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zest&bare Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cusco capers...thus far

PERU | Wednesday, 12 August 2009 | Views [1284] | Comments [10]

Street vendor in San Blas

Street vendor in San Blas

What a psychotic 10 days it has been. There has been laughter, tears, disappointment, shock, wonder, fascination, brain squeeze due to the altitude and ensuing numbness from the sulphur medication, hunger, overeating, thirst, sunburn (then peeling), near hypothermia in the house, frustration, cold showers, confusion, bus escapades, bank dramas, gardening, knitting, communication breakdowns, reflection, self-doubt, and I could go on...

BUT...Despite some of the disappointments, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. As my family so lovingly and patiently point out when I’m mid-breakdown, if it was easy I wouldn’t learn nor grow from this and what would be the point?

So, for all it’s noise, stink, chaos, dust, contradictions and strangeness, I actually enjoy Cusco.

My volunteer placement however might as well be in a kids’ prison. The orphanage is in meticulous condition and very regimented. Most of the young teenagers at least are being taught skills to take into the world with them (they have a bakery in town and also sell knitted goods).

Knitted goods…I have a new found respect for these after being taught to knit last week and spending three hours hard at it for a measly four lines! Evidently textiles are not my forte.

Apparently neither is gardening – particularly using rudimentary tools. At least I get to go home. The poor darlings have no choice but to do this sort of thing. I asked to bring chalk in for games to play before they start their ‘chores’ (I think they call them ‘educational activities’), i.e. hopscotch for the younger girls, which was met with a stern ‘no’! Either way, I am certainly not needed there and am sure there is a more productive way to spend my time.

So, the next few weeks will see me continuing to take Spanish, doing a five day trek to Macchu Picchu, then I am off to the Amazon for a week to join the volunteer group up there. Once that is over I will go to another volunteer placement in Cusco where I'm hoping my chalk is welcome!

My host family and house-mates are great and considering one house was shut down in a covert operation over the weekend due to it being generally disgusting and volunteers not being fed, I am quite lucky! My classmates are a laugh too.

All in all nothing is as expected here and it is most definitely challenging…but I feel alive and can’t wait to see how the next weeks unfold!

Here's to life!




Hi Danielle ... Life!! It throws us challenges, but you have found your way around them (as I knew you would)... enjoy Machu Picchu - it sounds amazing ... and the Amazon! What will you be doing as a volunteer there? Make the most of all the meals you are being served in Cusco, who knows when the next "hearty" one will be served! And Knitting ... unbelievable!! If I am lucky I might get a "scarf" for Mother's Day! (You have nine months to finish it ... is that enough time?) LOL! Love all the photos and your stories ... the steak & wine photo(was that the yummy wine?)looks like it is from a magazine. Take care and stay safe. Love you - Hugs & kisses Mum xxx

  Cheryl Ryan Aug 12, 2009 5:56 AM


Hey dan - I hope your writing all your experiences down as this could be a great book! I am enjoying your journals despite some of the disappointment, shock, hunger etc - I know you can do it and get thru this as I know something great is around the corner for you.... We are so proud of you. And knitting - who would imagine!Well if mum has requested a scarf that means nothing for me coz you take so long. Love you heaps and thanks for your phone call and wishes for my new job - all went very well on my first day. Ill call you soon. Love Em, Brad, Madison and Jack. XX Jack can now sit up on his own.. clever little munchkin.

  Ema Dixon Aug 12, 2009 12:08 PM


How incredibly grateful I am for the warmth of my heater, the roast meat sanga on my plate, and the clean tap water I drink right now! I say this not to rub it in, but to let you know that your journals make me feel so thankful for the conditions I am living in.
Hey, if the scarf is not a success, I'm sure Milla or Jack could use whatever you've pieced together as a blanket for their teddy :) Good luck and enjoy YFF xx

  Amy Baker Aug 14, 2009 11:50 AM


Dearest Dan.. they could drop you in the middle of nowhere (which it sounds like they have) and you would make it work - your ability to do this never ceases to amaze me. We are all so proud of you for embarking on this journey and for pushing through it like you have. If anyone can do it you can. Missing you heaps, but it sounds like they need you more over there, so I'm willing to do without you for a little while longer! Take care hunny, keep your chin up and keep spreading the love. Jem xxx

  Jemma Gorman Aug 14, 2009 3:09 PM


D... try not to let the frustrations you have experienced so far with the Volunteer organisation cloud in your mind how amazing what it is that you are doing. You will touch at least one heart, and you will make a difference to at least one person. If you do nothing else other than this then your journey has been worthwhile. You continue to be a huge inspiration to all of us.
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.

Missing you.
David xxx

  David Aug 15, 2009 9:52 AM


Hey dan just got this through from courier mail website, and to make sure you have your wits about you which I'm sure you do. Love ya and take care and enjoy the Amazon. Brad

AN AUSTRALIAN tourist robbed at gunpoint during a frightening roadside ambush in Peru said his attackers were "kind".
Sydney musician Tom Dundas, 27, was among 12 tourists robbed in Peru's Cusco region.

Mr Dundas said the heavily armed attackers looked like mercenaries, but behaved more like nervous teenagers

"They kept saying the whole time, 'we're not going to hurt you'. They were kind," Mr Dundas said.

The Pantiacolla tour group had been on their way to the pristine Manu National Park when three masked goons built a heavy wall of rocks across the narrow access road, forcing the bus to a grinding halt.

Then, wielding pistols, a semi-automatic weapon and a long knife, the attackers stormed the bus and bashed the driver around the head before sealing his eyes closed with masking tape.

They ushered each tourist out of the bus, one by one, and demanded they hand over cash, cameras and other valuables

"They held a gun to our faces and forced us to hand it over," Mr Dundas said.

Having stripped the terrified travellers of their loot, the attackers forced each of them to kneel in a ditch where they taped their hands behind their backs. Despite the bravado, the trio seemed nervous.

"They were shaking and they kept saying the whole time 'don't worry, we're not going to hurt you'", Mr Dundas said.

Although their faces were covered, the group guessed the Spanish-speaking trio were probably only 18 years old.

When the tourists signalled the tape around their wrists was too tight, they loosened it and even gave one man a soft bag to rest his head on.

"They were kind, they were trying to look after us."

Mr Dundas, who had been visiting the renowned nature reserve after a friend's wedding in the area, was stunned nonetheless.

"We were shocked," he said.

"It was a little bit tense but we were all able to have a laugh about it afterwards.

"He managed to stash his cameras beside his bus seat, which meant he only gave away some cash and his wristwatch.

"I was pretty lucky," he said.

The drama unfolded in the Tres Cruces area of the Cusco region, nearly 600km southeast of Lima.

A spokeswoman for Pantiacolla, one of only eight tour operators authorised to enter the World Heritage listed site, said such attacks were rare.

The Paucartambo police are investigating and the Australian consulate has been notified

  Brad Aug 18, 2009 4:04 PM


Hi Danielle!

Your mom passed on the link to your fantastic adventure! Just finished catching up to you and wanted to wish you all the best.....you are definately a courageous woman! Luv Daniela

  Daniela Aug 19, 2009 3:59 AM



Enjoyed your post.

We are travelling to Cusco from South Africa in a few weeks. We are touring with a local company called Terras Vivas - I wanted to know if you had heard of them?


  Natasha Mar 4, 2010 2:42 AM



I see you are on a volunteer programme and things are difficult - any advice you would give us holiday makers for travelling in Peru?

Good luck with your adventures

  Natasha Mar 4, 2010 2:44 AM


Hi Natasha... So sorry I didn't reply to this sooner... I have been travelling around and not had too much time on a computer. I'm not sure when exactly you were leaving for Cusco, but if you still want some advice, etc. feel free to email me directly at daniryan78@hotmail.com.

  daniryan Mar 21, 2010 3:42 AM



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