Peruvian Pathways

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Final days in Ecuador

Arrived back in Quito overnight, after our wonderful 5 days in Galapagos. Headed off to Otavalo the following day to visit the famous Saturday indigenous market. We hired a driver to take us there.....we find that the transportation systems in Ecuador are not quite as developed as those in Peru. Our driver, Patricio was great. He only spoke a little English and as our Spanish was limited......we all taught each other new vocabulary...a lot of fun and learning. He said it was great as he actually learnt some French words as well. Claire has a tendancy to revert to French when she can´t remember a Spanish word.

When we arrived at our hotel in Otavalo, La Casa Sol (sister hotel to the one we are staying at several times in Quito); we were blown away....what a beautiful hostal in a country setting. We were actually about a 5 minute drive out of the town of Otavalo. A rabbit warren of various rooms and great indigineous art work. We were 2 of only 5 people staying at the hostal. It´s only a year old.

On to the market, where we spent a couple of hours. Only picked up a few (necessary!!!) things....sorry no souvernirs folks!! Back to our hotel by taxi.....our hotel was set on a hill and the taxi driver said he would charge us $3 but would only take us to the bottom of the hill and would charge $4 to take us to the top!! Decided we could use the exercise and chose the cheaper option. Then walked to the local Peguche waterfall.

The next day, our driver picked us up and we spent the day exploring the local towns. We were very fortunate that he took us to visit Don Carlos de la Torres a famous weaver. Don Carlos is now 76 years of age, but he and his wife took the time to show us their ancient weaving traditions. They were absolutely delightful.....and both shorter than Claire!!! Robin bought a scarf that is thick and warm for our winter days.

Then off for a hike to a local lagoon up in the mountains for about 1 hour. Then to a another village which is known for its leather work. Went to a local restaurant for lunch with our guide....there are always great lunches when the guides take you to their local haunts. the driver said he would meet us down by the town square so that we would have a chance to do some shopping. Said we really weren´t interested, but the walk would do us good. Unbelievably, a new pair of dress leather boots are now in Claire´s suitcase!! He had a good laugh!

Back to our hotel in Quito overnight and then off with another driver to Baños, a small mountain village about 4 hours by car from Quito. Our driver, Hugo speaks quite good English, but has a habit of pointing out volcanoe peaks and local spots of interest and takes his hands off the steering wheel; then does a quick jerk back to his side of the lane...a little nerve racking. Robin actually told him one time, to take it a bit slower going down the winding curving road. The drivers here in both Peru and Ecuador pass no matter what the signs say or no matter that there are double yellow lines on the highway. As once local told us, the signs and lines are only a suggestion!!! Also stopped at an amimal market in Ambato where various indigineous tribes people were selling their cattle, horses, donkeys, etc. They all wore their local native garments. A real treat to see this activity...we were the only caucasian people there.

Went for a great 2 hour hike this morning on the local volcano and have each booked a massage for this afternoon. Some rain here, but not too heavy. Back to Quito tomorrow for our last night in Ecuador; then a late afternoon flight back to Lima. Overnight in Lima on Thursday night, then a late night flight out on Friday to Houston and back in Calgary on Saturday around noon.

1) La Casa Sol, Otavalo
2) Claire at the Otavalo market
3) Robin at Peguche waterfall
4) Don Carlos de la Torres - weaver
5) Animal market in Ambato
6) View of Baños from our hike above the town

Our final thoughts on our trip.....

Sensory overload. The wonderful people we have met along the way, both locals and other fellow travellers. Our guides have been absolutely fantastic.... Justino, Gilbert, Jim, Morris, Patricio, Hugo, etc. The wonderful staff in the various hostels. The sites we have seen, the experiences we have had, the food we have tasted, the plants, the wildlife, having to push a moto taxi up a hill, people running for change.

These 2 countries are incredibly beautiful, but with tremendous poverty. In spite of this, the people are happy and work very hard for a better way of life for their children. Unfortunately, in Ecuador, the government is still putting a lot of money into the military, instead of investing in its infrastructure and its people.

Ecuador has a lot to offer the independant traveller. Unfortunately this is not well known in the developed world. People only think of the Galapagos when they think of Ecuador. The country could do a better job of promoting itself. We would certainly recommend Ecuador to anyone.

Knowing a little bit of Spanish is essential as there are parts of these countries that still speak no English.

Finally, we should mention that prior to starting our trip we purchased ¨carbon credits¨to offset the airline carbon costs. We would urge others to do the same when they travel to help the Mama Pacha (Mother Earth). The cost itself is not a lot. Should you want more information on the web site we used, contact us later.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Galapagos Islands

Last Sunday, we left Quito and flew to the Galapagos Islands. All of the islands are volcanoes. We landed on Baltra Island and met by our guide, Morris. We were then taken to our boat the Eden, which had 8 cabins. The boat was fully booked, so there were 16 passengers on board. Our cabin was roomy with 2 single beds and a shower "hot water" and toilet. The meals on board were great and we were given snacks after every snorkelling expedition or visit to one of the islands. Several nice seating and lounging areas on the deck and a nice lounge indoors.

The first afternoon we arrived, we sailed to Santa Cruz Island and taken to shore via zodiacs. On this island we visited a small lagoon and saw some marine iguanuas, which are black and can swim. They swim to the rocks when the tide is out to eat lichen off the rocks. Also saw several types of birds...yellow warblers, warbler finches and frigate birds. We then went snorkelling for about one half hour and saw some beautiful colourful fish.

Next morning we landed on North Seymour Island and saw numerous frigate birds mating. The male has a large red throat pouch which it inflates to attract the females and the male also builds the nest. If the female is impressed, she will land next to the male. The male then flaps its wings, shakes his head and utters a high pitched cry, think that means....alright, I got her!!

Then onto the Blue Footed Booby section of the island....I swear these are the names of these birds which have blue feet. These birds are very entertaining. Once again we were fortunate that it was mating season. The male firstly does a little 2 step booby dance to attract the females. When the female nears, the bird does "sky pointing" with it's wings. If the female is attracted, the male then picks up either a rock or stone as a gift to the female...think this is the engagement ring.....Lisa.....think yours is nicer!!!

In the afternoon, we sailed to Sante Fe Island where we went snorkelling in 2 seperate areas. Saw a couple of green sea turtles and then we were also joined by several sea lions...awesome! Then walked around the island and came across a colony of land iguanuas...these are yellow and brown in colour. It is just incredible to walk around the various animals and birds...they are not afraid of humans as they have no natural predators. You can be just a foot or so away from sea lions, iguanuas, and the various birds.....just spectacular to be this close.

In the evening we sailed to Espanola Island and we were fortunate to be accompanied for about half an hour by about 10 to 12 pilot whales....even the crew was excited as they don't see them often. The sail was about 5 hours and Claire was seasick for about 2 of these hours ....a very rough voyage and a very rough night for Claire. Had taken some gravol but not soon enough!!!

On Espanola Island we saw some Nazca Boobies, not quite as entertaining as the Blue boobies. We then came across a colony of Albatross. These birds are huge... they need a large runway to take off, or they take off from the cliffs. They also have some interesting mating rituals. They normally mate for life. Once they land ashore, they commence their mating ritual. The birds face each other and first they do motions of " bill circling", then "sky pointing" with their wings, then the "drunken swagger", floowed by "bill clapping" "mooing" and finally"gaping". We were priviliged to see this complex, repetitive mating ritual....quite amusing. Spent the afternoon on the beach suntanning with the sea lions and also saw more sea turtles. We went snorkelling again and Robin was fortunate to see a tiger ray and a shark. Needless to say, when Claire found out there were sharks in the water.....she left!! even though we were told they are quite harmless....couldn't help thinking of Jaws!!!

Sailed overnight to Floreana Island and visited the island during the day. It is quite dry on the islands as is their dry season so no leaves on the trees. Quite a stark landscape. Saw some flamingos who were starting to nest. The sand on this beach had a green hue to it due to the large amount of volcanic mineral called olivine. Final visit on this island was to Post Office Bay. In the late 1700's a sailor put a barrel on the bay, so that he could leave letters for other sailors to pick up and take back to England. Today, this post office barrel is still used. As a traveller, you can leave a postcard for someone else from your country to take it back and mail it. Alternatively, you can take a postcard that is destined for Canada and mail it to the recipient when you get home. Robin and I picked up 3 postcards that we will mail when we get back home. We also picked one up that was addressed to Billy Fernandes in Guyana....Robin believes this is somenone he went to school with, so needless to say, we took this one and will mail it once we get home with a note.

Then sailed to Santa Cruz in the late afternoon, our last destination. It is one of the few islands occupied and has 30,000 residents. A nice harbour with many boats moored. We went ashore in the evening. Next morning we visited the Charles Darwin Research Centre and saw baby giant tortoises and many adult giant tortoises, some of which are over 90 years old and weigh over 200 kilograms. Also visited one tortoise called Lonesome George....the last of his species. They have tried to get him to breed, however with no success. They suspect he is either sterile or simply does not know how to do it!!!

Back to Quito in the afternoon. Tomorrow we will spend the day in Quito and then we are off to Otovalo for the Saturday market, staying overnight to visit some of the local villages as well.
Seal Lions
Frigate Bird
Land Iguanas
Blue Footed Boobies
Blow Hole
Robin and Claire at Post Office
Claire with giant tortoises

Saturday, June 02, 2007

End of beach days & on to Quito, Ecuador

Well, a month has already passed and it`s hard to believe everything we have experienced and seen. Looking forward to more.

As mentioned in the previous entry, we really enjoyed the beach town of Mancora. Got lots of sun, enjoyed the beach and pool and had great seafood. Every morning we went for walks along the beach for any where from 1 to 2 hours. The unbelievable part of this was that we hardly saw any people....most mornings maybe a few dozen tourists and some local vendors. We are told that this area is busier around Christmas, January and February, when the surfers arrive.

It was great to simply enjoy the sunshine and get lots of reading done.

On Friday, June 1st, we headed off for Quito, Ecuador. We woke up at 2:30 a.m. (and yes we are on holidays!!!) and we were picked up by our driver and taken to the airport in Piura, which was a 2 1/2 hour car ride away. Arrived in Lima in around 10 a.m. and we then caught a 2 hour flight to Quito. Quito is the capital of Ecuador and has about 3 1/2 million people. We are staying a wonderful small bed and breakfast in the Mariscal area ( lots of restaurants and small hotels). Our friends Nory and Julio from Invermere had stayed at this hotel and recommended it, the Casa Sol....thanks. The staff here are so friendly. Spent the afternoon strolling the area and relaxed at the B & B.

We then arranged for a tour of the City for today and some other travel arrangements for when we get back from Galapagos. Today, we were picked up by our driver/guide and stopped to visit many places in Quito. First we stopped at a market where locals shop for the vegetables, meat, seafood, etc. Reminded us of many markets we have seen in our last 4 years of travelling. For those of you back home doing your shopping in `sanitized`grocery stores, you would probably find these places a little hard to take!!!

Went to the central square and visited the cathedral. The cathedral is more like a basilica you would see in Europe, but not very ornate inside. We then went to another church, which was built in the baroque style and this is the most elaborate church interior we have ever come across. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures at this church, but I did buy a postcard of the interior. We have never seen so much goldleaf and artwork....just spectacular.

Visited a museum and then we went to the Center of the World, just outside of Quito. This is an amazing place....actually standing on the equator then stepping to the north of the equator and then the south of the equator. We visited a tourist museum here and saw how the indigineous people of the area lived.
The most interesting thing about being on the equator though, was a few of the experiments that we undertook. By standing right on the equator, you literally have no balance....hard to walk in a straight line!! On the north side of the equator the water flows one way and flows the other way on the south side....really interesting to see.

Tomorrow morning, we are being picked up for our flight and 5 day trip to the Galapagos Islands. We are truly looking forward to this next chapter....but Claire has packed her gravol...just in case; as we are staying on the boat for the next 5 days.


1) Hotel pool from our balcony window in Mancora

2) Beach in Mancora

3) Sunset on the beach in Mancora

4 & 5) The City of Quito

6) Robin at the equator, trying to walk in a straight line.

7) Claire and Robin at the Middle of the World.

Have also added a few more pictures on Flicker - click link on sidebar

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Arequipa and Mancora, nothern Peru beach town

We have now been in Mancora for a couple of days and the weather is absolutely beautiful. Nice to be in shorts and swim wear, instead of layers of clothing when we were in Lake Titicaca .

Staying in a great oceanside hotel. Our room is large and once again to the delight of Robin a beautiful hammock on the outside patio. Enjoying our down time here. We do find that there is limited english spoken here, but Robin in managing to be understood as he has more Spanish then Claire. This place has not really been a tourist destination in the past as it is not easy to get to, however lots of building going on and we are sure that it will soon become a busy is beautiful here.

Have been enjoying lots of seafood while here and our favorite dish is Majarisco, a great mixture of seafood in a wonderful sauce. Will need to have a Peruvian dinner party when we get back home.

Just a few bits of news from our time in Arequipa. Claire decided she needed a haircut and for the price of $5 managed not to get sheared like she did in Nicaragua!!

When we were on our trip to the Colca Canyon, we tried a fruit called Tuna, which is the fruit off the prickley pear cactus. The lady who sold us this fruit definetely took a course in marketing....she told the group that the fruit was good for .....LOVE.....

Another interesting cultural difference between two Pre-Inca tribes in the Colca Valley, was that the women wore different types of hats. Once wore a very flat top hat and the other tribe wore a conical type hat. Both types of hats were depictions of cranial manipulation that the pre-Incas did on their upper class.

The next day when we were back in Arequipa, we were sitting in the central square just watching the world go by we were approached by 5/6 local school children (well dressed) and they interviewed us. Wanted to know where we had been in Peru and around Arequipa and also asked if they could take our picture. Once they took the picture I asked for 1 Soles and the young boy who took the picture looked quited stunned. We then started laughing and he realized it was simply a joke.

Received some great news this past Sunday, our son Richard and his partner Lisa got engaged. We are thrilled.

No pictures this time around...sorry.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Colca Canyon

We took a 2 day trip into the Colca Canyon, some 3 1/2 hours from Arequipa by tourist van. On our trip we were joined by a couple from Curacao, 3 young Chinese girls, 2 young men from Holland, 2 young male teens from England and a couple from England. The group really clicked and we had lots of laughs. En route to the Colca Canyon we reached an elevation of 16,000 feet. Along the way, we also saw wild vicunas (a member of the llama family), alpacas and llamas. The countryside is like a moonscape with very little vegatation. However, having said this, there are some irrigated plots of land which really stand out. Quite a contrast. Stopped briefly in the town of Chivay, which is the jump off point to visit the Canyon.

We then continued on a rough country road to our hotel, which is owned by the same hotel we are staying in at Arequipa. Beautifully located in the countryside with views of the Colca Valley and the terraced farms. To greet us at the hotel was a pet llama!! We then went for a short hike through the terraces with our guide, Leo. Then before dinner, we went to the local hot springs...unlike the ones in Canada, you can enjoy a beer while in the civilized!

The next morning we were up at 5 a.m. to get started for the trip to Condor viewpoint. When we got to the viewpoint there were already scores of other tourists, but we managed to still get a good spot for viewing these magnificent, ugly birds!! About 10 minutes after arriving we spotted our first condor....spectacular. These birds are so big they cannot fly; but depend on the thermals to give them loft on which to soar. We were even lucky enough to spot one condor simply perched on a nearby tree. Their wing span is about 12 feet. The younger condors are black with white markings around their neck and on their wing tips. The older ones are brown in colour. What a sight!
We then took a walk along the canyon rim. This canyon is the second deepest in the world, the first one also near Arequipa. Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon at approximately 10,000 feet deep. It is possible to hike down to the canyon floor and back up. There are camp sites below where you need to stay overnight. Not on our agenda....bad knees for Robin. Not withstanding, we really enjoyed the views and short hike we took.

Another feature of the canyon are the extensive terraces which were built over 1,500 years ago and are still being used today employing the ancient irrigation and farming methods.

We are now spending our last day in Arequipa before flying to Mancora via Lima, in the north of Peru. Mancora is a beach town, where we will spend 5 days before heading to Ecuador.

Once again thank you to those of you (thanks Brenda, Lisa,etc.) who have kept in touch. Just FYI, if you read our previous blog on Lake Titicaca, we have added some pictures in the blog.

1) Colca Canyon
2) Claire in hammock at hotel in Colca Canyon
3 & 4) Condors
5) Pre Inca Terraces in Colca Canyon

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Puno (Lake Titicaca) & Arequipa

We decided to treat ourselves and take the Andean Explorer from Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca) which is a first class train vs. the backpacker train. What a wise decision. When we were shown to our assigned seats, we found wingback chairs and a table for 2, set with linen and some flowers. We were offered a tea/coffee service as the train pulled away from the station, then about 11 a.m. we were told that there would be a fashion show in the observatory car. First came the dancer, showing us some of the local Peruvian dances, then a fashion show...the young ladies modelling were wearing cat suits, over which they wore various Alpaca shawls, sweaters, etc......needless to say, Robin didn´t think he would be seeing ¨´catwomen´´ in Peru!!! That was followed by free pisco sours.....must say, we are really getting to like these.

The train ride lasted all day, and spent a good part of it in the observatory car. Great countryside, very dry and mountainous. We also reached a high altitude point of 14,172 feet. At this point the train stopped and there was local people selling there wares and gave us an opportunity to get out and take some pictures. Arrived in Puno around 6 p.m. and picked up by our hotel.

Must tell you that Puno was very cold. Put on about 4 to 5 layers of shirts and sweaters and Robin and I even went out and each bought an Alpaca sweater. The hotel had portable heaters which we used; this was also the smallest hotel room we have had to date. The town had a nice pedestrian walkway which is where most of the gringos were. Must say that there is not much to Puno besides the fact that it is used for a jump off point to visit Lake Titicaca. Having said that Puno was not a very nice town, we were blown away by the sights that we had the pleasure of visiting the next day. We opted for a ¨fast boat¨, again a wise decision, and we visited the Uros Islands and Taquile Island.

The Uros Islands are inhabited by the Aymara, who build new islands as young couples get married. The islands are made of Tortura reeds, and once a month they must place new reeds on top of the old ones, as they rot from the bottom. The islands are about 3 metres thick. They are probably about 2 km. off shore, about 50 /70 islands and are quite self sufficient. They raise guinea pigs and domesticated ducks, and grow potatoes, some beans, and they fish. They also eat the tortora reeds, the white part (the bulb) are rich in calcium and iron. The people here have beautiful teeth. We tasted some are they were good, however will still be seeing our dentist on our return!! They also use the reeds to build the various shelters they need...sleeping quarters, cooking shacks, etc. There is even one small island that is used for toilet. The waste is taken to the mainland for disposal..guess you kind of have to time your bathroom breaks; as you have to boat/row out to the island!!! The previous President (Fujimori) visited these islands several years ago and when he saw how these people lived, he had the government donate solar panels. The islands now have some power which allows them radios and small TV´s. When we arrived at the island the guide explained the history of the islands and then the local people showed us how they live. They weave a lot of their clothes and goods for trade/sale. We bought a beautiful weaving....think we are running out of room in our small house....have no idea where we will put it, but couldn´t resist it, it also helps these wonderful people. Once couple, Paolo and Marie Elena, took us into their home and dressed us up in their native everyday costumes...they dress in several layers due to the cold. Hope all of you who are reading our blog appreciate the length we go to to amuse the viewer in our odd clothing choices!!! We then were taken out for a boat ride in one of their reed boats around a few of the islands. As we left for the ride, the women of the island all came by the boat and sang in English....twinkle, twinkle little star and row, row, row your boat and as we drifted away they yelled out ¨Hasta la vista Baby!!¨Wonder if they taught this in tourism school!!

We then went on to visit Taquile Island. Very different people here vs. the Uros Islands. The people on Taquile speach Quechua. Once again when we arrived, we were given the history of the island. There are 6 different groups on this island and each group has a mayor/leader. The leader can be recognized by his headgear, wears a type of tuque with ear flaps. Married men wear another type of knitted hat, which had a long tail and single men also wear a knitted hat, however part of the hat is my young female friends and nieces that are unattached, wouldn´t this make things easier when visiting bars!!!

Once last note on Lake Titicaca......a new fashion for ladies. Due to the cold, leggings are worn here, even have seen some young tourists wearing them. Claire however has chosen not to make this fashion statement upon her return to Canada!!

Spent another night in Puno, after having visited the islands, then caught a bus the next afternoon headed for Arequipa, the second largest City in Peru. The bus ride was 5 hours, but it went by very quickly. We were shown 2 movies , then I know you will all be jealous, we played BINGO in spanish.....who says we don´t know how to have a good time. Arrived in Arequipa about 8 p.m. and arrived at our delightful hotel, complete with swimming pool and beautiful grounds. It has been nice over the last couple of days to enjoy warmth and sunshine vs. the cold of Lake Titicaca. It is however a bit too cool for the pool. We have been in Arequipa for 2 days and are enjoying it very much. It is known as the White City, as a great number of the buildings are built of ¨silar¨which is white volcanic rock. To make these buildings even more dramatic, the interior courtyards are painted white, bright blue and orange.....absolutely startling against the beautiful blue sky.

In the last couple of days, we have visited the cathedral (think this is number 20 or so), the Monastery of Santa Catalina (takes up a full City block), which was amazing. Also took in an exhibit of an Inca mummy of a twelve year old girl found at the top of one of the volcanoes. It is believed she was given as a sacrafice by the Incas to their gods to appease bad weather. The thing that is odd about this mummy is that she was frozen and is still in this state today. She therefore still has her skin, hair, nails,etc.....a little weird, but interesting to see.

They have many good restaurants here in the City, and last night both Robin and I tried ostrich. It was very good, but we looked like a couple of ¨duffuses¨because we were given white paper bibs to wear!!!! We have also eaten a lot of quinoa, which is a local grain and is very good....believe my brother Denis would call this ¨hippy crap¨!!
Tomorrow we are off for 1 night/2 days to visit the Colca Canyon. This is where we hope to see Condors. Ran into an English couple today who had visited the Canyon the previous day and had seen several.

I have posted some additional pictures on Flicker and to access these, you simply need to click on the right hand side of the blog where it says, pictures

1) Andean Explorer Train
2) Countryside from train
3) Uros Islands
4) Aymara couple
5) Men dancing on Taquile Island
6) Hotel in Arequipa
7) Arequipa Cathedral at nightime

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sacred Valley & Amazon Jungle

On May 11th, we arrived in the Sacred Valley and stayed at Quinta Patawasi, a lovely B & B in Urabamba. The owners are a Peruvian couple, Jim having lived a lot of his life in the U.S. They made us feel right at home. We were introduced to the rest of the guests that were staying there, a group of 7 Americans travelling together, a couple from Alaska and a young Irish couple. The first evening we were all welcomed with a few rounds of "pisco sour". Later Robin and I and the Irish couple had dinner with our hosts, Jim and Antuca and had a typical Peruvian dish "lomos saltido"; which is a mixture of fried strips of beef, peppers, tomatoes and onion...very good.

Urabamba is a working agricultural town with only some tourist development. Visited Chinceros, site of an Inca ruin & home to some world famous weavers. From there we went to Moray where the Incas had built a series of terraces in a deep natural depression. Each terrace was a different micro-climate. It is believed the Incas used this site as a laboratory to test which crops would grow at what elevation. Next stop was Salineras where there are salt pans which the locals believe are 5,000 years old and salt production is still in existence today. From there our driver and guide dropped us off and we hiked about 1 1/2 hours back to the main road going to Urabamba.

The next day, Mother's Day, we were off to visit the Inca ruins and the Sunday market in Pisac. At the ruins our group was joined by a Shaman who had a ceremony to bless everyone who was travelling in our group. The B & B had a special roast pig dinner for all the guests that night; and a lot of fun was had by all. They really celebrate Mother's Day in a big way here; lot's of Chicha drunken....we were well advised not to drink this "corn beer"; as we would be spending our days in the bathroom!!! Needless to say, we heeded this suggestion.

On Monday a 1 1/2 hour taxi ride back to Cusco then a 1 hour plane flight to Puerto Maldonado. We were brought by a "thatched roof bus" to the offices of Rainforest Expeditions. Then a 45 minute bus ride over a rough jungle road to the river and a 3 1/2 "long boat" ride to the jungle lodge "Refugio Amazonas". It is very humid & hot in the jungle to say the least. Constantly sweating and it is hard to keep your clothes dry. Arrived at the lodge around 5:30 p.m. and it was already dark. Had to walk about 10 minutes into the jungle to get to the lodge. What a magical sight arriving to a large thatched roof building with all the kerosene lamps on. The lodge is fully opn to the elements with no walls. Our room was located in a large thatched roof building with one wall completely open to the outside... a picture window to the jungle with no glass!! We slept under mosquito nets and had cold showers; which in this climate is a pleasure. This lodge is only 2 1/2 yrs. old. We have two guides with us for the next 5 days, Gilbert the main guide and his trainee Donnell. Robin and I have lucked out again...we are the only 2 in our group; so basically a private tour.

The first morning up at 4:00 a.m., breakfast at 4:30 a.m. and stated a 14 km hike through the jungle to a lake. The first hour we hiked in darkness, using our Petzl headlamps to see. As we walked we could hear the unique calls of the Red Howler Monkeys. Our guide (Gilbert!!), was able to locate a family of 3 monkeys and we spent quite a while observing them. They are one of the biggest primates in the Amazon can't believe the racket they make. Also along the jungle path we were given a sex education lesson. One of the flowers looks like the female reproduction organ & the home of the cicada looks like the male wonder the jungle is hot & steamy!!! At the lake we boarded a wooden pontoon boat & spent 2 hours observing Macaws, Kingfishers, Stinky Birds, Snake Birds, King Vultures, Black Caracara's & literally dozens of various butterflies. The butterflies are very big and the colours are spectacular and hundreds of types. We also fished for piranha using raw meat as bait. Only our guide caught a tiny one, which reminded us of the one our friend Jim Low (fish boy) had caught when we kayaked in the Broken Islands.

Later in the day we visited a jungle farm which produced a variety of fruit. The soil is quite poor & the farmers struggle to keep the jungle from taking over. The work is hard & he gets paid very little for his efforts. His modest bush shack has no electicity or running water. It is so hot& humid here that our digital camera has been acting up. In future it would help to bring some Silica Gel to absorb some of the moisture. After dinner, went back to our room to do some reading; lit by kerosene lamps and candles. When Claire raised the toilet seat.........staring back at me was a large toad!!! I don't know who was more startled!!

We hike in rubber boots as the trails are very muddy in sections & hiking boots would be completely covered in water. The rubber boots are also useful in preventing snake bites!!! The second day we hiked to a macaw & mammal clay lick but were not successful in seeing any wildlife; however did see numerous other birds. The animals like the clay because it provides essential minelals to supplement a diet of mainly fruit.

On the third morning, up again at 4:00 a.m. and headed off at 5:00 a.m. to a canopy tower; which was 30 meters high....yikes!! From there we watched the sunrise and saw tons of birds and heard the sounds of the jungle as the animals were getting on with their day. What a great way to start our day as well. The food at the lodge has been great and the staff are wonderful. Our guide Gilbert is excellent at his job; amazing the wildlife he can spot....also very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna. Started pouring rain about 10:00 a.m. and literally a jungle rainfall for the rest of the day; so we took the opportunity to rest and read. When we left today, the river had river about 7 metres.....hard to believe.

I can't say enough about our jungle experience....for Robin some great memories of his childhood and for me new experiences every day. This morning, May 18th, headed back to Cusco. Time enough to get some laundry done and we are off by train tomorrow to Puno (Lake Titicaca). Did a lot of hiking in the Amazon, so Robin's knees suffering a bit. Our trip tomorrow is an all day train ride in first class....that should help. He's off right now getting a massage.

Sorry, no pictures of the Sacred Valley; as we had already downloaded onto our zip drive.

Hello to all, Claire & Robin...would love to hear from you!