As I hopped off the airplane in Cusco, a smiling man in a straw hat offered me coca leaves to chew on. Coca leaves are illegal in Canada so this was a unique beginning to the journey ahead of us. The next 10 days were spent travelling across Cusco, Maska, and Aguas Calientes.
Arriving in what used to be the capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco, we wandered the colourful, cultured city speaking broken Spanish with locals. We were greeted by the unique sights of the city, the bright faces of children, and the innocence of stray dogs. We visited a local hospital, tuned in on presentations from local health professionals, and learned the challenges that the people of Peru face with their healthcare system.
We arrived at the village of Maska, where we were hosted by a family farm. This farm runs a service project called Kausay Punku. Spending 3 days with no power, Wi-Fi, or showers was less challenging than it seemed. Instead, our power and Wi-Fi was replaced with conversations and knowledge. We were taught the traditional methods of medicine and the importance of it to this remote community. We spent hours collecting eucalyptus leaves to make a small bottle of essential oil and planted herbs on their land. At the end of every night, we would warm up to a bowl of soup with only the buzz of stories and songs to fill the dimly lit hut.
After a 3-hour trek along a railway, we reached the last destination, Aguas Calientes, which houses the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu. Climbing up Machu Picchu with low hanging clouds was a dream on its own. Climbing up the second mountain, Wayna Picchu, gave us an incredible bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu. The experience was personal, historical, spiritual, and so much more than I could fathom.
After a ride on a scenic train, we returned to the original city of Cusco to wrap up the incredible week we just experienced. We shared stories, experiences, and lessons we learned throughout the week that broadened our perspectives of the world. Shortly after, we boarded our airplane to fly back to Toronto, but this time with people who’ve become more like family.
Written by: Bismah Khalid