by Julie Pizzat, ABSN ’19
Welcome back to the blog! This is part 2/2 detailing our ABSN journey to Peru.
Day 7: CerviCusco and Pisco
Friday, we stayed at CerviCusco and helped out in the lab as well as the clinic. Since the clinic wasn’t very busy, we were done with Pap smears (“examen del Papanicolau”) and biometric tests by lunchtime, so we headed to La Plaza de Armas to explore some more. We had some great burgers (including veggie options!) at Papacho’s and then stopped by the Museo del Pisco to learn how to make our own Pisco sours. Our bartenders/instructors were very helpful and played fun music while we relaxed after a long week. We headed back to the clinic for dinner and went to bed early to prepare for our big day on Saturday—Machu Picchu!
Day 8: Machu Picchu
Saturday, we were out the door by 6am to take our first bus of the day—our amigo Jesus was back to guide us throughout the day with a new friend, Jennifer, serving as our second guide. We took the bus to Ollantaytambo and then boarded a beautifully scenic train to the town of Aguas Calientes. Part of the Inca Trail parallels the train route, so we saw some hikers along the way, as well as more of the Urubamba River and surrounding mountains. Once in Aguas Calientes, we boarded another bus that took us on a winding and bumpy road up the mountain to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Jesus and Jennifer brought us inside the site and we saw the extensive terraces and remnants of the Inca civilization. We saw various levels of Machu Picchu, from the Inca Bridge to the Temple of the Sun. Apparently, it isn’t explicitly clear why the Incas left Machu Picchu, but some people believe the citizens experienced a natural disaster (such as an earthquake) and saw it as a sign from their gods to vacate the site, even though it was still under construction. We also learned while touring the site that the mountain seen in the background of most pictures of Machu Picchu is called Huayna Picchu (“young mountain”); the mountain, Machu Picchu (“old mountain”), is actually on the opposite side of the archeological site, often behind the viewer. The site sits in the shadow of Machu Picchu, the taller of the two mountains, and that is how the site got its current name. The original Incan name of the site is technically still unknown. Jesus told us all of this and more as we walked around the city and marveled at the architecture and the scenery surrounding us. Once our tour was over, we went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and then took a bus down the mountain back to Aguas Calientes. We had some free time there until our train left, so people split up and explored by shopping or going to the hot springs. Around 6pm we boarded our train home, climbed into our bus at Ollantaytambo, and were back at the clinic by 11pm. It was a long day, but everyone enjoyed the experience of Machu Picchu!
Day 9: Free Day
Sunday was our free day of the trip, and the majority of our group decided to participate in a private cooking class with a local chef in Cusco. The chef took them to the market where they bought the ingredients for their meal and then returned to the kitchen where they learned how to make Palta rellena (stuffed avocado), Lomo saltado (sautéed beef), Pisco sours, and homemade chocolates for dessert.
Another group decided to hike Rainbow Mountain instead, waking up very early (before most of Cusco had even gone to sleep!) and taking a bus several hours outside of town to the trail site. After a challenging hike, they reached the summit and although there was snow on the landscape, it was still a magnificent view.
Everyone met up later for dinner at Limbus, a restaurant/bar with a great view of the city, and went to bed to prepare for our final day of service on Monday.
Day 10: The Final Campaña
Monday, we had our final campaign just outside of Cusco where we once more performed Pap smears, blood sugar, and blood pressure testing for our patients. There was a good turnout and several lucky students held some children while their moms underwent procedures.
After our service was finished, we presented the CerviCusco staff with gifts of our appreciation and took one final group picture. Some people went back to the plaza and San Pedro market to do some last-minute shopping, while others went home and began packing to leave the next day. We had one last dinner together at the clinic followed by a debriefing session to discuss our trip and our group project, and just like that, our time in Cusco was over.
Day 11: Traveling Tuesday
Tuesday was our travel day, and we made our way home starting bright and early. The new volunteer coordinator, Alyssa, saw us off at the airport and was waiting there to pick up the next group of volunteers arriving later that day. We all made it back to Atlanta safely (albeit later than expected thanks to a few delays), ready to get some rest before starting classes again on Monday.
The past 10 days provided an amazing experience of Peru’s culture and history, and the experiences we had here will stay with us for years to come. Thank you to CerviCusco for being so welcoming and educational, to our wonderful instructors – Dr. Phan, Dr. Zhang, and Dr. Thompson – for guiding us throughout our time here, to the Lillian Carter Center for organizing this trip, and to my fellow classmates who made this journey as memorable as the adventure itself.