Henry reports about our first morning in Colca, where we would spend almost a week working with Quechua School and acclimating to the altitude and culture.
Our first morning in Colca, almost everyone woke up just in time for lunch. Upon walking out the door, it only took one swift 360 degree glance at the rolling hills (editor’s note: giant freaking mountains, including one over 20,000 feet) around me to realize why we had spent so many hours arriving here. The landscape was breathtaking to say the least: towering peaks, clouds whirling through, creating dramatic contrasts with the piercing sun, and the freshest air I have ever attempted to suck into my lungs. Every which way I looked there were minimal signs of civilization, or at least civilization as I usually think of it. It was an overwhelming feeling to be surrounded by such beauty while my body felt every meter of the elevation. Sooner than I could realize, I found myself climbing up terraces set up for agriculture hundreds to thousands of years ago. I further connected to that past with my first experience chewing coca leaves to calm the headache and nausea that was very much affecting all members of the group. Nonetheless, I would gladly suffer through the endless switchbacks that had brought me here and go through these struggles with the thin air to see 10,000 shades of green, topped by snow-covered peaks. I would happily take a 10 second break after every five steps to wander through this rural village where chickens and horses wander the grassy lanes while the sheep and llamas amble up the steeper slopes. And I would travel another 3 days to duck into the courtyard of our host, Vladi to experience my first meal of a squash stew made entirely from vegetables planted, harvested, and cooked by the people who would become my family for the next week. I had, perhaps, never been in a place that seemed so alien, yet I was already at home.
-Henry, High School Student
*A mistake was made in Peru Student Blog #1, it was credited to Henry, but was written by Max.