The post today is from one of our forum members, Elizabeth Sutherland, who recently took a trip to Peru. I hope you enjoy this virtual trip!
Our Peru trip started with a week cruising on the Amazon, followed by a week of visiting Incan ruins at Macchu Pichu and the Sacred Valley of Cusco. The Amazon cruise was on a very nice riverboat – good beds, good food, good baths.
We (my husband Doug and I) were accompanied by only 15 other travelers on a 29-passenger boat.
Each day we took 2-3 excursions by small launches to view the wildlife. We had some phenomenal local guides who could spot a gnat on a mosquito because they knew where to look. They had also been guides for scientists and amazed me with their understanding and use of scientific terms and explanations.
It was the end of the rainy season so the rivers and side creeks were very flooded. We were sad that we couldn’t walk in the jungle, but the guides said that the animals were more closely congregated and we’d see more. One morning they fed us breakfast on the small boats. Another day we visited a local village (they rotate among them) where we delivered school supplies and sang songs with the children.
The women there were rolling & twisting palm fibers into string that they would then use to sew into bags, plates, and fanciful creatures for us to buy. It wasn’t weaving or crocheting or knitting, but they used a needle to form the bags. I didn’t ask what dyes they used for the fibers, but many of the colors did not look natural.
We had an excursion into a local market and saw lots of fruits, grains, potatoes, and fish for sale. One afternoon the guides gave us a demonstration of the local fruits. I must say that most of them were not very tasty and had little edible flesh. One afternoon we also fished in one of the creeks. We mainly caught piranha, which the chefs cooked up for us. It tasted like dark meat chicken with a little fishy overtone. We also had a chance to kayak for a few hours up a side channel.
We had happy hour every night, accompanied by a band formed from the boat crew, variously called the Chunky Monkeys, Dung Beetles of LiverPoop and Amazonian Rat Pack. They layed a selection of Peruvian music as well as classic rock tunes arranged for pan flutes. They also got most of us to try a few salsa steps.
Most of the animals we saw were birds and monkeys, but we were able to take one walk through the forest and see snakes, arthropods, and frogs. I was a bit frustrated as a horticulturalist since I wanted to know more about the flora I was seeing. We didn’t see any orchids on the Amazon, but a few bromeliads blooming. The pink and gray river dolphins were very good at eluding the photographers, but were quite active. Our trip was topped off with a float plane ride to see the Amazon from above.
After the wonderful week on the Amazon we returned to Lima and dropped off most of our fellow travelers. One couple stayed with us to travel to Cusco and Macchu Pichu, and we picked up another couple and our guide for the rest of our tour. I had been working out on stairs to prepare for the trip, but there was no way to prepare for the 11,150-foot altitude (3,400 M) of Cusco (Dallas is only 500 feet). I could feel it as soon as I got off the plane, but as long as I took it easy I was OK. They had coca everything for sale – tea, cookies, gum, candy. I’m not sure if it helped or not, but I tried most of it.
What really helped was the trip to The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco where we had the raw fiber to finished product demonstration that I had been hoping for. I was fascinated at the range of dyes they could get from the traditional plants. Their products were beautiful and very intricate. They said that it used 500 warp strands and took over a week to weave. I think the altitude was getting to me because I only purchased a little fiber instead of asking for a bale! I did purchase beautiful poncho (S/500 = $155) and some other souvenirs. They were very interested in the nuno scarf that I brought along. They had a few alpaca there, as well as guinea pigs (dinner?) and some other traditional food – dried beans & quinoa, potatoes.
We went to another small market and saw more varieties of potatoes, including naturally freeze-dried potatoes that could be rehydrated and eaten 20 years later We also purchased some coca and chewed on it like natives (or not – yuck!). We ate lunch at a lovely buffet where we could taste many of the local foods. They also had llamas, alpacas, & a couple of vicuna. Sadly, none would let me close enough to pull of the scissors for fiber samples. Macchu Pichu was the next day. It is lower than Cusco, at 7,972 ft (2,430 m), so we had a night to acclimate a bit.
Our day at Macchu Pichu started off beautifully. I was able to take some post-card quality photos. We hiked along the Inca Trail up to the Inca Bridge; we were not allowed past it. The trail was not too dicey; the guide took suitable breathing breaks. The scenery was beautiful. As usual, I wish I knew more about the flora in the area.
Nights were at the Inkaterra Lodge – a beautiful property that I wish I could call home. If you didn’t like the color green, then you were out of luck. Even though orchid blooming season was past, there were plenty of beauties to look at. The staff regularly ‘baited’ trees with bananas to attract birds, as well as keeping the humming-bird feeders well-stocked.
After Macchu Pichu we returned to Cusco via Ollantaytambo and Saqsaywaman, two more amazing ruins. Our guide for this part of the trip was just as knowledgeable as our Amazon guides. I regret not taking more notes, but I enjoyed all of it. We saw where the quarry for the stones at Saqsaywaman was across the river and up at the top of a mountain. These multi-ton stones were moved by a civilization that had not invented the wheel yet. Amazing what a LOT of person-power could do. At Ollantaytambo the granaries also were across the river and up the mountainside. I guess the women couldn’t send their husbands out for a cup of quinoa very easily.
From Cusco we flew back to Lima and modern-day civilization. I was sad to say goodbye to Peru, but looking forward to my own bed and getting back to family, friends, fiber, and furry cats.