One sunny October afternoon in 2013 I closed the door to my lovely little Hobart home – now empty and spotlessly clean – for the last time and set off on a grand adventure: a year living and working in Peru!
Through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program I had found a 12 month posting in Lima – Peru’s huge, chaotic capital – that would put my skills in ecology and environmental management to good use. I’d been interested in finding work in Peru since the first time I travelled there in 2012, on the tourist trail up from the Chilean border to the historic heart of Cusco and Machu Picchu. Welcomed by the warmth of the people, inspired by the dramatic landscapes and concerned by the environmental and social issues confronting the country, I’d been thinking about what I could do to make a difference.
I stumbled across the AVID program through a FaceBook ad, found a position that matched my skills on their web-page, took a deep breath, and applied. Ten weeks later my life was boxed and stored and I was on my way…
Now I live in Lima, crammed in with 9 million other bodies and rising, spending 14 months completely immersed in the culture and the language and the day-to-day reality of Peruvian life. My project has me embedded with the head office of SERNANP, Peru’s national parks service, helping my team with the evaluation of environmental impacts and the development of management tools for the protection and sustainable development of Peru’s impressive network of National Parks, Sanctuaries and Reserves. Places like Huascaran National Park, with its towering glacier-capped peaks, and Los Pantanos de Villa Wildlife Sanctuary, providing a much-need refuge within urban Lima. Places like Purus Communal Reserve, which provide protection for indigenous Amazonian tribes to live a balance between tradition and modernity, and Manu National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. We’re even responsible for the nature part of Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary: not bad, huh?
With so many wonderful places to discover, it’s a shame that my role is office-based, but I’ve been able to spend my long weekends and holidays visiting these remarkable places and learning about the ecosystems they protect. As well as my wonderful office-mates I have come to know many of the Park Managers and Rangers responsible for the on-ground protection of these remarkable areas and have been lucky enough to visit a few places that tourists never get to see.
The passionate, dedicated people I work with and the incredible places they care for inspire me and keep me going through some of the tougher parts of living and working in a developing country, and I am grateful for the warm welcome and friendship they have shown me, and for their patience with my less-than-perfect Spanish (especially when I first arrived!). I have been blessed to be accepted as part of the team and will miss my colleagues greatly when the time comes to leave again.
In the meantime though, there are always more adventures to have! I’ve collected some of the best stories from my year below. I hope you enjoy them.
Chasing waterfalls: preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime, volunteering in Peru
One month in L ima: finding my feet in the desert mega-city
For the birds: visiting Los Pantanos de Villa wildlife refuge
My problem with plastic: a personal perspective on plastic pollution
On being a well-intentioned rich wanker: contemplating economic privelege and the expat lifestyle
Economic Whiplash: views on economic inequality through a bus window
Huascaran Deaming: hiking in the magesty of Huascaran National Park
Six months in Lima: looking forwards, looking back on the adventure to date
The Desert Coast: an introduction to Paracas National Reserve
Bailando Caporales: fancy-dress and folk dancing in the office!
Behavoural Ecology in the City of Lima: musings on the ecological influences of Limeñan society
Rupac, an overnight hike: exploring an Atavilla archaelogical site in the Andes
Amazon-bound on a Jungle Adventure: getting excited about my first trip to the Amazon
Real World Experience: the challenges of international development work
Flickers of Hope: on finding inspiration in unlikely places
What the hell is a bofedal? Introducing an interesting ecosystem
12 months in Lima: thoughts on my experiences here after a year in the desert mega-city
How do you conserve a landscape? Lessons from the Nor Yauyos Cochas landscape reserve
Lima, Climate and this thing called the COP: why the big climate talks being held in Peru are important.