Considering how much has happened in the last few days, I haven’t written anywhere near enough. But forgive me… I finally have some free time so here’s the first installment of posts filling you in on my 3rd full week here in Cusco!
1) We went horse riding
7 girls galloping through the Andes mountains in search of some ancient incan ruins certainly made for a great morning. We wanted to make sure that what we were doing was ethical, so the fact that our horses were happy and given time to rest, eat and drink every 20 minutes whilst we hiked mountains and explored tunnels made our 35 soles totally worth it.
We arrived at our destination and I was introduced to the one and only female horse of the bunch: Negra. Instantly, I could see that she was totally on my wavelength: super sassy and had no time for impressing the males. She didn’t enjoy trailing behind all of the boy horses and constantly wanted to speed ahead. However, this meant that there were times when I was miles away from the group with absolutely no idea of my whereabouts. Lucky for me the views were great, and even luckier was that I bumped into a brilliant Australian couple on their round-the-world honeymoon who taught me how to control my horse for 30 odd minutes before my group finally caught up. Their itinerary means that they’re in London now, so I’m sending eternal thanks over to the UK for my two australian saviours – without you who knows where Negra would have run off to!
Work is still great! I love the job more and more every day and I’m getting to know the kids better. There’s still a LOT of work to be done and sometimes when Vicki’s not there, I’m doing tasks meant for 2 people! But it’s definitely rewarding and I couldn’t be happier with our placement. Because of the festival, the children have all been learning songs and dances and they did a big showcase for their parents. This was amazing because I got so many warm greetings and kind words from Mom’s and Dad’s galore (the parents here LOVE the idea of their kids learning english) plus the kids finally got to present their talents on stage!
Ooh, I’ve also gotta tell you the story about my good pal Benjamin. He’s 4 years old, super cute and his favourite colour is green. I saw him on the first day and couldn’t quite work out why he wasn’t in uniform and was never reprimanded for being out of line or out of his seat. If any of the other kids mess around then a sharp ‘SIÉNTATE’ is uttered and they quickly scurry back to their place – but not Benjamin. Benjamin is given free roam of the school and I’ve finally decided it’s because he’s so wise that he doesn’t need any more knowledge. You see, this kid only ever says 5 words: ‘Mi color favorite es VERDE’ (which means ‘my favourite colour is green’ in spanish). He is SO passionate about this colour that he tells me 3 times daily and also tries to convert my favourite colour from yellow to green like it’s his life mission. The best moment was when we mixed blue and yellow paint for an art project in class and I was pretty sure he was about to implode with happiness. This kid knows something we don’t, I’m telling you. Who needs to sit in class with the other kids when you’ve found your true calling in life? Even if that calling is to promote what you believe to be the colour of our future. You go, Benny!
3) Goals and Guinness
Yet again the football was a key event for us, and yet again the football was a huge disappointment for us. What a surprise! We went to a local bar/hostel called ‘Wild Rover’ where we screamed and shouted at a huge screen until there was nothing left to do but drown our sorrows in alcohol (or in my case: cheesy chips). I had a great night and met so many interesting people: students from universities near Bath, soon-to-be RAF recruits and many gap year-ers (All from England seeing as they were there to watch the match, but we’re allowed a break from spanish every once in a while!)
After an award worthy amount of wing woman-ing, I decided to call it a night when the dancing stopped to make way for an abundance of long-haired, greasy men and an abundance of kiss-grinding (that’s a legit verb, I promise). I totally appreciate that some people are here to party, and believe me I love nights out, but I realised that I am personally in Peru for a totally different reason! Everyone’s entitled to do the things that make them happy, so I’m definitely not speaking for anyone else when I say this, but I think an Irish pub can be experienced pretty much anywhere in the UK. Plus, the smell of spilt beer and cigarrette smoke on my (limited number of) clothes is getting old now! Call me boring but I have too much adventuring to do to be hungover and tired. I’ll save that for when I’m back at university 😉
4) It’s festival time
Finally, after a month of non stop music, dancing and fireworks the Inti Raymi festival finally arrived! Inti Raymi is quechua for ‘Festival of the Sun’ and it’s the most important festival in Cusco: super chuffed we were around to experience it! It’s filled with colourful costumes, performances and, until a few years ago, llama sacrifices! It’s all for Pachamama, the incan Godess who the ancient people believed would be able to ensure a good harvest. These views are outdated now, but the Cusqueños still go BIG purely for the sake of a party! We saw the king of the incas begin the parade in the small streets before running to the Plaza de Armas to watch some traditional dancing and see the floats. The crowds soon became too big to navigate so we went back to the house and watched the festivities from our balcony with an ice cream – the best compromise!
5) Non stop adventures
When most people take a long overnight bus back home from a weekend adventure at Lake Titicaca (blog post coming soon!), they decide to take the day off and rest up. I, however, felt surprisingly perky so I got showered up and went to work ready to embark on a day of fun. After singing and dancing with children at the school and eating lunch at the volunteer house, we headed over to our favourite restaurant ‘The Meeting Place’ for oreo milkshakes and brownies!
Whilst we were eating, we met a great american brother-sister duo who had just arrived in Cusco and were looking for stuff to do. So we decided to team up and go on an adventure to the elusive ‘Cusco zoo’. After various people telling us that it didn’t exist and other people throwing random directions at us, one of the girls used her brilliant local bus knowledge to get us in the right direction for just 70 cents! We finally found the zoo… inside the main university of Cusco (?!) As I always say: Welcome to Latin America.
After the zoo, we headed back to the Plaza de Armas and ended up making friends with some hair braiders who offered to make our horrible, knotty traveller hair look even more hippy-esque by putting feathers and braids in it…. Yay! My hair braider’s name was Robert ‘Bob’ Marley, and he was genuinely one of the coolest people I’ve met so far on this trip! A simple 10 minute braid ended up taking a whole hour but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend the evening; sitting on the steps in the Plaza, laughing, practicing spanish, watching the sunset/festivities and getting a cool, new hair accessory to top it all off.
It’s been a fab week, although I can’t believe how fast time is going and I’m trying to find ways to slow things down – sadly to no avail. We have so many more adventures to plan like sandboarding, ziplining, swimming and just generally exploring different regions of Peru but I’ve gotta somehow find a way to do this on minimal funds and minimal time! It’ll work out in the end, everything always does! I’m only in Peru once so to hell with my budget; I’ve gotta give you all something to read about, right? 😉