Star Date: July 2013
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Hi! How are you? Iseja tribe - Amazon, Peru)
"Only after the last
tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been
poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only
then will they find out that money cannot be eaten."
Many naturalists and biologists believe that Peru's Amazon rainforest holds the greatest diversity on the planet. It teems with a staggering roster of wildlife: 350 species of mammals, 1,800 species of fish, 300 reptiles, 1,700 birds, and more than 50,000 plants. Recent studies have shown that a region just south of Iquitos has the highest concentration of mammals anywhere in the world.
A trip down the Madre de Dios or Tambopata Rivers from Puerto Maldonado immerses you in world of exotic sounds and sights, as only Mother Nature can provide. This is one of South America's best remaining places to see the Amazon basin. Home to primary and secondary tropical forests it is alive with mammals and over 1,000 species of birds alone in it's unspoiled forest. As the wide rivers slim down it is more interesting for viewing wildlife on the thick green banks. Out here it is necessary to go by boat and stay at a jungle lodge. We chose small local Yakari Lodge and it was a non stop adventure for 5 days as we explored what the jungle offered. Pushing our envelope continually we climbed 200 ft towers to zip line from tree to tree through the canopy above. I love zip lines. Always wanting to fly like a bird, the view is great as you zip along enjoying the canopy and monkeys with a birds eye view. There is a false sense of security and it wasn't until I had to walk 50 feet along a 6 inch wide swinging board 200 feet up (20 stories) between the 2nd and 3rd zip line trees; that I realized just how precious life is. A tiny rope on each side, this flimsy 'bridge' took all my courage and focus to cross. One step at a time. Breathe. Focus. Connect. I then understood why the previous participants had all left hooting down the first zip line and returned eyes wide and faces pale. Sometimes it is better to not know what's ahead. The canopy bridges and tree platforms seemed mighty tame after that.
Toning things down we floated down the river at night spotting large Caimans or alligators just hoping to nibble on your toes, red eyes glaring demonically in the lights. The following day we took a hike through the jungle and then swam and kayaked in the river, making sure we 'huli'd' or tipped over to cool off. Later we took a canoe up a small tributary to fish for piranhas. Swimming, kayaking then fishing in a small canoe in a river full of caimans, piranhas, and other unimaginable parasites and creatures was one of those times when what you don't know won't hurt you. Taking MMS daily (see MMS) helps with parasites, but clinical studies have not shown its effectiveness against piranhas!
A long hike down a muddy trail for hours in the jungle found us back in a remote area, far from our already isolated camp. Taking a long wooden boat we spent several hours paddling around hidden Lake Sandoval. We were not alone. Only room for 5 in the canoe we were suddenly overtaken by literally hundreds of bodies. Noticing turtles with butterflies on their heads we laughed but we soon found ourselves the new targets. Seems before mating season these butterflies are looking for salt and in the hot weather we were great salt licks. What an amusing experience to have over 100 butterflies on you at a time. Frolicking amongst the eyeballs of submerged caimans were giant otters, endless water birds. bats and monkeys, eagles and toucans.
To see wildlife up close we took the boat a further 2 hours downstream to visit a wildlife and rehabilitation center. As is the case with all wild tracks of land, very few animals hang around where humans can easily see them. They step back and watch the human intruders from a distance, or more likely they stay far back in the jungle. These animals had been captured or injured and eventually they end up back in the jungle.
On our last afternoon we went an hour downriver to visit the Iseja tribe. The Jefe, Maja, was very entertaining. He and his 8 children demonstrated how they live totally off the land, pound clothes from yanchama bark, light fires by spinning a bamboo stick in tinder, and only drink fermented fruit 'hooch' during special ceremonies, not like "the drunks in town up the river." Years back missionaries arrived on the river and tried to convert his family. They brought free clothes which made them sick when they put them on, from the chemicals. They ended up throwing all the missionary gifts in the river and continued on with their worship of Nature around them.
Night walks hurled us into a whole different world. Tarantulas crawl out from their paper thin nests, colorful frogs chirp on tree branches, small mammals scurry around, and snakes slither by. The last morning we left before sunrise to travel 1 hour up the river to tie up next to a 'clay lick'. As the sun rose in the sky an uproar started in the far off jungle. A cloud of squawking parrots and macaws descended and began their morning social activity of taking clay to balance out the minerals in their bodies. Nature Knows! What a rare experience to see this flurry of color. Poof! An hour later it was all a dream. If fact when we returned to civilization our time in the jungle seemed like a dream.
Logging and gold mining are encroaching as we speak. Gold miners shoot the monkeys for food and loggers destroy habitat. An effort for preservation is, as always, hoping for slow devastation rather than out right pillaging and raping of Mother Earth. The only saving grace is that money, big bucks, from ecotourism depends on a thriving jungle. Who will win out?
Not wanting to face the freezing temperatures of the Andes once again or days on the bus, we did what we don't usually do - we flew to Lima. Great move. Landing in this massive city was a shock to the system and after a couple of days we moved north. The ocean side desert, with high dunes, went on for hundreds of miles. Shacks without water, people tending to hundreds of thousands of chickens in farms under tarps, was all that broke the stark landscape. Over half of Peruvians live below the poverty level and unemployment is rampant. Still the entrepreneurial spirit is strong with creative people putting together street carts to sell everything imaginable from toothpaste to French fries to vegetables to high heels.
We enjoyed staying near the expansive town square in Trujillo and were lucky enough to experience a large religious ceremony celebrating Santa Cristo. Thousands filled the usually empty square as an enormous religious 'float' with flowers surrounding the churches' golden symbol burst through the door and proceeded around the square, wiping out the religious paintings or mandalas made of colored sawdust, that groups had spent all day creating for it's path. Frenzy at the least.
Pizarro founded Trujillo in 1534, leaving behind
an impressive town square and colonial buildings. Staying near the
ornate, arched cultural palace had its benefits. We took in
a traditional dance extravaganza, a ballet of Don Quijote, and
afternoon music in the courtyard. We visited the nearby ancient
metropolis of Chan Chan, miles
of walls and structures paying tribute to this once powerful
civilization. Containing over 10,000 structures and covering
miles this pre -Columbian Chimu empire must have been impressive in
it's heyday, as it still is. The Moche temples or pyramids, made of
adobe like Chan Chan are, 700 years older. The Huaca del Sol
is the largest structure, requiring 140 million bricks to construct.
Hanging around these ruins are the bizarre looking Peruvian
hairless dogs. Their body temperature is higher than that of
regular dogs or 'perros' so they are used by people with arthritis
to keep their aching joints warm!
We spent several days hanging with surfers from around the world in nearby Huanchaco. 'Chillin' on the beach, watching waves and fishermen in their cigar shaped totoro boats called 'caballitos' (little horses) riding the waves next to surfers, was our main activity.
Arriving in Paita I asked the woman next to me on the bus, "Where should we go next?" She pointed to a unknown peninsula on the map. I asked Joseph to pick out one of the fishing villages. Randomly he picked out Yacila or "the Y town". His intuition was right, as it usually is and we spent the next 10 days in one of the remotest and most picturesque fishing villages in Northern Peru. Based around a fleet of fishing boats hauling in giant squid, this sleepy village was so small that there were only stores in the back of locals houses and a couple of cafes along the beach. I made friends with Corina and she would pick up fresh vegetables and fruit in the next village 3 times a week. We made a deal with Victor and stayed in a comfortable, modern home with breathtaking views of the bay and ocean beyond. We took walks along the high mountain ridge behind the house daily and dropped down onto the beach behind. We got to know just about everyone in the tiny village and were sad to move on, having already extended our stay a second time. This is one of the benefits of traveling slowly. Four days at the final beach town in Peru, Mancora, completed our up close look at the expansive northern coast. From Lake Titicaca, to Machu Pichu high in the Andes, to the steamy jungles of the Amazon basin, to the rugged deserts of the northern coast, the diverse country of Peru has so many gifts to offer the traveler willing to receive them.
For a fun graph
pointing out 50 astounding facts about "Why the Amazon Rainforest
Rules" click here:
And so it goes.........................................Next exploring the small but diverse country of Ecuador further north. Until next month Keep Smiling and remember to live lightly on the earth. Mother Earth needs everyone's help now more than ever. We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch! Take care!
Love, Light & Laughter,
1 US Dollar equals
2.75 Peruvian Nuevo Sol
Eat at Le
Nature, for lunch, great inexpensive food, phone # 44-209674,
Marcelo corne 338 Urb San Andres. About 6 blocks down from
the Central Plaza.
A trip down the Madre de Dios or Tambopata
Rivers from Puerto