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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Heading North: Bolivia to Peru

It’s nearly impossible to ignore the incredible history of the Incas during the group’s transition from Bolivia to Peru. From the Island of the Sun in Bolivia the group was able to learn a story of creation and of awe. Incan legend describes that the sun and the moon rose up out of Lake Titicaca to create Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the first Inca rulers. Isla del Sol is an island that welcomes visitors with its remarkable terraces that once were the beds for crops and now are predominantly enjoyed as paisajes (views) that welcome the curiosity of what came before. The Island of the Sun is a peaceful and quiet island, save the many visitors that walk it’s steep steps, with one, wide footpath running along the hilly island top that serves as the main highway connecting the two sides of the island.

Our trip to la Isla del Sol only encompassed touring the South side of the island. As far as we could tell from asking the locals, we learned that the North side of the island is arguing about some ruins on their side of the island and they haven’t been able to settle this conflict as of yet. This means that travelers can only be on the South side of the island and cannot walk the Inca trail that runs from south to north.

The group enjoyed our time on the island although the days were somewhat cloudy during our stay. When the heavy and ominous rain clouds parted to give us a peek of the snow-capped Andes in the distance, one can see how a place like Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of humanity in the Andean world.

Following Incan myth, Manco Capac and his family were told by the sun, Inti, to go north to Cusco and found a city there. Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu, then, have always been connected as a trade route for the Inca Empire.

Just like Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo our group travelled from Copacabana to Cusco, albeit by bus.

Before the Spanish arrived, Cusco was considered the “navel or ombligo of the world” and the center of the Incan Empire. Successive Incan rulers spread their roads and customs across South America, and Cusco was the administrative heart. The legacy of the Incas is still very much in evidence in Cusco and students were able to experience this over the last two days as they roamed around ruins and visited museums learning about Inca history.

Yesterday the group safely arrived in Urubamba, a town about an hour northwest of Cusco and where each student will be staying with a host family for the month. As a group we are excited to finally have a place to rest and relax.  Our time in Bolivia was absolutely magnificent but we are all ready to slow down and are looking forward to calling Urubamba and our homestays “home.” Students will start taking Spanish classes tomorrow and shortly will have individual projects where they will have a chance to get to know an aspect of Peruvian culture more intimately.

Sending everyone at home love from our new home of Urubamba! Saludos y abrazos!

Raquel and the Instructor Team