February 26, 2019

Scholar Voices: My Andean Journey through Cusco, The Inca and Peru

The summer of sophomore year can be a very difficult time in the life of the average college student. Between choosing a discipline and finding a career, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure on the student to find a project that will help them further their professional goals. For many, summer plans usually involve taking on internships, doing research or enrolling in summer courses while others decide to work or take trips around the world. During the summer of my sophomore year at the University of California, Berkeley, I had the privileges of doing a little bit of both. Through my Anthropology class, I spent several weeks exploring, working in and experiencing the breathtaking beauty that is Peru.

Week one of our journey encompassed exciting trips and adventures, but nothing compared to the thrill of Peruvian Soccer. I felt the tension in the room as a crowd of students and locals sat and watched the final match played by Peru before they were eliminated from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

During the second week, my anthropology cohort had the opportunity to travel to several different areas around Peru, which included visiting Machu Pichu. Reaching the top of the mountain, from which the ancient Incan ruins can be seen, was one of the most breathtaking, literally and figuratively, awe-inspiring experiences I have had in my entire life.

Also, in week two we traveled to Lake Titicaca and visited the island of Amantaní, one of the region’s many islands. While in Amantaní, our team was able to learn about ancient Incan moon temples firsthand and partake in the traditional celebrations of the people of Amantaní; we also had the privilege of being housed by one of the most amazing women on the island.

During the third and final week of exploration and active learning for the program, our cohort took one of the biggest challenges we had to date, climbing to the top of Lake Humantay. At 13,000 feet above sea level, Lake Humantay stands as one of the most beautiful lakes that I have had the privilege of experiencing. If I had the chance, I would definitely climb it again.

The last two weeks of our trip saw us immerse ourselves in the real application of our work – excavation and illustration. At Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park, our team was given the privilege and trust to excavate, measure and illustrate ancient Incan ruins.

Ultimately, on our final day at the archaeological site, our team had the distinct honor of being able to participate in a spiritual ceremony with some of the Peruvian archaeologists and ended the day with a hardy and delicious meal called Huatia potatoes cooked while buried underground.

Several people played a major part in making this trip one that I will never forget. Without them, my trip would not have been nearly as memorable as it currently is.

My experience in Peru is one that I wouldn’t exchange for anything in the world. The beauty of the land, the hospitality of the local people, the rich culture and tradition and the amazing food are things that words and pictures can never capture. If I had the opportunity to go back, I would take it in a heartbeat. I truly recommend that everyone experience the breathtaking beauty that is Peru.

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