A few years ago, Cathy Roller of Redwood Falls had a conversation with her daughter, a Spanish teacher, who asked if she wanted to come along on a trip she was taking some of her students on to Peru.

While the trip would cost her about $3,000, there would be time to get that money together, and so Roller agreed. That opportunity was also afforded to some of the other members of their family, so when the trip was actually taken, Roller made it with two of her daughters and six of her grandchildren, along with what she called a great group of other kids.

“It was a wonderful adventure,” said Roller, who talked about her visit to the South American country during a travel series presentation at the Redwood Falls Public Library.

Roller admitted she had always wanted to visit Peru, mostly because of one historic site – Machu Picchu. 

The group Roller was with arrived in Lima having been joined by school groups from Alabama and Wyoming, and over the next few days they had a great experience visiting historic sites, learning about the culture and the people.

The group was also given the chance to help out the people of Peru by taking part in a service project.

During the trip, Roller said they visited various sites, and one of the elements she found interesting is the fact that the people of Peru love to present bones. The group saw human skulls and other bones on display in ornate symmetrical patterns.

“They are very comfortable with death,” said Roller.

The group also visited a llama and alpaca farm where they were able to interact with the animals and the people.

Roller said she really appreciates the colorful dress of the people in Peru.

“I’m not one to bring home too many souvenirs,” said Roller, adding instead she takes lots of photos.

In fact, she will offer to pay to take photos, especially of the people, adding she thinks that is a source of income for them.

The weather was nice most of the time, said Roller, adding they did experience varied conditions from cooler weather by the ocean to much warmer temps the days they did the service projects. Roller said they went to Peru in June, which is their winter but even on cool days it is 60 degrees outside.

In an effort to help acclimate themselves to the altitude they would experience at Machu Picchu, the group first went to Cusco, which has an altitude of 11,000 feet. One thing Roller learned is that drinking water can help make that adjustment.

Roller said the food was very good, but some of it was pretty unique.

“Guinea pig is a delicacy there,” said Roller, who did give it a try. “It was OK, but I don’t think it will be something I want to eat regularly.”

The trip to Machu Picchu was an unforgettable experience, said Roller. Having made a descent by train to the historic site built by the Incas (Roller said it has an altitude of about 9,000 feet), the group started the climb to the ruins in the Andes Mountain range.

“I did not do the complete hike,” said Roller, adding there was another side entrance she could take to get to a place where she could experience it.

“It was a very beautiful, peaceful area,” said Roller, adding many would call it a spiritual experience.

Maintaining the integrity of the site is important to the people of Peru, and so people are on hand to ensure the people who visit are not doing things to damage it.

Roller said the stones used in building were carved to fit one on top of the other.

“There is no mortar between the stones,” said Roller, adding just seeing that firsthand was fascinating.

Roller said many of the families from the more rural areas of Peru are moving into the cities, because they believe there is a better life offered there for their children. Instead they are experiencing poverty and are living in shanty-type houses on the mountains.

To help those in poverty, the group Roller was with spent time making improvements through a program called Reciprocity. The students moved large rocks from a developing road and painted steps as a way to make them safer.

“The kids all worked very hard and no one complained,” said Roller, adding the people they were helping were all so appreciative of their efforts.

In total, the group spent eight days in Peru, and Roller said she enjoyed the experience entirely.