I’ve had such an incredible time and I wanted to I’d share what I got up to while I was away, especially as you lovely people played a big part in getting me there!
We flew into Lima after an 11 hour flight. It was very busy and we were glad to get to our hostel for the first night.
We only stayed in Lima a couple of nights before we were off on a plane to Cusco. Cusco was our favourite place that we visited, it was full of other back packers and was beautiful. We stayed right next to the main square and at night the mountains lit up with the lights from the houses that were built up the hill - it was like looking at stars.
Our first week consisted of staying with a family in a village called Chacan. The food was rather questionable but the experience was absolutely incredible. Our project changed while we were out there and we ended up building waste disposal units. You never really notice the importance of bins but when places to leave your rubbish are scarce then there’s quite a bit of litter around. It’s an amazing feeling to know that we have helped a village thousands of miles away to improve their way of living. We also spent time at a school playing games with the children there.
We stayed with a lovely family who took us in and looked after us. This is a picture of the house where they lived. It was very basic and very different even from the hostel in Cusco.
The villagers spoke Quechua which made it harder to communicate - I am now brilliant at charades and am going to beat everyone at Christmas! They welcomed us with a song when we arrived and sang us a goodbye song when we left, which was very emotional.
The second phase of our expedition involved trekking through the Andes Mountains. We hiked to 4,500m, which was much more difficult than I imagined it would be. We had to take Diamox to help with the altitude sickness. On the trek, I’d never realised quite how bad my balance was until I had to walk up steep hills and along the side of mountains, my walking poles came in really handy! The pictures I took with my camera don’t give the view justice, the mountains were breathtaking - in more ways than one. Our guide was really good and we learnt a lot about the mountains and the plants while we were walking.
The next few weeks consisted of seeing more of the country including visiting Machu Picchu which was absolutely amazing! Once we’d made it to the top, and been chased back down by a llama, we had a picnic and played the card game Uno. Walking through the ruins was just something else, words can’t really explain how brilliant it was! If you ever have the opportunity to go, grab it with both hands!
White water rafting was also an experience! My bad balance followed me from the mountains but luckily I only fell into the raft rather than out of it! It was incredible being surrounded by massive mountains that I could say that I’ve climbed. The last couple of weeks mainly involved travelling on buses, including a 12 hour bus ride. We visited Puno which is where Lake Titicaca is. I was quite disappointed by this place actually - if I hadn’t have been to Chacan and spent time in a proper Peruvian village then I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more. It just felt very touristy and they kept trying to sell us things that we felt obliged to buy. However, the fact that their community was built on reeds was really interesting and we got to ride on a boat that they’d made of reeds, which was much sturdier than you would think it would be.
From Puno, we travelled to Arequipa, which really is a beautiful city of white buildings. You can see the Spanish influence in the buildings in the bigger cities.
While we were there, we visited a museum and learnt about the 500 year old mummy who had been found up in the mountains. She had been frozen by the weather after being sacrificed by the Incas and all her internal organs were still intact. We also went to Colca Canyon which is one of the deepest canyons in the world. We were blessed with the sighting of a Condor. Condors are a type of vulture and the largest variety of flying birds - they really are huge!
On the way back we explored the little villages around the canyon and visited a hot spring.
Our final destination was Paracas. I have never seen so many pelicans in my life! We visited the desert which was full of fossils as it used to be submerged in water. We also went on a boat tour to see the Ballestas Islands, also known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos, which was an island that had been taken over by birds. It was also the home of penguins and sea lions.
One of the things that really struck me was the massive difference in how people lived. Lima was a built up city very similar to London, but you could drive only 3 hours away and there would be houses made of mud with tin roofs. It definitely changed the way I think about things and who I am as a person, I wasn’t the loudest person before I went away but now I feel much more confident in my own skin. I will also appreciate my Mum’s cooking from now on!