Volunteer stories : Francesca W., Incan & Wari Archaeology in Peru
Waking up at 4am to catch a bus up to one of the 7 wonders of the world, surrounded by impatient European tourists. Arriving at the gates to the Machu Picchu site and being asked for my passport by a surly Peruvian guard… and seeing it back in my hotel room, half an hour’s bus drive away. I will never forget running around Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) trying to find the ticket office for another ticket up the mountain. An unforgettable day in my two-week excursion to Peru.
My Archaeology Project in Peru
During the summer I went to Huyro, a tiny village 5 hours from Cuzco, Peru with Projects Abroad to take part in an archaeology project, discovering new Inca sites in Peru. We managed to begin work on unearthing a small Incan building. The machetes were really useful at cutting down small trees, but the long grass that we spent most of our time hacking at was too thick and most of it was pulled out. I was also stupid enough to not remember to put on my gloves until after we stopped for lunch, but I learnt quickly.
Before we knew it we were scrambling down the side of the mountain and relaxing in the river after a long days work, ending up in a water fight soaking us all. In the evening we played volleyball and although I had a disadvantage having never really played before, as long as I stayed away from the ball, our team didn’t do too badly. Then we went into Huyro and had a look around.
The next morning we stocked up on the bread, which is honestly the nicest bread I have ever eaten, and all got into the bus to take us to a viewing point on the Inca trail, which was just beautiful and really showed just how long and difficult it would be to walk, as we were tired just getting back up to the bus!
We also went to three other Inca sites that day, the first a sort of hotel for travellers on the trail and the second a place where they would celebrate and give offerings to the gods. Our last stop of the day was the longest stretch of the Inca trail that’s been found intact, pretty impressive really and although we couldn’t walk all of it, we did get to see how the Incas would break the rocks.
Fantastic weekend trip to Machu Picchu
Visiting Machu Picchu that weekend was unbelievable, despite the little hiccough of forgetting my passport, everything was just fantastic and I took an inordinate number of pictures of everything. We also got to chew Coca leaves, and we had a little travel ritual, and we made our own altars. Jorge took some of the group up to the sun gate, and even though I began to walk up, it was so hot and we were walking so quickly, I went and joined the rest of the group in the café. Finishing off our trip to Aguas Calientes was lunch, where I had Alpaca! Surprisingly nice, but I haven’t been able to find it at home.
After our weekend at Machu Picchu we moved on the next day to a site that we swept for pieces of pottery and clay; more difficult than it sounds when little trees are in the way! I don’t think I have ever been so dusty in my life because for some reason I was in short sleeves and dust and sun cream do not mix well together. On our last day we were ‘baptised’. A little different to what I am used to: getting our face painted with an orange plant, given an Incan name and then dirt poured all over our heads!
Our time in Cuzco, although short was successful and we got to visit Saqsaywaman and Ollantaytambo when we first arrived, amazing places with superb views. On our way home we had a day there again, so we got in some vastly important shopping in some local markets, and I stocked up on Peruvian style jumpers and a blanket, along with presents for everyone back at home.
Such a nice place to go!
It was a completely new experience for me spending time in a place with no Internet, cold showers and a room with a mosquito net for a window. It was absolutely fabulous and I would definitely recommend it to anyone, although maybe you would choose one that lasts more than two weeks, as it was hard leaving people who got to stay for another month and the plane ride home was a lot quieter than the past two weeks had been but I had a brilliant time and will not forget any of the people I met and hope we can meet up again soon!
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