A Travellerspoint blog

Day 38 – 49 – The Volunteering Challenge Continues

Two weeks down and only two weeks to go (with only four teaching days) – can’t believe how the time is flying!
The first two weeks have been fab though. They have recognised our expert leadership qualities ;) and appointed us respective leaders of art and PE which has been fun but challenging – especially given our cruddy Spanish skills.
In the first week we experienced one day of lessons, and two of construction thanks to a teachers strike (lazy so and sos). It was really fun but you do constantly wish you could sink your teeth into it more. Half the time you feel like you’re just getting somewhere and you have to stop for one reason or another. Lee and the boys got some good work done on the greenhouse and I worked on the outdoor eating area which was pretty cool.
Thursday was the start of our included trips and we headed out into the surrounds of Cusco to check out some ruins on horseback. My horse, who we shall call Farty, loved to ram other horses so I had my knee up the other horses’ backside most of the time and Lee’s, who we shall call Tonto, loved to be on his own so explored all the places we weren’t meant to be going.P1030470.jpg
It was a fun day and the beginning of our induction into Incan ruins, where we visited Tambomachay, Q’enqo and Saqsayhuamán. Saqsayhuamán was by far the most amazing and was constructed using the most massive rocks and sanded in true Incan style to fit together without any mortar. Despite the large beer at lunch and searing sun, it was well worth it.
We celebrated the end of the first week with a birthday party in Los Perros for Lee and Glenn which was bound to end in disaster. For reference, alcohol (particularly large shots of brandy, tequila and other unknown spirits), lack of sleep and altitude are not a good combination. After a massive night where I had to drag Lee from his position on the top of the bar dancing at 3am, there was a massive three day hangover to contend with. Lucky you’re only 31 once aye!IMG_0496.jpgIMG_0475.jpg
As a result, the rest of the weekend was pretty subdued, and we wandered around Cusco city meeting friends, eating greasy food (although I’m so proud of myself there has been no MacDonald’s yet) and experiencing a few hangover relapses.
On Monday and Tuesday we set off on the next of our explorations and headed into the Sacred Valley. We started our trip on Monday by heading out to Chinchero which is 3762m above sea level and backed by the stunning Vilcabamba mountain range. This was only a brief stop where the local women showed us how to make textiles as it is one of the primary weaving regions in Peru. Needless to say, this wasn’t the highlight of Lee’s birthday. P1030543.jpgFrom there we headed onto a massive lunch before moving onto Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is the final stop before the Inca trail so we explored this one with a lot of trepidation knowing that we would be back in a little over a week and about to start a very long climb. The Incans had carved massive terraces into the mountain to grow differing crops and placed them at the altitude at which they grow best at. This was our final exploration of the day and we headed across to Pisac so that we would be ready to explore it the following day. Pisac was the highlight of the sacred valley tour. The citadel, built high above the town, is stunning and so precariously perched that it was a test on the old legs coming down. But it was good practice for the ups and downs of the Inca trail so the hour long descent was nothing to complain about. We ended the tour in Pisac and drove back to Cusco on the Tuesday evening, ready for the onslaught of classes the next day.
The rest of the week flew by quite quickly. Lee and I took an art class together and made masks with the grade threes. They loved it and were so involved. Lee continued on in PE as well and it’s gorgeous to see how much the kids love him. IMG_0630.jpg
We kept it pretty quiet for the rest of the week with a few more classes, a very sedate birthday dinner with one of the girls in the group, and some farewell drinks with Tommy and Clare who we won’t get to see again until Aus.P1030658.jpg
Yesterday (Saturday) we checked out Tipon which is the last of our Incan ruins before Macchu Picchu.
P1030614.jpg Another brilliant example of Incan ingenuity it was topped off by an awesome lunch (depending on which one of us you ask) of Cuy. It was a little disconcerting eating a guinea pig which looked like it had been cooked alive, but we survived the experience, and I think Lee would happily indulge again (apparently there isn’t all that much meat on the fat little fellas).P1030578.jpg
So all in all a pretty good couple of weeks, with the Spanish improving very slowly, the kids getting cuter and cuter every day, and the time ticking by too fast. IMG_0727.jpg
Love to you all!

Posted by LeeEmma 06:17 Comments (0)

Day 34-38 The Volunteering Begins

So we’re here, and the volunteering begins! We arrived in Cusco on Saturday morning after a day in Lima doing our city tour and meeting the rest of the crew. They’re a nice enough bunch, all very easy to get along with. The volunteer house is pretty cool, Lee and I are upstairs in a 6 person apartment with a bunch of Aussie women called Denise, Helen and Debbie. Debbie is the only one in our house who has already done a month, so there is a lot of instruction coming from that direction. I’ve included a couple of shots of our room, kitchen and lounge. P1030405.jpgP1030403.jpgP1030402.jpg
There is an apartment next door with a nice Aussie couple in it (from Armidale incidentally) and Pete, an Irish guy. Downstairs there are ten others, all very nice. Cindy (the American lady) made us Guacamole the first night which was nice and we all sat in the downstairs courtyard drinking and pigging out.
It took a while for them to give us our duties, but they finally have, so that’s the reason for the more informative blog. We had an induction of the school yesterday (Monday) and what they have achieved here is amazing. I almost cried three times, the worst was when we were standing in front of the class and they were all thanking us (haven’t done anything yet little tackers) and sang us a song. So Gorgeous, I am stealing at least two of them and bringing them home!!! P1030428.jpgP1030424.jpgP1030423.jpg
Then we did lunch and had an afternoon visit. Leethal had a cracker; he did a home visit for a single mum called Theodora who they are building a house for. Her alcoholic husband left her and then the community had to knock down her house to build a road, so she has been sleeping on the floor of her father’s house with her son for the last while. So Leethal and some of the other boys went down and lifted some beams up onto the roof and made some mud for the cementing process. The photo of them doing it is priceless; although I am glad I wasn’t there as there were some high heights and some serious leaning. IMG_7938.jpg
I stayed at the school and worked with the mothers in the Taleres group. The mothers of the community all get together in the afternoon and make stuff (way too many scarves I might add), but it’s a great chance for them to earn some independence from their husbands, and a social worker is on hand to chat if they feel comfortable enough. The women were all really lovely and we helped with cataloguing their works so they are ready for sale and giving out new craft materials.
So now it’s Tuesday and we have been given the weeks assignments. I am on art with the kids which is insanely daunting as I have none of mum’s crafty skills, and Leethal has been given PE. I’m also in charge of health and hygiene which is going to be fun (you have to get them to wash their hands, brush their teeth and rub in moisturiser to their skin, but we’re also going to chart their development which will be cool), but they seem to have taken my “health sciences based” degree too literally and have asked for a workshop on women’s health! BOOOOOOOO!
All in all it’s pretty good though. This morning we had construction so Lee worked on building the greenhouse and I worked on the common area, sanding benches and moving tables etc. I’m sure we’ll sleep well tonight. P1030426.jpg
Hope you’re all really well. We’re really enjoying it here and are amazed by what a difference the program has made in this community. As expected though – four weeks just isn’t going to be enough.
Love to you all
Em & Lee

Posted by LeeEmma 16:30 Comments (0)

Day 28-30 – Goodbye Ecuador

So Ecuador goodbye! It was a brilliant country and at this point it’s hard to see how anything else can even compare with it. The Galapagos spoilt us, we never imagined it would be so amazing, and the Amazon was gorgeous with the indigenous people and the sheer isolation of it. The cities, as far as cities go, were pretty gorgeous, with cute colonial architecture and massive mixes of cultures.
On our final day after our Cajas trip we boarded a coach at 7pm in Cuenca and by 7.30 I was getting tetchy that I couldn’t sleep. It was ok though, changing buses at Machala at 11pm I was in an ok mood and Lee was putting up with me well. 7 hours and two border patrols later and we arrived in this crappy transport hub of a town called Piura. This is where the journey got crappy. We were pretty proud of ourselves, we had made it on our first long bus journey and not fallen out and we were even in pretty chipper spirits. That didn’t last long though as we were pick pocketed outside the police station. We were both aware of this person walking closely behind us and had good purchase on our luggage and valuables. Still, the – insert expletives here – managed to grab Lee’s wallet and start running away. I was so peeved, I actually saw him put his hand in Lee’s pocket (who was slightly in front of me) so I dropped my bags and started running down the street after him and screaming as loud as I could. Poor Lee was stuck in the street with all our bags and a crowd of women who were all deeply concerned in Spanish. Don’t everyone worry at this point that my running after him was stupid, as I was never going to catch him, just wanted someone else to trip him up and pummel the hell out of him. He did drop the wallet though to slow me down so in the end he only got away with $100 and I left the policeman to carry on the chase.
- So brave of me hanging out with the local women whilst Emma got my wallet back! lol. The quick release Emma performed on her bag was truly something to marvel at though. Between the anger and worry I still had time to think ‘wow, that was impressive.’
So then we were confronted with the Spanish police force who spoke no English and we learnt a new word for money (which I’ve never heard before) and we practiced our charades which was hugely fun. Not so bad though and we can laugh about it now – well not laugh, but we’re not too angry anymore. The policemen ended up walking us down the remaining 100m to the bus station (so close, yet so far) and putting on the first available bus – not before him doing an interpretation of catching the robber and putting him in cuffs. The Spanish are good at charades too!!
So we got on the bus, in pretty foul moods, but managed to survive the next seven hour bus ride to arrive in Huanchaco just outside of Trujillo.
It’s a pretty non descript seaside town, but full of beer, cerviche (raw seafood marinated in lime juice and chilli) and relaxation which is just what the doctor ordered. So all in all we’re all good. Naomi, Dee, hope you both had wonderful birthdays and hopefully if the internet ever works we can Skype soon.
Love you all, miss you loads.
The still healthy, happy and inseparable
Emma & Lee

Posted by LeeEmma 08:55 Comments (0)

Day 23 – 28 – Out of the Jungle

Banos, Alausi & Cuenca

We arrived in Banos mid afternoon and after dumping the bags at the nearest hostel the first port of call was a cafe and some Spaghetti Bolognese. What little we had seen of Banos before the Amazon was pretty much the extent of the town so we had a lazy afternoon and relaxed whilst scratching all our remaining Amazon bites.
In the evening we headed up to some of the baths which make the town famous and spent a relaxing two hours swapping from the hot and tepid pools. The Virgin Baths as they’re called (everything in south America is about the virgin) were gorgeous, and set under a huge waterfall. They were rammed though, as all these old local focals rested their bodies in the natural mineral pools. We lasted it out for a while and then took our relaxed wrinkled bodies back to the hostel and were nicely wrapped up in bed at a decent hour – as is becoming the norm.DSC_0129.jpg
The next day we began our trip to Alausi for the Devil’s Nose train ride. We had read about this must see journey along massive cliff drop offs where you could see everything from the roof (although Japanese tourists had been killed on it a few years back, so the roof riding was still debateable) and stunning scenery so we figured it was a must and rushed down to Alausi. Alausi isn’t the most ex citing town. After a five hour trip and a stopover in Riobamba (which had pretty good pizza) we rocked up to the most deserted town I have ever seen. Cute enough, with a statue on the hill and an old lit up railway station, but a quick lap of the main street saw nothing of interest, including people, so we again tucked up for an early night.
The ride the next day was at 1.30pm and even with only an hour to kill (we checked out of the hostel at 12) we struggled to find things to do. When we got on the train there was no roof riding, but we were lucky enough to have snagged the two front seats so we had prime views. And the scenery was incredible; stunning hills, sheer drops, and reversing trains (which is a first), but very short. Within two hours we were back at our starting point and ready to get on yet another bus down to Cuenca.DSC_0169.jpgDSC_0162.jpg
After a slight false start, and some good Spanish improv from Lee, we boarded a four hour coach to Cuenca and rocked up to a decent hostel at around ten pm.
Cuenca was gorgeous and the debate between locals on Quito and Cuenca is an easy one as far as we’re concerned. Cuenca wins hands down. As we only had three days there we headed out on the streets early on the first day and took in the sights. That took about an hour, so after that we ate, booked a tour for our final day and lazed around the main square before taking an open top bus tour through the streets and checking out the town at night.
DSC_0187.jpgDSC_0204.jpgThe next day we went to Ingapirca which is the largest Incan ruins in Ecuador, and the only place where both a sun and moon temple can be found (sun worship for the Incans and moon worship for the Canari). It was pretty impressive. Even more impressive than us managing to work out the local buses to get out there. Our guide was fantastic and a great storyteller, so we had the best experience of the place and it whet our appetite hugely for Machu Pichu.DSC_0205.jpgDSC_0213.jpg
On our last day in Ecuador we went to Cajas National Park which was stunning. It’s sort of the lakes district of Ecuador and our guide was brilliant. DSC_0271.jpg
So were the old couple who were with us, who constantly repeated in an American Drawl “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life” and “You don’t get this back home”. They were lovely though and really made the park more special for us. After that we started the journey for Peru. This was to be a 21 hour journey in the end and something that we can now laugh about – only just!

Posted by LeeEmma 08:40 Comments (0)

Day 14 - Otavalo and middle of the world

As luck would have it, when we arrived back from Galapagos to stay at our party hostel (woo hoo) Tommy and Clare had rocked up in town and moved into a hostel two doors down from our old place. We managed to catch them though and so cashed in on their day trip the following day to see all the things we had planned to see over the last few days in Quito.
We met up with them and two other couples the next morning and as it turns out one of the couples were from Perth and knew me through Em Schmitt. Small world. The day was brilliant fun though and our first stop, the equator, was a pretty cool start. As it turned out we bumped into almost our entire Galapagos group there (obviously part of the gringo trail) so have some more photos with Fernando stealing centre stage. After balancing an egg on its end and the obligatory photo ops, DSC_0049.jpgDSC_0040.jpg we headed onto our second stop of the day. Otavalo, a massive local market, was awash with all the indigenous knitted fabrics which were brilliant vibrant colours. DSC_0083.jpgAll way too ugly to purchase, but stunning to just take in. Lee did buy a bracelet to add to his travelling arm collection though and we had the most amazing pig dish at a local street vendor. Hmmmm, pig!!!!DSC_0075.jpgDSC_0074.jpg
- And my knitted slippers Emma, don’t forget my slippers! They’re awesome!
From there we headed onto a leather market where for the brilliant price of $60 Lee bought me a gorgeous brown cropped leather jacket for my birthday. It’s brilliant, but will be getting sent back to Perth soon so I don’t ruin it anymore in my luggage. Yes Kev, you can wear it.
After leather we went to some waterfalls which I am sure used to be a massive tourist draw, but have fallen into some disrepair now. Small world again we ran into another couple I know from Perth, although at this point I was more interested in racing poo sticks than making friends, so that was a very short lived meeting.
Then it was back to Quito. We got dropped in the new town with Ali, Susannah, Tommy & Clare and headed straight to 2x1 mojitos. The night got pretty messy here as we learnt the word for 12 and continually ordered 12 mojitos each time the guy came near us. As happy hour ran out Clare decided to sing me happy birthday (which I might add was a week ago almost) which brought on free cake and tequila from the bar staff. BAD move! DSC_0111.jpgThe night from there revolves around us ending up at a local salsa bar, getting free beers from some chicks wearing very little clothes, me dropping one beer, lee knocking another one out of my hand, and all of us working on our South American dance moves. It was a brilliant night, but one that doesn’t need to be relived for a while. Until the 16th November to be exact. Tommy and Clare are meeting us in Cuzco to celebrate Leethal’s big day so bring on the retribution.

Posted by LeeEmma 08:36 Comments (0)

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