Our two day hike around the Cordillera Real took us to the highest peak of the semester, reaching over 17,000 feet. We walked past beautiful lakes and up steep inclines to the precarious tip of a huge mountain. This physically challenging hike offered us one of the most beautiful views of the semester as we walked parallel to a glacier.
The rural village of Irupampa is home to a host of mysteries. Known as “the bellybutton of the world,” no one truly knows how the crater was created. The soil in the crater is rich in nutrients, and much of the land is used to grow wheat and potatoes. While in Irupampa, we helped a local farmer harvest wheat and enjoyed a meal of potatoes cooked inside the soil. Our hikes across the valley boasted magical views, despite the scorching heat.
Cerro Rico, the mine that funded the entire Spanish empire during the colonial period in Latin America, is the heart of the thriving city of Potosi. During our stay in the highest city in the world, we learned about the harsh conditions of the mines and experienced a small glimpse of the mines ourselves. Our guide, an ex-miner himself, shared his experiences hauling 10 tons of stone a day out of the mines to provide enough money for his family. We also visited a treatment facility in which the rubble is stripped of precious minerals and other stones. Our experience in Cerro Rico was eye opening and extraordinarily humbling.
Welcome to Bolivia! Our first stop in Bolivia, after traveling for 12 hours, was the Uyuni Salt Flat. Driving across the white salt in Land Rovers, we took in the vast expanse of salt surrounding us, while jamming in our Rovers. Stopping to view cacti and mountains, we took hundreds of jumping and perspective distorting photos. Despite getting stuck in a large lake located directly on the salt flat, our car made the most of it and took stunning photos of the sunset as we walked to the shore. At long last, we arrived at the “salt hostel,” a hostel made entirely of salt, where we crashed for the night.
Machu Picchu, the historic lost city of the Incas, was the final destination of our two day Lares Trek. We followed an Incan trail through endless mountains to the most important city of Incan and pre-Incan times. Arriving at Machu Picchu, we were overwhelmed by the precise architecture of the buildings and the impressiveness of the vast array of mountains surrounding us. We spent the day learning about the culture of the Incans and the vast empire they once ruled, all while being followed by a llama.
During our time in Cusco, we explored many Incan and Pre-Incan sites. An underlying theme of our time in this tourist city was understanding how the Incan empire drew many ideas surrounding their belief system, their architectural styles, agricultural systems, and many more concepts from Pre-Incan civilizations. Our cultural exploration of Cusco took us to sacred rocks, temples, and burial grounds. We also explored many modern industries of the indigenous peoples such as weaving and salt collection. Basking in the sunlight of Cusco, enjoyed many days shopping for vibrant sweaters and taking in the old city.
In the gentrified capital of Peru, we spent three days shopping and enjoying the coast. The built-up neighborhood of Miraflores demonstrated firsthand the effects of globalization. Walking by the J.W. Marriott to the Starbucks, we were surrounded by familiar US companies. Even though the pull of US influence was enticing, we were excited to continue exploring the unfamiliarities of Peru in new cities and towns.