Well a little over two weeks and this explorer is back in action. We’ve got a lot to talk about. Lets start with a trip to the desert oasis, Ica, Perú. We were fortunate in this trip to be taking the bus. Despite an estimated travel time of 4 hours, Peruvians have made second rate traveling a first rate affair. I have nothing bad to say about bus travel through a major bus line in Perú other than I wish they drove faster. The seats were large, reclined about 3x the amount of plane seats, and had a convenient cushion that came from the seat in front to provide a makeshift bed. I was excited about this. We enjoyed 3 on board movies, all of which were fairly new, and dozed comfortably when necessary. They even served beverages and an in drive snack.
Upon arrival to our cushy resort, we took in the area, grabbed a bite to eat, and took a nice dip in the pool. It was all the parts of the desert minus the sand, heat, and lack of water. Known for its wine and pisco (a brandy like liquor made from grapes and the national drink of Perú) we decided to tour one of the wineries in Ica. That was really interesting, and ended in a tasting of the many products (my favorite part) and the usual purchase of souvenir leather flasks filled with your liquid of choice.
The next day we hit the sand dunes. This was a real treat. We got to zoom through the desert in a less than regulated mobile that nearly took away my ability to bear children. None-the-less it was a blast. We got to do some sand boarding as well, which was a much warmer and more intrusive version of snowboarding. By intrusive I mean that no matter where snow ends up on your body, it will eventually melt. I am pretty sure some sand just fell out of my ear, and it has been 2 weeks. We spent the next day relaxing and preparing for the journey home.
Then the exciting part came. After a mere 2 days back in class, we were preparing for another adventure. It was time for our trip to the jungle. Each trip has been better than the last, and this was still the case. Forget what you think about a cushy hotel environment in the middle of the jungle, because that is not what you get. We arrived at Iquitos airport in the heat of the day with temperatures high and humidity at levels that I’m not sure truly exist. My best guess would be 900%. We headed to the bus for our travel to the boat, and this is where we met our jungle expert and guide, Ashuco, the smooth talking Amazonian-mestizo. This man was the 8th wonder of the world. He grinned with 3 gold teeth and informed us that he was a product of the rainforest. His mother, a 100 year old woman who had hair as black as a jungle night and who need not walk with a cane, had apparently birthed him at age 52 (I did the math when he told us he was 48), and I tend to believe him after seeing him at work.
The boat ride was a cushy 2 hour trip, most of which was spent admiring the Amazon river and its creatures. This sounded fun when I thought of a speedboat with nice padded seats. We got a moving hut with a fishing boat motor and wooden planks. I’ve had better rides. The coolest part was navigating through a tiny ravine that weaved its way through the forest to our camp. We were greeted by an entire village of huts and common areas. Nothing extravagant, but a well put together camp. That day we went on two excursions through the rainforest. The first was during the day, where our fearless guide, machete in hand, led us through the forest pointing out birds, bugs, and plants. “Ashuco is an expert in jungle bridge. Tree resin is Ashuco’s doctor. This is the iguana; Ashuco is an expert in iguanas.” If you didn’t get the gist by now, Ashuco was an expert of the jungle, and he liked to refer to himself in the third person. The fact is, he was right. He never failed to deliver what he promised, showing us every species of frog in the area, and even snagging a snake and tarantula (that he dug out of the ground with his bare hands). He was quick to point out his acknowledgement in an ecotourism guidebook put together by biologists. Ashuco was truly the man. Later that night we saw a whole new variety of exotic bugs and wildlife.
The next day it rained. A lot. This was one of may favorite parts of the trip. We woke up to leave early, but with conditions not being ideal, we decided to stay in to see if it would let up. We enjoyed naps in the hammock room. It was a room with about 10 hanging hammocks in the middle of the forest, and we napped in the middle of a rainstorm. I don’t know that you could describe a better nap. After the nap, we headed to Monkey island, a place where we saw about 5 different types of monkeys, macaws, a giant turtle, a toucan, a giant snake, and a three toed sloth. It was incredible. We stepped off the boat and were approached by a small cappuccino monkey, small enough to sit in my hand, and Sam held out his arm as if by some small chance it would climb up. He did this more as a joke, and was surprised when the small monkey leaped about 5 feet in the air and scurried up towards his neck. He proceeded to climb on all of us, whose jaws had dropped in disbelief at the fact we were actually holding a monkey, and enjoyed the heat of our bodies. We stayed there for over an hour, though most could have stayed longer. Later that night we saw some birds, but the main event was swimming in the Amazon. It was a lot of fun. We saw pink dolphins in the water, and decided to swim near them. Yes, you read correctly, we got to swim with pink river dolphins. Sure they weren’t letting us hold on to them, but we were in the same vicinity, and that is pretty cool. We swam for about 45 minutes and headed back to camp exhausted and ready for bed.
The last day, we awoke early to head piranha fishing. It was a cool experience, though none of us caught a piranha. Haley caught a small catfish, which was really neat. I would recommend piranha fishing to all those immediate action people. As soon as the chicken bits hit the water, you could feel the line tugging in all directions. It might have been just as fun as actually catching a fish. Afterwards, we saw a native village and got to shoot an actual dart gun. It was neat, and these guys knew what they were doing. Aside from having to smile as they approached you with handmade goods to buy, despite having already bought some, it was very cool to see.
Next we headed back to the city, where the fun all began. The 2 and a half hour boat ride was not as short as anticipated. 4 hours later we arrived in the city. After waiting in the airport for 40 minutes past departure time we finally boarded the plane, only to realize that we would get off an hour later due to a faulty cockpit window. What did that mean for us? A 4 hour wait at the airport, only to be told that we would have to wait until the next afternoon. Fortunately they provided us a hotel in Iquitos, and it was fairly nice. We headed out in moto-taxi’s…a half motorcycle glued to a chariot, and half an hour later arrived at the hotel. I put my backpack down to pay, and without realizing, went in to get rooms organized. 6 minutes later I felt a bit naked, looked around, and ran outside. Long story short some Peruvian is wearing a semi-new Alianza Lima fútbol team hat, and a dirty old pair of tennis shoes. By the grace of God I switched up the routine and had all my most important items in my pants. For now I just learn the lesson and get to tell an interesting story about my 16 hours of madness in the city of Iquitos.
Looking back we it has been a great two weeks. We leave again on Friday morning to see Cusco and Machu Picchu! We are all excited, and thanks to the Universities, we will be going expenses paid. For now I leave you with more interesting points to consider.
o There is no such thing as too much repellent in the Jungle. If I could have bathed in it, I would have, and I think one time I did.
o The only thing better than napping in the rainforest in a hammock in the rain, is napping in the rainforest in a hammock in the rain, and getting to wake up and hold monkeys.
o When you’re jungle tour guide says he is an expert in the jungle, and only refers to himself in third person, trust him. He likely knows what he is doing.
o When a man offers to loosen your seatbelt that has been tied to the buggy before a sand dune ride, accept the offer, especially if you are a man and the seat belt is a Y shape that starts at the bottom.
o Airlines in Perú«««<Airlines in the U.S. They mean well, but after 4 hours nobody wants to be apologized to anymore. Sometimes I wish good ol’ American service.
o If you wear a hat that has a fútbol team on it, be prepared to know about that team and act like a major supporter. You will be asked about it.
o Don’t leave your backpack on the sidewalk for a minute. It will be gone. I call mine a donation to the people of the jungle. They likely need it more than I do anyways.
o Sometimes you have to ask for towels and the TV remote at the hotel desk. LOL
o There is no place like home, be it in the U.S. or Lima.
That’s all for this 2 week edition. I’ll have another in a week! Ciao!