|Matt Pendle's Gap Year
adventures in Peru - starting in February 2005
a mammoth 1 1/2 day flight, which crossed 3 continents, and five lines of
longitude, I arrived in Peru absolutely exhausted. But why was I there,
and what was I going to do?
studied for 3 intensive years, firstly for GCSE's, then for AS levels, and
finally for A levels, my brain had finally given up, and had decided that
it wasn't going to work any more. I therefore had little choice but to
take a gap year. I really didn't want to spend it sat at home in front of
the television, so after a talk at my school by a gap year organisation,
and a few hours on the Internet, I had found what I wanted to do, an Inca
project in Peru.
basically involved clearing Inca terraces of vegetation, and then
rebuilding them, in an attempt to preserve them for future generations.
Admittedly this could have easily gotten monotonous, but the work was
interspersed with walks up mountains to old Inca sites, helping to coach
football to the local children during their summer holiday, and a social
event with the other volunteers,
and all in my first week!
the following weeks, I worked with the other volunteers on a dental
campaign, helping to improve dental hygiene in the local communities,
helped to build a wall around a school, and built a path in the back
garden of where I was staying, or rather I built a wonderful step to
finish the path, though unfortunately is had to be demolished, since due
to a small error in my calculations I had built it right in the way of
where the back door opened. I must admit it felt like being back in technology
wasn't all work though. At the weekends the volunteers were left to their
own devices, and we normally headed into Cusco to spend the weekend
shopping, visiting museums, and dare I say it, sampling the local night
is a lot lot more that I could say about Peru, from the wonderful climate,
to the very friendly people, but hopefully I have conveyed to you some of
what a gap year can offer.'
sample's of Matt's diary: 20th March
there goes yet another week. I seriously can't believe that I've been
here 4 weeks already, the time has just flown past, and according to
everyone it will only shoot past faster. This means that I really really
need to start planning what I will do in my free travel time, else I'll
be there with nothing to do.
enough ranting about the speed of time, what have I been up too this week?
For a change I actually did some hard labour, as myself and seven other
volunteers went to Media Luna to help build a wall around the school
grounds. Media Luna is situated about 5 minutes outside of Urabamba,
which in turn is situated about an hour and a half away from Zurite. This
meant that we had to stay in a hostel in Urabamba. The hostel was very
nice, the beds comfortable, and private showers, the only problem with it
was that it was 100% vegetarian, and the portions were
very small, meaning that by Thursday we were desperate for some meat, and
a full sized meal.
building itself involved moving vast quantities of boulders (I exaggerate
not), and digging trenches through very very rocky ground. Thankfully
though we only spent half the day working, the morning, and after that the
rest of the day was ours. By the end of the week we had managed
to finish two trenches, and foundations for the wall were being laid in
one of the trenches.
not much more to say about the Media Luna project, except that on
Wednesday night, all the volunteers went to the local, ´The Muse Too´,
for the weekly pub quiz, in which my team came second by 1 point. The quiz
was extremely good fun, as your end score wasn't based solely on your
ability to correctly answer the questions, but also on your ability to
suck up to the judges by plying them with drink and cigarettes.
the quiz and a quick arm wrestling competition in which I lost miserably,
but apparently that was due to my technique rather than my actual ability,
myself Ben, Alex and Beth headed back to the hostel in the pitch black.
Thankfully Ben had his torch, so we were saved from plunging of the side
of a cliff. Unfortunately for me though, Alex, Beth, and Ben were in a
different room from me, and I forgot to get the key for my room off of the
guy who had it. I therefore made puppy dog eyes,
and pleaded with them to let me crash in their room until the others came
back. Temporarily at least Sinne hadn't returned from the pub, so I
crashed on his bed till he came back and pushed me onto the floor. At 4:30
the others returned, and I was able to go to bed properly. Needless to say
we were all late to work Thursday morning, but miraculously only by about
30 minutes, except for David, a hard drinking Bavarian, who we left in
bed, and he was still there when we returned about 2 o'clock.
Friday we visited 3 sites, one Inca, one Colonial, and one Wari, a
civilisation that predated the Incas. The colonial site was a church built
by the Peruvians for the Spanish, and had various depictions on the walls
of heaven and hell, which were pretty impressive, but they were in the
process of restoration, so some parts were obscured by scaffolding, and
also I wasn´t allowed to take photos, so hopefully my memory will serve.
The second site, the Wari one called Pikillacta, was a collection of
ruins, but unfortunately the process of maintenance and restoration had
only just begun, so most of the site was still overgrown. The final site
however was absolutely amazing. It was an old Inca temple called Tipón
which was basically a load of terraces through which
the Incas had diverted two streams, so that the whole site had running
water through it. It was beautiful, and hopefully our terraces will look
something like it when we are finished. Oh yes before I forget, I had Cuy
(guinea-pig) again for lunch, and then some of us visited the owners house
were the live guinea-pigs were kept, and where I learnt some interesting
facts about the Guinea-pig trade. This particular woman killed 35 a day,
the males when they are 8 months old,
the females around the one year stage, when they have had three litters of
mini-pigs. Finally, to buy a guinea-pig costs 10 soles, so we will shortly
be setting up our own guinea-pig farm.
evening was also really good. We arrived in Cusco, and the lads went for a
pizza which was really really good, after which we all met up in a relaxed
bar called Mandela's, from where we went to a couple of clubs. I was the
last to leave by quite a way I think, and I eventually got
to bed around 6 in the morning, just as one of the other volunteers was
getting up, to catch a train to start his period of travel. I think I had
time to say goodbye before I fell asleep. I didn't sleep for long, as I
had arranged to go on a walk of Cusco on Saturday with a couple of the
other volunteers, and they got me up and out of the hostel by 10:00. I
should have stayed in bed as I still had alcohol coursing through my
veins, and I was really tired, so I didn't take much heed of the longest
Inca wall still in existence in Cusco, nor the Santo Domingo Church
Museum, nor the Inca museum. I collapsed into a cafe for lunch, and then
crawled into bed where I slept till 6:00 in the evening, although I didn't
get up till 7:30, when I showered, went for some food, and unsurprisingly
had an earlyish night.
regards to what I eat. The staple food of the Peruvians is Rice, with the
odd bit of pasta thrown in. At the house, we tend to have spaghetti
bolognaise, or some other mince dish with rice, and normally the meal is
started with a soup. There is always plenty, and if I do get hungry
there is normally fruit or bread available. When I'm in Cusco the meals
vary between the very cheap chicken and chips, pizza, which they do very
well over here, pork and rice, sandwiches, and last night I had Mexican,
so pretty much anything when I'm in Cusco.
this week has been fairly relaxed, since its close to Easter, and there
have been lots of parades, and days off.
On Monday there was a procession in Zurite and Cusco. Whilst we had
the option to go to Cusco, I decided to stay in Zurite and watch and un-tourisised
parade. It started with Mass in the semi-refurbished church, which will
look amazing when finished, and then spilled out into the street with
Jesus on the Cross being paraded around the village for several
hours. I think I got some good photos, but I confess I didn't watch the
entire parade, as it did go on for hours.
Tuesday we were back up the terraces, although to a slightly different
part of Condor, the difference being that there was even more vegetation
to cull than normal, they do like to make us work, I'm not sure I quite
agree with this whole work ethic thing but ho hum. We came back to Zurite
for lunch, and then helped Tila, the new cook, prepare food for the social
on Wednesday with the Urabambians. Tuesday evening was spent in the normal
way of card playing, watching films, and reading, so not the most exciting
thing I've ever done.
was the social, and I was issued with a clipboard, a pen, a list of names,
a shirt, trousers, and a tie, so that I looked properly official and told
to make sure everyone arrived safely...I might be exaggerating slightly
about the shirt, trousers and tie. Given that there were 30 of them
coming, I don't think that losing 2 along the way was too big a deal. The
first part of the social was to take the Urabambians on a tour of Condor.
However, I ducked out of it, and instead
went into the kitchen to help Tila, by peeling tomatoes, and very
important job, and personally I felt that I rose to the challenge.
they returned from Condor, we had a quick snack, and then went down to the
stadium to play Ceasar´s football team, Ceasar being the Godfather of
Zurite. Seeing as my foot balling skills are next to zero, I played
volleyball, and to my surprise discovered that my volleyball skills are
next to zero as well. This doesn't bode well in a country that is
fanatical about football, and its national sport is apparently volleyball.
After that everybody came back to have lunch, and I
that we had lost the football 3:2, and that every player in the losing
team had to pay 2 Sol to the winning team, so I was actually quite glad I
hadn't played. Then myself
and Sinne decided to walk to Izcuchaca, a 30 minute bus ride away, but a
2hr 20 min walk away. It was quite
a pleasant walk, and about two thirds of the way there we were stopped by
a farmer, who wanted us to go over and join him. We unsurprisingly
declined, so he sent his two children over to us with an armful of freshly
cooked potatoes. We were a little stunned, but said thank you and then
carried on our merry way, but this time with rations.
the time we got to Izcuchaca, we had time for only 10 minutes on the
Internet, before the last bus back to Zurite left. Thankfully we got back
before dinner, I had begun to get worried that I wasn't going to be fed,
but since I was, I was able to spend the rest of the evening relaxing.
was another free day, like Monday, so Sinne persuaded me to climb the
highest mountain in the local chain. It was a 2hr 30min climb through
constant cloud cover, and rain so to say that the views from the top were
spectacular would be a slight exaggeration as we could see nothing.
When we got back at about 1:30 we discovered the other lads were on the
verge of going to Cusco, and that the girls had already left for Pisac,
which meant I had the house almost to myself, so I slobbed out in front of
the television, and watched films for the remainder of the
we also had free, so we left for Cusco, and amazingly we arrived. That's
about all that happened on Friday
that was my less than exciting week, but it was still enjoyable, especially
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