Sunday, December 5, 2010

Traveling Maniac - Peru Part 1

Two months ago I was in the jungle of Peru in the Amazon rain forest. My sister Molly and I like to travel together and we often talk about what kinds of trips we want to do. She mentioned Peru, I said "sounds great!" She mentioned a jungle adventure, I said "sounds great!". And it was. We started out at the tour company in Cuzco where we boarded a bus and headed into the cloud forest. We drove on winding roads up and up through the Andes Mountains. It was just absolutely beautiful. We stopped in a small village called Paucartambo for breakfast and went to the farmers market to see all the local vendors and their produce. After the brief tour, we got back on the bus and headed out again. We would often get off the bus and hike a bit. We saw some ancient ruins and beautiful flora and fauna.

We stopped for a picnic lunch and got to hike some more. We saw so many types of orchids and we saw incense plants which I never even knew existed. We got to see the national bird who is quite elusive to the camera. We spent quite a bit of time watching the Cock of the Rock and trying to get a good photo of one of those beautiful bright red birds. We saw unbelievable devastation to the roads and the landscape from flooding that had occurred earlier in the year. Finding an appropriate toilet became more and more of a challenge and an obsession as the cliffs up and down either side of the road got steeper and steeper. At one point I needed to pee so badly I climbed down the side of a cliff for modesty and poor Molly thought I was going to tumble into oblivion never to be see again! Needless to say, I survived.

At last we reached our final destination for the day. We stayed at a nice little camp where Molly and I shared a cabin with camp beds. It was very cold in the cloud forest and we had to bundle up in many layers to keep warm. We had power for a few hours so we could recharge our camera batteries and there was real running water. We ate an amazing dinner, got to know our fellow travelers a bit and went to bed early knowing that morning would come soon enough.

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful sunny day and we had a quick breakfast, packed up, and headed back to the bus. We were leaving the cloud forest and heading back down the mountains into the rain forest. Along the way we stopped in another small village to interact a bit with the local people and to see how they live. It was the day after election day so everyone was curious about who had won which elections. We headed out of the village and back onto the mountain roads where we stopped again at a coca plantation. Coca can be grown and sold legally in Peru, albeit highly regulated. The Peruvians use it to make tea, to bake with, or to simply chew on the leaves to help alleviate altitude sickness. I bought some oatmeal coca cookies and they helped with nausea and other symptoms from the high altitude. After we left the plantation we came upon a clearing where we could see the river Madre de Dios and our guide told us that we would soon be boarding our boat that would take us on the next leg of our journey into the rain forest. Stay tuned for more!