Day 1 – Arrival Day in Lima
Since the tour did not include airfare, I was on my own with booking my flight to Lima. I ended up
|Bungalows at the Eco Amazonia Lodge|
Day 2 – Amazon
|First meal in the dining hall|
|The canoe we took around the lagoon searching for anacondas.|
Day 3 - Amazon
Our second day in the Amazon was very busy because we had to squeeze in a trip to Monkey Island that was intended for the day before. After an early morning breakfast buffet, our group split into two for our journey into the jungle. The group I was in started off with a long hike through the wilderness. Our local guide, David (not the Tucan guide also named David), led us along a path from the lodge. As we walked into the first clearing, I decided it was a good time to try out my Off fan. I switched it on, only to be dismayed by the louder than expected noise that was now coming from it rotating around. David immediately stopped talking and looked directly at me, saying “What is that noise?” Uhh… I tried to explain to him that it was the fan that was clipped to my belt loops, but I’m not sure he ever really understood what it was meant for. After a good laugh from the group, I noticed more people walking beside me trying to mooch off of my insect repelling technology. It may have been loud, but it definitely worked. I did not get any mosquito bites while in the jungle! It may have also been because I started dousing myself in 100% deet mosquito spray. That is not something I would recommend for everyday use, but I figured two days can’t be that bad.
|Tarantula being poked with a stick!|
The second part of our morning tour was to paddle a canoe down a small river. After walking for hours and literally dripping with sweat (Kristen’s hair never dried that day), we all piled into a canoe and attempted to row with 30+ lb. wooden oars. I can honestly say I was not a very effective contributor to the team that day. My oar was so heavy, but after switching with Kristen, I found hers was even heavier, so I made her switch back. Good thing she is such a good friend! We saw a few other birds, including a fly catcher, but nothing really crazy. I did manage to pluck some aguaje fruit from an overhanging tree. They are supposed to be very healthy and delicious, but it takes two days to soak them in water so they are soft enough to peel and eat. During our morning hike, David continuously cracked open various nuts in search of the elusive “white worm” also known as a Sago worm. As we made our way back to the lodge, we finally found some. As he was handing them out for us to hold and inspect, the popped one into his mouth and spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince us of the wonderful health properties of this worm. We all looked at each other trying to decide how much we believed him and who would be the first to eat the live worm. The first victim was a guy from Germany. He ate it right away and said it tasted like coconut. After him a few other people gave it a shot, including me. Yes, I ate a live worm and it wiggled in my mouth. Just kidding, it did not wiggle, but it tasted like goo, not like a coconut. It wasn’t crunchy either.
We made our way back to the lodge for lunch, and then had a quick turnaround to Monkey Island. The island is owned by the Eco Amazonia lodge as a place to put monkeys they rescue, including capuchins, spider monkeys, and tamarinds. We only saw capuchins during our visit because they are bullies and gang up on the other monkeys when they try to come out for bananas. I think I was least impressed by monkey island because I’ve been to other countries where they have “monkey parks” and excursions like this. We only stayed there for an hour before jumping in a canoe to go fishing for piranhas.
Off the main river was an inlet where piranhas like to hang out. Mind you, we are still in a little canoe that could easily tip over if someone were to stand up too quickly. We did not even have life jackets on at this point. When we reach our destination, David hands everyone a stick with a piece of rope tied to it and some kind of meat fastened to the end. Most of our sticks had make shift sinkers made from some nails, a washer, and various other rusted tools. After about 10 minutes, someone catches a piranha! We all oooh and ahh because it is actually a pretty little fish. It gets thrown back in and we continue to fish. Shortly after, the next person catches one! She flings her fish into the boat where it falls off the hook and starts flapping around. Mind you, this fish has very sharp teeth and could easily bite someone’s ankle, so we all kind of back away and huddle on one side of the boat. As David tries to reach over to grab the fish, it bites a hole through his pointer finger and he starts bleeding profusely. Our other guide catches it by the tail with pliers and throws it out. Since David is now bleeding all over the place, he thinks it’s a good idea to wash off his finger in the piranha infested water. They decide it is time to go, so our boat driver starts to pull away. As he is pushing us away from the shore, he gets bit by a piranha too! Now we have two guides with blood spurting from their fingers. Oddly (or not so much) enough, none of the guides have first aid kits on the boat. Lucky for them, we all have extensive kids in our bags and are equipped with a doctor in our group tour.
|Brown capuchin monkeys|
Day 4 – Cusco
The next morning, we packed up and made our way down the river back to Puerto Maldonado to catch our flight to Cusco. After a short flight, we threw our bags atop a van and headed to Cusco Plaza I, our hotel for the night. We finally had our main bags back for a day and were able to repack, do some laundry, and drink some coca tea. Cusco has an elevation of 3,400 meters, or 11,200 ft. That kind of altitude can cause altitude sickness with an array of symptoms. Kristen felt a little dizzy the first day, and I had a weird sensation of both of my hands and lower arms going numb as my heart had to pump harder to circulate blood throughout my body. Fortunately, both of our symptoms passed by the end of the day, and didn’t prevent us from enjoying ourselves. For lunch, our Tucan guide, David, took us out to have a tradition Peruvian meal, cuy! Cuy can be prepared in a variety of ways including fried, grilled, fileted, etc. The important part is, well, that you are eating a guinea pig. Kristen and I shared one and got a side of beans and corn. I am proud of her because she ate the majority of it! It was not bad! It tasted like fried dark meat chicken. Since I don’t like dark meat, nor do I like fried chicken, I only had a little bit of it and mostly ate potatoes and corn.
|Cuy, a traditional Peruvian dish!|
|Our Tucan Tour group in Cusco|
Early the next morning, we repacked again into our day packs for the next two days and held our main bags in storage at the hotel. At this point, I was really starting to get annoyed because my day pack barely closed and was getting heavy! We hopped onto another bus and started our drive into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Sadly, we could not visit Pisac because the bridge that led to that site collapsed. Our first stop was at Chinchero, a small Andean Indian village. While we explored the ruins, a celebration was occurring in the nearby church in honor of Corpus Christi! There was a small parade and traditional dancers and music.
|Me at Ollantaytambo|
By the time we reached Ollantaytambo, we were ready to walk off our lunch. The town is located at the foot of some spectacular Inca ruins which protected the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley. We spent a lot of time walking around and learning about how the people who built the town diverted the river to transport massive amounts of granite from far away. After getting back into the bus to be taken to our homestay, our driver informed us that there was no way he was going to fit the bus through the narrow roads and we would all have to get out and walk. It was only half a mile away, so it was not a problem, but by the time we got there I really wished I would have had a backpack and not my shoulder tote. My shoulders were killing me!
|Beautiful textiles at the markets!|
The “house” that we all stayed in was called Casa de Doris. It was more of an Inn than a house and Kristen and I shared a room with an en suite bathroom. While we had the privilege of electricity, our windows would not shut and the doors didn’t lock. Keep in mind we are approaching winter in the mountains, and we were freezing at night! At least we had a hot shower in the morning. Some rooms had to share a bathroom, and some of the bathrooms had no running water at all! Since we were leaving earlier than the majority of our group the next morning, we passed on the use of our deluxe bathroom to some of the other group members to enjoy before their trek on the Inca trail.
Dinner that night was the last time we were all together because most of the people in our group were going on to hike the Inca trail over the next 4 days. Kristen and I, along with another couple from Australia, planned to take the easy way out and catch a train. The host family provided us with dinner and breakfast the next day from organic ingredients fresh out of their garden and we said goodbye and good luck to the hikers!
Day 6 – Machu Picchu
Another early morning had us on a PeruRail vista dome train to Machu Picchu town. After a short two hour ride, and a snack of banana chips, we arrived at our destination. From the town, we caught a bus to take us to the ruins. The bus ride lasted about 25 minutes and was along a very scary and curvy road. Several times I held my breath thinking we were going to go off the side of the cliff. Poor Kristen, who has a fear of heights, was nearly hyperventilating on our ride back down later that day.
Our guide told us to meet at the train station at 4 to get on a return train to Cusco. When we received our documentation the previous day, our return train ticket was not supposed to be until 9:30 PM. That would put us in Cusco around 1:30 AM. Since that was ridiculously late, they informed us that the office was going to change our ticket. That morning, we were told it was done and we would be on the earlier train.
When we arrived at the train station, our guide told us that the office did not actually change our
|Baby llama at Machu Picchu|
Day 7 – Back to Lima
Another early flight left us with about 4 hours of sleep and on a plane back to Lima. The upside of that was that we had almost all day to walk around Lima and look at the sites we missed on the first day. We walked along Jiron de la Union, the pedestrian road, from Plaza de Armas to Plaza San Martin. We also went in the Monastery of San Francisco to see the catacombs and paintings. After a late, but delicious, lunch of lamb and rice (not chicken and rice!) at Embarcadero 41, we made our way back to the hotel to pack up and relax. That night we grabbed a light dinner the bar next to the hotel and a few parting drinks with our new friends.
|Me and Kristen on the Peru Rail train.|
You can guess it; we were up again around 5 AM to catch our airport transfer for our flights back home. Fortunately our flights were both on time and we had no trouble getting back home. Coming back is always a drag, and I’m already thinking about where I want to visit next! Decisions, decisions…
I posted the full album of pictures on Facebook. If you’re interested in more details from this trip, leave a message or email me!