We had a lot of fun over the Christmas period. On the 24th and 25th we enjoyed celebrating with Peruvian, American, and British traditions. Then on the 27th we headed off on holiday to Cusco, to visit some famous landmarks and see in the New Year. Then on the 3rd of January we reached our halfway point (not that we’re counting down or anything). Some exciting stuff to get into, so I’ll just get on with it.
23rd Dec – Off to Nauta
On Christmas eve, eve, with our Christmas gear packed and our Netflix full of downloads, we headed off to Nauta as this is where we would be spending Christmas Day. The journey is never really a fun one, as being crammed into a bus in 30oC heat for two hours is rarely comfortable. Anyway, we arrived to a very well decorated house (yes, we decorated it a few weeks before), and a warm welcome from Chris and Laura.
24th Dec – Time to boat, Time to bake off
The plan for Christmas eve daytime was to bake and watch
films at Amy and Joel’s house (Amy, Joel and Carmen are a missionary family from the States, who work with the communities up and down the river, under the charity ‘Jungle Masters’). However, in true Peruvian style, this is not what happened. Early in the morning Laura received a phone call, it turned out two of the couples from a town upriver were unable to get home due to a lack of ferries. Jungle Masters have a boat, but Joel could not make the journey back alone as it would not be safe. So, Jacob was swiftly volunteered for the job and was then asked if he’d like to go (yes, in that order). Though, Laura clearly knows Jacob well as he was more than willing to go. Erin, Paddington, and Sophie stayed behind to bake with Amy and Carmen.
The baking was obviously a roaring success. With Cookies, brownies and a Lemon Meringue Pie made for Christmas day, the classic Christmas film ‘Love Actually’ was put on for some well-deserved entertainment.
The evenings entertainment was vastly more Peruvian. We went to the local Pastors house and ate a Peruvian Christmas meal. Usually it would be served at midnight (or around that time), so that people would be eating their way into Christmas Day. In Peru they celebrate the 24th more than the 25th. The food was a typical Peruvian ‘Christmas Lunch’, it consisted of chicken, rice with bits of noodle and raisins mixed together and a salsa side. We did add lime cake for dessert, but cake would not be out of place in a Christmas meal.
We also learnt some salsa dance moves and watched fireworks when we finally got to midnight (obviously from a safe distance). All in all, we had a lot of fun, but Christmas day was still going to be the big event for us.
25th Dec – Christmas Day (The Big Event)
Unfortunately, we all forgot to notify Santa of our address change, so our stocking presents were delivered to the UK by accident (which we will obviously be opening when we get back in April, right Mum?). So, with few presents to unwrap we got on with getting ready for Christmas lunch. Though Paddington spent most of the time on the sewing machine, making a shirt so he could show off his new skills to Emily in Team Mozambique.
Just as we were getting ready to move the food over to the training centre (where we were planning on eating, as it had more space), the Mahons, Amy, Joel and Carmen arrived, followed shortly after by the Pastor and his wife. With the three of us, Laura, and Chris, we’d now reached our total of 15 people.
We sat down to eat the feast, there was so much food we didn’t know where to start. There was Turkey, Gammon, rice, beans, stuffing, lemon meringue pie, cake, mash, gravy, cheese, bread, runner beans and sweet potato topped with marshmallows (but not necessarily in that order).
After food, came the inevitable washing up. Being the perfect Action Teamers we are, we took on the role without hesitation. Though, it did end up just becoming a water fight between Jacob and the Mahon children, which Jacob quite heroically won. But in above 30oC heat, it was to be expected.
The Afternoon entertainment (apart from Jacob’s amazing jokes), was archery. Obviously, this was another skill the Paddington excelled at, but everyone who was able to gave it a go. As it got later and people started to leave, we cracked out a board game and then when everyone had gone, we sat down to watch a film as a group. The day was certainly weird in comparison to previous years, the sunburn alone was a first, but it will definitely be a day not easily forgotten.
26th Dec – Presents and Packing
We headed back to Iquitos quite early on Boxing Day as we had lots to prepare for our holiday which would begin on the 27th. However, by the time we got back we were also coming to the end of the saga of Sophie’s parcel. It had been a long, difficult, and frustrating time and a story that I do not have the space to tell here. Anyway, it made it vitally important that we go to the DHL office in Iquitos and collect the parcel that two days before was not allowed to be collected but had to be delivered. The parcel was from Sophie’s family and contained many goodies which we all enjoyed, thank you to the Wests for our treats. We had also bought gifts for each other, this was limited by the lack of “real shops” in Iquitos. But we did manage to find some little treats for each other (even if Erin and Jacob bought the same thing for Sophie).
We also got packing, ready to set off to Cusco for a week break from our projects and to visit a totally new place.
27th Dec – Planes and McDonalds
It took two flights to get to Cusco, firstly we had to fly from Iquitos to Lima. Lima is our favourite airport as it has a McDonalds, KFC, Papa Johns and Starbucks. These aren’t the best places in the world but they do not exist in Iquitos, so it was quite nice to eat something bad as a way to relax. The next flight was from Lima to Cusco, making it our 6th flight together, with 5 more still to go. We landed safely and got to our Airbnb just in time to go to sleep.
28th-29th Dec – Checking out Cusco City
Once we’d arrived, we gave ourselves a couple of days to explore. We visited museums, markets, shops, KFC (shhh), restaurants and even went on an open top bus tour. We bought lots of gifts and trinkets for people at home and a few for ourselves. Cusco is a lot more touristy, so it was a lot easier to find stuff for people, than in Iquitos. The bus tour also took us to the top of the mountain overlooking Cusco where a white statue of Jesus (Christo blanco) stands with his arms spread out as if to embrace the city, it was a beautiful view and a great monument.
30th Dec – Machu Picchu
Yes, on the 30th December 2019, we visited our first ‘World Wonder’ and it was indeed wonderful. (Side note; on the same day, the India teams visited another World Wonder, the Taj Mahal) It was a very long day, starting at 3am when the bus picked us up and finishing at 11pm when the bus dropped us back. This was due to the journey to Machu Picchu which involved a bus, then a train, and finally a coach, then obviously the reverse on the way back.
In the valley below the famous landmark is a small town. Mostly filled with restaurants and hostels, it is an unusual but nice place. We spent only a few hours there, but that time was filled with lovely food and a fair amount of souvenir shopping. It was the stop off point before and after the last leg of the journey. The coach took us up the steep valley side on a winding road (it wasn’t nearly as treacherous as it sounds). As we approached the top of the mountain, we caught glimpses of the Incan city, through the trees.
After the introductory part of our tour, we got the chance to see Machu Picchu from its classic photo point. Almost all the photos you will have ever seen were taken from those same places, as they perfectly capture the city in all its glory. What the pictures don’t usually show, is the valley and mountain range surrounding it. The way the city is perched in amongst God’s magnificent creation, was picturesque and truly breath-taking. I can say without a doubt that it is the most wonderful place I’ve even been (it certainly deserves the title, ‘World Wonder’).
31st Dec – New Year’s Eve
We spent most of this day receiving messages from people who had already entered the New Year. Starting with a friend in New Zealand, the messages come in from all over the globe. Despite a mild feeling of envy, we did have a great day. We began (fairly late in the day), by going to a crepe restaurant that had been highly recommended by last year’s team, La B’om. It was by far the trendiest place we’ve been in Peru. Sophie was a big fan of the toilets (and that’s not a euphemism for being ill, she really did love the toilets), whilst Erin and Paddington played chess on a board painted on the glass table topper. And obviously the crepes were amazing.
After some Netflix catch up and some more shopping, it was our turn to greet the New Year. We dressed up in some silly yellow glasses and the accompanying paraphernalia and headed out to the main square. It was raining very heavily but that didn’t seem to put people off coming out. Everyone was standing under the shelter of the shops and restaurants surrounding the plaza, in an attempt to keep dry. But then, as we approached midnight, people started to move into the centre of the square. We headed in quickly to get the best spot (under a tree). Soon after we were joined by crowds of people pouring in. Then, as if they were unaware of the rain pouring down, the crowd started to count down. People were screaming and shouting, three… two… one…
1st Jan – New Year’s Day and Rainbow Mountain
…The square exploded in noise, champagne, and fireworks. Then people (still shouting and setting off fireworks), started to march round the square. As we had to be up early, we took this as a good opportunity to leave. So, we did half a lap before darting off down the road to our Airbnb.
Up and out again at 4am, some people were just starting to head back home, yet we were on our way to Rainbow Mountain. The journey was a lot shorter this time, but we were all so tired we slept most of the way. After a traditional Peruvian breakfast, we headed up the last part of the mountain before we had to get out and walk. When we reached the end of the road and got out, we were handed a broom handle each, which turned out to be our walking stick. the walk was tough, we noticed the altitude difference immediately as we began to feel short of breath. Though, it only got worse the closer to the top we got. But as we reached the final slope a spark of energy pushed us up the last bit. Though the view wasn’t great due to the cloud cover and snow, it was still an amazing site. I’d say it was ‘breath taking’ but even I wouldn’t stoop so low as to make a pun like that. Sophie and Erin decided that they’d gone high enough, but Jacob and Paddington continued up an extra bit. However, the ten minutes they spent up there were more than enough. So racing back down to get some air, they came. Obviously, many photos were taken but we had to wait for a brief gap in the clouds to do so.
The way back down was so much easier, every step meant we could breath a little easier. The clouds had also shifted somewhat, allowing us to see the stunning views of glaciers, rivers and mountains that we’d missed on the way up. Then came the bus ride back for lunch and then back to the city of Cusco. The day didn’t end as late as the Machu Picchu day, so we still had time to order some pizza in from Papa John’s and watch a film.
2nd Jan – Happy Birthday
As some of you may know, it was my (Jacob) birthday on the 2nd and therefore the day had to be spent well, apparently. After waking up to lots of lovely messages from home and opening cards and a present, I was handed Sophie’s iPad and asked to watch a video. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as much of a surprise to me as Sophie had thought, but video messages from lots of the people I know, and love was amazing. (Almost) everyone told a joke and I was surprised to see so many people had joined in. I do want to thank everyone who took part in the video as I very much appreciated it. The present I received from my grandparents was what can only be described as ‘a firework you put on a cake’, so goodness knows how I managed to get it through airport security 7 times. Anyway, we had a cake to put it on, so all was well.
The plan was originally to go and see Star Wars episode 9 in the cinema but, all the showings in English had stopped so it was only available in Spanish, and rather than ruin the film for myself I decided to see Jumanji (in Spanish) instead. Surprisingly, we understood most of the plot and even a lot of the jokes, so we enjoyed it anyway.
I enjoyed my birthday very much, I had excellent food and wonderful company, but I obviously still missed home.
3rd Jan – “holy Cow Were Halfway Through”
We spent most of our ‘middle day’ travelling back to Iquitos. After getting up early (again), our flight was delayed. Then when we queued up to board we were told we’d been moved onto a direct flight to Lima (rather than doing our planned route, to Arequipa then to Lima), this was good news but meant we had to wait a little longer. Then, that flight was delayed. We had turned up to the airport far too early in the morning and ended up sitting in the airport for hours, thus making the early morning pointless. Anyway, rant over.
We had our McDonalds visit in Lima (and Jacob went back for a happy meal so he could get the Star Wars toy) and jumped on a flight back to Iquitos. As we stepped off the plane we were hit by the heat and humidity, “Aww, feels like home”, maybe a sarcastic remark but not far from the truth. We had reached the point where Peru felt like a home away from home and we were pleased to be back. But we only had a few days in Iquitos before we moved to Nauta for what will end up being almost two and a half months.
January – Nauta
We have done quite a lot in Nauta already and we’ve not even got to the end of January yet. We had the return of ‘Club de Niňos’, we’ve painted, started some hard landscaping, planned English lessons and lost some arrows in the woods, I mean done archery. We feel we’re getting more done here and feel like we’ve settled in already. Though, we do sometimes miss the luxuries of Iquitos like, basic internet and restaurants that don’t only serve chicken and rice or chicken and chips. Haha, they’re luxuries now. We’ve also enjoyed spending time with some of the other missionaries here, particularly the McGee family (who we spent Christmas with). Film nights, board game events and even helping Carmen with her homework, have been some of the fun things we’ve got up to.
Well we’re thankful for a lovely Christmas and Holiday, and very much grateful to God that we’ve settled in Nauta and feel a sense of achievement at the end of each day. We thank God for the awesome people we’ve met, Peruvian and American, and that they are so kind and caring.
We want to pray for the upcoming projects, like teaching English to children and continuing the lessons for adults that start back soon. We want to pray for health, quite a lot has happened, a recent heatwave didn’t help the sunburns and heatstroke, but also Sophie had to spend a weekend in bed to recover from something that made her quite ill.
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