Volunteering at the Hacienda La Florida

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January 2nd 2010
Published: February 8th 2010
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Hacienda La FloridaHacienda La FloridaHacienda La Florida

Sat peacfully under a gagantua mountain
We arrived at Hacienda la Florida on December 8th 2009, by bus from Lima, a gruelling six hour journey with the usual latin music blaring from the radio the whole journey. By the time we had taken a taxi from Tarma the short distance to La Florida it was well past midnight and we were absolutely shattered from our journey from Chachapoyas. We were greeted at the gate and shown our room, and were able to throw off our rucksacks and get some well earned rest.

The following morning at about six we heard the sounds of the Hacienda waking, with footsteps above in the kitchen, and voices calling across the yard. As soon as we stuck our heads out of the door we were accosted by Carlos, one of the employees on the farm, and shown some of the jobs that were requried of us during our stay (We were here with HelpEX which is an online site that enables you to volunteer whilst on your travels, normally about five hours work a day for your food and a bed). The first duty of the day was to feed the horse, the goats, and the chickens, this was to
Liz dances Liz dances Liz dances

New Year celebration in the hacienda
be done at about seven thirty each morning, after this we had a breakfast of bread, cheese, jams and sometimes egg, with tea or coffee. We then were on garden duty, and what a garden, as I walked through the doors to the garden it was like stepping into the ¨Secret Garden¨, the sun was out, the birds were fluttering everywhere in this once amazingly well planned garden. Although it was a little neglected, no I lie, very overgrown, it was still magnificent, with roses, lillies, red hot poker plants (much loved by the Colibri), with old walnuts trees, and a three hundred year old pine, with pathways leading to a little water fountain that when working tinkled like the upper notes on a piano. We certainly had our work cut out here, but we are always up for a challenge. Our other duties were to help with any guests that the hacienda had over the Christmas and New Year period. For New Year this was to be about thirty people. Here we had to wait on tables and generally be around to help the guests and make their stay enjoyable.

The owners of the Hacienda are Pepe and
Welcome to the secret gardenWelcome to the secret gardenWelcome to the secret garden

Garden's state at first week of our stay
Inge, a Puruvian and German couple, the hacienda has been in Pepe's family for several generations, and has a very interesting history. It is build from adobe and wood, really the most beautiful place to live, nestled under towering mountains. Pepe and Inge are a lovely couple, Inge gentle and kind and Pepe, humourous and talkative. Also at the hacienda was Alexandra who had been managing the guest house for nearly a year, she was a fun and interesting girl that we shared a drink or two and had nice conversations with in town a couple of times.

We settled into a routine for the first couple of weeks of getting up, doing the animals, breakfast and then gardeniing untill our backs and hands could take no more, then resting or going into Tarma for a wander. Tarma is a busy noisy town with street markets where you can buy just about anything, from tools for gardening to snakes and toads. A few days before Christmas the first guests arrived, our routine changed and not so much gardening was possible, however it was nice to meet new people and talk about life in Peru, and go out on walks in the mountains with one couple. Another couple came with their twelve year old daughter who helped in the garden and I showed her how to make masks out of adobe, we are not sure if her parents were that happy to come home and find her covered in mud, but she enjoyed herself.

We had a quiet chrsitmas as Pepe, Inge and Alexandra were in Lima, so apart form their staff we had the Hacienda to ourselves, but withing a few days this changed as thirty guests arrived for the new year celebrations. We had to help deck out the resturaunt area which we, between us, made into a really beautiful banqueting hall, the tables laid with gleaming cutelery and shining glasses with lovely foilage and flowers down the middle of the table, set off with candles, it really was a sight to behold. Ram and i were on waiter/ress duty, up and down the hall fetching and carrying, but it was fun and there really was a nice spirit about the place, the meal ended by about ten thirty and the guests retired to the verandah to dance whilst we carried on clearing the debris and
Original entrance gate Original entrance gate Original entrance gate

Now leads to artichok fields
setting up for new years day breakfast. At about eleven thirty we all moved into the garden where there was a lovely warming bonfire and just before midnight we all had a glass of fizz to toast the new year in and watched the fireworks around the valley, it was lovely as it was not too over the top, it was just nice and friendly.

New years day saw us up again at some ungodly hour to feed the animals, and as we were just about to go for breakfast we heard the sound of a band....Ram and i grabbed our cameras and headed up the drive to see what the comotion was....what a suprise we had, coming along the road was a gang of dancers in bright costumes and black faced masks dancing as if their lives depended upon it, followed by a large brass band pounding out the rythmn, and they were all heading our way, through the ornate gates and down the drive to the courtyard to dance in the new year for us for the next hour or two. How amazing they were, a group of male only dancers ranging from about five or six years old to men in their forties or so. We were told later on that this dancing goes on for about five days and nights from new years morning, the group dance theirselves all around the neighbourhood to see in the new year with everyone. I realised that one of the lead dancers was Carlos who worked at the hacienda, and i have to say i was well impressed with his dancing, these dances are very lively and all i could think is that at the end of five days they must be half the weight they started out at. This was a really special event to be part of as it is a traditional Peruvian custom that goes back many many years.

The guests stayed for a few days after new year and during this time we were busy with our normal duties and waiting tables and clearing up after meals, all good fun, and hard work, and well over the five hours a day you normally do as HelpX volunteers, but to be honest it was an experience i would not have wanted to miss and all the guests were very nice, laid back and friendly. A
Hacienda La FloridaHacienda La FloridaHacienda La Florida

View from the arcade
couple of days after they had all left Martha the house cook went on holiday leaving me in line as chief cook and bottle washer, yet another job added to my list, i had to come up with a different two or three course lunch for five people each day, not as easy here as it would have been at home, all the ingredients are so different, but i think my Peruvian version of good old 'Bread and Butter' pudding went down well, as did my carrot soup and a few other dishes i came up with and at least everyone did not starve.

Pepe and Inge left the hacienda for Lima and then for Inge to head to Germany on 16th January, and we left in the early hours of 14th of January to continue our trip, it was sad to say goodbye to all, for me especially the goats, for some reason i have become quite fond of the smelly little things, it was sad to leave the garden as we had not achieved as much as we would have liked to, but all good things come to an end and we set off towards Tarma to
Jenny, Inge, Marta, Don Pepe, ElzaJenny, Inge, Marta, Don Pepe, ElzaJenny, Inge, Marta, Don Pepe, Elza

The people behind Hacienda La Florida's New Year celebration
start the next leg of our journey.

Additional photos below
Photos: 30, Displayed: 27


Hacienda La FloridaHacienda La Florida
Hacienda La Florida

Another gargantua mountain embraces from the east
Washing potatosWashing potatos
Washing potatos

One of Liz's assignments upon New Year's dinner
Catarata El TirolCatarata El Tirol
Catarata El Tirol

A day trip to San Ramon
Catarata El TirolCatarata El Tirol
Catarata El Tirol

Ram is having a shower
Green snakeGreen snake
Green snake

It is too poisonous to make a liquor of it
Mud houses in the village La FloridaMud houses in the village La Florida
Mud houses in the village La Florida

Blending neatly in nature but also giving a perspective to this master/servants culture - I wonder what they think looking at us
New Year danceNew Year dance
New Year dance

This dancing celebration goes on for seven days

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