I continued my trip by bus to Huaraz with Jerome, a man from france who has been helping me a lot with translations. As soon as we got to the town, we forwarded on to Yungai, and then up to Quebrada Llanganuco by taxi with another two travelers. We went up through the mountains into… well… the mountains, whilst following the Llanganuco river. We then hiked up the Yanapaqcha trail and along-side Pisco Mountain.
We woke up the first morning to the sound of cows licking the side of the tent, to the view of snow capped giant mountains, and to the sound of the flowing river beside us.
I could hear a glacier about to crumble above me… the cracking was loud and echoed across the valley. A sapphire and aqua coloured lagoon reflected the mountain glacier, and was surrounded by barren surroundings of millions of grey, loose, sharp pebbles and rocks. I touched the glassy water, and again listened to the sound of the tempted avalanche nearly 5,000 meters high into the clouds. One time Jerome and I freaked out and ran as fast as we could away from a mini-avalanche. Being in nature again was definitely an inspiration for everything I am trying to do in my life.
The scariest, but funniest part of the hike was climbing across large white and gray boulders, which were sometimes only loosely held into the mountains by powdery dirt. Many times we slipped and had to grasp onto the few plants and other loose rocks, so that we wouldn’t tumble down to our deaths. We made it in three hours to the refuge (which is supposed to only take 1 1/2 hrs hahaha), and Jerome gave the cook some French lessons in exchange for food.
This was by far the best hike I have ever done in my life! It was so incredibly beautiful! I loved how the light snow floated with the movement of the wind, and created an almost movie feel against the mountain backdrop… so incredible.
Around every corner during the hike, the surrounding environment would constantly change… each time just as fascinatingly beautiful. Rocky red, brown, yellow and white peaks, with multi-coloured fungi pushing through the cracks. Being there made me feel even more strongly, that I would much prefer the cities of the world to have been left just as they were found… without concrete walls and without a sad longing for a breath of nature. You would be hard pressed to find a depressed soul in these wonderful surroundings.
We arrived at Pisco Peru Refuge , which is a hostel and restaurant where many people can volunteer… in fact, they are always looking for more volunteers. The refuge is run through an Italian organisation called “Operacion Motto Grosso”. They first began projects such as this one in Brazil in the 60s, in the region many poor of Mato Grosso, and are now spread throughout Ecuador (16 missions) Peru (55 missions), Bolivia (9 missions) and Brasil (11 missions)
The refuge gets its money from Italy, where young people work weekends and their spare time (including their vacations), to help on projects of the refuge. The money made in the refuge from tourists goes towards building poor people´s houses. I was told there are many projects like this running throughout the mountains!
Since 1999 the twenty-five thousand young “Oratorianos” of the Andes have built 1,300 houses and 211 roofs for the poorest families of the Huaylas, Conchucos valley and then Huanuco, Cajamarca and Cusco states This has been possible thanks to the income produced from the mountain lodges. Besides that, the mountain lodge produce local work for the portes (mule leaders and mule) who transport food, wood, and materials with more than 800 trips per year to the three mountain lodge.
I met Marilena, an Italian volunteer here that helps out with things like cooking and cleaning. She also visits poor families in her spare time and washes their clothes and brings for them food. She informed me that it is free to volunteer at the refuge, and you are required to stay a minimum of 6 months.
Marilena says that the best part of volunteering at the refuge is that she is helping poor people. The hardest part for her is being available for all those who are in need. She also gave me the contact for Girncarlo Sardini, director of Escuela de Guias Don Bosco.
I ended up a few days later making my way to Marcara-Carhuaz, where I met with Giancarlo Sardini and his wife, at Escuela de Guias “Don Bosco en los Andes”. Giancarlo used to be a computer programmer, and his wife Marina, a nurse. In 1990, Giancarlo left his job of 5-6 years, and opened up a social co-operative with friends to help get young people, mainly around the age of 25, out of drug problems. The drug users would first go to rehabilitation, and Giancarlo and his friends would help re-connect them with practical work. In 1997, all of Giancalo’s family began volunteering. Giancarlo and Marina both now manage everything at Escuela de Guias Don Bosco and Anden’s Lodge.
Escuela de Guias Don Bosco helps impoverished teenagers from 18 years of age, from the high of Ancash state, to become international mountain guides. There are about twenty poor students, (with no clue about tourism) from the countryside that are constantly in training to become guides. The trainees all live in the same place, and food, accommodation, administrative procedures, equipment, shoes and clothes are all provided during the training. They get some free time off to do what they choose including visiting their family.
Volunteers come from Italy to help in the training process, and after three years trainers decide who has the best ability for specific jobs such as a chef or a walking guide. Only about 6 out of 20 people make it to the starting point of training. The first year is mainly just theoretical training and carrying equipment for tourists, the second is becoming a middle mountain guide, and the third is becoming a high mountain guide. Total training lasts No one can work with tourism until they get their minimum qualification.
Inside their living quarters is a huge kitchen, and even a museum, which is filled with things to help them remember their experiences. There is even a helicopter, which they brought back in separate pieces, down from the mountains.
Their schedule involves waking up at 6am, meditation, preparing and eating food, playing football, and having theory or practical classes. Every year, the qualified guides give some money that they earn to a project running within the organisation. This year they are putting their money into helping to build a house for poor people.
There is also another new project running, which is called Don Bosco 6000. This is a Travel Agency of trekking and climbing in the Cordillera Blanca. Don Bosco 6000 work in others countries like Ecuador (Chimborazo- Cotopaxi), Argentina (Aconcagua), Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego with trekking and climbing.
Giancarlo and Marina are currently working on opening to help with the costs of the organisation. They receive money from Italy’s Operacion Motto Grosso young group, but have to find more themselves, as it is just not enough.
The first project running was in Brazil in a place called Motto Grosso. An Italian father Padre Ugo de Censi in a church helped manage this project with other volunteers, and without money from the church. He even to this day accepts atheists with no obligation to accept god, and speaks to people about concrete things to help bring action.
In 1992 one of the Voluntaries was murdered by terrorists. He was shot in the head twice, and had a sign left on his body saying “the charity makes the conscience sleep”. The terrorist was obviously mad, and didn’t want this volunteer helping people.
There aren’t writes rules for the volunteers of the OMG, forty years ago there is not same rules until now write, but normally this organization live with, just the legalities put forward by the government.
The volunteers work using their morals and ethics, and base their lives on their actions, not their words. Their motto is “Give life to others”.
If you would like to volunteer at Refugio Peru Pisco or send a donation to Escuela de Guias Don Bosco, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call ++51-043-443061. Also visit their website at www.rifugi-omg.org