NANKIN — On June 21, a small group from Mapleton High School headed south of the border to explore Peru.
This was the first international trip for two students and one alumni. Mapleton traveled with EF Tours and was paired with a school from Pennsylvania for the guided tour.
The group toured Lima, Peru on the first day where it saw the Government Palace, Lima Cathedral, San Francisco Monastery and catacombs, and also visited the Larco Herrera Museum.
The travelers then took a flight from Lima to Cusco, which sits at 11,000 feet elevation in the Andes Mountains, the longest mountain range in the world. The visit to the Sacred Valley of the Incas is where some of the best memories were made on the trip.
The first stop was Sacsayhuamán, which is a citadel on the northern outskirts of Cusco and built by the Incas in the 15th century. The citadel is a site listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for international recognition and protection.
Students and chaperones also visited Ollantaytambo, the ancient Incan temple and fortress. A local guide climbed to the top with the group and they learned about the historical significance of one of the best-preserved ruins in the area.
“It was so impressive to see these ruins that were built hundreds of years ago without the equipment we have today,” Mapleton teacher Kerry Reisinger said. “And the fact that they have been preserved and we are able to visit them today is amazing.”
The highlight of the trip for many was visiting Machu Picchu, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Sitting at an altitude of almost 8,000 feet on a peak in the Andes Mountains, there are majestic views in every direction and a special feeling surrounds the area.
Llamas, which are native to the area, roam among the visitors at the site. A local guide led the group through the ruins and highlighted areas such as the Sun Temple and the Room of the Three Windows.
Built around 1450, the Inca abandoned the site about a century later and destroyed trails leading to the citadel during the Spanish conquest.
That is why the area is so important to Peruvians and their culture; it is one of the places that the Spaniards never found and destroyed. Mapleton graduate Jillian Belcher said Machu Picchu was her favorite.
“Machu Picchu was on my bucket list of places to visit. I got to do that and will remember the experience for the rest of my life,” Belcher said.
The Maras Salt Ponds was another interesting stop on the tour. There are more than 6,000 salt ponds that were carved out by a civilization that predates the Incas. This area produces Peruvian pink salt.
The travelers also visited a local textile shop where they were treated to a weaving demonstration.
They were shown the ancient practices of dyeing alpaca wool and students got to participate in dyeing some of the wool. Then they watched how it is made into blankets, scarves, shawls, table coverings, and more.
The travelers also visited Pisca Market where they shopped for Peruvian items to take home, such as jewelry made of silver, clothing and textiles made from alpaca fur, purses, and hats.
Back in Cusco, they also visited a local market where they saw sites very different from markets and grocery stores in the United States. Student Emily Reisinger, who will be a junior this year, was surprised to see how different the market was.
“In the United States we refrigerate our meat at the store. In Peru, we saw fresh chickens and fish sitting out at the market, along with cheese. That was really different. But it was interesting to see how people in another culture live.”
The travelers were adventurous with food on the trip as well with many of them trying alpaca steak and even the Peruvian specialty, cuy, which is guinea pig!
The group also visited CooperarPerú, which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization helping families in the neighborhood of Tankarpata, an impoverished community located 20 minutes from the historic center of Cuzco.
The organization has three essential campaigns to help the children in this area and they are education, health, and community development of children and families.
This was a particularly moving visit as the group learned about the needs of the area and the programs that are working to help children. Reisinger, who also advises the National Honor Society at Mapleton, said she is already thinking about the ways that Mapleton can partner with this organization in the future.
“The thing I enjoyed the most on our trip was seeing all of the ruins and learning about the history,” said student Logan Beattie, who will be a junior this year.
His mother, Sarah Beattie, who was also on the trip, agreed with her son.
“The history was very interesting, but I also enjoyed the beautiful Andes Mountains and the welcoming Peruvian people,” she said.
The sights were amazing, the food was good, and being immersed in another culture for eight days was a phenomenal experience for all.
“Travel broadens a person’s perspectives and educates them about the world and other cultures. I hope that future Mapleton students want to continue to travel and expand their horizons,” Reisinger said.
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