Life in the middle of the jungle – Sara in the Rainforest Protection Project Peru
“I settled in 100% during the 2nd week, when it already felt very much like home. However, I never felt uncomfortable. On the contrary, I already liked it so much on the first day that I would have preferred not to go at all.”
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 jungle of Peru, before her journey continued to Colombia and Costa Rica. There she spent a very special time with the project staff, helping with various tasks related to nature. Later she worked in a hostel in Colombia and supported the Wildlife Rescue Project in Costa Rica.
I knew for a long time that I would like to travel to Latin America. I have always been interested in the continent and since I already knew Spanish, it was a good fit. I decided during my last year at university that I would travel to Latin America for 6 months and I booked about a year before the actual departure. Before the trip, I tried to prepare well if possible by reading several travel blogs and watching videos. Additionally, I flipped through guidebooks 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 because I had never been to South America before and therefore didn’t have a clear idea of what to expect. Will I understand the Latin American Spanish well? What if I don’t make any connections there?
On site, however, I had no problems with the language. 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 I thought. Since in hostels there are usually other solo travelers who also want to meet new people. Also, Latin America in general is so open to new people and almost everyone is very friendly. If I had any fears or concerns, I could always turn to WanderWorld.
MY 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 can’t become reckless, but you don’t have to live in fear either. My first impressions didn’t do the rest of the country justice, as I didn’t particularly like Lima. Still, the day in the city was cool, we got a tour locally and went out for some food and drinks afterwards. It was also reassuring to be able to ask certain questions to a local on the spot. The next month I was continuously in the jungle, in the Rainforest Protection Project near Puerto Maldonado. There, of course, were completely different impressions and for me a lot better. I was warmly welcomed by the project coordinators, who also knew English. I was shown the entire accommodation, as well as the vegetable garden, the various cultivations 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 percolate a bit.
The following days I was able to help harvest cacao and bananas, as well as distill basil and collect seeds. In the Rainforest project, I was the only volunteer. At first this worried me, but I got along great with the coordinators of the project, who are both just a few years older than me. After about a week, I settled in well and knew everyone relatively well. I settled in 100% during the 2nd week, when it already felt very much like 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 go at all.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
A typical working day started at 6:00 am. The work, which takes place under the sun, was usually done in the morning, because later it was too hot. This included, for example, harvesting the basil fields. From 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. there was breakfast – this is already a hearty 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 about 17:00. At 18:00 o’clock dinner was eaten and the remaining evening could be arranged as one wanted. Because of the physically demanding work, we usually went to bed early.
I was often allowed to choose which tasks I wanted to help with. It was very important to the people in charge that I had a good and varied time. I was often in the jungle with another staff member collecting seeds and looking for wildlife. Likewise, I was always present at the weekly banana harvest, as this was one of my favorite tasks, even though it was also the most exhausting. During the cocoa harvest, as well as the feeding of the bees, I was also almost always there. The duties varied greatly depending on the time of year. Since I was there in July, which is the dry season, no new trees were planted, for example. I was also allowed to help in the kitchen, because the cook was very good and I was interested in Peruvian cuisine.
MY FREE TIME
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 some kind of clay and made pottery together. Often we went looking for animals in the jungle, even on a few night hikes. Sometimes we went by boat to the other side of the river. But we didn’t leave the jungle, because the next place Puerto Maldonado is not reachable in less than 2 hours.
MY MOST BEAUTIFUL MOMENT
My absolute favorite thing was climbing palm trees. They had a certain 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 were about 20 meters high, was very nice. Especially the last time I climbed up was towards evening and I could see the sunset from above.
Besides 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 since Cusco is very touristy. Other than that, these were the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever seen.
In the Rainforest Project there were three houses. 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 wifi. The rooms mostly consist of a bunk bed and a shelf. The rooms are not very big, but still doable. The top part of the wall is just a mosquito net and the room has no lamp. That means during the day it is bright when the sun is shining and after that you need a flashlight. However, I hardly spent any time in my room except to sleep, so that was perfectly okay. Electronic devices are to be charged in the common room during the day. There were two toilets inside and two showers outside. There was no hot water, but that didn’t bother me personally because it was very hot all the time. The dishes and laundry were always washed by hand. Although everything was completely different from what you are used to at home, I still felt very comfortable and enjoyed my time very much.
MY TIP FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS
For the Rainforest Protection Project in Peru, you definitely can’t be afraid of insects or spiders. Since none of the houses is 100% closed, you will always find little animals in the rooms. You should be open to everything and just let everything come to you. You should also have a basic knowledge of Spanish in order to be able to talk to all the staff, since only the two coordinators speak English. You should be aware that you live there under very different circumstances and that you are always in the middle of nature. There is a lot to explore there and many ways to keep busy, but you will not be able to make trips to other places. If you don’t mind that, I can only wholeheartedly recommend the project to everyone.