June 25, 2018
My wonderful familia! You are already SO missed here in Peru! I cannot believe how lucky Jewlz and I were to start off the summer with a group of rockstars!
Last night in the Lima airport, lounging on a mountain of Patagonia duffel bags, while we waited for the Delta counter to open I was struck by how perfect of an ending this was to our amazing two weeks together. We began our trip in that very airport, arriving late at night, still strangers but engaging in shy small talk with each other with tired eyes after a long day of travel. This time, I watched you all animatedly chat while lying across each other’s legs, laughing and making plans with each other for the future despite the late hour, and I felt that Moondance magic. We laughed as Whit dove into the pile of duffels onto Graham, and smiled as Dallas generously shared her stash of chocolate Peruvian cookies with everyone (we all know how much she loves chocolate, which means she loves us even more). We listened to Kate eagerly share the rest of her plans for the summer, and got teary eyed when Dotsie randomly exclaimed, “oh no I’m going to cry, I already miss you all so much!” We group hugged Sally when she told us, “I don’t want my phone back, everyone I want to talk to is right here.” It all filled me with joy because in two short weeks our small group of 14 had grown into a family.
Our time at the airport was not the first time the group’s closeness and ease stood out. During lunch in Cusco at our favorite spot, Jack’s Cafe, we laughed with William as he shared funny stories about watching movies with his family, agreed with Sarah as she spoke of her unwavering devotion to the Harry Potter series, and then shared the special meaning they held for her. We made plenty of noise as we left lunch throwing out last minute gift ideas to each other and roaring in laughter at Marshall’s crazy ideas. Through it all I marveled at how comfortable you all had become with each other.
It has been an honor for Jewlz and I to get to see first hand your maturity and confidence grow during our time together. Catherine led our final Moonup the night before and asked our group in what ways they had grown during the trip. Draper sat up taller when he gave his answer and told our group that his confidence in himself and his ability to lead and make new friends had grown during his time in Peru with Moondance. Emma talked about her greater sense of awareness and about how she felt more comfortable befriending new people and those with points of view that were different from her own.
Jewlz and I are so proud of each and every one of you and all you accomplished during these two weeks. From braving class 5 rapids and mosquitoes on the Apurimac river to showing gentleness and curiosity during our community service in Ccorca, showcasing your endurance and adventurous spirits on the Salkantay trek, and sharing your wonder and exuberance with us and Peru while in Cusco and at Machu Picchu. We love y’all and know that you will keep sharing your love and compassion with others throughout the year. Each of you has left and impact on the others and we are all better for it. Keep exploring and adventuring!
“There is no such thing as a “self-made” man. We are made of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one kind word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts as well as our successes.” – George Matthew Adams
– Gaby and Jewlz 🙂
June 25, 2018
Gather round family, we’ve got a story to tell!
It’s been a while since we’ve checked in and WOW have we been moving. Since we last spoke to you all we’ve trekked all throughout the Salkantay Trail, a beautiful trail outside of Cusco through the Andean mountains. These last days of trekking have proven to be both physically challenging and emotionally stimulating which has pulled our group into the tight family that we have become.
Our first day of trekking was our longest day as we hiked ELEVEN miles. Not only did we cover a sizable distance, but we also climbed to and over almost 15,000 feet on this day. In the face of this daunting task loomed our group was calm, cool, and collected. Dotsie’s cheery spirit and hilarious trail stories got us started on the right foot. In addition to this, Emma emerged as a catalyst for our group as she charged to the front and for a portion of the time led us onward through the winding trail and towering mountains. Each of us depended on our trekking polls to stabilize us and give us some extra power with each step. Each of us, that is, except for Draper. Draper powered through the entire trek without trekking poles and emerged as the preeminent hiking leader for our American band. As we neared the highest point to which the trail would bring us we saw the entire group charge to the top with renewed vigor and energy. Upon reaching the top, Graham threw his hands up and started a victorious yell that was repeated by each of the group members. The day concluded with the group meandering on the trail down the mountain into a beautiful valley clothed with golden hour sunshine where warm food, great conversation, and a wonderful night sleep welcomed us.
The next day was sneakily just as difficult as the previous day. Through we did not cover as much distance, the entire trek was downhill. This posed the challenge of stress on one’s knees and hamstrings. However, our group was well prepared for the challenge. Catherine powered through the day without problem or complaint and she graced us with her signature smile throughout the day. Sally gracefully strode down the path almost as if she was floating through the plush Andean scenery. Marshall took advantage of the beautiful scenery in which he found himself by taking some incredible pictures that we hope he sends to everyone so we can remember the trip in the same light that he has captured it through his camera lens.
After two days of intense hiking we were more than ready for a rest day, and rest we did! We spent the next day restoring our energy in the warm waters of the Salkantay hot springs. Fortunately for us, were we able to both take the day to decompress as well as witness a cultural showcase. At the hot springs, the local people performed a traditional Incan water ceremony intended to bless the waters and those who would occupy them. Sarah and Kate seemed to take a keen interest in this ceremony and would often ask questions of Gaby and I to gain a better understanding of the process. After the water ceremony we proceeded to prune in the restorative waters. Sarah seemed to really enjoy the day, especially because of how tan she got!
After the rest day we journeyed on a short hike (thankfully this time on flat ground) to Machu Picchu town. After dinner we ran into none other than Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley! You never know who you might see while you’re living in the moment! In the morning we headed out to the crown jewel of the entire trip: Machu Picchu. Our first activity was to race what seemed to be 1000 stairs to catch a glimpse of the sunrise as it illuminated the valley in which Machu Picchu rests. Whit led our sprint and was the first to see the spectacle. After catching our breath and taking in the natural awe, we descended to start our Mach Picchu tour. With her sharp eyes, Dallas spotted llamas and urged the group to take pictures with them. I think it’s safe to say that we all know what her new profile picture will be! Our tour of Machu Picchu was 2 hours of enlightening information. Will marveled as the tour guide told us of how the city was sectioned off based on its agricultural district, district for the royal family, district for the lower class, and district for its warriors as well. He was even more impressed by how the Incan architects had in just 90 years created the city out of the very mountain on which it stands. The brilliance of Machu Picchu was not missed on our group.
As we are now back in Cusco it has begun to set in that these are our last few hours together in this place and with this family. The tears are beginning the flow, but the laughs are flowing even greater. We look forward to seeing you all back at home but hate that it means leaving our friends. I guess this is the bittersweet part of an amazing trip! See you all soon!
Jewlz and Gaby 🙂
June 19, 2018
A Nuestra Familia,
Hola friends and family! We are now seven days into our Machu Picchu Moondance experience and so much has happened since the last time that you heard from us. For the past few days we have been nestled in the small town of Ccorca, a rural town just outside of Cusco. Here we engaged with the local community and participated in a few different service projects.
On the first day of our service section we were informed of some exciting news: the next few days would be days jam packed with BIG events for the town of Ccorca. Saturday we would be present for Peru’s first World Cup appearance in 36 years! Sunday, the whole town would celebrate Father’s Day, and then Monday would be the annual celebration for the town of Totora (a sister city of Ccorca). With all of these events occurring while we were there we knew we were in for a treat!
On Saturday we traveled to the community center and immediately began sweeping the central patio. Though it was not a big patio it was mighty dusty. Sarah and Kate led the charge as they furiously swept every nook and cranny in which the dirt tried to hide. Once we completed the task we were given the opportunity to watch Peru take on Denmark in their World Cup opener. Before our very eyes we saw Draper turn into a huge fan of the game as he yelled and cheered at the small television on which we watched the spectacle. Though Peru lost, we had a blast watching with the people of Ccorca, an experience none of us will soon forget.
On Sunday we set out with one goal in mind: brighten the days of local fathers whose family were unable to be with them on Father’s Day. Early in the morning we wrapped presents for men who our guide, Marco, knew were without their family’s that day. Emma really stepped up and showed us her wrapping prowess as she folded, seamed, and sealed present after present. After each of the presents were wrapped we went into the community and one by one handed them to men who beamed from ear to ear. Will presented a present to one man and received a giant hug in return that made us all smile and feel warm and fuzzy inside.
That night, after Moonup, we meandered over to the soccer field connected to our hostel in hopes of seeing some stars. To our elation the night sky was crystal clear! Marshall proved himself to be our resident astrologist as he was able to point out many of the constellations that we saw. Sally was so full of energy that she rallied us together for a slew of night games that were both exhilarating and exhausting. I think that night of sleep was the best any of us had had thus far.
Monday was the annual celebration for the town of Totora. There were sheep contests, guinea pig contests, bull riding, and many musical selections! Though all of these were incredible, the highlight for us was playing a huge game of soccer with the local people. Our band of 12 Americans put on a show as Whit scored the first two goals of the game. We all threw our hands up in excitement as the ball crossed the threshold of the goal. This, however, was only the beginning. The Peruvian players were a force to be reckoned with. They stormed back to level the score at 2-2. We had within our ranks a secret weapon though whose name was Dotsie. Like lightening Dotsie slashed across the field, chasing down loose balls and protecting our goal. It was a sight to see and by the end of the match the Moondance crew emerged victorious.
Our final service activity was to shuck corn which the local community would later use to sell and eat. Catherine commented on how beautiful the setting was in which we got to do this as we were on the side of a hill looking down at a canyon and across to a mountain. Each person had a small tool to use to make the shucking easier. Graham might have been the most adept with the tool as he found the most efficient was to use it to get the most corn shucked in the least amount of time. By the end of the time spent shucking each person had shucked enough corn for us to fill up 5 35lb bags of corn. Dallas put her strength on display as she carried one of the bags about 50 yards all the way to the top of the hill!
Our community service section has been so much fun and we are really coming together as a group. We are looking forward to beginning our trekking section tomorrow! Can’t wait to tell you all all about it!
Gaby & Jewlz
June 18, 2018
Hellooo family and friends!We just finished the first part of our trip, white water rafting on the Apurimac river, and we can’t believe how quickly the time is flying! The kids are having a blast, evident in how they were animatedly singing along to the van karaoke as I started typing this out. Most of Tuesday and Wednesday were spent traveling to Cuzco and the river. We were impressed by how the kids navigated the plane and the van rides like seasoned world travelers. We had a plato sculpture contest on our van ride to the river and Dallas was crowned the champion after creating a hilarious plato creation that looked like Jewlz. When we arrived at the river Wednesday night we set up our tents and got to have Moonup under the most breathtaking night sky filled with stars and the Milky Way.
On Thursday under the guidance of our INCREDIBLE raft guides we began rafting on one of the highest rated rivers in the world! The Apurmiac River or “mouth of God” river is one of the main sources to the Amazon River. Our Leaders of the Day, Dotsie and Marshall, did a wonderful job of leading the group on our first day of rafting. They kept everyone laughing and motivated as we rafted through class III and IV rapids. Though Graham’s official birthday was on Tuesday, we were finally able to celebrate his birthday the way that turning 16 deserves on Thursday. We started off the morning with rafting birthday beads for everyone to wear on the rafts, and finished the day with dessert, party hats, campfire, and of course a colorful llama to close out the birthday festivities. That night Dotsie and Marshall led us in another beautiful Moonup, with the campfire as the backdrop. We are so thankful to Draper and Whit, because without their expertise our campfire would not have survived! The campfire also proved to be the perfect light for a rousing game of charades as everyone joined on to guess what animals and movies their friends were trying to describe. We ended the night by sleeping along the river bed.
Special shoutout to Sarah who woke up early on Friday and joined Gaby in morning yoga for the second morning in a row! We then set off and hit the big rapids, class IV & Vs. The kids were amazing and our Leaders of the Day, Sally and Whit, did an incredible job making sure we all stayed safe and had fun navigating the big rapids. This was one of the best parts of the trip so far because by the end of the day everyone, even the kids who were nervous about the class V rapids, said that they wished we could do it all again. William was at the front of one of the rafts all day and was amazing at leading the people on his raft through the big rapids! Catherine and Kate were absolutely fearless while were jumped off a big cliff into the gorgeous river below. Emma and Sarah were superstars helping paddle the heavy baggage raft and had the raft guides exclaiming how impressed they were with their strength, GIRL POWER!To close out the first part of our trip we all celebrated with ice cream after arriving back in Cusco. It’s also currently “the month of Cusco” here so we were able to see some local parades before dinner. The kids were so excited, especially when some of the dancers came up to them in their costumes and danced with them. For dinner we found a small local artisan pizza place with candlelight and live traditional Peruvian music. The atmosphere was warm and perfect for good conversation. Emma even tried Alpaca pizza!
We have had a great start to our trip, the views have been awe-inspiring and the friendships are even better! We are now leaving Cuzco’s 11,200ft elevation and headed to higher ground to start the community service section of our trip! More news will come soon!
-Gaby and Jewlz 🙂
June 13, 2018
Hola Machu Picchu Families!
We’ve heard from our leaders, and the group has arrived safely in Cusco. We cannot wait to hear about their adventures.