Along with my parent I joined 10 other people for a two week long trip to Peru and Ecuador. This would be our first Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) trip. It would prove to be quite an interesting and informative experience overall. It is best to think of this as really two trips rolled into one. The first week we spent in Peru traveling mostly through the Sacred Valley with a key highlight being our overnight visit to Machu Picchu. The second week was spent in Ecuador and the key component there was our 4 days spent sailing amongst the Galapagos Islands. OAT trips, at least this one, have a goal of "learning and discovery" and one result of that is you move much more slowly than we are used to doing either by ourselves or with groups such as we travel with when on HF Holiday hiking trips. While an OAT trip can have physical challenges such as dealing with high altitude conditions, Machu Picchu sits at about 8,000 feet and Cusco at just over 11,000 feet above sea level or sea sickness on the 16-passenger catamaran the actual physical endeavors are modest. But you will still experience quite a lot even though at times you may feel both rushed or stuck in place depending on circumstances.
We spent about a week touring the region known as the Sacred Valley. This is the very high alpine valley region that used to be the key region of the Inca Empire. While people go to the Sacred Valley to experience the antiquities their is much more to the region than just the ruins of past civilizations. A big part of an Overseas Adventure Travel trip is learning about the people that live in the place you're visiting. In this segment we'll take a quick look at what we discovered.
At 12,000 feet above sea level the mountains seem a bit barren. However, agriculture is practiced anywhere it can be even more.
The soil looks rich and the farmers are growing several types of plants (corn, squash, and some sort of bean I think) but it's clearly hard communal work. The bulls pull simple plows made of a local, maybe eucalyptus, wood; people direct the bulls; others place seeds in the furrows; and, still there is work for more. And yet they were happy to see us perhaps just because we represent a break in the day.
Near the village of Chinchero we stopped at at co-op based weavers business. The weavers here are all women but from what I learned days later in a textile shop/museum in Cusco both genders learn to weave though perhaps the men general don't do it as a job (they do to attract attention). This work reminded me a bit of what we saw in Turkey. Here they work with llama or alpaca fibers and as you can see from their clothing it can be quite intricate. All materials are natural. Dad got a chance to dye some yarn.
Perhaps Pavel, our trip leader who is from the Cosco region, told us what this statue is all about but I don't recall now. It is a stunning setting though.
From the roof of the fair sized house we had lunch in. It's true this home with its nice courtyard is home to a good sized family who definitely share close quarters but it is a big step up from many of the shacks you see here.
We walked around this little village for a time. It was rather quiet. Some people were out preparing for an event but other than that it felt rather empty.
While each portion of cuy (pronounce, "cu-ee") was tiny just some skin and a small bite or two of meat I think it is fair to say that this guinea pig was the star attraction of the home cooked meal. Cuy is considered something of a special treat and I think everyone enjoyed it. Some of us the previous night watched the lady of the house slaughter and butcher this cut so we had seen it go from alive to lunch. The other food included a tasty soup, stuffed peppers, potatoes, and some other things I'm no doubt forgetting. A lovely fine lunch and hosted by a friendly family with some very exuberant children.
Our group and the fifth grade class we visited for a time. One thing Overseas Adventure Travel does is support organizations with financial assistance. In this case a school in Urabamba. While the children seemed enthusiastic it is clear the facilities they have need improvement. That can be said of so much in the region. Infrastructure from basic plumbing to reliable power is far from what it should be.
Using a variety of natural materials to paint designs into the ceramics seems to be entirely done by the ladies who work at Seminario Ceramics studio (the men do the shaping of the clay). This studio is run be renown ceramicists and must surely represent part of the peak of artistry in the region.