Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday travels

After a good nights sleep we were up at 5:30am for our 6:15 departure to the bus depot. We had a quick buffet breakfast at the hotel and then Sarah was there to pick us up and head to the bus. We arrived to a very busy bus station- so many people about! Thank heaves Sarah was there and directed us to the baggage drop and then the waiting area. In no time the bus was there and we were loading up. A super comfy bus ride this was going to be. We had luxurious reclining seats- each with their own TV and blankets, pillows- nice. we settled in for the 4 hour ride and we were off. The scenery changed from city to coast pretty quickly, and then desert- so dry the southern area of Peru. Arriving in Paracas it was so hot and dry. We were greeted by our Anywhere crew and take to the hotel Emancipador- lucky us we were able to do an early check in. The girls were ready to chill and Frank and I went for a walk in town in search of a good coffee. The town is a fishing village really, with pelicans and fishing boats on one side and rows of cafes not he other side. A coffee and snack in the sun was delightful. Back to the hotel and into bathing suits we spent the afternoon chilling at the pool- it was so nice after all the days of craziness we had just had. We had to apply the sunscreen a few times as it was super hot. After a few hours we went back to the room and searched number one places for dinner in this tiny town. Turned out there was a clear winner in Puka Soncco because it was at the very top of the Trip Advisor list. This tiny "hole in the wall" was also an art gallery- such awesome art.  The chef himslef came out to serve us and take orders- we all had something different and delicious- my Loma Soltado was excellent.  After dinner and a stroll to find ice cream we headed back and turned in for the night.  A lovely relaxing day.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Goodbye to the jungle.

Sunday morning we were up and packing as we had to leave at 8:30am.  Our last jungle breakfast did not disappoint. We left our gum boots on the rack and we were off to the boat for the 2 hour journey back to Puerto Moldinado. The river ride was beautiful and peaceful and then we were in Inferno (hell as the locals call it) and back on the bus, for the bumpy 1 hour ride.  At the office in town, we checked out and then Victor drove us to the airport.  Checking in we were early, so we had time for a nice hot coffee in the local coffee spot.  At the departure gate we ran in to the 2 couples we had met back on our Sacred Valley tour- they had been in the jungle for 3 days and were going back to Cusco. Chatting away the time flew and then we were boarding and on our way.  The plane flew the 45 minutes to Cusco and landed, let some people off and some on and then back up in the air and off to Lima.  Arriving in Lima we were created by Sara from Anywhere Peru, she had been my main contact through all the planning so it was lovely to meet her.  Rafael drove us the 1 hour to the hotel in Miraflores (the traffic in this city is INSANE).  We found out that the severe flooding going on in the country has affected the people of Lima as most of them don't have water.  In the hotels we are pretty sheltered from that so not as aware as we should be- it's pretty bad.
Our hotel- El Tambo- was in Miraflores, a pretty neighbourhood and seemingly safe.  We checked in, freshened up and then took a walk down to Larcomar, an impressive mall, built into the side of the cliffs that fortify Lima from the ocean.  The mall is huge and very modern, quite stunning.  Hunger was our motivational goal- and we headed for Tanta, apparently one of the top eats in Lima.  The chef is Gaston Acurio- a famous Peruvian chef; the menu was difficult to read as there in no English (or limited English).  But we chose a couple of appies and one of them was ceviche, which was truly delicious.  After our lunch/dinner, we walked along the walk that hugs the top of the cliffs and caught the fiery sunset, that Lima is famous for.  We ended up at Love Park and it seemed the entire city was there  enjoying the last suns rays melting away.  Back at Larcomar, we cruised around and realised that the stores were over the top expensive, we found some ice cream and then were ready to head to the hotel for the night.

Clay licks!

We were up early- for a 5:30 departure. We left the lodge and went up river fifteen minutes in order to observe the activity of the macaws, parrots and parakeets feeding on the earth. La Torre Clay Lick is a mud bank about four meters high and twenty meters wide criss crossed with veins of mineral rich clay essential to the diet of these birds.

On site we were in a hideout at a distance of  about thirty meters which keeps us hidden while at the same time allowing us an unobstructed view of the display in front of us.
We watched a lot of birds fly over but none of them went down to the lick.  After about an hour we gave up and went back to the lodge for breakfast. We had mini pancakes, eggs and fruit- good jungle food.  A few hours later Victor told us it was time to go back as the Macaws should be at the lick now- they are late eaters.  We left the girls at the lodge as they wanted to chill and we headed back up to the lick- we sat across from the lick this time and saw pairs of Macaws begin to appear- they mate for life and stay together for everything.  We watched for a while from across the river and then got up quite close, it was pretty amazing to see these stunning birds in the wild.
Back a the lodge we got to relax and read a book in the sunshine, then it was lunch.  We had a rice, with egg and chicken in it, all wrapped in a leaf.  After lunch we got ready for a visit to the local farm.  We took the boat and were there in no time.  The local farms don't have a regular field of one or other type of produce, but rather it's all grown together.  We tried bananas, limes, lemons that tasted like oranges.  There were so many plants to see it was amazing.  We even tried a cocoa pod bean- the pods are orange when ripe and when broken open there are slimy seeds inside, trying one we were so surprised they tasted like chocolate. 
By the time we got back it is was dinner - another delicious meal was had.  After our bellies were stuffed, we all trudged down to the boat after that in search or camen.  There was a huge light in the boat as we cruised on the river and all we could see were red eyes- yikes.  Next thing we knew our guide had wrangled a baby camen into the boat, we got to touch him and then it was back to the water.  After a while we turned off all the light and watched the fireflies dance against the milky way- pretty magical sites to see.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Friday morning we awoke to the ongoing rain that had started in the middle of the night- the rain had just started pummelling down in the night and it was a little light this morning - but still raining.  We headed up to breakfast- eggs, cereal, pancakes and fruit. Victor told us we were going to delay our departure a little as we didn't want to walk in the rain- we hung around unit about 10 and then the rain lifted. Before we left the resident "night monkeys" were in the trees and the girls got to hand feed them some fruit.
Off to the boat at 10 and down the Tambopata river this time, for about 15 minutes- we got off at a path and started our walk down the muddy path- rubber boots are a huge help here. In about 20 minutes we were at the lake- Cocha Tres Chimbadas, an oxbow lake- originally part of the river. We all hoped onto the Flat boat and Victor paddles us out into the lake- we were in search of the giant otters.  Before long we could see the wild turkey like birds all along the lake and pretty soon we heard the call of the otter- they are extremely vocal and loud! Then there they were - all 6 of them following along the  riverbank.  Even now and then you would see them go under pop up and hear them crunching down on the head of a piranha- this is the main dietary source- they have no fear.  We followed them for a while as they chatted and ate- pretty fast and cute animals.  Then Victor pulled over and said we were going fishing.  He threaded a hook- with a long metal tie and nylon onto a stick - attached some raw chicken- popped it in the water and in no time pulled up a small piranha, "and he says that is how you catch them." We all prepped our sticks and popped them in- a few bites and our chicken was gone.  Then pop I caught the first one- a white belly I believe, there are 3 or 4 different types, red, white, yellow and black.  We set him free and carried on trying - in no time we had all pulled on up - different types but all really small- still they teeth are insane, Victor held up a leaf to one that we had caught and it was like a hole punch- chop gone was a chunk. We each caught about 3 - Frank caught a decent size one and we decided to take it back and try it for lunch (?) Danica had a really big one on the hook- but he skated off the line just as fast so no luck with that.  After about an hour of fishing we packed up and headed back to the boat launch.  Hiking back to the boat was hot and there were a lot of mosquitoes about.
Back at the lodge - lunch was served at 1:30, a great jungle stew of squash, corn, peppers and I am not sure what else. And a bbq'd piranha on the side- he was little so not much meat, but what we tasted was really good. Then it was siesta time.
In the afternoon we went on another walk in the jungle - this time we had to wade through some areas as the night before rain had really left the area deluged. Victor showed us many different types of plant and trees and told us what the jungle uses were for- I believe 80% of medicines we use today come from he Amazon- there are some incredible plants here. We ended up at this HUGE tree- a Kapok tree- it was huge and someone had built a tree house at the top. Apparently they have people who come and climb these trees for fun. We waded back to the lodge after this and at dinner Victor mentioned we were doing a 10km hike at 4:30 the next day- we were not too excited by this, so he made a change of plans and we had a 5:30 start to go see the parrots instead. Dinner was Loma Saltado- a traditional meal of beef, onions, peppers and rice- a real fav of mine so far. Another great day and we were out in no time- just so tired from all this humid air and trying to fend of mosquitoes.

Puerto Maldonado

Thursday and a 7:45am pick up for the airport.  We checked our bags headed to the gate ready for our 9:55 departure - after a little wait it seemed there was a delay with the flight- we weren't sure what or how long- but an on time departure was not in the cards.  Then 20 minutes later the gate was opened and we boarded! Up and down- the flight was 40 minutes and then we landed in the thick of the jungle. It was hot and the humidity hit us like a brick wall. Victor- who was to be our guide of the next 4 days was there to greet us, with a smile.  Bags all loaded we bumped down the dirt roads to the Inotawa offices for check in.  We dropped off our big bags and then prepared for the 1 hour drive to the river, over dirt roads with potholes the size of small swimming pools!  We drove through banana fields, papaya groves, and so much green jungle and red sand.  Then we were at the boat launch, and the long Amazon type boat that was to take us to the lodge.  Making a rocky entrance we sat on either side of the boat- life jackets on and we were off up river.  Victor handed each of us a leaf and water for lunch?  We opened the leaves and they were filled with a delicious  rice and bean  dish that we all wolfed down in no time- our first "jungle food' experience. Then we sat back and watched the big from river pass us by- looking for signs of life.  In 45 minutes we were at a set of stairs going up?  We de-boated and up the stairs - a path lay ahead that was muddy and full of bugs- we were truly in the jungle.  A short walk and we were at Inotawa Lodge- a welcome drink of passion fruit greeted us, followed by a short tour of the place. Victor showed us the rubber boots and told us to choose a pair as they would be ours for the next 4 days, the restaurant - with 24 hour coffee and water and then our rooms.  The girls had their own room next to ours- although the roofs were open so it was like they were in our room. There is no electricity or power until 6pm each night so we had no wifi and no power- what to do??? We all picked a hammock, a book and settled in for the afternoon. At about 4:30 we started getting ready as Victor was taking us on our first walk.  Bug sprayed, long sleeves, flashlights and rubber boots- we were ready for this. And we were off- thank goodness for the boots it was so muddy- the perks of visiting in the rainy season. We had about an hour walk and saw some really cool plants, tarantulas, army ants, stick bugs to name a few- at the end of the trail we turned the lights off and watched the fireflies dance- so beautiful.  Back to the lodge and dinner was at 7:30. It was a simple dinner- pasta, sauce, salad, with a starter of rice soup and a dessert of fried plantains in caramel. All meals are with your guide - which was great as we talked about the day and then plans for the next. Tomorrow we are going fishing.

Sun Gate Hike

Wednesday we were up at 4:30am, the rain was pouring down and we were doubtful there would be a sunrise to see! We packed our bags- even though we had an 11am checkout we weren't going to take a chance that we would be late and have to rush back. After eating a quick breakfast at the buffet we checked out and left our bags at the hotel and started the trek down hill to the bus stop.  We quickly happened on the line as it was half way up the hill already.  The first bus leaves at 5:30am, and we were there at 5:20.  We stood on the pouring rain with a few hundred other people and thought "wow this is going to be horrible"  Luckily we all had raincoats- but Frank decided to buy the girls ponchos too as it was really pouring down. The line moved really fast and we made it on the 5:40 bus for the switch back up the mountain- this time in the pouring rain- the driver had only a tiny area that he could actually see out of the fogged up window. We made it to the top and there were people everwhere- line ups for toilets, to get in and just lineups.  We dodged and weaved and made our way to the entrance- the rain had lifted by this time and we entered the citadel under a cloudy sky with the sun ring to peak through.  The magic of the site took our breath away again- not sure you could ever get rid of the majestic feeling seeing it.  We climbed to the watch tower and by this time the sun had risen- but it was behind clouds we reached the peak and the rays hit us!  What a view to enjoy for a while!  We had decided to hike to the Sun Gate this morning- it looked pretty tame- but quite steep.  Off we headed- the entire uphill climb was beautiful- difficult at this high altitude, but spectacular.  The entire time we were climbing up we were passing trekkers who were entering the Citadel form the Sun Gate- the 4 day Inca trail ends at the Sun Gate and that is the first view one gets of this majestic site.  About an hour later- we made it- dripping in sweat as the sun was out in full force at this point. The Sun Gate- what a view!  The Machu Picchu citadel lies before you and the mountains are magical and high and just so stunning.  We stayed, admired and then started the long hike back- which should have been easier except so many steps you have to be so careful not to trip (well maybe that's just me)! We made it down a lot faster than we did up and sat around again admiring the view.  We wandered around the ruins for a while longer- they seemed really busy today - then we overheard a guide telling her group that they were at capacity today. (The limit is 2500 apparently).
After our morning we were ready to leave- there was no line up and we caught a bus down and back to the village in no time.  Back in town we were in search of lunch/brunch (which is really not a thing here.)  We found a place called Julianes that had good reviews and they had breakfasts.  The girls had the buffet and Frank and I ordered the omelettes and toast- his was supposed to be with ham.  Well ours were both the same meal- even though they charged us for a ham omelet.  Communication is really tough, the Peruvian's nod and continue to talk to you in Spanish even though you tell them no Spanish, they continue to hope that you will at some point just get what they are saying. After lunch we had a few hours to kill before our train ride- we headed up to the hotel and hung out in the lobby for a couple of hours as we were all exhausted.  Picking up our bags we headed into town- browsed the markets and stores - all the while being coaxed into restaurants or  being asked if we wanted a massage! We found a great coffee shop- had our last tray and coffee of the day and then it was off to the train station.  Our train was Expedition Train No. 34 at 3:20- we boarded and enjoyed the sunny, gentle rocking, train ride back to Ollantaytambo- 2.5 hours later.  We were created by our ride and onto the private bus for the almost 2 hour more ride back to Cusco. Arriving in Cusco we were back at the Royal Inka 2 (even had the same room).  A quick refresh and out for dinner- I had read great reviews about the Inkazuela restaurant- so off we where on the hunt for it- hidden away on one of the tiny streets of Cusco we found it!  I ordered the Beef Chili stew and Frank the Belizian stew- the girls ordered nachos.  A truly delicious  dinner- just way too much food to possibly eat.  Back to hotel and to repack again.  This time we had to pack for 4 days in the jungle.