By Elizabeth Jewitt, Service Learning & Personal Development Coordinator, Middle School at the International School of Zug and Luzern.
The 6th ISZL summer expedition took place in June-July this year. A huge group of 32 ISZL students, together with 4 teachers, embarked on this exciting trip that included a 7 day trek and camping along the little-trodden Choquequirao route, a back door to Machu Picchu; white-water rafting down the Urubamba head-water of the Amazon; down-hill biking through spectacular scenery with a back-drop of the Urubamba mountain range; visiting the unique Inca ruins of Moray and the salt mines of Maras; working with the local peoples of the Cordillera Vilcanota to support the ECOAN reforestation project; and journeying in dug-out canoes to a lodge deep in the Amazon jungle. The major focus, the famous Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek, is one of the most challenging and spectacular hikes in all of Peru. This truly has to be the ultimate Andean trek, rising to a height of 4’200 metres and stunningly beautiful all the way. What an experience for us all!
Our day working with ECOAN was also quite an adventure. Light drizzle in the early morning cleared until we arrived with the community in the hills. Each armed with a pair of secateurs and weighed down by a hefty eucalyptus fence post, we trudged up the mountain to 4’100m. Rain soon became icy snow which was very unseasonal and our hands froze as we tried to prune the small queuña trees on the hillside. It was not quite as we had planned but we managed to prune 50 trees and left a huge pile of posts for the community to begin the fence rebuild in the next days. Retreating to the village hall, our cooks reappeared and prepared some amazing food and there was a great atmosphere of camaraderie despite the cold! Amazonas Explorer together with ECOAN planted 50’000 trees on the slopes of the Laras and Patacancha Valleys over the last year, working closely with the local communities, providing environmental training and financial support, and giving 1% of all profits to the cause. We were delighted to help with this worthwhile local project.
Here are some snapshots from the students on the trip:
On the magical and mystical Choquequirao…
Tonight was amazing…I stepped out of the dinner tent and was stunned by the view… It was pitch black of course but I had never seen the stars like this. Each star was bright and visible in a way I can’t describe. I saw shooting stars for the second time in my life… Oh but not only the second…I saw 6 that night and each just as astounding as the last. We gathered later to star gaze. We each pulled out our inflated mattresses and warm sleeping bags as we laid pressing to one another for warmth. We told jokes and laughed under the star light sky. Tonight was amazing and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
If you’re a real thrill seeker and looking for a real adrenalin rush, then today was the perfect day. We went on a wonderful 30 kilometer bike ride taking us 700 vertical meters down into a small valley to the Maras salt pans. Bikes, gloves and helmets were all provided and we all hopped on the saddles and went for the most amazing ride. Upon arriving at the salt fields everyone was shocked by the difficulty but also how much fun the ride was and I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone when I say we all really loved it! We recovered with a nice evening in Cusco with shopping and a dinner of local food.
Deep in the Amazon…
This morning we woke up on the side of the misty lake. We were on the boat by 06:00 experiencing the sounds and the sights of the waking jungle. Amongst many things we were lucky enough to see four giant otters next to us, screeching and fighting for fish.
And the poetry of the hike…
And blistering heat.
And sweaty backs.
Over the ridge to reap its rewards,
And nothing to lose!
– Zhi Feng and Nils
The final day of the trek…
Today was our last day of hiking…We made it to Machu Picchu.
For those of us who decided to climb to Machu Picchu Mountain, we woke up early at 4:45 and had a quick breakfast at 5. We had to leave by 5:30 though we were delayed by a few stragglers. We began climbing Machu Picchu mountain while the others slept.
Mathias, Philip and Alex V. sprinted to the top, taking only 44 minutes versus the usual 1.5 hours! Eventually 26 of the 32 made it to the top! After taking many pictures and enjoying the breathtaking view, we began heading back down, which was almost as tough as going up, since the stairs were steep and small!
For further reading on the trip and more photographs please visit peruiszl2016.weebly.com