by Nathaniel McIntosh, Greenheart Travel Scholarship Winner in Peru
It’s time for our expedition!! During our 4-day expedition, we will stay in a small village and learn the ways of the locals. This sparks a weird and semi-sad feeling in a bunch of us because it marks the beginning of the end of our stay here in Peru. We volunteers have actually grown to be good comrades over the course of this month and I find that I will miss them. After we get back from our expedition, we will have only one more day at the project before we head back to Cuzco. This month has really flown by in a blur. It doesn’t feel like we have been here for a month already. Part of me isn’t ready to leave the jungle while part of me is excited to head home. I’ve learned so much and done so much over this last month that I never thought I would do. This trip has shown me a lot more of my strength and what I am capable of. I would love to do something like this again in the future.
But before we leave, we still have an awesome expedition planned! Apart from learning about the locals, this expedition is intended to give us a rest after all the hard work we have been doing. We start this expedition by spending the first day in the small town of Pilcopata, where we stay in a hostel. We drive 30 minutes out of town to a very small village to visit a popular swimming hole. This is a beautiful natural bend in a river that is just deep enough in areas to do a cannonball and swim around a bit. The water is not fast at all and it perfectly safe. When we aren’t swimming we just lay on the sun heated stones like reptiles digesting a meal.
When we get back to Pilcopata, we just drink and talk. After breakfast on the second day, we start our 1.5-hour walk on a rock road to the small village of Queros. This village holds about 30 people and has a small school for the children. This walk takes us through some beautiful countryside and farmland sites. Even with all the rain, sweat, being wet, and having wet boots from the rivers we waded across, this is a very nice walk. When we get to the village, we are accepted with open arms and treated to lunch. We have a nice lunch of roast chicken and yucca both cooked inside of bamboo, as is the traditional manner. This is an awesome meal.
Every meal is accompanied by yucca because this is a major staple of their diet. Better get used to it quickly. After lunch we get to learn how to make seed necklaces with the local women. The seeds are found in the area around the village. I make myself a nice necklace and a bracelet. While we are doing our bead craft, another of the local women makes a small bowl made of bamboo shavings. This bowl is square at the bottom and round at the top! Its amazing how fast and well made this bowl comes together. After bead craft, one of the local men shows us how they make their arrows.
It’s mind boggling how this man starts with a rectangle block of wood and makes an arrow with only a knife. This arrow starts to take shape with amazing speed. The back of the arrow is adorned with feathers from a scarlet macaw and a blue and yellow macaw. Glad we get to skip seeing how they got them. These are beautiful birds… and still look beautiful on this arrow. This activity is followed by a 40 minute medicinal plant walk where we get to learn about the local plants and how the locals use them.
Before dinner, we play a fun game of soccer against the locals. This is not my sport but I hang in there, the locals on the other hand are very good. After dinner, we have an unsuccessful fire demonstration. This activity is hindered by the fact that it rained on the wood earlier that day. We end up starting the fire with matches. Defeat accepted. After the fire is started, we sit around it drinking rum and coke while the village shaman tells us a story about how the capuchin monkeys taught the village where babies come from. Sitting under the stars in a small village in Peru drinking rum and coke? What?!? This has to be the most surreal moment of this trip.
On the second day in the village we have a bow and arrow competition, which I promptly win. : ) Following that, our guide tattoos us with the plant called whetta. This stuff basically stains your skin till the dead cells fall off. This lasts about 3 weeks. Before we leave, the village gifts us with a handcrafted arrow, bowl, and seed necklace. This is a very quaint and kind village. We are lucky enough to get to take a motorcar back to Pilcopata. To say that this is a car is an over statement. It’s a motorcycle with a cart on the back that we get to ride in. This looks kind of sketchy at first but turns out to be amazing amounts of bumpy fun. When we get back to Pilcopata we spend the rest of the day drinking and talking.
Instead of driving back to the port town of Atalaya, we get the awesome choice of white water rafting back instead. Not only is the ride filled with incredibly beautiful scenery, its probably the most fun I have had since I’ve been here. We even stop to raft under a small waterfall and then get out to swim for a while ahead of the raft. This is some deep water but we all have life jackets on so everything is gravy. I’m glad we got to go on this expedition; it was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. When we get back to the project we get to relax and unwind some more.
Today is my last day at the project and my last day in the jungle, it’s a day filled with ambivalent feelings. We spend the morning making a few new clay licks. We just head to the sites and break up some salt blocks into the clay. The sites are equipped with motion sensor camera traps to record any activity. The rest of the day is spent relaxing and packing. I decide to help Alcides make lunch and dinner. Can’t believe I’m done here.
We leave after breakfast on the next day and spend most of the day traveling back to Cusco. I have a full day before my flight to wander around the town and buy souvenirs for my friends and family. This has been the most amazing experience of my life and I strongly suggest that everyone try this for themselves. Even on the flight back, I’m still in disbelief that I lived in the jungle for a month. I’d like to extend my thanks to all the readers that chose to follow along with my crazy experience. I would also like to thank Greenheart Travel for awarding me with the travel blogger scholarship that made this all possible and allowed me to share my experience with others that may not have or may never get the chance to live in the jungle. : ) Live life and live it to its fullest, don’t let fear stop you from trying something new and don’t let a closed mind shield you from amazing new experiences.