Peru – Andes to the Amazon

Digging really deep through the archives I’m taking out memories of a winter 2007 trip to Peru. We started with an overnight stopover in Lima connecting to Cuzco where we would explore the highlands of the Andes over Christmas and descending into the headwaters of the Amazon by way of the frontier town of Iquitos towards Brazil by the new year.
We landed in Cuzco in the evening and took a stroll to procure dinner and some coca tea for my dad’s altitude sickness.  Going from sea level to over 10,000 feet in an hour is not easy on the body. Keep hydrated. Anyway here’s Plaza de Armas of Cuzco by night.

Our heads spinning from Pisco sours we bedded for the night. The next day was going to be a long one in the saddle.
We met our guide and saddled up. I got a young stallion named Tornado. He didn’t like to go at a pace anything less than a full gallop.

We headed out of town across a rickety bridge and into the highlands.

 

…to deliver presents and medical aid to villagers!

 

The kid in the brown/blue sweater had an infected sty in his eye the size of a ping pong ball.  Our guide (in blue with the sunglasses) did what he could and gave instructions to his mother and we moved on to the next town.

 

Mom got swarmed by the kids. The magic of Pocky.
A villager was kind enough to let us into their house for a snack. I was entertained by their pets.

That’s the living room floor.
A colorful outdoor cafe.

 

We visited some other ancient historical sites. Being engineers my old man and I marveled at the precision of the stone work and joining at Ollantaytambo.

 

Machu Picchu was so special we went back for another day to be the first ones let in before sunup.  In the still of the morning you can feel the magic of the place with the absence of the other tourists shouting at each other trying to breathe the thin air.
Here I am refueling with Inca Cola. Shit’s good

 

The climb to the Sun Gate.

View from the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu is the mountain to the right of the city.  A special permit is needed to climb it. I got there at 6 am and was the second one up the mountain.  The climb is steep, slippery, and dangerous with the valley just a cliff fall away. At some points you are holding onto cables strung and anchored into the stone as you skirt a wall.
The view is just amazing.  It’s a side of Machu Picchu that is not often photographed. I snapped a shot as people just started to file into the city as the sun rose.

We took a side trip to Lake Titicaca where the Uros people are known for their floating islands made of reeds.

This leg of the journey was over. We left the warm, welcoming people of the highlands and sweeping vistas for the wilds of the Amazon basin.

I said goodbye to my friend the alpaca.

We hopped on a puddle jumper and made a hot landing in Iquitos – the last civilization on the western side of the Amazon river.
Hailing the only form of transportation that is universal we “TukTuk’d” to the docks where our accommodations were waiting.
Ahh the beautiful Cielito Lindo – our home for the next leg of the journey

Engine troubles delayed our departure so we overnighted in port and awoke to the locals enjoying the water off the starboard railing. (starboard is right, port is left…just remember the vikings would have used starboard and larboard which is hard to hear over the wind)

The concept of infectious diseases hasn’t yet made it downstream to this part of the world.  In this same area people were relieving themselves, washing, fetching water, swimming, and drinking.  There were a few kids running around with distended bellies – a sure sign of intestinal parasites.
New engine parts for the reclaimed Caterpillar diesel in the belly of this beast and we were off!

First stop was an animal sanctuary/rescue. We befriended a young monkey who was trained to steal from tourists. His name is Junior.

 

anteater eating ants with Junior

Meals in these parts are simple: fish, rice, and plantains.

We cruised back to the Cielito to prepare for a night time excursion: Caiman noodling.

Sun sets on the Amazon

Our guide “Ricky” manhandling this danger noodle.

He caught this barehanded by spotlighting, looking for retina glare and using the spotlight to distract the caiman on the light to get close enough to grab.
We then cruise for a ways towards a Yagua village.  Mooring in a calm pool we see children playing in the water.  It must be safe enough to swim.  I did a lap and called it quits after I watched a tarantula the size of my face floating on a broad leaf chewing on what I believe to be the remains of a large catfish or Piranha. I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. My foot brushed something in the murky depths and I put my childhood of winning freestyle sprint 100m races to the test back to the skiff.

The village chief arrived and took us by dugout canoe back to his pad.

The Yagua still keep to some of their ways here.

Those bowls in the middle of the hut are filled with some alcoholic drink made by the women. They chew some kind of tuber then spit out the masticated bolus and let it ferment.  Eh…when in Rome…
So El Chingon takes us for a tour of his manse. Kids come out to see the spectacle.

My camera died at this point but I did end up trading one of the Yagua men my Leatherman multitool for his blowgun. We watch leaf cutter ants blazing trails through the thick undergrowth.  Our guide taps his machete against a tree telling us about the “heart of a tree”.  We saw the heart alright. By heart he meant angry swarm of wasps.  They chase the group. I watch wasps burrow under my sister’s headnet into her hair. She’s slapping her head as the rest of the party runs away.  There I am as the trail sweep in the back standing in no man’s land with fire ants on one side, cloud of wasps to another, the jungle all around and everyone else nowhere to be found.  Great. Anyway here’s a bird…it’s pretty

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