Kayleigh's South American adventure continues
The family who organised Kayleigh's volunteer work
LAST week the Star began a three part series with Kayleigh McSweeney sharing the story of her travels in South America. This week she continues her travels...
My next part of the adventure was Peru. I spent my first two weeks in the country volunteering with an organisation called Carisma Peru. I paid $100 per week for food and accommodation and worked with children, teaching them English and playing with them in the afternoon when their parents had no time for them, also with children who worked on the streets. There were other volunteers who worked in the medical field, in clinics etc.
The children were so warm and welcoming; smothering me in hugs and kisses from the moment I arrived until the moment I left. It was such a heart warming experience and really opened my eyes. It made me realise how happy these children were, despite having very little. They were very content playing a game of Uno or with a wooden top, instead of crying until they got a PSP or an Xbox. I was extremely lucky to have had this experience and it's something I will remember forever.
During my middle weekend at the volunteer house, we all went to the Jungle in a place called La Merced. We did a full day trek up the river and through waterfalls, also visiting an animal sanctuary for animals in rehabilitation, where a monkey held my hand and I had a baby anaconda draped around my neck.
I continued on to Lima where I spent a few days with a Peruvian friend who I study with in Edinburgh, then moved on to Cusco, the beginning of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I had to spend a few days there to acclimatise due to the city being so high up. It's such a beautiful place to visit, a very cultural, traditional city with a fantastic atmosphere. It was from there that I set off on my Inca Trail, one of the best known trails in the world.
Kayleigh volunteering in the Peruvian Andes
I was lucky to get a place as you have to book months in advance, due to a limited number of permits being allocated each day to the trail. It was four days of mental and physical endurance which left me with a profound sense of achievement. We were put into a group of six, as well as our guides and porters. It wasn't long before we all bonded and shared many laughs to keep each other motivated whilst struggling to ascend to the 4,200m peak on day 2.
Out of the four days, that was certainly the most difficult, beginning at 4.30am and waking for 11-5 hours. It was incredible sleeping in tents under the stars in the middle of the Andes, and being woken up each morning with a cup of Coca tea to help with altitude sickness.
On day 3 and 4, I managed to get chased by llamas on Inca ruins and on Machu Picchu itself Day 4 was the day we reached the famous sight.
We awoke at 3.30am in the Cloud Forest and began hiking in the dark. The weather had been perfect for the 1st 3 days; however there was a tropical storm overhead during our climb this day.
We reached the 'Gringo Killer', a set of 50 insanely steep steps at the break of dawn, before arriving at the Sun Gate, where the famous pictures are taken. Unfortunately, due to the bad weather, all we saw was cloud until we walked closer to the ruins.
We all joked that we should make a sacrifice to Pachamama (Mother Earth) in order to make the sun come out.
After taking a few days to recover from the trek, I continued on to the famous Lake Titicaca. I crossed the border to Bolivia and saw it from Copacabana. It's fair to say I was stunned by the sheer size of it, at some parts it would have been possible to believe that it was the ocean as there was no land as far as the eye could see. I did a hike over the Island of the Sun from north to south taking in the natural beauty of the area and the colour contrast between the lake, the sky and the mountains.
That evening, I treated myself to some of the famous trout from the lake and had a well deserved rest before catching a bus to La Paz the following day.
In this hustling and bustling city, I met up with a friend I had made in Bogota, and together we explored the famous Witches Market, purchasing far too many souvenirs thanks to the insanely low prices in Bolivia. They had dead llama foetus for sale as it is believed that burying them under your house brings good luck. Needless to say, I decided not to bring one home for my family.
My stay in La Paz was short, but I managed to squeeze in 'Death Road'. 1 mountain biked down what is said to be the most dangerous road in the world, starting at almost 5000m above sea level and descending to around 1200m in roughly 5 hours. I could feel the adrenaline and the muscles in my hands tense as I gripped on to the handle bars while riding over the uneven surface, hoping not to get too close to the edge and the sheer drop. Luckily, we didn't lose anybody in our group and all lived to tell the tale.
It was impressive starting off wrapped up due to the cold and the snow peaked mountains, and ending in the humidity of the jungle.
Next week Kayleigh's travels take her to Argentina.