A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Sampri07

I've gone to the otherside....of the U.S

....straight to the Wild, Wild West!!

sunny 23 °C

Traveling for 24hrs can get you very far in terms of distance but sometimes it can literally feel like you've been transported into a completely different world.

After 6 months of truly incredible experiences in South America, I prepared myself for the contrast of returning to the United States. The price of $5 for the using 10 minutes of internet at LAX quickly made these differences apparent. The cost of 10 minutes would have got about a days worth in Bolivia....but as I said, a different world….. I had to use the internet to write down the address of my first host in LA, I copied it down and then asked advice on how to get there. This took a while, the three ladies at the desk were very helpful but didn’t seem to be too familiar with using the internet. On their original search they said "hmm, it appears to be really close"....one then pointed out that they’d entered the address of the airport and not the one I’d given them! When the real location was discovered, I could hardly hide my smile when they told me "you're going to Hollywood!"......and despite being told this, it was still a surprise when I came out of the metro station into the morning heat, to find myself right on the 'walk of fame'. With my big bag on my back, it felt like I had arrived to seek fame and fortune!...

Livin' in L.A.

Livin' in L.A.

After a hot walk up a steep hill, I found Jons house....and my first couchsurfing experience for a while began. Being a music student conversation was not difficult to come by, plus being a fan of English football, things got off to a good start. This continued when in the evening we went with a few of his friends to his mum’s beach house on Venice beach...literally on the beach. Playing some American football and a few beers, was definitely a nice beginning to my travels on the West coast

The Beach House

The Beach House

They even have bicycles that ride themselves!

They even have bicycles that ride themselves!

The next day we checked out the sights of Venice beach. Including the canal systems developed to recreate its namesake, the beach and my favourite....the promenade. Some very entertaining entertainers can be found here.

Pro Skater

Pro Skater

Guess the film!

Guess the film!

Let him entertain you!

Let him entertain you!

The Canals

The Canals

After two fun days with Jon I made my way to another part of town to stay with my next host Nagat, and her family. I was greeted with beaming smiles from all three kids and welcomed straight into family life and good food. I went on a bike ride the next day into the hills of LA. At the top we got a great view of the valley and the dry hills with eucalyptus all around really reminded me of being back in Peru....just the mansions on top of the hill that set it apart.

Half way up the hill

Half way up the hill

We encountered a somewhat strange fellow on the way up, he was riding to his home somewhere out in the bush where he said he was rescuing Salamanda's. A fair enough cause, but when he started telling us about his sign that he had on his bike to 'inform' the community - it became apparent this man was a little different. He began to tell us of the physical and mental abuse he'd received from a system 2 cult member! Intrigued, I asked what the ‘system 2 cult’ was and he responded with.... "you don't need to know what it is, the only thing you need to know, is that i've told you that it happened"......he could be a politician. He continued to go down the usual deluded route of turning to blame mexicans for all of Americas problems...."they need to be Americanised". He was annoyed at the speaking of Spanish, food and traditions that they continue to follow. We asked him where he was originally from and he replied "i'm proud of my irish italian heritage…but I don’t follow any traditions"......point proven - confused or deluded or both. I could go on....he seemed to tick every box of the stereotypical nutcase. Luckily through my travels I've experienced that not all people are like this, in fact, thankfully very few are.

A grand view

A grand view


Another couple of days in fun family surroundings followed and I got the chance to visit a few of LAs museums.....on their free days of course! My favourite being the Grammy museum, with a joint exhibition on Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, another on John Lennon and then just the rest of music history....I was in my element...never spent so long in a museum :)

It really was great to spend time with Nagat and her family, and I think it’s so great that despite having a busy house with her own kids they still have a constant flow of guests….the kids will grow up learning more languages than I can ever hope to know!

Joplin's Motor

Joplin's Motor

The frog got him!

The frog got him!

How to bounce

How to bounce

My last couple of days in LA were spent with my next host Drew. Being a tour guide of LA he was a good person to get tips from for places to visit. So I went to see the famous LA tar pits and the Hammer museum, where during my visit they had a free meditation session, so I thought I may as well check it out. It was another amusing scene, when everyone was preparing to get into the 'zone', an old guy entered guided by two of his helpers. Possibly slightly deaf, he kept shouting questions to his assistants. They responded in whispers and reminded him everyone had to be quiet whilst they were in the room.... a couple minutes of silence passed before he blasted out "so when is this thing gonna start"....the sound of annoyed breathing was deafening :) but I chuckled, and it certainly relaxed me....so its official, meditation works!

City of bright lights

City of bright lights

History stuck in the tar

History stuck in the tar

Street Life

Street Life

Bigger, not always better!

Bigger, not always better!

On my last evening we visited the Japanese American museum and contemporary art museum. After a blast of culture I was off to meet an old friend in the form of 'the greyhound'! And another blast of culture followed! Around midnight in the LA greyhound station, you certainly get an interesting cross section of society. Then an hour stopover in Las Vegas just tops it off – I cant believe it’s not been made into a sitcom.... The people I've met whilst on the buses have always been so nice, and this time was no different. As the bus departed at 6am from Vegas I chatted with a guy who'd been stuck in the station for the previous 3 days! His bad luck included a faulty ticket, stolen wallet and luggage getting stuck in a locker - but he was still incredibly upbeat and adamant that I share his beef jerky's and reese's pieces. He gave me a guided tour of all the areas we were passing through (including the point when it’s possible to see 3 states at once) and showed me his collection of photos from when he lived in Hawaii 25 years ago. He got off and wished me a fantastic stay in the U.S and told me sometimes you'll meet a few horrible people, but don't let them spoil your trip because there's so many more friendly people out there just waiting to meet you. He was a nice fellow.

I arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona at midday and walked to the local university where I was meeting my host for the next couple of weeks. I was going to be volunteering at the 'Lavender Sky Ranch' where she lived. I looked around town the rest of the afternoon and then met back up with Elissa after she'd finished work. The ranch is an hour and a half away on the road and then another half hour on the dirt road. By the time we arrived it was dark, so I had to wait until the following morning to see the beautiful surroundings of the ranch....and also see just how far away from everything we were.

Bedroom view

Bedroom view

One of the many ranch pets

One of the many ranch pets

Cross section of the house

Cross section of the house

I started the first morning with a tour around the ranch to see how it all functions, given to me by Elissa and another fellow volunteer Adora (who'd been there a week already). There was a lot of information to take in about how the place runs, the solar panels that powered the entire house, the water tanks and pumps used to filter collected rainwater, the composting, and the different jobs that were to be done.....as well as all the animals names. Firewood duties took up the majority of the first day and with the chainsaw and axe it was an enjoyable activity! Whilst on the ranch we got through a range of tasks, repairing trailer roofs, lining stone paths, garden work, clearing, and finishing the insulation slats in the house.

helpx photoshoot

helpx photoshoot

Trailer fixing

Trailer fixing

I found the work interesting and a good way to learn how to use a whole host of new tools. Adora and I had a great time laughing through the days and keeping ourselves entertained.... Star Trek soundtracks, rumours of near by spaceships and psycho analysing the animals of the ranch provided some smiles. Then on Elissa's day off we went on a day trip to go and see the petroglyphs (rock carvings) located close by. They are 1000s of years old and were carved by Native Americans when passing through the area.

Searching for messages

Searching for messages

Aliens exist! Or existed!

Aliens exist! Or existed!

Attack of the lizard men

Attack of the lizard men

Being a wimp when it comes to critters, Arizona is a hotbed for scary encounters! With rattlesnakes, scorpions and the infamous Black Widow (the name alone strikes fear into me…probably because of that ‘worlds most dangerous creatures’ pop up book I had as a kid!). Now we didn’t have any bad run ins, but we did see a scorpion, and one day I thought there was a rattlesnake annoyed at me whilst I lay on the trampoline and every time I moved the sound got more ferocious (but I couldn’t actually see it), and Adora uncovered a Black Widow…I would have been across state lines in a flash had I found it……this was enough for me!.... I did however manage to get a David Attenborough worthy clip of a Praying Mantis devouring the head of a Grasshopper though....BAFTA award winning stuff!

Harry, Don't move

Harry, Don't move

When the weekends rolled around the neighbouring ranchers would come for a bonfire and food. They also had volunteers staying so it was always interesting to speak to them and hear what they had been getting up to. Funnily enough the other ranch kept Llamas and Alpacas, so when I got to see these it reminded me of my days back in Peru. It was also Adora’s 18th birthday on the middle Sunday so with the other ranch’s volunteers we made our way to the Grand Canyon!

A few of my Peruvian friends

A few of my Peruvian friends

Despite knowing that a canyon goes down into the ground, I was still surprised when approaching the site you’d have no real idea what lays ahead. Even when parked up you still don’t see anything until you follow a path a suddenly the ground just seems to fall away in a spectacular fashion.

It's Grand alright

It's Grand alright

The world is mine!

The world is mine!

The view was breathtaking and almost too difficult for you eyes to process as a whole, it just kept going further and deeper everytime your eyes adjusted. We spent the whole day walking along part of the south rim, stopping for a celebratory birthday mango halfway through.

I stand alone!

I stand alone!

Canyon Crew

Canyon Crew

There are many trails that can be done right down into the canyon that take several days to complete. I hope to return one day and do one of these, it would be good to see the canyon from the opposite view, on the very bottom looking up!

And the rains came down

And the rains came down

After a great two weeks on the Lavender sky Ranch it was time to continue with my journey and onto Santa Cruz. So I said my goodbyes to Elissa and Adora and thanked them for a wonderful time….again as with every helpx and couchsurfing experience I’d love to return one day.

Host and Helper

Host and Helper

A 28hr combination of bus journeys and layovers lie in wait for me, with the first stop coming only a couple of hours into the trip….3hrs sat on the floor of the Pheonix Greyhound station (spelt Pheonix, regardless of what the Oxford English dictionary tells you!). In Santa Cruz I was going to be meeting up with Beth, a friend I’d made whilst at Yanapay.

Forestation

Forestation

Sun.Light.House

Sun.Light.House

I arrived in Santa Cruz to 48hrs of non stop rain (a feeling of home), however it brightened up for the rest of the week and I was able to make good use of the bikes Beth had. One day I went with Beth up to the UCSC campus which is situated right up in the forest. There are several bike trails that take you around the area, and although I followed the signs which said ‘loop’, it never quite seemed to lead me back to the start. In fact I ended up miles away down at the cliffs. That was fine with me….

Loophole

Loophole

Guess the football player, answers on a postcard please

Guess the football player, answers on a postcard please

Staying with Beth and her four friendly and very hospitable housemates made for a very relaxing week. Between trips to the beach and cycling along the coast, they were full of suggestions for other interesting places to visit (plus they liked my Cottage Pie). One day I headed to natural bridges, which is exactly what is says, natural bridges made from rock which have been eroded by the sea (it took me back to my geography lessons of coastal erosion…my teachers would be so proud!). Near by, there was also a small nature reserve which was home to many creatures and at this time of year there was an abundance of migrating Monarch butterflies. So off I went to check out the calming butterfly effect….

All Natural ingredients

All Natural ingredients

Migrating Monarch

Migrating Monarch

Sunset Surf

Sunset Surf

Overgrown Monet

Overgrown Monet

One evening, Beths parents were coming to town for a visit. This meant I got the chance to go and stay at the beach house which had been in their family for nearly 100 years. My second beach house of the trip so far and another great view to wake up to!

Another beach, another house!

Another beach, another house!

My last evening in Santa Cruz saw me try possibly one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten, ‘the phatty’- a bacon and cheese burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun!.... That night the house had a party for Halloween, and they owned plenty of outfits for me to choose from - the baby outfit fitted the best. I went to purchase a dummy to make the costume complete and when in the checkout line, the guy behind me caught me off guard and said “good thing they’re sold in two’s, they get through them so quick don't they?”. I just responded “oh yeah, tell me about it”….didn’t have the heart to say they were actually for me…. The rest of the house, as you can see were an impressive tribute to the Spice Girls!

He's a baby, he's a baby!

He's a baby, he's a baby!

Zig a Zig, Ah!

Zig a Zig, Ah!

The best conversation I had all evening was when someone asked me “So why are you a British baby?” and “are you going to keep doing the accent all night?”….. “Yes I’m gonna try”. The party however came to an abrupt end when around 1am the police turned up and ruined everyone’s fun :( I was due to be on a bus at 6.40am the following morning though, so maybe they were doing me a favour and gave me a few extra hours of sleep.

Slept like a baby....and a zebra!

Slept like a baby....and a zebra!

So onto see another Santa, this time Santa Rosa. Not too far away, although the 6hr wait in Oakland made it seem the opposite. I was making my way to the McDonald Ranch, not a place for the restaurants genetically modified cattle and chickens, but a non-profit organisation providing sanctuary for animals and a place for children to come and learn about animal care.

Yet another exciting opportunity to learn a new bunch of skills lay ahead, but the adventures will be saved for my next entry…. This is long enough already….

….. but one thing I would like to mention, is how seriously excited I am about the important date I have with a special someone in San Francisco :) :) :)

Posted by Sampri07 01:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Peru, Peru, where would I be without you?

.......well LA soon!

sunny 16 °C

Last time I wrote I was saying goodbye to my dear Jana (yep thats right first sentence and she already got a mention). But i´ll spare you the romantic writings this time, and just tell you about all the macho adventures that I have been on since!.... The stories of crying myself to sleep every night really wouldn´t make for enjoyable reading :)

So back in Yanapay, and some new friendly faces to get to know. There seems to be something about this place where only good people come to stay.... I´ve met a lot of nice new people since returning, and shared some great times with them along the the way.

2nd in the pub quiz again!

2nd in the pub quiz again!

Getting back into the swing of the things at the school was easy, with the smiling kids how could it not be.....even when they do like to play their extremely amusing game of hiding under the tables! With the low levels of volunteers in the off season, my spanish has been put to the test as I was placed in charge of a family (class) for the first time. I was with `tigres´ for one week and then onto `cielo´for the remaining weeks. Some of the themes covered in school have included food, english and Judaism, and I must say I think i´ve learnt just as much as the kids. For food week, we composed a song with lyrics worthy of winning the mercury prize. The groundbreaking tune encompassed the typical foods of all the volunteers country´s -- "i like to eat, eat, eat, meatballs and potatoes (sweden), i like to eat, eat, eat, hamburgers and french fries (U.S), i like to eat, eat, eat, fish and chips (England). Sadly we have no video....

Quite clearly dressed as Americans

Quite clearly dressed as Americans

Heyyy!

Heyyy!

Now my spanish, I certainly would not say has even reached a comfortable level, but I am pleased that I have at least made some improvement on my starting point of "hola". My vocabulary was seriously stretched when trying to teach about Juadaism, where I have to confess my knowledge in english alone is at a premium. But through the power of speach (not so much), acting, body language and whatever else I could conjure up we got through it.....and I think the kids may remember a couple of things from it.....even if it is only the apples and honey that they ate to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).

Are you sitting comfortably?.....then i´ll begin....

Are you sitting comfortably?.....then i´ll begin....

One weekend with some other volunteers, I returned (once again) to the market town of Pisac. However this time the purpose was to visit the impressive ruins situated high up in the hills. So after a little look around we set off up into the hills for a climb back through history.

First little breather!

First little breather!

Another break

Another break



The climb is not a difficult one, but a rest every now and then to catch your breath is needed! At the top we were fortunate to encounter a nice wooden flute playing fellow. After offering to take our picture he proceeded to give us a mini guide around the ruins. So off we skipped following him along the path as he played his flute (hoping not to be rats led off of the cliff).

Tip top of the ruins

Tip top of the ruins

Follow the leader

Follow the leader

He told us how he was studying herbal medicines and had some of his potions with him.....so we tried the one that helps you to breathe easier at altitude (sniffing chemicals from strangers is probably not what the lonely planet guide book suggests, but he seemed a trustworthy enough fella). We didn't all collapse in a heap, instead got a nice insight into the ruins from a local. He told me he has one english and one french textbook that he reads and teaches himself so that he can communicate with the tourits that he meets....how nice.

On the Terraces

On the Terraces

Historical trails

Historical trails

Whilst staying at Yanapay I celebrated my birthday for the first time away from home. It fortuitously fell on a friday, so it was nice to all go to the restaurant for a meal. I was lucky enough to even receive a gift from the fellow volunteers in the form of two miniture naked pacha mama and pacha papa figurines........and through the marvels of modern technology, close ones are never far away and some skype birthday messages were welcomely received.

Virtual Birthday Cake

Virtual Birthday Cake

Birthday wishes

Birthday wishes

Fun times in the restaurant

Fun times in the restaurant

Theme was English - I opted for the chimney sweeping, train driving, farmer look!

Theme was English - I opted for the chimney sweeping, train driving, farmer look!

With all my time spent in Peru and Cusco, I´ve visited many incredible sites with one notable ommission.....Machu Picchu!....with just a couple of weekends left in Cusco I made plans with three friends from Yanapay to go visit the pre-Columbian Inca site. With the need to save funds for the next part of my travels, I opted for the cheapest method of visiting the breath taking site. Public transport to Santa maria, then Santa Teresa and finally onto hydroelectrica (a hydro electric power station) followed by a walk along the train tracks is the thrifty way to arrive. Our first bus broke down a couple of times and the repairs took a little while (not surprising when a pic axe is in use). However luck was on our side, as later on whilst we waited for road works to be cleared - another bus offered to take us directly to hydroelectrica. With a 2-3hr walk ahead of us, this was a great opportunity as ideally you want to do the walk whilst it is still light - for the views, safety and the ability to spot and avoid the swarms of mosquitoes!

How to fix a tyre....pickaxe probably wouldn´t be my first choice!

How to fix a tyre....pickaxe probably wouldn´t be my first choice!

No wonder it took us so long to get there!

No wonder it took us so long to get there!

Should I?

Should I?

Yes I should.....my `stand by me´ moment

Yes I should.....my `stand by me´ moment

The walk along the tracks, despite being a very popular option with tourists still fills you with a sense of adventure and feelings of being an intrepid explorer. Through tunnels, crossing bridges, tracks through the jungle and meandering rivers, we made it to our destination of Aguas Calientes just as the last remaining glimmers of light were disappearing. It had been a long day, leaving at 5.30am and arriving sometime shortly after 6pm.... So after buying our passes and bus tickets for the following day we enjoyed a well earnt dinner, then checked into a hostal for some rest. Our aim the following morning was to climb Huayna Picchu when at the site, and to achieve this you need to be an early riser as it is limited to just 400 people a day. The first bus leaves at 5.30am and we joined the queue at 4.30am!

4.30am curb crawlers

4.30am curb crawlers

I got mine!

I got mine!

We were succesful and I received stamp number 92 for our entrance. It truely is a magical experience watching the sunrise at Machu Picchu. As the mist lifts, mountain upon mountain is revealed, each one greater than the one that precedes it..... The climb up Huayna Picchu, although very steep, is not too much of a challenge....mainly because the altitude here is actually a good 1000m lower than Cusco.. So we raced to the top to try and be one of the first to take in the views that day, and we were not disappointed.......It was also a chance to keep a promise i´d made about 9 months earlier, when i told my friend Nick I would wear his bands T-Shirt when at the top. I´m a man of my word :)

Looking down on the Incan site from Huayna Picchu

Looking down on the Incan site from Huayna Picchu

Mystical Mist

Mystical Mist

Once back down, the site had become extremely busy (another benefit of arriving so early, is to see the area before it is filled with the 2500 daily visitors) but you can always find a little quiet spot to appreciate the surroundings. We spent a few hours exploring the ruins and listening in on other groups tour guides :)

This is how it looked when it was originally discovered!

This is how it looked when it was originally discovered!

Good Climbers

Good Climbers

Family day out

Family day out

Sweet Valley

Sweet Valley

Although it would have been nice to spend the whole day in Machu Picchu, we did have to leave in the early afternoon as the return journey still awaited. So it was back along the train tracks.....and this time you could clearly see where we had been just a few hours earlier, high up in the mountains....(on the way there I think I must have announced that nearly every mountain was Huayna Picchu, "i think that one is it, actually no this one looks more of the shape, or perhaps this one").

Travel companion

Travel companion

....I was in this long dark tunnel

....I was in this long dark tunnel

Despite following the exact same path back, its incredible how different the scenery can look in reverse and the walk was again a fascinating one.

Appreciate where you´ve come from!

Appreciate where you´ve come from!

Invasion of the Butterfly kind

Invasion of the Butterfly kind

Back at Hydroelectrica

Back at Hydroelectrica

We arrived back at hydro electrica at around 4.30pm and started on the numerous bus journeys home. Extremely tired from the days activities, the bus seemed to last an absolute age. Returning to the Yanapay hostel at near 12am for a hot shower was the perfect end to an incredible 40 odd hours. The entire trip went really well and I would do it again in an instant..... in fact i'm pretty certain I will return at some point in the future....maybe save up for the Inca trail!

I spent some time preparing for my upcoming trip to the States during my last week at Yanapay, and I have some great things to look forward to. Then when friday came I got to see my last show at the school. This weeks theme saw a return to country's with Greece, Germany and Sweden all represented. The kids provided great entertainment as always, and i'll certainly miss the joy that they bring.

Chess anyone?

Chess anyone?

Doing the Greeks proud

Doing the Greeks proud

Always a joy

Always a joy

Zoo time!

Zoo time!

So now its time to leave Yanapay and Cusco, and the great home that it has been for me. I have so, so many happy memories of this place, with the things i've done and more importantly all the amazing people I have been fortunate enough to meet. Aldea Yanapay is truely a wonderful project and I wish Yuri and everyone else involved the best of luck, may it continue to grow and do great things for the children of Cusco.....

Home sweet away from home

Home sweet away from home

Perfect start to the day when you see little Washington's face every morning in the hostel

Perfect start to the day when you see little Washington's face every morning in the hostel

I strongly recommend anyone who plans to visit the area or are just interested in the project to find out more and help in whatever way you can - http://www.aldeayanapay.org/

Goodbye Cusco

Goodbye Cusco

.....next stop LA LA land!!!!!

(as I did not have a camera for most of my time back in Cusco, a big thank you to Ellen, Annie and Nicola for providing the majority of pictures).

Posted by Sampri07 17:33 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

a little loopy in South America - Part Deux

....the circle is complete....

sunny 18 °C

On my last entry we were leaving Arica (Chile) and heading back into Peru or Arequipa to be precise....So this is the most logical place to start :)

Arequipa is Peru´s second largest city, and in my humble opinion the most beautiful. Its white buildings against the constant blue skies are nice, but add to that a backdrop of volcano El Misti, then you have yourself a picture postcard.

Arequipa Plaza

Arequipa Plaza

The Birds

The Birds

Mariarchi el Wedding

Mariarchi el Wedding

Whilst walking around on our first morning in Arequipa, we were lucky enough to bump into a French couple that we had met during the tour of the Salt flats. Julian and Jessica are two experienced hikers, who on their travels have been conquering peaks across the globe. Their final summit was to be el Misti, and they invited us to join them for the easy climb!

In the Beggining

In the Beggining

We had a couple of days to prepare ourselves, get together some supplies and rent some equipment. Because of their experience and Jessica actually being a qualified tour guide in their native France, we did not need to pay the extravagant fees for a guide. Just the collective 250 sole fee for a jeep to drop us off and pick us up - usually this is what tourists have to pay seperately to do the climb....Suckers.....we passed a few groups on the way who seemed a bit peeved to find we were going without a guide....its not what you know, its who you know :)

What goes up!

What goes up!

A long way to go

A long way to go

Jana the conqueror

Jana the conqueror

Before I knew how tough it was going to get!

Before I knew how tough it was going to get!

The first part of the climb is to the base camp where you stay for the night before rising early the following morning to reach the summit and then return to the start. It was a tough trek for me and Jana (especially with the large backbacks) and we went from a slow pace, to a snails pace, to a pace that does not have a name but is on the verge of going backwards.... For the final stretch we got a little help from our fellow climbers, and they took our backpacks to lighten the load. Once at base camp we set up the tents and had a quick noodle dinner before heading to bed at 7pm for a freezing sleep.

Basecamp

Basecamp

We woke at about 4am the next morning to have a bit to eat and then start the final ascent. Sadly, not even an hour into the climb I started to feel ill. Probably the result of altitude sickness and the sweaty ham and cheese sandwich I had gobbled down for breakfast, but whatever it was, it was enough to make me to stop and go back to stay at the basecamp :(

Only by the night

Only by the night

I slept off the sickness and when I awoke, busied myself with making a sign for my friends newly born baby.... Julian and Jessica were slightly more rapid in getting to and from the summit. So much so that despite restarting after taking us back down to basecamp, they outpaced the group that had left camp a good 4 hours previous.

The Rock

The Rock

Happy campers - and our 80´s style rented jackets!

Happy campers - and our 80´s style rented jackets!

We all enjoyed a nice breakfast of cheesy mash potato, cake, crackers and biscuits, then once the tents were all packed started the descent......this was a lot easier. We had a lot of fun running down the steep stretches of black sand and have the pictures to prove it.

Sand Skiing

Sand Skiing

Argggggg!

Argggggg!

Ski Jump

Ski Jump

Eat our dust

Eat our dust

That night after a well deserved shower we enjoyed a celebratory pizza to toast our near accomplishments and then collapsed into a deep sleep. The following couple of days were nice and relaxing, and we visited the beautiful monastery just across the road from our hostel.

Monastery Archway

Monastery Archway

This is where the nuns shout from the rooftop

This is where the nuns shout from the rooftop

Before leaving Arequipa we were desperate to get to the Colca Canyon (twice the size of the Grand Canyon!), and as we had already spent longer here than planned we decided to book just a one day tour to the canyon. So after a nice 3hr sleep we were collected from the hostel at 2.30am to start the tour.... With this kind of tour you dont quite get to do the exploring that the incredible area deserves....however its still something that you just have to see.

Jana not Jesus

Jana not Jesus

amazing terracing!

amazing terracing!

The best part of the tour was the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, where if the valley is not already impressive enough you can watch the almighty condor in full glory as it soars through the valley. With a wingspan of around 3m, it is a spectacular sight and you really feel like doing an Avatar and launching onto the back of one....Obviously I did not try this, but I did however try to recreate a condor in flight.....needless to say, humans struggle at unassisted aviation, the drop was deceptive and my knee was sore for a good few days after...silly me.

Flight of the Condors

Flight of the Condors

Me and the mighty canyon

Me and the mighty canyon

Thought process - I think i could fly like a condor

Thought process - I think i could fly like a condor

Attempt at aviation.....or just a sore knee

Attempt at aviation.....or just a sore knee

Canyon Couple

Canyon Couple

The Eagle has Landed

The Eagle has Landed

The tour dropped us off back in Arequipa and after a nice bit of dinner we headed to the bus terminal to take a ride north and up to Lima. We now had our minds set on heading as far north as possible to reach the beach and rid ourselves of the cool night temperatures.

We arrived in Lima (Peru´s biggest city) the following day at 1.30pm and immediately booked a bus to Trujillo (3rd largest city) for later that same day. Before leaving we squeezed in a quick trip to the cinema and then returned to the terminal for another night on a bus. In Trujillo we found a hostel and were greeted by a friendly hairless dog.

Finally an animal with less hair than me!

Finally an animal with less hair than me!

The town was busy preparing for the country´s Independence celebrations on the 28th July. Decorations could be seen around the place, aswell as many people applying a fresh lick of paint to their property. After exploring the town in the day we booked ourselves up on a tour to the ruins of Huaca del Sol, Huaca de la Luna. These were built by the Moche civilisation, who flourished in Northern Peru from around 100 AD to 800 AD (before the incas). It was incredible to see the structures and artwork that has been preserved through time.

Temples of Doom

Temples of Doom

A Moche God

A Moche God

That night we were completing the final part of our hell-bent desire to reach the beach and boarded a bus 10hrs further north to the seaside town of Mancora :) Sun, sun, sun.... Arriving at 5 in the morning makes it difficult to choose a good hostel, so we stayed in a crappy one the first night but searched for a better one in the day. We struck gold in the form of Hostal Blu, and at 15 soles a night it was an absolute steal.

Our pic for the Mancora tourist board

Our pic for the Mancora tourist board

Daily Preparation

Daily Preparation

We stayed for two weeks in Mancora and could have easily stayed for longer. Checking out the various beaches along the coast was always fun and we found some bad but mostly good.... Our favourite stretch being Las Pocitas, nice white beaches and impressive rich peoples hotels/houses to look at..... a close second was Punta Sal where I got to have a nice cold beer and watch the sunset.

Beach House at Punta Sal

Beach House at Punta Sal

Sunset

Sunset

Las Pocitas

Las Pocitas

Jana and beach patrol!

Jana and beach patrol!

Now the sign of having a great girlfriend surely has to be when they suggest going to watch a football match...I did not hesitate to agree and off we went to see some low league football action. Despite it not being of a high level, South Americans certainly take their football seriously and police were needed to usher angered supporters away from the teams manager once a goal had been conceeded....I thought they were the better team, but my spanish is not up to the level of being able to explain this to a red faced, vein bulging fan.

Poor Manager

Poor Manager

A few extra spectators

A few extra spectators

On the last day, we had built up enough courage to give surfing a go. It started well, when on the the first wave, I was off the board within a couple of seconds.....then turned around to see where Jana was.... there she was hurtling towards me on the following wave.....a mouthful of sea water and tangled leg ropes prevailed... But at least it was each other that we smashed into.

Surfs Up!

Surfs Up!

friendly hostal family

friendly hostal family

Pull my finger!

Pull my finger!

After saying goodbye to our hostal owning family we caught the bus back to Lima... the start of the long return to Cusco.... Something I had been dreading, not because of the serious numb bum from the many hours sat still, but because it was closer to Jana´s return to Germany :(

Lima Coastline

Lima Coastline

Fine Dining

Fine Dining

In Lima we had a little more time to explore and walked along some of the coast, but again found ourslelves visiting the cinema, this time to see Inception. We stayed in the same hostel where Jana had previously stayed 5 months ago, amazingly some guests still remained! A good nights sleep prepared ourselves for the next installment of long bus journeys. However, we were fortunate to even catch this bus, as on the way to the terminal our taxi driver decided to come off of the motorway early and entered a large traffic queue....only to then be crunched into by a van!....We took our bags and tried our luck with another taxi. So off we sped to the terminal and whilst Jana ran in to make sure the bus didnt leave, I turned myself into a human version of the game buckaroo and piled all our bags on top and staggered in.....well we made it and a bus journey consisting of more bad films, people throwing up and the woman behind us making random off putting orgasm noises through the night followed!

Back in Cusco, just in time for our good friend Kati´s birthday, we got the chance to meet up with a couple of old friends from Yanapay. The remaining days seemed to absolutely fly by, but we filled them with some good stuff.

Run to the hills

Run to the hills

I enjoy this pose, also makes me less scared i´m going to fall

I enjoy this pose, also makes me less scared i´m going to fall

San Blas at night

San Blas at night

A walk up into the hills and a return to the nearby market town of Pisac gave some more spectacular views. (I´ll be returning once again to Pisac in my next blog!!...this time to visit the ruins up in the hills ....stay tuned)

Fiesta in Pisac

Fiesta in Pisac

Are you taking the Pisac

Are you taking the Pisac

Pisac Plaza.... and some good looking lady

Pisac Plaza.... and some good looking lady

Sadly, the worst memory of our travels had been saved until our final days together.... After a nice night out at a local bar, whilst walking home... well actually into the street of our hostel....3 guys with a metal bar jumped out of a car and grabbed us. We shouted and screamed but they pushed us both to the floor and after pulling away in the car, Jana realised they had taken her camera :( ....With it being dark, they had quite clearly not seen my huge, muscular, powerful body and thought they´d try their luck......but in all seriousness, as you can imagine, it was an incident that shook us both up alot. However most importantly none of us were hurt and although it was upsetting to lose Jana´s camera, luckily they did not take the contents of my bag..... her hard drive with all 6 months worth of pictures...that would have been absolutely devastating.

Our last day was spent mainly in the police station describing the events that had taken place the night before....but i think it is a testament to what an amazing time we have had together, as this bad memory now lays drowned at the bottom of the ocean with the thousands of good memories swimming above.

It was a difficult goodbye at the airport, and although we both new it was coming for a long time, it definitely did not make it any easier....the best thing though, is how confident we both are in continuing our good times together in the future and i´m so happy that our paths crossed :)

....it will now be the friendly faces of the children at Yanapay that keep me smiling.....oh yeah and all the incredible sights i´ll be seeing on the rest of my travels.

(Jana i miss you and cant wait to see you again)

So many happy memories, you just have to take the time to sit down and think about them all!

So many happy memories, you just have to take the time to sit down and think about them all!

Posted by Sampri07 12:02 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

a Little loopy in South America

including....Jungles, Lakes, Mountains, Deserts!!

sunny 14 °C

Well, i lied...this one took a litlle longer than the last to write....but only because i´m packing so much in!

When I last wrote I had a week left in Cusco before leaving with Jana to travel into Bolivia. There was still time to fit in a nice little weekend trip to Ollantaytambo before we left. Its a small little town which people usually visit for a couple of hours before starting the Inca trail...but deserves a bit more time. Whilst there we got up early to go explore the ruins and see the sunrise over the valley...and of course take hundreds of pics. We went with one of the good friends made whilst volunteering. Tarn is one of the many people I hope to see again after my travels and visiting New Zealand now seems like an even better idea.

High up heel clicking

High up heel clicking

3 amigos looking down on Ollantaytambo

3 amigos looking down on Ollantaytambo

The first stop after leaving Cusco was Puno, a town situated right on Lake Titicaca....and we were fortunate enough to arrive just before sunrise.

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca

I believe that the sun sines out of Jana´s ........

I believe that the sun sines out of Jana´s ........

Once the sun had put his hat on we got on a boat to Uros - the floating islands made entirely of reeds. They were originally built to serve as protection from the invading Incas and are a perculiar sight. Despite being told that the islands still serve a purpose to the people, it did seem that their sole existence is now just for the income from tourism...but its a good way to make money. So the people invite you in for a picture and encourage you to buy the souvenirs. It did seem a bit weird though....and when all the local ladies in traditional dress say "hasta la vista baby" at the end...it seems tourism has had a strange effect!

Floating Island Ladies

Floating Island Ladies

The Modern Life

The Modern Life

Straight after getting back on dry land we got on a bus to Copa...Copacabana and into Bolivia! :) A small little town, again right on the edge of Lake Titicaca. Its a nice place to relax and some great views - especially from up on the mirador.

Copacabana Mirador

Copacabana Mirador

After exploring Copacabana we caught a boat to Isla del Sol, a small island close by. We went to the north side, a bit less touristy so the hostels are nice a cheap, £1.50 to be precise! By day the island lives up to its name...lots of sun...however by night when the sun has laid its head, things get a little nippy to say the least! Cold, cold, cold.....so sleeping in some sexy thermals is a neccessity :)

Thermal Time!

Thermal Time!

The run from the outside shower back to the room is also fun,...and i dont think i´ve ever held on longer for that early morning pee (its just so much nicer to stay in bed than face the cold outside world). But once the suns up, everything is good again and we did plenty of walking around the hills, fields and private beaches.

Isla del Sol, north....beautiful

Isla del Sol, north....beautiful

Busiest harbour in the world

Busiest harbour in the world

Sadly, Island life was cut short when one morning financial calculations over breakfast we realised staying one more night would leave insufficient funds to leave the island (there was no cashpoint on the island...not surprising really...considering its mainly inhabited by sheep and i dont think they have the dexterity to make use of them). Upon realisation we felt slightly silly, as we sat there in full hiking gear as we had made plans to trek our way to the south of the island.

But back to Copacabana we went and to cheer ourselves up splashed out on lavish accomodation. The hotel, with room overlooking the lake blew the budget at £4 each a night!

4 Pound a night...clearly we´ve been ripped off!

4 Pound a night...clearly we´ve been ripped off!

One continental breakfast later we hopped on a bus and made tracks to La Paz. The second biggest city in Bolivia and all but capital (this is actually Sucre - there´s a bit of rivalry between the two of who holds the power).

La Paz....the high st

La Paz....the high st

We found a nice hostel situated near the San Francisco plaza and even closer to the ´Witches´ market! There was some very strange stuff on sale there, the most eyecatching being the dry Llama phoetus´....but i never did pluck up the courage to try the potion to help battle hairloss :)

2 for 1 Llama phoetus´

2 for 1 Llama phoetus´

La Paz was a huge, bustling city with loads of interesting places to check out. Nice Plazas, markets, bars and restaurants. One day we took a bus out of town to Valley de la Luna...where I lost Jana´s lense cap down a big gorge...ooops! After the walk around the space like terrain we were off to the zoo.

Less Lawrence of Arabia...more Sam of the Sandcastles!

Less Lawrence of Arabia...more Sam of the Sandcastles!

Whilst in La Paz the World Cup started and there was a great Dutch bar to watch all the games...but thats the last mention the tournament gets...as we all know how it went and I´m still sore from it. (German girlfriend + 4-1 loss to Germany = Bad times!).

Next place on our hitlist...the Jungle, however before making our way to Rurrenabaque we stopped off in Coroico for a night. A quiet little town that offers some incredible views. It was a nice place to relax and recover from the pant-wettingly scary ride along the infamous´death road´. The road has mountain one side and steep drop the other...not actually too bad when you drive a a normal speed and don´t take any unnecessary risks - however these words must have been blotched when the Bolivian cab drivers handbooks were distributed.... Overtaking a coach, on a blind bend is bad enough, let alone when because of the 3500m or so altitude there is thick clouds covering the road. But we got there in one piece.

Coroico, A nice place to eat some brekkie

Coroico, A nice place to eat some brekkie

The night stopover was also good - as we unknowingly faced another hellish journey. We booked the last two seats on the 17hr coach to Rurrenbaque which turned out to be the back seats. Unlike when on school journeys these used to be the seats in highest demand for the cool kids....now it turns out they are just for stupid travellers. The back seats not being able to recline leave you with about 6" breathing space when the person in front decides to be kind to their spine. This, combined with a continuous bumpy and dusty road, a movie playing at full blast makes for an uncomfortable journey (and the movie, quite fittingly was some bad version of Tarzan, cue non stop ape and monkey noises for the first half hour)....

Jungle Bus

Jungle Bus

Then when it starts to get dark and you want to get some sleep, my paranoia of bag thieves kicks in making it hard to drift off.... finally when i did get some shuteye - to be awoken by the rustling of hands around my feet and holding of my ankle... the bag thief paranoia steps up a notch...only to realise when i shine my phone bright on the floor that its a small child been put to sleep in the aisle. I´m glad i didn´t lash out...that would not have put me in favour with the locals....however I did manage to practice my bad spanish with the guy next to me as we talked about the World Cup. The international language of football knows no boundaries.

Welcome to the Jungle!

Welcome to the Jungle!

Needless to say the journey was well worth it, and we stayed at a hostel which had been recommended by a few friends. Hammocks overlooking the river a always a bonus. We booked oursleves on a 3 day pampas tour and were lucky to end up with a nice group of 7 - english, dutch, german, Israeli, Korean, Russian and Bolian all accounted for. All led by our brilliant guide, the slighty racist sounding´Negro´, that was his name, not my attempt to make friends with Nick Griffin...oohh Political.

Pampas Group

Pampas Group

The tour was amazing and we were spoilt with the vast array of wildlife all around us. When the sight of an alligator 10m away from you becomes common practice you know its a good tour....and when you touch it on the nose thats just cool.

One finger still counts as touching

One finger still counts as touching

Obviously we were always safe, our expert guide still had all of his 9 fingers... so there was never anything to worry about! We marched knee height througb the swamps, warned "tread lightly not to annoy the Alligators", in search of Annacondas. We found them and yes a picture of me looking brave follows:

We should really pay more attention to the snake!

We should really pay more attention to the snake!

The camp was basic but nice, though anyone who knows how pathetic I am around creepy crawlies will realise falling asleep was not so easy to the sound of insects - rustling, chirping, scratching, knawing, screaming...(ok all but the last one.) Rediculous though it may seem, deep in the wild, there was even a TV to keep up to date with the World Cup.

I realised, I didnt have what it takes to become a fisherman when we went Piranha fishing. I didnt want to see the ugly little critters hooked through the head, so tended to let them just snack on the tasty bait and not pull my line......the same can not be said for the blood thirsty Jana:

The little fishies didnt stand a chance

The little fishies didnt stand a chance

The Piranhas were cooked up for part of our dinner. The last day of the tour was an early start to watch the sunrise and then see a lot incredible birds (the flying kind, not Bolivian women in bikinis)...one interesting fact for this area of Bolivia is that 10% of the all the worlds species of birds can be found here!

After this it was back to Rurrenabaque where we chilled out for a couple of days, before the 20hr journey all the way back to La Paz. Return was relatively peaceful, as we did not make the amateur mistake of booking back seats, and some old Russell Brand podcasts saw me laughing all the way back.

La Paz have talented electricians!

La Paz have talented electricians!

We stayed in La Paz for a few more days before making our way onto Cochabamba....this saw the return of a good old friend...Couchsurfing! Once again CS outdid itself when we found a great host in the form of Jose and his family (his mum is also a member). They also had a couple of nice Argentinian csers staying with them at the same time. They had a lovely house at the top of a hill overlooking the city - incredible...we hadnt quite known what to expect before turning up and this surpassed all expectations.

Couchsurfing view

Couchsurfing view

We stayed only two nights but during that time went to see bands play both nights and also paid a visit to Jesus in the day. Cochabamba to our surprise and usually to everyone elses, has the worlds tallest statue of Christ..."what bigger than the one in Rio"....i hear you all say...yes bigger than that one!

Jesus Christ he´s tall!

Jesus Christ he´s tall!

Our adventure through Bolivia then took us onto Sucre. Bolivias capital and all round nice place, very picturesque. Unfortunately after the first night Jana started to feel unwell and spent the next few days mainly in bed, in a very bland hostel room :( So I tried to make the most of myself....and ended up watching most of the World Cup and Wimbledon coverage!

Main Plaza

Main Plaza

Thankfully when Jana was better we did get time to see the sights Sucre had to offer, but we moved on pretty quickly to put the sickness behind us...and so it was onto Potosi....location of the ´Devils Mine´! Before visiting the mines we checked out the natural hot springs situated out of town. Swimming in hot water high up in the hills is an extremely nice feeling and it was a nice enough day to just dry off whilst lying in the sun....we then got very lost when trying to find our way back...but thats always fun.

High up hot springs

High up hot springs

The next day we booked ourselves on a tour for the local silver mines, this starts in the market where you buy coca leaves, drink and dynamite for the miners that you will meet later. Its a strange experience just to walk into a shop and be able to buy explosives, cant remember doing it before on Oxford street....but if anyone wants some please let me know and i´ll stock up...dont think it´ll be any bother at airport security.

Hi Ho! Its off to work we go!

Hi Ho! Its off to work we go!

Keep Pushing

Keep Pushing

The mines themself are incredible, and its unbelievable the conditions that some miners can withstand, sometimes up to 24 hrs at a time....Perhaps the 96% alcohol helps (this actually exists)! We went 2 levels down into the mines, after some very wobbly wooden ladders we got far enough in to meet a few miners and learn a bit about life down there, the heat at this point is stiffling, and they´re are hammering away for hours. Definitely not reccomended for claustrophobes...there´s a great film on the mines called the Devils Mine - an interesting watch.

A Miner...i take my hat off to him (well i would have if it wasn´t so dangerous)

A Miner...i take my hat off to him (well i would have if it wasn´t so dangerous)

On the outside again, with our eyes adjusted to the sunlight we caught a bus to Uyuni where we would be starting the Salar (Salt flats) tour. The climate here again plummeted to below freezing and it was back to the thermals, gloves, hats, scarves and anything else we could find to sleep in (this was good practice for the next few nights), plus the cold showers defintely woke you up in the morning.

Thermals are back on!

Thermals are back on!

The Salar de Uyuni tour was a 3 day incredible sight seeing trip. Despite our guide being not overly talkative, the tour was very enjoyable and the differnent landscapes absolutely breathtaking. The tour starts in a train cemetary and then into the salt flats themselves (where we kind of struggled to take the usual humorous pictures that you see everywhere).

taken from the classic motion picture "The Great Train Run"

taken from the classic motion picture "The Great Train Run"

Every man is an island

Every man is an island

Damn that SatNav

Damn that SatNav

Tour Group and smoking Volcano

Tour Group and smoking Volcano

Another cold sleep out the way, and the day started with a trip to a smoking volcano...from a distance of course. Then some impressive lagunas and Llamas, Flamingoes and luch by a frozen lake. A quick game of cards with our nice group before an early sleep to wake up at 5am the next day.

Like a mirror

Like a mirror

Starts with a boom, or Geyser to be precise, and then the best part another natural hot spring yet this time the outside temperature is -10C. Dont think i´ve ever stripped off so quickly...getting out was the hard part...but in all honesty not as cold as you´d imagine. You do realise just how cold it is though when you see the girls hair freeze!

My best Llama impression (i´ve been practicing)

My best Llama impression (i´ve been practicing)

Closest i´ll get to appearing on a smoke filled stage!

Closest i´ll get to appearing on a smoke filled stage!

The perfect way to warm up in -10C

The perfect way to warm up in -10C

Once the tour came to an end we had a transfer into Chile to San Pedro de Atacama...which went smoothly until at border patrol we forgot to declare a bag of oranges in our luggage and were asked for our passports and it was a $200 fine!! Luckily our confused/innocent/scared faces and "Lo siento, me olvidé" was enough to get through with no financial damages....i really would have been annoyed if we paid $200 and there had been a lot of pips in those oranges!

San Pedro Plaza

San Pedro Plaza

San Pedro was an extremely nice looking place, but rediculously touristy as its obviously the place where most people end or begin their tour. This means prices are almost at a level with Europe...and this seems even more expensive when you´ve just been in Bolivia for a month. So all in all we did not want to stay long and booked our bus out of there for the following evening. This left just enough time to fit in some horseback riding to the Valle de la Muerte (valley of death!)....so named not because every horseback rider comes to a grisly end but because nothing really lives there. The horse riding was fun and Jana used to ride so off she galloped whilst I had mr lazy :)

I´m a cowboy baby!

I´m a cowboy baby!

Whilst trying to make our way from San Pedro to Arica we had some troubles and were told to wait in the wrong place whilst transferring buses in Calama...this made us miss our bus and needing to find a hostel late at night....The bus company was very helpful however and arranged us tickets for the following evening to Arica. Arica is a nice beach town, however out of season the beach is not so great...but we still checked it out and the dull weather reminded me of the great British beaches at the height of summer :)

Like Harold in neighbours all those years ago

Like Harold in neighbours all those years ago

A pic for Mum

A pic for Mum

Seeing the sea again was a welcome sight, and the return to normal altitude meant my lungs could once again take the strain of running around like a fresh spring lamb....and so up another little hill we climbed to see another Jesus (he certainly gets around).

He looks a little seasick

He looks a little seasick

I believe I can fly!

I believe I can fly!

This was to be our last stop in Chile as we still wanted explore different parts of Peru and the exchange rate in Chile was not quite so friendly to us cheap skate travellers! Although we obviously did not see that much of Chile, it really is interesting how a country can be at such a different economic level to its close neighbour Bolivia - but i wont turn this into an economics essay. On returning into Peru we would travel to Ariquipa.....and returning to Peru is where i´ll leave it as i´ve already written way to much and I must return to the beach to soak up the sun and Jana....as she only has 2 weeks left before flying home to Germany. Next time I write my blog, it´ll probably be in a very somber tone as I know I´m going to miss her an awful lot :(

Apple of my eye

Apple of my eye

Important Note....Please be aware that despite my complaints during some parts of this blog, I fully appreciate I´m a lucky little bugger to be doing this and I am loving every second of my travels 110%... I just find it fun to write like Victor Meldrew on his holidays :)

Posted by Sampri07 19:11 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Viva el peru glorioso

time flies in cusco - nearly 2 months already.

sunny 20 °C

I can not believe how fast time has gone since arriving here in Cusco. I´m sure its mainly down to being so busy and having a lot of fun.

My first week in cusco was nice, staying in the family home of the director of Aldea Yanapay. Got a chance to try some traditional peruvian dishes and spanish conversation... Admittedly my life did turn into one big game of shirades as my spanish was not really past the ¿como te llamas? stage :) but we had fun trying to understand each other.

Family House

Family House

From the first day at the project, I knew I would enjoy it here. The school is incredible and though very basic when compared to schools we are used to, this does not hold the kids back. Its an afterschool project which runs from 3-7pm. Each afternoon is split into 3 - the first part the kids are split into different classrooms where they can either get help with any homework they may have, get tutored on specifics eg maths, literature etc, do art or have fun with some educational games.

Friday show at Aldea Yanapay School

Friday show at Aldea Yanapay School

Next up comes the circle of expression, where all the kids aged 5-12 are gathered in the courtyard and listen attentively to the topic of the day. Yuri (the creator of Aldea Yanapay) chats to all the children about a host topics that usually get omitted from a typical childs education. A glaring ommision in my opinion, but probably because children are not given enough credit to understand the seemingly more complex issues that lie outside the comfort of curriculum. The topics always have a strong moral focus, including issues like racism, religion, sexism, domestic violence, social responsibility. The children are always encouraged to participate in the conversations, and they come up with a lot of interesting, clever and funny comments.

Adorable little Niños

Adorable little Niños

Its a joy to work with them every day

Its a joy to work with them every day

After the circle, the kids seperate into different classes determined by their age. This is where the volunteers teach the children about the theme of the week, and then at the end of the week whatever the class has been learning is presented to the rest of the school in the show. When I first started the theme was usually a different country each week, with one Guayana Francessa one week and Finlandia the next. Its usually just as interesting for the volunteers as the children as we learn about country we previously knew little about. As an example, in the show when we were presenting Finlandia - the kids created a map of scandinavia and labelled key details about Finland, Capital, Currency, traditional food, language, religion etc. Then we finished the show with a basic version of Finnish Folk dancing!!

One of my classes - Familia Sol

One of my classes - Familia Sol

Volunteering with Yanapay is a lot of fun, and with a lot of volunteers all staying in the hostel its a close a friendly community. There´s always a birthday, leaving do or some reason to have fun. I´ve met so many nice people through yanapay, far too many too mention but you all know who you are. Some people from england who i´ll make sure to meet up with, and others from around the world who provide the perfect excuse for a good holiday!!

BBQ for a grand Australian birthday!

BBQ for a grand Australian birthday!

Muchos Voluntarios

Muchos Voluntarios

Expensive meal out...about a 5iver

Expensive meal out...about a 5iver

Every friday there is a volunteer party in the restaurant,always with a fancy dress theme. There´s been 80´s, country & western, amcient civilisations, but my favourite was cartoons. A bunch of us got together and went as the Simpsons (or people looking like they had jaundice!). Every week is fun and going out with a whole group is always fun (other than when someone lets off a tear gas canister, which happened in one club we went to. Not a pleasant experience...though it did clear the sinuses!)

Cartoon Night

Cartoon Night

Los Simpsons

Los Simpsons

On the 15th May, there was the Yanapay Festival - organised to create awareness of the project with the local people and also show them what it does in the community. There was many volunteer hours put into the festival - with organisation, promotion, ticket selling and setting up of the festival (nearly everthing was hand made).

Festival Games

Festival Games

Festival Fun

Festival Fun

The festival had a stage for music and entertainment, a games area, food, football and volleyball tournaments. I worked on one f the seven games stalls, which was the tin can alley. Although the cans were replaced with plastic bottles (as each stall had a value and ours was recycling). The whole day went really well, with all the hard work payig off. A lot of Cusqueñas attended the event (which was obviously the main aim although anyone was welcome) and enjoyed the day. Hopefully the increased awareness will help support the project, especially with its next venture - the Casa Cultural. A place where children, family, adults can go once they leave the Yanapay school system which stops at the age of 12 (as in Cusco, children over this age attend ordinary school in the afternoons).

The lovely Kids

The lovely Kids

Whilst in Cusco i´ve been taking Spanish classes with another project called fairplay. This employs single mothers as its teachers and at the end of each week I pay my money directly to my teacher. The classes are all one on one lessons, and despite being extremely slow when it comes to languages (i´m still learning english) i´m at least progressing!! I can now just about get my point across in spanish and have some sort of broken conversation - which is all I wanted to achieve, especially so I can be of more use when in the Yanapay school.

Spanish Teacher and me...sometimes I feel like a giant!

Spanish Teacher and me...sometimes I feel like a giant!



Living in Cusco, leaves me very spoilt - with an incredible backdrop to wake up to every single morning. There´s a lot of great sights around the city and whenever there´s some time its so good to go and explore. There´s a lot of Inca ruins in the surrounding hills and one of the main sights is Sacsayhuamán (basically pronounced Sexy Woman...do you think the Incas knew the a lot of english speaking tourists would come one day!). I have been reliably informed however that the name actually means Full (well fed) Condor - thats where my understanding comes to an end.

One view over Cusco

One view over Cusco

Llama and Jesus

Llama and Jesus

As well as the sights there´s some great restaurants, for supreme value for money. the best has to be Tio Juans which is about 20 mins outside of Cusco, a little ranch set in the hills - what better way to eat your food! Plus they have volleyball...what better way is there to help the mountain of food digest!

Tio Juan´s - not a bad place to eat a meal

Tio Juan´s - not a bad place to eat a meal

Volleyball in the Valley

Volleyball in the Valley

Since I´ve been here, I´ve been on just one lengthy road trip (saving the rest for after Yanapay). I went with one fellow volunteer who I´ve been spending a lot of time with. Jana is a lovely german girl who was just as keen as me to check out what the Oasis of Huacachina and its opportunities of sandboarding had to offer... So off on an overnight 15hr bus journey we went (not so bad considering the views along the route).

The Scenic Route

The Scenic Route

You arrive in Ica - a town with notable signs of recovery from the 2007 earthquake. Then its a 15min taxi journey into the desert and oasis. As if all the travelling was not enough we actually spent the first day on a extra 2 hr journey to the coast so we could visit the beach of Paracas...and I swam in the Pacific for the first time in my life.

Paracus - first time in the Pacific

Paracus - first time in the Pacific

Huacachina is a nutural oasis but has been developed a lot for tourism. However when we were there, tourism was sparse (quite nice really). As if the tranquil oasis and its palm trees was not enough, the skyscraping sand dunes just behind were nothing but spectaclar.

Huacachina

Huacachina

Tourist photo alert - Jana and Me at the Oasis

Tourist photo alert - Jana and Me at the Oasis

....and its up those sandunes where you head when taking part in sandboarding!! For just 30 Soles (about 7 pounds!) we went out into the desert in a sand buggy for over 2 hrs - to throw ourselves over steep edges whilst laying down head first on snowboard. It was incredible, the views, the speeds, the screams, the sand in the teeth, the sand in...well absolutely everywhere (still finding it).

Run and Jump in the desert 1

Run and Jump in the desert 1

Run and Jump in the desert 2

Run and Jump in the desert 2

We went out in a group of 8, with a guide who bombs it over the dunes taking you to photo points, sunset points and most importantly slopes.

Deserted

Deserted

I went first on the supposedly non scary beginners slope. It was incredible but the best was definitely the last slope that seemed to go on for ever.

Despite what was close to a 40hr round trip after the road works on the way back (and the bus company choosing to play celine dions greatest hits at full volume, followed by a spanish dubbed south korean tv series at 6am) it was well worth the weekend away. As much for the company as all the entertainment (not celine dion). As it went went well we´ve decided to continue our travels together and in a couple of weeks, we´ll be leaving Yanapay to explore S.America together for 2-3 months. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, the jungle, Salt flats, Chile and lots of other amazing things await. I for one am looking forward to it all....My plan is then to return for a month at the end of my S.American stay and volunteer with Yanapay before heading back to the US!

I´ll try to write my next blog a little quicker!!

Posted by Sampri07 19:13 Archived in Peru Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

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