A Travellerspoint blog

A Tour of The Amazon – the beginning

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I am more of a mountain person than a beach or jungle person but because I was so close to the Amazon, I decided that it was special enough to visit. I wanted to see the “real” Amazon, the rainforest with it’s canopy, the lungs of the Earth, so I passed up some tours from Cusco and Bolivia because they seemed to be jungle reserves but not real rainforest. I should have done my homework better but my rationale in choosing Iquitos was that is on the Amazon River and others said to go to Iquitos for the real thing. Unfortunately just before leaving Cusco I read something about needing 5 days to get to the wild amazon, which kind of bummed me out but didn’t completely register what it meant. Talking in Spanish to my host, a guide, I didn’t explain what I wanted well enough and I decided on 3 days with a lodge because I was not wanting to push more adventure after being sick last week or pay tons of money for a 5 day tour. Honestly, I did not find the Amazon to be at all what I had hoped. It is developed here … farms, houses, and second growth forest everywhere. The lodge 40 kilometers out of Iquitos was not isolated at all. My guide mentioned that only 4 of the 52 tribes in the entire Amazon have not been touched by civilization. Oh well, had I known this I might not have come. But I did come and this is what happened.

The tour left Iquitos and within an hour we were at our first stop, a little village/shop area where the Yaguas tribe receives tourists.
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They were friendly enough letting me use their scructanolol or pucuna in Spanish to shoot darts at a target.

The wooden darts are sharpened by pirana teeth. Afterward, there was a dance.

Then, it was time to walk around to look/buy some handmade goods. This woman was weaving a basket.
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In less than an hour, before noon we were at the lodge where I would spend 2 nights and 3 days in the Amazon.
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I thought it would take longer to get here. My room was nice enough and had mosquito nets, YAY! All the meals here were very good as well. One meal was juanes, a chicken dish cooked in a large bijao leaf with rice, egg, and olive) and there were several really nice fish dishes as well.

At lunch some of the people living around there discovered one of the most poisonous snakes in South America nearby. They killed it and it was in the grass for all to see, a bushmaster.
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After lunch, it was off to what I thought was a place in the wild along the river to see wildlife. It turned out to be a small place nearby where tourists can interact with the animals.

There were monkeys
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a three toed sloth
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birds
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a very interesting turtle

a small anaconda

someone put a snake on my neck!
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a caiman
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Afterwards, we went to a nearby spot to see pink and gray dolphins. I saw many briefly from a distance. None came too close but I did get a pink dolphin on video (left side).

After that, it was time to go back and the sunset was nice.
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I was the only one on my tour today and returning to the lodge it turned out I was the only one staying there (aside from my guide). In some ways it was nice to have a guide to myself but it was a bit boring an lonely as part of the great joys of travel is meeting people. It turned out, I would not see another guest for 2 days!

After dinner, we went for a night walk. I saw a frog and a tarantula and wore lots of repellent.
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Posted by solorooster 05:32 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

Iquitos

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Iquitos is a large city of 500,000 people that you cannot get to by road. Iquitos and it’s surrounding cities are on an island surrounded by rivers, including the Amazon itself. The city is located just under 4 degrees south of the equator in the northern part of Peru close to Columbia and Brazil.

I have travelled 50 degrees of latitude on this trip from the tip of Patagonia and yet there is still plenty of continent north of here!

As a city, Iquitos is really unique. Because of the limited network of roads, there are more motorbikes and mototaxis (a motorbike with a carriage behind it) to transport people.
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Buses too are really different. The local ones do not have windows!
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Overall, this is a very polluted, noisy, crowded city. It also is very interesting.

This is a typical street away from the city center
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The city is located on Rio Itaya which drains into the Amazon nearby.
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The main square and city center has a bunch of buildings from the time the city was a rubber center around the turn of the century. This building was built by Eiffel and moved to the town center.
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Other buildings from this era have tiles imported from Europe.
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It sure is humid here, I cannot stop having to drink water and it has been “cool” here recently due to rain.

I chose to come here because I wanted to see the Amazon region. Many others come here to take part in the Ayahuasca ritual with a shaman. Ayahuasca is a hallucinagin that is supposed to spawn visions to help you learn something about yourself. It was also used in Incan ceremonies. A contrary point of view of this type of experience is that it is just tripping on a hallucinagin, you can decide what to think or come down to Iquitos to try it yourself. I am choosing not to partake!

Posted by solorooster 12:16 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cusco to Iquitos

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After 1 month at elevation in Chile, Bolivia, and the Cusco area, I flew to Iquitos located in the Amazon region by way of Lima. So, I packed my jackets deep into my backpack and got prepared to sweat! I was also a little bit nervous because it is my first couchsurfing experience.

My Cusco to Lima flight was in the morning and left early arriving in Lima just after midday.
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Unfortunately unlike the US, I couldn’t peacefully move onto the domestic connection. I had to exit the gate, revisit the check-in desk, and then go through security again after I hung out in the restaurant area, which is outside of the secure area, most of the day.

The most scenic part of the flight was Lima to Iquitos as darkness fell. The clouds were spectacular and at one point parted to reveal large mountains.
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Once I got to Iquitos, my host picked me up from the airport and we took a mototaxi to his house. He introduced me to his wife and dog, a LARGE Rottweiler Labrador mix. We conversed in Spanish much of the evening.

I slept indoors to avoid mosquitos but the setup is usually outdoors for Couchsurfers.
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Around the house were many interesting trees and flowers and I haven’t even gone anywhere yet!
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I believe those are cashews.
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Administrative note:

The blog has been completely updated to have larger photos from the beginning.

Posted by solorooster 16:16 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Quebrada de Tambo Machay

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My last full day in Cusco was today. I spent over 2 weeks in this area overall and had ups and downs. Last night in the hostel, my friend who works there and I were talking and he was trying to give me ideas on what to do. Then he had an idea. He and his daughter were going to do a hike and he invited me. I met him and his 6 year old daughter a little after 10 in the square by the hostel. We took a public bus out to the Pukapukara ruins about 7 ot 8 miles out of town. From there we walked along a sacred stream which had inca walls.
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His daughter enjoyed collecting wildflowers along the way.
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The incan ruins were subtle but in evidence everywhere.
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This is a wahbasin that the incas used.

After a lunch stop and passing farm fields, cows, and sheep, we came to the first ruins.
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This site is called Inkkiltambo and was a site that paid tribute to the dead nobilty. There were recesses carved into the stone where solstice celebnrations occurred and other enclosed tombs where the noble people were entombed.
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Other interesting features of this site included ... some stonework that pertained to astronomical measurements such as the months abnd seasons ...
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and an actual incan guinea pig cage (yes they ate them too!).
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After walking some more we could see incan gravesites (holes in the rock) in the hills.
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Finally, we came to kallachaka, a large terraced site with a round terraced platform on top.
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It could have been used for offerings to the gods. From here it was a close walk to Cusco and we took a bus to the market where my friend helped me find Manjar Blanco, a famous Peruvian sweet that appears to be a spread. After that, we parted ways, a nice final day in Cusco with a new place awaiting me tomorrow.

Posted by solorooster 06:46 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Grounded in Cusco

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After getting back to Cusco on April 15th, I knew I needed some time to recover and get healthy again so I prolonged my stay at the hostel twice and then tried another hostel to try to mix things up.

After my friends left on April 16th, I just took it easy trying to get over the stomach bug. I went out to the corner restaurant, a 1 minute walk, with some people from the hostel and that was my excursion for the day. When I woke up with the same stomach problem and a cold the next day, it was time to talk to my travel doctor and I ended up starting a 3 day course of antibiotics. I even tried to visit a recommended clinic here but couldn't reach them by email and phone. So, I went in person and of course it was locked. At this point, I was feeling far away from home and comfort and with slightly under 3 weeks left in the trip I began to wonder if I should just go home now. However, job 1 was feeling better.

The trip to the clinic did introduce me to a new area of the city to explore and I walked back the next day with camera in hand.
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Monument for Incan leader Pachacutec
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big mural in Cusco

By the end of the week I was feeling better and I was discovering a few new places again and doing productive things like have clothes missing buttons and having rips fixed. I spent some more time in the San Blas market and was starting to look around for my next leg of the trip.
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Seamstress I used in San Blas Market
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Lunch Spot I ate at in San Blas Market
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Fountain in San Blas Plaza

It also allowed me to experience the transistion between wet and dry season. It has stopped raining daily and at times the 6300 meter Asungate has been visible (from afar) in Cusco itself.
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On Saturday, I encountered a random dance party / parade happening in the main square. It was interesting.
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By Saturday, I had spent 6 days in the same hostel and although it is a nice place, a lot of people I met from there were leaving, and I wanted to try something new, so I moved hostels. The new hostel was half the cost and had a view from a terrace. I still ended up with my own room and wi-fi. However, I did not succeed in finding a good place to meet new people and the bathrooms were horrible!

It seemed the second I made the decision to leave my hostel, the connections there came back to me. I befriended two people saying goodbye. Then, my new hostel was down the street and in the evening I ran into the manager of the hostel I had been staying at. We were friends and he invited me in to hang out. I did and later on of the friends I had met staying at the hostel and I went out later for a drink at a smoky bar with live music. After returning to the new hostel, it felt creepy. No one around and semi functional bathrooms. My room was musty too. I decided to leave and come back to my original hostel for one more night of good showers and recuperation before my adventure begins by heading to the Amazon. I also had the huge breakfast a Jack's, a gringo (or white person's place) which was just right for a mending stomach.
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breakfast at Jack's
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new room at my hostel

Posted by solorooster 16:20 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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