Sixteen young people from London’s East End are preparing for a unique challenge. The Peru Yavari Expedition. In August 2015 the 16 to 21 year old Hammers will head up the Andes in the footsteps of the Victorian gunboat, Yavari, built in West Ham.
Life has been tough for these youngsters but they have shown West Ham United’s Community Sports Trust that they can overcome their deprivations and have the potential to inspire others.
The qualifying physical test for joining the Expedition was spent in ‘Outdoors in the City’. At this adults’ outward bound venue in East London they were assessed for leadership skills, teamwork, problem solving, panic management and sheer guts. Their day culminated in a climb up a 40ft (12m) swaying telegraph pole, to kneel on the tray at the top and leap to catch a trapeze-bar dangling 5ft (2m) away. A safety rope added little comfort for this heart-stopping feat of courage. See video below.
Between now and August 2015 the group will familiarise themselves with Peru, its language and culture, the trail up the Andes and with camping, navigation and teamwork practised over a weekend in the mountains of North Wales. They will also be closely involved with fundraising.
The first expedition began in June 1862 when Chief Engineer, William Partridge and a team of skilled tradesmen, all but two from the Thames Ironworks in London’s East End, accompanied the packing cases containing the Yavarí and the Yapura to Peru. The 2015 Expedition retraces part of the journey taken by the mules carrying the Yavari up the Andes to Lake Titicaca so many years ago.
The Expedition aims to strengthen the historic links between the communities of West Ham, London and Lake Titicaca, Peru. The original journey took six years. The young Hammers will spend a fortnight climbing from 550m over 4,800m passes to arrive at Lake Titicaca at 3,810m. Pack animals, mules and llamas, will carry their heavy equipment.
The trail will take them over stony tracks, rough ground, Inca roads and possibly rivers. They will experience the wild expanse of the altiplano (high plateau), distant snow peaks, hot thermal springs, scorching sun and bitter cold. They will pass through scattered communities of Indian campesinos (peasants) whose livelihoods depend on herds of llamas, alpacas and sheep and subsistence farming.
The Expedition’s arrival in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca will be marked by a fiesta and a chance to crew the Yavari when she sails on her (second) maiden voyage. They will meet Puno’s football crazy “jovenes” for a match or several. As representatives of a Premier League club, the young Hammers will receive a warm welcome, but not an easy game at 3,810m above sea level. We hope the meeting leads to future exchanges to the benefit of the youth of both communities.
The Expedition is about building self-confidence, widening horizons, learning tolerance and tenacity and a lot about discovering individual strengths and weaknesses. Above all, we hope the experience will be memorable, bring together two cultures and give the young participants a flying start for their futures.