That was just the first 3 days of our trip. We then returned to Cusco, visiting their cathedral and ruins like Sascayhuaman, etc, got our muddy hiking clothes washed (and returned neatly folded and shrink wrapped! for pennies…then headed back to Lima..
The next leg of the trip was to Iquitos, the gateway to the headwaters of the Amazon. It is the largest city in the world not reachable by roads, only by air or river.
Once there, you quickly adapt to their primary mode of transport: one of 25,000 ‘moto-taxis’.
We first headed to Belen, an area most Americans would call a slum, but they consider a primary market community.
Belen had been seriously flooded: most homes, churches and schools were uninhabitable,
but in a manner we would consider unendurable, they prevail.
We see filth and unhygienic conditions, they see a thriving, profitable method of survival and resilience.
The pictures say it all (except for the smells)
Next, we took a water taxi to an isolated island where a non-profit called Islas de los Monos works to save abandoned or abused monkeys.
We spent hours playing with monkeys and feeding monkeys ( they often had their prehensile tails wrapped around our necks, even when they leave your lap!; why did we evolve without one- they come in very handy!)
We took a very precarious rust bucket of a ferry back down the Amazon to meet up with our home of the next 4 days: a luxurious river boat called the Delphin II.
(Note here: we never would have been able to do all this without the gracious and generous gift of this cruise by a co-worker of mine: Eva. Bill and I thank her profusely for this amazing way to celebrate our 20th anniversary!)
From this relaxing ‘mobile home’, each day we explored the amazon’s unique flora and fauna…
while anacondas squeeze a person to death- they can coil and will strike the way a poisonous snake does.
Almost a second too late, I learned not to put my hand near its fangs.
We also saw a sloth move V E R Y S L O W L Y up a tree, but it was so far up, we have no clear pictures.
The toucan we saw was a rather dull colored one, also a bit too far for a good picture.
We also had a close encounter with a Howler Monkey;
Hearing his fearsome vocalization is enough to scare anyone out of their pants.
It turned out he and his companions: 3 Capuchins and a Spider Monkey, were previously pets, let loose to survive on their own.
They were doing well, but being so accustomed to humans meant that when they heard our skiff come by, they literally flew down from the tops of the trees to see if we had any goodies for them.
Of course we did: any bananas, and long sticks (quite versatile; they had just been used to catch Piranha!).
Though I do not support the approaching nor feeding of wild animals, these were apparently as close as you could get to human 3 year olds.
I decided to try it myself….but was just inches too short for them to reach. They tried bouncing, stretching, but quickly went to plan “B”: they flew to the next tree, scrambling to the level of our skiff and just took the banana right off my stick-fast as can be.
The best encounters we had though, were with people of the Amazon.
It was fascinating to see how they not only survived but how they adapted through the centuries, along this massive watery force: with river heights and widths changing drastically by the seasons.
It was the end of the rainy season; the water was 23 feet higher than during dry season.
Though it gave us an advantage- being able to see ‘eye to eye’ with animal and bird life, it was just as fascinating to see how people adapted to their hardships- not just the tides, but the searing heat and humidity, lack of electricity, and few resources outside of lots of fresh fish and fruits.
We had brought flashlights for adults, and bubbles and candy to give out to those we met. they were always appreciated and help ‘break the ice’.
Best of all was the last day.
We had extra food left over from a breakfast in the skiffs.
Our guide asked if we wouldn’t mind exploring further up the tributary we were on to find children to give it to. After passing numerous empty homes, we found a small village with children waiting outside a school. Their eyes lit up at the sight of all that unique (to them) food, but more than that, they truly lit up watching us gringos sing Itsy Bitsy Spider and Hokey Pokey. The giggles were infectious: ours and theirs.