Feliz Compleaños

My birthday was incredible!

Firstly I went on the trek up into the mountains with the second group of students, who were fitter and did not moan every few steps.  The day was beautifully clear so we had magnificent views of the mountain range, all the way.  We arrived much earlier and being far more acclimatized, once the students were settled in the camp, I ventured further with Baldir, one of the guides.  Baldir was keen to investigate an interesting rock face he had spotted so we headed off at a cracking speed.  Sadly we had to make the responsible decision to turn back before we reached the glacier, as we did not want to risk it being too dark on our return. However the walk we did was spectacular, even if we did not reach the glacier.

In the morning the guides sang happy birthday to me and we headed back down the valley. Unfortunately a small group of girls were exceptionally slow and I got lumbered with being at the rear of the group.  When we finally stumbled into Copa Grande, a surprise awaited me!!

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Yungay: site of the biggest avalanche in history

Yungay is located in the  Callejón de Huaylas on Río Santa at an elevation of 2,500 m. East of the small town are the mountain ridges of snow-covered Cordillera Blanca, with Huascarán, Peru’s highest mountain, no more than 15 km east of Yungay.

On May 31, 1970 a debris avalanche caused by the 1970 Ancash earthquake buried the whole town of Yungay, killing 25,000 people. The earthquake triggered an unstable mass of glacial ice about 800 meters across at the top of Nevado Huascarán to fall. More than 50 million cubic meters of debris slid approximately 15 kilometers downhill at an angle of about 14 degrees. Speeds between 200 km/h to 400 km/h were achieved. Only 92 people survived!  The few adults who survived where at the cemetery and the children who survived were at a circus in the stadium just outside of the town, up on a hill.

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Hauraz: Outdoor education adventure

On Saturday morning August 11th I met a large group of grade 8 Markham students at 4:45 am!  Not my favourite time of the day! We travelled together to the beautiful mountainous region of Huaraz for an outdoor education adventure (or should I say adventureS).  We arrived at a hotel nestled in a valley between the glaciers covered mountains of the Cordillera Blanca and the mountains of Cordillera Negre (the White and Black mountain ranges). The trip there took 8 hours through some striking and diverse scenery.  Ranging from lush green sugar cane fields to dry, barren hills, multi-coloured squares of drying chillis, vast open plains with white capped mountains towering in the distance.

The outdoor education trip was a 5 day event and I stayed for two of these (with an overlap of one day). That meant I had the great fortune of doing each activity twice, with two different groups of students.  The activities included the following:

  • Service work (trip 1: river clean up, trip 2 painting a school & tree planting)
  • Abseiling in a canyon, including a descent through a waterfall
  • A long trek to about 3800m and an overnight camp
  • Rock climbing
  • White water rafting down the beautiful River Santa
  • Mountain biking

Everywhere the scenery was stunning.  Many of the “white” mountains are over 6000m and most days we had a clear view of Huascaran, Peru’s highest peak at 6750m.

Below are pictures of the drive ….. plus our stop to buy fruit, followed by the activities with group 1.

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RSIS: return to Quishuarani

On our second trip up to Quishuarani to complete the greenhouse, snow had fallen.  The landscape looked quite different …. (and the roads were slippery —- eeeeeek!!)

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RSIS: Final stage of greenhouse

After a wonderful 3 day break which included a visit to Machu Picchu, we returned to Quishuarani for the second stage of the project.  We completed the greenhouse and had the blessing ceremony.  Then we split into teams to guild smaller greenhouses for individual families. This was also hard work and we were spread throughout the valley.

The blessing of the greenhouse:

Working on the “cold frames” – mini greenhouses for families:

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RSIS: Greenhouse building stage 1

The whole aim of the Round Square International Service Project in Peru 2012 was to construct a greenhouse for the Quishuarani community in order to improve their monotonous, carbohydrate rich diet, by providing a way of growing vegetables in the harsh high altitude climate.  The local people of Quishuarani are known as the “Huayruros” in reference to their bright orange & red ponchos. The project aim included working together with the local people in the construction of the large greenhouse in the school grounds and then later assisting in building smaller “cold frames” for individual families.  All the materials were purchased by Round Square.

It was hard work, especially the first day when all the rocks needed to be carted down the hill to the site. Walking  back up the hill was a battle due to the altitude. However it was pretty cold so the work kept us warm and whenever we stopped for a break, we soon were reminded of the air temperature!

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RSIS: Arriving in Quishuarani

July 22-27th:  First part of the Quishuarani Project…..

How do you cure a phobia of riding in a bus on windy mountain roads?

Well – you just simply do it over and over and get higher and higher on ever narrowing and steeper gravelly roads. Those of you who know me well will appreciate that this was a pretty tough aspect of the trip.  I had not actually anticipated it and was it took me unawares.  However the scenery was so incredibly breathtaking that after some intial annoying mini panic attacks, I soon settled into the experience and did my best to ignore the adrenaline cursing through my veins…..

Quishuarani is in the Lares area and is nestled in a valley at about 4200 metres above sea level. It is a place where time has stood still. The people speak Quechua and only the men speak some Spanish. Houses are made out of adobe (mud bricks), rocks and wood. People have sheep, llamas and alpacas and grow potatoes and corn. The weather was sunny and clear, but cold. At night the temperature dropped down between -5 to -10 degrees.

Please enjoy this slide show of our drive up the mountain to Quishuarani and our arrival and walk to the greenhouse built by Markham College in 2008.  Mr Rafael Solomon, the project leader, was delighted to see the greenhouse still in good use. We were greeted by the ladies of the village selling their handicrafts.  Children always came out to see us, some to stare, some to smile and some in hope of a game of football. Their beautiful faces belied their varying degrees of malnutrition and bellies full of parasites, as pointed out to us by Dr David, our accompanying physician from Cusco.

Please watch in full screen.  Music: Tu Fotografía by Gian Marco……..

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