July 9, 2019
Families and friends,
Our Peruvian adventure has unfortunately come to a close after these last two weeks of unforgettable memories. With awe and appreciation, we would like to extend our deepest thanks to all of you for sharing such a wonderful group of teens with us. As a close and tight-knit family, each of us learned, laughed, and grew with each other constantly. Traveling with action packed days, whether on the Apurimac River, in the mountain community of Ccorca, or on the Salkantay trail, each student brought invaluable and essential aspects and insights, resulting in a powerful group dynamic.
Abby taught us all how to truly care for others and to make a friend, regardless of whether they are a pet or a person. Ian kept us laughing nonstop and he radiated positivity regardless of the difficulty of the day or setting. Folger proved herself to be an experienced leader for us all and offered important insight. Cate, as one of the most genuinely caring people we’ve encountered, constantly had a watchful eye and a helping hand out for anyone facing difficulties. Zach truly inspired us with his willingness to try all things new and to do so with a smile. Addie’s perseverance had an inspirational effect on the group. Katherine is a shining beacon of positivity, proving to be infectious to us all. Alina shared wisdom and understanding of the world far beyond her age. Ted shared countless facts and an immense amount of knowledge with us, teaching us all the time. Sibley, filled with laughter and smiles, cares deeply about everyone she meets and has the talent of making a close connection with those lucky enough to be in such a position.
Each of these students offered such important lessons and skills making us so lucky to have experienced Perú with them. From rafting whitewater, performing service, trekking an legendary mountain, or exploring the ruins of Peru, this group impressed us every single day. Each member of this group is intelligent, mature, good natured, curious, and fun loving. With ingredients such as that, the recipe for the trip of a lifetime is ready!
Jed and Brooks
July 8, 2019
Hello from Machu Picchu!
We began our trekking journey with an early wakeup call of 4:30 AM, and we were able to enjoy the beautiful alpine views along the way to the Salkantay trailhead, where our adventure officially started. With the snowcapped Salkantay Mountain in the background, the vibrant green fields surrounding us, the sun brightly shining, and a river flowing beside us, we trekked on while taking in this incredible Peruvian landscape. After hiking for several hours in the morning, we came upon our stunning lunch spot- a grassy open field situated next to the riverbed with a close-up view of the infamous Salkantay Mountain, which soars over 18,000 feet into the clouds. 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. While we continued uphill towards the Salkantay Pass, Abby served as the group motivator and constantly encouraged others who needed it. As we were hiking back and forth across switch backs with the mountain views ahead of us, Katherine exclaimed that this is the coolest thing she has ever done and the prettiest view she has ever seen! And We agreed! After hours of determination, countless picture opportunities, many water breaks, and several llama encounters, we reached the Salkantay Pass, which stands at about 15,000 feet! Over the course of the day the group ascended 4,000 feet!! Everyone felt very accomplished as we sat above the clouds at the Salkantay Pass. We could not be prouder of this group for their perseverance and positive energy that they displayed throughout the entire uphill climb. Zach led the group up above the Pass to the most breath-taking view of a distant, snow covered mountain range that was engulfed in the stark white clouds and glistened in the sun. We all enjoyed a celebratory Sublime chocolate bar (one of our favorite local treats) once we reached the top! After soaking in views of the grandiose peak, we descended into forest green fields that were scattered with enormous boulders. As we continued below the cloud level through the green landscape, we walked past wild cows, llamas, and horses as they grazed on the grass. Ted supplied us with endless knowledge and sparked thought-provoking conversations along the trail. We reached our first campsite just as dark was setting in, after quickly changing into our warm puffy jackets and fleece pants, we gathered around for a well-deserved evening teatime. That night we chowed down on pasta and homemade spaghetti sauce, followed by a delicious warm chocolate pudding (we LOVE our cooks, Evan and Edar who travel with us throughout the trek). We ended the long, but very rewarding day with a meaningful reflection on the day as we shared our daily highlights with one another during Moonup, as well as something we looked forward to for the following day.
The next morning we were awoken by the bright sun and fresh mountain air, which was a great start to celebrate the Fourth of July! Breakfast was a treat- we enjoyed Nutella covered pancakes, fresh papaya and kiwi, and toast with blackberry jam. Everyone woke up well rested and excited to start our second day of the trek! Addie, who was one of our LODs, led us in morning stretches to loosen our sore muscles, which was followed by a morning huddle to set the tone for our day ahead of us. We enjoyed a half day of hiking, which was mostly downhill, so we were able to challenge each other to riddles, play trail games, and share good conversations. After crossing over a beautiful waterfall and walking alongside a river that cut through a deep canyon, we reached the Andean lowlands and were greeted by tacos! Our bellies were full and satisfied! Following such a yummy lunch, Ian provided endless belly aching laughs as he free-style rapped for us and sparked a group dance party. We travelled by vans to our next stop- the town of Santa Teresa, which is part of the Huandquiña district and sits at about 4,500 feet in the jungle landscape of Peru. We set up our tents and got settled in what would be our home for the next two nights. The group gathered around to teach each other new cards games. Later in the evening, we surprised the students with a chocolate cake lit with red, white, and blue candles, and Inca Cola to celebrate the Fourth of July in our Peruvian jungle campsite! To end another great day, we enjoyed a dinner of soup, grilled chicken, fried quinoa and veggies, crispy yucca fries, and flan to top it off for dessert.
Our second morning in Santa Teresa started out with a breakfast of veggie omelets, fresh pineapple, and toast. We had a short drive to a neighboring farm, where we walked through trails with a canopy of trees above us. We saw red orchids; sano sano, coffee bean, banana, pineapple, and orange trees; as well as brightly colored yellow and orange butterflies. Although the hike was not easy, Cate climbed through the jungle with ease and did so with a smile on her face. We followed suit and faced the challenge with enthusiasm. Following our own private farm tour, we headed to the hot springs! Folger was especially looking forward to visiting the Cocalmayo hot springs and could not wait to jump into the warm pools (after she opted to take a freezing cold shower)! Everyone followed her and hopped into the cold showers before we soaked our aching bodies in the thermal springs. After enjoying the afternoon at the hot springs, which were surrounded by towering mountains, we made our way back to our campsite at Santa Teresa. The night consisted of many card games accompanied by belly aching laughs. We have really enjoyed spending time with this group- they are a special group of kids and we have absolutely loved watching them form strong bonds that we are confident will last long after this summer! That night we had a particularly meaningful Moonup, the kids shared thoughtful answers and asked intentional questions. We were all excited to begin another full day of hiking the next day!
As the clouds parted in the valley and made way for the deep blue sky, we were ready for our final day of trekking! We packed up our tents and gear after a delicious smorgasbord of French toast and fresh fruit, making our way to the Hidroeléctrica trailhead. With the weather so fine and a breakfast like that, we had the ammunition to finish our trek off strong. Following the railroad track as a trail to the small town of Aguas Calientes, Sibley and Alina kept the entire group entertained and laughing with trail games, stories, and constant conversations. Discussing our ascents and descents of the past few days, the varying landscapes of alpine rockiness, rolling fields of beige grasses, and treeless mountain slopes made the green jungle we were hiking through even more lush and tropical feeling. After arriving in the town of Aguas Calientes and some well-deserved warm showers, we set out to shop in the extensive markets intersecting the town and came away with colorful clothes and meaningful mementos. We continued the evening with an especially nice dinner of traditional Peruvian cuisine, complete with alpaca steaks and lomo saltado! As it was the anniversary of Machu Picchu being declared a wonder of the world, we finished the night by following the parades through the streets and over the bridges and attended a huge outdoor concert in the center of the town’s public soccer field. In the shadow of ancient mountains and sacred ruins, we danced and laughed under the pumping neon lights to the sounds of Peruvian folk-rock music. When else would we get such an opportunity? I believe the saying is, “When in Peru”, is it not?
With an early wake up, we set out this morning ready and bright eyed to explore the antique citadel and town of Machu Picchu! Brought to the world’s attention in 1911 by Yale professor and explorer Hiram Bingham III, Machu Picchu’s history and function in the Incan empire has been shrouded in mystery and speculation, only adding to the beauty and exoticism of such a location. What is clear though is that Incan ruins are so spectacular as to be the seventh wonder of the world. We walked through the fog and cloud forest up to the Sun Gate to the city, a frequently overlooked vantage point and were able to avoid the crowds, while we learned the history of the Incan Empire and the excavation of the site. As we walked into the remnants of the town itself, nestled on a ridge in the sea of blue-green mountains, the fog dispersed and the sun shown through, making the wonder and beauty of the place shine. This was the perfect way to spend our last full day together and we all walked away from Machu Picchu with bright smiles as we could not believe the beauty of the Incan ruins and the towering Andes Mountains! We had the opportunity to experience more of Peru’s varying landscapes along our train ride from Aguas Calientes to Ollyantambo. Once arriving to the town of Ollyantambo, we visited a local restaurant where we were able to watch the second half of the Final Game of the Copa America soccer game- it was a battle between Brazil and Peru. We sat around a small TV that was broadcasting the game, in the company of local Peruvians and cheered on the Peru team! Sadly, Brazil defeated Peru 3 to 1, but it was still a great cultural immersion experience!
We have had an amazing few days on the Salkantay trail and are enjoying our last moments together, as this group has become an extremely close family! We feel very fortunate to have gotten to know your kids the past two weeks!
Brooks and Jed
July 3, 2019
This afternoon, we finished up our incredible service section of the trip in Ccorca. A quaint mountain village of a population of about 2,000 people and only an hour’s ride from the heart of Cusco, Ccorca is an agricultural-oriented town nestled on the slopes of a gorgeous, grassy valley.
We began our time there with a sunrise drive from Cusco to our home for the next three days, the Patawasi Lodge, a comfortable white stuccoed compound complete with Santorini blue window shutters and a little bell tower. After settling in, we walked down to the local elementary school which would be the center of our community engagement and service as we assisted in building gardens for fruits and vegetables in order for the school to become more sustainable and self-reliant. Under the experienced direction of our two LODs, Abby and Cate, we began by clearing patches of overgrown land at the school and cutting logs of Eucalyptus trees into fence posts. We followed our morning’s work with a delicious lunch of chicken and fresh veggies while Addie kept us laughing with her hilarious stories! After a quick rest, we took a hike in a nearby ravine, known to be sacred to Incan society hundreds of years ago. Through beautiful rock formations, low twisting trees, and along a babbling brook we ascended into the holler and were fortunate enough to participate in an ancient Incan ceremony to Pachamama, or Mother Earth. We asked ourselves when else we would be a part of such a celebration in such a picturesque and unique place. With that satisfying thought and darkness falling, Sibley had us uncontrollably laughing all of the way back to the lodge, giggles bouncing off of the surrounding walls of sandstone. We dined like royalty on fish and rice before climbing under our warm covers, excited for our second day of service in the morning.
After awaking to a crisp cloudless morning and enjoying a breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs, and bacon, we set out once again to the primary school to continue working on the project of working to build the school garden. While Ted, Zach, and Ian assisted in collecting productive black soil from a nearby mountainside, they traded some Quechua (the language of the Incas sometimes still spoken in rural areas) phrases for English ones with the local townspeople, using Spanish as a common language. The rest of the group engaged in bringing the fertile black earth up to the school’s terraces which the gardens were to be built on. During this hard work, Katherine and Folger exemplified such great work ethics and positivity, inspiring all to do their best! After a great lunch, we played an eagerly awaited game of soccer with the local children. Infectious smiles and the fun of the game tore down the differences between us and these Peruvian kids, and we spoke to one another in blissful exclamations, laughter, and grins! Later in the evening, after eating a delicious traditional Peruvian stir fry with roasted potatoes, we held a particularly meaningful Moonup, our daily circle to reflect, share quotes, and debrief on the day, with Alina’s insight driving the conversations.
Tomorrow we are headed to our next adventure, the trekking portion of our Peruvian adventure! From the Salkantay Pass at over 15,000 feet in elevation to the lush cloud forests and jungles of Machu Picchu, we could not be more excited!
Until next time,
Jed and Brooks
June 30, 2019
Our First Hello from Peru!
We have safely arrived back to Cusco after completing our first adventure- whitewater rafting the Apurimac River, which is one of the top ten rivers to raft in the world!! Apurimac translates to “speaker of the Gods”, in the native Quechua language and we were lucky to be surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty it has to offer.
After spending the days traveling on Wednesday and Thursday, we made it to our campsite next to the river put in. Ted led us in setting up our tents, as his Boy Scouts background served to be very helpful. That night after we ate a warm dinner of chicken, rice, and veggies, we enjoyed one another’s company under the brightly lit sky, we even saw the Milky Way! The group got to know each other even better as we shared why we decided to make Moondance a part of our lives, whether that was this summer for the first trip or four years ago for our veteran students. We can already tell that we have such an amazing group of students on our Machu Picchu family, and we have enjoyed every minute we have spent getting to know each other! We were put to sleep by the calming sound of the river flow, and the next morning we woke ready to start our first day of rafting!
Our first Leaders of the Day, Folger and Katherine, being seasoned veteran Moondance students, kept the group moral high the entire day, faced every opportunity with positivity, and led us on our first day on the river. Our very knowledgeable rafting guides, Frank, Segundo, Cesar, and Chaba led us through Class III and IV rapids throughout the first day. Ian sat at the front of our boat, and even though he always was the most soaked after rapids, he never failed to have a smile on his face and he exclaimed he loved rafting. Sibley brought comedic entertainment and kept us laughing throughout our journey down the river. The sun was shining and the water was refreshing. While we had to get out of the boat to porridge, Addie stopped to look around, appreciate where we were, and soak in the breath-taking view of the Andes Mountains and the Apurimac River. Following our riverside, homemade lunch of chips and guacamole and sandwiches, we continued down the Apurimac River, which is one of the main tributaries to the Amazon! Alina provided enthusiasm and positive energy, as she faced each rapid with ease and determination. The group loved the incredible Peruvian landscape of mountains scattered with agave plants and cacti. After several hours of hard work spent rafting, we arrived at our beautiful campsite called, “La Mesa,” named after the large flat rock that was the center of our campsite. Our home for the night was on the sandy beach next to the river. Upon our arrival, we gathered around for tea time and snacks. We spent the night engaging in good conversations and getting to know one another better! We were warmed by homemade red sauce and pasta for a yummy dinner. Our LODs led us in a particularly meaningful Moonup and we loved listening to everyone’s insightful answers. We fell asleep to the fresh mountain air and several students even decided to sleep under the stars on the sandy beach!
We woke up the next day excited to tackle our final day of rafting! Today we stepped it up a notch and rafted Class V rapids, named Last Laugh, Babaluga, and You First. The group proved to be rockstars and took on each new rapid with positive attitudes! We were able to take part in several river games today, including surfing, cliff jumping, and body rafting. Zach fearlessly led us in cliff jumping, as he was eagerly the first to jump off a cliff, plunging into the Apurimac River. When our time spent rafting ended many of the students did not want to be finished rafting, as it was such an incredible experience! We finished the rafting portion with a well-deserved lunch shaded by banana trees and surrounded by colorful flowers. Shortly after, we headed back to Cusco, and we stopped for an ice cream treat on the way back. Our first night in Cusco was spent exploring the city square and eating pizza at a local restaurant, where we listened to traditional Peruvian live music. Some of the students even tried Alpaca pizza (and they loved it!). We are all so excited to begin our community service section tomorrow! Abby and Cate were selected to be our LODs for our first day of service, because they have taken on leadership roles and faced the rafting trip with resilience and positivity. We cannot believe how fast this trip is flying by and have been feeling very fortunate for his special group of kids! Everyone is looking forward to traveling to Ccorca for our service portion of the trip. Stay tuned for our next update!
Brooks and Jed
Now for some shout-outs from the group!
Hey y’all I’m having an unbelievable time. My group is so good and Perú is amazing! We just finished rafting on the Apurmiac river and camped out on the the side of the river and waking up to the view was so so cool. The stars are insane. A few of us tried sleeping on the beach last night but it was kinda cold and sand was everywhere so we went in the tent. Now we are going back to Cusco. Miss y’all love y’all!
Hey mom and dad! You would be so surprised.. I went down class 5 rapids today. I tried to sleep outside on the beach last night instead of a tent but it was too cold. The stars are beautiful though. Miss you!!
Hello family! It’s absolutely beautiful here, can’t wait to tell you all about it. Definitely roughing it out here but I’ll survive. Miss you all very very much. Give Honey love for me!
Hey fam, I’m having an amazing trip with incredible people. Peru is so cool and such an experience. Miss y’all see you soon!!
Hey mom and dad, Peru is so awesome. The views are incredible. I love and miss y’all so much!!!!
Hey mom and dad. Peru is incredible. How’s the fam. Love you. Have fun in Scotland
Hey Mom and Dad, Peru is so much fun and the leaders and people are great. Thanks so much for sending me on this trip! (Don’t worry, I’m doing the stretches) love you guys and miss you all.
Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having a blast here in Peru, we just finished the white-water rafting portion of our trip and it was so much fun! My leaders are great and so are the people in my group. I miss you all so much, and I hope you have fun on your trip. Tell Piper I said hi!! Love y’all!
Hi, guys!!! We just finished white water rafting and it was soso fun. Hope everything’s good back home (except for mcg’s beehive). Miss y’all loads and I’ll see y’all soon. <3
Having a great time here, try to have fun at the beach over 4th of July! Hasta luego
June 27, 2019
Hola Machu Picchu Families!
We received word from our Trip Leaders late last night that the group touched down safely in Lima. They enjoyed a night of rest at their hotel before heading out for Cusco this morning. We can’t wait to hear more stories from their adventures.