Better late than never….here’s how the Andean Expedition team got on during their first week in South America. Thanks to Georgia for this one!
Arrived in the shanty town of Villa Maria one member down. Lucy, who was meant to meet the team whilst in JFK, got temporarily seperated from the group and sent on a wild goose chase to a NY hotel, Miami airport and then finally lima! The group (minus lucy) drove through the bussle of Lima to the shanty town of Villa Maria early on the morning. We barely had time to put of bags down in the accomodation above the Quest school when we were greeted with the sound of “gringa, gringa, gringa”, and a tiny bit of “gringo” …directed at Victor!
We couldnt have been more touched by the enthuasiam and excitment all of the children studying there. However, after a hour of so the experience became a little overwhelming, especially after our long flight and with the language barrier between us and the children- I think the qoute “its been a culture shock, with a dose of jet lag” perfectly sums up the general mood!
Lunch time was a wild ocassion; starring a soup with a creepy looking chicken leg poking out the pan…Little did we know that this leg would keep reapearing in mysterious places…I blame Alejandro! The afternoon was spent building a new classroom on the balcony of the school. We spent several hours slaving away with hammer and nail only to find that Alejandro had power tools! But the walls we built were a success; and it was great to be part of new propects for the Quest school.
Lucy, our highlyanticipated 9th teem member arrived. Most of the morning was spent walking around the shanty town, taking in vast size and eclectic mix of temporary and permanent dwellings. We had the pleasure of visiting houses that previous Quest groups had built and learnt about the allocation of Quest housing in the communities.
High up on the mountain above the Quest school we were able to spend time bonding with a large statue of jesus, which we soon found to be carmen´s love interest….the graphetti below reading “I love Carmen”, don´t we all? The language barrier issue hit once again at lunch as the Quest team attemped to order from a menú …with pictures… and failed, miserably! That afternoon it was time to say farewell to our many admirers (depending on which way you looked at the situation-nadya “yeah im a gringo, what you going to do about it?) and got on the bus taking us to central lima. We spent the evening exploring the busy, ex colonial city, enjoying the views, and on one ocassion nearly missing political demonstrations outside the President´s House.
This will be marked as the day of the black plague – we recorded the first two men down-as a result of what can only be described as the squibs,dehli belly, the runs, etc. (feel free to take your pick). We woke early that morning to head to the Ballestas Islands, a beautiful hub for wildlife….and alot of bird poo! We managed to spot penguins, sea lions, oh and alot of very fertile land. That afternoon we headed of the the world`s largest sand dunes at Huacachina where we would stay that night! We hit the dunes in mad max style, surviving speeding down dunes in the buggies. We also tried our hand at sand boarding, something I, aparently, found my hidden talent in….really though? Up on the sublime sand dunes we watched the sun set, and we all agreed this had been the most exciting part of our short trip so far!
In the evening, part of the group dipped their feet into the local “nightlife”. We witnessed Victor´s extreme dance moves, and were introduced to the “shuffle” or the “elf” as lucy now calls it! We also began to notice a trend in the number of guys aproaching Alicia, AND the number of poor chat up lines, for example¨, “do you know why im the coolest guy around?” “nope, why” “im talking to you”…missing a punch perhaps?
Several of us spent the morning exploring the market stalls…. and rowing in the oasis, who knew lucy was pro? Meanwile Victor, Richard and Alicia climbed the beast of the sand dune by our hostel! Next came the longest bus ride “of our lives”. Eleven hours between Ica and Arequipa. We arrived in our “new crib” , The Wild Rover, In the early hours of the following day. We were met with total chaos. And a really good party. On arrival however our beds came with slighty drunk men…who´d already made a den in OUR room…A few of us, embraced our tired state and headed to the party. Alica, had numerous courters, whilst Victor spent his time attempting to woo the Peruvian population of the club with his new move…the “jerk”. Danny and Richard joined the chaos, which involved much dancing on tables, chairs and sofas!. On return to our room the chaos did not cease. I spent quite some time barracading the room- Protecting my precious Quest team mates.
Early next morning we hit central Arequipa, the most picturesque of all our destinations so far, with beautiful acrchecture. It’s a city cradled by snow capped mountains and a huge volcano. Two hours disapeared in the supermarket as we stocked up for our impending trek through Colca Canyon. The group seperated in the afternoon, as a result us mere mortals suffered when it came to finding futher trek supplies without the fluent spanish of Danny, Victor and Carmen. At one desperate momentitoJodie, Lucy and I found ourselves screacjhing “tango diahorrea” at a bemused chemist. Lucy even went as far as to draw a diagram so that we might some extra supplies of rehydration salts. The night before the trek was without a doubt our best so far. We dined at our, now, favourite Mexican resturant and then got into serious packing mode for our Colca missión!