Volunteer teacher Daniel scales the heights... of Machu Picchu!

Tuesday 17th October 2017 1:28 pm
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Daniel Harper lives in Saundersfoot, attended Tasker Milward School in Haverfordwest and has recently graduated with a degree in history from Aberystwyth University. He is taking part in the English Open Doors programme Teaching English in Chile.

He’s travelled to Santiago, Chile, for a four-month experience, volunteering as an English teacher for the Chilean Ministry of Education.

Here Daniel tells us his latest story:

“I awoke at four in the morning and I didn’t feel like very much. Today was different than what yesterday had been and what tomorrow might be. Today I climbed to Machu Picchu.

“Leaving my home in Arica, Chile and taking a 10-hour bus into Peru to Arequipa and then another 10-12-hour night bus, we arrived Cusco. Staying in Cusco, we (myself and three of the other volunteers) found ourselves in the amazing night life of it all. It was a major modern city within the mountain range of the Andes and one that, while having a modern breath to it, kept the old colonial architecture to its truest form.

“This created an eerie feeling of being in a modern metropolitan within the midst of a high medieval city. Cathedrals and churches stand out as landmarks, but eyes turn to the top of the mountain overlooking the city housing the ancient and the spiritual.

“At the top of the mountain stands not only an incredible view of the city, but also Sacsayhuaman, an ancient Incan structure of impressive magnitude considering the technological capability of the ancient civilisation. The Incas moved 120 tonnes of rock up to this mountain all without the invention of the wheel and without the aid of conventional transportation such as horses or mules.

“After an exciting day in Cusco, we arrived in the town centre early, for two reasons. One was to arrive in time for the bus which was taking us to our start point to reach the town by Machu Pichu, but also because the Cathedral Basilica was open for free between the early hours of six and seven in the morning. This cathedral is famed for one if its paintings depicting Jesus Christ and his disciples at the Last Supper eating traditional Peruvian cuisine, Guinea Pig.

“Our next destination was Aguas Calientes, a town located at the foot of Mt. Machu Pichu. After a six-hour bus journey, our choices to get to Aguas Calientes were either pay £150 for a half-hour train ride (or a standard Arriva Trains ticket price) or walk along the train tracks for three hours in the Peruvian jungle. We all formally chose the latter option.

“The town itself is a bustling hub of tourists and gringos hoping to see Machu Picchu, although the downside to this is that there is no escaping the tourist traps, as everywhere is a trap. Whilst the pound still remains strong and it didn’t burn a hole too big into my wallet, it still was rather pricey for the service that was given. We turned our lights out early that night for the long trek up the mountain starting at four in the morning.

“After a gruelling hour-and-a-half climb, we reached the entrance and saw, from its famous vantage point, Machu Picchu. Not discovered by western eyes until the early 20th century, yet here it stood where it had been standing for thousands of years.

“A tour guide spoke in Cusco of the spiritual energy of this place and how you’d be wise to not forget its powers. I didn’t know whether what he was speaking of was real or not, but this awe-inspiring view had left an impact upon me and my companions. What that was or is, I still don’t know.

“Myself and my associates also climbed the continuation of the mountain that hangs over Machu Picchu, the peak of which hovered 3,000-feet above the ocean. Machu Picchu diminished below us until we were among the clouds and the thousands of steps and metres of steep incline that followed us. Overall, it took us almost three hours to climb and descend the peak. Our arms felt more like legs than our legs did by the end of the expedition.

“Arriving back in the hostel, we knew the worst was over. It was only the simple matter of walking back to the bus through the rail track and jungle, and then proceeding to sit on a bus for 24 hours to get back home. However, we did arrive home, albeit sweaty and somewhat dirty from sitting on buses for the past day-and a-half, but we arrived.”

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