post-title Villa Maria Update – First of the Expedition Phase

Villa Maria Update – First of the Expedition Phase

Villa Maria Update – First of the Expedition Phase

Quest News

Leaving the people at Villa Maria proved to be quite emotional for everyone. We realised how much the Peruvians give to this cause and now think Alejandro, Pato, Lucho and the whole team to be some of the most inspirational people we have ever met. As we were walking away the children from the Quest School ran after us all and at this point anyone who wasn´t crying already certainly was now. We spent one night in Miraflores and eventhough everyone was finding it hard to leave Villa Maria behind, we spent the rest of the day looking forward to our next phase especially now that Rob had arrived.

Our backpacks were much lighter after gettting rid of all the unecessary alpaca jumpers and gringo trousers, which sadly we knew we would not need whilst trekking in the Andes. At this point we said goodbye to Lima after a months worth of hard work and headed for Pisco where our expedition was finally about to begin. Arriving in Pisco according to Rob was like being in Baghdad as much of the town was rubble and mess from an earthquake a few years ago. Surprisingly our hostel was really lovely and we spent the rest of the day chilling out before dinner and a pretty awesome quiz by the boys… about themselves… Emma and Lizzie seemed to know the boys best to the extent that they even knew exactly how much weight Joe had lost since being ill in South America. Now that we´ve spent 2 months together we seem to know some pretty ridiculous facts about each other…

We took a bus in the morning to a port called Paracas which is where we caught a boat to the beautiful Ballestas Islands. The sealions, birds and other wildlife were all amazing and we spent a good few hours taking a ridiculous amount of photos of some pretty awesome looking sealions. Going back to shore was freeezing so we all snuggled into our life jackets in an attempt to keep warm and had a little snooze before catching our next bus to Huacachina- an oasis just outside of Ica. It was like a paradise, surrounded by some rather sizeable sand dunes and a lagoon in the middle. Our hostel was perfect, it had a beautiful pool, hot showers and actual real sized pillows which was some what of a luxury to us all. Chill out time was exactly what we all needed and Joe, Tom, Emma and Lizzie managed to stumble across a unique restaurant which had writing on the walls from fellow travellers all over the world- even from previous Quest groups. Chill out time didn´t last long as Rob challenged us to a race up a stupidly enormous sand dune behind the hostel. Naively a bunch of us thought it would be a piece of cake but almost immediately believed this to be the death of us all. Come on… even Rob was out of breath despite beating us to the top. Romy, Aaron, Lizzie, Constance… and eventually Sarah, made it to the top only to realise everything had been worth the serious pain just to see some of the most spectacular views we had ever seen. It took literally seconds to run, jump, gallop, skip or roll down the dune and we fell into the pool fully clothed after it took us at least 45 minutes to climb up it.

We didn´t have much time to recover as our beast of a dune buggy was roaring outside waiting to take us sand boarding. Romy, Lizzie, Constance and Emma´s screams could be heard from miles away and even Emily said she had never heard anything like it in Quest history. The riding in the buggies was like an epic rollercoaster ride, only ten times better considering the beautiful sunset that was quickly approaching. Sand boarding was quite funny as most of us didn´t have time to become pros and spent most of the time on our backsides. Rob seemed to have a more stressful experience than usual as he spent most of the time telling us to ´´GET OUT THE WAY!´´ to avoid being mown down by the sand boards coming up scarily close behind us. It was quite comical watching especially the girls screaming and running in every direction with their sand boards held high, trying to dodge the people coming down behind them. Most people managed to catch the sunset before heading back to the hostel whilst the screaming girls had every right to be scared as their dune buggy seemed to be running out of fuel… which held them up for quite a bit longer than expected. A nice Pisco sour was awaiting us all back at the hostel as we made a toast to completing our first epic day of our expedition.

The next days twelve hour bus journey to Arequipa was uneventful apart from our quite interesting dinner of weird, plasticy chicken which Romy strangely rather enjoyed whilst Joe didnt seem too disappointed when his fell flat on the floor of the bus, or when the lady didn´t offer him a second portion. Finally we arrived only to be greeted by a pretty merry Bolivian Team ready for a night of mayhem out on the town- and thats exactly what happened… no more needs to be said about this evening. The next day was a recovery day. Most were hungover, although some still seemed to be drunk at breakfast from the night before… although for us there was plenty to do ready for the start of our first trek the next day. There seemed to be a slight air of anxiety amongst the group as the Bolivian Team had pretty much told us they had died on the trek and were quite keen to scare us about it all. We went out for Mexican food that evening and it has to be said that the food didn´t quite agree with some of our stomachs despite it being really tasty. Joe, Aaron and Lizzie then gave the rest of the group the low down on Passover which is the Jewish festival they were all attempting to celebrate whilst there.

With even lighter bags than before, we set off at four in the morning on more buses to Huambo which is where we started our first trek in the Colca Canyon. We spent a good hour letting Rob adjust our various backpacks which took much longer than expected and then started walking with our expedition guide Edison to our first campsite. The Canyon was absolutely breathtaking and at this point we took the opportunity to take tonnes of photos all knowing that soon or later we wouldn´t have the energy to get out cameras out. As the sun was setting we set up our tents and started to cook dinner without any kind of problems… except from Joe who started to feel quite ´altitudey´ despite the fact that we had gone down the canyon quite significantly! After a rather tasty meal of Quinoa and soya meat we all watched the moon rise across the mountain. Joe was on fire that night with quite a ´Romyesque´ comment when he asked us ´´does the moon rise in the same way in England?´´ Oh bless him…

Rob seemed to give us the impression that the next day was going to be a fairly easy trek. But by the end of five excruciatingly painful hours going down hill and vertical drop on the top of a canyon (which was nicknamed ´death zone´) we were less then amused and very thankful to finally reach our second, yet again beautiful camp site situated next to a river. Constance, Romy, Sarah, Alice and Rob went swimming in the river, Emma spent hours tending to her various blisters whilst Tom proved to be the macho man as he eagerly went with Rob to watch our dinner of lamb being slaughtered. Before the best trek dinner in Quest history was served (according to Rob and Emily) we had an awesome yoga session with Robster in the middle of the field as the sun was setting to prepare us for tomorrow- the day we were all dreading. At this point our slight obsession with Rob seemed to be increasing quite drastically and our team name ´Robsession´ seemed to be becoming more and more appropriate. With tummies full of lamb and pasta, which was pretty much demolished by Rob and Tom, we jumped straight into our sleeping bags and barely slept before we were woken up at 2.30 am to start what we could only see as a day that would never end…

We were all compeltely delirious for the first 2 hours trekking back up the canyon, which probably wasn´t the best way to go considering the sheer drop to the bottom of the canyon that we could have potentially fallen to. Tom decided that whilst we had no path to walk on… only a side of a cliff… this would be the perfect opportunity to take loads of photos- possibly not his wisest moment. Our deliriousness carried on until breakfast which can be proven by Joe, who decided to drop his roll mat down the side of the Canyon leaving Edison our guide to scramble after it. The rest of the walking, eventhough was physically exhausting and challenging, really gave us a sense of true satisfaction once we arrived at our half way point. We had been told by the team Bolivia that the rest of the journey to camp would be done on mules and to our excitment they were there waiting to carry us and our bags to our third and final campsite. Even for those who were experienced riders the journey was at times quite scary and pretty painful. At about six, after hours of trekking over the Andean moors the temperature dropped quite drastically whilst we were still quite far away from camp. Suddenly after a relaxing, although painful 5 hours everything drastically turned into a bit of an ordeal, so Rob made the decision to set up camp earlier than originally planned.

After a rather uncomfortably cold and sleepless night we were back on the mules for another 6 hours before FINALLLLLYYY arriving at our last destination Cabanaconde. A real bed, shower and a scrummy alpaca steak was waiting for us as we spent the rest of the evening looking back over the incredible experience we had all just endured. We had been told that the third day had been the longest in Quest history, and this we have to say made us feel pretty special as we knew this was something only our team was going to experience.