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It's an easy jet ride south (there's no jet lag) to Peru's bustling capital of Lima.
You will overnight in Lima in order to rest up from your long flight and gather your strength for the exciting and demanding week ahead.
This morning, your airport coordinator will assist you in making the flight connection from Lima to Tarapoto. A breathtaking and scenic 60-minute flight crossing over the Andes towards the eastern slopes takes you to the great Amazon basin. In Tarapoto, your regional coordinator will meet you and transport you to Moyobamaba and then on to Yantalo. This is a two-hour ride through the rain and cloud forest of the Alto Mayo. Upon arrival in Yantalo, you will first meet the family with whom you will be staying before meeting volunteers from other countries. Tonight there will be ample free time to explore the town with your friends or simply to rest. You have covered a lot of miles in the last 24 hours.
During breakfast, you will participate in an orientation presentation, followed by a 'Q and A' session. Each morning you will review possible work projects requiring your support which will lead to developing the day's work schedule. On this first work day, you will organize into three rotating mini groups. Three hours will be spent meeting and getting to know the residents of Yantalo, while another group spends time with the school's English teachers, with the third group helping out at the new clinic's construction site. Then, you will rotate until you have experienced all three activities. There are always a variety of tasks to which you can lend support on an active construction site. You can significantly help in non-skill work, and if you have some experience in building, so much the better! Talking to the Yantalinos is a good way to improve your Spanish, and to learn about their customs, traditions and the lifestyle of your hosts.
During breakfast you will discuss your experiences from your orientation day. What and who impressed you the most? Did you feel you made a difference?
Next, you will walk to the school and spend about three hours working with some of the students in their classes. Interested in Math? Spanish? Geography or World History? How about Computer Science and navigating the Internet? Would you enjoy helping the English teachers? Identify an activity with teachers and students that interests you the most and work together with the faculty and students to make that happen. Coordinate a sports activity for Saturday and play soccer, basketball or volleyball. This is always a great team activity and one during which you can learn from one another. You may be a bit better at playing basketball while there would likely be much you can learn from your hosts about the sport they call fútbol.
After lunch, spend some time on the construction site and identify areas to plant a new tree. Your tree. This is part of the ongoing reforestation program. Learn about the cultivation of many local plants and crops including coffee, avocado, mango, bananas, tangerines, and oranges. Enjoy!
Today has been set aside for recreation. You can meet at the school for some more soccer, basketball or volleyball. Or, if you prefer, you can continue with one of the work projects that most interests you. You will have time to go back to your house, take a shower, and join your group for a special lunch at the Hotel Puerto Mirador where, at your option, you can spend the afternoon lounging around the beautiful swimming pool. By 5:30 you will return to Yantalo for dinner. This evening, you can spend time with the locals in the town's central park, the Plaza de Armas.
Prepare for an early start today as you leave Yantalo at 6:00 a.m. for the 5-mile ride to Puerto La Boca, where you will hop on river canoes on the Mayo River for the hour-long cruise to the Tingana Reservation. You will explore this beautiful area after first enjoying a unique typical breakfast at the Tingana Lodge. You will later continue in smaller canoes along the jungle river "streets." Your guides will point out birds, monkeys, flowers, fruits and occasional reptiles resting and watching the visitors. There will be time to stop and observe some truly amazing trees with huge aerial roots: these "High Trees" develop aerial roots looking for water, while nearby "walking" trees "move" their roots searching for nutrients. Have fun! An adventure in a green paradise.
Return to the lodge for lunch and for a little rest in jungle hammocks. On the way back to Yantalo, you will visit some truly amazing tree houses for which this area is known. What remains of this spectacular day may be spent at leisure.
At breakfast time, you'll discuss possible work projects and you'll select the activity you most want to do, including teaching at the school, meeting with residents and getting their take on world events, returning to work at the clinic construction site, planting trees or other projects you would like to organize or coordinate. You might prefer to visit some families and watch how they cook and prepare their meals, how they take care of their plants and domestic animals in their back yards, or watch how elders spend their days. Invite them to go for a walk with you. Share with them personal recollections of moments of happiness and hope. Have pictures taken with them and their families. You will be amazed as they celebrate each suggestion or action: watch the brightness of their smiles. At dinner time you will learn more about your last day in Yantalo, which will be hiking and climbing the Morro de Calzada, a six-hour trek you will never forget.
After breakfast, you'll start trekking towards the entrance of the Morro de Calzada. Make sure to take lots of water, sandwiches and be prepared for a vigorous climb up and back of about 6 to 8 hours. As you reach the top of the Morro, enjoy the stunning 360 degree views. It's a lush green blanket, dissected by a winding water path, which is the Mayo River. You will need to start your return no later than 2:30 p.m. in order to return before dusk. Back at your house, you will shower and start packing for your trip back home.
Tonight a farewell dinner with some of your friends in Yantalo is planned. Did you have a chance to update your notes in your journal? Now is a good time to review, select, and delete your pictures or edit your videos. Sweet dreams.
Drive back to Tarapoto for your return flight to Lima in time to connect with your flight back to The States. About an hour from Moyobamba, you will stop for a taste of very fresh coconut juice. Marvel at the skill of the workers as they cut a hole in the fruit with their machete! It's amazing this man still has all his digits. Such a sweet, fresh taste.
Once home, you'll remember the warm, friendly people, lush rainforest, joyful music, unique and colorful artwork and crafts, and the spicy food. For now, enjoy the flight back to the U.S. You'll arrive home later today, eager to share your adventures with family and friends.