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Exploring New Worlds, Pt. 2

(Cusco, Peru. Photo courtesy of classmate Pablo Juarbe)

Most of you have probably already read about my adventures in Mexico. In addition to visiting Mexico for a week, I also had the chance to go down to Peru for a two-week field course with Dr. Bush and Dr. Aronson this past summer. A unique trip, we got to experience not only the typical tourist sites in the beautiful city of Cusco and Machu Picchu, but also a week in the Amazon.

We started our trip in Cusco and spent our first day just touring the city. Because I’m from a smaller city like Melbourne, I always think being able to walk around a larger city is really cool. Cusco is an absolutely beautiful city and I loved every minute of my visit, from walking around and visiting local vendors to admiring the beautiful architecture.

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Classmates Bella and Michaela and me in the streets of Cusco. Photo courtesy of Pablo Juarbe.

 After we left Cusco, we toured sites like Saqsayhuaman and Machu Picchu. After doing all my research on these sites, seeing them in person was absolutely amazing. The sites are so unbelievably intriguing. It really makes you wonder about the people that used to live there or who visited these sites regularly (Saqsayhuaman and Machu Picchu are religious sites).

Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu!

After touring those locations, we spent a week down in the jungle. We stayed in cabins along the way and would often spend hours on a boat as we traveled from site to site. The cabins we stayed in only had electricity for a few hours a day, so we often used candles and flashlights as our primary means of light. The isolation from technology was really relaxing, but I think we were all grateful for the chance to be able to talk to our families when we stopped at a town with a pay phone.

Inside my cabin at Pantiacolla Lodge

Inside my cabin at Pantiacolla Lodge 

The Amazon was filled with so many beautiful animals and plants that I had never seen in person before. While at some points I was reminded of home (like when we visited marshier areas with caiman), I’d be quickly brought back to Peru when we saw parrots, monkeys and jaguars.

Scarlet macaws. Photo courtesy of Pablo Juarbe.

Scarlet macaws. Photo courtesy of Pablo Juarbe.

The Amazon was full of wonder and surprises. There’s nothing cooler than being awakened by howler monkeys in the morning, seeing gorgeous scarlet macaws travel overhead, or watching ants march along the forest floor, carrying leaves on their back. I was continually in awe of everything around me.

Brown capuchin monkey. Photo courtesy of Pablo Juarbe.

Brown capuchin monkey. Photo courtesy of Pablo Juarbe.

This trip was an incredible learning experience, both culturally and scientifically. It was so surreal. I could never truly wrap my head around the idea that just a few days before I had been sitting in my room in Palm Bay, FL. Now I was standing in the middle of Machu Picchu or hiking through the Amazon.

Jaguar. Photo courtesy of Pablo Juarbe.

Jaguar. Photo courtesy of Pablo Juarbe.

If you ever get the chance to travel, whether through a school trip or other means, I’d encourage you to take it. Nothing expands your world view more. You will learn more than you ever thought you could if you leap on the opportunity and keep an open mind. My two weeks in Peru have been one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad I was given the opportunity to go. So, I’d like to thank Dr. Bush for offering the trip, and my parents and grandmother for being so supportive of me and my endeavors­—you’re the best!

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Ashley

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