Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Grand Vacation!

If there is one thing that really helps the Peace Corps stand out from other volunteer opportunities it is the length of time that one serves for.  Two years didn't seem like much to me in the beginning (I mean, I was in grad school for that long and it flew by so fast!) but it became quickly apparent that the passing of time would not be the same as back home.

In Perú, as a volunteer, time is a strange amorphous goo that is difficult to get a hold of.  On the one hand, you feel like two years will never pass.  I can't believe how long it feels like I have been telling people I have only 8 more months left in my service!  As soon as you count it, it stands still (like one of those weeping angels on Dr. Who).  And much like the weeping angels, when you ignore it, it sneaks up on you in the blink of an eye.  I feel like I go through days like a fat kid going through a bag of those reeses that everyone sends me.  It is astonishing how fast Mondays seem to come and go.  So, really, it is baffling to most volunteers how the short term can speed past in a blur of huayno, socio-dramas, and cheap beer, while the long term moves slower than a peruvian promise.

However, one of the perks to being in a country for two years - besides learning how to kill and butcher a guinea pig - is that you get the opportunity to really experience its many different facets of cultural and social identity.  Or, in other words, you get to travel and see stuff!

Your average Peace Corps volunteer receives two days of vacation every month, which really isn't a lot if you consider we work 7 days a week.  So if said volunteer is following the rules, they get 48 days during their two years to check out what their host country has to offer.  So with Katie in tow, I recently took a huge chunk of my vacation days to go see mine for the holidays.

So, without further babbling from me, I present to you my photos... 'cus that is why you all come here anyway o_o

(Baños del Inca - Cajamarca City)
These are the restored thermal baths once used by Inca Emperors.  This site is coincidentally quite close to the spot where Emperor Altahualpa was captured by Pizarro.

We picked up Katie's friend, Bethany, in Lima and headed to Cusco.  Here you can see a cute critter observing the local wildlife... and there is a lama there too.

The streets of Cusco are really quite rustic and make for great self-tours.  Just watch out when they get wet - those cobblestones are slippery!

And then the three adventurers set out on the Inca Trail to find the mystical site of Machu Picchu.  They knew the trek would be rife with dangers and hardships...

... but they had their trusty guide, horse handler, and personal chef there to help them make it to the end.  It also helped that they brought tents, mattresses, sub-zero sleeping bags, a complete kitchen, tent-dining room, and portable toilet tent carried by no less than 2 mules and a horse.

Really stunning trail.



Oooo again! (This is how most of the trek went)

This was a site overlooking the actual ruins of Machu Picchu.

And after we got to the top...

... we were rewarded with a rare clear view of Machu Picchu from above.

Here are some photos of Machu Picchu proper.

As we left Machu Picchu, we were afforded this view of the snow capped Andes mountains from the train.

Our next stop was Huaraz!  Ancash is by far my favorite department of Perú and I think you can probably figure out why.

This is the Yanganuco lake snuggled up right next to the tallest mountain in Perú, Huascaran.

The photos can't do this place justice.

Get a load of that water?  The weather was quite warm given the fact that we were at such a high altitude during the rainy season.  Katie rightly observed that if we had not known otherwise we would have thought we were in the Bahamas with these trees and that crystal clear lake.

That is Huascaran, I think.
As you can see, it was an exciting and leisurely trip.  I got to see the majority of the stuff I wanted to see before leaving the country and now I can head home saying I have been to Machu Picchu.  And now that Christmas vacation is over I realize that I have just 6 "short" months to finish up my work with the youth center.

If all goes well, the next blog you read will be asking you all for a small (or large) donation to provide the center with a computer lab! Ha!