Hola! On 26th February 2016 I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to jet off to Peru for 10 days – here is a brief overview of what I got up to!
3 flights later and I finally arrived in to the sprawling city of Arequipa – Peru’s second most populous city with just under 900,000 inhabitants. I was very lucky with the weather whilst I was there with the stunning Misti volcano which towers over the city, perfectly visible.
Whilst out and about, I was fortunate to get chatting to a local university tutor; she accompanied me on a walking tour around the town with some local knowledge! Only downside was the fact the city had been hit by hard storms a few days before, meaning all running water was cut off! At one stage I couldn’t find my way back to the hostel and I was desperate for a pee – “donde esta el Bano?” (where is the toilet?) was kindly greeted with “no Agua!” (no water) by all bars and restaurants so that wasn’t particularly fun, but all was ok in the end!
Day 2 and I was up bright and early, greeted by clear blue skies ready for my 5-hour bus journey to the Colca valley. Again, no toilets on board and no toilet stops – at this stage I was convinced that Peruvians just didn’t urinate! I eventually arrived in Pinchollo, the small village community where Camp Colca is situated. First impressions were “Wow!, that is absolutely stunning!” The mountainous backdrop is a sight to behold and I don’t think it would ever get old.
Here at Colca, the main project the group had been working on was construction of toilet blocks within a new primary school/nursery. Some fantastic progress has been made at this site with a brand new classroom up and almost ready to roll and a twin toilet block which the group pretty much finished in just 10 days! All that was left to install were the toilets themselves and some finishing touches to the drainage system. The work was carried out to a very impressive standard with some help from our project ‘maestros’ and camp legend Percy – who manages the camp and the gap-year volunteers during their stay. The sun continued to shine for my entire stay at Colca which was very lucky considering it was the rain season.
On the groups final day at Colca the village were coincidently having their annual carnival celebration. February marks the beginning of carnavales, which means parties, parades, and looking over your shoulder for fear of being hit by a stray water balloon. They had live music and a tree-cutting ceremony throughout the night. The person in the village who gives the tree the fatal blow and knocks it down has to arrange the party next year. So we all embraced it and partied on
The next morning, Richard (Turnbull) and I set off in the car bound for Juliaca Airport to collect Damo and then on to Lake Titicaca. A quick pit stop for coffee in Chivay and we were off up in to the mountains. At one stage we were around 5,000 metres above sea level – you certainly knew about it; gasping for all the oxygen you can get . Once we had collected Damo from the airport we went on the search for a new community to host a second Camp Titicaca. We found an absolutely beautiful little community called Chiorlla which is set upon the banks of Titicaca, just a few kilometres north of our current and original camp.
We managed to find a member of the community to have a meeting with at a school whilst we were there to explain who we are and what we do – she seemed to like the idea of a camp in the village which will be for 2 weeks each summer season. This will enable us to accommodate for the high numbers of school and gap-year volunteers during team season.
We then went on to Camp Titicaca to have dinner and spend the night there. The camp is situated on the banks of Lake Titicaca and it is absolutely breath taking. The sheer vastness of the lake was incomprehensible for me with a square foot area of 8,400km sitting 3,800 metres above sea level.
The next day, the sun was still shining! I spent the early hours of the morning watching the sun rise over the lake. We then got a boat over to Isla Taquile which is a small island in the lake. We spent some time looking for a new camping site for when the gap-year and school team groups come over to stay for a night/day of rest and relaxation. It was roasting hot up here so we stopped for lunch in a restaurant to sample some of the locally caught Trucha (Trout) – which was delicious! Richard and I then spent the night in near-by Juliaca before we set off for another morning trip up to Cusco.
After 5 hours in the car, a playlist of 70s Afro-beat on Rich’s iPod and a bottle or 2 of ‘Inka Kola’ we arrived in the city of Cusco – what a place! It’s a very unique city and completely different to Arequipa in the way of layout, architecture and higher altitude. Cusco holds a proud heritage and history being the capital of the Inca empire back in the 1400s and 1500s. The city is well known for its Inca remains and Spanish colonial architecture – usually the bottom half of buildings are Inca original and the top half are colonial.
On the Saturday and nursing a slightly sore head I headed to Machu Picchu. I had to get a bus from Cusco up to Ollantaytambo and then a train to Aguascalientes which is the small town beneath Machu Picchu and where my hostel for the night was. On the bus up from Cusco – I met a Peruvian lady called Maggi who was also heading up to Machu Picchu. This meant I had some company in the evening when I arrived so we headed out for some drinks and a walk around the town. I had to really brush up on my Spanish skills as she didn’t speak any English! The next morning at about 5:45 I got up and jumped on one of the shuttle buses which got me up to Machu Picchu just after sunrise. WOW! What a magical place it really is! The landscape around me and the history that it holds gave me an overwhelming feeling and I felt very privileged to be there. I had a few hours to kill after coming down from Machu Picchu so I spent the time looking around the town and I stopped off for lunch and a few cold cervezas (beer) – they love Cusquena in Peru – voted the best beer!
On my final day in Cusco I was feeling a bit blue, I didn’t want to leave! I spent the day walking round the city for one last time and sampled a traditional Peruvian dish called Ceviche which is basically raw fish cured in citrus juices – it was pretty damn good I must say!
I then said farewell to everyone I had met along the way and departed for the UK. Massive shout out to Damo, Rich, Percy, Paola, Adrianna, Lilly, Brad and all the camps kitchen teams and staff who made my trip amazing – not forgetting the awesome team of volunteers I was with at Camp Colca. I am truly blessed to be working for an organisation like Camps International and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to go and visit Peru – I will definitely be going back on holiday at some stage! I have the utmost respect for my colleagues in our camps and offices around the world who coordinate such fantastic and life changing experiences for young people.