In an effort to get construction projects lined up for the summer work teams, Billy has been visiting a few of our Girasoles homes over the past few weeks to meet with the directors and figure out possible projects and budgets. Since I know nothing about this, and we have been busy with other things, he has typically made the trip on his own. But, when time came for him to go to our home in the Sacred Valley, we decided to take a few days to visit & stay with the Girasoles and see a few Incan ruins in the area – including Machu Picchu. It was the first time I was back in the Sacred Valley and at the home since 2009.
We spent the first day walking around colonial Cusco.
Since I’m a Peruvian resident now, we both were able to go to Machu Picchu on the “Peruvian price” – that’s just 20 soles roundtrip for the train, 36 soles for the bus from the train to the entrance and 65 soles entrance to Machu Picchu (regularly about $250). We arrived in Aguas Calientes at 6:30am and the return train didn’t leave til 9:30pm, which afforded us a lot of time to explore Machu Picchu and the town. We both had been to Machu Picchu before, but this was our first time together.
We walked to the Inca Bridge (within Machu Picchu) and thankfully we didn’t have to cross it.
We also walked all the way up to Intipunku – the Sun Gate. This is where the Inca Trail ends and the first look at Machu Picchu. In the right photo, Machu Picchu is the clearing on the top of the mountain I’m pointing to, and the brown path is the road from Aguas Calientes up to the main entrance.
The next day, We spent time with the Girasoles boys drawing pictures, and later went out to dinner with all of them.
We also visited their new home which should be completed by mid-March (and Billy figured out some potential projects with Hector, the home director).
The kitchen and large dining room.
On our last day, we visited Salinas salt mines just outside of Maras. Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Almost all the ponds are less than four meters square in area, and none exceeds thirty centimeters in depth.
And drove through the beautifully green Sacred Valley to visit Moray, the Incan “agricultural laboratory” which consists of various circular terraces. The depth and orientation of the terraces with respect to wind and sun creates a temperature difference of as much as 15 °C (27 °F) between the top and bottom. It is thought that the large temperature difference was possibly used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops.
It was a short 4 days in the rich, green Sacred Valley which left me wanting more time looking at the beautiful mountains, exploring the intriguing ruins, walking through the little pueblos throughout the valley and spending time with our Girasoles boys.
What some have called “the disaster the world ignored” is now becoming more and more clear as some humanitarian aid makes its way into the Cusco region, after residents of the state have lost their homes due to the recent days of heavy rain. Since the news focus on international disasters has been directed at Haiti over the past three weeks, very little information about the Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu/Cusco floods has made it to the US version of CNN.
Searching on the internet, one will find plenty of information about the stranded American, Argentine, Chilean and European tourists that were stuck in Aguas Calientes when the rain washed out the train tracks, the only access to the city. You can read about tourists being evacuated in helicopters and presidential planes, the extreme inflation of goods such as bottled water and crackers, and how bad this disaster is for the tourism and agricultural economy of the region. It takes a deeper look, and more thoughtful search to find out how the Peruvians living in this area were affected.
I have found a few different sites or posts (in English) that covered how the nationals are dealing with this disaster and have shared them here.
Two posts from the “…En Perú” blog that show pictures of the region, photos of houses being washed away, flooded farming fields, and what is being done in the area. The first, Humanitarian disaster in Cusco includes the best photos of the current situation and an updated time line of what has been happening over the past week. The second, Emergency declared in Cusco, includes video from the last train leaving Aguas Calientes and returning back to Cusco.
Finally, here is a video from CNN that shows some of the damage that has happened in the Cusco-Aguas Calientes region.
As many of you know, Scripture Union operates one of its homes for abandoned boys in the area, the Casa Girasoles Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley Home). There are approximately 40 boys living in this home, with house parents Héctor and Maritza, and their two children. Unfortunately due to the flooding of the Urubamba River, which runs along the back of the property, the home has sustained very serious structural damage, but thankfully no one was in the home at the time.
Hector and Maritza had decided to take the boys and staff of the home away for a vacation during the summer holiday, a trip that would be make memories for a lifetime for their 40 boys. Throughout the past year, Hector and Maritza have been very resourceful with supplies and funds and were able to make the 24+ hour trip to Kawai, another home operated by Scripture Union, which is located on the Pacific Ocean one hour south of Lima.
Upon their arrival to Kawai, they learned of the news of the flooding in Cusco. Hector has since returned to the home to assess the damage and salvage whatever can be used. From reports, it appears that the home has suffered major damage and will need to be completely re-built. It is unclear as of right now where the boys from the Sacred Valley home will be living while renovations and construction occurs on their home. Please keep each one of those boys, staff members, Hector, Maritza and SU workers in your prayers.
For some more information about Scripture Union’s abandoned boys home in the region, the Casa Girasoles Valle Sagrado, I refer to Billy’s website about his time in Peru.
A Big Prayer Request and a Huge Praise
“This past week has presented us at Scripture Union with some difficult problems, and I appreciate your prayers for wisdom in decisions that are going to have to be made in the coming months. You may or may not have heard anything about the flooding in the Sacred Valley in the past week. CNN has been following it because the record flooding has taken out a significant part of the train line to Machu Picchu leaving 2500 tourists stranded in Aguas Calientes.
Anyway, the floods have been incredibly violent, and they have completely washed our boys’ home away. There is basically nothing left of the building. The good news is that for months and months Hector (the house father for Cusco) has been saving money from his budget because he really felt like God had placed on his heart to take all of the 42 boys plus more volunteers and staff workers on vacation to one of our other campsites just south of Lima on the Pacific Ocean. Most of the children had never before seen the ocean, and Hector really wanted to see it. The vacation was originally planned for the first two weeks of January, but at the last minute a situation came up that forced them to change it to the last two weeks of January. Praise God for his timing. I know that it was Him that put this vacation on Hector’s heart, and He is taking care of the boys. The water arrived at our boys’ home in a flash flood in the middle of the night that almost immediately covered over the bottom level of all of the boys bunk beds. Eventually it rose to the top level of the bunk beds too. The building is made out of the traditional mud adobe bricks, and it has now been washed away. I can’t imagine the tragedy that would have happened had the boys not been on vacation. Praise God for his protection over our kids!
A few days ago Billy Clark (my boss) had a meeting with the person who donated all of the money for the construction of the boys’ home in Cusco. As you can imagine Billy was not looking forward to telling this man that his entire investment in this boys’ home had just been washed away. How did the man react? His words to Billy were, “Well, it’s just money. We will have to rebuild–this time with cement and bricks instead of adobes.” He has agreed to donate the complete amount to rebuild the home. Praise God for his provision!
Please join me in praying for the situation at the boys’ home. It is a difficult situation, but what an awesome testimony to these boys of how God’s hand is protecting them! Pray for wisdom as we begin to plan for the work team season in Cusco. Pray for everyone who is involved in deciding how and where to reconstruct our home. Most importantly pray for the lives of these boys who are temporarily without a home (they are currently staying at our campsite on the ocean where they came for a vacation). Also join me in praising God for His faithfulness, his provision, and his protection!”
I can only agree with what Billy has written, thanks be to God for His protecting hand, provision and for the lives of these boys. Many things will be changing for them in the future, and I ask for your continued support and prayers as they continue on.
Dancers from one of the 10 impromptu parades Billy and I saw while in Cusco on Sunday.
This parade was to celebrate the patron saint of San Blas, which is a small neighborhood of Cusco. The dancers, which are all dressed in ornate costumes and lots of color, danced through the streets of San Blas stopping traffic and pedestrians as they passed by.
As mentioned in my previous post, there was a peaceful protest in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco on Sunday.
Campesinos (people from the countryside) ventured into Cusco for the day to protest the building of a new dam in their region. They were protesting the Peruvian government and, more specifically, President Alan Garcia for their decision to build this dam which would take land from the people in Canchis.
Despite being only in Cusco for one day, the strike and protesting has been going on for the past two weeks.