The Opportunity of a Lifetime

After spending a magical five years with my class I was given the very special opportunity to go on sabbatical before returning to the school in the second term of 2015. This was certainly not an opportunity that I was going to take lightly and I began to plan the adventure of a lifetime. But where do you start, what do you do, where do you go, what experiences do you seek to place in your treasure trove?

The answer came quickly. South America!

A land of vibrance and intrigue, a land which holds a great deal of my identity and my passion, a land of adventure, warmth and dancing.

Now to decide on where to go. At first excitement took hold, so much to do and see, I wanted it all. To drink in the stories, histories and culture of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, and to discover their natural beauty, and so my goals developed. I would seek out natural beauty and cultural wonder.

Then I came down to earth and remembered that I had limited time and finances and most importantly; I wanted to spend a significant amount of time with my family in Colombia.

So I settled on Peru and Bolivia as they had a large concentration of the attractions that I wanted to see. After spending some much needed time with my parents and family in Colombia I embarked on a one month tour of Peru and Bolivia.

I began my experience, after arriving in Cusco, with a tour to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This was a crucial area for the Inca Empire and functioned as an agricultural, spiritual and political centre.  The Salkantay trek was next. My friend and I began the five day hike through the Andes, in Mollepata at an altitude of 2800m and climbed to 3900 by the end of the day. We could not have imagined what the next four days would bring; how we would be tested and the incredible beauty that we would experience. The trek took us up through glaciers, snow-capped mountains and the Salkantay pass reaching 4630m above sea level. We then began to descend into the cloud forest and jungle. We battled landslides, raging rivers and waterfalls along the way and found comfort in hot-springs and excitement in zip-lining above the jungle canopy. Our trek came to an end with a visit to Machu Picchu an exhibition of the urban Inca Empire at the peak of its power. Finally we hiked up Wuayna Picchu a towering mountain view point of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area.

This was only our first week.

We continued our tour by travelling to Lake Titikaka, one of the highest inland lakes in the world which straddles the borders of Peru and Bolivia. While in Bolivia we visited the largest Salt Flats in the world. They are over ten thousand square kilometres in size and provide a magical mirrored optical illusion to astound the senses.

Travelling back to Peru by bus gave us an opportunity to rest and sift through the hundreds of photos we had taken. We arrived in Arequipa and began our journey along the coast towards Lima. We flew over the mystical Nazca lines and visited the Colca Canyon to watch the condors soar. We sand boarded by dune buggy through the enormous desert dunes surrounding the Huacachina Oasis and visited the Ballestas islands and National Reserve of Paracas. At long last we arrived in Lima for some much needed rest and delicious ice-cream and fruit smoothies.

Our Journey was now at an end, our treasure trove was full to bursting and we boarded our flights back to South Africa with songs in our hearts and smiles on our faces.

Janine Rios, 8th Year Teacher.