July 24, 2019
Hola families and friends,
We are reaching out with our last update, as this unforgettable trip has come to a close. The past two weeks have flown by, and we have enjoyed every minute we have spent getting to know this wonderful group of teens. We wanted to thank you all for sharing your children with us throughout our incredible journey throughout Peru. From rafting the beautiful Apurímac River, to working with the Rocoto community in the mountainous village, to trekking on the original Inca Trail, and finally reaching the breath-taking views of Machu Picchu, this group took full advantage of the endless beauty that constantly surrounded us. Our Machu Picchu family was a special group of kids, and we quickly became a tight knit family over the course of the past two weeks. The group has formed strong relationships that I am confident will last for many years, even beyond this summer. Each student brought something crucial and unique to our Moondance family, to create such a strong group dynamic.
Layton, being the seasoned veteran that she is, served as a natural leader and role model to her peers. Sara was a positive light for the group, and a joy to be around. McWilliams kept us laughing, as he loved to break out into dance at any given moment. Abby’s appreciation and wonder for the awe-inspiring views surrounding us was inspiring to all. Charlotte’s sweet character was apparent throughout our journey, and she was a welcoming friend to all. Myles provided endless stories and laughs that kept us entertained along the trails. Catherine faced each new opportunity with such enthusiasm and optimism, which was contagious to the group. Rhetta’s determination and strong work ethic was evident specifically during our time working with the Rocoto village, as she worked diligently to complete the projects.
Each of these students was a joy to be around and we all learned important lessons from one another. We feel very fortunate to have shared these opportunities alongside them in Peru. We wanted to thank you all again for sharing your adventurous, fun loving, intelligent, and caring kids with us! It has been a pleasure getting to learn and grow alongside your kids, they all have something special to offer to the group, which made this the trip of a lifetime!
Brooks and Jed
July 23, 2019
Greetings from Machu Picchu!
Beginning our day at sunrise with a view of the clouds swirling around the gargantuan snow-covered peaks of Salkantay Mountain, the adventurer in each of us was giddy with excitement and anticipation for our first day of the trek! We set out along green fields, a babbling brook, and began the climb with the valley of Soraypampa growing small behind us. We trekked higher along fields of boulders and grassy slopes, gaining impressive heights in record-time, reaching our spot for lunch! Feeling reinvigorated by our meal of soup, pasta salad, and avocado in the shadow of impressive mountains, we once again set out along the trail under a dusting of light snow. Not many folks can brag of a snowball fight in July, can they? Well we can! Constantly entertained and laughing due to Myles’ singing and joking, we continued on to the right side of the Salkantay, the infamous Mountain, soaring over 20,000 feet into the clouds. It is one of two major sites of importance for the Incan civilization as an Apu, or god. Reaching the pass, we were able to see close up angles of the infamous mountain through breaks in the clouds. Led by Sara for the last push, we all made it to the Inca Chirasca Pass, meaning the King’s Cold Pass in Incan Quechua, and reveled in our impressive feat of gaining four thousand feet in elevation in just a few hours of trekking! With the sun finally bursting through the clouds as we reached that windy pass, we feasted on Peruvian candy bars, built cairns with rocks, and performed a small ceremony to Pachamama, or Mother Earth. With the achievement fresh, we began to hike down the other side of the peaks and made our way through a variety of landscapes, from grey and black rocks covered in snow to grasses in every imaginable shade of green. Reaching our camp, nestled in the valley surrounded by the beautiful mountains, we ate our dinner of trout, Yucca, and veggies as Charlotte kept the positivity and energy high! After pointing out constellations and the Milky Way out to each other, we lay down in our tents to have the deep and well-deserved sleep of accomplished mountaineers.
Awaking the next morning to a delicious breakfast of peaches and pancakes topped with dulce de leche and Nutella, we set out excitedly for our second day of the trek! With constant conversation and laughter, we continued to make our way down from the Salkantay into the cloud forests of the Andes, stopping to listen for rare birds and to take in the small villages lining the trail. Turning onto another ancient Incan trail, we stopped for a delicious lunch of fried chicken and quinoa along a stream leading down to the Urubamba River, the same one which loops its way around Machu Picchu, our final destination! After a few more hours of light and fun hiking, we explored the ruins of an old Incan citadel under the leadership of our new resident expert on ruins, Rhetta! In the shadows of this ancient ruin, we found our camp and enjoyed tea, music, conversation, and each other’s company around a warm fire! Feasting on the traditional stir fry of Peru, lomo saltado, potatoes, and a delicious cake, we ended the night with good food in our bellies, laughter on our tongues, and smelling of camp fire!
The next morning we awoke to the sun shining and a delicious breakfast of fruit salad, cereal, yogurt, and sweet Peruvian bread. We trekked for several hours descending into a bright green landscape of open plains scattered with forest green trees. We shared laughs and great conversations on the trail as we approached our next destination. Once arriving to the kilometer 82 marker, we stopped for lunch at a small, cozy house that was surrounded by the towering Andes Mountains. We enjoyed grilled chicken, curry and rice, and veggies for our last meal cooked by our amazing chefs. After saying a big thanks to our chefs, we made our way by van to Ollantaytambo! Our outfitter, Pepe, played us his favorite Peruvian pop music as we danced along and took in the incredible views passing by out the window. We took the afternoon to get some well-deserved rest and take hot showers! The evening was spent exploring the streets of Ollantaytambo, and stopping at a local pizza place for dinner. Abby used her excellent Spanish skills to help everyone order their food, we were all very impressed! After stopping for ice cream on the way back to our quaint hotel, we quickly fell asleep so that we could be rested for our next big hike- the Inca Trail!
Taking the train from the old Incan town of Ollantaytambo, we set out to begin our day on the world famous Inca Trail! One of the few groups allowed on the trail each day, we began to ascend through the cloud forests with the rushing blue-green waters of the Urubamba River thousands of feet below us. With blue skies and pleasant breezes, we hiked under old growth trees and through the refreshing mists of waterfalls, resting for snacks and photo-ops on Incan terraces and archaeological sites. Following the trail as it traverses the sides of lush mountains and granite cliffs, we could feel ourselves closing in towards our destination, Machu Picchu! The final push, valiantly led by Catherine, included us all gracefully ascending a set of steep stairs (even if it was on our hands and knees) and we emerged at the Sun Gate to the ruins, overlooking the breath-taking mountains and the site itself! Taking the bus down, we arrived in the small town of Aguas Calientes, and after some well deserved hot showers, we set out to shop in the extensive markets intersecting the town, coming away with colorful clothes and meaningful mementos. Finishing the evening with an especially delicious dinner of classic Peruvian cuisine while parades full of people in traditional dress marched by the windows, we went to sleep excited to spend the next day exploring the ruins!
Waking up early to beat the crowds, we set out this morning pumped up to explore the antique citadel and town of Machu Picchu! Yale professor and explorer Hiram Bingham III, brought the site to the world’s attention in 1911, beginning the interest and fascination which has always been showered upon the location. 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 obvious to all who have been fortunate enough to visit though is that Incan ruins are so spectacular as to be declared the seventh wonder of the world twelve years ago. Entering, we made our way to the Inca Bridge. We followed the original Incan trails, which were carved into the side of the mountain, to visit the Inca Bridge that served as protection of the western entrance to Machu Picchu. Next, we made our way through the remnants of the town itself, which was nestled between the breath-taking Andes Mountains. Everyone shared their amazement of how exactly the Incas built this complex town, located on this mountainside almost 8,000 feet high. It was the perfect way to spend our last full day together, we explored the breath-taking ruins with smiles on our faces and asked thought-provoking questions as we were guided through the urban sector of the town. Our outfitter, Willie, served as our tour guide and shared insightful knowledge with us. We listened intently as we learned more about the history of the Incas, their accomplishments, and this sublime settlement that they constructed. After soaking in the beauty of Machu Picchu, we traveled down the Hiram Bingham Highway towards the town of Aguas Calientes, where we gathered together for a buffet feast fit for kings. On our train ride from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, we were able to enjoy more beautiful Peruvian landscape, with the snow-capped Andes Mountains towering above us. We were surprised by a fashion show put on by the employees aboard the Peru Rail train, they wore authentic Alpaca sweaters and showed them off down the train aisles, as traditional Peruvian music was blasting from the speakers. McWilliams and Layton quickly decided they wanted to partake in the fashion show, so they took it upon themselves to ask if they could participate, and they did! We all burst into laughter as they both strut down the train aisle, wearing the Alpaca sweaters. Once arriving to Ollantaytambo, we hopped on a van that took us to our final destination. We listened to throw back music and had a dance party on our ride back to Cusco! That night we explored the town and settled at our favorite local pizza restaurant, chowing down on delicious pizza and finished the meal off with desert pizza. After our last Moonup, which was especially meaningful, we got to sleep, as we were excited to hit the town markets tomorrow morning!
We have loved getting to know these kids, they are a special group, and we are very thankful to have spent the last two weeks with them!
Jed and Brooks
July 18, 2019
We began our next adventure, white water rafting on the infamous Apurímac River, or “mouth of God”, which is one of the main sources of the Amazon River and one of the Top 5 rivers to raft in the world! Our community service portion closed with sad goodbyes and thankful hearts from the village, as we all gathered together with the locals in the classroom that we finished off. Following the service portion, we were able to hike down from the mountainous village to our river put in on the Apurimac River. We enjoyed Andean countryside views, which offered several waterfalls and many deep green trees, as we descended to the river. A few hours after our breathtaking hike, we arrived to meet our rafting guides!
We were welcomed by a delicious riverside lunch, prepared by our awesome guides, Alvaro, Rafael, Alberto, and Reuben. After we suited up into our wetsuits, jackets, life jackets, and helmets, we grabbed our paddles and listened closely to our safety briefing. We could not wait to jump into the refreshing water! We divided into our two rafting boats, led by Pepe and Alvaro, and made our way down the river. We quickly came up with our boat names- the Howling Monkeys were led by Pepe and the Purple Pigs were led by Alvaro. Today we warmed up to the Apurimac and enjoyed an easy, relaxing day on the river for several hours. Once arriving to our beach home for the night, we set up tents, gathered for tea time (a Peruvian tradition we have happily adapted), and played endless card games. Abby and Layton proved to be the Egyptian Rat-slap experts, and no one was skilled enough to beat them. After a yummy dinner of quinoa soup, homemade red sauce and pasta, and lemon pound cake for dessert, we enjoyed good conversations with good company at our beautiful new home for the night! Catherine noticed the moon rising in the distance and we all stopped for a moment to soak in this beauty- she exclaimed that she had never seen the moon rise and that it was one of the prettiest things she had experienced! Later that night we shared with each other what movie character we would be given the choice. Charlotte opted to show us several Disney character impressions, which had us all laughing. Following a particularly lighthearted and funny Moonup, we settled into our tents and fell asleep to the river water noise.
We awoke the next morning greeted with a breakfast fit for kings, of tea, eggs and toast, cereal, fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal. With full bellies and positive energy, we began our first full day of rafting! Before rafting, we all said “Good Morning Apurimac” as a rafting tradition to show thanks and respect to the important river. With the sun shining and the fresh air, it was a perfect start to our rafting adventure! We played river games, one of our favorites being raft wars, where we tried to pull off everyone on the opposite boat and get them into the water. For some of the day, Myles served as our boat’s captain and our guide taught him how to use the oars to steer us through the rapids (he was a natural river guide!). Later in the morning, we rafted down several Class IV rapids, some of which being Tres Cóndores, Las Escaleras, and Otra Derecha. The group rafted down the rapids with ease like the seasoned veterans that they are. We stopped for a well-deserved lunch of sandwiches, burgers, chips, and freshly cut pineapple. Once we continued along the river, we witnessed a lot of wildlife close by- Andean gulls, otters, Swift birds, and Torrent ducks with their chicks. We constantly looked up to take in the incredible views of the deep canyons and lush green mountains that were scattered with cacti and agave plants. Our knowledgeable rafting guides told us interesting stories and shared their knowledge about the surrounding environment with us while we took in all the different Peruvian landscapes. We have loved seeing this group come closer and closer together as the days pass by; they are all so much fun to be around and have made this rafting experience an unforgettable one! After a day of hard work paddling on the river, we docked our boats at our next riverside campsite, which was a wide open, beautiful beach. We all participated in games that one of our guides, Willie, taught us and they supplied endless laughs and entertainment. That night we chowed down on a warm dinner of vegetable soup, curry and rice, and marble cake to satisfy our sweet teeth. After star gazing from the deep canyons, we went to sleep to the peaceful sound of the river.
We are all sad it is our last day of rafting, but we woke up pumped to hit the river for another great day! The morning started out with a breakfast feast, just like yesterdays. After we were full and satisfied, we began gearing up and getting our rafts ready. Our day started off with a hike up to a beautiful waterfall, flowing from about 50 feet above us. We climbed up to the huge waterfall that sat nestled between the towering canyons, and immediately ran underneath the waterfall to see who could stand under the chilling water the longest. Sara was one of the last ones standing under the waterfall, and she really appreciated the breathtaking waterfall views we experienced together! Shortly after, we got back to rafting and enjoyed the last few rapids together. We “surfed” one of the rapids, meaning we paddled towards a rapid until we submerged the front of the boat into the water. Rhetta was quick to volunteer as the first person to sit at the front of the boat while we surfed; afterwards she exclaimed “that is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life!” As we continued on down the river, McWilliams kept us constantly laughing, while simultaneously rafting like a seasoned veteran. Our next stop was cliff jumping off of a 30-foot rock that towered above the deep river water. A lot of the students opted to participate in the cliff jumping and they emerged from the water with huge smiles on their faces! When we reached our takeout spot, many of the kids were sad that our rafting trip had come to an end. It was a very memorable few days on the Apurimac! Once we packed up, we drove up switch backs to get to our postcard worthy lunch spot, which overlooked the Andean mountains and valleys. We enjoyed a great lunch surrounded by an awe-inspiring panoramic view.
Everyone has really loved our rafting adventure over the past few days and is looking forward to beginning the Salkantay trek tomorrow! We have loved getting the opportunity to know each of your kids and can’t wait to experience the next adventure with them!
Brooks and Jed
Hey I’m here in Peru and having a lot of fun. I’ve been using “rocks” and “brick” a lot. We have come to a point as a group where we had to makeup “cement” which is past brick. Keep on training and Tucker make sure you “bop” some kids while I’m gone.
Hey all is well here in Peru! I am having the time of my life and can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. I hope y’all are holding down the fort in Gvegas and I am not being the slowest antelope. Love y’all
Hey y’all this trip is amazing, it’s a bit cold and the altitude is definitely noticeable. We’ve been having lots of fun though, we’ve been trying to get the catalog cover picture and we have gotten great pictures that I can’t wait to show you guys. Love y’all, see you soon
Hey Mom, Dad, Kate and Brian! I am having an amazing time here in Peru! Everything here is so beautiful! I can’t wait to tell you guys all about it! Thank you for sending me! Love you and see you guys soon! -Sara
Hey mom, dad, jack, rocky! I’m having such a great time here in Peru. We just finished rafting and service and begin hiking to Machu Picchu tomorrow. Love and miss you guys so much and see you very soon! Love, Abby
Hey mama, daddy, Claire and Reid I just wanted to let you know that I’m having an amazing time in Peru! I have made a lot of new friends and I’m so glad I got to go on this trip. I can’t wait to see you in a week and I hope everything is okay over there! Love, nuggles
Hey mom and dad! Peru is amazing thank you so much for this trip see y’all soon! I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. Love y’all
Hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time in Peru and have met some amazing people! Service with the children was so fun and rafting was awesome! Can’t wait to tell y’all everything! Say hi and give a big hug to Baxter, Patrick, and the kiddos for me!
July 15, 2019
Hola Families and Friends!
We have just completed our first section of the trip, service in the scenic village of Rocoto! The whole group has been enjoying the views, culture, and cuisine of Peru while working hard at the local primary school here. Our day on Friday consisted mostly of travel from Lima to Cusco (with a tour of the main plaza and a chance to sample some delicious traditional food), and finally to our home for service in Rocoto! We arrived here as the gorgeous sunset spread out across the rocky mountains to our West. After settling in and enjoying a delicious meal of local trout, vegetables, and mashed potatoes, we began our first Moonup of the session under the bright stars of the Milky Way, visible due to the absence of harsh light pollution. Moonup is a daily circle to reflect on the day, share quotes, and debrief on our activities. Our first Leaders of the Day (LODs), Myles and Layton, took on the role with the confidence of seasoned veterans and the excitement of the beginning of a new trip!
The next morning we began our service ready to work after a delicious breakfast of oatmeal, French toast, eggs, and bacon! At the village’s elementary school, a cheerful yellow and red compound with a soccer field flanked by classrooms, we went about our first project of clearing out an old classroom that had been piled with storage for desks, chairs, tables, and books. Under the lead of Rhetta, we took all of the furniture out and cleaned the room before beginning to build three large bookshelves to hold all of the books which had previously been stacked along the floor. With Catherine’s new found expertise with a power drill and everyone’s hard work we finished the construction work in no time and feasted on a lunch of veggies, chicken, and avocado. In the evening, we played a great soccer game with the local school children, each player laughing, grinning, and having a blast. Abby and McWilliams’ skills on the field and with the soccer ball made them quite the celebrities with the students! We closed the evening with a dinner of soup, beef, rice, and vegetables before a meaningful Moonup on the topic of the importance of service.
We awoke in the morning to the sun peaking over the surrounding mountains and excited for the new day. After enjoying some pancakes, toast, and plantains we set about working on our next project! The goal of the day was to clear patches of overgrown dirt and weeds and to plant a new garden, helping the school become more self-sufficient and sustainable by having their own vegetables growing. With the help of the local students, we all cleared the weeds, put down fertile soil, raked, and planted all kinds of good stuff, from tomatoes and squash to oregano and zucchini! As the LOD, Charlotte helped lead us in sprinkling the seeds throughout the garden. With these sustainable and engaging projects, worked on side by side with Moondance and the Peruvian elementary school students, the sense of accomplishment and enjoyment knew no nationality as all involved were able to see the tangible progress which they had all worked so hard on. After some delicious sandwiches and fresh guacamole, we had the afternoon to play games with the local children and each other, where Sara used her Spanish skills over card games and soccer matches. Before dinner we packed for our next big adventure: rafting on the beautiful and famous Apurimac River! We all lay down to sleep, excited for our next adventure on the river and ready for the gorgeous scenery Peru offers us every day!
Til next time,
Jed and Brooks
July 12, 2019
Hello Machu Picchu Families!
We heard from our Leaders that the group arrived safely in Lima last night, and enjoyed a night of well deserved rest at their hotel. They are off to Cusco this morning, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventures. Stay tuned!