10 July 2010

volunteer project preview: karikuy in lima, peru

This do gooder, globetrotting gal is back from her first volunteer project with Building a Future in Honduras for The Global Citizen Project and is gearing up to go round two this month in Peru. I’ll be doing what I do best – helping to promote responsible tourism and social development in a country I’ve fallen fast and hard for over the past few years. The organization I’m working with, Karikuy, was created with the vision of bringing people from all walks of life together to experience Peru like few have. Although my volunteer stint with Karikuy starts in two short weeks, I wanted to catch up with its founder, Julio C. Tello be fore I touched down in Lima to get some pre-project and volunteering insights.

Can you briefly tell me how Karikuy gives back to the people and communities of Peru?

Karikuy currently has two humanitarian programs. The first is called Animu and it's a fund that helps buy warm clothes for children affected by the extreme cold of the Andes. We take donations and once an amount is raised we buy hats and shoes near the selected community where we hand out the goods to families. Our second program is the Karikuy-Haugen Fund . This program aims to send Inca Trail porters to Machu Picchu. The porters themselves go above and beyond to help travelers experience the Inca Trail and amazingly never get to actually enter and visit the citadel of Machu Picchu. We raise money to have the porters who have worked the longest to have the opportunity to explore the site, as well as their transport, admission and meals all paid for.

Two trips to Peru and your country captivated me with its people, culture and cuisine. I’m thrilled to volunteer contributing to Perupedia, which aims to become the Internets largest database on Peruvian Culture. How did this project come to fruition?

We've always been a big fan of Wikipedia, however we felt that information on Peruvian culture in English was lacking and so we began work on creating a new database strictly for Peru. Perupedia began in May 2009 and has slowly been growing thanks to the hard work of our volunteers who spend their days uploading and researching information for the site. Our goal is that in the coming years it becomes the most in depth and thorough resource for travelers and researchers alike.

Are you still seeking volunteers for the 2010 season?

Yes we have a few open spots that are available. The program is running until November and could possibly be extended this year into the summer months. Volunteers can join us anywhere from two weeks to three months or longer with good recommendations.

What qualities do you look for in a volunteer?

The best quality that I always look for is curiosity, without that it can be very hard for a volunteer to really enjoy researching Peru for Perupedia. An openess to learn and explore is very important to the program, what catches my eye when I read applications is a person who truly wants to experience Peru and not simply take it as a vacation but a learning experience.

What types of volunteers are most successful and gain the most from their Karikuy experience?

Again it would have to be those that are very curious about their surroundings. Volunteers who like to travel to all places even those not frequented by tourism as well as the adventurous eaters are the ones that get the most from their experience in Peru, in short people who are open to anything.

Do you have any advice for first time volunteers?

The best advice I could give would be to ask a lot of questions, instead of relying on a guide book to ask the locals where the best places to eat and visit are. Also listen to your guides and advice of the locals as they know what is best for you. Patience is very important as well in Peru as timetables are lax and the atmosphere is laid back.

Do you have any advice for first time visitors to Peru?

Yes! Explore more of Lima, the city is overlooked but offers tons to do. To see all the sites in Lima would require a stay of about a week - that is how much there is to see and do. By far, Lima's gastronomy is its best attraction. As far as safety goes just try to blend in with the locals and do not be paranoid, not everyone is out to steal your camera, etc. Finding a good guide is key to making any visit to Peru an incredible one.

Let’s say I’m a traveler and I only have one week to explore Peru. What do you recommend that I see and do?

One week is very little time to see the best of Peru, so if at all possible try extending your trip. Otherwise I would recommend one day in Lima to check out the gastronomy and landmarks. This would then be followed by a trip to Puno (flight) and a two day cultural tour of Lake Titicaca with a family stay at Amantani. To reach Cusco and save money, I recommend a tour bus from First Class which stops at several ruins on the way to Cusco and breaks up the long trip (with lunch included).

In Cusco, depending on your schedule I would recommend a City Tour followed by the two day tour of Machu Picchu, this would be Karikuy's staple Sunrise Tour of Machu Picchu. With this option you have the chance to spend a night in Aguas Calientes and be one of the first up to the ruins the following day. You have a whole day at the ruins and get to see an incredible sunrise over the ruins. You return to Cusco by train in the evening and have one night in Cusco before departing the following morning to Lima (flight)

Obviously, Machu Picchu is the gem of Peru’s tourism industry (and yes, it’s absolutely incredible), but are there any other overlooked/underappreciated sites or destinations in Peru that you recommend?/

I have heard from many that the trip to Choquequirao is just as incredible, and even more beautiful then Machu Picchu. My personal favorite sites include Caral, three hours north of Lima and Marcahuasi which is east of Lima. Huaraz as well is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been, be sure to check out Lake Llaganuco and visit the Pastoruri glacier. Many think that Pastoruri is still closed off to tourism due to false reports, but it is very much open. If you have the chance to book a tour there make sure you are taken to the glacier to the right of Pastoruri following the trail, as it is larger, has it's own lake and is breathtaking.

Since Peruvian cuisine is beyond swoon-worthy, some dining recommendations are in order. What are some of your favorite fancy meals in Peru? Cheap eats?

Make sure to visit Astrid and Gastón in Miraflores for a chance to explore Peruvian fusion at its best. Asian Cuisine also known as Chifa must be had, unfortunately many of the best places to eat and my personal favorites aren't in the best part of town. Luckily, I personally take all my clients to these hidden gems when they book tours with the company. My new recent favorite is Oceanika in San Borja and the all you can eat Sushi for 35 soles (about $12USD)

The beat on the blogosphere is that your Aunt Juliana is a fantastic cook. What are some typical Peruvian dishes that she likes to make? (If she has a recipe that she’d like to share, I can include that, too.)

My Aunt has been cooking for over 60 years and she is very good at it yes, as for recipes I will have to ask her as she cooks everything from memory. I love her soups the best, although the volunteers have fallen in love with her lentils and Papa a la Huancaina.

You can’t visit Peru without savoring its national drink, the Pisco sour. Is there a local brand you like (I’m thinking souvenirs) and where is it best to imbibe? Your fave local beer?

My favorite brand of Pisco is Ocucaje which is also used at El Catedral del Pisco located in Plaza San Martin. This bar is said to have the best Pisco Sours in Lima and perhaps all of Peru and I would agree, just make sure you get there early on weekends as it is often filled to capacity. My favorite beer would have to be Cristal as it seems to be the norm in Lima. I wouldn't say it's anything extraordinary, it's just what we Limeñans like to drink and it is super affordable.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, I would recommend anyone considering volunteering with us to contact as soon as possible as we are already filling up for 2011. We also do have some spots this year so contact us for availability. However, I do see the program filling up completely next year perhaps even before the end of this year. Send us an application - we look forward to hearing from you!

1 comment:

jrazar said...

This trip will be very different from the last one. I like the variety. Fascinating to me how you chose each country and the volunteer project chosen also. My excitement meter is going up, up, up