Colca was the perfect place to start our trip. Most of what we did each day involved food. The first day, we dug and planted a lettuce patch. The second, we planted trees that will one day provide additional fruit for the village. We cut grass to feed the cuy (guinea pig), chucked and peeled lima beans, and tended a field of potatoes far out and up into the peaks of the mountains.
I should say that each of these activities left everyone with a feeling of happiness. Every nausea-ridden headache-pained, vertigo inducing step or swing of the scythe (for cutting the cuy grass. Yes, it was awesome) was more than worth it.
Twice we taught English lessons at a small school. We would arrive, do a group lesson, then split into groups and attempt to talk. Then a team of 8-year olds would destroy us at soccer.
One of my favorite things we did was climb a nearby ridge. On the way up, Incan tombs sat in clumps of bushes like cobblestone bubbles. Vladimir, our guide, showed us one that had bones poking out of it.
At the top of the ridge, one could see for miles. The peaks rose higher than some clouds, and the valleys plunged deeper than you could see. All around, everything was green and alive. We were told that the people of the Andes consider all the elements of the landscape to be their families: the rivers, the trees, the mountains, the rocks. Up there you could see why.
The clouds were ever present and at all different heights. Some rained, some just hung low, menacing everyone. The distant peaks had snow on them, taunting me in particular. I love snow. Up there (yes, I’m still talking about the ridge; it will be over soon. Don’t worry) everything was in sight, and so big. Anything could happen. It was incredible. Of course, on the walk back to Colca, the low clouds broke and rained. Stupid low clouds.
Colca itself is small. Its buildings are mostly two stories and made out of mud bricks, with red tiles or corrugated metal roofs. Cats, chickens, and dogs are abundant. The people are warm and friendly.
The five days we stayed in Colca were harder for some than for others; however, everybody was exceptionally well-cared for by our hosts. For every malady, they provided local herbs and teas. They also cooked amazing food for us for every meal while we were there. They took us to jaw-droppingly beautiful places and did things with us that we couldn’t do anywhere else.
There was a balance. Everything was hard, and everything was uniquely rewarding. This beautiful taste of Peruvian culture was unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
From its random chickens to its wonderful food. From its sickness-inducing altitudes to its picturesque farmland. From its cold nights to its warm people, I know that none of us will ever forget Colca.
~Sophie, High School Student