Jessica Van Herstraeten - High School Specials, Inca Projects & Archaeology in Peru
A few months ago, I departed for what was to be an unforgettable adventure. It was for me quite challenging since I had no idea what to expect. I had never been anywhere like Peru before and I had never worked as a volunteer. After a 20 hour journey, I arrived in Cusco where Jorge, our fantastic Peruvian guide, was waiting for us outside the airport with a very big smile. After a visit to the hostel, Jorge took us to the market to eat chicken and taste some Inca Cola. In the evening Jorge made us try the traditional coca tea which is fantastic; I actually brought many bags to the UK!
After a good nights sleep, we visited some amazing archaeological sites, especially Sacsayhuaman, which was probably my favorite one with Machu Picchu. We went down a massive slide, where children would have played hundreds of years ago, and talked a lot about Pachamama and the offerings that could be made. It was amazing to learn about such a different culture. During our first few days we enjoyed the city of Cusco, spending time in the markets and visiting incredible places. We had our special Pizza nights when we felt like eating in and our dinners out most of the time, discovering Peruvian cuisine.
The second part of our journey was to be spent in Huyro. On the way, we visited places like Pisac which had some fascinating terraces. We also went to feed some Alpacas and I even got to ride one! Even the bus journey was fun! We sang and laughed all the way, listening to music and stopping at different places to try different fruits and ice-creams.
When we arrived in Huyro, we were welcomed straight away by the other volunteers. Establo, where we lived, was much more like I expected. It was very simple, but I would not have changed anything in it. It made me learn a lot about myself and how to enjoy the simple things in life. We only had electricity at night but even then we did not really need it and I soon learnt to enjoy cold showers in the morning and evenings. I actually still take cold showers here sometimes back in the UK, where I have the choice.
We spent the first morning in Huyro with local children in a school who were very sweet and so happy to see us. We then came back to have lunch and the food was absolutely amazing. When I thought I would lose weight coming to Peru I was very very wrong! Issa, the cook, prepares the best food I have ever tasted! I would never forget the taste of her fine cuisine, made of all the fresh vegetable and chickens from Establo!
Thereafter we spent our days helping in Establo and outside in other different sites. We also had a lot of fun using machetes to cut down trees in order to clear places for archaeologists. We found foundations of buildings that had not been since for hundreds of years and we learnt so much about the amazing civilization of the Incas.
My favorite day was probably when Dan, our Projects Abroad supervisor, made us dig the trenches for drainage! I was not looking forward to it at first as I used to hate getting dirty, but it turned out to be very good fun and we all laughed and were very happy to help. We just thought of it as a spa treatment. In the evenings we spent our time visiting the town, sampling the local cuisine and hosting quizzes around the fire.
The people in Establo were the kindest people I have ever met and not only taught me some Spanish but also taught me a lot about happiness. All the people in Huyro seem to help each others. For example, one day when we were driving to town we stopped to help some neighbors packing coffee into bags. The people in Establo became like a family after only a few days. I had Jorge, who is by far the sweetest man in Cusco! He taught us so much about the Inca culture and the places we visited. I had Doctor Americo to bring me Aloe Vera for my sunburns and Mummy Issa to cook us the most amazing meals!! Hulan James who was the cutest kid I have ever seen and who taught me the most Spanish (ombrearania! Caro...)! Then Uncle Dan to make us laugh and the Chicas Pincantes to make me laugh even more!
My trip to Peru allowed me to visit one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places in the world and 6 months later I am still talking about how amazing this experience was! I am already planning on returning to Peru in the next few years. It was a trip that I will never forget and I recommend it to anyone who likes to have fun, be helpful, eat great food, meet lovely people, and is looking for new experiences!