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Peru Day 1

Hello everyone!
I just got back from the Caltech Y’s Alternative Spring Break trip to Peru. The Y is an organization that used to be connected to the YMCA but is no longer; they handle a lot of volunteer coordination and camping trips. Every year the Y organizes a service-based trip overseas during spring break. This year, we’re volunteering at mobile clinics in the outskirts of Lima with an organization called Medlife. The next 7 posts will be direct transcripts of my travel journal from that trip, with some additional explanation provided in italics.

Caltech attendees: Me (Suzy), Camila, Jenny, Madelyn, Namita, Matt, Stephanie H, Stephanie M, Junedh, Peter, Sumana.

Day 1: Saturday, Mar 19
Today I woke up at 8:10am (just 5 short hours after going to sleep) to the sound of my roommates getting ready for the day. I rolled out of bed and got dressed, then went out to the kitchen where there was bread with butter and jam waiting for us. I had breakfast, then walked with Camila and Madelyn to get bottled water. You can’t drink the tap water here and by then I was very thirsty. I filled my water bottle from the big jug we got and went to exchange money.

I think I changed too much currency. I changed $30 into soles [SO-lays], at 3.3 soles/$. Given that a Coke is like 1 sol and all our meals are paid for by the Y, I don’t see how I can spend so many soles.

After we changed money, the Limavision tour bus picked us up from our hostel in Miraflores (a district in Lima). We visited a couple of nearby locations, like a pretty bridge in the nearby district of Barranca. Around 10, we arrived at our destination, the Pachacamac Sanctuary. This was a set of ruins from various cultures – the first to build there were the Lima people (this is the name of an ancient culture, I don’t mean the inhabitants of modern-day Lima). The Wadis reused the Lima architecture, the Ychma built new temples, and the Incas added on. There was a museum on site with relics of each culture. Some of it was pretty interesting, like the quipus, which seem to be a knot-based system of accounting. There were some wooden face masks the Wadi used for the dead. The dead would be curled in a fetal position and wrapped in textiles, and a wooden face mask would be affixed to the bundle so it looked like a small, squat person.

There was a very beautiful hike to the Ychma temple of the sun, from which we could see rocks out in the ocean said by local legend to be a mother running away with her baby.

We also saw the women’s building, in which young women were raised by the Incas to be sacrificed during fertility festivals. We also saw a human skull – a real one – just lying in the sand. Apparently there are so many that it’s not of archaeological significance.

We took the bus back to our own hostel; by then, it was about 2pm. We set off in search of lunch. One of our number is vegetarian, which makes eating difficult. Being vegetarian isn’t really a thing here. Luckily we found a Turkish food stand (which sold falafel). Not everyone was feeling Mediterranean food, so we walked a long a street (Avenida J. Larco) with restaurants and shops until we found a chicken place (Don Belisario). I had grilled chicken with fries and salad. It was my first non-airplane meal since Thursday dinner. It felt great.

We came back to the hostel. Lots of people honk on the Peruvian streets, and right of way is more opportunistic than rule-based.

I spent about an hour journaling and watchingCowboys vs. Aliens. When that ended, a Marvel movie came on that was difficult to follow.

We went to dinner at a restaurant called Punto Azul. I got a fish and tomato soup. Camila got us all a bowl of ceviche to share and it was delicious.Ceviche is a dish made from seafood that has been cooked using acid (lemon juice, vinegar) instead of heat. Like a more sour version of excellent sashimi. I really liked that restaurant. Would recommend!

After dinner, I coordinated two taxis to get the group to a light show. I was really (silently) proud of that.

  • I haggled successfully in Spanish and
  • my Spanish skills were really useful!

Our trip supervisor, Camila, speaks excellent Spanish, being a native speaker of the language, but at the time she was paying the tab at the restaurant. She’s Chilean, and has been living in the US for 5 years. She’s really nice and not very strict. It’s more pleasant to travel as a group of adults than as a herd of children.

So we got the the Parque de las Aguas in Lima just in time for this giant water-and-light show. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was very impressive and entertaining. It was a little like the World of Color show at Disneyland, and I would say the water part of the show here was more impressive. Disneyland has pyrotechnics, though. And Disney characters, which are my childhood and therefore all the feelings.

The park has 13 fountains in total, most of which are colorfully lit at night. We saw the light show fountain, a really tall spectacular fountain, a tunnel made of orange-lit water, and a maze made of jets on timers that shot spots within the maze and got everyone soaking wet. There were some others but they were less fun/spectacular.

We took taxis back to the hostel and started preparing for bed. The shower situation was much improved over last night when we got home from the airport because it was 10:30 instead of 3am and everyone knows now not to brush their teeth with the tap water. I journaled after my shower and I think I’ll try to sleep now, despite all my roommates still being awake.

Until next time,