Volunteering: Cabanaconde, a Peruvian village at 3200 m above sea level 

Hey there!

This time I am going to tell some more about our experience with helping out in the small and a little touristic village of Cabanaconde in the mountains of Colca Canyon. We volunteered at a hostel and its restaurant which we found on Workaway. But I think I should jump right to it. This is going to be a very honest post about what happened and what I thought about it. 

We looked for a place to work around Arequipa and only heard good things about Colca Canyon.

That´s when we contacted hosts in the Colca Canyon and got a response of a Eco Lodge in the oasis down in the canyon. We talked to Pablo over Workaway and he suggested to meet up in Arequipa to talk about the work and so on. When we met the guy I had a weird feeling. He had a long beard, was really scruffy and seemed to be a little off. But we agreed and he told us that there was a Spanish guy running the whole thing at the moment.

At the same day we took the night bus for 7 hours. Both of us couldn´t sleep a lot because the music was so loud that we both arrived with a big headache in the little village at 7 am. We went to the restaurant and got to know Arnau, the Spanish guy who spent all day at the restaurant and later showed us around the hostel, which looked pretty cool and the rooms had great views. But slowly we found out what was wrong or not working in the hostel, which was a different building. (And definitely not the eco lodge in the oasis that we thought we were going to.) The hostel consisted of 7 rooms, but only 2 were “rentable” to guests. 4 didn´t have hot water because of a broken boiler and 1 room with hot water was completely messy and dirty. The washing machine did not work, the problem was that you couldn´t open the door. Soon we realized that not a lot of sheets have been washed here over the last few weeks.

The restaurant was a rustical building with a few tables and couches and a lot of knick-knacks hanging on the walls. When we first entered we were a little impressed, it looked pretty cool. The only problem was that the whole thing wasn´t isolated and at night where it could get to around 5 degrees Celcius air entered through the holes between the glass of the windows and the walls. Two window glasses were even missing. So it was constantly cold. A lot of guests asked for blankets and kept their jackets and hats on during the whole time.

Soon other volunteers, two girls from France joined us. And suddenly also the boss, the man we talked to in Arequipa came to Cabanaconde. Getting to know him better we found out that this guy wasn´t actually Pablo from the eco lodge but his brother Yamil and that we was really lazy, just sat around the whole day, looked like he was on some kind of trip and never touched work. He was really spiritual and talked everything off with that. At the same time we felt his sense of greed because it was only about money all the time. The food prices were way too high (more than twice as in the main square) and he didn’t want to put them on the menu so it wouldn’t scare off people.

There were a lot of things going the wrong direction and almost every day something broke. One day rain leaked through the roof and a guest´s bed was comletely wet. One day a tap broke and water kept splashing around for a few hours until somebody came to fix it. We couldn´t really stand all that backwards movement, and after a few days of washing all the sheets with the hand, my boyfriend and a GUEST, we made friends with, fixed the washing machine in less than half an hour. When we talked to Yamil about the full room and if he could take out the stuff he still needed so we could clean in out, he always told us to be calm. He said in Peru everything goes step by step. One day we just took the chance and threw all the stuff that looked reusable in bags and put it in another messy room. As soon as we told him, Yamil came to the hostel, I think for the first time since he was back in the village,  because he has been sleeping on one of the couches in the restaurant every night. But he didn´t come there to say thank you, because that was something we never heard of him. He came with a few incenses to “fill the room with positive energy”. And of course to tell us to finish up the room so people could sleep in it the same night. For me unbelievable as it stank so much in there, but oh well, we did it anyway.

What kept us there were the other volunteers, the French girls, the Spanish guy and later on a German girl arrived too. We felt like we didn´t want to leave them there with all the work and Yamil. Though we talked to them and they had pretty much the same opinion of Yamil as us. The atmosphere between the volunteers was really warm. We mostly ate lunch and dinner together and had some fun in between “work”. And the village where we were was not bad or boring at all, but I think I will tell you about that in a different post. :-)

Continuing with the story… So we were determined that we would stay our time there until one morning the unbelievable happened. Yamil told the Spanish guy Arnau that there couldn´t be two roosters in a henhouse and he had 2 hours to pack his stuff and leave. The Spanish guy who was pretty much responsible for everything and knew what was going on all the time was supposed to leave in a few hours after he has been working here for almost 2 months? We didn´t really understand what was going on and were sure that Yamil is so unpredictable and there could be happening anything anytime, especially when he was absent in his thoughts or his spiritual world.

It didn´t last long until we all decided to leave the place with the Spanish guy and don´t support Yamil anymore except the German girl that hadn´t seen anything of the canyon by that time and went to go hiking the next day. We all took the same bus leaving Cabanaconde and we didn´t get more than a silent and unimpressed “Ok” from Yamil when we left.

Some of you may say that it was unfair to leave at the same time, or that it wasn´t the right thing to do. But we, or at least I, didn´t feel safe there anymore. You couldn´t be sure what came next. And until now I have no regrets. This post turned out to be really negative, but I feel like this story needs to be told. We definitely learned more about the Peruvian mentality than we could ever have in a few months of only traveling around. We also learned to choose more carefully. Thank God it all turned out fine,  nothing bad happened to us and we all took it with a smile. And I think that is all that counts in the end. Those experiences make life exciting and looking back we will definitely have something to laugh about!

XX

Ella

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