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Peru

Community + Culture + Machu Picchu

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Discover Peru

Step into the Inca Empire.

From the heady heights of the mysterious Machu Picchu lying in the sacred valley, to the virgin Amazon rainforest, to the glimmering Lake Titicaca – Peru is a traveler’s awe inspiring dream of extremes.

But Peru is much more than the sights, it’s about the remote communities whose crops are still planted by hand, where the Campesinos still wear tire truck sandals, where the women work in petticoats and bowler hats, and llamas are as tame as pets.

For us the real treat comes from having the opportunity to combine the sights with meeting these communities, who are trying to preserve their traditional way of life but are keen for development in its gentlest form. Several communities have agreed to let Leapers step into their world to help with their crops, refurbish their traditional buildings, and teach the young conversational English. It is an amazing and unique opportunity for positive cultural exchange – so don't miss out.

Venture out to Peru on an epic journey of adventure and community development across the Andes, Amazon and Lake Titicaca before the grande finale of reaching the breath taking Machu Picchu.


Program Itinerary

This is a journey which will not only take you to the bucket list highlights of Peru but will also introduce you to remote communities tucked away from the tourists eye who will welcome you in and will value your contribution to preserving their heritage.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Overview

Andes

Welcome to the Andes

Your journey will start high up in the Andes in the sun-drenched colonial Andean city of Arequipa, framed by 3 volcanoes, and filled with stunning baroque buildings that shine in the moonlight.

During the course of the next 10 weeks you will head off with our project leader to explore the best of the Andes (and Amazon), which of course includes the mighty Machu Picchu and deepest of Canyons in Colca. But, as exciting, you will be steered off the tourist trail to meet rural communities who are keen for your help with their village maintenance and for you to inspire the young to learn English. It's cultural immersion at its best.




Wk 1

Arequipa Spanish + Explore

Settling in week

Your journey will start in the sun-drenched colonial Andean city of Arequipa where you will spend the week learning some Spanish and exploring this pretty World Heritage Site, which due to it being built of sillar, a white volcanic stone, on sunny days the city literally shimmers.

Spanish Lessons
English is not widely spoken across Peru so we have built in time for you to have Spanish lessons with a professional language tutor to help you get by.

Exploring
The rest of your days will be spent exploring starting with The Plaza de Armas, the 17th-century neoclassical Basilica Cathedral, San Camilo Market, before tackling the white water down the Chili River.

Accommodation

Hostel in the city centre.

Food

All meals will be at the hostel but you will have to prepare your own lunches and dinners, (ingredients will be provided).

Wk 2

Colca Canyon Trek Adventure

Trekking and exploring

After exploring Arequipa you'll head off to Colca where you’ll be led on a 3-day/2-night hike deep into the canyon to explore its majestic beauty with a local guide.

At the end of the hike you will return to Arequipa to rest before traveling onto the town of Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Accommodation

You will stay along the route in basic hostels.

Food

3 meals will be provided.

Wks 3 - 4

Lake Titicaca Community + Teaching

Welcome to the Karina Community

Next up is Lake Titicaca which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia high in the Andean Mountains. It is one of South America's largest lakes and it is believed to be the birthplace of the Inca’s. Steeped in history the shores are a visual feast of crumbling cathedrals, desolate altiplano and checkerboard fields backed by the high Andean peaks.

You'll live with the traditional Aymara community of Karina, found on a peninsula that juts out into the lake. Karina is still close to its indigenous roots but keen to establish and develop community tourism as an extra source of income to supplement their subsistence farming lifestyle.

While you are here you will work alongside local families on their smallholdings and teach English at the local school.

Accommodation

Local host families.

Food

3 meals a day cooked by each host family.

Expect: naturally grown fruits and vegetables, corn and quinoa.

Overview

Amazon

Down into the depths of the Amazon

Your next destination will be to the edge of the El Manu National Park, in south eastern Peru - famed for possessing all the different Amazonian eco-systems found across South America. It's known for its rich biodiversity, notably hundreds of bird species, including macaws, which feed at the clay licks at sites such as Blanquillo.

In your free time you will have the chance to catch one of the boats which run along the Manu River, to weave your way past dense Amazonian jungle that is home to jaguars, black caimans and spider monkeys, so pack your guide books and binoculars.

Accommodation

You will live in a volunteer house in dormitory accommodation. There is no internet at the accommodation but you will be able to access the local town around 45 minutes away at the weekend.

Food

3 meals a day are provided.

Wks 5 - 6

Reserva Tierra Linda Conservation

Help preserve the mighty Amazon

Your home for the next two weeks will be at The “Reserva Tierra Linda” a conservation center found in the south-east jungle of Peru, at the entrance to the El Manu National Park.

The center is dedicated to Amazon conservation and keen to promote tight links with the local community to encourage them to respect and preserve this amazing resource.

Projects here will include:

Trail maintenance.
Working in the plant nursery with reforestation.
Helping with the reserve vegetable gardens.
Building rubbish bins and rustic furniture.
Teaching English locally.
Delivering environmental workshops to the local community schools.
Creating informal videos to record flora and fauna and promote the reserve.

Overview

Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Gateway to the Sacred Valley

Back in the Andes and starting in the stunning city of Cusco which fantastically fuses the ancient, with colonial conquest and modern day. Cusco is famed for being the gateway to the Sacred Valley - a valley of Andean countryside dotted with villages, high altitude hamlets and ruins linked by trail and railway tracks all converging into the continent's biggest draw of them all – Machu Picchu.

Your last 4 weeks will be spent exploring Cusco itself before embarking on a journey into the Sacred Valley.

Wk 7

Cusco Cultural Week

The capital of old

Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire, and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture.

You will have a few days here to explore this beautiful colonial city and have the chance to visit another incredible pre-Inca site at Sacsayhuaman where thousands of huge stones, some weighing hundreds of tons, have been intricately and painstakingly joined together to form a long series of terraces.

Accommodation

Hostel, dorm-style rooms.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Wk 8 + 9

Tierra de los Yachaqs Farming + Teaching

Welcome to The Tierra de los Yachaqs

The “Tierra de los Yachaqs” project involves a group of small indigenous communities tucked away in the Sacred Valley. They live at about 3,500 to 4,500m above sea level, in the spectacular Andean landscapes and live largely by traditional agriculture and crafts production.

They are keen for you to help with their day to day farming, reforestation and with teaching English in the local school.

Accommodation

You will live with local host families, 2 volunteers per family.

Food

3 meals a day from locally grown produce, cooked by your host family.

Wk 10

Machu Picchu Trek

Seeing is believing

A bucket list moment to see Machu Picchu in all its glory. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century above the Urubamba River valley. It’s renowned for its dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, buildings in line with astronomical alignments and stunning, I repeat stunning, panoramic views. Its exact former use still remains a mystery.

Now’s your chance to visit the breathtaking and iconic Inca site of Machu Picchu and there are two ways to reach this highlight.

You can either:

Catch the bus to Aguas Caliente and hike just two hours to see this beautiful site for the day.

Or travel by minibus to the start of the Salkantay Trail. The less touristy and more spectacular trek to Machu Picchu. You will trek for 4 days through the winding valleys and stunning scenery before ascending to the site of Machu Picchu in time for sunrise. You will have the day then to explore the site in all its glory before trekking back to Aguas Caliente for the night.

Accommodation

Tents during the trek.

Food

3 meals a day.

Program Details & Costs

We have four departures to Peru throughout the year: January, April, July and September for either 6 or 10 weeks. The most popular is the all singing and dancing 10-week option where you can “do it all” but of course you can go for less time to accommodate your dates and budget. Just get in touch to chat through your options.

Jan, Apr & Sept programs start on:

2019: 4 Jan, 4 Apr, 6 Sep

2020: 7 Jan, 3 Apr, 4 Sep

Costs

10 week (including trek)
Complete itinerary + trek to Machu Picchu
2019: £41882020: £4188

10 week (without trek)
Complete itinerary + day visit to Machu Picchu
2019: £36782020: £3678

6 week (without trek)
2 weeks Arequipa + Colca Canyon trek + 2 weeks Lake Titicaca + 2 weeks Cusco
2019: £26002020: £2600

Summer July program starts on:

2019: 3 Jul

2020: 2 Jul

Costs

6 week (including trek)
1 week Cusco + 2 weeks Amazon + 2 weeks Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu Trek
2019: £31102020: £3110

6 week (without trek)
1 weeks Cusco + 2 weeks Amazon + 2 weeks Sacred Valley + day visit to Machu Picchu
2019: £26002020: £2600

Dates Don't Suit?

Don't worry - we can work around this, just get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Social Life

Guaranteed. You will be part of a tight team of like minded volunteers, who will be on your journey across Peru from start to finish.

Environments

Such contrast as you travel, contribute and explore across the Andes, Lake Titicaca and the Amazon.

Cultural Exchange

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

Physical Challenge

A journey across Peru which includes trekking, exploring, contributing and reaching the heady heights of Machu Pichu.

Working Hours and Time Out

Each phase will vary in terms of project hours, depending on the area and the particular project. Rural communities tend to start work very early and finish in early-afternoon, giving you time to explore in the afternoons.

On Saturdays, in the communities, there may be a special event organized such as a hike or celebration. Sundays you’ll be free to explore or chill with the community. Your project leader will offer advice on where and what to do.

The spectacular landscapes of Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, 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 and this is where step in...

Yanapuma Foundation

Yanapuma Foundation was created in August of 2006 as an Ecuadorian and UK registered NGO, working to bring about lasting change for the marginalized and indigenous people of Ecuador and Peru.

Through them our volunteers will work with traditional communities tucked away in the Andes, beside Lake Titicaca and in the Amazon - all different - all struggling in different ways. You will take part in a variety of grass root projects from construction to traditional agriculture to teaching - yes providing the resource for development but through cultural exchange you will help them learn to adapt to the demands of today.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been up to...

The One with The Amazon, Part 1 Daelyn Bentley-Gottel

This week on “nothing in Peru is close to anything else in Peru”, we spent a grand total of 13 hours on buses. It was 7 hours from Puno to Cusco, where we got to spend a full day before hopping on another bus and driving another 6 hours out to THE AMAZON!

But let’s start with Cusco, we spent the day exploring the Museum of Precolumbian Art and the accompanying Textile Shop, where Peruvian women weave tapestries and sell them to tourists (yes, I am absolutely going to buy one). It was then on to repack our bags for THE AMAZON (for future travellers: you are absolutely allowed to leave stuff at hostels in their luggage closet. We left all our winter coats and stuffed the extra space in our packs with cookies).

So now we’re in the Amazon. Specifically, we’re staying at a place called Tierra Linda in El Manu National Park. We’re staying in an open-air house about 3km off the main road (it feels like 200km). The walls are nothing but screen, so all the natural light and smells and sounds of the river and jungle are with us all the time. We sleep in twin beds under bug nets. We wake up when the sun comes up, and we go to sleep pretty much when the sun goes down (like, we’re up at 6:00 and in bed by 7:30). The food is also delicious: porridge and banana pancakes for breakfast; rice and squash curry for lunch; mashed potatoes and tomato/cucumber salad with vinaigrette for dinner.

Chores so far have included a wide range of activities. We went on a two hour hike through the jungle (India and Emma got machetes) and we had to hack through some of the brush that had fallen across the path (we also got to swing on a vine like Tarzan. It’s harder than it looks; three of us fell off). We planted pineapples after the hike (they are REALLY pointy plants). After working, we had a bit of free time (siesta lasts from noon to 3:00pm) so we went swimming in a natural pool formed by the river and let little minnows nibble at our toes (no, they weren’t piranha. We asked). We then spent the last two hours before dinner with machetes in hand acting like human weed-whackers. Fully covered in dirt, it was back in the river before dinner, which we eat by candlelight because electricity isn’t exactly a thing (we charge our phones via solar panel and it’s so cool).

Working Hard in Tierra de Los Yaquas Aela Morris

My least favourite part of the day is at 9am, when we have to climb up a steep hill in order to get to work each day. Good training for Machina Picchu, I guess. Despite all the climbing, the view in the Sacred Valley is incredibly beautiful. From the house where we are staying, I can see Inca ruins, and we are surrounded by huge mountains that are so green and vibrant, they almost look fake; like a picture from Google Images.

There's definitely been a lot more work to do here than in Karina. Tierra de Los Yaquas is a community of about 15 different families, and we help a different one each day. We’ve done a lot of corn shucking and carrying things around. Friday, we carried large stacks of corn stalks on our backs to be used as feed for the animals. This was accompanied by a traditional call and response song as we walked. I don't think any of us really had the singing/yodelling chops, but we tried our best.

There has also been some down time to go to Pisac, the nearest town. There's a huge marketplace filled with stalls selling everything from souvenirs to jewellery to dye. We walked around, shopped, and bought a soccer ball for a game with the community the next night. It was quite an intense match up, one that we eventually lost.

We had two celebrations this week. Tuesday was Alex’s birthday. We celebrated with cake for breakfast (hi mom). Then, we walked to a hotel in Pisac, the closest town, for a swim in the pool.

Thursday was a national holiday, Corpus Cristi day. Our hosts invited us to take part in building a traditional oven out of dried mud. Then, you light a fire until the inside of the oven gets very hot. Finally, you put the fire out, put potatoes inside, and collapse the entire thing so the potatoes cook inside the hot mud-pile. And then of course, as we have done so often on this trip, we ate potatoes.

Day trips in Cusco and the final project begins Aela Morris

This week has been a bit of a mish-mash. On Monday and Tuesday, we went on tours around Cusco. One to an Inca archaeological site and some salt mines, and the other to Rainbow Mountain. Then, we packed up and took the bus for about an hour to arrive at the Tierra de Los Yaques project.

Our last stop of the day was a salt mine, which was very cool, and can only really be described with pictures.

Tuesday morning was a ridiculously early start (4 am) to leave on the bus to Rainbow Mountain. I was still a bit groggy when we started the hike around ten. Going up was… rough. It was about a 2 hour hike, and even though it was nowhere near as steep as Colca, the much higher altitude made it a tough hike. Sadly, the view is not that impressive from the first base you come to when you reach the end of the trail, you have to commit to walking up a bunch of stairs to the very top to actually see the rainbow effect.

I enjoyed both tours, though hopefully I'll have time to do some sight-seeing in the City itself on the next few weekends we are there.

We got quite a welcome when we arrived to our final project. A conch was blown and flower petals were thrown on us, before we were dressed in traditional Peruvian outfits and introduced to our hosts for the next 2 weeks.

We have only done about 2 days of work so far, but it has been interesting. We helped make the clay that they use for handicrafts, fed an entire shed full of guinea pigs (rip, probably) and prepared the land for planting in September.

Will we become expert farmers by the end of this? Probably not. Stay tuned.

Farming and Teaching in the Karina Community Aela Morris

This morning, breakfast was at 12:30. That's what happens when you leave teenagers to fend for themselves for food. Only joking! This morning, we decided to forego the cold hostel breakfast to make our own breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage, and bacon, which was a nice break from the more traditional Peruvian food that we have been eating during our time on the Karina project. We’ve now completed a week and a half of the project, and it's been a big learning experience. On the farm where we have been staying, they produce almost all of the food that they eat including potatoes and quinoa, which we have been helping to harvest, as it is currently Fall in Peru. Our other jobs on the farm have included taking the sheep up into the hills to graze and moving the livestock to their pens at night.

We also got the opportunity to do some teaching this week. I taught English to 12 and 13 year olds. The teaching has been a bit of a challenge as the school has no English curriculum or certified English teachers, but hopefully what we have been teaching them (basic conversation, parts of the body, and numbers) has been useful. I have also been able to practice my Spanish a lot, as well as learning some words in Aymara, which is an indigenous language spoken by many people there.

At night, we spend our time playing soccer and basketball with Will, our host family’s son. Soccer really is a universal language. You start kicking a ball around and suddenly a dozen people who speak all different languages are all doing the same thing together. And then we all run home because its stormed basically every night this week. Believe me, you have not heard thunder this loud in all your life. All in all, this week has been very physically challenging, but at the same time very rewarding. We have about 4 more days left in Karina and then it's on to Cusco.

Coporaque, Colca Canyon and snow-capped mountains Adam De Almeida

Hey everyone reading this week’s blog.

Okay where do I start ? We found out we are all pretty good at volley ball! Richard called himself the Ronaldo of volley ball which was very modest of him

After we left Coparaque we made our way to Cabanaconda which was about an hour and a half away, first thing I noticed was again the breathtaking view of the snow tipped mountains surrounding us. Not to mention a higher number of tourists which was quite a nice change. Having had an amazing dinner and got an early night, we then headed to the oasis at the bottom of the Colca canyon. The trip down was more difficult than I imagined it would be and was I very hot and bothered by the time we reached Sagalle at the bottom, but quickly remedied that with a jump in the pool. The hostel was like something out of a movie and was dreamlike, with friendly dogs roaming and palm tree’s blocking out the sweltering sun

The trek up the canyon was one of the biggest team building exercises I think we have done and we were all pretty chuffed by how quickly we did it in. Of course this was achieved by Richards amazing music choice and my speaker, which I remembered to charge up the night before. We even got a couple of thank you’s from the other hikers for the music!! Overall such an experience and can’t wait for the other amazing hikes and insane views I’m gonna experience. Will post again soon.

A

Coporaque, Chivay and Sangalle Patrick Walker

I hate Snickers bars. Offer me one in the UK and I will instantly refuse, regardless of exhaustion or hunger. Today, at the top of the toughest mountain trek of my life, the Snickers and banana my companion Marvin bought me was like mana from heaven. Let me start from the beginning of the week…

Back in Coporaque, we really enjoyed our last weekend break. We made our way to the nearest town, Chivay. Although we elected to take a ‘short cut’ through the fields, Peruvians who live this rurally don’t really ‘do’ proper paths, and we ended up on a pretty difficult hike through cacti and scrubs. At Chivay we splashed 30 soles on huge pizzas and mango lassies: the best meal we’ve had so far I reckoned.

We also enjoyed a small party with some beers my surrogate Dad bought. Once again, they’ve been very kind to us, and attempted to learn some limited English as well. We’ve certainly been able to make our Spanish more natural and fluent.

This next week, Alejandro told us, we can regard as a ‘holiday,’ a break in between the two challenging volunteer projects either side. We left relatively early on Tuesday morning for Cabana Conde: a more touristy town deeper in the canyon.

Our hostel in Cabana Conde is very touristy. This is a nice break, actually. It’s refreshing to hear English voices again. After a monster pizza dinner and breakfast we set off down the canyon on foot to Sangalle.

Sangalle (‘Oasis’ in Spanish,) is a collection of five hostels deep in the canyon surrounded by insane plant growth and fuelled by the river further below. It felt rather like a traditional resort: pools, terraces, everything. It was a rather lovely and unique place, with one’s happiness tempered only by the knowledge that at some point, you have to hike back up.

After a restful full day, we met three lovely American guys called Moshe, Ari, and Elly. I decided to go trek up with them the following morning. The boys are both fitter and more competitive than me, so I figured this might be easier. We rose at 4.30am, and headed up the mountain, with the head-torches of other groups trailing us like lumbering glow worms. The view of the sunrise over the canyon was, needless to say, spectacular.

Hot springs, pitch repairs and Holy week preparations Patrick Walker

We have spent the last week in the rural community of Coporaque. Located deep in the Colca Canyon, it is a far cry from Arequipa. The trip to Coporaque was a four-hour bus ride across stunning landscapes, where scrubby plains give way to steep mountain roads. Once we arrived, we played football with some kids in what I’m convinced is the pitch with the most beautiful views in the world. We took it more seriously once the adults arrived, and England managed to thrash Peru 5-3. We’re each living with local families: Alejandro and I with one, Robbie and Ben with another, and Katie and Izzie with the third.

For me, this is really important. Breakfasts force us to practice Spanish, and the families help coordinate our volunteering efforts in a town that isn’t all that organised. It seems to maintain its own timezone, which I have dubbed ‘Coporaque Mean Time’ (CMT.) One where events happen a little later than they should, or on different days altogether. It’s an important lesson for foreigners who are used to rather structured lives.

Our main volunteer project so far has been clearing the primary school’s football pitch of debris, and filling in holes. It was very gratifying to come back the next day and see they were already using it, with brick goalposts!

We have also helped with Holy Week preparations. We’ve carried saints from the Church, shelled green beans for a feast, set up a cross on which to crucify a wooden Jesus, and had our feet washed by a catholic priest in gratitude.

To relax, we’ve done a walk that offered spectacular views over Coporaque (with lunch costing less than a pound each,) and visited the hot springs about three times. They’re undoubtedly a highlight. Showers aren’t great here, and it’s a good opportunity to wash clothes.

We definitely feel part of the community here. Tourists came to watch and took photos of us as we helped set up a ceremony. Our families have been very welcoming, and we’re looking forward to another week’s volunteering.

Watch our videos

Peru

April 2018. Credit Yasmine Sadek

Peru

April 2017. Credit to Patrick Walker

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