During my stay in Peru I visited many of the typical tourist sites near the city of Cusco. I saw the famous Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo, but my favorite place was the salt mines. It is a stream of salt water that flows out of the mountainside into many tiers where the water evaporates and the salt is scraped by hand and carried out by hand up a steep hill in bags on their backs. The more amazing part is each tier is owned by a different family and worked by different groups. I was impressed that they didn't have problems with others stealing or messing up their plots without a centralized group overseeing it. Cuzco was a great city to stay in. It was clean, filled with great food, fun little shops and pubs, and very safe. I was lucky enough to get to go during the Corpus Cristi celebration. Members of each local church carried a float on their shoulders from their church to the main square and back again. Each float is laced with gold and has a statue that weighs thousands of pounds. All I can say is that looks like hard work to carry it. Every one is struggling to stand and other people are pushing from the sides to keep the float balanced on the many shoulders underneath it. After the parade I went to the church next to Saxy Women, another ancient ruin, where they were setting up for a concert with little booths selling food and drinks. I was walking through the group and I noticed I was the only Gringo present. I was a bit worried I wouldn't be welcome until a group of guys who carried their float asked me to join them. I ended up spending the evening with them. They were very friendly and inviting and one man gave me a badge he wore showing he carried the Dinora Tunquo float. I still have it proudly displayed on my wall and it reminds me of the great times I had in Peru and how friendly and inviting the people were.
Next we went on two great donation trips for Sense the World. We took 5 duffel bags of donations including school supplies, clothing, soccer uniforms, toothbrushes, vitamins, as well as some fun stuff like soccer balls and stickers. While in Cusco, we bought several hundred pairs of tire shoes and many other supplies. We went to several locations to donate the supplies. My favorite was Sayllafaya, several hours up into the Andes mountains. We went up to an altitude of 12,000 feet on the journey up mountain roads, rarely seeing another vehicle. The village was comprised of adobe huts with wooden poles and straw. We hung out for a little bit playing soccer with the kids. They prepared a lunch for us - boiled potatoes and eggs. Soon the majority of the children, elderly, and women with babies had gathered. I was told the others were busy working the fields. We passed out bags of school supplies for the children and bags with toiletries, pens and vitamins for the adults. We also gave out shoes to all the villagers.
I was trying to communicate with the villagers; unfortunately very few spoke Spanish because they primarily spoke Quechua. Some of the older women in the village began grabbing at my arm hair. Obviously I thought it was strange, but soon noticed I was the only blonde person and definitely much hairier than them! I took off my hat to show them my that the hair on my head was the same. In that moment I could tell that Sense the World was going places and helping people that have not received help from other groups before and truly filling a void. I’m grateful for the experience and happy to see how much everyone appreciated the help. I never miss a chance to tell the stories of my adventures with Sense the World and hold those memories close to my heart.