel the happiness and gratitude from the locals, seeing those beautiful smiles on the children's faces was the best.
All of these things remind us how important our mission is, the service that we wish to continue in the future for a bigger impact. No matter how small our contributions can be, these people will be thankful.
Today our community service has come to an end with a wonderful farewell ceremony (let's not mention the innocent guinea pigs that were on the table for lunch.) We expressed our appreciation of their culture, and they wished us all the best for the inca trial that we are starting tomorrow. Some more new toilets were donated to the locals of course.
One of the most memorable things that happened to me during the ceremony was my 'model's reaction when she received my drawing of her and her newborn baby that she was carrying all the time. In the drawing, she is standing at the top of the hills looking down at the mountains beneath her, wind carries her gratitude and joys of new lives. She is not vulnerable, they are not vulnerable. The husband, the wife, the baby and I took a photo together, they made my drawing seem so special and somehow has a glorious purpose to it. I was blessed, all of us were blessed by the gratitude and the enthusiasm that the local people embraced us with, and the experience that both the Misminay community nor us will ever forget.
Amy Chen Year 11
Inca Trail Day 1 - 82km to Huayllabamba (Altitude 2954 metres)
We woke up just after 6 am and headed down for our last breakfast in Urubamba. After some stressful last-minute packing we grabbed our duffle bags and got on the bust with minutes to spare. A long and bumpy bus ride took us to Km 82. All of us were feeling a little apprehensive about the long and tedious road ahead. We crossed a river of rapids on a swinging bridge and started the gradual climb. Dusty open paths flanked by sprawling landscapes.
After what seemed like days, we arrived at lunch and were disheartened to find the path did in fact continue. After a delicious catered lunch with scenic views of the rugged mountain tops, we continued on the long road ahead. The terrain steepened into an intense climb. Our guide kept insisting “5 more minutes…” It was NOT 5 more minutes.
In the end, despite being thrown head first into an intense and surreal experience we had an amazing time. The views were spectacular! The guides and porter were super-human, the porters sprinted ahead carrying more than 20 kgs to create a campsite before we got there. Even though we are nervous for tomorrow we are so lucky to be in this incredible place.
Emily Hoseason (Year 11) and Sophia Holden (Year 10)
Inca Trail Day 2 – First pass Dead Woman’s Pass “Warmiwañusca” (about 4200m)
Reputedly the hardest day, almost 1200m vertically to the highest path at 4215m, the day started well, an incredibly view as you drew open the tent flaps and then a creditable camp breakfast – they had coffee!
The sun was shining as we set off and all were in high spirits. Every time we stopped to take photos the view was surpassed on the next bend. Things became a bit tougher after lunch as the sun turned from friend to enemy and it was a challenge to stay hydrated. The challenge to put one foot in front of another became all consuming. Foolishly I had agreed to stay with group 1 but as youthful legs surged ahead of me it became all about me and the mountain.
After almost 12km we were 100m from the end and despite shouts of encouragement from the pass I did not think I would make it. With support from Sophia, my walking partner, I drew on reserves and made the peak. I then shared the elation of the other students who had achieved the summit.
We then had to descend another 600m to camp and all set off with renewed vigour.
Disaster! After a brief call of nature stop, my group, full of enthusiasm, had gone without me! I was left to do the descent alone. What to do as a teacher? Did I rush after the group and their experienced and supportive guides? Or, take a safe pace. All I had to keep me company were the humming bees, the playful finches and the brooks, babbling stories of Incan histories long past but somehow still with us. The sun on my back and without another person in sight, I made my way down to camp to find all the other students comfortably ensconced. A magnificent day.
John Buckley - Mariner House Dean
Inca Trail Day 3 – Pacaymayo - Wiñaywayna - Second Pass Runcuracay (3900m) and Third Pass Phuyupatamarca (3800m)
Today it rained a lot. We were woken again at 5:30 am with warm water and muna tea. The rain got heavier and heavier as breakfast went on. By the time we started the air was thick with mist and the rain was unrelenting. For the first part of the day, we hiked up. The stairs were never-ending. Still the rain kept coming down. We stopped for snacks and a break where a few people had interesting bush experience (toilet dashes).
After lunch we started the section our guide had dubbed “Peruvian flat”. We can confirm it was not flat. Once a couple hours had passed we reached the peak of our trek and started our steep descent into the mist. The stairs were slippery, varying in size and practically vertical. This strenuous experience lasted way longer than it should have.
We were all so glad when the clouds cleared and we could see the spectacular view. After a couple more hours of downhill, we reached the camp relieved and exhausted. Despite consistent rain and challenging conditions, our hike lead to gorgeous views and extremely incredible experience.
Emma Hoseason Year 11 and Sophia Holden Year 10
Inca Trail Day 4 – Intipunku (Sun Gate) – Machu Picchu
At the early hour of 3am, we all woke to feelings of excitement and anticipation for today was the day that many of us had waited for. Today marked our 4th and final day of the incredible Inca Trail that had pushed each of us to our limits in more ways than one. The end reward for our struggles was now even closer than ever. After a quick and early breakfast and briefing, we swiftly exited our final camp site and headed steadily across the last leg of the trail. After two hours of rugged stone steps and pathways leading the way, we were able to gain our first glance at the magical land that awaited us.
Up from the top of the mountain, at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu, we stood tall with our weakened and tired bodies, gazing through thick mystical clouds at the ancient Incan city. After a few minutes of photos and admiring, it was time to begin our descent down to the magical landmark. After an hour of descending we emerged from the track to be greeted by hundreds of the ancient structures of Machu Picchu which personally struck me with wonder in a way that I had never felt before. For all of us this also marked a great triumph of relief as we had completed the four-day challenge that had put us through so much.
Over the past days, sickness had overwhelmed most of us including myself, resulting in a much more difficult challenge. I personally was unsure whether I was going to be able to make it to the end and I know that this feeling was common amongst many. We had to draw out every inch of determination we had to make it through the rugged hills and mountains that made the trail. But even though we were slowed down by sickness, we didn’t let it stop us from completing the incredible Inca Trail. But for me these struggles and illnesses only made the experience better. It made me feel incredibly proud to have reached the end and the beautiful ancient city and to have pushed passed the barriers that held myself and others back through sheer determination. It showed me that even if the odds seem stacked against you in every way, enough determination will always allow you to push through obstacles and achieve great things.
After completing a tour of Machu Picchu and walking through and learning about the ancient structures of the Incan civilisation we climbed aboard a bus which took us down to a nearby town. We then ate a much deserved buffet lunch and headed for the train back to leave. 3 hours of train and bus travel later, we arrived back in the city of Cusco and dragged our proud but exhausted bodies into our hotel and enjoyed a much missed sleep in a nice made bed.
Overall today was probably my favourite day of the trip because I was able to finish and achieve something incredible that a few days prior I couldn’t even imagine I could do. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget.
Alex Walton - Year 11
Cusco – The former Inca Capital
This morning, everybody was rewarded with an additional sleep-in time for overcoming the trails faced throughout the Inca trail. I can vogue for everyone in saying that our body’s were in a state of despair - sore and physically exhausted. The extra hours in bed were much needed. We had breakfast at 9:30am, then departed the hotel around 10:00am to commence with our planned day ahead.
Today we had our first glimpse of Cusco as we were led about the city by our tour guides Felipe and José. It is a thriving city with many people about, which was complimented by a sunny day.
Our first sightseeing location was visiting a nearby Dominican monastery (Convento de Santo Dominico). It was an interesting structure as the the Catholic church built on top of an Incan temple, implemented by Spanish invaders. During the conquest of Peru, Spaniards were determined to maintain their Christian values, thus building this church. According to José, he claims that over 70% of Peruvians are Catholic today.
Once inside the monastery, we were guided through various artefacts on display such as a replica tablet of the Inca living system. This tablet was originally made from gold but was raided by the Spanish during their invasion due to its economic value In Europe. José spoke of this conquest with a heavy heart, in a tone almost accessing the Spanish of stripping away his ancestors culture..
Our next destination was to be the ‘Museum of the Incas’. Making our way about the city, we passed through the busy town plaza (Plaza de Armas) which was richly decorated with lots of vegetation and numerous recognisable stores such as ‘Patagonia’ - reviving to finally see known names again. We had half an hour shopping time here after lunch at the plaza.
The Incan museum tour was the highlight of my day as I found it particularly interesting having uncovered more about this ancient Incan culture. During the Inca trail, we were constantly exposed to the culture and we heard numerous stories regarding these people. I had become naturally eager in learning more about this topic which I’d been surrounded by for some time. My favourite section at the museum was when we compared photographs from the 1911 Machu Michu site (date of Initial discovery by Hiram Bingham) to what we witnessed only the day before.
Following the museum, we had lunch at a grill house which was unarguably the best food provided on the trip so far. We were treated with a finely cooked steak and potatoes, along with a chocolate cake desert.
Overall, it was a great day in which I had plenty fun learning, now having gained valuable insight into a new culture.
Horia Thompson - Year 12
Our Last Night in Peru