Capping Off An Unbelievable Summer Program in Peru

June 11, 2015
Clear blue skies, intense sun rays, and a cool breeze greet us as we emerge from our communal sleeping quarters in Patabamba, Cusco, Peru. Slight solemn smiles are smeared across our faces. The reality that we were leaving our homey village was combatted by the excitement for our river adventure. Our stay at Patabamba was something we didn’t expect. Upon arrival, we were worried that we would be uncomfortably dirty, painfully underfed, and unable to sleep. But to our surprise, our stomachs were always full, the dirt and grime brought us joy and the mega beds kept us well rested.

Our final meal of pancakes, sweet bread, and Nescafe is groggily eaten. We load our bus to the Urubamba river and our cheeky river guide Eduardo introduces us to hispanic pop music as we weave our way down the mountain. Our chest fill with oxygen as we embrace the lower altitude.

Our bus ride concludes at a put-in spot on the side of the road where we get out and down our many layers of gear to protect us from the frigid water of the river. The communal feeling of embarrassment led to giggles and huge smiles. We stare at the flowing river and feel a bit underwhelmed knowing class 3 rapids are our biggest challenge. Still, the tall Andes mountains tower over us and the snow capped peaks watch us from a distance as we float down the river.

Time spent in flat water is filled with splash bottles, loud cheers, and other games which keep us entertained. The sacred river’s shore is lined with ruins and farm animals. The authenticity is overwhelming. These are the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo, they are hundreds of years old, yet the engineering feats keep our mouths wide open today.

The rapids are exciting. Cold water splashes our faces and fills our boats. Some people ride at the front of the raft, to make the most minor moments substantially more exciting. Screams of shock and joy screech over the roaring waters. We attribute most of it to the 10 degree (Celsius) water though.

Our arrival at the end of the journey is incredibly satisfying. Fried chicken, rice, and avocado salad accompanied by cake and Oreos end our final adventure perfectly. We could taste home in the food but the mountains and people keep our hearts in Peru.

The bus ride to Cusco after the river is “hype”. We fuel up on American snacks, and climb back up the mountain. Our leaders show us their interesting taste in music and we dance and sing along to Backstreet Boys, Rihanna, Shaggy and other artists who created the jams of our grade school days. The bus rolls into Cusco, our final destination. We can’t believe we were back and the trip is almost over! The warm showers wash the negative thoughts away. Four days of grime definitely wilts our energy but after refreshing our mind and body, we sing louder than ever and run about the hostel. The scene is juvenile but we don’t care. Besides, evening circle is almost here and by the time it’s over, we’ll almost be asleep.

The following day was sad to start. The thought of leaving brought us down but adventure always prevails. We explore Cusco, eat Peruvian McDonald’s and drink delicious coffee. Lunch is inhaled, but naps follow appropriately.

Once rested we disembark on our market excursion, stopping to buy gifts for all the people we miss back home. We now prepare for our final feast with excitement to look handsome and pretty though our hearts are heavy as we bring this amazing journey to a close.

On Day 1, we wore the masks that hid some of the most beautiful perks of who we are. As days went by and conversations got deeper, we began to reveal our faces. We began to embrace each other for our similarities and for our differences. It will be hard to go home knowing we might not ever see each other again. It will be hard to re-assimilate to the fast-paced, stress filled lives that we live in the States. We have these memories to hold on to. When we lay in bed, worried about God-knows-what, we can think back to the smiles, the laughter and the tears. We can be comforted by the memories, knowing simplicity and genuine happiness do exist and we were the lucky ones to experience it.

Favorite Memories from our trip:

Jennifer G.: A favorite memory of mine from the trip was the second day we were at the school. When we arrived there 4 or 5 little girls ran over to me and gave me a huge hug because they were so excited to see me again.

Adair S.: Something that I will never be able to forget from this amazing trip is hiking up and all around Machu Picchu at sun rise and the very long hike down to our hostel.

Carson C.: My favorite memory of this trip to Peru was standing above the city of Machu Picchu and watching the sun rise over the looming mountains to the east.

Noah C.: My favorite memory was when the 14 year old school boy hugged me and gave me 2 bracelets after two days of playing soccer with him despite his obvious nervousness.

Jacob Z.: One of my favorite memories from the trip is helping out at the primary school. There, the kids at the school and I worked together to learn English and Quechua, and we developed powerful friendships. We were also able to share our mutual interest in playing soccer, which is the same game halfway across the globe.

Paul E.: Whitewater rafting because of the exercise and meal after.

George W.: One of my favorite memories on this trip was staying at Patabamba and staying as a group. I thought that was one of the best bonding times both as a whole group and “bro-time”.

Olivia L.: I have many favorite memories from our trip it’s so hard to decide. One memory that really stuck out to me was the last day and the school we were working at. We got to sit with the little kids and just spend time with them all day. I loved how they were constantly giving us hugs and holding our hands. Another favorite memory of mine was our bus ride to Pisac. We were all singing and enjoying each others company as we saw mountains out the window. That hour was filled with so much joy and laughter and really described an ARCC trip to me.

Raquel R.: One of my favorite things that has happened over the trip is bonding time with everyone. Every night all of us kids would gather in one room and just talk for hours. Because we don’t have our phones with us, we were basically forced to talk to each other. Thankfully, that has brought us all closer over this short time. We have learned so much about each other, and still have lots more to discover. We are all going to stay in touch and hopefully all meet together again.

Caleb G.: It is nearly impossible to pin point my favorite memory of the trip. Everyday was as incredible as the next. I could say something simple like the sunrise at Machu Picchu or white water rafting. I could say experiencing the culture at Patabamba or working with the students. But those do not trump the simple moments. Specifically, in Patabamba, the entire group was laying in the girls room. It was after dinner, everyone was freezing and everyone was craving warmth. We piled into the “mega ed” and conversations erupted. Happy memories and sad memories were told, jokes were cracked, and memories were made. In that moment, we solidified our bond and became a family.

Ben B.: My favorite memory of the trip was when we were leaving the school on the first day. As I waved goodbye to the children in my class, I started to walk out of the classroom, and realized I was wearing child ankle weights. Waddling a few steps with my new little amigos, leaving with a permanent smile.

G. Gray: Seeing the ocelots and Andean deer in the animal sanctuary because they were really cute and I’ve never been able to pet a deer before.

Michael G.: I had the most fun when we were all together in one room fighting over the hacky sack, because it was when everyone was acting like their true selves and bonding and laughing.

Caroline R.: I had multiple favorite memories from our last 2 weeks from mega-bed, to hiking Machu Picchu, to co-ed bonding time, but overall my absolute favorite memory was meeting all of our amazing group. I love you all!

Maggie B.: My favorite memory was getting to know all of the other campers. I liked this because we didn’t need technology to keep us entertained. We could talk about anything without anyone judging us.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 year. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.