Feeling like a gringo in South America

South America Gap Year

Read on for our first day-by-day update from the South America volunteers.

Day 1

I have now been in Cusco 4 days. I am loving every minute. After the stress of 30 hour trip here and adjusting to altitude, I finally feel less of a gringo. I have already seen some amazing things. I have never experienced such vibrant colours and dazzling landscapes. The Choco museum was a great lot of fun too, especially the chocolate liquors. The local Peruvians are very matter of fact but also very kind and humorous. Today, we trekked for 45 minutes uphill to acclimatise to the altitude before Machu Picchu. The city is full of beautiful churches and oasis like Plazas. It is very hot during the days but the nights grow cold without layers. The food is amazing, Quinua soups are delicious and I have tried anticuchos as James advised. I am getting on well with everyone too; at the hostel (VIP Garden) we all got to know each other quickly through good bear (cuscoquenca) and card games, especially ‘Mafia’. Currently we have done two days of Spanish lessons. I feel like I am picking up quite a bit and practicing on the markets, shops and the family I am staying with. Me and Andy are with a Spanish family near the Armas Plaza. They are kind and feed us well. They have 3 very cute kids; ‘Daniel’, a Belgian volunteer (Ludo) is also starting with them and he helps us often with translation. The Gapforce co-ordinators are very nice, Frank is a climber like me and Stefan is very funny in his Serbian mannerisms. My Spanish teacher (Carla) is very patient and easy to learn from. We are just about use to Cusco now. Finding our way back after drinking at a Paddy’s Irish bar. Lots of activities planned – Alpaca Farm, ‘Sexy Woman’, ‘Devils Balcony’ etc. Very much looking forward to the next few days, even if they are hard trekking 🙂

Day 2

Today was awesome! We started off with Spanish lessons at normal time (8:30am) which was very good. I learnt a lot more vocab, which helped me buy the biggest sandwich at lunch I could find. Bread roll, stuffed with egg, cheese, chicken, chorizo, avocado and oregano. It was amazing, at only 7 soles = 2 dollars. Then we started a steep climb up to Saqaywaman or ‘Sexy woman’. The heat was at about 20 degrees and it really put a sweat on. It was really worth it though; the ruins were amazing; surrounded by alpacas, butterflies and birds. We continued to hike up to the Devil’s Balcony. An awesome basalt rock face that once was climbed by people such as Frank, before it was protected. A small cave in the rock where it leads to a shallow balcony to look out across to the other side. It reminded me of similar features in Stonehenge back home. It was a great opportunity to take some good photos. Me, Eleanor, Andy, Sam, Tom and Georgie all braved the cold, fast running stream to join Rashid in the opening of a beautiful cavern. On our return back down, we stopped off at the Statue of Cristo Blanco which we could often see from Cusco Centre. In the evening, we played charades in the Starbucks for a few laughs, then sleepy soundly after all the hard work. Best day in Cusco so far!

Day 3

Today was a slow but fun day! Spanish lessons were later today but it was fun playing Pictionary and snap in Spanish to practise numbers and vocab. After, we went to a nice cafe called The Meeting Place. The food was great, but it took a long time and made us late to meet Frank and Stefan. It was nice eating together because not only was it the 15 of us but we were also joined by the other Spanish students, including Ludo and Maurice. We visited the Inca Museum, which was interesting to see in depth how clever the Incas were at producing agrarian society and how clever their architecture was.


Day 4

Today was a difficult morning; we went out last night with the whole group to a karaoke bar. Going with the intentions of drinking little and not singing died quickly. I ended up drinking and singing Pantera, Iron Maiden, James Brown and Bloodhound gang. Ended up getting 4 hours sleeping so tired but not hungover I made my way with Andy to our last Spanish lesson. We went out to San Pedro market with Carla to practice out in the open. We said good bye to her here. It was very sad. We then went to meet the others and then did the last of our shopping in another Cusco market. That was after we enjoyed some awesome cake from a shop 5 minutes from our house.

Find out more about our South America Explore program
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