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Peru update – Mrs Watts’s group

Peru update – Mrs Watts’s group
Thursday 17th September 2009 by C. Freeman

Just a couple of the highlights of Mrs Watts's group's trip to Peru, were bathing in hot springs and cooking alpaca by a method which dates back to the Incas.

The students were shown how to cut up the meat, chop wood for the fire and construct a traditional oven, known as a pachamanca. Stones were arranged in a igloo shape and a fire was lit inside. Once the stones were hot the fire was extinguished, the meat was placed inside then the hot stones were collapsed to form an 'oven' around the meat and potatoes.

Mrs Watts said: 'One of the horsemen who accompanied our party lives in a very traditional village and they live as the Incas did; a pachamanca is something very special, they very rarely do it and he taught the students how to cut the meat into separate joints. It was incredible and took a good couple of hours to cook. They taught them how to cut the wood with an axe. We were still at very high altitude so those who were cutting the wood were really getting out of breath. It was incredible, the life skills that were taught just on that day.'

Their expedition also comprised a five day trek: 'We camped overnight at the hot springs in Lares and I can't even explain how amazing it was. During the day it's quite warm but at night-time it's freezing cold and there are hot pools at different temperatures so you could swim in bath-temperature water and soak in one of the smaller hotter ones. There's cascades of water that's really hot as well. After trekking for so long and not having showers and having to wash in little basins of water, to have that luxury was just incredible.'

The students also took part in a community project in a school, teaching English, games and sanding and varnishing tables. 'It was really practical and hands-on. Every day everybody swapped duties so everyone got a change to do a bit of teaching, playing and varnishing. It really opened our eyes as to what people have. On our project we had no running water, no toilets and the water had to be collected from wells and boiled to purify it. What amazed me was that the childen really wanted to be at school. We had three and four-year-olds just hanging around trying to come into the classrooms because they were just desperate to come into the school.'

The students also got the see the ruins at Macchu Picchu, although Mrs Watts and one of her group also visited the ruins at Pisac: 'They were the most incredible Inca ruins; you had to climb the mountain and walk all the way around it to fully discover all the areas. They were huge. Pisac didn't have as many tourists. Of the two sites I preferred Pisac because you have to explore the mountain whereas Macchu Piccu is just there, all laid out for you.'

Mrs Watts said that the group really gelled well together and they had all learned a great deal from their travels: 'The world is a lot smaller, distance is not as monumentally divisive. The students now know how to be independent, how to run their finances, how to seek help and ask the advice of locals. They have learned a lot about themselves as well; that they are capable of an awful lot more than just day-to-day life in the UK.'

One of the students on the trek, Tom Hoier, said 'It was a great trip and I definitely want to return to Peru. For me the highlight had to be the day we made the pachamanca and cooked the alpaca. The group got on very well. Our leader, Doug commented several times how one of the best things about our group was when someone was ill and maybe that stopped us from doing something we were more worried about their safety rather than what we were missing. Because we were all walking and camping it counts as our expedition for our gold Duke of Edinburgh award so I got something quite major out of Peru.'

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