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Nathan Siler: Student Report from 2013 Alternative Summer Break in Peru

Nathan Siler and UT COE Students in Peru
Tickle College of Engineering students traveled to Peru in August, 2013. Overlooking Machu Picchu are, from left, Nathan Siler, Bryan Medina, a Peruvian guide, Stephanie Kerrigan, Shivam Zaveri, Mark Nichols, and Drew Keller.

I had a lovely time in Peru and got to experience many new things. This is a small report covering the highlights of my time during the trip.

After dealing with flights and layovers, we finally arrived in the city of Cuzco, Peru. Our guide took us all to a hostel to rest a while before we started our tour of the city. Once we were on our way, we got to see many things in Cusco, an old capital of the Incan Empire. We were staying right next to the Catedral de Cuzco, one of the most recognizable churches in Peru!

We travelled to a local market to purchase some souvenirs. This was very interesting because of the interaction with the locals and getting to negotiate prices. Also at the market, we noticed that the alpaca clothing is actually a part of the fashion there, not just meant for tourists to purchase. There are many fountains, monuments, and architectural displays throughout the city.

Nathan Siler at the Temple of the Sun
Nathan Siler ascends the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, Peru.

The Plaza de Armas is also a site worth mentioning with its many restaurants, shops, night clubs, and attractions. We stopped at a local restaurant to try the Peruvian cuisine, and took a trip to a huge local food market to try out some local fruits. Our guide was very knowledgeable of the city and took interest that we enjoyed our stay there.

The next day, we travelled to Machu Picchu and back. During the travel, we boarded a train which was a new experience for me. As we neared the wonderful mountain site, the views around us were breathtaking. At the foot of the historical city, we hiked up the mountain to see the old city. We had another terrific tour guide here that gave us astounding information about every stone we crossed! We learned of the ancient culture and many of their religious rituals and how they measured time. It was truly a breathtaking view from the top of the mountain overlooking the city and mountains nearby.

Nathan Siler working at Manu Learning Center
At the worksite overlooking an oxbow lake in the jungle, Nathan Siler, foreground, works with staff members of the Manu Learning Center, from left, “Rambo” from Peru and Dan from Great Britain.

The rest of our trip was located in the rainforest. We took a van for 9 hours and a boat for another thirty minutes to reach the Manu Learning Centre. From this location, we were actually in the jungle. For our engineering project, our work was to help the engineer and employees there with the beginning installation of a platform built in the rainforest. The area for this installation is next to a swamp that is roughly a fifteen-minute hike from the lodge. We helped carry materials to the worksite that were used to make the concrete foundation. Also, we were able to help install the foot posts that will eventually support this platform. It was interesting to see how they performed some of the tasks with what little technology they could spare to use in the middle of the rainforest.

During the time at the lodge, we got to experience living in the jungle, complete with mosquito nets and cold showers. The food that was provided was different for most of us, but always appreciated after hard days of working. Our tour guide in the Manu Learning Centre was wonderful. He led us to many areas where we could see things that astonished us. He had very detailed information on many of the animals, plants, river, and forest area. There were also many other volunteers and tourists at the lodge that we interacted with and became friends with. Most people were from the United Kingdom and it was interested learning about their biological work in the Amazon.

This sums up the three main areas that we visited in Peru. For me, it was an experience to learn the culture of the Peruvian people, the jungle life, and a chance to visit a wonder of the world in Machu Picchu. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the trip and I am glad that the University of Tennessee is working to make similar experiences available to the students.