Like all good adventures, my current travels started with that subtle little trickle of a thought. A photographer friend had mentioned late last year that she was heading to the Amazon in Peru to join a Canadian foundation called Pure Art to help build houses and support the people living in the poorest parts of Pucallpa, a city tucked in the Amazonian Rainforest of eastern Peru. Without much thought to it, I found myself quickly emailing the coordinators and signing myself up, the best adventures start with very little thought!
We arrived in Pucallpa and instantly the heat and humidity hugged our Canadian skin, not used to a March where the temperature hovered over 30 degrees. But quickly we were piling into moto-taxis, the preferred method of travel, to set out and visit our base for the week. The PureArt foundation has been returning to the Manantay slum neighborhood in Pucallpa for 10 years and this year the objective was to complete the building of two houses and begin the process of building a daycare in their local “Hub of Hope”, a community centre that provides access to medical treatment and employment. Over 50 volunteers descended on the dusty streets of the area to make quick work of the building.
What struck me most about spending the week in this area of the world was how despite the people having so little, there was so much positivity. The children welcomed us each day with open arms and quite often I was carrying one, if not two, little ones from house to house. The houses were put up in record speed, even the groups of kids pitching in to paint and pass us nails and boards of wood.
In between the days of building we took two days to travel by long boat along the Ucayali River, a major tributary of the Amazon, to visit the Shipibo tribes that live in the rainforest. We were welcomed with songs and dancing and despite the thick layers of red mud that clung to our feet, we joined in and celebrated with them. The women in the tribes have a unique and beautiful embroidery technique that they are incredibly proud of and were so happy to share in their talents and hard work. We returned to Pucallpa in the middle of a rainstorm and as the sheets of water fell from the sky we sailed through the streets in a moto-taxi, water splashing up over our feet.
After a week of sweating through the heat and humidity building these beautiful homes, we have ventured high up into the Andes to Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire and now the starting place for thousands of visitors to Machu Picchu. We’ve spent several days getting lost along the narrow cobbled walkways filled with lazy dogs that enjoy the sun shining and the cool mountain air. The air is thin and at times I’ve caught myself laughing off a bit of a headrush but a few sips of coca tea and everything feels right again. An adventure that started in the bustling, dusty, and chaotic city will soon finish high up in the Andes, a Wonder of the World, ancient Machu Picchu, and I can’t wait to soak it all in.
Who know’s where you’ll find me next!
For more information on Pure Art Foundation, please email info@pureartfoundation