Peru Epic Service Adventure 2022
June 26, 2022
Today was mostly a travel day, tiring and leaving us pretty low energy despite our excitement to meet each other and begin our journey. Arriving at the Lima airport, we had about an hour to get to our next flight to take us to Cusco. We met with some people in the group on our way and flew together to Cusco. By that time our group was almost complete and everyone meshed incredibly well for only having met in the last 12 hours. The views from the flight to Cusco were full of beautiful earthy mountains and snow capped peaks. The thick blanket of clouds cascaded over every crevice, only the tallest showing until the sky cleared, revealing the sprawling Andes mountain range.
Once we touched down in Cusco and collected our bags, we headed outside to where the bus was waiting to take us to breakfast. It was a cute locally run diner where we got fresh pressed juice and grilled cheese sandwiches. Our last spot in Cusco was the main Incan square that was believed to be the center of the empire. Fun fact, Cusco, or Qosqo in Quechua, the native tongue, means “naval” which is center. It was our first outing as a group where we exchanged money, looked at all the amazing architecture, saw locals with alpacas, and got the first feel for the rest of the trip.
Returning to the airport, we picked up the last group member and we were complete! From there we drove to the first hotel. As it was nestled in a valley in the mountains, the views in the way were spectacular…although nearly everyone fell asleep on the drive from the exhaustion of traveling. Once arriving at Hacienda Villa Mercedes our breaths were taken away by the beautiful views that we were surrounded by. After settling in to our rooms we all sat down together for our first meal as a full group. We made conversation about many things, like where we were from and why we decided to come on this trip. The food was delicious and for dessert they gave us a traditional Peruvian cherry pudding.
After lunch we had some free time that we used to get to know each other better and to explore the ‘hacienda’. On the property we found swings, horses, a slide and other fun things to do. By 5pm, we all gathered in the common room for a briefing on the next adventure that awaits us: Manu Learning Center. After hearing about what we needed to know about Manu learning center, we killed sone time before dinner by doing some ice breakers and practicing our Spanish. Another delicious meal for dinner. ¡Muy rico! In preparation for the early departure the next day, we headed back to our rooms, packed for our week-long stay at Manu, and lights out by 9:30.
Hasta luego, Sabine y Izz,
June 27, 2022
Our day began bright and early as we all piled in the bus for the long journey to Manu. Along the way we saw beautiful views of snow-capped mountains, flowing rivers, and local villages. Our first stop was at a small market where we saw traditional clothing and conversed with some local people. We continued our ride until we reached a lookout spot with incredible views of the mountains and surrounding nature. We learned about local creatures and even spotted a bird in its nest.
After a few more hours of driving we reached a spot on the river where a boat was waiting for us. Before boarding we tried a delicious Peruvian soda and unpacked the bus. We stared in awe at the gorgeous views around us and held on tight during the rapids. As we approached the lodge we were surrounded by new relaxing, nature sounds and a change in climate. We settled into our new rooms, had a short orientation, and were given a tour of the camp. Our first adventure at the conservatory was a short hike to learn about the different projects we would be helping with and the creatures the researchers are working so hard to protect. As the night went on we had a quick informational meeting before dinner than watched the amazing night sky filled with stars.
– Charlie H. and Zaria H.
June 28, 2022
Today we got to sleep in… until 7:00. Moving to the open-air dining room, we enjoyed a large breakfast consisting of sausage, eggs, and traditional bread and jam. Afterwards some decided to add on chocolate cereal to the already delicious meal. Following, we had a quick logistical meeting and started preparing for our hike.
We had just made it outside when the guides directed us to look up to the forest canopy, and we were finally introduced to the famous Gambina! Gambina is the learning center’s “pet” three-toed sloth.
The groups separated into butterfly trapping and pit falls. The hiking was strenuous and definitely muddy, but overall beautiful. Sitting by the river as we ate our lunch was pure paradise.
After a long day of work we returned to the cabins, showered and had some rest. A little while later we had a quick group meeting and watched a presentation made by experts at the learning center. After a lot of learning, and some fun games after, we sat down for a traditional Peruvian dish of chicken with sauce and rice. We were all full, content, and very tired. We said our goodbyes and went to bed, anticipating our early rise tomorrow.
– Mollie and Adra
June 29, 2022
Today we woke up super early, around 5am, to see what the residents of Manu Learning Center call “Collpa”. Collpa is when colorful macaws, parakeets, and parrots cross the river to an island early in the morning to eat the clay of the clay deposits to neutralize the toxins from their diet. When we got to the island the sunrise was very beautiful and you could could see the snow capped mountains in the distance.
When we got back to camp we sat down together and ate a delicious variety of fruits before we headed off on another adventure. As we commenced our hike we heard the pitter patter of raindrops on the forest’s leaves, which prompted us to put massive ponchos on (which were later removed due to scary bugs). We learned how to properly handle butterflies -by grabbing them parallel to the body, right above the head. Despite the horrendous amounts of bugs that surrounded the butterfly traps, the experience of the butterflies resting on our hands and heads was well worth it. We named the butterflies who stayed with us, Ramón, Ramóna, and Zamon (due to its stripes, like a zebra).
The other groups did the pitfall traps, searching for frogs and amphibians. Instead, they found three bird eating tarantulas. The first was named Margarita, the second, a baby, was named Mohito, and the last, Martini. Ironically, Mar(tini) was the largest. This experience was one of the coolest moments of the lives of many of those people, as well as the most terrifying.
Once the group returned, rested, and ate, we all grouped up for our final activity of the day, a night hike. While our only light was that of our headlamps, we saw a few arboreal frogs and more than a few spiders. Another wonderful experience to end our final day at MLC.
-Izzy and Rex
June 30, 2022
Woke up early today to travel to our next destination, Tunki wasi. However, we had a few quick stops in the nearby village of Salvación.
Our final breakfast at MLC was fresh fruit-everyone agreed the highlight was the sweetest mango we’ve ever had-and freshly made pancakes. And as we’ve all gotten addicted, multiple cups of their coffee (truly, the best coffee we have had).
As the early morning fog spread over the mountains that rose in front us, we boarded the boat one last time for a 15 minute ride to a small island. We walked about half an hour along a cobblestone trail, over a few creeks and surrounded by dense jungle that opened to a marsh and small river with several traditional wooden rafts. We practiced our punting skills as we maneuvered a log boat at a whopping 2 kilometers per hour to a tower that looked over the surrounding wetland. While here, we saw a many birds and a colony of leaf-cutter ants with over a dozen entrances to their underground home.
After ‘driving’ back, we met with a representative for a bio garden project that helps native women get fresh fruit and income. We drove to Salvación, catalogued some plants before digging up our very own yuca tree and buying some to eat (tomorrow morning) from the farmer. Continuing in Salvación, our final stop was at a school, where we split into two groups to work on community projects. Half of us went to work on rebuilding a fence that covered the schools bio garden, which the students care for, and the other half prepared another garden bed by picking out rocks and sowing the soil. Interrupted only by lunch and a few short soccer breaks with the kids, we finished our projects and continued on our way.
During our final bus ride, we began the ascent up the Manu road, and stopped after two hours of wonderful conversation and lack of motion sickness, at Tunki wasi. We hiked with our bags down to a river, which we crossed in a wooden cable car. Incredibly fun and a little frightening, pulling ourselves across the flowing water several feet in the air, was a highlight of our day.
We settled into our lodge and final resting place in the Manu National Park and finally showered after the long day. Happy and clean, we spent some time talking under the stars and had a delicious dinner before getting ready for bed.
Much love from Peru,
-Liam and Sabine
July 1, 2022
We started the day early at 7:30am. We had a big breakfast of eggs, bread, fresh juice, and coffee. After breakfast, we got ready for the day and changed into our work clothes.
Before leaving, we found a habinero pepper plant behind our lodge. We decided it would be a good idea to eat the whole pepper in one bite. Unsurprisingly, a wave of spice hit us as soon as we chewed the seeds. We all rushed to the kitchen to get some milk to help the spice until it eventually subsided.
We then proceeded down to the river to begin our work for the day. We shoveled and carried buckets of rocks, sand, and dirt into a pile that would be used for a foundation of a new building. After work, we changed into our bathing suits for a quick dip in river. The cool water was insanely refreshing after the long day of work. We walked back up the hill to go have lunch. After lunch we took a different route to go to the bird observation deck, where we saw the national bird, cock of the rocks. The top half of the bird was a bright orange color, similar to a construction cone.
We had some down time where some people choose to take a nap, play games, and others pet Perla, the family dog. Before dinner we practiced our Spanish skills with a game of charades. For dinner we had a delicious mushroom pasta. To relax before bed, we sat under the stars and chatted. Afterwards, we went back to our rooms to pack for long journey ahead of us the next day.
By Adra and Zarya
July 2, 2022
This morning we had banana pancakes and fruit from the garden before we got on the road to Urubamba. We had a short but difficult hike with our bags to the bus then started our journey. After a few hours of driving and a quick stop for snacks, we reconnected with Nate, Fabricio and our suitcases in Cusco. We had a healthy and delicious lunch before we switched to a larger and more comfortable bus. We slept, had snacks, and bonded until we reached our new home in Urubamba. After dinner we had a meeting in Spanish and retreated back to our rooms to sleep.
– Charlotte H. and Margot L.
July 3, 2022
This morning we woke up to a nice breakfast. When we walked outside we saw the beautiful views of the Sacred Valley. After breakfast, we gathered our laundry and walked up to the bus. We have never been so happy to have clean clothes. Then we ventured further to a town called Pisac and visited an alpaca and llama farm. We got to feed and pet the animals and they were so fluffy. While we were there we saw how alpaca fur is used in the world. When we left the farm we went to a famous view point the Inca used. We could see the snow capped mountains and the river that ran through the sacred valley.
From there we drove down into a small town. We were given money to venture around and find empanadas for lunch. After lunch we all met up and went to a market, where we learned the best ways to bargain and we got to shop for beautiful Peruvian souvenirs. It was so much fun to see the different cultures and lifestyles that Perú has to offer.
After a great afternoon in Pisac we got back on the bus and made our way back to Urubamba. We all got off the bus and split into 2 groups. Half us met a local jeweler and learned how to make silver rings, While the other group walked around and got ice cream. Later on we switched and the other group got to make rings. We met back up and were surprised with a baked Guinea pig. It was very salty but better than expected.
After an eventful evening in Urubamba we went back to the hotel where we had a nice dinner and free time before bed.
-Nate y Izzy
July 4, 2022
We had an early start, waking at 7:30am and eating breakfast at 8:00. Our breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs and bread with butter and jam, and for our drink we had tasty, fresh orange juice.
Off we went at 9:00, on our bus, to our morning service project in Calca. The project’s goal is to educate girls that live in mountainous terrain without easy access to a higher education. They do this by making dorms that young girls can live in, during the week, as they attend school. What we are doing is helping to make more living space for the volunteers and the women who complete their secondary education, at the school, and then choose to attend another university or an institution.
After spending the morning hard at work, we went to a traditional Peruvian buffet. It included foods such as ceviche, mashed potatoes, salad, vegetarian lasagna, rice, and more. We ate until we could not have another morsel of food, and found ourselves entrenched in a deep food coma. Somehow, we still made room for dessert, which featured apple pie and brownies. We all walked like zombies to our bus, and made our way back to our hotel in Urubamba.
Once there, we were given time to relax, which many chose to use as nap and/or shower time. We all reconvened to have an introductory meeting regarding our upcoming home stays. We acted out possible scenarios, practiced Spanish phrases, and played games of true and false, all to prepare us for our new families we were going to meet, tomorrow.
We all went to dinner, which kept with the traditional Peruvian theme. There was soup and Peruvian fried rice. For dessert, there was a surprise… S’mores! We all sat around the giant campfire. We exchanged many stories, of both the horror and comical variety. We stayed there quite a long time before going to bed, where we were all anticipating meeting our host families the next day.
-Mollie and Margot