Ninth Grade Four Point 2019: Peru

March 28, 2019

Peru Day 12

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Our last day in Peru was a full day in Cusco, an amazing city with a very long history. Everywhere you look you see Incan and Spanish Influences.  The pictures below will fill you in on what we experienced!

Amazing Incan stonework

An Incan style playground slide

Entrance to an Incan cave

Cave Exit. Phew!

We finished the day with a great dinner with Aima, our gracious host and the person who helped us with everything during the trip. She surprised the group with Gould 2019 Peru soccer jerseys that everyone loved! Thank you, Aima! We hope to be back in 2020!

Team Gould Peru 2019!

Homeward bound tomorrow early! It has been a great pleasure traveling with these great kids.

Aima, Chris, and Nancy

Peru Day 11

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

This morning our host families walked us to the town plaza to say goodbye and there were lots of hugs and hopes of seeing each other again someday. Our time in Ollantaytambo was very special and the experiences and memories will last a lifetime.

We were then off to the Salt Mines of Moras which are amazing and hard to explain. The pictures don’t do it justice, you’ll need to see it for your self.

“Hidden deep within the Urubamba valley, lies a precious gem: The Maras Salt mines, also called Maras salt evaporation ponds. A myriad of salt crusted terraces precariously nestles against the steep mountainsides, while a steady stream of mineral-rich water trickles down with a silent gargling that somehow defies time. The ponds, you ought to know, have been in use since the times of the Incas and before. An underground spring, feeding on the waters from the lofty mountain range surrounding the sacred valley, carries along heavy silts and salt. Who can say if it was chance or ingenious will that created the first ponds, but one thousand years later the ponds are still being harvested by the natives for their salty wealth. –

From the Salt Mines, we traveled through the quiet village of Maras to the Moray Terraces that get your attention and certainly have more of the “Wow” factor that we have been experiencing throughout this entire trip.

“One of the most visually stunning Inca ruins is at Moray, an archaeological site in Peru approximately 50 km northwest of Cusco and just west of the village of Maras. In a large bowl-like depression, is constructed a series of concentric terraces that looks like an ancient Greek amphitheater. The largest of these terraces are at the center – they are enormous in size, and descend to a depth of approximately 150 meter, leading to a circular bottom so well drained that it never completely floods, no matter how plentiful the rain.

The concentric terraces are split by multiple staircases that extend upward like spokes of a wheel and enable people to walk from the top to the bottom of the bowl. Six more terraces, in connected ellipses rather than perfect circles, surround the concentric heart of Moray, and eight terraced steps that cover only a fraction of the perimeter overlook the site. The purpose of these depressions is uncertain, but the most widely agreed theory is they used to serve as ‘agricultural research station’.” –

We finished the day with a beautiful ride to Cusco where we’ll spend the last 24 hours of our trip. We settled into the hostel and had a few minutes to experience the local market before dinner and bed.

Masks are a big part of the culture and traditions of Cusco. There are many festivals throughout the year where masks are worn. Here is one example!

We’ll explore Cusco tomorrow and be on our way home soon with amazing stories, pictures, and more to share.

Peru Day 10

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Our last day in Ollantaytambo was a special one. In the morning all the students prepared a Peruvian dish with their host families. The dishes were then presented at the final lunch this afternoon.

We all gathered outside, played some games, danced, and shared some words of gratitude. It was nice to have all the families and students together for this event.

Phoebe and Emma sharing some words of appreciation for the great hospitality our group experienced.

Aima sharing words of wisdom about how important these experiences are for all of us.

Time to dance!

How about a little red light, green light? This was a new one for the kids of Ollantaytambo and they loved it!

As a special thank you, our group sang a traditional Quechua song that we learned at the Kuska School. It was very much appreciated by the families. They seemed to really love it!

The ending pose of our Quechua song.

We will miss you Ollantaytambo! Muchas Gracias to all of the families, the Kuska School, our helpful guides, and Aima for making this all possible.

Tomorrow we will be off to the Salt Mines and Cusco!

Peru Day 8 & 9

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Our Peru experience continued with a two-day trip away from Ollantaytambo to get to Machu Picchu.

Waiting for the train early Saturday.

Off we go!

We took the train to Aguas Calientes and started our planned trek into the jungle to get to Santa Teresa where we planned to camp at Cola de Mono for the night and then take the train back the next morning back to Aguas Calientes to get the bust to Machu Picchu.

Along the way, we learned that a recent rainstorm had flooded a tributary and took out the part of the train tracks that we needed to use the next day to return to Aguas Calientes. Now what?

We talked with our guide “Marco” and the group about the problem this event presented to our itinerary and it was clear that it was not possible to finish the 10 km trek to Santa Teresa and then have to trek back the next morning, because the train was out of service, in time to make our bus to Machu Picchu.  Our decision was to return to Aguas Calientes and find a hostel for the night so that we could stay on track to reach Machu Picchu the next day. We did see some other trekkers continue on towards Santa Teresa but first they had to cross the temporary log bridge that people made over the flooded river that took out the train tracks.

Other trekkers crossing the flooded river

We found a great place for lunch along the trail just in time to get out of another rainstorm before heading back to Aguas Calientes where we found a nice hostel to stay in and some hot springs to dip in.

Our guide “Marco” and Mrs. Barstow outside the hostel in Aguas Calientes.

In the end, this day included a great opportunity for the group to stay postive when facing new challenges, to adapt to a new plan, and most importantly to make good decisions that allowed us to minimize the impact on the intineary while keeping everyone safe. We capped off the day with a pizza dinner and some opted to try the guinea pig pizza!

Sunday, March 25, 2019

Machu Picchu!

We boarded the bus early and arrived at the gate to Machu Picchu, one of the  “New 7 Wonders of the World”

“Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911.” –New 7 Wonders of the World

Our guide, Estaban, did a great job giving us the tour of Machu Picchu, the Inca Bridge, and telling us the history of the the site along the way.

Estaban, giving a history lesson.

The trail to the Inca Bridge. Stay left!

The famous Inca Bridge in the center of the picture. FYI visitors only go as far as where this picture was taken from.

As we toured Machu Picchu and learned more from Estaban, we were in awe of the stone work and layout of the place. It is unbelievable and hard to imagine how this place was constructed on this mountain top in the 15th century, let alone how it would be possible to do it with today’s tools and technology. It is a true wonder of the world. I’m sure thousands of pictures were taken between all of the group members but we’ll just post a few in this blog.

We finished the day with a late lunch in Aguas Calinetes before catching the train back to Ollantaytambo for the last two nights of the homestay experience before heading to Cusco on Wednesday.

Group pic with our guide Estaban before departing Aguas Calientes.

Lots of stories and laughter on the train back to Ollantaytambo

Peru Day 7

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Today we trekked to the Pumamarca Ruins where we learned about the hillside fortress that once guarded the sacred valley below in the 15th century. The trek starts from Ollantaytambo, the village we are staying in, and climbs steadily up the valley, along mountainsides, terraces, and across rivers to an unbelievable panoramic view of the entire area.  Our guide Walter educated us along the way about medicinal plants, the history of the land, and the ruins once we arrived.

Our guide Walter discussing medicinal plants of the area along the way.

Students returned to their homestays for the afternoon to eat, rest, spend time with the families, and prepare for our trek and camping portion of the trip leading up to Machu Picchu.

What a great day!

Peru Day 6

Thursday, March 22, 2019

A great day at the school with this group!

It was another active day with this wonderful group! We had our final morning of service work at the Kuska School, and we got a lot done! Some students painted tires, others painted signs, some made a fence, others did yard work to improve the campus, and some helped to facilitate another English class. It felt good to leave the school knowing that we did our part to make it a little more beautiful. We continue to be impressed with how engaged the students have been with the projects and the people at the school.

Garden fence installation, artwork included.

We had to leave the Gould mark complete with snowflakes.

Signs for around the campus

Ready to dig holes for the signs they just finished

English class briefing before the students arrive

English class included greetings with others as the students walked around the tire circle

The students loved the newly painted tires!

We then went back for the second day of weaving at the Quechua house. The students really got into it! It was also a chance to be together and chat.

We are meeting up a little earlier tomorrow morning to do a local hike, Pumamarca. We are all looking forward to it!

Peru Day 5

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Today we enjoyed lots of great activities with the students of the Yachay-Kuska School.

Aima briefing the group about the morning schedule

Our first task was to finish painting the base coat on the playground tires that the students use on a daily base for a variety of games. Once the tires were dry, the students came out with drafts of their personalized designs on paper and it was time to help them paint their designs on the tires.

A few students also were able to help out with an English class withe the First Grade class that was based around emotions like, hungry, sad, happy, angry, etc.

Later in the morning, we were able to take part in a goodbye ceremony for one of the long-time teachers of the school that was moving to Spain. It was a special moment for the school and so great to see the young children of the school share their thoughts and wishes for their teacher.

After lunch, we met up for a short walk to a Quechua village with an incredible view just outside of the town center of Ollantaytambo for a weaving lesson.  It took us all a bit to get the hang of it but progress was made and we’ll return again tomorrow to finish what we started.  This activity gave us all lots of respect for the fine workmanship and detailed work that we see when we walk through markets in the town center.

We’ll have our last service project day at the Yachay-Kuska School tomorrow before we get ready for some day trekking this weekend that will lead up to our visit to Machu Picchu on Monday!

Fun Fact: Did you know that Guinea Pig is a delicacy in Peru?

Peru Day 4

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Everyone seemed rested this morning and continues to enjoy their host families. They have all been excited to report about the delicious meals and how cute the kids are in their families.

We had a great morning at the Kuska School painting tires for the students to play with. The group was very engaged with the activity all morning. There were chances to play soccer with the elementary students, as well some middle schoolers from Colorado.

All the students then went back to their homestays for a leisurely lunch. They then had a little time to check out the markets.

We met back at the school for our second day of Quechua and music class. It’s a new language for everyone, so everyone is learning. They continued to practice a Quechua song to present to all the homestay families at our last meal.

The overall vibe of the group is positive as they become more comfortable with each other and with the experience.


Peru Day 3

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Exploring the Ollantaytambo Ruins

Ollantaytambo Ruins in the background.

The group met up in the town plaza this morning after their first night with their host families. Everyone had stories to share about their host families and all went well. Everyone stated that the English/Spanish dictionaries were getting lots of use as they all worked through conversations with their hosts.

Today was another very active day for the group as we explored the ruins of Ollantaytambo that date back to approximately the year 1450. This involved hiking through the terraces of the ruins where crops were planted based on the optimal elevation. There is also a sun temple that the Incans used to know when the winter and summer solstices were occurring based on when the sun hit certain parts of the stone formations they created.  It is believed that the ruins were built by the Incan Emperor Pachacuti.  The ruins also played a key role in holding off the Spanish Conquistadors around the year 1550. The stonework of the Incans is simply unbelievable knowing that they did not have the use of modern-day tools and their work has outlasted most everything else around it. Evidence of their work can be seen all throughout Ollantaytambo.


Hiking above the terraces

Princess’s bath


The ancient irrigation system in the streets of Ollantaytambo

Signs of Incan stonework in the village

Pinkuylluna Ruins where the Incans stored their food

Pinkuylluna Ruins

The students returned to their host families for lunch at 1 pm and then we met back up at the Kuska School for lessons in Quechua, a traditional language of the area. We hope to learn a song in Quechua to sing to our host families before we leave.

Tomorrow we will be working on projects at the Kuska School and getting another lesson in Quechua.

Peru Day 2

Monday, March 18, 2019

Introduction of the Kuska School
The school was created by our guide, Aima Molinari Gonzales, who wanted to offer an alternative education to families in Ollantaytambo. The school focuses on three centers: thinking, feeling, and doing. A lot of their learning is project-based that go along with the kids’ interests. They help the children learn how to resolve conflicts without adults, and they are encouraged to share their opinions.
We visited the school today and it was really amazing to see the children outside and active. There are gardens that the children designed and cultivate. Overall, it’s a vibrant, thriving environment that we are happy to visit for the next few days.

The students met their homestay families today, and everyone seemed very excited! They were, of course, a little nervous, but meetings were happy and there were hugs all around!

Even the trip leaders have homestays on this trip which is unique to the Peru Four Point trip! After we got settled we walked around to each of the homes and checked in with everyone. They all seemed to be having a nice time so far. They all reported that they had big, wonderful lunches and were being very well taken care of.

Familia Sequeiros, Keiko, and Lily

Familia Ojeda, Tracy, and Kayla

Familia Gibaja, Allen, and Justin

Familia Ocon, Caleb, and Johnny

Familia Lozano, Phoebe, and Emma

We will meet them in the plaza tomorrow morning where we will head out for a guided tour to an Incan town and archaeological site that will be followed by Quechua language lessons combined with some traditional music.
The students are great travelers, engaged in learning, kind to each other, and are embracing the experience!

Peru Day 1

Sunday, March 17, 2019

We had a great first day in Peru after a long journey from Bethel, Boston, Bogota, and finally Cusco, Peru.
Our Host and founder of the Kuska School, Aima Molinari Gonzales, met us at the airport and took us on the beautiful drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.
We settled into our hostel, had a great Peruvian lunch, and a little time for journaling.
Aima and a local author/teacher, Ronald Castillo, briefed us on many topics about the history of the area, language, and culture.
The group was then sent off in pairs to check out the village with a task to interact with locals, purchase fruit, and find the town plaza which will serve as a key landmark for our time here.
We returned to the hostel for another great meal, sorted donations, held an evening group discussion, and retired for the night. Everyone was more than ready for bed!
Tomorrow we’ll tour the Kuska School, learn about our service project, and meet host families.

Pre-Trip: Are You Ready?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


In a few days, we’ll have ninth graders all over the world in Peru, China, Ecuador, and Tanzania as they take part in their first Gould Four Point experience. Ten students will be in Peru learning about the country, staying with local families, visiting schools, and immersing themselves in the culture there.

Students have been working on various topics related to their destinations in their History and English classes. They have also been preparing their journals, packing their bags, and thinking about all of the things they might learn on through this experience. Our older students who have already completed a Ninth Grade Four Point trip look back on their experience and say, “I learned more than I ever thought I would!”

We can’t wait to hear what this year’s students have to say about their experience.

Keep up to date with their trip by following this blog. Trip leaders will do their best to post updates regularly.


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