Volunteers from Australia

From Girls on Top, Australia

I have seen it written that the Amazon is the last, unwritten page of Genesis. It is indeed a place of mighty forces—some wild and fierce, some delicate.

Zeke helping the girls out with a mosaic.All these – jungle, rivers, wildcats, monkeys, storms, raindrops and butterflies – are celebrated at Pilpintuwasi. It was this little wonderland that enchanted us three Australian girls into making an expedition to South America to see if we could add a line of our own to that unwritten page. We would climb the mighty ranges of the Huayhuash region in Northern Peru as a way of raising funds to support work at Pilpintuwasi. We called ourselves Girls on Top.

Why would people support us? Because we are average girls doing extra-ordinary things. Because we are celebrating the genius of a bold idea. Because we are passionate, determined and inspired – even though we are unfit, inexperienced, sometimes hair-brained and nervous … just like almost everybody else.

The Girls on Top mission, for almost all of those who were first attracted, proved to be too much. Even before we left Australia the effort of fund raising, attracting sponsors, media attention and whipping sea-level mid-thirties bodies into shape for a two-week high altitude trek exhausted and frightened most early starters. Just three – Emma Hoppe, Saffrine Nydegger and I made the Aerolineas Argentinas flight from Sydney.

Between us we had already shared the vision and the mission with hundreds of people at fund raising events, told the story on television and in newspapers and magazines, created partnerships with businesses who backed and mentored us … and packed butt, calf and mind muscle through months of fitness training and attitude adjustment. The easy part had tested us to the limit, now we faced the real challenge.

Our first mission: to make the 14-day trek through Touching the Void territory, peaking at 5 100m, traversing three massive summits and taking in mud, dust, snow, ice, several avalanches, one earthquake and large quantities of pancake and soup. Huayhuash is breath-taking in more ways than one. If you adore exquisite and pristine mountain trekking, don’t miss it. For us, it was a magnificent journey of indescribable beauty, great team spirit and powerful insight.

It left us, in fact, so motivated that when we made it to Pilpintuwasi to share with news of our adventures with Gudrun, make a donation and learn more about her work, we decided the job was not yet done — there was an Amazon renovation rescue to be done!

Our little team spent a heat wave week in hardware stores, gift shops and painting clothes to renovate, mosaic, equip and stock Gudrun’s little ‘shop’ to help her raise extra funds and make an even warmer welcome for visitors. We started early, with temperatures soaring by 8am and humidity and naughty monkeys making the work … interesting.

giftShopAs well as a bright new shop and information centre, our cash donation will allow us to build a fence around the property to protect plants and animals, and hopefully make life easier and richer for all the souls at Pilpintuwasi. For myself, I can say that making this expedition – riding out the tough parts and treasuring the smooth – as well as my time and work with Gudrun, has left me richer in ways I never expected.

I feel blessed that we were able to make such an adventure, and that others were inspired enough to help make it possible. I feel proud that people across Australia were moved enough by our team and by Gudrun’s work to donate their time, money and skills to support us all. I feel the wonder still, of snow storms in the mountains, blue lakes amid the rubble, rainbows over the Amazon and the way the flapping of a butterfly’s wing can truly be felt on the other side of the Earth.


Special thanks to Village Roadshow, Aerolineas Argentinas, Fitness First, Telstra, Jen Peedom, Julie Raffe and Miriam Jones


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