The pictures from the 2021 programs in Peru are stunning, but what may not be captured is the hard work it took to take them. Students who grabbed one of the limited program spots in Peru hiked up mountains and down into valleys to view diverse landscapes. Seasoned Rustic Program Leader Nancy Trujillo, who has traveled to many nations, says the Peru programs are quite an adventure.
“Students need to dig deep and be comfortable with being dirty and sleeping on the floor,” Trujillo said. “But then you can see all the stars and the constellations that are visible from the Southern Hemisphere – the full moon and all its craters. They really are special programs.”
The Sacred Valley Service program and the Andes to Amazon program were among the most positively reviewed trips in the summer of 2021 by both parents and students. In 2022, a college option is being added to provide more opportunities for students to visit a nation where the Inca civilization once flourished.
Both programs allow students to visit the famous Machu Picchu site. Rustic’s Peruvian program leader integrates lessons about the Incan civilization while there. Students discuss details about the ruins and may learn about Incan trade and agriculture.
“I loved the program!” said Hayes Benenson, who traveled with the Andes to Amazon itinerary. “Machu Picchu was my favorite. I’ve seen it in books, and it was amazing to see it in person.”
Aside from the visit to this historic site, the programs differ in many ways. Rustic Country Manager Alex Ball, who has been living in Peru for more than a decade, says the Sacred Valley program in southern Peru has less intra-country travel and more service.
“In the Sacred Valley program you get a deeper bond with the place where you’re doing service,” Ball said. “You see really remote, spectacular subsistence farming communities. The Sacred Valley is a special place and you really get to know the region.”
Trujillo echoes those thoughts, saying the program allows students to better understand the local culture.
“Sacred Valley has heart, and you get to know Peru’s soul and values,” Trujillo said.
The Andes to Amazon program has more travel since students see both the Andes mountains and the Amazon jungle at the basin, which is the most diverse region of the jungle. Ball says even after being in the country for a decade there is still so much he has not seen, but this program gives students a taste of everything.
“It does a good job of showing students different cultures, geography, and microclimates – demonstrating how diverse Peru really is geographically and culturally,” Ball said.
Along the way, students in both programs enjoy lots of adventure activities.
A Dose of Adrenaline
In both programs students get an adrenaline rush doing activities like white water rafting, ziplining, and rock climbing. In the Sacred Valley program, they also do mountain biking – weather permitting. In the Andes to Amazon program they hike to glacial lakes and natural hot springs and through the jungle.
Along the way, students have fun interacting with each other. Trujillo says during one of the programs she led the group had an impromptu birthday party for one of the students. They turned on music and danced, and then local Peruvian students joined in by playing their music – giving everyone a little taste of different cultures.
The groups’ openness to one another was one of the highlights of the summer. In one program, the teens were very supportive of another student with autism, rallying around him and doing everything they could to be inclusive. This attitude carried over in the service projects they did.
Giving Back Through Service
In the summer of 2021, the groups did many hands-on projects that involved challenging labor. Groups worked on planting trees since parts of the region have been deforested by fires that were set by locals who wanted to plant crops. The seedlings will help prevent erosion and ease the effects of climate change in the coming years.
Some of the students also worked on water projects. Trujillo said during one project they had to dig a ditch to lay a pipe that connected a water source with a water tank for storage. She thought the project would take all day and was surprised how hard the students worked.
“They finished it in two hours. They were relentless and didn’t take breaks,” Trujillo said.
That gungho nature was matched by their enthusiasm to ensure they were making a difference. Trujillo said the students asked questions about how they were helping, allowing her to explain the need for such infrastructure in these regions.
Their eagerness may have been enhanced by the general joy of being able to travel again. Whatever the weather or the challenges they faced, the students relished being out and about in the wider world again – leading them to describe the programs as “amazing,” “exceptional,” and a “fabulous experience despite Covid.”
“They really missed traveling and embraced it for sure,” Trujillo said. “It was an awesome experience and something we once took for granted, but we can’t now.”
Hear from Rustic Alumna, Molly Caffry, who explored Peru this past summer:
For more information on Rustic’s Peru programs, please visit our country page.