A Travellerspoint blog

We helped build a house!

And I got sick :(

sunny 20 °C

I went back to the valley this weekend with a group of friends to help out again with the disaster relief work. This weekend we were helping out a different community to the one last weekend and we were helping to build a community kitchen. At times I wasn't sure if we were more of a hinderance than a help as the Peruvians seem to be able to do everything much faster and with much less effort than it takes us Westerners but I think they liked us being there to talk and laugh with them, provide moral support and to help out wherever needed. I got to do my fair share of sawing, thanks Dad for teaching me all I needed to know about wood work in my early years it really came in handy on Saturday! A group of 4 us were assigned the task of making a table which really is much harder than I thought it would be. I was very happy with myself when along with the help of my friend we managed to make one side of the tabll, well until it got pulled apart because it wasn't set at perfect right angles! I was more than a little miffed I mean a little perspective please these people have no homes!!! It was at that point that we were told that two young boys (about aged 7) had been watching us and laughing trying to work out what an earth we were doing, doh!! However, we did eventually come in useful as we helped sort food, hold down edges of plastic, find rocks and hold up parts of the building as they were going up. We had to leave a little before dusk as we had to walk back via the Machu Picchu train line (and it is not possible to do this after dark) so unfortunately we didn't get to see the finished masterpiece but I am currently awaiting pics. I was told that the community were very pleased with the result and they now have somewhere temporary but waterproof to store food and to cook together. There is still a lot of work to be done and a long way to go but its so great to see a start being made. In castillano they have a saying 'un poco, un poco' translates as bit by bit which I think sums up the message here.
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So Saturday evening relaxing after the days hard work I took a turn for the worse. I have been lucky on my trip so far I haven't gotten ill, but I had started to feel bad the previous week and really deteriorated Saturday evening. I'm lucky that I had a guardian angel in the form of my Chilean amigo especial Alex, looking after me. I met Alex in the middle of the desert in San Pedro about a month ago. I gave him my name as it turned out we were both going to be in Cuzco at the same time. I never in a million years thought he would actually look me up but he did and pretty much the rest is history. He actually returned to Chile after the flooding as he got airlifted out by the Chilean military but returned to Cuzco less than a week later after a 60 hour bus journey because he wanted to come back to see me! And people say romance is dead, well not in Latin America it aint! Anyways he has been an absolute angel while I have been ill, he went to get a doctor to come and see me, went to get water, soup and sat by my side all day whilst I was doubled over in pain, being sick and shaking from fever. As it turned out I had a bacterial infection in my stomach and the doctor prescribed me a multitude of tablets. Usually it would have costs over $100 US because I am European but Alex managed to charm him and so the doc did us a deal and it cost a fraction of the price! I had to stay an extra night in the valley last night as I wasn't well enough to travel but we managed to make it back to Cuzco this morning and I am resting in bed. I knew there was a good chance I would get ill at least once on my trip I am just so glad I had someone amazing looking after me while it happened!

Posted by amanda_w24 11:30 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Disaster relief in Cuzco

all seasons in one day 18 °C

So I travelled into the Sacred Valley, the surrounding regions of Cuzco yesterday with some other volunteers from Aldea Yanapay. It was crazy what we saw. The bridge to Pisac one of the towns in the valley had totally collapsed. To get further into the valley we had to take a motor taxi and then walk accross a footbridge further down. Once we got across the river we were able to take more buses to get to Calca, Urubamba and finally Ollantaytambo. I photographed everything I saw on the way and I couldn't believe the level of devastation. All these towns are stationed along the river and because of the torential rain it has caused mas flooding of the region. Although the level of water has now regressed somewhat it has completely flattened houses, buildings, flooded crops and thus destroyed peoples livelihoods. We visited a small community of people somewhere between Urubamba & Ollantaytambo, an area which we were told had not recieved much aid. We took them vegetables, pasta, rice and chicken. To get to the community we had to walk down the trainline that serves Machu Picchu. Anyone who says the rail line will be up and running in a few weeks is lying. It is completely covered in places by mud and debris and water in some places. We stayed to talk to the people who are all living in tents set just up on the hills from the river. The tents were quite basic aid tents and only some of which we saw had mattresses and blankets inside them. All the people there seemed amazingly upbeat, the children were all running around and playing. We stayed to help cook dinner pealing potatos, carrots and peas. On our way back to Cuzco it started to rain again and didn't stop until way past midnight. I can't help but feel devastated for those people that have lost everything and are now living in tents beside the river which took away their homes. We are trying to raise as much money as possible to help with the relief effort. If you are reading this and feel at all touched by the story please make a small donation. Foreign currency goes a long way here, to feed one homeless person in the valley is £1 per day, a tent costs £35, mattressess are £20 and blankets are £3. There are now two websites we are working with to do this: http://www.mysmallhelp.org/index.php or http://www.desanagiving.org/ Thanks x x.
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Posted by amanda_w24 16:42 Archived in Peru Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

A state of emergency

Flash floods, mudslides and landslides!

storm 10 °C

Ok so I was a little down last week about the rain but I thought I was being kind of pathetic, until yesterday that was! We were informed yesterday that the surrounding areas of Cusco have been almost destroyed by flashfloods, mudslides and landslides! The heavy rain and the river in the Sacred Valley has destroyed many people’s homes in Cusco area. The river in the sacred valley is growing and growing every day, slowly and slowly people are losing everything, homes, farming products, animals. The trail to Machu Picchu has been shut and over 2,000 people had to be emergency evacuated as the trainline that runs back from the trek to Cusco collapsed. The government yesterday announced that Cusco is in a state of emergency and advices against travel here until further notice. I just want to stress that things here in the city are mostly safe. At the moment I am trying to work out what to do or where to go next but the plan is to leave on Sunday. I feel bad leaving the volunteer organisation early but I also have to think about my safety I should have some more definite plans in the next couple of days.

Posted by amanda_w24 06:34 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Aldea Yanapay

Otra forma de vivir

rain

Aldea Yanapay is the volunteer organisation that I am working with for a month here in Cusco. Yanapay have a hostel (where I am currently living) and a restaurant who's profits go towards funding the school project. The Yanapay school is an after school club for the children of Cusco where they do a variety of different activites. For the first hour and a half the kids either do their homework, making use of the library and the materials. They also receive another type of education based on the arts (theatre, music, painting, etc). After the first hour and a half they have the 'Human Circle' where everyone sits around and the directors Yuri and Juan talk to the children about issues central to the Yanapay ideology. The Yanapay ideology is based on values, principles and love and fundamental to the project is the idea of responsible love. Many of the children come from difficult backgrounds and Yanapay is a place where they can come to learn new skills that will help them in the future but also to learn important social skills and to teach them about things such as respect, morals and values. The second hour and a half is more geered towards this and the children are divided into classes to learn about other topics that are important in today's world: world cultures and religions, ecology and reading.

Nothing could have prepared me for the shock I recieved on the first day. Things at Yanapay are very disorganised and basically you just have to throw yourself in at the deep end. This week I have been helping out in the art classes for the first half of school and helping in English class the second part. At the end of the week on Friday they do a show where they do some sort of short performance to show the rest of the school what they have done that week. It was a good week and I felt a lot better by the end but it was really tough. The children are draining, and not being able to communicate properlly with them is difficult. The other difficulty at the moment is it is the rainy season and I have never seen anything like it. Being cold and wet and living in a hostel that doesn't always have proper running water is kinda misserable. But it isn't all bad and working with the children is rewarding and I do feel like I am doing something worthwhilel.
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Posted by amanda_w24 06:27 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Adventures in the desert

San Pedro, Sandboarding and the Valley of the moon!

sunny 28 °C

After leaving Bahia, Sophia and I continued on our road trip north through the desert, with overnight stops in Antofagasta, Calama and San Pedro. Antofagasta is the second largest city in Chile (after Santiago) and I found it quite charming. This may have been as both Sophia and I received presents from admirers while we were sunbathing on the beach which we both found rather amusing. Having been in South America for a month and a half now, I have become quite accustomed to being leered at on a daily basis. Not subtly either, one thing is for sure the men certainly are not shy about vocalising their opinions here and rather surprisingly the comments come from men of all ages and types. It also doesn’t seem to matter if the men are leering in front of their wives, girlfriends or families either which can be rather cringe worthy also. So as usual Sophia and I are minding our own business, chatting on the beach whilst sunning ourselves and a man approaches us and hands Sophia a rose made out of paper attached to a wilted flower stem and me a love note written on the back of a completos (a Chilean hot dog) wrapper. Five minutes later he came back with a completos and handed it to me. Unfortunately the man was rather less than desirable, lacking a full set of teeth and spoke so badly neither Sophia or I could understand a word he was saying but hey I was quite flattered anyway I mean whoever turned down a free hot dog eh?!

So onto Calama. This is where my friend Sophia is based for work and I was rather intrigued to see the place merely from the reactions that it has proved in all the Chileans we have met on our trip so far. ‘Calama?’ they all say whilst grimacing, ‘but why? Its so ugly?’ The Loney Planet Guide to Chile also describes Calama as ‘an expensive, brash and somewhat narrow-minded mining city’. I didn’t get to see much of the place but it did perfectly as an overnight stop to wash some clothes, drink a couple of pisco sours with Sophia’s friends and get a good night’s sleep!

San Pedro de Atacama is a little tourist town in the middle of the desert an hour from Calama and what a quaint little place it is. The town is absolutely tiny you can walk around it in less than 10 minutes but it is a great base for activities like visiting geysers, volcanoes, trekking, sand boarding and visiting thermal pools. Being limited on time meant we could only pick two activities but we chose to visit some thermal pools on the first day and to go sand boarding on the second. If I had to pick a favourite it would have to be the thermal pools for me. Just for the record sand boarding sounds a lot more fun than it is. I have never been an adventure sports kinda gal but there is still a big part of me that would really love to be good at things like surfing, snowboarding etc but it just ain’t gonna happen. I spent pretty much the whole time sliding around on my bum, with cramp in my legs and ended up being covered head to toe in sand. Not really my cup of tea but the views from the top of the sand dunes were worth it!
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After the sand boarding finished (much to my relief!) our tour guide drove us out to another place called the Valley of the Moon to watch the sunset over the mountains and volcanoes and it really is a quite spectacular place. The rock formations all look like dinosaurs to me and there really is something quite otherworldly about the place.
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San Pedro also has quite a special nightlife which was also another highlight. Everything is very relaxed and there are lots of nice outdoor restaurants and bars to while away a few hours sitting around a bonfire bonding with complete strangers and drinking even more pisco sours!

So that leads me to where I am now after a 3 week road trip in Chile: exhausted but happy, tanned compared to my usual reflective white skin, a few pounds heavier from overindulging in meat, red wine and of course pisco, still even after 3 showers covered in dust and sand, smelling like a bonfire and with drier skin than I could ever imagine! I was warned before coming here that the Atacama is the driest desert in the world but I never really knew quite what to expect. I have been very fortunate to have met and interacted with a lot of the locals and go to places a bit off the beaten track and for that reason have had a real Chilean experience. Now I am taking an overnight bus to the Chilean – Peruvian border and then have to take another bus from the border to Cusco which will be my new home for a month. Hopefully I will survive the bus journey and I am currently taking bets on how long it will take me to get there, i’ve been told it could take anywhere between 24 and 36 hours. I rather hope it is the former but I am quite accustomed to Latino time now and so I am not holding my breath!

Posted by amanda_w24 14:51 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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