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Caral, Peru: Getting a Sense for Teaching in Caral & Working With its Schoolchildren [Part 4]

After spending the night as the first guests in the Caral Hostel, we woke up early in order to have breakfast before heading to the local school to meet the kids and teachers of the community.  On our walk over to the eatery, I appreciated the beautiful morning in the Andes.  It reminded me a lot of the trip I took in 2007, all those early mornings to begin trekking! 🙂

Morning in Caral

Beautiful Flowers

Nice Little Blossom

Foothills of the Andes

After breakfast, we walked to the main plaza before heading to the school.

Main Plaza of Caral

Caral
Just in case you weren’t sure where we were…

Then it was time to head to the school, where our host talked with the principal about the possibility of collaborating with them to bring volunteers into the schools to teach English. We were there to represent this possibility. It definitely gave me insight into what it would be like to volunteer in a school rather than in our after school and weekend programs. After the meeting, we headed to the sports court to see the kids. The other girls got roped into playing soccer and volleyball with the kids, but I focused on taking pictures of all the lovely students! 🙂

School Kids of Caral

School Kids of Caral

School Kids of Caral

School Kids of Caral

School Kids of Caral School Kids of Caral School Kids of Caral
School Kids of Caral

After sports, they threw us in the classroom to teach kids an impromptu English lesson. I chose to teach them “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” the song we’d been teaching our students in Huaycán that month.

Classroom in Caral

School Kids in Caral

Here are the kids we worked with!

School in Caral

This is Caral’s school – quite nice, actually! 🙂

After our school tour was finished, we headed back to the hostel. We got to see some of the other areas of town, such as the soccer field, which actually had grass!

Soccer Field

Horse!

After that, our host took us along on a bunch of errands. It gave me a chance to take pictures of the landscape along the drive, but by this point we were tired and ready to head back to Lima!

Caral

Caral

On the drive back to Lima, we saw a rainbow along with a lovely sunset. It was a great way to end the day and break up a long ride back.

Rainbows!

Sunset on the Way to Lima

All in all, the trip was an awesome break from my normal routine of salsa dancing and hanging out with friends on the “weekend” (Wednesday and Thursday are our weekends!). It made me excited about all the interesting places to visit in Peru, and gave me some perspective on where my work in Huaycán fits in on the Peruvian nonprofit continuum. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Peru later this year!

Update March 2016:

Revisiting these posts made me realize that my visit to the school of Caral gave me a lot of context for my work in Valle de Elqui, Chile. I may not have had the curiosity about life in a small Andean town if I hadn’t seen the friendliness of the townspeople of Caral. While Chile and Peru are very different countries, it’s amazing how this one day affected my decision-making a couple of years later!

Caral, Peru: Connecting with the Tiny Town of Caral and A Memorable Mountain Sunset [Part 3]

After a wonderful afternoon visiting the ruins of Caral, we headed to the town of Caral to finally eat a well-deserved lunch.  Then we headed to the brand new hostel and had a look around our surroundings.

Caral

The town itself looks as you’d expect it to – a quiet little town in the foothills of the Andes. This is more what you expect to see when you come to Peru to volunteer, rather than the dusty urban community of Huaycán!

The neighbors came out of their houses to meet these unusual foreigners hanging out in their quiet town.  The children were extremely curious about us, and when one of the little girls pulled out her alphabet book to learn English, I asked if I could take some pictures of them!

Adorable Kids of Caral

Adorable Kids of Caral

Adorable Kids of Caral

Adorable Kids of Caral

Adorable Kids of Caral
The little boy could not get enough of seeing himself in the camera. So cute!

After hanging out with our neighbors for a bit, I headed inside to take pictures of the gorgeous sunset from the hostel’s balcony. I am obsessed with sunsets, and the one from Caral did not disappoint.

Sunset from Caral

Sunset from Caral

Sunset from Caral

Sunset from Caral

After the sunset, we headed back to one of the local eateries for dinner and a chat about the work our host was hoping to accomplish in Caral.  Then we headed back to the hostel for a good night’s rest, since we had an early start planned the next day!

Caral, Peru: Visiting the Ancient Ruins of the Sacred City of Caral [Part 2]

After a long drive from Lima, we arrived at the archeological site of Caral. Our first stop was the workplace of the lead archeologist, Dr. Ruth Shady, so our host could talk to her about his new nonprofit, but she was not there.  Luckily the view from the office was beautiful!

Entering the Archaeological Site!

House of the Archaeolgists!

From there, we headed to ruins themselves. We had to wait a little bit for a guide to take us around the ruins, and we got to admire the art competition being held among local schoolchildren in honor of the 18th anniversary of rediscovering the ruins. The kids were serious about their artwork!

Welcome to Caral!

Caral Student Art

Once we got our guide, we began our walk in the strong sun around the massive site of pyramids in this strangely beautiful landscape. The pyramids are in various states of restoration and study, and it was fascinating to listen to our guide explain the process. I can’t pretend to remember all the details of each individual building in order to share them here, but I learned a lot. I am so thankful I speak Spanish (and academic Spanish at that) so that I was able to fully appreciate the tour.

Entering the Archaeological Site

Pyramids of Caral

Pyramids of Caral

My favorite photo of the ruins!

Pyramids and Mountains

You can see here why the pyramids were not uncovered for so long – they fade into the landscape of this barren land.

Pyramids of Caral

These flags are intended to keep birds away, but they don’t work as well anymore, the birds have caught on!

Restored Pyramid of Caral

Pyramids of Caral

Pyramid in the process of restoration, and two in the distance!

Pyramids in Restoration at Caral

I love this shot – the guide explained that they photograph and mark every stone of the falling walls so that they can meticulously restore it just as it would have been thousands of years ago, except using a stronger binder.  You can see one of the unrestored walls tilting down in the center of the photo.  Amazingly detailed work!

Pyramids of Caral

The ruins look otherworldly in this clean, empty landscape.

Our Excellent Guide

Caral

Our guide hard at work, while his coworkers continue to ready the place for the anniversary!

Caral

Geometrical Architecture at Caral

View of the pathway to more pyramids and the geometry of this marker lining up with the pyramid

View of the Valley from Caral

Pyramid at Caral

They believe this to be an administrative site because it is an unlivable landscape, though you can see the fertile valley just on the other side of the river, where people must have resided.  This other structure is believed to be one of the most important buildings of the complex.

Pyramid in Restoration at Caral

Foothills at Caral

Here you see a pyramid which has not yet been fully excavated, and the foothills of the Andes.

Lovely Caral Landscape

Pyramids at Caral

Here’s a view of the flat landscape as well as the work to be done everywhere!

I hope the photographs convey the fascinating beauty of this site. I am really happy that Caral is now much more accessible for visitors, because it gives you a great insight into the work of archeology and the different ancient cultures of Peru that deserve more exploration by tourists and travelers like me. After visiting this and reading some great books on Peru (more on those later!), I cannot wait to explore northern Peru and some of the major sites of other ancient cultures!!

After visiting the archeological site of Caral, it was time to move on to see how people live in the nearby town of Caral.  That’ll be in the next post! 🙂

Caral, Peru: Traveling from Lima to the Ruins of Caral Via Caleta Vidal [Part 1]

In October, after a few months of volunteering, some great treks, and many weekends spent in Lima with friends, I had the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Caral, located nearly 200km north of Lima, with some of my fellow volunteers. The owner of a Lima hostel had recently started a new hostel in the town of Caral outside this ancient, hard-to-visit city and was trying to get support for a nonprofit he had also created. He offered to take us to Caral in his 4×4 so that we could explore the ancient city, stay in the new hostel, see the work he is trying to do, and meet the local kids of Caral.

Caral is believed to be the oldest city of the Americas, a settlement established 5000 years ago. The diligent work of Dr. Ruth Shady led to the pyramids being uncovered not even 20 years ago, and they continue to be studied by Dr. Shady and her team. The easiest way to visit Caral is through a tour or using a private car, but it’s possible to get there on bus and stay in the town.

Strawberry Field en Route to Caral!

Strawberry Field en Route to Caral!

We left Lima early in the morning, heading north on the Panamerican Highway. Our first stop was at giant field of strawberries, where we got to try the delicious fruit and take some with us at only 15 soles a pallet!

Strawberry Field en Route to Caral!

Strawberry Field en Route to Caral!

From there, we continued on north until we reached Caleta Vidal, a small town on the coast right before the inland turn-off to Caral. It was nice to see the coast again up so close, along with all the sea creatures, like crabs, seagulls, and starfish!

Caleta Vidal, Lima

Caleta Vidal, Lima

Caleta Vidal, Lima

Caleta Vidal, Lima

Caleta Vidal, Lima

Colorful fishing boats to liven up the grey morning!

After enjoying the coast, we began the trip inland. The 18th anniversary celebration was held the following weekend, so we saw everything being spruced up. Along the way, we also stopped to appreciate the crops growing in the fertile land of this region.

The Sacred City of Caral

The Sacred City of Caral

Sweet Potato Blossom

Caral Cornfields

Fields of Caral

And then we continued on to the main event: seeing the pyramids of Caral for ourselves…in the next post!