Mary Zielinski (free-lance)

Posted 8/19/99

Indiana Jones would have loved it.

When it came to a first class trip to antiquity and th…

By IMS students hit heights in Peru

Indiana Jones would have loved it.

When it came to a first …

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Mary Zielinski (free-lance)


Indiana Jones would have loved it.

When it came to a first class trip to antiquity and th…

By IMS students hit heights in Peru

Indiana Jones would have loved it.

When it came to a first class trip to antiquity and the jungle, the Iowa Mennonite School’s Spanish Class tour was a first class, first-hand experience that offered everything from the heights of Machu Picchu to biology hikes in the jungle near Puerto Maldonado.

The 22 students, accompanied by teacher Dean Rhodes, his wife, Becky, parent Mike Brenneman and local guide Ron Snell, spent two weeks in Peru (June 9-24) absorbing another culture and putting their language skills to practical use.

For Rhodes, it was a return to a country where he had spent eight years “and I had not been back since 1980.”

There had been other problems due to the terrorist activities of the Shining Path guerrillas who were finally captured.

As a result, Rhodes believed it was safe enough to take a high school group into the country, and the IMS students became the first one to tour Peru in years.

Lima, though, had restoration and preservation work done and there was more modernization of facilities. The group was in the Peruvian capital for four days, staying with host families who had “two of the students per family.”

After that, it was up river for a jungle camping trip at Tambopata (a nature preserve) reached by four-hour canoe trip, launched at Puerto Maldonado.

Arranged by Andean Trek Tours, operated by Ron Snell, a former colleague of Rhodes in Peru, it is an “adventure tour, and this was the first high school tour they ever took.”

Snell’s group set up everything, arranging for the canoes, the tents, the campsites, the food. Although in primitive country, the sites were far from uncomfortable.

“Although, for some of the students it was very different.”


The jungle tour included biology hikes to learn about the flowers and wildlife. As much as possible, the tours keep an area relatively untouched.

“Nothing is left behind,” said Rhodes, stressing that everything is picked up whether it is a candy bar wrapper or a plastic cup.

“Everything that is taken in is taken back out,” said Rhodes, explaining that what Snell does is “ecological tourism. It is something that is becoming more and more popular.”

At one of the villages, on the jungle’s edge, the students had a chance to play three sets of soccer with the local residents, and IMS won two sets.

After the jungle, the students went onto Urubama, stopping along the way near Cusco for a photo at an 11th century fortress that had been constructed of quarried stone and put into place without mortar.

Machu Picchu

The highlight (or possibly, just the height) of the trip was Machu Picchu, the legendary capitol of the Inca empire lost for centuries. To reach the city, there is a trail from Urubama to the base of the ruins “and it has 13 switchbacks.”

It impressed the students as much as it had the early conquistadors who saw it at its height.

During the time in Lima, the students not only visited with families, but visited the Place of the Inquisition, the remains of Jesuit monasteries and even where Francisco Pizzaro is buried under the cathedral in the city.

They also saw “lots of poverty in Peru,” he said, “Time has not changed that there.” Rhodes added that all of the students kept journals.

Interestingly, the greatest warning about danger was not in Peru, but Miami.

“We were warned about being very careful there.”

Cost was $1,900 for each student, and the class held bake sales, a garage sale and numerous other fund raising activities for more than a year.

Next year, the class will go to Costa Rica, Rhodes said.

photo by Dean Rhodes