This is the fist part in a five-part series documenting our journey trekking the Salktantay Trek, from Mollepata to Aguas Calientes and eventually reaching Machu Picchu…
Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata
Start: 12:00 – Cusco (3,360m)
End: 16:00 – Mollepata (2,850m)
Summary: Start from Cusco, three-hour bus ride to Mollepata where we will begin the trek. One-hour hike just outside of Mollepata to begin.
We have been in Cusco for over four weeks now, and what do we have to show? Not so much really (except some handy Spanish conjugations), but we do have a few more photos to share. This place has strangely come to feel a like home, and it will be sad to leave. Lena and I will be heading into the mountains tomorrow, towards Machu Picchu… Hopefully we will be back in another week or two with some more stories to share.
Quechua Women Weaving
Our Street, Aktosycuchi
Finally after a month in Cusco, I was able to drag Lena out of bed into the cold night to experience Cusco at night. The moon was full and high and we waited until as late as we possible could so that there were fewer people and cars on the streets to disturb the photos! It’s a really beautiful city sometimes, and it’s strangely come to feel really a bit like home. Our nice apartment, going to school every morning, walking familiar streets in a foreign country, our favorite bakery, the insane San Pedro market, ruins just a few minutes from the house… It’s a really strange city, but it starts to get to you after a while and I think that though we are both excited to move on and see what’s coming next on this journey- We will both also be a little sad to leave this place…
This past weekend, Lena and I finally ventured out of Cusco for the day for a hike in the surrounding countryside. Within less than 8km of Cusco there are at least seven major Inca ruins in the hills here. There are many of smaller ones as well, unnamed which one sometimes stumbles upon accidentally. This day, we left from San Blas, and hiked up the hill to Q’enko. We had heard that it was possible to enter to the ruins for free, so from the hill we just walked in through the rear of the complex. We had a few minutes to explore, but when we tried to go to the main part of the ruins, we were stopped and asked for our tickets. Of course we didn’t have any, but we just played dumb, and when the guy threatened to call the police we just left. Still our plan was ruined- We couldn’t continue to the other ruins, so we just started walking in the other direction where we heard there were other ruins which could be visited for free. So, from there we walked across the countryside and eventually found the Temple of the Moon and from there followed an ancient Inca road over the valley pass to Puka Puch’ara. By the end of the day when we made it back to Cusco, we had walked more than 18km- Good training for our upcoming trek to Machu Picchu.
Panorama from Templo de la Luna
Our very first week at Aldea Yanapay happened to be the week of Halloween. We had no idea Halloween was so popular in Peru, but the kids were already busy at work preparing their costumes when we arrived. Each week, there is a particular theme at Yanapay which we try to teach to the kids in some small ways; This week, the theme was recycling and so, we were building our costumes from completely recycled materials. It was a hectic week full of paint, glitter, and glue, and was quite a shock for our first week working with the project… It was however, a great introduction, and an easy way to work with the kids- even without words.
Voluntarios Por Amor
A Brief Introduction:
We have been working for Aldea Yanapay for two weeks now, and have wanted to post some photos from the school since we started… Aldea Yanapay is a social organization here in Cusco working with children from 4-13 year-olds in one of the poorer parts of Cusco. We work with the children about four hours a day, helping with their homework, playing games, teaching art classes, or introducing them to other cultural subjects like world-religion, environment, social issues, art, or theater (The themes of the last two weeks have been Recycling, and Inca Religion)
From a Western point of view, it’s a little strange finding that there are very few supermarkets in Peru. Actually as far as I can tell, there is not a single one in Cusco. None. That means no sliced bread, no Captain Crunch for breakfast, no packaged meats, no TV dinners… Basically none of the lovely western pre-packaged foods, junk food, and comfort items we depend on. Instead, there are little corner shops everywhere filled with fruits and vegetables, crusty bread, and pasta (just the basics), and most people do their day-to-day shopping at whichever is closest to his door. Any real shopping however, is done at the local mercado- Here you can find literally anything you might think you need; From souvenirs to toilet paper, toothbrushes to tea, a massive assortment of fruits and vegetables, fresh milk, eggs, and cheeses, herbs of all kinds (including Ayahuasca; brewed or not, San Pedro, Yopo, and Coca), dry grains by the kilo, meats (chopped, skinned, or even still alive), bread, alpaca wool, and whatever else you can possibly think of- you can probably find it there. If by chance you come up with something that isn’t on the shelves of one of the literally hundreds of vendors, just wave a few soles around and I bet within a few hours an industrious merchant will find it for you.
Lena catches a 'Bresson Moment', San Blas, Cusco
We have actually been pretty busy since our arrival here in Cusco (finding an apartment, working at school, two days sick…), and really haven’t had much time for the normal tourist activities… We have had a little bit of time to snap a few quick photos on our way from here to there though. At first glance, Cusco is a beautiful town filled with colonial churches, Inca walls, wonderful markets, street vendors, and beautiful plazas. I can’t wait to have some time to take the camera out for some real work- I think there are truly a lot of photographic possibilities to explore; especially as the Spanish (hopefully) improves and interactions become more intimate. Here’s a quick section of a few of my favorite photos from our first few days here… Lena’s Bresson-esque shot is my favorite.
I thought this was a very appropriate and well executed piece… Even being a camera-toting gringo myself, I really loved it and have thought about it ever since every time I pull out my camera. I think that’s pretty effective street art; and just what street art should be.
Seen on the streets of San Blas, Cusco.