July 26, 2018
Hello Friends and Families,
It is with bittersweet tears that we write this final trip update. The conclusion of this trip has solidified our incredible journey and we could not feel any luckier to have led this amazing trip with such a wonderful group of all star students.
Our last day in Cuzco included shopping, sightseeing, and delicious food. We wandered the Peruvian open-air market, through seas of exotic clothing and colorful bags in search of last minute gifts to bring home for friends and family. Anna created a list of the items she wanted to find in the many shops and sorted through alpaca sweaters, silver jewelry, and beautiful ceramics for her treasures. In the end she found all the things on her list, most importantly some fun stickers advertising her Peruvian adventures to add to her water bottles and other belongings back home. Megan also got into the shopping spirit, animatedly haggling with street artist for paintings. She was able to find several paintings to add to her collection back home, one of which was a creative line up of colorful alpacas and llamas.
As we wrapped up our shopping fun with full bags and empty stomachs, we encountered two women with a baby llama in the busy town square. Gabby and Zoe were delighted at our good fortune because they both had held out hope over the last two weeks that they would get the chance to hold these cute animals. Gabby excitedly asked the women if she could take photos with the small black llama. When the women agreed, Gabby posed with a huge smile on her face and captured a beautiful moment. Zoe quickly followed sporting a trendy alpaca sweater and a radiant smile. These two could not contain their joy for the rest of the day, as they finally fulfilled their last wish on this trip.
Following our sidewalk photoshoot, our group followed our growling stomachs to a trendy burger joint with ornate decorations and exciting music. Our group settled in and immediately placed our order while singing along to most of the songs that came on the speakers. Ryan won the award for best meal with an alpaca burger, which he described as the greatest meal that he ever had. After finishing, Ryan slipped on his new multicolored full-face mask and had the entire group howling with laughter.
Our group then made our final walk back through Cusco’s town square, taking final pictures excitedly pointing out last minute things we wanted to remember. When we arrived back at our hotel each person gathered their belongings and said one final goodbye to the town we had come to love so dearly. In order to get to the airport, we piled into the same van that had carried us through every phase our trip and listened to music via our portable speaker that had followed us through rafting and trekking. We arrived at the airport in Cusco and began exchanging our favorite stories with one another as we waited at our gate. Powell entertained our group by reminding us of how much we had grown as a family throughout our trip. He recounted our epic adventures on the Salkantay trail and how incredible it was that our group had been to one of the Seven Wonders of the World just yesterday. We could not believe how quickly the time had gone and that we were already on our first leg of the trip home.
At the airport, our group ran like a well oiled machine as we navigated our travel plans with ease. Destin and McLean led the charge pushing mountains of matching Patagonia duffel bags through seas of travelers. Their willingness to help in all situations was complimented by a positive attitude, as it was rare to ever hear a complaint come from their mouths. After selecting a headquarters in the food court, we enjoyed some well anticipated comfort food as we spent our last hours together laughing and recalling our shared memories. Kate kindly accepted requests to braid every single girl’s hair one last time. She patiently sat down and worked her styling magic while telling funny stories for all of us and anyone lucky enough to be seated near us in the food court. Her hilarious stories are one of our favorite memories of this trip. Her big personality really brought our family together.
Eventually it was time to make our way through security so that we could board our flight back to Atlanta. Campbell and Liza, our truly incredible final LODs, gathered our family together on the floor of our gate so that we could enjoy one final Moonup in the Lima airport. Our moonup included meaningful conversation, comments of gratitude, and many joyful tears. Campbell and Liza helped us reminisce on our incredible trip and encouraged an atmosphere of appreciation. Campbell’s maturity set a great tone throughout this final travel day that reflected his thoughtful contributions throughout the trip. He served as a rock for our group to constantly lean on in both times of joy and challenge. Liza’s positivity remained steadfast throughout every day of our time spent in Peru. It was rare to find her without a contagious smile. We went around in our seated circle and shared what lessons we would bring back home with us after our summer with Moondance. Emmy, who has always made sure to go out of her way to brighten other people’s days, shared that she would live with more gratitude and make sure to appreciate every single moment of the day no matter how small. Eads who had shown incredible maturity and leadership on this trip talked about keeping the Moondance spirit of unplugging and being intentional in her interactions with others at the forefront of her mind when she returned home. She laughingly told the group she did not even want her phone and wished we could keep it forever.
We are so grateful to have had each and every one of you on our trip, we could not imagine a better group of young people. Thank you for all that you shared with us. We LOVE y’all and are so proud of the growth and kindness that each of your showed throughout our two weeks together. We really are a family, each of your proved that every single day in the way you interacted with and cared for each other. We miss you already and are here for you always!!
Stewart and Gaby
July 24, 2018
Here are some shoutouts from the gang!!
I hope you guys are doing well! Peru has been so fun and I cannot wait to tell y’all about it! I have learned so much about this country and done some pretty cool things! See y’all tomorrow!
P.s. can we get taqueria when I get back? 🙂
I have had so much fun in Peru! Can’t wait to see y’all! Hopefully you haven’t forgotten that I need to be picked up from the airport! Can we have burgers for dinner on Wednesday night? Love you guys!
I have had the best time here in Peru! Thank you so much for sending me! But, I can’t wait to see you. I have missed you so much so please don’t forget to pick me up at the airport! I can’t wait to tell you all about my trip over dinner at calypso (hehe).
All my love,
(P. S. Can we go see mama Mia 2?)
Hi mom and dad
Miss you lots, can’t wait to see you. I am in need of a warm bubble bath and a nap, and of course a hug from you guys! Lots of love, Gabrielle
¡Hola! The past two weeks have been amazing! So excited for a warm shower and lots of Chick-fil-A :)) Luke better prepare for the longest hug ever from his beautiful big sister that he has missed oh so much! I am also looking forward to lots of kisses from Momo! Love y’all more than you know, Liza
Hey Mom and Dad,
The past couple weeks have been amazing, and I’m looking forward to telling you guys all about it. Anyway, I’ve been craving a burrito, and I really want one. Does Urbano sound good to you guys? Let me know when I see you guys tonight! Love you guys, ~Powell
Miss y’all so much and I’ll see everyone soon! Peru was so cool and I’m excited to tell you guys about it. Also, I’ve really been craving taco night so we should have that soon.
Hi, I’m doing great. I’ll see you guys soon. I have had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to hang out with everyone!
LOve ya! And I’m having fun. I can’t wait for a bath and chickfila and a nap. – Kate
I’m so excited to see y’all and be home! Miss you guys!! Really excited to be warm again, it’s cold here.Can’t wait to tell you all about Machu Picchu !! So much fun. Tell everybody hi.
Lots of love.
Hey family, I can wait to be home and see all of y’all but specifically Costa, we are both want a bubble bath. I miss all of y’all and can’t wait to share all of my stories from Peru.
Hey everyone, I love and miss you all and can’t wait to be home and tell you all about the awesome stories from this trip. It has changed my life yet again and am so grateful to have been able to go on another Moondance. I’ll see you soon!
Hey Mom and Dad, can’t wait to tell you about the trip it has been really fun and eventful. Also it’s winter here so it’s not very warm here. See you guys soon.
July 24, 2018
Hello family and friends!
We have an unbelievable tale for you. We are so incredibly proud of this amazing group and of the perseverance and commitment they have shown to each other during this last phase of our trip! Each and every one of these students is an absolute rockstar.
One the first day of our trek we rose before the sun and gathered our belongings, groggy but jazzed for the big day ahead of us. We settled comfortably in our van and made our way through the winding canyon roads, each bend bringing us higher up the Andes and closer to gleaming snow caps and the promise of adventure. After suiting up, our crew hit the trail with hearts full of determination.
Throughout the day, our two fearless LOD’s, Powell and Zoe, kept our group on task and motivated as we faced the Salkantay Pass head on. During this world famous hike, we encountered all sorts of elements, including a July snow storm that had us singing our favorite Christmas carols on the trail. During our water breaks, Megan crouched for cover as she slung snowballs at unsuspecting members of our group, who then retaliated with a flurry of fluffy snow. This 11 mile trek was not for the faint of heart and gave our group a healthy challenge with an elevation gain that topped off at 15,500 feet; however, our Moondancers kept their eyes on the prize and pushed on as a group. McLain kept our crew entertained with some elaborate anti-snow-and-wind-dances underneath his fresh new poncho. His quirky arm flails had our crew weak at the knees with laughter, but we all benefited from the happy results.
Upon reaching the snowy peak of the ridge line, our crew snapped a few selfies bundled in hats and gloves and even performed the dance Kate choreographed for us earlier in the week. Kate remained high in energy throughout the day, and could usually be found at the front of the group with happy words of encouragement. We continued to brave the snow as a family during the descent, staying entertained with joyful skips down the far side of the mountain and silly stories. When we arrived at camp we gathered around a long table and enjoyed a warm meal together and some much deserved hot chocolate before snuggling into our tents.
Since we arrived at our campsite after dark we weren’t able to catch our first look at the dreamlike scenery surrounding us until morning. And what a way to wake up, truly awe inspiring! We awoke to a clear blue sky and towering mountains on all sides with an infinite number of rocky ridges and peaks covered in snow. The sight was humbling and brought smiles to our faces as we convened and our LODs, Anna and McLean, went over our day over breakfast. Eads was especially animated this morning and took in the incredible views with excitement and words of gratitude. She was a huge source of encouragement to her peers as we hiked 7 miles downhill; she frequently stopped to take silly pictures of her friends on her camera and told entertaining stories about her life back home.
When we arrived at camp that evening we celebrated our success at completing the most strenuous section of the Salkantay trail. Our group was thankful to camp the next two nights in warmer weather, but we couldn’t help but miss the beautiful views that the higher altitude had gifted us with. The next morning we slept later than usual in preparation for a day of RELAXATION. Our LODs, Destin and Kate, explained our agenda that included visiting the Colcalmayo natural hot springs and exploring the small town within which our campsite was nestled. The kids were very excited, and Gabby was a ball of energy as we rode our van to the hot springs. She was one of the first people in the water when we arrived and bounced from hot pool to hot pool deciding which she liked best. Her contagious spirit drew us all to one pool where we spent the majority of the day lounging and sharing stories with each other.
The next morning we packed up camp for the last time and embarked on our final day of hiking led by our LODs Zoe and Powell. Our 6 mile hike followed the train tracks along the outside of Machu Picchu and led us into Aguas Calientes or “Machu Picchu town.” Our hike passed by quickly as we danced and sang along to songs crooning from the speaker we carried. At one point Liza and Gabby even led us in an impromptu dance to the Cupid Shuffle. We entered the town in high spirits and excited to be so close to our trips namesake, Machu Picchu.
The next morning our LODs, Ryan and Emmy, opened our day with a quote that had us reflect on how fortunate we were to be able to see one of the new seven wonders of the world and to experience the other adventures we had during our Moondance trip. Our group took a quick bus ride and finally found ourselves at the moment our entire trip had been leading up to. Anna excitedly filmed our entrance into the park, wanting to capture our first reactions to seeing the famous archeological site. She took photos with everyone in our group and made sure that each of us left with photographic evidence of our adventure. Eads proved once again to be the photographer in our group capturing beautiful shots of her peers on her camera from different angles. Her best photo was of Destin. He took an EPIC photo where he paired his galaxy ninja suit with a Moondance shirt and posed while in a full split in front of Machu Picchu. After our photo shoot, our group was led on a tour of the park by an incredible guide named Jose. This was Ryan’s favorite part of the day, and he did an awesome job as LOD, keeping our group engaged with interesting facts and great questions that our Jose enjoyed answering. At the end of our tour we got a surprise when we stumbled upon two fully grown llamas lounging in the shade. Liza jumped up and down with joy at finally being able to pet and take a photo with Peru’s most famous animal. She posed with a beaming smile as she gently petted the resting llamas.
We ended our fun filled day with a train ride back to Cusco. Zoe was particularly mesmerized by the smooth ride as it was her first time on a train. Campbell told jokes on the train that had us all doubled over laughing. His bright and positive attitude has been a highlight every single day of our trip. His caring demeanor and Liza’s positive outlook on the world are part of the reason Emmy and Ryan chose them as our final LODs of the trip. Emmy closed our adventure filled day by challenging us to use our imaginations. She asked our group what they would be when they grow up if they could be absolutely anything in the world. The answers ranged from ninja (Kate) to the CEO of Vogue (Anna) to Astronaut (Campbell). Emmy said she would have her own sitcom show like Mindy Kaling, and her answer had us immediately shouting our approval because we had already talked about how hilarious Emmy is.
So much has happened during our two weeks together and we are SO thankful for each and every one of your children. They are truly incredible and have made this trip one for the ages!!! We have had some amazing adventures together and cannot believe how quickly the time has gone!
With so much love,
Gaby and Stew
July 19, 2018
We are reaching out with another update after having an incredible time on the service portion of our trip in the small mountain village of Ccorca. Ccorca lies within the district of Cusco, only an hour up the mountain from the more populous city. Although Ccorca, with around 2,000 inhabitants, is much smaller than Cusco, it is the original home of the people that went on to settle in the Incan capital of the world. The group has grown closer with the passing of each day and it is remarkable to watch as everyone continues to support each other while they dive deeper into the trip. Not a minute goes by without a well timed joke followed by hearty laughter from our entire group. We have seen some of the most amazing views throughout or time in Peru that range from herds of alpacas to the snow capped Andes mountain ranges. We are still getting used to the unending beauty that surrounds us on each adventure.
We traveled to Ccorca by bus and were fortunate enough to pull off on the side of the road for a group nature appreciation moment! While there, Liza and Megan led the crew in a coordinated dance session on the side of the road surrounded by mountain ridges and snowy peaks. This dance routine has since turned into a daily occurrence. We can’t stop dancing!!!!!
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a beautiful lodge. We enjoyed this private space as a group alongside our fantastic chefs, Eber and Edgar! On day one, we hiked down to the town square of Ccorca which was decorated with vibrant colors and intriguing architecture. After our exploration of the city, we convened at a local community center that was originally constructed by a Moondance group six years prior! We were proud to see such a wonderful project still standing and so well used. After participating in a fun filled group game that opened our eyes to the importance of service, our crew got to work in reorganizing the community center and repairing the walls to which we would eventually add a new layer of paint. Our painting session was filled with laughter, music, and of course more dancing!
Campbell and Destin dominated the paint job like seasoned vets. They scaled wall to wall in an artistic frenzy. Their only breaks included singing the lyrics of their favorite songs from our Moondance Spotify playlist. The rest of the crew worked diligently to remodel every inch of the community center, which looks brand new thanks to the many helping hands.
Powell and Zoe led our powerful Moonup that night that focused on how we can appreciate our experiences here and how to take that home in an effort to keep making a positive impact on the world around us. As an indication of how much of a family we have become at this point, we concluded our day with a massive group hug followed by some well deserved rest!
The following day, we slept in and woke up to a fantastic spread of food that we devoured while engaging in animated and engaging group conversation that set a wonderful tone for the day! After breakfast, Gabby and Destin, our LOD’s, provided us with an existential Bob Ross quote that further invigorated our group’s energy for the day! Next, we suited up for the day and walked to town to participate in a community festival. The town square was filled with locals who were there to celebrate Peru’s upcoming Independence Day and receive health education resources. This festival included a free health clinic, donation stations, a marching band, inflatable slides, live performances, and many smiling faces. It was wonderful to be a part of such an inclusive and exciting atmosphere.
Next, we returned to work more on the community center that was really coming along! We were joined by two curious sheep that Anna welcomed in as a part of our group after naming them Don Pablo and Huevo. Our family is ever growing!!!!!! After a couple of hours of hard work (and some group games), we returned to our abode to snack on a tasty meal that would energize us for an upcoming soccer game!! The town of Ccorca does not mess around when it comes to soccer – their stadium is ALL TIME and is located within a stone’s toss of our dinner table.
We decided to play a two person team version of the World Cup. Our teams ranged from Fiji and Panama to Trollville and Troy. It was so fun! We carried that playful energy into dinner where we cozied up into the small kitchen of the lodge beside the cooks, who diligently prepared our meal. During dinner we kept each other laughing with a huge game of fishbowl that rivaled the nights previous game of charades. Emmy proved to be a secret weapon for her team. She was able to describe, mime, and provide hilarious sounds for her team that conveyed the words she pulled out of a plastic bag with incredible success. Her unparalleled skills ensured a victory for her team.
The next morning we awoke energized and ready for our last day of service. Our LODs Campbell and Eads started our morning off with an inspiring quote that spurred everyone into action for our last morning in Ccorca. Their leadership truly motivates their peers and we were were able to finish painting the community center before lunch.
We took the hour van ride back to Cusco after lunch and jammed out to an eclectic variety of tunes, songs from the Hamilton soundtrack were accompanied by Lynrd Skynrd and Justin Beiber. After quickly showering in our hotel in Cusco, we all packed together in our warm clothes to explore the beautiful city. Our first stop was naturally ice cream. McLean was one of the first to receive his dessert at the shop and his choice of chocolate, bananas, chocolate chips, and whip cream all mixed together had everyone bouncing on their toes in anticipation. He enthusiastically told the group it was one of the best ice creams he had ever tasted and willingly shared with his friends as they waited for their own. Once we were satisfied with our dessert we all got the streets for our shopping! Kate led the pack trying on colorful parachute pants and alpaca hats while doing funny dance moods that had us all laughing. She and Ryan showed off their Spanish and haggling skills in the market as they navigated their way through purchases such as key chains, alpaca blankets, “moon pants”, and warm hats.
To finish off an incredible day our group headed to dinner at a place called Jack’s Cafe with all day breakfast, milkshakes, and huge cheeseburgers. Zoe and Emmy impressed us all when they made quick work of their strawberry and banana French toast. Campbell liked his bacon and egg sandwich so much that he’d already finished it before Liza had gotten half way through her chocolate shake. Our amazing food was paired with incredible dinner conversation that ranged from sweet moments that had everyone saying “I love you” to bellyaching laughing moments. Anna’s story about a recent flight she took had us all feeling both of those emotions simultaneously!
We are having an amazing time and already feel like a close knit family! We are so thankful for each and every person on this trip and are SO EXCITED to begin the next phase of our trip. Here we come Salkantay train and Machu Picchu!!!
Stewart and Gaby
Peru is beautiful! I love and miss y’all so much! & happy early birthday Carter!
Hi Mom, Dad, MP, Finlay, Sawyer, T and J, and all my worried relatives. I’m having an awesome time in Peru and can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Peru is amazing and I am having the best time! Headed to MPU and can’t wait to tell you about it! Give my love to my sisters and Libby!
All my love – Megan
Hey mom and dad!
Peru is amazing and we definitely have to come back as a family vacation one day. Can’t wait to come home and tell y’all all about it. – Destin
Missing y’all lots but peru has been amazing!! I hope BG was fun mom! Can’t wait to come home and tell y’all all about my trip! See you guys soon!!
Peru is so pretty!! I really liked the community service part. Its cold here though, but I’m so good!!hope nyc was great w/ jack!! Tell everybody I say hi!! Can’t wait to see y’all so soon:)
Hey mom and dad!
Miss you sooo much, don’t forget to give Stella an extra belly scratch for me. I love you! Can’t wait to see you
Hey Mom, Dad, Jimmy, and Dani! I miss you guys! I’m having so much fun! Happy Birthday Dani! Love y’all! -Emmy
Hey Mom and Dad. So far this trip has been really fun and I hope Campbell and Frances are having fun too. I’ll have some stories when I come home. -Love, McLean
Hi it’s your son, I’m doing well. Ily. -Ryan
I’m good. Love ya Amie & bae! -Kate
Hey guys. All’s great down here! Hope everything is good at home. Love you. ~ Powell
Hi fam!! Perú is treating us so well! Can’t wait for some thick South Carolina air! Love y’all to the moon and back. Love, Liza
July 16, 2018
Hello friends and families from the wonderful Cuzco, Peru! We are reporting live after completing an unbelievable two day rafting excursion! What an amazing adventure it has been so far with an incredible group of students that are all growing closer as a family with the passing of each day. We have yet to experience a dull moment and our group remains in high spirits with belly shaking laughter in every context we have found ourselves in.
We began our journey with flights into Lima with a warm and exciting welcome from Gaby as we gathered our bags and exchanged some currency from US dollars to the local Soles. Powell’s flight landed shortly after the majority of our group and he hit the ground running with a happy smile on his face and a warm bear hug for every one of us. He and Ryan brought with them an endless supply of jokes that has yet to diminish. Ryan also remains diligent in keeping our group both hydrated and fully stocked on mint flavored Mentos. There shall be no bad breath on this Moondance trip!
Our first full day of our trip included a transfer to Cuzco where we got our first taste of Peruvian cuisine with various plates of chicken and rice dishes accompanied by tasty soups with all sorts of elaborate spices mixed in. Our group continues to pride ourselves as undisputed members of the clean plate club. That evening, we followed a star lit mountain pass that brought us to our first campsite where we were greeted by some amazing rafting guides: Frank, Segundo, and Willie, who mapped out our next two days of exploration with insight and an engaging sense of humor.
The next morning brought us a new day with perfect conditions for some stellar rapid runs. Liza and McLean pumped our group up with some words of encouragement and an encouraging attitude that proved to be contagious for the rest of us. They served as our first LOD’s (Leaders of the Day) and set a great tone for our group with an inclusive nature that facilitated a cohesive group dynamic from the get go.
With the help of our stellar rafting guides, we mastered the winding rapids of the Apurimac river. We learned this was one of the top five rivers to raft in the entire world! Our 38 mile float guided us through crystal clear waters bordered by sheer cliffs that rose up and pierced the clear blue skies way above us. We felt as if we were in a scene of Jurassic Park if you were to replace man-eating beasts with smooth rapids and welcoming riverside campsites.
Our first day on the water included class 2, 3, and 4 rapids as well as some friendly inter-raft competition that left us all soaked with ice cold river water and sore from laughter. The main competition existed between raft #1, “the crocks”, and raft #2, “the crocodile hunters”. Campbell sparked this aquatic battle royal with some innocent splashes and skillful paddling while Destin snagged the victory for the crocs with an all out ambush that ended with a group polar plunge during a break in the rapids.
That evening, we enjoyed a delicious spaghetti dinner around a campfire that invited deep and fun conversations throughout the night. Kate showed off her climbing skills as she scaled a smooth bolder and discovered a beautiful view of the surrounding canyons. She invited the rest of the group to join as we adorned our beautiful Moondance flag during the best photo shoot of 2018 ~stay tuned for some unbeatable pics~. That evening, Eads turned the group’s focus to the spectacular star show above us. She showed the group how to find satellites, planets, constellations, and SHOOTING STARS with wonder. We laid on our backs in observance of an exposed Milky Way that left us awestruck and feeling a little smaller than we had before.
The next morning began with a brief from our two top notch LOD’s, Megan and Ryan. They exhibited a strong sense of fun loving maturity that helped guide our group through another wonderful day of rafting. They taught lessons on hydrating and maintaining an unwavering sense of positivity throughout all situations. This day was filled with a packed schedule that included cliff jumping, raft games, self guided rapids, and a brief respite from the action in the warm sun that dried the cold river water off of our wet suits. Anna took this time to lead a group in a relaxation session that included yoga and some rock hopping as well as sun bathing on the banks of the Apurimac. Gabby and Emmy saw this as an opportunity to entertain the group with puzzling riddles, which left us scratching our heads while also discovering how much we enjoyed each other’s company.
We finished our day with a few more exciting rapids that left the group shaking with excitement. We left the river that we called home for the past two days and returned to Cuzco with a snow capped mountain range peeking up over the dashboard of our bus with an ominous glow from the orange sunset that trailed us in the distance. Upon our return, we discovered a nearby pizza restaurant that filled our ravenous appetite while entertaining our group with a warm atmosphere. Ryan and Emmy showed off their daring sides and even ate Alpaca pizza! Zoe led our group in a singalong to the timeless classic, Africa by Toto, which quickly turned into a restaurant wide dance that the owner got a memorable video of. Clearly, this group of rambunctious Moondancers get what it takes to thrive on a trip like this and we can’t wait to check back in about our community service section in just a few short days.
Until then, best wishes!
Stew and Gaby
July 13, 2018
Hi Machu Picchu Families,
All students have safely arrived in Cusco. We can’t wait to hear more from them!