Callum travelled with Camps to Ecuador and Peru on his gap year before university, and as a Camps Ambassador, he is now working to inspire other students to start their own adventures and help make a difference around the world. He told us all about his own life-changing journey.
Whenever people ask me about my Camps experience I never know where to start. How about the time I went swimming with the giant sea turtles in the Galapagos, the crazy train ride back from Machu Picchu, the jungle trek, the city of Baños or the emotional rollercoaster of the tamezcal ritual in the Amazon? Most of the time I end up waffling on about how it was the most incredible, action-packed and eye-opening experience of my life. For that, I will apologise in advance but I’m sure if you went on a trip yourself you’d be exactly the same.
Anyway, let’s see how I do this time.
So, my camps experience began in the summer of 2016. I’d spent 2 years saving money from jobs and birthdays to pay for a 2 month package to visit Ecuador and Peru with a further week of pure tourism on the Galapagos Islands – somewhere I always wanted to visit since I watched a David Attenborough documentary as a child.
One of the most memorable moments for me was snorkelling in the Galapagos. I will never forget the feeling of gliding over a giant sea turtle whilst in the cave-like bay of the blue-footed booby nesting ground. The place was incredibly diverse and certainly a somewhere to visit!
Moving onto the more cultural experiences, one of my favourite camps was Camp Amazonia. This is where I experienced the tamezcal ritual – something I can barely put into words!
The thing is, if I try to explain it people tend to get very confused and always ask me: ‘Why did you do that to yourself?’ but you really had to be there to understand how incredible it was. Long story short, it was a ritual based around rebirth in which you say your thanks to the elements and spend hours in a dome full of heated rocks which are covered in water throughout the ceremony – and I’m not describing your average sauna, this place got unbearably hot. We started, a group of 12, in this little ‘sauna dome’ and only 3 of us managed to brave it to the end. The feeling of coming out after hours of heat and mud and sweat from every part of your body… It sounds almost disgusting to describe or unappealing at the least but the inner will I discovered that evening was all worth it! I can still remember crawling out and seeing the sight of the stars whilst taking in a breath of fresh air. Although you might think I’m crazy, I’ll tell you, I literally felt mentally reborn and its for sure the most bizarre but incredible experiences of my life – closely followed by eating a nest of live lemon ants whilst we were on our jungle trek.
On a slightly less philosophical note, anther memory that will forever be in my mind is the incredible wonder that is Macchu Picchu. After days of trekking through jungle terrain, snowy mountain ranges and rocky hillside along the Salkantay path, we climbed the final 3000 steps at 3am giving us just enough time to see the sunrise beam down on the ancient ruins. At the time I was lost for words and even now I don’t think I can quite describe the beauty of the place.
Regards the volunteering itself, I have to say its not an easy ride whatsoever but its extremely rewarding. I got to learn a variety of local techniques when it came to building the mud-hut style kitchen for the primary school on lake Titicaca and every project I got involved with made a significant impact on the people from the community. Their gratitude at the end of each project was extremely warming and its one of the greatest things about the programmes Camps offer.
Another thing that I will never forget is the local family we stayed with in the cloud forest of Ecuador. Having lived in Spain for a year, I was able to speak to the locals in a language they understood (as unfortunately I couldn’t speak Quechua although I did give it a go). The Tuqueres family cooked us every meal and were so caring, I literally felt like one of the family whilst I was there. They hand stitched the words ‘Galapagos’ onto a bag I’d bought from the market which I was to give to my mum – they even put a colourful tortoise in place of the O and a blue-footed booby in place of the L. I am still in contact with them now and it’s really lovely that I was able to develop that connection with the locals and they’ve even offered me a free place to stay if I ever come back to South America.
Honestly, I could rant on forever about my travels with Camps but I know if it were me reading this I’d just want to go experience it all myself! The thing is, I don’t think there’s anything that quite compares to volunteering overseas and helping people who seriously need our help. What makes the programme which I went on so good was the fact that I was able to do that on a very personal level with the locals and see all the sights and live the experiences of everything the countries themselves had to offer. My summer was the best I think I will ever have and writing this has just made me really eager to book another trip…I’m thinking maybe Asia this time.
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