Planeterra help support a community center in Cusco that provides a safe haven for children coming from impoverished and unstable homes.
The community center is called Inti Runakunaq Wasin (IRW), or the House of the People of the Sun.
Many of the kids that come to this center work in the streets of Cusco selling trinkets to tourists, which leaves them at risk for violence, substance abuse, and delinquency.
These kids have additional challenges at home – one child was physically tortured by a parent and ended up in the hospital for several months.
The IRW center runs a multifaceted program emphasizing personal development, education, vocational training, as well as specialized programs for adolescents and young adults with disabilities.
Most children come to the center in the afternoon (after school), where they can receive assistance with homework from the teachers on staff. They also participate in art classes, music classes, cooking classes, and vocational training where they learn to work with leather and other materials to make jewelry, bags, and binders. IRW sells these items at local festivals to raise money for the center.
Despite some of the heart wrenching personal stories associated with the children of IRW, this is an inspiring place that reminds one that there are still so many great and generous people in the world. An opportunity to visit IRW is yet another opportunity to infuse your Cusco adventure with a little dose of heart and understanding.
"Live the Adventure"
There is a small village located about half way between Cusco and Pisac (Sacred Valley) called Ccaccacollo (pronounced kah-kah-koh-yo)
home to the Planeterra Project, “Women’s Weaving Co-op.”
This project focuses on supporting and promoting the traditional weaving arts in this small village, where most of the men work as Porters for tourists hiking the Inca Trail.
The Women’s Weaving Co-op encourages the women of Ccaccacollo to continue spinning, dying, and weaving wool from Llamas and Alpacas as they have done for many generations – completely by hand using only natural materials and dyes.
They also try to cultivate an interest in weaving among the girls of the village in order to retain and nurture this cultural tradition.
We had a unique opportunity to visit the village on two separate occasions.
The first day, we were invited to the Children’s Christmas Party hosted by Planeterra. The children of Ccaccacollo and surrounding towns are treated to hot chocolate, special bread, music, dancing, and even a surprise visit from Santa Claus as well as other guests (yep, even Barney was there).
Our favorite part was definitely watching the precious children beaming with excitement and true joy as the Christmas Party activities commenced.
Our second visit provided more time to meet and observe the weavers and learn about the process of spinning, dying and weaving wool into amazing items such as hats, table linens, sweaters, dolls, and scarves.
Here at Ccaccacollo the women weavers have an opportunity to sell their exquisite woven crafts and earn additional income to support their families and the community.
Naturally, we left with a few purchased items that we are now enjoying at home – our daughter is especially fond of her Peruvian hat!
Visiting Ccaccacollo infused our Peru experience with a little dose of heart and understanding.
Safe Travels ~jd
“Live the adventure!”
Peru is a wonderfully diverse country with many treasures to explore, but for most travelers the primary draw MachuPicchu -- the lost city of the Incas -- considered to be one of the modern Wonders of the World. As dedicated earthXplorers, it is a place that we have been aching to visit for many years. The stars finally aligned and we are off to visit Peru and MachuPicchu
The quest for Machu Picchu formally begins upon arrival in Cusco, where tourists usually take a couple of days to acclimatize to the 3400m/11,150 ft altitude. This proved a bit more challenging than expected for us coming from Miami, Florida!
Fortunately, Cusco is a large and bustling city that provides plenty of distractions from being slightly oxygen deprived. Many tourists choose to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – a 4 day trek and, many would say, “rights of passage” to be able to gaze upon the cherished Inca ruins.
We opted to take the more comfortable approach (ok, wimpy approach) of driving through the Sacred Valley to the town of Ollantaytambo, where we then boarded a train to Aguas Calientes, which is the main tourist hub for Machu Picchu.
As a side note, the Sacred Valley has many amazing Inca and Pre-Inca ruins to set the mood for viewing Machu Picchu. We explored the ruins of Pisaq and Ollantaytambo, which, even in the rain, were fascinating and worth a close look.
Aguas Calientes is named for its hot springs in which hundreds of Inca Trail trekkers submerge themselves to wash off 4 days of dirt and grime as soon as they step foot in town. Our guides were quick to advise us not to join them and we were grateful for the honest guidance. Although our tour of Machu Picchu was not scheduled until the following day, with almost an entire afternoon at our disposal we decided to head up to the ruins to get a jump start on all the viewing, photographing, and filming we had planned. In order to reach the ruins, you have to take a 25-minute bus ride straight up a windy (and somewhat treacherous looking) road.
Although the afternoon was cloudy and overcast, we were fortunate that the rain held off and we were able to wander throughout the ruins snapping our cameras and iPhones like crazy.
Words simply don’t do justice to the feelings we had gazing upon Machu Picchu. Something in your core stirs and you feel in your bones that you are standing in a sacred place. This feeling was reinforced on our second day (official tour day) at Machu Picchu. We arrived very early (around 6 am) and the entire site was shrouded in a white mist.
Our guide had us sit in a small hut overlooking the ruins while he told us about the history of the place. The Incas (and Pre-Incas) were brilliant. They organized their cities around three central areas: living space, sacred space, and farming.
They were master planners, experts in irrigation, and in anti-earthquake construction. They also worshipped mother earth, the sun, water, and mountains.
The amazing terraces you see were created to maximize farming and ranching potential, taking advantage of the fact that different crops grow more efficiently at different altitudes (corn and wheat on lower tiers, potatoes on higher tiers, some terraces were dedicated grazing areas for livestock as well
As we listened to our guide, the mist began to dissipate with the sunrise and the ruins suddenly started to appear all around us…like some ancient apparition from another world. That is really it – you feel like you are in another world at Machu Picchu, almost like you are floating in a dream.
Our second day proved to be even more amazing than the first as the sun came out and we had blue skies, miles of visibility, and many hours to explore the ruins.
We left Machu Picchu completely humbled by what the Incas created and who they were as a people.
This was a trip of a lifetime and a must-see for any world traveler.
Safe Travels ~jd
“Live the adventure!”