Photo post by Elizabeth Mann
Photo post by Elizabeth Mann
Coming from a family of outdoors enthusiasts who love to hike, I have gotten to see many amazing sights in nature growing up. However, the hike up the Intipunku, or Puerta del Sol, trail at Machu Picchu was absolutely the most breathtaking hike I have ever gone on. The weather changed quickly as we rose to the top, with clouds rushing up out of the valley. When the view was clear, we could slowly see Machu Picchu getting farther and farther away from us as the air became more refreshing.
Though the hike was a little tiring because of the high altitude, the view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding valley from the top were unbeatable. We were able to take some time for personal reflection among the clouds, lush vegetation, and ancient ruins – and we could not be more thankful for that.
Getting up at 4:30 is never easy, yet knowing the good to that is to come is enough to pull you straight up to your feet. The plan is to ride a bus to the mountains of Machu Picchu, and that is exactly what we did.
Our first stop was to a town called “Ojanta y Tambo” which translates to “a town to relax and enjoy”. We walked around for a short while to study the architecture, and learned that the town was built for the Incas to have a place to relax amidst their advents.
Shortly after we boarded a train that would streamline us to our final destination. During the ride, it was brought to our attention by Dr. Scullion to notice the ascending of trees up the side of mountains. We learned that the trees were migrating up the side as a result of climate change. Who would have thought trees to be so intelligent?
When we arrived to Machu Picchu, we didn’t hesitate to begin the ascent to the top where we could see the “Sun Gate”. We were all reminded of the challenges of hiking in the altitude. Once we got to the top though, it was all worth it. There might be some merit to the saying that the best view is from the top.
Upon descending there were still a few landmarks that could be seen.
We were guided through the maze of many of of the ruins in the mountains. Amidst the ruins was a temple called “The Temple of Condor,” Giovanna explained that the Condor, or vulture is representative of raising the soul and spirit to the celestial realm. There was once a time when the condors flew freely in the mountains. And now, they have been hunted for the value of their feathers which are thought to have powerful energetic properties.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we flew into Cusco this morning at 10:15. My roommate Lucy and I woke up at 5:28 to prepare our bags and get ready to fly out from Lima; we schlepped out of our room and across the bridge to the airport, meeting up with the rest of the Forest Online team. We checked our bags and headed over to the cafeteria before we headed to go through security and board our flight at 8:00.
I hit up the Dunkin Donuts for coffee, Boston crème pie donuts, and double chocolate donuts with Jason while Lucy and the others opted for Starbucks, Subway, McDonalds, or a panería for breakfast. The cafeteria was fascinating, as none of us expected to see so many American food chains occupying the Peruvian airport. I personally felt that the airport—granted, as an international airport there is an obligation to cater to the communication needs of the international travelers—was overwhelmed by American consumerism. So when we arrived in Cusco, I wasn’t sure whether to look forward to traditional Peruvian landscapes or an inundation of American culture into Peruvian culture.
After landing and hunting our luggage down, the Forest Online and our tour guide, Giovanna, shimmied over to Hotel San Juan de Dios, and set off to fill our yearning bellies. We went to Greens, an organic and fresh food based restaurant that has been in existence for the past nine years in Plaza de Armas. There, in a refreshingly calm, yet bustling room, we feasted.
After ordering a variety of beverages, such as mango passionfruit lemongrass smoothies, bottled water, and coca tea, we received an appetizer of carrot sticks an hummus. The carrots were crunchily sweet goodness that paired well with the smooth, slightly spicy hummus. The hummus was particularly interesting, because it was spiced with flavor, but it was not a burning heat in your mouth.
There was a selection of three different side dishes, which were provided to us prior to the main dish. The crema del día was a lovely pumpkin puree, with bits of greens blended in—I ordered and devoured this. There was a quinoa soup, sopa de quinua orgánica, mixed in with seasonal vegetables. The final option was an absolutely gorgeous ensalada greens: avocado, mango, mixed greens, cucumber, and oranges beautifully married together in a mandarine vinaigrette.
As a main dish, my famished belly led my brain to believe that I needed to take the opportunity to try alpaca for the first time in my life. This was not a choice that I regret. The alpaca marinada en ají panca a la plancha was wonderfully tender. The ratatouille which the grilled tenderloin rested upon was easy on the sauce, but bold in spices. Even after discussing the texture with the others who tried the dish, there is no simple way to describe the texture. It was like a tender mixture of bison and pork, with a richly pungent smell that permeated and enhanced the rest of the dish.
The other entrees were equally as impressive. The vegetarian spaghetti con verduras grilladas smelled wonderfully well-seasoned and the noodles were very good. Pollo tikka was a grilled chicken breast served over brown rice and vegetables, which was quite popular on the table. The last entrée offered as a choice was trucha del valle sagrado a la plancha, a grilled sacred valley trout, served with a quinoa taboulé. When I sampled, the trout seemed to be seasoned with a lemon pepper seasoning, but one can never be too sure.
Lucy and Elizabeth write about their thoughts on the benefits and concerns associated with Ecotourism, a rapidly expanding industry, which ARCAmazon will utilize in order to conserve the Peruvian Rainforest.
As government officials construct the Estrada de Pacifico, an extensive highway plan which extends from Brazil through the rainforest to the coast of Peru, many environmentalists are concerned about the effects the road will have on the Amazon. Constructing such a road will lead to higher rates of deforestation, which already destroys more than 150 acres lost every minute of every day. The highway could also increase the threat of gold mining illegal logging extraction of the forest resources there is also the threat of farmers entering the forest and using slash and burn agriculture, to destroy mass amounts of trees and natural habitats, to create nutrient rich soil for farming.
Without a plan for conservation and protection the future of the Amazon rainforest remains in jeopardy. By utilizing the resources of scientific experts, and collaborating with community members organizations like ARC Amazon can play an effective and significant role in the protection of the rainforest. It is crucial that ARC Amazon is aligning themselves in the best way possible both ethically and environmentally as they introduce tourists to the Peruvian jungle. Ecotourism provides ARC Amazon the credentials to be an environmentally friendly tourist destination, which will appeal to both environmentally concerned enthusiasts and explorers alike. To advertise as an ecotourist destination, It is essential that ARC Amazon creates sustainable profit while educating and promoting the values of conservation and research. Fortunately the Amazon rainforest provides numerous opportunities for ARC Amazon to fulfill the criteria of being an ecotourist friendly centre.