Hooray for Ambue Ari !
We arrived in La Paz on the 28th of march it was so unexpectedly cold! It was very exciting meeting everyone. We all liked each other at first sight and we had fish and chips at Oliver’s travel. Then our first day in Bolivia we did the worlds most dangerous road by mountain bike and no one was injured.
At night we had the biggest pizza we had ever seen! Wow! The next day we flew to Rurrenabaque, what a change in climate, and landscape. We loved our hostal, thanks to the amazing hammocks and we had a great night out in the karaoke bar, bananas. The day after we departed for Jacq Cuisi, literally the land of our dreams. Construction went very smoothly, mostly thanks to our fearless leader Rob, the help of the other volunteers at the park, and a great group ambience. After two weeks of super hard work, cold creek shower and bon o bon breaks we got back to Rurrenabaque and Rob surprised us with a great trip to the pampas. We saw loads of animals, got nibbled on by pink dolphins and ate piranha.
After an eventful flight and a short bus ride, we arrived in Ambue Ari. We were greeted by Sarah, who showed us where we would be staying and welcomed us to the park. The next morning, we were introduced to the animals that we would be working with, and got a more extensive tour.
Over the next three weeks, we settled in, got to know the other volunteers, and grew accustomed to the new jungle lifestyle. We had some great nights out in Santa Maria, indulged ourselves on Torta Tuesday, and became part of the Ambue Ari family. We each grew to love the animals that we worked with as we walked, fed, and bonded with these incredible creatures. Each experience was different from the next, due to the individual characters to be found in the ocelots, pumas, and jaguars of the park. We were sad to leave when the time came, as we had each had such an incredible and unique experience at the park.
Twenty- two hours of bus rides later, we arrived back in La Paz and met our new leader, Peaches. The next two days consisted of ice climbing and trek preparation, before we headed to Apollobamba for our first trek. We set off early in the morning, and by lunchtime we had arrived at a beautiful apline lake, which would be our first campsite.
We began the next day with a steep five hundred metre climb, skirted around Huayanapatosi, and descended down a deep valley to camp by the river. We made an awesome campfire that night, and had a delicious spaghetti supper. Our finally day borught us back to Charazani, where we celebrated our successful trek with hot springs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and beers on the balcony.
The next morning we traveled to the border, where our initial efforts to cross were thwarted by road blockades. We were rescued from a lonely night by a Peruvian woman who housed and fed us. Two days later, after several attempts to leave the border, we caught a boat across lake Titicacca to Puno, and finally arrived in Arequipa.
From Arequipa we caught a bus to Colca Canyon for our second trek. We set off almost straight after sitting down to lunch, a poor choice perhaps in hindsight as it made the group several kilos heavier. Colca was a significant change from Apolobamba, covered with cacti, scrub and dust rather than green hills, but beautiful in its own way nonetheless. We made our way down into the canyon and set up camp at some hot springs, spending the evening stargazing whilst relaxing in the pool.
We set off early the next day, picking up a dog friend on the way whom we christened Eddie. Sadly he only followed us as far as we were willing to feed him and soon made our way to a village halfway up the canyon where we set up camp again. Those of us with the remaining energy walked to a nearby waterfall whilst the rest relaxed back at camp. The next day we did a short walk back down to the bottom of the canyon where there was an verdant oasis amongst the heat and dust. We had a bar,pool and flushing toilets, all in all a considerable step up from previous campsites. On our final day we made the climb out of the canyon (2nd deepest in the world, mind you) which took roughly 2 hours and a half. We celebrated our successful trek by watching the Champions League with a cold beer.
Returning to Arequipa, we spent 2 more nights, sorting out various things such as internet and laundry. We also tried anticucho, which is a skewer consisting of thinly cut slices of cow heart served with potatoes and a spicy sauce, a typical and simple Peruvian meal. We all agreed that it was delicious, however none of us were brave enough to try the intestine that was also on offer! We then got a night bus to Huacachina, a beautiful little town built around an oasis in the Peruvian desert. Here, as well as taking a well deserved rest, we went dune buggying and sand boarding, something we all thoroughly enjoyed despite being complete beginners!
We then woke early the next morning and caught a bus to the Ballestas Islands as a suprise for Bella and Robbie´s joint birthday. The Ballestas Islands were only a few years ago made into a National Reserve due to their beauty and abundance of wildlife. We took a boat around the islands where we saw sea lions, cormorants, inca turns, penguins as well as others. There were some islands that were literally black due to being covered in birds, an amazing sight. Rather than the traditional birthday egging, Robbie got shat on by several birds which was a new experience for him, but also apparently lucky despite his first impressions. Even though we felt rain for the first time since Jacj Cuisi, the sea was calm and we all felt it was a great way to spend a morning, which was finished by some delicious ceviche, which is a dish of raw sea food. After this we caught a bus to Lima. Here we went shopping for some essentials, and in the evening ate at Astrid y Gaston, which was recently voted the 42nd best restaurant in the world, and after four courses, it wasn´t hard to see why!
The following day we went to Villa Maria, which is an area of the vast Lima slums. The Quest group in Peru just before us spent a good number of weeks living in a school here, doing construction. We were shown around the school as well as part of the neighbourhood by a very friendly man. We also spent some time playing football with some of the children, which was great fun. That night we caught another bus to Huaraz, arriving early in the morning and spending the rest of the day comatose in bed. The next day we made a day trek to a nearby lagoon, nicknamed “Lucozade Lake” for its alarming bright blue appearance. Once there we had a large picnic of meat, cheese, fruit and even wine, although making sure not to drink too much so that we didn´t make our way back to the minivan horizontally. We also went rock climbing the following day, where Peaches valiantly overcame his fear of heights and scaled the cliff twice. Despite having to cram our feet into climbing shoes several times too small, everyone enjoyed themselves.
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