Friday, November 1, 2013

Wwoofing in the jungle

After three weeks of being a total tourist--which was weird after living in South America for so long--I went to another WWOOF farm, this time in the Peruvian jungle. 
Our adventure began in Lima, where Kaitlyn and I couldn't get our vaccinations for typhoid or our malaria medication because there was a national holiday and all the health clinics were closed for two days. (I know, I know, stupid. But we didn't really have a choice and look! I am still typhoid and malaria free, so whatever.) 
Anyway, we'd gotten some vague directions from the owner of the farm to catch a bus to a town called Pitchanaki and from there the town was only 5 kilometers away, according to the farm's description on the site. However, we could not find the bus company in Lima that went to Pitchanaki, so instead we got on a bus to La Merced, which people told us was close. After about 8 or 9 hours on that bus, we got a combi, or shared taxi, from La Merced to Pitchanaki. At that point, it was getting pretty late and the owner of the farm still hadn't answered his phone (turns out it was the wrong number). So, we decided we'd stay in Pitchanaki for the night and try to get to the farm the next day. We ended up in one of the most ghetto hospedajes we'd ever seen, but it was cheap! 
Pitchanaki was a lot bigger than we'd expected and there happened to be a huge celebration of the founding of the city going on the day we arrived. So, we walked around amid throngs of families and moto-taxis and into a little fair-like area, where I tried some street food and got a little sick to my stomach. We were the only foreigners there for sure, but we didn't really get negative attention, just stares and a few shouts of "gringa!" 
Anyway, the next day I used internet and emailed the farm owner, who then called us and sent his cousin to get us. His cousin, Pancho, was who actually stayed and ran the farm while the owner worked in a nearby town and only came on the weekends to bring food. Anyway, so Pancho showed up with another volunteer--a French Canadian guy around our age who went by "Ayba" but would never actually tell us his real name. Pancho was a squat little 23 year-old Peruvian guy who spoke fast, mumbled Spanish and gave us instructions that confused us even more. We had to take a cab to the town of Yuranaki and from there a moto-taxi to another town called La Florida. Once in La Florida we were to wait for Pancho and Ayba. This place was definitely not 5 km from Pitchanaki. It took us probably an hour and a half to get to La Florida, then we had lunch and waited there to get a ride up to the farm on Ayba's motorcycle. 
The farm itself was fairly large and consisted mostly of young coffee plants, which will start producing in 2015. We worked spreading sheep manure with our bare hands on each individual plant for the first few days, which wasn't as bad as it sounds. The guys had to carry the bags of manure up to the field where we worked and we just went row by row spreading it. We got weekends off, which we spent checking out the waterfalls in the area one weekend and hanging out in Pitchanaki the other weekend, which was the only place you could buy real coffee. (Most people in the coffee region don't drink coffee and if they do it's Nescafe, which is a crying shame.) Anyway, when we weren't spreading poo with our bare hands, we used machetes to cut down weeds and trees in the fields of coffee. I chopped down a tree with probably an 8 inch diameter once, because Pancho told me he'd buy me a beer if I could do it. 
We always took long siestas in the afternoon and when it rained we didn't work. Pancho was a pretty relaxed guy to work for, which was nice. He was a goofball too and we had a lot of fun joking around with him. It was a shame though, because in spite of this farm being on the WWOOF site and organic and everything, there were a lot of things they did that made me cringe. They dug huge pits for their trash and started fires with plastic and just didn't treat the place very well in general. But, not much I could do about it. 
When we weren't working, we were usually eating, sleeping, or reading. Our little kitchen was pretty hot and dark, with a campfire-type stove and a lot of flies. We ate a lot of beans, rice, pasta, and potatoes and very little in the way of fresh things since there was no electricity and no real place to keep them. It made me realize that we weren't so bad off at my other farm because at least we had spices and fresh things there. We still managed to make some pretty good food though. There were ripe bananas and pineapples once in awhile from around the farm, which was awesome, and an unlimited supply of limes from our lime trees. Also, Pancho shot what I called a Rodent Of Unusual Size one night. It was apparently a jungle delicacy, but I can't remember the name. I tried some--tasted maybe like rabbit, but I don't know if I've ever eaten rabbit...
We all slept in this open, barn-like building with little blanket dividers and a few very friendly rats. Every night one would scamper out from behind my bed somewhere and a few times ran right across the top of my bed. A little unsettling, but it was very difficult to sleep there anyway. I had a great experience, but I am definitely a mountain person. The bugs and the heat in the jungle made it super hard to work and sleep. And the birds! The birds were beautiful and amazing, but soo loud. It took me a long time to get used to hearing them. I'd stay up at night just listening to all of their different sounds--everything between leaky faucets to buzz saws. There were also all sorts of huge, brilliantly colored bugs and even some fireflies at night. And the stars were incredible. 
Anyway, I learned a little about life in the jungle and coffee-farming and I met some pretty cool people doing it. An Australian couple joined us up there as well as random cousins and friends of Pancho's occasionally, and another new girl from Washington showed up a day before we left. We developed our own little language and spent a lot of our time in the fields singing songs and joking around. Here are some pictures! 
Rodent Of Unusual Size

Nearby waterfall

Monkey, tied up at the entrance to the falls for tourists.

Rainbow over La Florida

Posing with my machete, which I named Pablo Escobar. 

View from the farm

The gang

The potty

Ayba and me and the biggest chainsaw ever.

Ayba dancing in front of the kitchen.

Baby pineapple

Coffee plant. 


  1. Hi, I stumbled across your blog while trying to research my WWOOF trip, did you work at Finca Chanchamayo? Very nice write-up, I'm considering this farm (if it's even the same as the one you were at), and do you have any advice/tips, and did you overall enjoy your stay? Thanks very much! Nick

  2. Hi Nicholas. Sorry, I don't check this too much anymore. I did not work at Finca Chanchamayo. I worked at Finca la Florida. My advice in general is to bring some snacks, a headlamp, and a good book or two. Also work gloves and a good attitude. :)

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  4. Hey, it sounds really interesting. Does the Finca la Florida have a web page or other ways I can get in contact with them? I've tried to search google, but couldn't find it.

    Regards, Jim.