Field report

LIVING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE JUNGLE - SARA IN THE RAINFOREST PROTECTION PROJECT PERU

I settled in to 100 % in the second week, when it already felt very homely. However, I never felt uncomfortable. On the contrary, I liked it so much on the first day that I would have preferred not to leave at all.

July 2022 - November 2022
Participant Sara in Peru

Sara started her 6-month adventure in Latin America in Peru. In this report she describes her experiences from her first project, Rainforest Protection in the Peruvian jungle, before continuing her journey to Colombia and Costa Rica. There she spent a very special time with the project staff and helped with various nature-related tasks. She later worked in a hostel in Colombia and supported the Wildlife Rescue Project in Costa Rica.

SARAS PROGRAMS:

My preparation time

I had known for some time that I wanted to travel to Latin America. I've always been interested in the continent and as I already knew Spanish, it was a good fit. I decided during my final year at university that I would travel to Latin America for 6 months and booked about a year before my actual departure. Before the trip, I tried to prepare myself as well as possible by reading several travel blogs and watching videos. I also leafed through travel guides on the countries I would be traveling to.

Although I had been abroad on my own three times before, I was still nervous before the trip as I had never been to South America before and therefore had no precise idea what to expect. Will I understand the Latin American Spanish well? What if I can't make friends there?

However, I had no problems with the language on site. The people have a different dialect, that's quite clear, but you can still understand them well. Making new contacts on the trip was also much easier than expected. There are usually other solo travelers in hostels who also want to meet new people. Also, Latin America is generally so open to new people and almost everyone is very friendly. If I had any fears or concerns, I could always turn to WanderWorld.

The first days

My first weekend in Lima was very exciting. You hear a lot of different opinions about Latin America and how dangerous it can be. This should not go to your head. Of course you shouldn't be reckless, but you don't need to live in fear either. My first impressions didn't do justice to the rest of the country, as I didn't particularly like Lima. Nevertheless, the day in the city was cool, we got a tour on the spot and went out for some food and drinks afterwards. It was also reassuring to be able to ask certain questions to a local on site. I spent the next month in the jungle, at the Rainforest Protection Project near Puerto Maldonado. Of course, my impressions there were completely different and much better for me. I was warmly welcomed by the project coordinators, who also speak English. I was shown the entire accommodation, as well as the vegetable garden, the various crops and a section of the nearby jungle. It was a lot to take in at once, so I was glad to have had the first day off to rest and let it all sink in.

The following days I was able to help with the harvest of cocoa and bananas, as well as with the distillation of basil and seed collection. I was the only volunteer in the rainforest project. This worried me at first, but I got on really well with the project coordinators, who are both only a few years older than me. After about a week, I settled in well and got to know everyone relatively well. I settled in 100 % in the second week, when I already felt very much at home. However, I never felt uncomfortable. On the contrary, I liked it so much on the first day that I would have preferred not to leave at all.

A day at the Rainforest Protection Project

A typical working day started at 6:00 am. The work that takes place under the sun was usually done in the morning, as it was too hot later on. This included, for example, harvesting the basil fields. Breakfast was served from 8:30 am to 9:00 am - this is already a substantial meal, so it cannot be compared with our "typical breakfast meal". Around 12:00 we had lunch followed by a siesta break. In the afternoon we worked again until around 17:00. Dinner was eaten at 6.00 pm and the rest of the evening could be spent however you wanted. The physically strenuous work meant that we usually went to bed early.

I was often allowed to choose which tasks I wanted to help with. It was very important to those in charge that I had a good and varied time. I was often in the jungle with another employee collecting seeds and looking for wild animals. I was also always involved in the weekly banana harvest, as this was one of my favorite tasks, even though it was also the most strenuous. I was also almost always involved in the cocoa harvest and feeding the bees. The tasks vary greatly depending on the time of year. As I was there in July, which was the dry season, no new trees were planted, for example. I was also allowed to help in the kitchen, as the cook was very good and I was interested in Peruvian cuisine.

My free time in Peru

I spent my free time with the leaders of the project, they were like my best friends there. Some days we just cooked, ate and chatted together. But we also painted a lot and listened to music. Sometimes we mixed earth with water, made a kind of clay and made pottery together. We often went looking for animals in the jungle, even on a few night walks. Sometimes we took the boat to the other side of the river. But we never left the jungle, as the nearest town, Puerto Maldonado, is less than 2 hours away.

My most beautiful moments

My absolute favorite activity was climbing palm trees. They had a special climbing technique there that allows you to climb a tree with just two ropes. Apart from the climbing itself, the view from the palm trees, which are about 20 meters high, was really nice. Especially the last time I climbed up towards the evening and could see the sunset from above.

Apart from this event, one of my absolute favorite moments was the trip from Cusco to the Siete Lagunas de Ausangate. Although I booked the hike with an agency, there were very few people on this route. That alone was so nice, as Cusco is very touristy. Apart from that, these were the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever seen.

My accommodation

There were three houses in the Rainforest project. The founder of the project lives in one house, the two coordinators live in one house and the staff, volunteers and visitors sleep in the third house. The coordinators' house has Wi-Fi. The rooms usually consist of a bunk bed and a shelf. The rooms are not very large, but still manageable. The top part of the wall is just a mosquito net and the room has no lamp. This means that it is bright during the day when the sun is shining and then you need a flashlight. However, I hardly spent any time in my room except to sleep, so that was perfectly okay. Electronic devices can be charged in the common room during the day. There were two toilets in the house and two showers outside. There was no hot water, but this didn't bother me personally as it was very hot all the time. The dishes and laundry are always washed by hand. Although everything was completely different to what you are used to at home, I still felt very comfortable and really enjoyed my time.

My tips for future participants

For the Rainforest Protection Project in Peru, you should definitely not be afraid of insects or spiders. As none of the houses are 100 % closed, you will always find small animals in the rooms. You should be open to all sorts of things and just let everything happen to you. You should also have a basic knowledge of Spanish to be able to communicate with all the staff, as only the two coordinators speak English. You should be aware that you will be living in very different circumstances and will always be surrounded by nature. There is a lot to explore and many things to do, but you won't be able to go on excursions to other places. If that doesn't bother you, I can wholeheartedly recommend the project to anyone.

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