Where to even start...
The last two weeks volunteering was fantastic and I didn't want to leave. Getting there and leaving was a bit of a challenge but absolutely worth it. We arrived on Friday September 12th and left Thursday September 25th but time flew by while being there. We left Arequipa at 4:30pm and was told it was four hours to Chala, the closest "bigger" city to where our project was but in reality the bus was eight hours so we got in past midnight. When we arrived in Chala, we found the closest hospedaje and it was a s*** hole, the worst we had ever stayed in, but we left the next morning so it didn't matter.
From Chala we took a taxi to the small town of Santa Rosa de Atiquipa which was about 20 minutes. When we got there our taxi driver dropped us off at the road that would take us down to Jihuay. It was a 40 minute walk down hill carrying all of our s***, it was quite tiring. But we made it down to the bottom and saw a wooden gate door to our right so we knocked and asked for our contact Alvaro. Our directions from our contact told us to walk down a hill and you'll see a wooden door, so we were hoping we did everything correctly.
Alas Alvaro answered but joked with us at first saying he wasn't Alvaro so we panicked for a split second. Alvaro was probably in his early fifties, had dreds and basically was a total Peruvian hippie. We arrived to an amazing farm that overlooked the ocean. We got there around 11am and was in time for a delicious lunch. When we got there we were shocked to see three other American girls staying there as volunteers. Two of the girls were friends and we were only with them a weekend because they left on Monday. But then there was the other girl, MaryLou, who was awesome (we were sad when she left) but we would playfully joke about NorCal vs SoCal (she was from LA area). However later on the day we arrived another volunteer from France, Iver, arrived. During his ten days there we shortly grew tired of his laziness and to say it curtly, we were glad when he left. Due to the fact that I am writing this after our time there I will not be writing this as a day by day blog but it will be all meshed together.
Our schedule consisted of the following on a daily basis: wake up around 6 (could have woken up at 7 but I was always up earlier), had oatmeal for breakfast at 7:30, worked on the farm from 8-12, ate a delicious lunch and then had free time the rest of the day.
Since we arrived later on Friday, we didn't start work until the next day. Work days were M-Sat with Sundays off so we did one day of work and then had a day off before a longer work week. For our first four days of work, Michelle and I had the project of weeding and cutting infected alfalfa beds. They had turned white due to an insect infesting them and there were more weeds than alfalfa in some of the beds. There were six beds and lots to do so that's why it took us some time, but afterwards the beds recovered and looked great.
Other work days consisted of watering the plants, like the tons of rows of sweet potatoes, which was also rather time consuming. I think the thing we did the most there was weed pulling, other rows were just weeds and Alvaro wanted them cleared in order to start planting summer produce. The entire property was about six acres but the farm itself was about two acres so really a decent size. On Saturdays, Alvaro cleans the animal pens and cages so I said I could take care of the rabbit and guinea pig cages. That took about three hours and oh man some were disgusting as all hell but I am used to it since I had my pet bunny Marley back in Monterey. All they do is s*** and eat but I still loved the w***s. It was amazing to see how out of the roughly 20 rabbits most were so calm and easy to pet and hold, unlike Marley who was a tweaker haha. The guinea pigs not so much, they were incredibly skittish, they probably knew that at some point they were going to be food. Needless to say I spent a lot of time with the animals, except for the birds. There were four adult ducks, one was a male and would wag it's tail and make threatening sounds whenever you went in the pen to feed them but of course the rooster was worse. I hated that rooster, for the first week their pen was not fully closed off with wire so the rooster & hens would roam free and while I would be feeding the rabbits or minding my own business, the rooster would charge to attack. It was worse trying to feed them though, one time I was in there trying and I gave up because the rooster kept charging at me, so Alvaro had to feed them. But there were also five ducklings which were freaking adorable. Originally there were 11 but the male killed the other six, before we got there though. There was also a pregnant goat, the day we arrived Alvaro said she should be giving birth any day now but we were there two weeks and nothing. So every day we would tell her to pop her baby out, she was just so big and her utters were huge so we figured it was uncomfortable and we just wanted to see a baby goat. But while we were there one of the pregnant rabbits gave birth to six bunnies but we couldn't see them because if they got human scent on them the mother would reject them and they would die.
So for a few days we kept our distance until one morning I was feeding the mom and I saw two dead baby rabbits outside of her nesting area. I called Alvaro over and he was pissed. The prior night our water came via a truck and the tank is right next to her cage so it was probably the stress of that that made the mother kill her babies. Instinct tells her to kill her babies if she feels threatened or believes there is a predator nearby. So we opened her nesting box up and saw five dead rabbits, I was so sad and Alvaro was upset with the water truck guy. The next morning I went to feed her again and found one more dead baby, so we missed it somehow the day before. But good thing there was another pregnant rabbit, who I called Big Mama. One day I was simply walking by the cages and the bottom of her cage collapsed so she fell out and was on the loose. Alvaro has three big dogs so I wanted to get to her before they did. I called Iver over, since he was closest, and had him help me corner her off so I could grab her. I got her and held on to her while Iver fixed her cage. I loved spending time with the rabbits and even named a few, oh and how creative they were. There was Big Mama, Big Guy, Big Whitey and Pepper haha, Big Whitey was my favorite though. But the best were the dogs. There was mother and big pup, Lola and Sumac and then ridiculous and huge Ari who was also "a pup." I spent so much time petting them and playing with them. Oh there was also a cat, Pusio haha and she was pretty cute too. She would sit in my lap during half of the meals. There was technically another dog, Cabezon, who was from Santa Rosa and would come visit for a couple days at a time. We originally felt bad for him but later found out he aggressively bit Ari and also almost killed Big Whitey so Cabezon went from faithful friend to useless turd.
Besides time on the farm we walked around the area and Alvaro's friends had taken us to a few places. First we went to visit some ruins closeby which were pretty lackluster but there were tons of unburied human bones, which was creepy. So we took photos with intact skulls and other bones haha. Alvaro's friends Percy and Miguel (Percy was cool, Miguel was creepy) and we went to a few stops alongside the coast. The four of us (me, Michelle, MaryLou and Iver) sat in the back of Percy's truck which was a funny sight because we were all gringas/gringo and that area hardly ever saw tourists. But Percy's driving was a bit frightening, we sped around curves so we were all a bit nervous but clearly nothing happened.
Other than that we did a few little hikes around, one area was where we could spot Humboldt penguins & Peruvian boobies and the other spot was good for fur seals. When we went to see the penguins we only saw two both times but they were there so it was still cool. When we went to go to see the fur seals, we got lost on our way there and back but still managed to make it. There were a few dozen of them, all sitting on this island rock and it was amazing to see that they had hobbled all the way to the top of the island. They also sounded very different than the ones I was accustomed to in Monterey, these ones sounded like dying cows or goats. So enough with animals but I could go on and bore people for a while about them haha.
While we were at Jihuay we also experienced a series of small earthquakes. Never before had I felt an earthquake, strange since California is prone to them, but I felt two small ones while we were at the farm. We were lucky they were small though.
One more thing I feel is necessary to mention is the bathroom and cleanliness aspect. There were working toilets but since water was scarce, there was the "dry toilet." An outhouse where you would do your business and dump dirt over it. I liked the concept but not the little flies that were constantly flying around it. Also since water was scarce, I basically wore the same two shirts and two pants the entire time, without showering. So after 16 days I had my first shower and it was lukewarm. I think my record before was 14 days from my volunteer project in Mexico but 16 days is the new record. Oh being a hippie is fun haha!
Overall our time there was great, we had great rooms that overlooked the farm and ocean and every single meal we ate was vegetarian and delicious. On our last day, Alvaro took our backpacks and strapped them to his bike to drive up the hill so we wouldn't have to carry them, we were grateful. When we got to the top of the hill we waited for over two hours in Santa Rosa de Atiquipa until the direct bus to Lima came, which was an 11 hour bus. I know more things happened but it's a lot to write and typing my blog up on my phone gets tiring. But after volunteering we made it to Lima, stayed for a whole day to drop off a lot of our stuff at the South America's Explorer Clubhouse and left to go up the coast to enter Ecuador. After a total of 33 hours on buses we made it to Ecuador. So I'll be posting more blogs from there.