Ancient Lifestyles Preserved Within the Clouds: Peru

Even though Peru is über filled with tourists, it still has so much wonder and beauty to behold. You can still uncover Peru like an adventurer of old. Just, if you do try to explore it like Pizarro, don’t do what the Spanish did to the natives.

Peru’s secret wonders are apparent in every smile of the Quechua woman that sells her goods on the roadside and every joke told by a man drinking his Cusqueña.

You will encounter Peruvian hospitality and warmth. The Inca survive through the faces, cuisine, and languages of Peru in all its corners. I didn’t get to visit Arequipa or Puno this time, but I have a long life ahead of me.

I was fortunate to live in and visit the cities of Pisaq and Cusco/Qosqo respectively. I was able to experience a beautiful mix of metropolitan and rural that I didn’t before in Santiago, Chile. Each brings out a different person in me. Pisaq quenches my thirst for quiet and serenity while Qosqo releases my cosmopolitan, taxi taking self.

Pisaq welcomes everyone. I mean everyone. You find some weird guys in Pisaq, but also some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. I’ve never lived in a small town like this before. I enjoy cities, but I felt safe and cozy in this village.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Pisaq is a beautiful town full of happy people, hippies, European tourists and my fourth host family. It is a wonderful place to live. It is simple but not in a derogatory sense. People here are not dumb or weak willed, quite the opposite, but you can just sit outside a café all day and type away if you want. No one will hassle you (unless you are in the markets), and life lacks complications with transportation and money.

You can go to sleep early because shops and restaurants close at 9:30 PM most nights or just enjoy a local bar after hours because you have become friends with the bartender. Pisaq easily becomes familiar with those that reside within her.

I feel much more in my element in city squares. The Plaza de Armas of Cusco is just like walking through a living room for me. I can shrug off hagglers, spin around picture takers, and hail a taxi. I’ve been there enough times I guess. Night or day, the Plaza de Armas has welcomed me when I was ready to hit the town or just when I needed a break.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Qosqo on the other hand is a mixture of traditional Andean and bustling urban. You can go clubbing with Peruvians and foreigners, visit museums and historic squares, and jet set everywhere using the nonchalant taxi services. Qosqo simply demands attention.

It is both full of brilliant, eye-catching attractions like the San Pedro Market and also opportunities to be bewildered, where prudence is needed. Qosqo will not hurt you, but it is easy to be taken advantage of in this dusty metropolis. Like the Quechua that sings through its streets, it must be met with force.

Enter the Sacred Valley and be baptized by Incan heritage. Machu Picchu still sleeps dormant ready to be explored. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Qosqo is the starting point to exploring the Sacred Valley (Pisaq’s location) and the famous Machu Picchu. I wasn’t planning on visiting the ancient complex, but destiny and my Parisian Canadian resident housemate had other plans. It is easy to know why Peruvians take so much pride in their heritage.

Their ancestors created one of the greatest wonders of this world thousands of feet above the sea. Their creation continuously kisses the clouds to this day. However, Machu Picchu isn’t the only marvel that the Peruvian people constructed.

Thousands of other smaller ruins litter the countryside. Some are considered comparable even to “the most breathtaking tourist trap you will ever see”: Machu Picchu. I sadly did not visit the famous Nazca lines, Moray, or the Poor Man’s Galapagos. Peru simply contains grandeur, and the Peruvians are not shy about showing it. They take responsibility in every carved stone from their past in order to celebrate and preserve their cultural future.

Beauty is a motif that surrounds Peru. Be it the landscape of the Andes, the dances of the people, or the goods sold at the markets, a unique attractiveness has drawn men here for centuries. During my journey back to Qosqo after Machu Picchu, I could not sleep. One reason was that I didn’t want anything stolen from me, and another was that the immense beauty of the moonlit mountain range caught my attention. It was ironic that I felt in more of a spiritual presence leaving Machu Picchu than when I was actually at the pseudo-mystical site.

Such vivid hues and stylish pigments! No wonder the flag of Qosqo is a rainbow. The Inca’s descendants are vibrant. All these beautiful blankets, scarfs, and tapestries are woven, sewn, and embroidered by hand (supposedly). Nevertheless, they are brilliant, and I will miss just perusing through the market on a cool summer day. It was like visiting a museum.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Materially, the modern creations of Peru are exquisite. Handicrafts are the classic Peruvian souvenirs, and even the more lack luster designs and carvings are delicately brilliant. Beaded ceremonial hats, alpaca woven ponchos, and sewn Pachamama charm dolls are my personal favorites. Each represents a Peruvian’s enterprising spirit but also thousands of years of technique and expertise. Sure, every nation has its specialties, but Peru’s are still the iconic Andean crafts. They are the standard of this side of the continent and should be respected as such.

Ratukama mamakunachawan solpaykuy!/ Bye ladies and thank you! (Photo by PintsizedPioneer)

Quechua hums through the streets of Peru. It is one of the national languages, and its roots will forever be in the Incan Empire. My education has been decent. I have learned to speak it, very slowly, and can communicate in Spanish/Quechua with the locals.

The cultural insight I have gained through Projects Abroad’s lessons is priceless, and I will be sure to continue my adventure with this new linguistic endeavor when I return home. My lessons were unusual and a holistic approach to Quechua. I am glad I learned with my teacher, but it definitely was a challenge.

I have confidence that with my future career and my own abilities, I will be able to speak it conversantly if not fluently one day.

I miss you Ulrike’s! A wonderful German owns the most cozy little internet café in Pisaq! I frequented this place with the other volunteers daily. Amazing desserts, tasty burgers, and the most friendly staff ever can be found here. I got a discount too since I was a volunteer; however, I learned this on my penultimate day. Nevertheless, I am fine with every Sol spent at this establishment. It was all worth it. Another great local eatery with internet is Frio Caliente (Honestly, it will always just be Benjamin’s to us). It is owned by Benjamin, a local, who is the nicest bartender you’ll ever meet! Thank you all, you wonderful restauranteurs!
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

One of the most amazing aspects of my Projects Abroad experience and my Peruvian adventure was the other volunteers. The first few days I knew no one here, and then all of a sudden, a British girl and an Aussie dude introduced me to some of the funnest people I’ve ever met.

They were supportive, empathetic, and just a bundle of joy to have in this tiny town. I will miss partying with them, making conversation at Ulrike’s, and just being with adventurous, pleasant people who know that sometimes – Peru is just Peru.

The feeling that resonates through Peru is pride. You feel it. No matter where you go, the Peruvian people will show you their worth in their food, in their art, and in their languages. They know that the whole world wants to visit this place, and this is understandable since it is stunning and the cultural center of the Andes (Qosqo specifically). Peru is still impoverished in many ways for being so touristy, but that doesn’t stop the life and passion of the nation.

The Inca chose this place for a reason. One of the greatest empires to exist in mankind’s history called this home after moving from Lake Titicaca according to myth.

The Inca still live on in every word of Quechua spoken, every potato grown, and every Pachamama sewn. The Inca live on because Peru proudly persists and will exist until the sun (Inti) and moon (Killa) stop screaming across this southern sky. Good bye Peru! I will miss your cobblestones, delicious spuds, and the Spanish and Quechua you speak.

The languages spoken here are so beautiful. Peruvian Spanish is smooth, and Quechua is mysterious and just weaves its way into the tune of the nation. I will definitely be back here. I need to explore and adventure this place with someone. I will be back here with a partner in crime (hopefully he’ll speak Spanish) to dive deeper into this beautiful land. I must see the Amazon! I must see the ocean! I must see the desert! Peru, you have not seen the last of me. I’ll be back real soon. Don’t change too much. I’ve fallen for you already.