HI there one and all,
As promised, here is our next update. We are currently in Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand hence the picture of the Split Apple Rock but I am going to bring you up to date with the rest of our Peruvian adventures as there's still lots to tell!
So, we had got as far as Lima in the last update.... we ended up spending about 5 days in Lima so we used the time to take it easy and to wind down before starting our 3 week voluntary placement.
On day one we were picked up from our hostel by our coordinator's husband and dropped off at someone's flat across town. We were staying overnight with a lady called Martha who had a lovely big apartment and a maid!! We were then left to our own devices so had an extra day in Lima... we used our time by visiting an archaelogical sight and having lunch in a very nice cafe that served falafel!! We were given dinner by Martha and sat and tried to chat with her in our very limited Spanish... she was very patient with us and tried to teach us a few extra words etc.
The next morning we were dropped off at another flat, which is where the other volunteer (Matt from Sydney) was staying and we had our orientation meeting. This was basically admin but we also got to watch a short film about making the stoves and we could see already the need for them which was really exciting. We were taken out to lunch by Fiorella, our in-country coordinator, and then we had to catch the bus to Cajamarca... a mere 16 hour journey overnight!! The journey itself wasn't too bad, especially as we had the posh seats that go back almost like a bed and we were fed and watered along the way. We were delayed though which meant that we had to rush across Cajamarca with Juan, our transfer guy, to get on the next bus to a place called Chota. This bus was a further 6 hours and a bit bumpy (to put it mildly) and I was feeling the effects pretty quickly and was not feeling so great by the time we got to Chota ready for our 45 minute taxi ride to Cadmalca!!!
The taxi journey was equally bumpy, made worse by the fact that our taxi driver thought he was a rally driver and didn't slow down for man nor beast!! He did, however, stop for a local man who got in the passenger seat practically on the knee of Mercedes (our local guide).
After all that travelling we finally arrived at Blue Poncho Lodge, our home for the next two weeks. We were greeted by the very lovely and cheerful Celia who made us feel very welcome and had our dinner ready waiting for us. Andy and I were very surprised to find that our room was massive and even had its own sink and everything... much more luxurious than we had imagined....
We were allowed to sleep in the following morning as we had been travelling for so long the previous day. Breakfast was served at 9am and was a real feast... the yummiest porridge I have tasted in years followed by bread and jam and fruit. We knew we were going to be well looked after by Celia and the team if breakfast was anything to go by!
That afternoon we set about our first task... making the metal chimney for the first oven. We were given a piece of corrugated steel and we had to flatten out all the ridges with long sticks first. We then measured out the chimney and cut the piece of steel in half. After that we bent it and beat it into a cylinder shape... starting to look more like a chimney now and then we riveted it to make sure that it was secure. Finally we made a bonnet to go on the top... et voila... our first chimney. It didn't look bad for our first attempt and the three of us stood proudly next to it to pose for photos! We were raring to go and to get our first stove made.
The next day we walked to the house where we were building the oven, about a half hour walk from Blue Poncho Lodge... predominantly uphill!! (I thought the Inca Trail would have made uphill walks easier for me but not so!!! We were still at altitude and that really does seem to slow you down!). From a distance the house looked a reasonable size but when we got there we realised that the whole of the downstairs part was used to cage guinea pigs!!!! Two of which we were given as a thank you..... Andy and Matt bravely tried it for lunch the following day. Apparently there's not much meat on the bone, as you'd imagine, and it tastes a bit like chicken!! Anyway, back to our oven building! We walked into the kitchen area, if you can call it that, and could immediately see why we were there. The cooking area consisted of a fire with a bar over the top of it from which the pots could hang. There was a shelf but all it had on it was a few pieces of uncooked corn and a few pots. The floor was the ground and there were a few low wooden stools by the fire. It really was like stepping back in time. The family, a mother, a daughter in her late teens, a young boy (Dennis) and an older son were all coughing and we could see that having an open fire like they currently have was not doing their health any good at all. Poor Dennis sounded as if he smoked 50 a day... it was so nice to know that we could help them and to improve their health by something as simple as a stove with a chimney.
Our guide for the day was Enrique... he spoke no English so we had to get by on our limited Spanish alone!! We quickly learnt the phrase, "esta bien" meaning it's good and "mas" meaning more! Usually relating to the amount of cement that was required!!!
Firstly we had to filter the sand and make up the cement, Matt and I did this whilst Andy marked up where the stove was to go with Enrique. We then started to build a wall which was four bricks high. Believe it or not, this took us all morning!!! Trying to get a brick to match up with the other bricks is trickier than you would think!!! After building our four layers we left the wall so that it could dry a little before working on it again the next day. We had to then start filling in the middle with rocks so that we could put in a platform (where the fire would be built) and build up around this so that there was a platfrom to place the hot plate. It was then a case of cementing it all in and putting in the chimney (which we had carried to the house that morning). The chimney, in this case, was not long enough and wouldn't fit out of the roof so we couldn't put it in which was a real shame as we really wanted to see the stove finished.
The following day was Sunday so we had a day off. We had come to Cadmalca during the rainy season which meant that although the mornings were often OK the afternoons were really wet!!! We didn't let that put us off though and we went for a walk around the area with Matt, the other volunteer, and came across a football game in the local school grounds. One of the girls called us over so we joined in with them playing a bit of football and a bit of volleyball. We got in a good hour's game before the heavens opened up on us once more and the girls headed off home... not before I had off loaded some of the sweets I had bought.... I think we made their day!! I know they made ours!
So, it's now Monday and we're officially on week two so we started our tree planting. We had bought 200 trees as part of the project and then we had to plant them. They were all planted on private property and we had to walk across the fields and through EXTREMELY muddy paths to get to each family's home.... how I didn't fall in the mud I don't know! Luckily for us the lodge had welly boots so we could wear them rather than our hiking boots as they wouldn't have fared so well against the mud!
Whilst we were busy working away in the Cadmalca region, the locals were not so productive! Back in Chota and even through the whole of Peru, as far as we could make out, the locals were on strike and were blockading the roads etc. This didn't effect Andy and I but our fellow volunteer Matt had a wee adventure to get out of Cadmalca!!! He was due to leave on the Sunday but due to the strikes he couldn't so he changed it to Tuesday... the strikes continued and we thought he was never going to get out. However, a plan was hatched and the team decided that he would have to get a taxi at 3am and take the back roads to Cajamaraca to then try and get his coach back to Lima. This was successful and he eventually made it to Cusco for his onward adventure of trekking the Inca trail, however he was held up in Cusco too due to yet more strikes... the last we heard he made it back to Sydney so all is well!
In our remaining time at Cadmalca we made another stove, this time we got the chimney up through the roof which was great to see and really satisfying to know that we had actually made a stove from start to finish.
We had a lovely time in the lodge, many a game of UNO was played with Celia after dinner which was great fun. She was very patient with our lack of Spanish and we tried really hard to "chat " with her. Mostly we just laughed though, usually because one of us had said something completely incorrectly!
We left the lodge early on the Saturday, ready for the next part of our adventure in Cajamarca. We were met by Felicita who was our coordinator for this part of the trip and she took us to our homestay in Cajamarca. We were dropped off at the house where we were staying and as nobody was in we decided to go & explore Cajamarca for a while. We then met up with Juan for a bite to eat and a chat about what we were going to do next. I wasn't feeling too great so we went home early which was a bit of a shame as we think Juan was up for showing us some of the local bars!
The next morning my illness had got hold of me and I was quite a poorly person! Without going into too much detail (trust me you wouldn't want me to!!), I couldn't hold anything down and I was becoming more and more dehydrated. It reached a point where we realised that I had to go to hospital to get a drip... not really what I had planned whilst in Peru!!! Anyway, luckily for us we had arranged to spend the afternoon with Juan so we called him up and asked if he would accompany us to the local hospital!!! Just as well that he did as if he hadn't we would still be sat in the waiting room now not quite understanding the system of being admitted... barge your way through the door and ask to see someone!!! We had to go and get a ticket to show that I had paid to be looked at and then I was put in an examination room.... 3 beds in a row with absolutely no privacy whatsoever! Am glad that we had written everything down in the little Spanish we could find in our phrasebook and that all they had to do was take my temperature and blood pressure and check my tongue! We also took the names of the various drugs I had self-medicated with (the likes of Immodium etc) and they were shocked that I had my hands on them and were asking me where I got them from... apperently you don't self-medicate in Peru!!! Anyway, after all this had happened I was diagnosed with dehydration and a fever and had to get a drip and get my temperature down and have a blood test to ascertain what was causing it.... a bacteria of some sort apparently (probably from some milk I had drunk at a family's home in Cadmalca - in my defense it was hot so I thought it had been boiled!!). It was then a case of more drips and some awful pink stuff that I had to drink to get re-hydrated and 8 hours later we were sent back to the homestay.....I stayed in bed for the next day whilst Andy had to start the next part of our voluntary work on his own......
Need to save this as we're running out of internet time... Will add to it later, Vx