For Christmas 2010, Christian & I went to Peru for a 10 day, adventure-filled vacation. I won’t bore you with a long travelogue (What? You don’t want to read about the intricacies of foreign bathrooms and whether hot water was available in each place? No? Okay, fine.) But let’s be honest, this mostly for me, so I will only bore you with it for as long as you allow.
After 24 hours of travel (flight to Miami, then to Lima, then to Puerto Maldonado where we got on a bus that took us to a boat that took us to the lodge!), days 1 – 4 were spent at Libertador Tambopata Eco Lodge and camping in the jungle. Lots of boat rides, treks into the jungle and spotting of wild animals like capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), caiman (alligators), boars, birds of every shape. We saw four different species of monkeys (capuchin, squirrel, tamarin and red howler) that were so abundant we hit the Monkey Load. Heh.
The more exciting thing involved a less glamorous animal: a wild boar. We came across a couple of hundred of them crossing a path in front of us, froze and watched in wonder. No problem. After it seemed they were all done crossing, we continued along holding our breath along the way. I have never smelled anything so bizarre and rancid. Our guide kept blowing his nose and hocking to try to get rid of the stench that lingered. Suddenly we realized there was another herd of boars still crossing. Again, we froze this time a boar caught sight of us and came TOWARD us. It stopped, raised its nose and wriggled its snout to get a good whiff of us as we stood as still as possible. I was in front of Christian & our guide trying to stay balanced as I was squatting with my camera aimed at the boar afraid to hit a button for fear that the boar would see me moving. I was having a staring contest with a wild boar while a couple of hundred of its buddies crossed our path!
It then made a few more steps to get CLOSER to us and was joined by another pal. Oh no! They’re on to us. But as soon as the last boar crossed, the two watch pigs departed. Coast clear, we all burst into relieved laughter. “We never discussed what we should do in this situation!” I guffawed. Our guide then gave us a rundown on what to do should we come across any other beasts like pumas.
We camped in the jungle one night at least 9 hours away from the nearest town. Our site was monitored by six vultures and two macaws that were tending to a nest. This would have been fun in a scary way but ended up being horribly terrifying because of an INTENSE, ALL NIGHT thunderstorm that was so dangerously close. Our crew of four included a boat driver who had to sleep on the boat to make sure it didn’t wash away. Our guide, cook and “errand dude” for lack of a better description all stayed in one tent while Christian & I stayed in another. I purposefully typed “stayed” instead of “slept” because sleep was nearly impossible. The lightning was so persistent it was like a lantern was blazing in our tent and the sound of breaking trees, thunder and cracks of lightning were so close that we all wondered if we’d make it through the night. It was so scary that no one said a word. Have you ever read about how in crazy plane situations witnesses will recount how passengers were strangely calm and very quiet? It was like that. There are no words. Christian & I know that no one will ever understand the fear or the surreal danger but we know. We stared at each other in the morning with an all knowing look and then got dressed for breakfast.
Days 4 – 7 were spent in Cusco & a train ride / hike up to Machu Picchu. There’s not much I can say to adequately sum up these two places other than fun and beautiful, respectively. Cusco was decked out for Christmas and people were in great spirits. They love their nativity scenes there! The views of city lights against the mountain range was awesome. We toured Le Catedral and the Museo Inka, shopped at the local market which had such nasty stuff for sale (a bowl of raw cow mouths, anyone?) that it put Chinatown to shame and ate a lot, happy to be back in civilization with electricity and a phone line. I was disheartened by the hundreds of stray dogs but after a few days it was clear the dogs weren’t like regular dogs. They had no interest in humans, were immune to touch and were doing just fine thankyouverymuch. Still, I would have liked to have seen more of them with green collars which the city puts on to indicate they’ve been fixed.
Then we took a train ride to Machu Picchu (we would have loved to do the full hike, but we really wanted to do the jungle and Lake Titicaca so time wouldn’t allow). Every other second was a picture worthy moment. Lush farms, rivers and streams, animals everywhere, women carrying bundles of harvest on their backs (one had a puppy nipping at her heels for crying out loud!), sheep frolicking, just too much beauty in one place it isn’t fair. We hiked up to the top of Machu Picchu in the rain but within 15 minutes the clouds parted and the sun came out. We really lucked out. Pictures don’t do it justice but, well, we took lots of pics anyway. Llamas were in charge of trimming the grass and I loved being near them even if they could have cared less about me.
Days 7 – 10 were in Puno & tours of the islands on Lake Titicaca which included visiting Isla de los Uros (the famous floating islands made of reeds) and staying with a family on Isla Amantani. The latter was a really unique experience that just puts in to perspective how different our lives are. Sure, you can see that people dress and speak differently, that poverty is the norm and hard work is a must. That’s a given. But we totally understand why Angelina Jolie is always scooping up kids…it’s very hard to not fall in love with them and want to give them more opportunity. But to live with them made us stop having so much white guilt and feeling like they’re living beneath their means and appreciate that they are blessed with such wonderful families, communities and togetherness that we’ll never have. They are filled with joy and love.
Lucia and her brother William entertained us while their mother and grandmother cooked for us. All six of us were in their one room kitchen/living/dining room while their lamb Ñeñe looked on from their patio. They dressed us in traditional garb and took us to a dance where we laughed and sweat and carried on like kids.
We met some really nice people from around the world, hiked a mountain (Pachatata aka “Father Earth”), ate lots of new foods like alpaca and cuy (guinea pig), and I managed to read two books and start a third on my Kindle. So I definitely got every ounce of pleasure and relaxation out of my 11 days. Getting upgraded to first class both to/from Lima/NYC sure helped. I wish I knew the magical reason we were upgraded (TWICE!) but the mystery is unsolved.
Photos arranged in order of our trip. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kambricrews/sets/72157625701155196/