This Issue

Winter 2011 - Feature

From Lake Titicaca to the Amazon...Adventures in Peru


By Guia Melo

In 2008, after my sabbatical in South America, I returned wanting to share my experiences with the ‘Iolani community. The idea for a summer trip—that would expose students to different cultures, language and world history—was born. The trip would also allow ‘Iolani students to share our unique culture with the people of South America.

On July 25, 2010, nearly 80 students, parents, friends, faculty and staff embarked on a remarkable journey to the opposite side of the equator, Peru and the Amazon.

On the first morning of the trip, we toured Lima. Our first stop was El Parque del Amor (Love Park) which overlooked Waikiki Beach, and to the left of which was Makaha Beach. Reece Buffington ’11, Matt Horner ’11, and Luke Horner ’15 gave me a strange look when I said this. It’s true. We also visited the Lima Cathedral, the Church of San Francisco, and the Larco Museum before heading to the airport to catch a flight to Puno. 

The following day was spent on Lake Titicaca at 12,500 feet above sea level. We visited the floating islands of Uros, surprised at the friendliness of the locals. Everything on the floating islands was made of reeds, including the islands themselves.


The group visited the pre-Inca burial ground of Sullustani.
On Day 4, we visited Sillustani, a pre-Inca burial ground, passed through La Raya, the highest pass between Puno and Cusco at 14,150 feet above sea level, and saw many llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas along the way. On Day 5, we found ourselves enjoying the Sacred Valley tour including the old Inca town of Ollantaytambo and the market village of Pisac. Day 6 was our Cusco city tour, which included Qenko, an Incan sanctuary, the fortress of Sacsayhuaman (more or less pronounced “sexy woman”), and Coricancha, the most important temple in the Inca Empire.  In the evening, students, kumu hula Aunty Lehua Carvalho, Dean of Students Tate Brown ’86 and kumu hula Uncle Ed Collier performed at the Peruvian and North American Cultural Institute.  The altitude did not make it easy for the singers and hula dancers to perform, but they put on a beautiful show.


Students feeling the energy from the Intihuatana, or Hitching Post of the Sun, in Machu Picchu.
We headed towards Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu town) on Day 7, via the Vistadome train. Before reaching Aguas Calientes, many got off the train to partake in a six-hour hike along the last leg of the Inca trail. Day 8 was the much awaited tour of the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu, which means Old Mountain in Quechua. We were all fascinated by the Incan architecture in which blocks of stones tightly fit together without mortar.

On our last evening, Day 9, in Cusco, we dined together, watched a cultural show and some had their first taste of “cuy” or guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru.

Day 10 brought a flight to Puerto Maldonado to start our Amazon adventure. We had our 22-lb. carry on, a flashlight, humid-weather clothes and insect repellant ready. We arrived at the Tambopata River Port to board boats for the three-hour ride to the Refugio Amazonas Lodge. Lunch on the boat was delicious fried rice wrapped in banana leaves, which we tossed over the side at the end of the meal. Along the way, we saw caimans and families of capybaras. At the lodge, the beautiful rooms were very airy with mosquito net covered beds, a hammock and three walls. The fourth side was open to the elements.  Frogs came out of toilets and sinks. There was no electricity, only candles, and the showers were cold. Oh, and a cold spell sent the temperature down to the 40’s!

One means of travel included a three-hour boat ride through the Amazon’s Tambopata River.
Day 11 was an activity-filled day as some got started before sunrise to go bird watching. We climbed a ten-story canopy tower, visited a farm with an ethno botanical garden, hiked a Brazil nut trail, and looked for lakeside wildlife such as macaws and piranhas at Condenado Oxbow Lake. During the hikes, we saw monkeys, snakes, giant ants, birds, and tarantulas.

Highlights? The whole trip was one big highlight. We hiked, rode in planes, trains, boats, and buses, and hiked some more. There was non-stop adventure and fun. Students not only learned about another culture but also had fun while doing it. All 79 members of this trip were in perfect harmony with nature and each other, bonding while learning and exploring.

Teacher Guia Melo is head of the ‘Iolani Spanish department.