I spent eight days in Peru in early October. I mostly spent time in the sacred valley (Cusco & Machu Picchu) and the sub-Amazonian jungle (outside of Puerto Maldonado). I flew round trip flight to Peru (connecting through Houston, Texas) on United using frequent flyer miles, so the travel effectively cost me nothing.
The flight to Houston was uneventful. I had a super long walk to my connecting flight gate. Jebus, Texans at the airport are so fat & stupid. I lost count of the number of people wandering around in garish cowboy hats, ridiculously overweight. While waiting for my flight, i saw planes from klm, Lufthansa, emirates, and Singapore (to Moscow!). I’m not sure what kind of people i expected on the flight to Lima, but it was like a flight to Pittsburgh, PA. There were 8 people in wheel chairs, and a bunch more that should have been, since they could barely walk. There was also this old nutty lady wearing a bright red cowboy hat, with a note pinned to her shirt that said “visually impaired”, who kept wandering around the plane trying to find her seat (for the entire flight), and occasionally she’d be holding random food. The flight was maybe 50% Peruvians. I got stuck sitting next to this morbidly obese Texan woman who stuffed herself between the armrests. The food was the expected disgusting crap that United always serves. They didn’t even try to serve Latin American style food. I had this nasty chicken stir-fry with white rice. Also, the flight took off nearly 30 minutes late because we were waiting for people who were connecting from other late flights. Nothing too interesting to say about Peruvian customs. They were reasonably fast, but not at all friendly. I found the guy holding the sign with my name quickly, and the drive to the hotel took 10 minutes. The part of Lima that we drove through was kinda run down, and looked somewhat similar to some Chinese cities. The hotel in Lima was ok. Its clean & quiet. The front desk guy was friendly. My ride back to the airport in the morning was at 6:15, for my 8:30 flight to cusco.
I got up at 5;30am, got my shower, and caught a ride to the airport at 6:15. I didn’t get breakfast because the hotel didn’t start breakfast until 7:30. People in Lima drive like lunatics. Its a combination of Tanzania & china. I got my boarding pass (which was oddly a slip of paper with my name, flight number, seat number & a barcode). Its a relatively small airport, with just 20 gates (7 of which are international). However they had quite a few places to eat including a mcdonalds and a dunkin doughnuts. However, i got food at a different place. I ordered pan de chicharonnes with an Inka Kola. The sandwich was pretty good, and had pork, onions sweet potatoes smeared on the bread, and lime juice on it. The soda was kinda nasty, but i was curious to try it. After that i wandered around looking for free wifi, gave up, and went through security (which was a joke), and went to the gate area. It was basically this large room with hundreds of people waiting for flights across 6 gates. Flights were departing about every 15 minutes, except 1 airline that cancelled there cusco flight, and had a huge mob around the desk. Also all of the gates required a bus ride out to the plane. Finally at 8:25, for my 8:45 flight, they started ‘boarding’ the bus. The bus drove us out to the tarmac where we boarded up the stairs from the front and back of the plane. Jebus, this plane was tiny. Somehow they managed to squeeze 20 rows on this thing, with most being 6 across (3×3), and oddly a few were 5 across. I actually managed to get an aisle seat in row 8. That’s when i realized that the overhead bins were literally the height of a loaf of bread, and my suitcase didn’t fit at all. I started to freak out when I noticed that the bins 2 rows ahead of me and 4 rows behind me were a more normal height, and i managed to shove my suitcase in there. The plane was comprised about 50% senrio citizen Japanese tour group (all in the fanciest hiking gear), a bunch of sad looking Peruvians, and then people from other random countries (Germany, UK, Australia, Israel, USA, and India). We taxied forever, but then were off the ground by 9:05. This was a 1 hour flight, yet somehow they managed to serve drinks and a snackbox (some odd pastry and a small ham & cheese sandwich), plus they even made all announcements in Spanish then English. The views from the plane were awesome. I saw the snow covered Andes for a while. The descent into cusco was scary. The city is surrounded on all sides by steep mountains, so we basically started free falling into a canyon. I thought we were going to crash into a mountain.
Once off the plane, I had to walk the entire length of the airport to get out. I was expecting to find someone waiting there holding a sign with my name, but didn’t. i wandered around thinking that i must have just missed them, but no, they were not there. Then I wandered around looking for a payphone to call the hotel to ask ‘wtf’, but there were none of those either. There were a lot of taxi drivers calling out to me with ‘hey amigo’ & ‘hey senior’. finally i gave up, and surrendered my fate to the taxi drivers. The first one i walked up to quoted me 30 Soles, which seemed ridiculous, so i told him no thanks. At which point he asked me how much i wanted to pay, so I blurted out 15 before i realized that i was entering the world of bargaining. Of course the guy laughed and rejected my offer, and simply repeated his original 30 again. I gave up on him, and walked away frustrated. A minute or so later a different driver motioned to me, so i girded my loins for battle. He started off at 35, i said 15. He laughed, but said 25. I said 20. He repeated his 25 again, i repeated my 20. He gave me a dirty look, and then agreed to my 20. I should note that he couldn’t speak a word of English, and we were mostly just typing numbers on his cell phone. He was honest, and drove me to the hotel, and even carried my suitcase to the front door. I paid him the 20, he shook my hand, and handed me his business card, presumably so that i’d call him for a return trip to the airport. I’m not sure how that conversation would have worked, considering how he understood little of what i said, and i was using my severely stunted Spanish.
Anyway, i walked into the hotel, and there were 3 women behind the desk, and all together, I doubt they spoke more than 100 words of English. One of them seemed to be trying to explain why no one picked me up from the airport, but the only part that she said in understandable English was “can’t do airport pickup”. She did seem to also say that they would give me a free ride to the airport when i left. All i know is that i expect some sort of compensation, but trying to talk with those 3 was just painful (and that’s even when i tried my limited Spanish). I’m hoping there will be someone different at the front desk in the evening who knows more English. Anyway, they gave me a hot cup of coca tea (which is supposes to help with the 11285ft of altitude, more on this later), and then showed me to my room.
At that point i unpacked a few things, and figured that i’d find lunch, and start exploring. The historic parts of the city are really beautiful, with Spanish colonial architecture, and the huge Spanish churches sprinkled every few blocks. The weather was also great, high 60s, clear skies. I went looking for this hole in the wall place that is supposed to have a bunch of Peruvian standards (like Cuy), and is supposed to get very busy at lunch time with the locals. I found the street where it was supposed to be, but it was under massive construction, with 4ft deep trenches where the side-walk should have been, and construction equipment parked in the middle. People seemed to be wandering around though the chaos anyway, so i walked through too. I found the place, but when i walked inside, it was almost completely empty, except for 2 people sitting at a table in the corner. No one greeted or even acknowledged me. I couldn’t tell if the place was simply not open yet (even though it was nearly noon), or what was going on. One thing that i did notice was that they had cuy listed on the chalkboard menu. As i was just about to give up and leave, a guy walked out of the kitchen, and gestured me towards a table. I sat down, he grabbed a notepad, and said something quickly in Spanish, which i assumed was ‘can i take your order?’. I said cuy, he then started rambling off drinks, and all i understood was inka cola and coka cola. I said agua, he acknowledged, and walked off. As i was waiting for my food, those 2other people’s food came out and one of them had also ordered the cuy,and it looked amazing. Then the guy brought me a bottle of water, and an empty plate, napkins, and utensils. At the time i was puzzled why i needed the empty plate. A few minutes later he brought out my food. It was amazing! The cuy itself was almost a foot long. It was sitting on a huge bed of fried noodles with diced up peppers mixed in. Beside that were two huge fried potatoes, which had red & purple swirls throughout. Next to that was half a large red chili pepper, stuffed with bits of vegetables, hard boiled egg, and covered in a melted aged cheese (looked and tasted a bit like parmesean). Of course, i started with the cuy, but i was struggling to cut through its fried leathery crisp skin. The guy noticed me flailing about, and motioned that cuy is finger food. That explained the empty plate. It was there for me to discard the random bones, teeth & claws. Once i used my fingers, it was much easier. The cuy was quite tasty. The skin had a nice crunch, and the meat was very tenser and juicy. It kinda tasted like the dark meat from a turkey. The rest of the food was also quite good, and i was in food coma by the time i finished it all. While i was eating, the place started to fill, and by the time i went to pay, it was about half full.
It was after lunch that the effects of the elevation started to hit me, most likely because some of my blood flow was getting diverted for digestion. Basically every time i tried to walk quickly, or climb stairs, or even a gentle hill, my heart started racing and i got dizzy. As the day progressed, i needed to stop and rest every few seconds. Since getting back to the hotel and sitting down, i feel mostly ok, although i have a pounding headache, which could be due to my lack of sleep, or the elevation.
Anyway, after lunch i went to Qorikancha, which are the Incan temple ruins, that the Spanish built a church on top of. It was really beautiful. after that i mostly wandered side streets in the general direction of the Cusco cathedral, and my hotel. I stopped in a closet sized shop where i bought 2.5L of drinking water for 3 Soles. There’s no free drinking water anywhere, which is annoying enough, but so much worse when i have to dump it every time i get on a plane. One plus in all of this is that i learned how to ask how much something costs in Spanish. So yay me.
Oh, also at one point earlier today this weird parade came past. It was escorted by police in riot gear. With people chanting something that i couldn’t understand, carrying huge banners that i couldn’t read, and blowing annoying soccer match horns.
After breakfast i headed up to Sacsayhuaman, the ancient Incan fortress ruins, which sit on a cliff northwest of the city. I was seriously worried that i wouldn’t be able to hike up there, as i’m still not fully acclimated to the altitude, and the fort is another 600ft higher up, at nearly 11900ft. Somehow, i did ok. On the hike up, i was passed by this group of women in the traditional clothing with the hoop skirts, black hats and rainbow colored sweaters. They were powering up the mountain like it was nothing, and i was struggling for air. One of them looked like she pushing 70 too. Just as i reached the top, i came upon this large school group, all in matching blue track suits, prolly a year or 2 younger than david. Almost every one of greeted me enthusiastically with a loud ‘Hola!’. It was really cute. Also, i saw llamas!! They were grazing all over the place. White ones, black ones, brown ones. I even saw a baby llama. The scale of fortress is just amazing. 6ft tall stones carved perfectly, and fitted together with other equally large stones, all stretching on for thousands of feet. The views from up there were also great. I could see the entire city.
After i finished there, i started walking east towards another set of ruins which were used for animal sacrifices and mummifications. It was called Q’enqo (pronounced kenco). It was about 1km away, so i needed to walk along a road that was also up in the hills above the city. As i was walking, this taxi was coming down the road towards me, and then suddenly did a quick u-turn right behind me. He then parked, jumped out, and ran up beside me. He proceeded to try to convince me to pay him to drive me to all the ruins (there are about 5 others in the hills around the city). Originally he quoted me 30 Soles, but of course i declined, and told him that i planned to walk. But he would not take no for an answer, and was bargaining himself down without my input. Eventually he gave up when he had dropped his price all the way down to 15 Soles. Qenqo was relatively small in size, but was still interesting. It had a cave with two alters carved out of the rock, plus a carved slot through a 20ft tall monolith.
Once i was done there i realized that it was likely a much longer route to backtrack the entire way i had walked than to search for a more direct way back down into the historic section of cusco. I pulled out my phone and studied the assortment of ‘roads’ in the area. Of course google maps’ idea of a road in peru doesn’t mean that its paved or even drivable in a car. The first road that i walked was ridiculously steep, unpaved, and covered in rocks. Along side this road was an assortment of mud brick ‘homes’ and tin shacks. Like many South American cities, all of the poorest people apparently live up on the hill sides surrounding the city. At one point i passed a guy who was bathing himself in a creek. Further down the hill, i walked past a school that was letting out. Most of the kids looked to be no more than 6 or 7. As soon as they saw me, they started waving and screaming “hola!”. They were really cute. I knew that i was getting close to the center of the city when i started to pass pizza shops (with menu boards mostly in English), and hippies with dreadlocks & backpacks.
After i got back to the hotel, i talked to the women at the front desk about the best way to get to the city, Ollaytantambo, which is about 60km west of cusco, as that’s where i needed to catch the train to macchu pichu the following afternoon. They said that i could either pay a taxi 100 Soles, or i could take a non-stop minibus for about 30 Soles. Either way the drive would take almost 2 hours. They gave me a paper map that showed where the minivans stop. They also recommended that i catch the minivan at 11am, so that i’ll have plenty of spare time to explore Ollaytantambo before i need to board the train at 4pm. I planned to give the minivan a try. It seemed crazy to pay a taxi more than 3x as much. And since the minivan went non-stop i didn’t have to worry about getting off at the wrong place.
After that i walked down to the cusco central mercado (market). It was about 5 blocks west of the hotel, in this huge flea market style building. 90% of the vendors were selling food (either raw ingredients, or hot, prepared dishes). The remainder were selling clothes, textiles, toys, kitchen tools, and baskets. It was very impressive. There was one aisle of vendors selling nothing but potatoes of every size, shape & color. Another aisle had dozens of varieties of corn. Another had Peruvian coffee beans and chocolate. There was raw meat and seafood, including pig heads, cow jaws (with the teeth), and offal. They had two aisles with booths making nothing but fruit smoothies. In the produce section i saw avocados for sale that were literally the size of footballs. Another aisle with nothing but fresh baked loaves of bread. An aisle with fresh cheeses. There were 4 aisles with stalls making dozens of different types of ceviche. They had a sopa (soup) aisle, where i saw freshly made chicken soup, with assorted different types of potatoes, carrots and noodles. After seeing all of this i was getting very hungry for dinner, and it wasn’t even 4pm yet.
I noticed that across the street there was a ‘modern’ style supermarket, so i went to check out what they had. I didn’t see much exciting, although they did have half an aisle that was nothing but different types of canned tuna, plus other types of canned fish. After that, i sat on a bench outside the market and watched people. Everywhere i’ve been in cusco there are lots of people walking around. After about a half hour i went back into market complex to find dinner. I started at a stall that made nothing but toasted sandwiches. I ordered pan con queso frito (bread with fried cheese). They took this pita looking loaf of bread, and toasted it over hot coals. Then they grabbed the fresh cheese that was being sold elsewhere in the market, sliced off two thick slices about the size of my hand, and fried them up on a grill until the edges were brown & crispy and the center was gooey. They slapped the cheese inside the bread, and served it to me. OMG, it was so good. The cheese was kinda salty, but also creamy on the inside, all for about 75 cents. Next i went to a stall that was selling different kinds of fried meat with rice,beans and a salad, all for about $3. I got mine with pork. They also had this huge bowl of salsa for people to use. Except this wasn’t a runny, bland tomato sauce. It was equal parts freshly diced red & purple onions, tomatoes, red, yellow & orange bell peppers, cilantro and some sort of chile pepper. It was the most delicious, flavorful salsa i’ve ever had, plus it had real heat to it. I wanted to grab the bowl for myself. At that point i was mostly full, but i was craving chocolate. I considered going to the chocolate aisle, but i really wanted more than just a huge chocolate bar. I eventually found this one stall with these huge Costco sized chocolate cakes. Unfortunately, there was no sign that clearly indicated whether they were selling them by the slice or the entire cake, and my Spanish was way too limited to attempt to ask, so i gave up. I went back across the street to the supermarket to buy a 2L bottle of water. As i was walking back to the hotel, i passed a bakery, and saw that they had chocolate covered doughnuts. I bought 2 for about $1, and brought them back with me.
I don’t know if peru does doughnuts differently, or if this bakery was just being creative. Before they dipped them in chocolate (which turned out to be dark chocolate, not milk), they sliced them like a bagel, and drizzled caramel sauce inside. Then they closed them up again, dipped them in the chocolate. They were really good.
I checked out of the hotel this morning, and started walking the 10 blocks to where the minivans were supposed to be. When i was a half block away, these two people started saying ‘ollaytantambo’ over and over. They said that they could drive me there in this minivan parked in a garage on the side of the street for 10 soles. Since the hotel told me it was going to be around 30, i was very suspicious. I asked them again to confirm that they’d drive me the entire way, and they said yes. I asked how long the drive would take, and they said about 1.5 hours. I asked what time they could leave, and they said in about 15 minutes. I figured why not, it would either end up being an amazing deal, or a disaster. They led me to the minivan, where i found it already had 5 people inside. It quickly became obvious that the van wasn’t going anywhere until every seat was full. After waiting another 20 minutes, we had 11 people inside plus the driver, and we left. Other than being packed in like sardines, it wasn’t bad. For peru, he drove relatively safely, and we got there just before noon. I paid the driver when i got out, and it was done. The scenery during the drive was amazing. About 40 minutes out of cusco, the Andes came into view, with snow & glaciers. Also, at one point we passed the turnoff for the road that went south, and the sign noted that the ‘Chile frontera’ was 758km away.
The town of ollaytantambo was really pretty. It was surrounded on all sides by very tall mountains, and all the streets were cobblestones. The main square was starting to get overrun by tourist focused businesses, but as soon as i went a block in any direction, it was still mud brick homes, tiny shops, and corn fields. I walked around for a bit trying to find somewhere that didn’t highlight pizza & pasta on their signboards. Eventually i walked up a narrow alley, which seemed to run all the way to the base of the mountains. I walked past this tiny dark restaurant which didn’t even have any lights, and this old woman inside yelled ‘hola senior’, so i went in. She started talking super fast in spanish, and the only stuff that i understood was ‘menu nacional’ and ‘6 soles’. I figured for the equivalent of $2 it would either be horrible, or amazing. I sat down at one of the 6 tables, and she quickly brought me a huge bowl of soup. In it was a very rich chicken broth, wavy noodles, a few small whole potatoes, onions, and some bright orange things that looked like bits of carrot, but tasted like potato too. It was pretty good, and i figured it was worth 6 soles. i was getting ready to leave, when she brought me a glass of warm orange liquid. It tasted like peach nectar, except that it was warm. It was good, but i’m still confused on exactly what it was, and why it was warm. So before i had finished drinking my warm drink, she comes out with another huge plate of food. Salad (lettuce, purple onion & tomatoes), white rice, two whole skinned potatoes, and a chunk of pork rib meat with 3 of the ribs still attached. The meat also had some semi-spicy seasoning on it, which mixed well with the rice. All of it was good. At this point a few other locals had wandered in, and they were eating the exact same thing as me. This meal wins the prize for best value.
After that i spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the town, just exploring. I past the school where the kids were getting out. I’ve noticed that school seems to let out around 1pm (at least for the young kids) in Peru. What was a bit odd about the kids here was that they were all carrying either a huge pick-axe or a huge machete. There’s something very disturbing about seeing dozens of kids wandering the streets carrying machetes that could likely take my arm off. I spent some time just sitting on a bench in the square watching people.
Eventually i wandered down to the train station, to wait for my train to arrive. It came on time, and it was briefly mass chaos, as tons of people got off the train,and tons tried to figure out which train car they belonged on. Based on passports, there were oddly very few Americans. Tons of people from other south american countries, a bunch of japanese, some new zealanders, italians, austrslians, and this one weirdo from south africa. I eventually found the car that i needed, and found my seat. It happened to be across from this older german couple who had spread out all across my seat too. They looked super pissed when i showed up, and made them move their bags. Then they looked even more angry when the seat beside me remained empty, and i put my bag on it. I ignored them, and the train ride itself was ok. The scenery was really nice, until the sun set, and then i was stuck looking at the angry germans who were giving me death stares.
The train pulled into the station on time, i got off, and it was sheer madness. It wasn’t at all obvious how to exit the station. On top of that the place was mobbed by hundreds of tourists all shoving to get on the last departing train of the day. At one point i thought i had found the exit, only to get stopped by a guard demanding to see my ticket. I kept saying ‘salida’ (exit), but he started babbling on in spanish, and i couldn’t make out single word. Eventually i figured out that the station exit was through the maze of trinket hawkers stalls. Cause you know, that’s always how you exit a train station.
Next was the hunt for how to cross the bridge to the north side of town, where almost everything except the train station was. Eventually i figured that out too, and found the bus ticket booth, and bought my ticket for tomorrow. This town is layed out in the most confusing way possible. First, there are no roads, just narrow streets, with nothing but tourist focused businesses, all crammed together. So all the businesses compete for attention with huge, bright garish signs, with flashing lights and colors. Its as if vegas streets had no cars, and were all 12ft wide. As a result of all this, finding thr hotel was maddening. Eventually i did manage to find it. I was shown to my room by this girl who looked to be maybe 17, holding a baby in her arms. Also, she spoke almost no english. When i asked for the wifi password, she handed it to me written down on a piece of paper. But it didn’t eork, and nothing i said or showed her helped. I gave up, and went out to find dinner.
That’s when i found a place just down the block that had wifi. I ended up ordering alpaca steak with white rice and vegetables. It was ok, but nothing great.
Last night i actually slept well until 3am. I got up to use the toilet and the damn roosters started in. I actually fell back to sleep shortly before the alarm went off at 5:30am. The hotel breakfast was rather pathetic. Bread, jam, butter, watery oj & tea. I guess for $25/night, i shouldn’t have gotten my expectations up. After that i checked out, walked down to the bus stop, and caught the next bus up to the park entrance. I got in shortly after 6am.
Machu Picchu was amazing. The pictures do not do it justice. For starters the classic image that most people have seen only shows about 1/3 of what exists. There’s a ton of other stuff that you just can’t capture in a picture from that angle. Basically what happens at the entrance is that everyone gets their ticket stamped, then they have to walk around the side of the mountain before they can actually see anything. Then bam, you get that famous view. But if you keep walking just a bit further, the rest comes into view, including all the growing terraces (which occupy about 2/3 of the park land), additional structures and ruins, plus about a dozen llamas wandering about freely. I was super lucky this morning, as the weather was perfect. Clear skies, with a few distant tiny clouds. I had read so many stories about how its foggy up there most of the time. When i arrived, the park wasn’t too crowded yet, so i was easily able to wander wherever i wanted, and mostly avoid others. For the most part, people are permitted to go wherever they want, although a few areas were roped off. Around 9 or 10am, the massive tour groups started to arrive, and it was getting fairly crowded. i was basically done after 11am and made my way towards the exit.
Since it was still relatively early, i decided to walk the 3.5 miles back to town, rather than take the bus. The walk was actually quite nice, although a thunder storm moved in, and it rained a bit for the last mile or so. However the storm didn’t last long, and the weather alternated between sun and brief rain for the rest of the afternoon. I spent most of the time sitting on a bench in the town square, or wandering looking at the overpriced junk in the shops. Finally my train arrived just after 5pm. Unfortunately i got stuck sitting next this idiot who wouldn’t shut up the entire 3 hour ride. He felt the need to tell everyone how he lived in Detroit, and that it was the most amazing city. Keep in mind that most of the people sitting near us were from all over the world, and had no clue what this loud mouth American was talking about. There was an old couple from Germany, a woman from Russia, a father & son from Finland, 2 Australians, and a few Japanese women. Finally we pulled into the train station just before 9pm. As i was waiting to get off, a woman tapped me on the shoulder. Apparently she had recognized me from the hotel in cusco, and asked if i wanted to share a taxi with her & her husband. I said sure, cause it would have to be cheaper than going solo. They’re actually from Brazil, and she spoke fluent Spanish. So even better, she could haggle with the taxi drivers.
I couldn’t follow everything she said to the drivers, but i did follow the prices. Apparently the drivers wanted 60 soles, and she got him down to 30 (so i only had to pay 10).
The hotel called me a taxi, and paid for it. I got to the airport in Cusco just after 8am, and it was a zoo. Huge lines for every airline. Took almost 30 minutes to get my boarding pass, but security was quick & easy. My flight to Peurto Maldonaldo left on time, and was half empty.
The airport in puerto maldonaldo is so tiny. 2 gates, and the entire thing is surrounded by jungle. I got off the plane, and walked into a wall of heat. I have no clue what the temperature is, but its seriously hot & humid. I got picked up at the airport by the expedition company, and was driven to their office which was 10 minutes from the airport. They gave us cold drinks, while people from a few other flights arrived. Then we all got on another bus, which drove us 45 minutes down this dirt jungle road to the river dock. While on the bus, we got s snack bag with plantain chips and brazil nuts, which were tasty. 6 of us got on the boat, and headed 45 minutes down the river to the lodge. The river is really wide, and very muddy. While on the boat they gave us lunch. It was a banana leaf wrapped around this rice, chicken, pepper mixture which was very tasty. While on the boat, the guide spotted a family of capybaras, and a bunch of river turtles. The hike from where the boat dropped us off through thr jungle to the lodge took 10 minutes. The lodge is really pretty, and is surrounded by the jungle on all sides. All the buildings have no exterior walls or windows. Yet, each of the guest rooms has a flush toiler, and shower. There are mosquito nets over the beds. The main building and dining area has electricity at night, but everything else only has kerosene lanterns. My ‘group’ is made up of this chinese group, an older australian couple, and me, plus the guide. In the afternoon, we hiked out to the jungle canopy tower, which was 120ft tall. The views from the top were realy awesome. While coming back down, a wasp stung my left hand. It hurt a lot at first, but isn’t too bad now. I’m supposed to get a buffet dinner at 7pm each night, lunch at 1pm, and breakfast time varies.
I had a lot of trouble falling asleep last night because its so damn warm here. Once i fell asleep i slept ok though. There are tons of jungle noises at night which were kinda soothing, although towards morning the monkeys went psycho and started screaming for over an hour.
Breakfast this morning was granola, yogurt, pancakes and juice. It was ok, but nothing special. The sun was up at 5am, and we took the boat about 15 minutes further up river to an oxbow lake. We had to hike about 20 minutes to the lake, and it was really pretty. Lots of weird, exotic, and colorful mushrooms, plus monkeys, butterflies, and we saw a black panther high up in a tree. Once we reached the lake, we got on a different boat, and mostly floated aimlessly. It started to rain lightly while we were on the lake. We saw some white jungle turkeys (which can apparently fly), and a few macaws. Then they pulled out some fishing poles, and a raw chicken breast (cut into tiny pieces), and they let everyone attempt to catch piranhas. People actually caught quite a few (and then threw them back). After that we went back to shore, and hiked back to the river boat.
When we got back to the lodge, they gave us juice, fruit and cheese sandwiches. Next we hiked through the jungle to a blind near a clay lick. Along the way, we saw wild cocoa trees (with pods), and several avocado trees. Also, tons of leaf cutter ants, army ants, poison dart frogs, and more butterflies & monkeys. The blind was amazing. We saw dozens of rainbow colored macaws, flying around, or perched on trees or eating salt on the clay lick.
Once we returned to the lodge, it was a bit before noon, so we had free time until lunch at 1pm. I ended up chatting with the old people from Australia, and this middle aged couple from Winnipeg. The Australians had a crazy flight out here. Sydney to san diego to lima. So apparently there are no flights from australia to south america. The canadians flew winnipeg to denver to mexico city to lima. Oh, and i found out that the chinese flew shanghai to hong kong to nyc to lima. I definitely lucked out, until i talked to this lady from san diego who flew LAN non-stop straight to lima.
Lunch was ok. I had grilled chicken parts, roasted potatoes and this brown rice. The rice was the best part. After lunch we had until 3:30pm for free time. i was super exhausted from getting up so early, and ended up going back to my room, and taking a nap in the hammock (yes, every room had a hammock). I barely woke up in time for the afternoon activity. Also, when i woke up i was drenched in sweat. It was definitely hotter today than yesterday.
We hiked back to the boat, and went about 10 minutes upstream to where the tribal medicine man lives. We were given a really interesting tour of the native jungle plants that he cultivates for traditional medicines. The guides translated everything that the medicine man said. It was nearly 5:30 by the time we finished there, and the sun was setting. On the boat ride back to the lodge, we saw an amazing sunset. It actually ended up raining at the lodge while we were gone,and everything was dripping wet, plus there were huge mud puddles on the trail from the boat pier to the lodge. Dinner was decent.
I slept in until 7AM, got breakfast, and killed time until I caught the boat back to the town at 9:30am. Then I killed time at the airport, until after 2PM, because my flight back to Lima was over an hour late. The airport was small, loud & hot. Just the 2 gates, plus no real windows (or AC), which meant that we could hear & smell all the planes on the tarmac. Finally the plane arrived, and we walked across the tarmac, and boarded. Somehow, i ended up sitting in the middle seat, between these two Peruvian guys. The guy to my right was ok, but the dude on my left brought a radio with him on the plane, and proceeded to listen to it (without headphones) for the entire 35 minute flight to Cusco (the flight stopped there before proceeding to Lima). The flight attendants noticed the guy & his radio, yet said nothing. About 10 minutes before we reached Cusco, we hit some horrific turbulence, and the plane felt like it was free falling for about 5 seconds. The layover in Cusco was less than 30 minutes, and then we got into Lima about 40 minutes later than scheduled. At that point, I had over 7 hours to kill in Lima before my flight home that night. I got some dinner, and then just sat on a bench for a few hours until the United ticket counter finally opened. Then I spent another 2 hours sitting at the gate waiting for them to start boarding. The flight left a few minutes late, and was otherwise uneventful.
All of the trip pictures are posted HERE.