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Peru

Community + Culture + Machu Picchu

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Itinerary Options

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Step into the Inca Empire

A Bucket List Moment

A gritty adventure which allows you to explore and contribute in the Sacred Valley of Peru, famous for Incan history, brightly coloured textiles and dramatic scenery.

Your journey starts in the pretty little town of Calca, which sweeps along the Urubamba River. Here you will live with a gorgeous local family to fully embrace the culture whilst helping with our community project, exploring Inca ruins and completing off-grid hikes so you are fully acclimatised for the epic three day challenge to reach Machu Picchu.

The last night will be spent in the stunning city of Cusco, where you will be treated to an oh-so chic style hotel/hostel, head out for a delicious supper, and explore all the gorgeous shops.

This is what we have planned...

Venture out to Peru on an epic journey of adventure and community development in the Andes with the grande finale of reaching the breath-taking Machu Picchu.


Trip Itinerary

Join this journey which will take you to the heady heights of Machu Picchu whilst introducing you to remote communities tucked away from the tourists eye who will welcome you in and will value your contribution.

Day 1

Calca, The Sacred Valley Explore + Community

Calca, the Sacred Valley

You will arrive in Cusco, the entry point to the Sacred Valley and be whisked away to Calca, a very pretty and colourful town, nestled amongst the mountains in the valley at 9600 ft above sea level on the Urubamba River. It is very central which makes it a great location from which to explore and home to the famous Mount Pitusiray – considered one of the most sacred places in the valley.

Here you will be looked after by the gorgeous Kerry and Jolyn who head up the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD) - a non-profit NGO helping communities address malnutrition via greenhouse construction (high in the mountains) and workshops at their organic demonstration farm called EcoHuella. They will be managing the program and have organised for the Midlife team to live with local families in Colca so you really become part of the local scene.

You will all be picked up from the airport, unpack, then have a town orientation and delicious supper.

Accommodation

Local family homestay. Single rooms provided. Each family can take 6 guests at a time.

Food

All meals will be a family gathering at the homestay.

Day 2

EcoHuella Farm Community development

Community Project

Part of AASD's objectives is to widen the variety of crops and productivity of the Andean communities which historically have relied heavily on potatoes. AASD have developed a pilot farm called EcoHuella, to teach what can be achieved to Andean community leaders.

This farm is run entirely by volunteers, so on your first morning, the plan is for you to roll up your sleeves and help with the daily jobs, such as harvesting tomatoes, watering corn fields, preparing tree seedlings for re-forestation projects or feeding the guinea pigs.

In the afternoon, you’ll walk along the Vilcamba River from the farm back to Calca, to watch the documentary about Julio Hancco, the now famous potato farmer so you can further understand the challenges, resilience and resourcefulness required to make a living in this environmentally hostile environment. For more information: here is a link to the documentary Opening the Earth: The Potato King , which AASD’s co-founder, Aaron, and his brother collaborated on.

Accommodation

Local family homestay

Food

3 meals provided.

Day 3

EcoHuella farm and Urco Ruins Community + Culture

Project, Ruins and Jewellery

The day will start back at the farm before an afternoon hike along the ancient irrigation canal to explore Inca sites and caves of Urco, and a remote chapel that overlooks Calca - a gentle hike with stunning views.

Whilst you at Urco, the local community of Pachar will welcome you in to join their jewellery workshop and the Urco Youth Association students will challenge you all to a game of football.

Accommodation

Local family homestay

Food

3 meals provided

Day 4

Huamanchoque Community Culture

Huamanchoque community

You should now be feeling more acclimatised to the altitude, so you will be ready for a more challenging hike up to the Huamanchoque community who live high up in the mountains.

They are an incredibly warm and welcoming community so expect to be treated to a delicious meal, before being roped into helping with their guinea pigs - brace yourself, this is part of their daily diet.

Accommodation

Local family homestay

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Day 5

Weaving and Pisac Ruins Culture and adventure

Weaving, Ruins and Market

In the morning you will head off to Chaywatiri, to meet a couple who raise alpacas to make and dye yarn for their intricate textiles, before visiting the Pisac ruins, which is one of best Inca archeological sites in Peru. This is a huge site, spread over the whole mountain and contains a residential settlement, ceremonial baths, and the largest Inca cemetery in South America and agricultural terraces. It is a stunning area.

After this you will head into the town of Pisac to find their famous market. The Quecha communities from the surrounding highlands flock to the market to sell their produce and gather their supplies for the week. Expect to find gorgeous ponchos, hats, alpaca products, Andean instruments, paintings and many more souvenirs.

Accommodation

Local family homestay

Food

3 meals provided.

Day 6

Hummingbirds and Urubamba Culture

Exploration

Today will kick off with a visit to the famous Hummingbird Sanctuary in Yanahuara, before explorating Urubamba along the Vilcanota river, famous for Moray and the Salt Mines de Maras, located outside the town.

Moray is an archaeological site and there are a lot of theories of what it was used for. Some believe that it was used as an experimental agricultural site to help adjust crops to different microclimates, while others consider Moray the womb of the Earth used for spiritual ceremonies.

After Moray, you will go to the Salt Mines which is a photogenic salt pool site that was used 500 years before Incan times. There is little information about how the pools were built but some historians believe that the Wari civilization, pre-Inca, built the pools 500 AD-1100 AD. Salt was important to the Incan Empire and was used in food, food preservation, livestock, and even human mummification.

Accommodation

Local family homestay.

Food

3 meals provided.

Days 7 -10

Machu Picchu Adventure and challenge

Machu Picchu

Built around 1450AD - it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. It is at 7000 feet in the Andes mountains and the views are spectacular. Its exact former use still remains one of the world's great mysteries.

Machu Picchu provides the big physical challenge and highlight of this program so, after 7 days of acclimatising you will be ready to embark on your 3 night Machu Picchu pilgrimage. This will be a gritty, yet awe inspiring challenge, as you wind through the valleys and stunning scenery with your guides and mules in tow. Expect to be walking about 8 kms a day and sleeping in a combination of tents and local homestays.

The plan will be to ascend to the site of Machu Picchu in time for sunrise, the best time to see it in all its glory.

Please note: The exact route will be determined closer to the time of departure when we take the weather and everyones fitness level into account.

Accommodation

Homestays and tents.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Day 11

Cusco Culture

Cusco City

In the morning, you'll travel back to Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Plaza de Armas is the central square in the old city with arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan wall ruins.

San Blas is the traditional old quarter of Cusco and is the city’s most picturesque district, characterized by narrow and steep streets, colonial houses built with walls of Incan stone and amazing restaurants and shops.

Here you will have time to explore the Centro Historico, followed by a well-earned Pisco Sour class, a final dinner and then back to a funky hostel in San Blas.

Perfect ending to an awesome adventure.

Accommodation

A simple but stylish hostel / hotel in San Blas

Food

Lunch and supper not included.

Day 12

Departure

After breakfast at the hotel, spend the morning exploring Cusco before you catch your flight home.

Program Details & Costs

Departs 22 November 2022 for 11 nights + travel days. Min 6, max 12 per team.

2022: 1 Nov

Costs

Peru
Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu
2022: £2305

Dates Don't Suit?

Please call us if you would like to organise a bespoke trip and dates. Min number of 6, max 12.

Social Life

Guaranteed. You will be part of a tight team of like minded volunteers for an instant social life.

Environment

Head off the beaten track in the Sacred Valley

Cultural Exchange

Through living and working beside indigenous communities you will experience real life and make extraordinary friendships.

Physical Challenge

Experience the challenge of reaching the heady heights of Machu Pichu.

Daily schedule

Every day will be busy but we promise some down time to explore independently.

Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD)

AASD was created in 2010 to support community-led agriculture projects in the highlands of Peru. Ecohuella is their (Ecological Footprint) farm. Co-founded by three siblings, Ecohuella, can also be considered a speciality school for campesino farmers because they provide hands-on trainings and workshops that respect the Quechua language, local learning styles, and traditions.

The spectacular landscapes of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu form the backdrop for this program in this larger-than-life country, but look beyond the stunning environment and you will find evidence of long gone empires and current cultures who are just managing to adapt to the demands of globalization without losing their values and cultures.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Mid-Life Leapers will get up to....

"Meaningful adventure has been a wonderful experience"

Going on The Leap MidLife was a great decision for me: spending time with a very entertaining and engaging group of people in the amazing and ancient landscape of Namibia on a meaningful adventure has been a wonderful experience.

Oana is a very special conservation reserve, and the passion, vision and determination of the camp managers has inspired a long term make-a-difference approach in us all. Although I have left Namibia and am now back in England, the memories of a fantastic and happy community thrown together for a purpose under the African skies will stay with me for ever.

- Carrie Watson

"Soul and mind rebooted and the most amazing group of new friends"

I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with the sleeping arrangements and roughing it, especially as I’m a contact user and need clean hands and a mirror to get them in, but it wasn’t a problem and all the things I worried about before I left were forgotten once I was there.

I had to pinch myself that we actually swam with manta rays and whale sharks and saw the most perfect beaches and yet balanced this with making other peoples lives better on ‘work days’, when we painted a school and health clinic and made bricks for a school build project.

- Emma O'Grady

"Incredible camaraderie and kindness"

During our time we slept in dorms, washed out of a bucket, painted a school, planted shrubs and trees for nesting turtles, swam with whale sharks and manta ray. What struck me through all of our incredible experiences was the camaraderie and kindness of everyone. No-one thought of themselves first. Mosquito spray was given to your pal before you used it yourself. And we're tough old birds! No whingeing at all which was quite something for a bunch of mums who have got used to a comfortable way of live back at home.

The Leap's people on the ground are vital to the smooth-running of anything so off-grid and they found the dream team who were largely locals and knew exactly how the islands ticked and what would work. I think it's brilliant to 'take the leap', venturing outside your comfort zone and realising that at 40/50/60 you've still got what it takes.

- Emma Cripwell

"Reflect and Reset"

Although I had been promised true wilderness, it wasn’t until we finally arrived in camp that I properly understood that this was exactly what we were getting. Completely off grid, in beautiful surroundings, we were made incredibly welcome by Red and Dre, who then proceeded to put us to work!

What was so extraordinary about the trip was that not only did we feel that what we were doing, along with all the other volunteers, really would make a difference in helping to transform and rewild the landscape in this remote corner of Namibia, but also that by being there as individuals, with no other halves or children to worry about or manage, it was a chance to reflect and to reset. I came home a changed person and cannot recommend the experience highly enough. If you can, just do it!

- Lucy Walsh-Waring

"An extraordinary and memorable trip"

If you are feeling motivated to make a difference and looking for an off grid adventure, have a look at The Leap’s website.

If you enjoy a challenge and want to feel intrepid, you can join a group of like minded individuals for an extraordinary and memorable trip, organised for you by experts. I cannot recommend The Leap more highly.

- Penny Mountbatten

"How we laughed .. I felt reinvigorated"

It was all I had hoped for and with much more. I felt I had a glimpse of a gap year which was exactly what I had wanted. I loved staying in the hostel at Monteverde, testing my nerve on the zip wires and finding I could do it. A great mix of fun and learning.

Throughout we were looked after with kindness and thought. Gently pushing us out of our comfort zones from where I feel we all flew away from our cosy safe nests! In all this I think the Midlife Leap is very clever. We were able to experience a country, get under the skin of it and see it properly, feel comfortable without it seeming we were on a ‘holiday’. Which we weren’t . Volunteering and meeting locals and having Chris guiding us through it all made the ordinary extraordinary . Milly you are brilliant and cajoled and encouraged us keeping up any flagging spirit.

- Nicola Hussey

"It was freedom, stillness, exhilaration"

‘There were a thousand reasons why I absolutely couldn’t or shouldn’t take my ‘Leap' to Namibia. The most pressing and logistical reasons were my two boys at day school (one only 8) and my husband being half way across the world for work at the same time. However I just couldn’t let it go. There would always be reasons why not. I HAD to make it work. I had wanted to go to Namibia for years and was just really desperate for adventure. Needless to say it was worth every second of the UN-like logistics to get myself out of the door. It was a strike out of my comfort zone (in many layers not perhaps immediately obvious), it was switching off into proper wilderness (no phone reception or WIFI here, just miles and miles of echoing desert), it was back to brilliant basics in our sleeping bags and tents, it was physical work and walking and climbing and rafting, and it was with a group of people, some I knew, most I didn’t with whom we laughed and laughed, nattered and confided, supported and explored with.

It was freedom, stillness, exhilaration. What can I say? DO IT, DO IT, DO IT! Strike out, press your reset button, be BOLD. For all us it was life-affirming, for some a game changer.’

- Sacha Kent

"Quality time with girlfriends, old and new. "

Having not been backpacking at the traditional backpacking age this MidLife Leapers' trip was an opportunity too good to pass up. It was a chance to leave the husband and kids behind, to experience a little bit of what kids do while travelling and to spend quality time with girlfriends, old and new.

I was initially attracted by the opportunity to help conserve the turtles and, despite being there in the turtle ‘low season’, we were exceptionally lucky to be involved in locating and moving a nest of recently laid eggs and to watch newly hatched turtles being released into the ocean. A totally unforgettable experience. At Cirenas we met some inspiring young Ticos and I would love to go back in a year or two to see where their vision and hard work has got them.

Thank you Milly, and Chris on the ground, for organising such a fabulous trip for us. We loved it all - the zip wire, the cloud forest, the baby sloths and the anteater, the turtles, the absolutely delicious food wherever we went, and the scary light aircraft to get us home. An amazing trip.

- LIza Curtis

"Their passion and committment was infectious."

Being at Oana really was one of the happiest and best experiences of my life and I am going back in 2020.

The hands on conservation work included removing old fencing to enable wildlife migration, building a wildlife hide, putting out hay mangers and setting camera traps for wildlife monitoring - all of which was great fun. On our last day we visited the local village where we had a soup kitchen and had 90 children come along. The children were unforgettable, singing and dancing with huge smiles on their faces.

- Elaine Mackensie Yates

"The most rewarding and valuable trip of my life"

My trip to Namibia will be the platform for the rest of my life. It was vitally important for me to be challenged, tested and taken far away from home. The environment in Namibia is so far removed from the privileged life I lead in England and the enormous personal strain from family illnesses and teenage demands. Namibia was so utterly dramatic in its beauty and so humbling in its simplicity. To be ‘unplugged’ from my life was incredible. It made me ‘regroup’ amongst nature that is so pure - I felt honoured to be there.

Living in tents and being part of a group was fantastic fun. Getting to know myself in that environment was valuable and liberating. So many fears were dispelled by the whole experience.

Thank you for organising a fantastic trip with love and laughter! Thank you for letting me rest when I needed to and encouraging me to ‘push on’ when it mattered. Thank you for the most fabulous memories and happy times.

- Sara Koe

"Extraordinary and inspiring"

On arrival the trepidation and pre-match nerves soon disappeared and I realised it was the best decision I had ever made. The photos are amazing, but to be there is even better. Having never had a gap year, been camping, been away without family, been to Africa or known anyone on the trip beforehand I was taking a big Leap into the unknown…..and I LOVED every minute. It was a wonderful and unique experience.

I now miss waking up in camp every morning, chatting and laughing with a very special group of now lifelong friends, being inspired by the amazing Dre and Red, looking at the beautiful stars, trekking to the top of mountains to admire the never ending breathtaking views.

The white water rafting and camping on the side of the Orange River towards the end of the 9 days enhanced what had already become the most phenomenal trip. I feel everyone should now make that Midlife Leap and then truly understand why it is so extraordinary and inspiring….

- Alice Fisher

"The trip exceeded my expectations."

When I signed up I was a little apprehensive as I only knew one person and wasn’t sure how the dynamics of the group would work. As it turned out the group could not have gelled better. The trip exceeded my expectations. I felt we had the chance to give something to the local communities as well as have some fun.

I would highly recommend doing a MidLife Leap – super-duper organised, with attention to detail which meant we were all able to relax and enjoy every minute as we had nothing to think or worry about. It was the most fantastic amazing opportunity that I feel blessed to have experienced.

- Nicci Caswell

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