Johanna’s adventure in Peru
“I would say that I helped and added value to the project through physical labor and the time I put in. I was able to help give these rescued animals – some of which have experienced terrible things due to improper husbandry, abuse, hunting or dwindling habitat – a beautiful and peaceful life.”
Johanna experienced an unforgettable time in Cusco and supported the Wildlife Shelter for one month. Afterwards she had a month of free travel time in Peru and discovered her love for the unique country. In this report she tells about her tasks in the project, the accommodation, her free time and gives some tips to future participants. For Johanna, it was especially nice to get to know the animals, their stories and the people in the project and to contribute something positive herself.
I knew almost nothing about Latin America before I left, let alone about the individual countries. I only knew that it was certainly very different from home. I also really wanted to try out my Spanish from school in real life, which was one of my biggest motivations at the beginning. Since the whole concept of traveling alone, but also intimidated me for quite a long time, I booked spontaneously and my actual planning and preparation time was not long.
I left Germany in April and hadn’t booked the project until mid-February. Within that month and a half, I felt like there was no room in my head for anything but my upcoming trip. There were so many things to take care of, I wasn’t even aware of that before. So during this time I relied a lot on all the emails and patient phone calls with WanderWorld Travel, which really gave me a lot of reassurance and where all my questions were answered immediately, which was really great! I got all kinds of preparatory information and documents, and yet I was also on the internet a lot myself or in some offices and doctors’ offices. For a vaccination consultation, I ended up driving a few hours to the nearest tropical institute to get a proper consultation and the first vaccinations. Have this topic in time on the screen in any case!
The last days before departure, it helped me a lot to talk about my packing plans and the upcoming excitement and anticipation with other participants, which you could meet beforehand via a get-to-know video chat. That was really cool and took away some of the uncertainty. Because if you could see the people beforehand and then also talk to them afterwards, it took away your fear in a foreign country.
MY FIRST DAYS
My first days in Peru were full: full of new people, new language, different climate, so much information. I had the misfortune that my luggage unfortunately didn’t follow me all the way to Lima and got stuck somewhere along the way. That threw me off balance a lot in the beginning. Firstly, because this was my first big trip alone and secondly, because I didn’t know what to do in such a situation. But after that was cleared up and I was able to take my mind off of it, Peru welcomed me very kindly. I had a few days in Lima, where the introduction day also took place, before I flew on to Cusco. In Lima I met the two other participants with whom I shared an apartment in Cusco and who worked in the same project. That was really nice, a small group formed immediately and we infected each other with our anticipation. Lima impressed me a lot, it is a huge city, we only got to know a fraction in the short time, but that already gave a taste of the diversity and size of this city. The incredible traffic and yet right next door the sea, with beautiful beaches and many surfers, that was very special.
The introduction day with Charly was great, we could see a lot of central Lima, were allowed to get to know the beautiful neighborhood of Barranco and learned a lot from him. You could really ask him everything. He took time for us and we were able to do things like get a Peruvian SIM card. We all got along well and were able to get to know Peru a little through his stories.
Already after a few days it was clear to us three volunteers that we were really lucky with our small troop. From the first day of work in the project, we were a well-rehearsed team. I am really so happy to have met these two.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
On the first day, two staff members picked us up at the bus stop to teach us the half-hour ride to the project by public colectivos. On site, first of all, there was a guided tour of the site with an introduction to the animals and their back stories. Remembering all this and doing the new tasks on the side was a challenge the first few days, but we were able to master it well.
During the week, we worked 4 hours a day from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. There was always a lot to do, and there was always something new to do. Nevertheless, after a few days we had the feeling that we knew what the most important tasks were each day and who could do what best. For example, in the mornings of the whole month I and others cut a huge and colorful selection of fresh fruit for all the parrots and birds in the facility. Otherwise there were other tasks on the daily schedule, like fetching fresh hay from the hillside, cleaning the enclosure of the alpacas and llamas, feeding turtles, cleaning water troughs of various animals or offering tours of the grounds for small tourist groups in English. All staff members were really nice and you could learn a lot about the animals and their habits, that was really interesting!
In the beginning it sometimes took a while until a new job was communicated understandably or everyone knew what to do. With time, we were able to learn new Spanish vocabulary and communication then worked better. Volunteers and on-site staff were a well-coordinated team. There were times when we talked privately and were able to learn more about Cusco or the area from a local perspective. These moments in between were really nice and looking back I can say for sure that I was looking forward to work every day. Even if getting up early was tough.
MY FREE TIME
I was lucky enough to live with two other volunteers from WanderWorld in Cusco, with whom I got along great. Therefore, it came quite naturally that we did all the major excursions and tours together. We discovered Cusco itself a lot on foot during these weeks. We walked to viewpoints, visited a few museums and churches and tried our way through the markets. We really enjoyed Cusco, both the huge selection of treats or the regular salsa hours at our favorite bar. We also visited Rainbow Mountain and the Sacred Valley. There were also a few excavation sites and Inca legacies along the way towards work, such as tunnels within a rocky landscape near Sacsayhuaman. A quad tour we took to the Moray Inca site and the salt terraces of Maras was especially fun, and I also found the trip to Palccoyo Mountain to be a totally amazing experience. And of course the classic when you are in Cusco: Machu Picchu! We did all different kinds of excursions and treks around Machu Picchu and we were all totally blown away and really enjoyed it.
I lived together with the two other volunteers from Germany in an apartment in a safe area in Cusco, close to downtown and the beautiful neighborhood of San Blas. We each had our own room, a really spacious living area and a kitchen that was mostly only used for breakfast thanks to the nearby market. The house was totally safe and managed by a super nice landlord, who welcomed us quite touchingly and was always immediately at hand during all these weeks, if we needed help or a tip for Cusco and the surrounding area. We felt very comfortable from the beginning as a small WG there. Buying drinking water regularly was something new for me that I had to get used to. Also, the stark difference in temperature at night, which meant always sleeping under at least three thick blankets, made getting up early much harder. Ultimately, these were all things that you just had to get used to a bit and then got along great.
WHAT I WAS ABLE TO GIVE TO THE PROJECT
I would say that I helped and added value to the project through physical labor and the time I put into it. I was able to contribute to giving these rescued animals – some of which had to experience bad things due to wrong keeping, abuse, hunting or dwindling habitat – a nice and peaceful life. We volunteers were also able to initiate a few things on site that can make some procedures or the work of future helpers easier. For example, lists and photos were posted by the fruit supplies where people could look up the different types of fruits and vegetables and amounts to feed the different animals. The descriptions of the animals and plant, which were given to us as learning aids for the tourist tours, could be improved and supplemented by native English speakers. Especially the younger employees benefited from our English vocabulary and could practice their pronunciation with us. Since we were a larger and motivated group of volunteers, we were also able to tackle some deferred tasks on the site. For example, uncovering a stone staircase to the other end of the puma enclosure or building a new bird enclosure. I felt they were able to help improve this place and make it a proper habitat for these animals.
FOR WHOM IS THE PROJECT JUST RIGHT?
When I told people about my participation in this project, one of the first questions was always, “Do you want to be a veterinarian or do something with animals when you grow up?” Although that is not the case for me, this project was still the right thing to do and I enjoyed my time there. With this I want to say that you don’t have to have at least four animals at home or see your future in veterinary medicine to be right for this project. Of course, you should be interested in animals or enjoy being with them and not be afraid of being close to large animals. Being outside in the sun for several hours at a time and doing physical work should also not be a problem. But if you just like working with your hands, want to learn a lot about unfamiliar species, and aren’t too shy to wear dirty work clothes, this project could be a good fit. I looked forward to working every day. Additionally, I met so many great people among the staff and volunteers and was able to get a lot out of the physical work with the beautiful and impressive animals! I highly recommend it to everyone.
SAFETY ON SITE
In Cusco itself I felt very safe. It is a tourist city that is well lit at night and never deserted. Nevertheless, I was rarely alone at night and as soon as it was dark. In general, we made sure to always be at least two people and only go as a group after partying. I never had valuables or much cash in the back of my backpack. I always had such things in a well-sealed kangaroo pocket across my chest or, on long bus or night trips, in a belly strap under my clothes. I can definitely recommend this, because I always had the things in view and you can still get to it easily if you need something.
Once on a public bus in a less touristy area in Cusco, I didn’t have a good enough view of my small bag. My cell phone was then regrettably gone when I got off. So, in general, I can recommend to just lock away all valuables you don’t need on the road at home or in the hostel from the start and always carry all others close to your body and in sight. When you have an overview, you can enjoy your trips in a much more relaxed way. But in my independent travel time after the project, I had a good feeling even without a big group. I mostly avoided cabs from the street, instead I had great experiences with driving services like Uber or inDriver.
MY TIP FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS
I spent the two months of my trip only in Peru. And even there I only got to know one half of the country, the north and the rainforest are still waiting for my second visit. So you definitely need enough time to get to know as much as possible of these so different landscapes and countries. There are so many special places to discover, most of them bursting with history and long tradition. And the people there are very aware of this and are proud to bring you closer to all these customs and old stories. I was often warmly and openly welcomed and accepted. Most of the time you just had to take heart and ask and they told you a lot and answered you. For me Peru and the time of two months was perfect to travel in this way, to try out and to get to know better this beautiful country. The mix of a first month planned with WanderWorld Travel where I could have support and experienced help and a second month where I could travel and plan on my own worked out great for me. For a first trip so far away it was great! I can only recommend Peru to everyone! You are far away from home, a different language is spoken, a lot is new and different. Nevertheless, all the warmth, the beautiful places, the people with a similar mindset and all the little obstacles on such a trip (on which you grow and can prove yourself) make it only worthwhile.