Tales from the Road: A charity walk across Peru

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There are many people coming to Peru seeking adventure and a serious challenge, but Steve and Megan (Australian and American, respectively) go one step further in their search of adventure: they plan to walk across Peru, from the coast, crossing the Andes into the jungle. Most admirably, they don’t just do it for themselves, but they’re supporting a good cause. To learn more about their crazy plans, we had a chat with Steve and Megan.

*Steve and Megan, in September, you’re starting a very impressive and challenging adventure. Could you tell us a bit more about your plans?*

_The plan is to walk across Peru. But I guess that makes it sound simple. The plan is to start somewhere on the coast, near the city of Chimbote, and then to walk eastward, following a river valley through the desert. We will cross the Cordillera Negra and descend into the Huaraz Valley, then we will go up into the Cordillera Blanca, where we will spend most of the hike. The idea is to combine many of the popular tourist treks through the mountains, along with a few routes of our own devising. We will cross passes of over 4,800 metres in the Cordillera Blanca at least 3 times. It should be incredible! Then we’ll descend on the eastern side, passing Chavin de Huantar, and enter the Amazon Basin, walking all the way to Pucallpa. From Pucallpa its a quick boat ride to Iquitos where we will finish somewhere with soft beds and cold beer!_

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_The route_

*I’m sure some of our readers might wonder whether you are you doing this just for fun, to challenge yourself or for another reason?*

_I think it’s a combination of all three really. We had been living and volunteering in the Cusco area this past year and sometime while we were there we came up with the idea to use the walk to raise money for one of the many amazing organisations doing work here in Peru. So the question then was… what cause would we support? We both absolutely love the wide variety of ecosystems and environments that can be found here in Peru, so we wanted to raise money for an organization working to promote conservation in the mountains or the Amazon. In the end, we decided on Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Animal Orphanage, who works just outside of Iquitos, and we are SO excited to be fundraising and volunteering with them!_

*How exactly are you raising money? Who is contributing?*

_We started a GoFundMe page because we are mostly crowdsourcing donations. It has only been going for a short time but we are already receiving support from friends and family. The idea is to get the word to spread and spread and spread. Hopefully anyone who sees the link, and wants to help save animals in the Amazon, will share it, or donate. If enough people see the link and make a small donation (or a big one!) we should reach our goal quickly._

*What will the charity do with the raised money?*

_This is one of the reasons we are so excited to work with Pilpintuwasi! They recently worked with ADI (Animal Defenders International) and rescued a large group of animals from a circus. ADI supported the animals for the first 6 months they were housed at Pilpintuwasi, but those 6 months are coming to an end, and Pilpintuwasi is applying for grants to get more funding, but that will be a while in coming. So all the money we raise will go directly to building shelter for these animals, as well as providing them with food and medical care. And IF there is money left over, it will go towards caring for any of the other animals already at the centre, or paying the wages for the local staff who work at the Animal Centre._

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_Steve in front of a familiar stone structure to Peru_

*How much are you hoping to raise?*

_We’ve set the GoFundMe to $3,500 USD, but if we raise more, that just means more love and care for animals in need!_

*How did you come up with the idea to walk across the Andes to raise money and why this particular charity?*

_[M] Steve was the first one to mention “I’d like to walk across the Andes”. I guess the inspiration came from living in the Sacred Valley. The mountains there have such a presence, they sing to you all day long such an enchanting song. We were both volunteering while we were there, but decided that once we finished our work there, we’d cross the Andes, but at a length of 4,500 miles top to bottom, the only question was where. Eventually we landed on the Ancash region, because it gives us the opportunity to experience desert, mountains, rural farmland and Jungle all in one incredible walk._

_[S] Megan came up with the idea to start on the coast during a bus ride down the Peruvian coast. Driving across that huge expanse of desert was so impressive. It looked so barren and impassable, but occasionally the bus would dip down into these river valleys and suddenly the world would become green and alive again. We decided to see if we could follow a river all the way from the sea, up into the mountains._

_As for the choice of charity, we figured if we were going to get attention for tackling such a crazy adventure, we might as well turn that attention towards a worthy cause. There are so many organisations here in Peru doing incredible work, but so many seem to struggle for funds. We decided to find one with four criteria; one that was organised, with a mission that we supported, with a vision for going forward, and passionate staff. Like anyone who gives to charity we wanted to make sure that the money we raised would go directly to the cause, and not just into someone’s pockets._

_Pilpintuwasi, the organization we are supporting, was everything we were looking for and more. They’re well established with a very clear mission that they are working towards. A quick Google search will pull up new stories of past successes they have had rescuing animals. They could tell us exactly where the money was going to go. And we will be staying there as volunteers for a month after our walk, so we can show everyone firsthand what their donations have achieved for the people and the animals there._

*Have you done anything like this before?*

_Megan has hiked through the Himalayas in Nepal, though even that cannot compare with the Andes, so the short answer would be “no”. We have both been living in Peru and hiking all the time. We have hiked from Choquequirao to Macchu Picchu and back to Ollantaytambo in June. Otherwise, we’re the same as most outdoor lovers, weekend trips when we can. Maybe this trip will show that everyone has the potential to do something great._

*How do you prepare for an extremely challenging trip like this?*

_I’m not sure you can truly prepare for something like this, but we have spent many weeks hiking and camping at high elevation, and in doing so have worked through what equipment works, what doesn’t, what our physical limits are, and just how long we can last eating instant noodles and Sublime chocolates._

*Which part of the trip are you particularly looking forward to? Were there places that you definitely wanted to include on your hike?*

_[M] For me, it is hard to say which part I am most looking forward to. The desert will hopefully be very different from anything I have ever experienced, so I am looking forward to that. And of course, the Cordillera Blanca outside of Huaraz. I cannot wait to spend whole days camping next to turquoise lakes overlooking pristine mountain wilderness. Mostly, I am looking forward to the tranquility and to the peace of mind that comes from walking through nature for days on end._

_[S] The Huascarán National Park will be a real highlight for me. Having lived and worked in rural Australia for many years this landscape is still so foreign and stunning in my eyes._

*I’m sure that there are also some aspects of this adventure that you are not looking forward to or that even worry or frighten you?*

_[M] I am worried about some of the logistics. We have planned to buy a donkey to help us carry some of our supplies. Now that we are approaching the time to go out and buy the donkey, I am not so sure how to do it. And once we have the donkey, am I sure I can care for it? I have a year of experience working with horses when I was a teenager so I am hoping that will carry over, but it is still nerve-wrecking to be responsible for another life._

_[S] Leaving Lima’s food scene will be tough, living on instant noodles and bread loses its appeal after 30 days!_

*Lastly, how can our readers contribute?*

_If you support what we are doing, please share our story! Spread it around on Facebook or Twitter. And even better, check out our GoFundMe page and donate whatever amount you can spare! From $5 to $500, anything is incredible! You can find our_ GoFundMe here _and follow our Facebook page_ Tales From The Road the coast to the jungle there is much to see of Peru. Can you imagine traveling across the nation by foot? That’s what these two adventurers plan to do in September.

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Natalie Lefevre