The Trip of a Lifetime – the Beginning

The trip of a lifetime has just started, and I can’t wait to get the full taste of it. I’m writing now from my room in Baños del Inca, where I’m still trying to recover from my first night out. It looks like I underestimated the power of pisco, or maybe the lack of running water is to blame.

Off we go!

We are supposed to be in full rainy season, but it hasn’t rained in a month and unless they have water tanks, cajamarquinos only have running water from late in the evening until early in the morning.

There’s no heating system in the house where I’m staying, so when I’m lucky enough to get water, I can take a cold shower. This water situation is indeed a bit annoying, but it’s something you can deal with if you get prepared –fill plenty of buckets when we do get the water, boil a few liters for drinking- and can adapt.

At the moment I’m staying in Baños del Inca, a small town just outside Cajamarca, in Northern Peru. I’m 2750 m over sea level, in a valley surrounded by the Andes. The town is renowned for its natural hot springs, from which it takes its name. It’s quite hot during the day, around 23 degrees, but it gets cold at night. I’m definitely not envying you guys in Europe right now 🙂

Women here wear huge beige hats and wide skirts. They comb their hair in long black braids and carry their babies wrapped in colorful towels. They call me gringuita, and I love it.

Women and children in Baños del Inca

Green Lion, the organization I’m volunteering at, accommodated me in a home stay. My host, Carmen, is a lovely 73-year-old lady who has more energy than I do. She is a real entertainer, and I spend hours listening to stories from when she was younger.

A regular lunch at Ana’s place

Since I’ve arrived in Baños, I’ve been visiting projects that Green Lion is developing here and in Cajamarca, and taking pictures for their blog. I feel so grateful for having this unique opportunity to get such an insight in the local life, visiting places that I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see.

Baños del Inca

I see a lot of poverty around me, but to go with a cliché what I see the most is smiley faces. I visited a kindergarten which is basically a hole in a wall, where 14 dirty faces just jumped on me and hugged me when I went to visit for the second time. I saw children playing with rocks and wood, and sharing an old motorcycle as their only toy.

Seeing this definitely makes you reconsider the quantity of toys “our” children own and makes you rethink about what’s really necessary, and what is not.

I visited an asylum for the elderly, where only 9 nuns are taking care of 90 people. I visited a place for children with special needs, where no matter how sick the kids are, you see them holding hands and dancing together, always smiling.

During the day, if I’m not running from place to place, I’m sitting at the veranda of the volunteers’ house working on my pictures, on the blog, or giving English classes to the staff.

A couple of days ago I was invited by Pim, a Dutch man, to pay him a visit in the café he owns in Cajamarca. Pim employs deaf people and single mothers, and together with his Peruvian wife he’s always involved in some social project. That day, he invited me to join a Sign Language class for beginners.

Last night I went out with the volunteers. I am amazed how cheap life here is. A combi (a little bus with a kid screaming to get people in at every corner) from Baños del Inca to Cajamarca (around 25 mins) is 0.50 nuevos soles (less than 15 cents), while a menu at a restaurant was less than 3 euros.

Iglesia de San Francisco, Cajamarca

After dinner, we climbed up the steps of Santa Apolonia, a viewpoint overlooking Cajamarca. We shared a bottle of pisco while chatting and soon the place got busy with locals, musicians and kids throwing themselves down the stairs with their bicycles.  And wild dogs. Oh, there are so many wild dogs here, I’m always ready to get my rabies shot!

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. Together with Sam, the coordinator of the project, who’s from Tennessee, we decided to prepare a dinner for this special occasion. Carmen invited him over, together with her friend Ana and her husband José.

 

The five of us celebrated this American tradition eating turkey with strawberry sauce, smashed potatoes and apple puree. We couldn’t find all the original ingredients but we still managed to cook something nice for Sam.

It was the very first time I celebrated Thanksgiving, and I had indeed a lot to be thankful for. I finally accomplished a dream of a lifetime. As my mom put it in the letter she gave me at the airport, I had tried to put my “duty” in the first place, but then I had to give up to my big passion and just leave.

The way from Italy to Peru was long and filled with mixed emotions. I traveled for 48 hours, stopping in Madrid, where I had beers and tapas with an ex colleague and a Couchsurfer, then arriving in London feeling as bad as ever.

My friend Nevena was waiting for me at the airport, and then we went through all the typical London stuff: the tube, a double decker, the fucking cold and the rain. A fish pie and some chatting with her flat mates, a couple of hours sleep and back to the airport, this time to Lima.

Nevena and I at her home in London

The flight was great, I had a whole row for me and plenty of cool movies to watch. I totally recovered from my Madrid-London flight.

I got my 183 day visa without any trouble, then went to meet my Couchsurfer Abi who came to pick me up at the airport. The next day I met with my friend Kristina and her baby Valentina and went for a walk in Miraflores. I almost missed my 15 hour ride to Cajamarca because we were busy enjoying the best ceviche ever!

Tomorrow I’m going with Carmen, Ana and the volunteers to Jesús, a village 20 km away, for the local festival. We’re going to get stuffed with guinea pig, the local dish, and I’m going to get crazy photographing women in their traditional dresses. Every day I have something to look forward to, and this is simply the best I could hope for.

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