Location: Andes Mountains

Being startled awake at 5:03 AM by an unknown alarm clock can often ruin someone’s morning, however, in our case, it was one of the highlights. Due to such an early rising, some of us were able to see the clouds turn a beautiful shade of apricot orange. My bunkmates and I eventually went back to sleep, coddled in our alpaca blankets to try and shut out the frigid cold winds. We officially began getting ready at 7:15 and, as usual, I was hopelessly behind the rest of the group. However, these amazing kind people I am happy to call my friends decided to wait for me before bounding down to breakfast for a wonderfully prepared meal of pancakes and blackberry juice. Full of delicious food, we made our way down the insanely steep driveway to find our horses and guides, who were already waiting patiently for us. After hopping on our diversely colored horses, we rode down the village road until we reached a rock-strewn path that led us into the Andes. Once immersed into the mountains that were rich in lush farmland, we walked, trotted and cantered our way through twisting turns to finally reach a quaint cheese factory. The owner of the factory explained, through Devin’s translations, how he buys fresh milk from local farm owners, pasteurizes it, and then turns it into different types of mouthwatering cheeses. The leftover excretions that were squeezed out of the cheese by slabs of cement are given back to the farm owners and fed to the livestock because it is not edible for human consumption. We were offered two different types of cheeses: fresh mozzarella and aged Andino, plus a creamy, pineapple flavored milky popsicle that would practically melt in your mouth if it were not for such cold, but refreshing, weather. Breezing through the mountains, it was a quick journey to the spot where we would enjoy our lunch of sandwiches, popcorn, apples, and oatmeal cookies. Exhausted by our quick horseback ride, most of us took a group nap while a few others took a ten-minute hike along a cloud forest path rich with outstanding views and a streaming waterfall. On our way back to The Black Sheep Inn, Skyler, Michael, and I stopped at the local library to help sort and box up the books that we had all recently organized. The library is closing, but there is hope, however, that Andres, the founder of The Black Sheep Inn, will find a good home for these childhood books and young adult novels. Coming back from our spontaneous service project, Sky, Michael, Isabelle and I leaped at the chance to go on the hotel’s zip line. We flew through the sky just as the jaw-dropping sunset was arriving and waved at the camera as Devin took fabulous videos and Sky took mesmerizing photos. Ending the day with a home cooked curry and vegetable soup along with an ember spitting bonfire, was a great way to say, “Welcome to your home away from home.”