The Beginning of the End

I have mixed feelings about the fact that we’re out of our last homestay, but seeing as I’m getting up at 5:15 tomorrow morning to start our hike up to Machu Picchu, I’m going to save the in-depth analysis of emotional baggage for another post. But even though I’ll be glazing over most of the last two weeks in our homestay, I can’t leave out one very special day for me: February 27th, which was possibly one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had! We spent most of the day touring a special lake with cultural and historical significance for our village, hearing stories and taking plenty of beautiful pictures. That evening, Alex surprised me with the best gift ever: he arranged for me to be able to hold and play with one of the baby lambs owned by a family in our village!! To say that I was excited would be an understatement, which anyone who is aware of my obsession with sheep can understand.

And to make the day even better, my entire group threw a surprise party for me, which featured amazing music, hilarious dancing, delicious food, and a beautiful handmade cake. All in all, it was a completely unforgettable day.

I’m going to skip detailing the goodbye to my family, because it was really, really difficult, and move straight on to IST! We had a big group this time around (nine people!), and we ended up spending two nights in an eco-resort called Black Sheep Inn, and one night in a city on the Amazon rainforest called Tena. It wasn’t exactly our original plan, but I couldn’t have asked for a better IST. We spent the two days at Black Sheep doing breathtaking hikes, including a four hour hike around the rim of a collapsed volcano. I have to say, I’ve seen some pretty amazing things on this trip, but I think this was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It was a little hard to appreciate as we were gasping and sweating up the ridiculously steep incline (we actually went the wrong way around the rim: whoopsie!), but I’ve never seen water so blue. I don’t even want to try to describe it: I definitely cannot do it justice. I promise to try and get a picture up, because it was truly amazing.

Our time at Black Sheep also consisted of a hike between canyons, a horseback ride from hell, and, of course, playing/feeding black sheep. The food was all amazing vegetarian cuisine, and featured free brownies, cookies, and banana cake around the clock (which we promptly took advantage of). We spent our nights playing Kanasta (spelling??), watching movies, and laughing. It was lovely.

We then traveled six hours to Tena, which meant we arrived at 2 am, but our driver, Ivan, was ridiculously patient with us. The next day we dragged ourselves out of bed and into the pouring rain to paddle board down a river through the rainforest. It. Was. AWESOME. And a lot harder than it looks! And even though we didn’t see any pink dolphins, it was still unbelievably beautiful. Granted, it did get pretty scary when we went over some of the rapids: the storm turned some of the Level Two rapids into much more difficult Level Four rapids, but we all made it through in one piece.

After IST, we spent a few days in Quito, finishing up our final media projects. By the time presentations rolled around on Wednesday, mine still wasn’t quite done, but since I’ve put so much time and effort into it already (and since I actually really like it), I decided to wait and present it a little later in the trip so as not to rush the final product. I promise to compile all my media projects into one post before the trip is over! Just need to actually get my shit together first. While in Quito, we also paid a visit to the Ecuador museum, which is hilarious in its efforts to prove that everything works better on the Ecuador. Did you know that an egg balances better on the Ecuador?!? You do now!!

Anyway, we’ve reached our final country, Peru, and tomorrow we set off for a four day hike on the Inca Trail to Machu. I am TERRIFIED, but I know it will be awesome (if I don’t die mid-hike)! Please send any good thoughts and spare energy my way, because I will definitely need it!!

Okay, not a very long post, but I wanted one last check in before the trail. Hope everything is good back home, and can’t wait to see you all very, very soon.

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.