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Machu Picchu 1 • June 11-June 24, 2019

Fond Farewell!

June 24, 2019

Families, friends, and loved ones!

Sadly, our adventure in Peru has come to an end and this is our final trip update. We wanted to thank you all for sharing your children with us throughout our incredible journey over the past two weeks. This group quickly became a tight knit family- we have shared laughs and tears, challenged ourselves during the Salkantay trek, and seen some of the most amazing views that Peru has to offer. Our hard work was rewarded by our final hoorah- reaching the breath-taking views of Machu Picchu while surrounding ourselves by the Andes Mountains. Each student brought something unique and crucial to our Moondance family, to create such a strong group dynamic.

Chip provided constant laughter and endless positive energy, especially along the Salkantay trek. Ella served as the group motivator and always gave a helping hand when someone needed it. Ford faced each challenge with ease and was always up for any adventure or opportunity that came his way! Madeline was a positive light for the group, and a friend to all. Charlie’s wisdom and experience was inspiring, as he is beyond his years. Bryson’s big heart was apparent throughout our journey, he was constantly looking out for others and providing intentional encouragement! Emily always had a smile from ear to ear with each new day. Scott taught us all to not take ourselves too seriously and never failed to entertain us. Liz’s optimistic and genuine character made her a strong leader who her peers looked up to for guidance and support. Elle demonstrated a phenomenal work ethic as evident specifically during our service portion in the village of Ccorca. Anna loved to break out into song and dance at any given moment, which created a constant upbeat environment.

Every one of the studFonents was a joy to be around and we both learned a lot from this group, they are bright, adventurous, and caring kids who have a heart for others. During our time rafting the Apurimac River, working with the Ccorca village, trekking the infamous Salkantay trek, and finally reaching the awe inspiring Machu Picchu, we have shared many impactful experiences with each other. We wanted to thank you again for giving us the opportunity to grow alongside your kids, they are all very special and impressive individuals. It had made us so happy hearing about their plans to have a reunion sometime this year, this group has truly become a family! We know that you all are very excited to hear more stories about our adventures from your children! We love them all very much and are thankful for our experiences to have grown closer to them.

Hasta Luego,

Brooks and Jed

Hola from Machu Picchu!

June 23, 2019

With an alpine ascent of 4:30 am to get to the trailhead of the infamous Salkantay Trail, we were pumped to begin the trekking portion of our journey! The Salkantay mountain, for which the trail is named, is one of two major sites of importance for the Incan civilization as an Apu, or god. With our early start, we passed a beautiful variety of terrains from the lush green to the rocky grey of the Salkantay Pass. Ella continuously encouraged and supported everyone in the group as we ascended 4,000 feet over the course of our first day. Elle was our fearless leader, as she led the pack to the Salkantay Pass. As the day went on and we trekked uphill, Bryson performed some of his best Michael Jackson moves, including but not limited to the opening steps to Billie Jean and the almost vertical sway of Smooth Criminal (although the incline of the mountain may have helped with that one). Sitting at the 15,000 feet of the pass, we were in awe of the grandiose peak of which we sat in its shadow. Madeline was especially taken away by the glistening, snow covered Salkantay Mountain that towered above us- she exclaimed that she had never seen something quite like it before. Descending once again, we hiked through fields of gargantuan boulders and grasses of deep green. During our trek we shared riddles and stories with one another, and Chip proved to be the master riddle solver as he never failed to solve every riddle that he faced and always added laughter to the hike. Surrounded by clouds and a dreamlike mist, we reached our campsite ready for a warm dinner of rosemary chicken, fresh veggies, and warm chocolate pudding. A dinner like that combined with the fluffy goose down of a 20 degree sleeping bag, we slept the well-deserved sleep of mountaineers.


The next morning, well rested and our bellies pleased with a breakfast of omelets, we continued our trek with a half day of hiking, reaching the Andean lowlands of green jungle and warm evenings. After a celebratory lunch, we loaded up into vans to get to our campsite in the small town of Santa Teresa. A highlight of the day certainly included a chorus of the Ghostbusters theme song (1980s music is huge here in Peru), belted out by Charlie, Ford, and our Peruvian driver while we crossed a jungle stream hubcap deep and surrounded by papaya and banana trees.


We started our second day in Santa Teresa with a tour of a jungle farm just above from where we had camped the night before. Walking ankle deep in fallen omegas (avocados) and potassium (bananas), we sampled fresh organic oranges and collected coffee beans from the tree. Emily loved tasting the sweet limes and refreshing oranges that grew from the trees above us! Following our scenic farm tour, we walked through the town of Santa Teresa ready to make our journey to the hot springs of Colcalmayo! Scott was especially looking forward to this and thoroughly enjoyed warming up in the hot springs, while being surrounded by towering mountains. After soaking our bodies in the thermal springs, we made our way back to our campsite in Santa Teresa, where Liz led us in several card games that she taught us how to play. Anna began belting out a Spice Girls song and the other girls quickly followed suit, as it turned into a dance party at our campsite! That night we enjoyed warm chicken noodle soup, fried quinoa, chicken, and crispy potatoes before we embarked on another day of trekking! We had an especially meaningful Moonup that night- the LODs asked everyone what their greatest accomplishment was and we all loved hearing what everyone had to share!


We woke up the next morning to sunshine and warmer weather, which was the perfect combination to begin our last day of trekking. After packing up our tents and gear, we made our way to Hidroeléctrica, where we would embark on our final stretch of trekking along the railroad to Aguas Calientes. The group continues to get closer each day and it has been a pleasure to get to know each and every student, especially along the Salkantay trail. We played trail games and shared lots of meaningful conversations on our way to the next town. We stopped for a surprise ice cream treat on the side of the trail and everyone had smiles from ear to ear. After some more time on the trail, we arrived to our final destination before Machu Picchu- the small town of Aguas Calientes! The town was surrounded by beautiful mountains and divided by a river. The group LOVED shopping around the local markets that scattered the streets- they found bags, handmade sweaters, blankets, jewelry, and all the girls bought matching colorful pants to wear tomorrow for Machu Picchu!


Today was the day, the day to top off such an amazing and action-packed trip; the day we went to Machu Picchu! With another early wake up in order to beat the crowds, we all hopped to it and found ourselves with smiles, bright eyes, and some butterflies. We turned the corner after a quick ride up the trail and found ourselves overlooking the ancient citadel surrounded by a sea of green and blue mountains! Machu Picchu, Incan ruins shrouded in mystery, were brought to the world’s attention in 1911 by the Yale professor Hiram Bingham (the inspiration for Indian Jones) and has become one of the world’s most famous and recognizable locations. What is undisputed though is the sense of awe and beauty felt when looking out over the monument and the fun we had walking through the streets and alleys of the ruins. After an informative tour around the ruins, we sat together to soak in the surrounding breath-taking beauty of the Andes Mountains and enjoy good company before we part ways tomorrow.


We are making the most of our last days together and feel very thankful for the amazing group that has become a tight knit family over the past two weeks!



Jed and Brooks

All Smiles at Service!

June 18, 2019

Hola Familias!


We have just arrived back in Cusco after completing a meaningful service project in the nearby mountain village of Ccorca! The town is part of the district of Cusco, although it is much smaller with a population of about 2,000 people, and it is almost 1,000 feet higher in elevation. As we drove through the mountainous roads, we were continuously amazed by the beautiful landscape of the Peruvian countryside.

We began our time in Ccorca with an early start from Cusco and by mid-morning, we were moving our bags into the beautiful Patawasi Lodge, a white stucco house we had to ourselves for the weekend. We walked down into the village to the local elementary school, located on the quaint square, and assisted the students in clearing overgrown patches of grass so that the school could grow fruits and veggies in their own garden, thus making them more sustainable and self-sufficient. After a delicious lunch, we played an exciting soccer game with the local students, and Elle proved to be our official translator, as she loved utilizing her Spanish to communicate with the locals. As Charlie led a game of ultimate frisbee while playing soccer simultaneously, grins and uncontrollable laughter became the common language between us and the elementary students from the village.

We woke up the next morning ready for our second day of service, the day started off with a delicious home cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, papaya, muffins, and a refreshing fruit smoothie! We gathered together for a morning huddle to set the tone for the day. As we made our hike down to the community center, we soaked in the breathing taking mountain views. We began our day working at a local Strawberry farm to help clear dead leaves to make space for the growing Strawberries- we even got to taste some as we were working. They were delicious! We enjoyed seeing this local business in the town of Ccorca! Once we were at the town’s elementary school, we were eagerly greeted by the children who were helping us on our service projects the previous day. The local children were especially fond of Bryson, they told him he looked like a Reggae-ton singer that they loved, and were excited to show him how to play a traditional game of marbles! We divided into different work crews to complete several different projects within the elementary school- we worked to clear trees and weeds to make space for their garden, shave Eucalyptus trees that would serve as fence posts, clean up the schools garden, and paint bottles that would be a part of the garden fence. Chip and Ford proved to be experts at the tools, using the axes and saws to chop down trees- they were very hard workers and enjoyed seeing the progress we made as a group! After Anna finished the work on her project with the garden, she enjoyed taking on the role as the group photographer- she took excellent action photos of everyone working diligently to complete their projects.

The group worked tirelessly on their assigned projects, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the local school children! It was a joy to witness our group and the local children light up with beaming smiles as they played together, overcoming the language barrier. Emily and Elle loved learning new Spanish vocabulary from the young children, as they also were able to teach them several English words. Once we returned to our private Patawasi lodge, Madeline taught the group how to pay Egyptian Rap Slap and Scott led us in an intense game of Jenga with the village children- he was the Jenga expert and kept us laughing throughout the game. That afternoon we were fortunate to learn more about the Incan culture through participating in a local ceremony by thanking the Mother Earth, or as the Incas call it Pachamama. A local Andean priest led us to a sacred outdoor area where we gathered around him in a circle. He intentionally placed different crops and other items that they receive from the Mother Earth on a sheet of paper, some of the items included corn, coca leaves, sugar, quinoa, lentils, and beans. After wrapping all of these items into the paper, they burned the items as a symbol of thanks to Pachamama. That night, we enjoyed the celebrated Peruvian Chinese dish, consisting of beef, vegetables, and rice. Ella is always such an adventurous eater and raves about each meal we share together! After a long and fulfilling day, we ended the night with an incredible Moonup! It has been such a pleasure to see this group of students continue to grow close and support one another as the days fly by.

The following day marked our last day of service in Ccorca, where we continued to work on our projects at the local elementary school. After our work was done, we were able to see the mayor of Ccorca visit the school to give donations to the school, the student body president and several other students gave speeches at this presentation. When it was our time to say goodbyes, Liz gave a friendship bracelet she made to one of the local kids, who did not want to let go of Liz’s hand. The goodbyes were sad and heartfelt, as our group had made meaningful connections with the local children. Soon after we finished the community service section, we packed up our bags and headed back to Cusco. Once we arrived in Cusco, we surprised the students with a local ice cream stop! They were very excited and said it was some of the best ice cream they had ever had! We spent the afternoon shopping around local stores and preparing for our next adventure on the Salkantay trek. We filled our bellies with  delicious local food, our adventurous eaters tried Alpaca for dinner!

We all cannot wait to begin our five day trek to Machu Picchu! Stay tuned for our next update!


Brooks and Jed



Hey mom and dad!!! I am having an amazing time in Peru!! I love and miss you both so much and I can’t wait to tell you about the trip (like trying alpaca!). Love, Emily <3


hey guys!! Peru is so amazing and so beautiful, I’m having a great time 🙂 Hope you don’t miss me too much, happy late Father’s Day Dad!! Love and miss you guys. Elle


Hey mom and dad! I’m having such a fun time in Peru. I’ve met amazing people and have had amazing experiences. Happy Father’s Day dad. Can’t wait to see you both. Chip


Hey mom and dad I just wanted to let you know that I am having a great time and will see you soon love you tell Courtney I said hi -ford

Hello mom and dad! We are having a great time in Peru. Thank you so much for sending me, I won’t have done this without your support. Love you two so much see you soon!



Hey mom and dad,

Happy belated Father’s Day. I’m having a good time and I’ll see you soon.

From Scott


Hey mom and dad,

I’m having a blast and have been trying so many new things! I’ll see you in a few days. I love y’all!!!

Love, Madeline


Hello to all (including Lavar and Honey!). I’m having so much fun with the group and Cuzco is absolutely adorable. The food is living up to my expectations to!!

Love, Ella


Hey mom and dad, I’m having a great time here in Peru and can’t wait to see you guys in a few. Also, happy belated Father’s Day.



Hey mom and dad, Perú is so much fun and I love everyone in my group and having so much fun. Love and miss you.



Hey fam! Thanks for the sweet notes. Peru is so cool and I’m having a great time. Happy late Father’s Day. I love and miss y’all


Whitewater Rafting!

June 17, 2019

Hey there readers!

Our first section of the trip, whitewater rafting, has just flown by! We are taking in the views, culture, and cuisine of Peru and loving every minute of it! Our first couple of days were spent traveling from Atlanta to Lima to Cusco to the raft put-in at the river. Here, we learned how to set up our tents, which Chip turned out to be a total expert in and began our first Moonup of the summer under the clear and bright stars, unspoiled by light pollution! Moonup is a daily circle to reflect, share quotes, and debrief on the day. Our first Leaders of the Day (LODs), Liz and Ella, took on the role with the complete confidence of seasoned veterans.

The next morning, we grabbed our wetsuits, life jackets, helmets, and paddles and began our first day of rafting. The Apurimac River, named “Speaker of the Gods” by the Incas, is one of the top five Rivers to raft in the world! At 8,000 feet in elevation, this river is one of the main tributaries of the Amazon! So yeah, we basically swam in the Amazon River. While rafting down class II, III, and IV rapids, our guides, Frank, Jean-Claude, and Segundo kept us laughing all the way and I didn’t see a smile leave Madeline and Bryson’s faces a single time! As Peruvian condors soared above us through breathtaking valleys, Scott and Ford made sure to point out each one to the group.In the afternoon, we reached our campsite: a breezy, sandy beach in a deep canyon. After setting up our tents and laying our gear out to dry, we chowed down on some delicious spaghetti with homemade sauce! With our bellies full and sitting on the soft sand, Emily and Anna’s laughter echoed through the gorge. After a long day of paddling and swimming, we were ready to sleep!The next morning, we awoke on the sandy beach, excited to hit the final day on the river! Navigating the water as world class paddlers, we hooted and hollered, taking only a break to cliff jump, led by our fearless group member Elle, before reaching our take-out. Here, after soaking up the sun and moving our gear to the van, we had a lunch so good that my mouth is watering as I write this. We enjoyed this chicken, rice, and fresh tomatoes in the shade of young banana trees. We headed back to Cusco through the Peruvian countryside, happy, sleepy, and ready for the next adventure!We arrived to our hotel, where our LOD, Charlie, made sure we were settled and comfortable. We then walked the streets of the colonial town of Cusco where we saw a festival celebrating the city’s founding and devoured some tasty pizza in a cozy restaurant we had to ourselves. After a particularly meaningful Moonup, we went to sleep excited for our community service beginning the next morning!

Adios, Jed and Brooks

Safe Arrival in Cusco!

June 12, 2019

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!

– Moondance HQ


  • Anna
  • Bryson
  • Charlie
  • Chip
  • Ella
  • Elle
  • Emily
  • Ford
  • Liz
  • Madeline
  • Scott