Thursday, June 11th.
Today we got to sleep in a little longer than usual as we weren’t going to visit any projects. There were some people in our group who would have their fun day with their sponsored children today so they and some of their families were able to come with us on our sightseeing adventures. The first stop was a park in Huancayo. We had a local tour guide with us. It’s very hard to stay together as a group when you have so many people plus a large park to explore! While we were there, there was a large group of school children there also. As background, they don’t see large groups of Americans and/or tourists in that town very often so we were celebrities somewhat. They love having their picture taken so they were in many of our pictures! See below. I had a group of girls that wanted their pictures taken in various locations. I do know enough Spanish to say “uno mas” so that I indicated it was the last one! After I took pictures and let them see, they were nice enough to hug and kiss me and say thank you. I’m tellin’ ya, I can’t get enough of that. So sweet!!
At one point, I was talking to a group of maybe 5 kids and realized that it had turned into more like 20 kids asking me how to say various Spanish words in English. I’ll tell ya, it was a good test of my limited Spanish skills!
After that I made my way around the park taking pictures of my friends, more kids, and flowers. The park had a lot of historical statues and areas that talked about Huancayo’s history. I wish I could have stayed with the tour guide, but I still feel like I had a good time and enjoyed the beauty of the park.
Suddenly, I noticed that there was a huge crowd around Will, one of the younger guys traveling with us. I laughed because he was popular wherever he went. A lot of the girls like him, I think, because he resembles J. Bieber a little bit. I was no sooner done laughing then there were kids surrounding me wanting me to sign their notebooks! It was the most surreal thing!
Here are some additional pics of the park and the gorgeous flowers there!
Almost the entire park consisted of fountains, but unfortunately, they were doing roadwork all around it so I imagine that’s why the fountains were shut off. It’s a shame because I’m sure it’s gorgeous when they’re on!
Soon we had to walk back to our bus (a big charter bus this time with nice comfy seats) and head to our next stop. I wasn’t sure what that was, but it was probably a good 20 or 30 minutes through some very windy mountain roads. So curvy that the bus had to honk going around them to warn anybody on the other side that we were coming! At one point, we were literally going down a mountain road a little ways, turning 180 degrees, and then doing the same thing at least 4 or 5 times.
Here was our next stop:
We were treated to a live demonstration of how the artisan carver produced his carvings. Basically, he took a dried gourd and carved it with a small tool. After that, he would take a hot, ashen quinoa stalk and blow on the end to control how darkly it burned the gourd. Here is the progression:
He’s 73 years old and has been doing this basically his whole life. I believe he was 4th or 5th generation, I’m not sure. They had a shop full of really cool stuff! Some of the works had intricate carvings and then were black/gray all over. He accomplished this effect by carving the gourd first, then covering it in animal grease, and then coating it in Ichu ashes. Then he wipes it off with water. The ashes remain stained on the gourd. It’s really a beautiful effect. They also dye some of the gourds with natural dyes.
They had all kinds of stuff in the shop, but here is just a sampling:
I think he had to make a killing off of our business! I’ve never seen so many people go crazy for gourds! I got my fair share too so it was a great time! They also had these little bird whistles that sound like birds when you blow through them. Some of the sponsored children with us got those as gifts. I’m so glad there was a “not on the bus” rule about them.
I think we left the shop around 2 PM or so. We were starving! We then headed to a neat restaurant by a river even further in the mountains! Let me just tell you that I’ve never seen bus driving skills like I did on this trip. This bus driver (and his assistant) navigated this massive bus through tiny towns with one lane roads! It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. At one point, I think there was less than 2 feet of clearance between the bus and the nearest wall and/or house! Fortunately, we didn’t encounter much traffic. Finally, we arrived.
We even had Coke in glass bottles! I think they make these in the US again, but only very recently, I think. Still, it was novel to me.
For the record, I don’t even like Coke. (Usually Diet or nothing.) The Peruvians like everything so sweet though that it tastes like Pepsi, which I do like. They don’t use artificial sweeteners there or corn syrup. Sprite didn’t taste normal either. It tasted a lot like Sierra Mist. I drank a lot of Fanta on this trip, too. I think sugar kept us going half the time!
There were some chickens wandering around. I guess they aren’t the ones used for the chicken that we had though. The chicken we had was wonderful! It reminded me a lot of a tenderloin. They pounded it flat and fried it!
Rachel and I ran (literally) out to the road to get a picture of these guys.
So apparently they grow a lot of artichokes in Peru.
The restaurant owners (I think) also had a parrot that just hung out in his own little tree nearby.
Before I forget, here are a few shots of the flowers that were also at this restaurant:
After some of our group went down to the river to test their luck of not falling in, we then visited some friendly cows at an ice cream factory. The cows were okay, but the ice cream was great!
It was off to the hotel after ice cream. We would have an early start the next morning as we were flying back to Lima!