Thoughts, travel

Final thoughts

I may get some more video and perhaps slideshows posted here later on. But, as is my custom on these trips, here are a few things I have learned:

  • I would not want to be a bus driver in Peru. We have had FABULOUS and SKILLED drivers. I appreciate them and their talents very much.
  • Always save some water in your water bottle for brushing your teeth at night and in the morning.
  • A simple smile and Buenos Dias goes a long way.
  • Variations students continue to amaze me with their talent, work ethic and dedication.

The bags that were given to us by our tour group organizer in Cusco had a good quote printed on them:

If something bad happens, travel to forget.
If something good happens, travel to celebrate.
If nothing happens, travel to make something happen.

I think that all three have probably occurred to folks in this group this week.

Thanks for following our journey and I hope it has provided a sense of what the students have been experiencing as well as the chaperones.

So, signing off for now,

Audrey, your friendly neighborhood blogger

Your friendly neighborhood blogger!
Your friendly neighborhood blogger!

Final concerts of the tour

Our school lunch tour continues!

Today, we visited Colegio Cambridge which is an English speaking private K-12 school in a neighboring Lima district called Chorrillos.

Variations had two concerts – one for middle school age students and one for elementary students. It is apparently a large school has we had about 300 for the first concert and 450 for the second. Everyone enjoyed it and the students joined in for the rain and wind sounds on Cloudburst.



Colegio EuroAmericano

Just a VERY quick snippet to show you our outdoor venue for the school concert at this school. We were pretty far away so the sound is a little quiet.

This year, besides Variations choral performances, we also have some solo performances and an instrumental. This is during the guitar duo performing their version of El Condor Pasa, with a little bluegrass spin on it.

concerts, touring


Today, we visited Pachacamac, which is a site a little bit southeast of Lima in the Valley of the Lurín River. The name means “earth maker” and this was a large site with several pyramid temples for the gods. The site pre-dates Macchu Picchu by around 1200 years. It is made of adobe since it rains so little in this area, using stone for all of the walls is unneccesary.

We had a good tour inside a very new museum and learned about the history of the area as it has been a holy site for several cultures including the Incan. We also learned how the brother of Spanish conquistador, Pizzaro was sent there to get its riches but didn’t get there in time. There have been significant archeological finds in this area and active digs are still going on today. We even saw one as we toured the site. The museum had several examples of objects that have been uncovered.


The group hiked up to the Temple of the Sun, which was added to the site by the Incans and were treated to a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. It was very hot, so we kinda wished the ocean was a little bit closer at the time!


Back on the bus and we headed off to our next school concert. This time we visited the Colegio EuroAmericano, which is a preK-12 school close to Pachacamac. Variations sang a set for the middle school students and after it was over, we had to take a group photo with EVERYBODY!!




School Visits

DSC_0364A highlight for the Variations spring break tours is often our school visits. Yesterday we had our first one of this trip when we went to Markham College (which is a K-12 school) for a workshop with some of their music students.

Meagan led Variations and the students through a warm-up for singing and then demonstrated how to arrange a four part choir in a mixed configuration to achieve a blend of sound.

Then, Variations performed several pieces. It was fun to see some of the girls really lean in with interest during the solo in All Who Have Life and Breath Praise Ye the Lord, as it is a really high soprano solo.

After a brief visit back to our hotel to change and rest, Variations ended the day as usual, with a concert. This time, we were back at Markham for a full evening concert for parents and students as well as some folks from Pellissippi who are also in Peru.

And, we celebrated one of the student’s birthday with a piece of cake and candle before the student workshop. I am hoping he had a very memorable birthday!!


Machu Picchu Slideshow
















Planes and Buses and Trains and Stairs (lots and lots of stairs)

I have a lot of catching up to do. Here it goes.

Variations said a temporary adios to Lima and boarded a plane to Cusco, Peru. The heat and humidity in Lima was replaced with cooler, drier air and also much higher altitude (a little over 11,000 feet above sea level)

So, basically, we went from this:

aerial photograph of Lima, Peru

To this:

aerial photograph of Andes foothills

Cusco was the historic capital of Incan Peru before the Spanish took over. It is a very old city and is now an UNESCO world heritage site and it shows in many ways from cobblestone streets to the fact that churches are built on top of the foundation of Incan temples.

After settling into the hotel, we went on a local tour. First, lunch at a Peruvian buffet complete with local musicians playing for us. Of course, Variations had to return the favor and sing one of their numbers as well. Then, off to the Incan fortress called Saksaywaman. This structure is impressive in scale and the stonework – with the walls being precisely put together without the use of mortar. It was a lovely day and we spent time learning about the Incan culture, having a bit of fun with some resident alpacas and looking over Cusco from the vantage point that the fortress provided.


We then toured the Cusco Cathedral, which is a very impressive building and example of the ornate style of churches. We were not allowed to take photographs inside so I am sorry I cannot show you the grandeur but, rest assured, it was grand. The interesting thing to me was how the Peruvian artists who were commissioned to create works for the cathedral had to copy European styles of painting but still managed to work Incan and Peruvian influences. A prime example was a large oil painting of The Last Supper (not a representation, exactly, of the da Vinci version) which featured cuy as the main dish.

I guess I should let you know that cuy is guinea pig and it is a mainstay in the Andean diet. I don’t know if any of the Variations students tried it during our evening explorations for dinner. I didn’t. 🙂

The next day, we were up early and on the buses to head to the train station. We took a Perurail train to the village at the base of Machu Picchu.

Another, more thrilling, bus ride later and we were at the entrance gate!

Passports and tickets in hand, we entered into the base and started climbing up.

And up.  And up.

The city was sitting right below us and the mountain of Machu Picchu (the city was named for the mountain by it. Researchers don’t really know what the actual name of the city might be). It was built around 1450. The Spanish never found the city so it remained only known to the local people until 1911, when Hiram Bingham was directed to it when searching for another Inca city. (However, I did read in our guide that the name Machu Picchu appeared in a cartographic document in 1874 as well.


We split into several tour groups and had a guided tour through the sites including the gate house at the top, the main gate, the astrological observatory, the temple of the condor, and agricultural areas including the terraces where crops were grown. The microclimates of the region allowed for basically year-round farming, which provided for the city.

We are here at the end of the rainy season, but we did have dry weather until right at the end of our tour. However, our lunch and exploration time in the village below was pretty wet. That didn’t dampen the spirits of Variations and I saw many of them sporting new hats, sweaters and ponchos from the local handicraft marketplace.

Our train ride back was punctuated with an appearance from costumed dancer of a Peruvian mischief maker. That was a surprise and great fun. Another bus ride back to the hotel and after a long day, we were very tired but had a great experience.