All Posts

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

July 5, 2022
Starting off with the rare chance we get to sleep in, everyone was up at 7:30 to do some last minute packing before leaving the hotel. After our final breakfast, some delicious, never seen before, eggs and bread, we gathered into the bus to head to work. We were continuing our work from yesterday, building the foundation for the new dorm. We split into the same groups as yesterday, one moving rocks and the other deepening the ditch, then switched. The rocks were smaller, allowing us to fill bags with them and move many more, but the pile seemed never ending. Our mouths tasted like dirt and we spent a good 10 minutes at the end scrubbing it all off. But the satisfaction of seeing the result was worth it. Once the work was done for the day, we began the next part of our journey: the homestays. Our groups and families were the subject of many conversations, so the minutes before we were given them were spent in a state of minor panic. All our anxieties were soothed, however, when we received them and of course the guides had done a good job matching us. We trekked down to the first house, a short 15 minute walk, where we were met by our “mothers”. They greeted us with orange cake (homemade and delicious) and soda. After our meeting, which ended in many hugs as it was our last before homestays, we broke off to head home. We all received quick tours, spent time with our families playing cards, talking, or watching movies together, before heading to bed early, exhausted from the eventful day.
-Hasta la vista baby, Sabine y Adra


July 6, 2022
Today we woke up around 6:30 to meet everyone at the plaza at 7:30. We had breakfast with our families and brought our boxed lunches our hosts made us for our adventure into the mountains. It was a 2 hour ride to Kajloarakay where we began our work. On the way there we took turns requesting music and singing along as we drove past the beautiful views of the mountains. Once we arrived we got straight to work moving logs from one place to another and stripping the bark to help the paint stay. After a little work we were introduced to the community and introduced ourselves. We began to put together a fence to prevent the farm animals from entering the market. Once part of the fence was up some people began to paint the wood to keep it strong through all kinds of weather. It was so much fun to work along the community to help them improve their market. When we finished we said , “Tupananchis kamam” or, “See you later” in the language of Quechua, to the community.

We returned to the bus where we drove to an ancient Incan site. We learned how it was used for rituals, farming, and more. After we finished learning we got back on the bus and began to venture back down the mountain. Views were amazing with huge clouds resting on top of snow capped mountains. When we returned we met our homestay moms and returned back to our homes to eat dinner. After hanging out with our families for a while, we returned to the plaza at 7 for another amazing activity.

We bundled up as we piled into separate vans to drive up the hill to a beautiful house. The view was breathtaking, the lights of the city and the stars above glowed bright. They had a telescope where we could see the moon and some different nebulas in striking detail. While watching the moon you could see every crater and it felt as if you could reach out and touch it. We laid out a blanket and learned about different constellations and the significance for the Incan people. It was an amazing day filled with so many unforgettable experiences!
Tupananchis kamam,
Izzy and Charlie

July 7, 2022
Everyone woke up in their wonderful homes, ate breakfast, and met up in the plaza of Calca. We then walked through the scenic town and found ourselves at a school for young disabled children, where we spent many hours working on a multicolor ladder for physical therapy. After a long morning of painting we met a few of the kids and learned the hardships they have to go through to get the help they need. Some kids have to do a 3 hour trek every morning to get to school.
After saying our goodbyes we went to a traditional Peruvian bakery and ate some delicious donuts and bread. We then went back to our individual houses and ate lunch with our families.
After some rest we met back up and went to a ceramics class where we learned the process of making clay and eventually pottery. We then got to test our pottery skills and make some small plates and bowls.

After a few hard working pottery hours we walked on the beautiful streets of Calca and made our way home to some dinner with our families and after a long day we went to bed.
By Liam and Nate

July 8, 2022
We all had breakfast in our homestays, and then met up in the plaza. We hopped on our bus and headed to the town of Kacllaraqay. When we arrived, we were greeted by the townspeople, all having dressed in traditional clothing. We were then given shell necklaces and walked as a group to the sound of the women singing in Quechua. We did introductions and quickly went off with individual families to see their farms and homes.

Once at the farms, some of us prepared corn to eat, while others danced on beans. Eventually we all met up again and walked to a beautiful viewpoint. We watched as young bulls were trained to plow fields of potatoes. A few of us gave the bull-handling a try ourselves.

After, we walked up to the top of a hill, where we witnessed a religious ceremony, in which the townspeople thanked the mountains for protecting both them and their crops. We then shared a meal together of potatoes, that had been cooked with the heat of the ground, and cheese to go with it.

After saying our goodbyes, in Quechua, we hopped back on the bus, and made our way to our second day of ceramics class. We decorated vases and clay tiles. We wished Luciano, the owner of the pottery place, a happy birthday, and made our way home, with one pit-stop at the bakery. After a long day, we had dinner with our families, and got a lot of rest for the next coming day.

– Mollie and Nate

July 9, 2022
Today started with a delicious breakfast with our host families. Afterwards, we met at the plaza and headed over to one of the host families’ houses. There, we began our first activity of the day, t-shirt stamping. Gretel, a member of the family, explained how to print a drawing onto our shirts, and we spent a couple hours working on them. After we finished our shirts, we each returned to our houses for lunch and spent a few hours eating, relaxing, and bonding with our host families.

We then met back at the plaza and walked as a group to play sports with a group of girls from the Sacred Valley Project. Before starting the games, we introduced ourselves and did some exercises to help remember each others’ names. We divided into teams and began a short game of soccer. Once the game was over, we took a quick snack break and got some water. After the break, we spent a few minutes hitting a volleyball back and forth, trying to see how long we could go without it touching the ground. Unfortunately, we ran out of time pretty quickly and had to head back to our houses. The day ended with a delicious dinner cooked by our host families. We got ready for bed and went to sleep in preparation for our last full day at our homestays.
By Charli and Zarya

July 10, 2022
Today was the last of the homestays, so it was a free day to spend with our families. Different families had different plans but for many of us the day started with Sunday mass at the local Catholic church. Although not many of us are Catholic, it was interesting to see this custom that is so important to the culture here.

After church, we all split off into our families. Some went to the market to get ingredients to make lunch for their family- burgers, some made a traditional cake recipe, while the others went out with their families to play sports or just go for a walk. No matter the event, we all enjoyed spending time with our families.

After some more hours of lounging, we began our group event for the night: the final dinner. We gathered at the homes of one of the groups. While waiting for everyone to arrive, we played music through our newly bought speakers and laid down to watch the clouds pass over the night sky. Once we had all arrived, the minutes before dinner were spent playing a game of Sapo where you throw coins into a toad’s mouth. Dinner was delicious, and at the end we read each of our “moms” a card we had written. When all was cleaned up, the game resumed. Everyone dispersed, and we spent our final night in our homes away from home.

– Rex and Sabine

July 11, 2022
Today we woke up in our homestays and ate a delicious breakfast before meeting in the plaza at 8:45. We then walked a couple of blocks to a school for children with special needs. There, we painted a playground, a door and an inspirational mural. We gathered in a circle with the children and staff, and ate crackers and drank soda. We then went back to our homestays where we had our final meal with them.

After lunch we said our goodbyes to our incredible homestay families and boarded a van. The van drove us to James’ home town of Ollantaytambo. When we arrived, we boarded a train to Aguas Calliente right below of Machu Picchu. While we were on the train, we saw beautiful views of mountains and rivers. We hopped off the train and walked a couple of minutes to our hotel. We then settled into our rooms and took some much needed downtime. We headed out to have a group dinner in the town. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and went straight to bed after our long day of traveling.

-Adra and Liam

July 12, 2022

Today we woke up early at 6:00am and went upstairs to a buffet breakfast provided by the hotel. We were all very tired, but the gorgeous mountains that surrounded us in Aguas Calientes helped energize us and get us excited for the day. As the sun came up, you could see the rays spread across the top of the mountains in the distance. Once we were done with breakfast, we brought our bags downstairs, got our bus tickets and headed on our way to begin our journey. We waited in the line to get on the bus to Machu Picchu and everyone was giddy with excitement.
We made our way across the river and up the mountain side. The higher up the mountain we made it, the better the view got as the mountains stretched high into the sky. Once we made it to Machu Picchu and got out of the bus, we got in line, Machu Picchu already partly visible, and showed tickets and passports for the last line of personal identification. Once in, the magic of what we were seeing fully hit us. Everywhere we looked historical engineering and innovation marvels stood against the tests of time and as beautiful as the day they were created. We listened as James guided us through the history and complicated past this site had to offer.

We wrapped up our visit at Machu Picchu, got on the bus and headed back down to Aguas Calientes. Once we got back, we headed to a buffet style lunch, which included fish, chicken, rice, pasta and more. After lunch we did a scavenger hunt to test our traveling abilities by visiting the hot springs, local shops, the train station, and restaurants. After relaxing and doing some bracelet braiding, we gathered all of our bags and made our way to the train station. We got on the train, and it was an hour and a half train ride to Ollantaytambo with many scenic views. Once we made it to Ollantaytambo we got on a bus and drove a little farther, probably and hour, to Cusco. On the drive you could see the moon so bright and high in the sky and the stars above. Once we made it to Cusco we took one last van to our hotel, Hotel Niños. We finally got to settle into our rooms and get our big bags with all our things. We got to have dinner at the hotel and it was pizza! It was some of the best pizza ever, we got a caprese, hawaiian and a pepperoni. The pizza was from Fabricio’s restaurant, which made it so much better. Once dinner was over, we all hung out for a little and shortly after, we all went to our rooms and got ready for bed. We were all very tired from a long day that was packed with fun, so we all wanted to turn in early to recharge for the last leg of the trip.

-Izzy y Rex

July 14, 2022

Started the day at 8:30 with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel. We had orange juice, coffee, tea, fresh and tasty fruit salad, eggs and bread with butter and blueberry jam. Then made our way to the market where Fabricio and James gave us a certain amount of money to buy food for homeless people. We all stayed together and bought 2 whole bags of rice, sugar, fruits, nuts, pop corn and flower. 40 minutes later we walked around the market to find people that would need all this food. Fortunately we didn’t meet a lot but there was 2 men siting in the stairs. One of them was blind. We gave them one bag each. They looked really grateful. It all made us feel proud helping others. Then we walked around Cusco and bought lots of souvenirs and presents for our family and friends. Later on, we had a free time to have lunch. We all ate together at a good burger place. Then we went back to the hotel and had a little rest before the haunted house! It was really fun and a little scary. To finish the day we had a salsa dancing class with a Colombian choreographer. We all loved it. Even if it weren’t easy for everybody. After that we went back to the hotel and had dinner all together. It was a great last day.