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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Peruvian Adventure 2016 - Final Morning at Posada Amazonas and the Journey Home

We awoke a few minutes before our 5am alarm, excited for our final activity at Posada Amazonas, watching the parrots at the clay lick. The night before, we managed to convince Jorge to get up early with us to try one more thing. Just like in the previous mornings, the howler monkeys were up and making a great commotion. As we walked into the jungle, we could hear the parrots squawking in the trees. Oh boy today was getting off to a great start! Once we arrived at the blind, we could see another group already there. We squeezed in and waited for the parrots to come down.

After about 20-30 minutes, the first parrot came down to the clay lick. This sparked a chain reaction and soon there were dozens of parrots in the trees near the clay lick and on the clay lick. Unlike the macaws, where there was only one species, there were three different species of parrot plus a species of macaw. It was really cool and loud.

Following our time at the clay lick, we returned our rubber boats, finished packing, and got ready for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of pancakes, bread, and fruit. The bread was by far our favorite part. We, mainly me, ate so much bread.

Once we were done with breakfast, we waited for our boat ride back to Infierno. Kari and I were both sad to leave but excited to go home. Our boat ride was very relaxing. We chatted with an Australian couple, Mick and Kathy, about travels and their home country, since we want to go there in the not too distant future.

Back in Infierno, we boarded the bus that would take us down the super bumpy road for about one and a half hours. As an added bonus, Kari and I were in the back, out of range of the AC. That certainly made the ride less fun. Oh well.

At the Rainforest Expeditions office, we retrieved our luggage and said our goodbyes to Jorge. We certainly had a blast spending the past few days with him. We learned a lot about the jungle and the native community at Infierno from him.

Our stop at Rainforest Expeditions' office was short and we were at the airport in Puerto Maldonado in no time. The airport in Puerto Maldonado reminded us of some of the small African airports we flew through. While I was glad to be there early to deal with some of the craziness, there was not much to do once inside. Oh well. Only two short flights and we were back in Lima. Unfortunately, we had a 10 hour layover in Lima. Not really a city I want to get out and explore with our luggage, since Delta does not open its check-in counter until only a few hours before our flight's departure, which was at 2am. We opted to get a snack and try to sleep on the floor while we waited.

Once we were able to finally hand over our bags around 11pm, we quickly walked through security and went to wait by our gate. We managed to sleep on the flight home for a little while before waking to have breakfast. Our time making it back through customs in Atlanta was pretty short and sweet. Thankfully. We started calling family to let them know we were safely back in the US while we waited for our flight to Chicago.

In Chicago, we collected our bags and began the journey back to the car. Thanks to the Delta app, we were able to easily find our car in the economy lot. Joyous to start our two hour drive back to Madison and unwind a bit before heading back to work the next day.

This was certainly a whirlwind adventure. We got to experience some new cultures and stretch ourselves by going somewhere where we do not really share a common language. I know I was pushed out of my comfort zone quite a few times. That's part of why we travel. To experience the world, new places, and new cultures and to continue to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and continue to grow. We look forward to our next opportunity to see more of this beautiful world we are part of.

Peruvian Adventure 2016 - Posada Amazonas Day 2

Our alarm went off at 4am; time to get ready and head to breakfast. Jorge was taking us to Tres Chimbadas Lake today. We were greeted with pancakes, fruit, bread, ham, and cheese. It was all delicious, despite not really being hungry at 4:30am.

After breakfast, we boarded the boat with Rodrigo and he took us up river to where we needed to hike to the lake. It was a fairly short ride. While the sun came up, we could see the banks of the river coming more into view.

Once we were dropped off, we had a 30 minute walk through the jungle to the lake. Gustavo greeted us at the lake on the wooden catamaran we were going to use to explore the lake. Gustavo skillfully glided us along the water as Jorge pointed out various birds and explained how this lake may no longer exist in about 300-400 years, depending on the erosion of the river. While this was happening, the sue was rising, giving us a beautiful view on the water.

Near the border of the refuge, Gustavo stopped the catamaran in the grass near a little inlet, with hopes we would see the giant river otter. The river otter is the apex predator for the river. They are also known as the wolf of the river, since they hunt in packs. As soon as we stilled ourselves, we could hear the young otters crying for their parents to feed them. They were incredibly loud; much louder than the birds we were next to.

Eventually, our patience paid off and all four otters of the family group swam only a few meters away from the boat, providing excellent photo opportunities. Super cool! Jorge kept mentioning we were lucky and must be emanating good energy, since he had not seen the otters that close in a long time, maybe ever.

Once the otters had moved on, we tried our luck fishing for piranhas. Kari was the only one in our group to catch one, but she was too afraid to touch it. I held it, so she could photograph it. The piranhas successfully stole the rest of our bait! Super speedy little buggers!

On our ride back, Jorge explained and demonstrated how to row the catamaran with the special oar they had. Much different than anything we had seen before. We saw a few more birds, including a cormorant on our way back.

During our walk back through the jungle to the Tambopata River, Jorge pointed out some leafcutter ants working as a group plus a few other plant species. We also greeted Gustavo's family, as they live in a house along the trail near the river. They certainly live a different life from what we are used to.

After a quick ride in the boat, we were back at Posada Amazonas. We were greeted by a snake and an egg sandwich snack. Pretty awesome start to the morning! We both changed to get ready for our next activity: the clay lick. All while listening to the howler monkeys.

On our hike to the clay lick, we found a large number of brown capuchin and brown squirrel monkeys in the trees. We stopped to watch for a bit and take some photos. With all of the monkeys nearby, the first clay lick was a bust. The macaws and parrots are too sensitive to come down from the trees with monkeys around.

At the second clay lick, we were treated to a show by a dozen or so red and green macaws. We sat mesmerized for about 15-20 minutes until they flew off. Pretty spectacular! Again Jorge mentioned how blessed we were, since not many people actually get to see the macaws. Go us!

We made it back to Posada Amazonas with just enough time to drop our stuff and head to lunch. With each passing meal, this place reminded us more and more like Chapungu. We seem to be fed constantly, including dessert at all meals! May need a diet after this vacation!

After lunch, and our short break, we met Jorge to take a boat to the medicinal gardens. The medicinal gardens are located at a new eco-lodge that the native community at Infierno are working on as a solo venture, taking what they have learned at Posada Amazonas and using it here. While not yet complete, the lodge was beautiful.

Jorge took us on a short-walk around the gardens, explaining what the different plants were used for. He also had us try a couple. The Cordoncillo was a pretty powerful anesthetic that caused our mouths to go numb for a while. Supposedly, the roots can be used to help numb the pain of a snake bite. After our experience with the leaves, I believe it.

As we neared the end of our hike, the "pet" wild pig, Pancheta, came to greet us. He snuggled into my leg before trying to bite/nibble on Kari. Once we got him to stop trying to bite her, he followed us around as Jorge showed us the shaman house and explained the purpose of the shaman. In Infierno, a village of ~900, there are 7 shamans and about another 50-60 more in Puerto Maldonado. He mentioned that it is very important to find a good shaman. Good to know.

On our ride back to Posada Amazonas, we saw a couple capybara on the river bank. We stopped to take some photos. Unfortunately, we never saw jaguar, tarantula, or poison dart frog. Oh well. There is always a future trip.

Back at Posada Amazonas, we got cleaned up for dinner and started getting ready for our night hike.

Dinner was fantastic! By far, my favorite meal we had at Posada Amazonas! It was a twist on lomo saltado with spaghetti noodles instead of rice. I piled my plate high with delicious beef loin, noodles, and banana fries. I also got the tomato soup to Kari's surprise. Everything was delicious!

After dinner, we met Jorge for our night hike. We initially followed another group before splitting off. We saw a lot of small spiders, hundreds, if not thousands. Quite amazing when you think of the numbers. We also saw a couple tree frogs, a wild pig, a snake, several bullet ants, and loads more spiders. To help bring the wild pig into view, we turned off our lights and stood completely still. After a few minutes in the dark, we turned our lights on to see a pig in the middle of our trail before running off into the jungle. Freaky but awesome! Unfortunately, we could not find a tarantula, a poison dart frog, or a jaguar. Looks like we will need to go back to the jungle to try again.

Back at Posada Amazonas, we packed up our stuff, much easier when you only have a small bag and showered before bed time. It was certainly a long, full day!

Peruvian Adventure 2016 - Travel to Jungle

We awoke early to shower, finish packing, and enjoy one final breakfast at the JW Marriott el Centuro Cusco. Like every other day, the breakfast was delicious.

After we finished breakfast, we checked out and asked for a taxi to the airport. Time to fly to the jungle! Our taxi driver did not speak much English, so we tried our best to communicate in Spanish. Ultimately, we just watched as Cusco passed us by, trying to soak up the last moments in the city.

Our time at the Cusco airport went smoother than I expected. I had us arrive 2 hours before our plane departed, unsure of how long it would take. We were checked in, had bags checked, and through security in under 30 minutes, giving us an hour of waiting at the gate. Oh well. Better to be safe than sorry at a new airport in a foreign country.

The flight was short, only about 40 minutes, and we landed at Puerto Maldonado airport in the heart of the jungle. It was very reminiscent of some of the small African airports we flew through a couple years ago. As soon as we stepped outside of the plane, the heat and humidity hit us like a ton of bricks. Whew! Super hot compared to Cusco!

Our guide, Jorge, met us at the airport and took us to the Rainforest Expeditions office to check in and drop our unnecessary suitcases. He also offered us a small snack and juice. Very delicious! Before we knew it, we were on a bus for the one and a half hour dirve on a dirt road to Infierno where we caught a boat to take us the rest of the way.

As we were driving, Jorge pointed out various things to help us learn more about the local culture. One of the big things to see were the papaya plantations. They were huge!

Once we arrived in Infierno, we mae the quick change to the boat. Our captain, Rodrigo, greeted us and we were off. Jorge passed out our lunches, which were fried rice in a leaf plus juice. Pretty good and needed after a morning of travel.

After we finished eating, Rodrigo hit the gas and we were truly off on our 45 minute boat ride to Posada Amazonas. Along the way, Jorge explained some history and information of the area. Most of the time, we just sat and admired the beauty passing us by.

When we arrived, we found a soccer game just getting started between some locals and guests of Posada Amazonas. We continued our walk through the jungle to the lodge. The lodge was absolutely beautiful. We were greeted with juice in the lobby area and an introductory talk by the guest manager. Then Jorge took us to our room, so we could unwind a bit before our evening activity, the canopy tower.

Our room was really nice. We had two full size beds, both with mosquito netting, a hammock, and our own private bathroom with shower. While the build has a roof, our room does not really have a ceiling, giving it more of an open feel. Plus, our outside wall was open to the jungle. There were some brown capuchins and squirrel monkeys working in the trees above that we could watch from our room. Amazing!

Our little bathroom was also pretty nice, unlike the majority of toilets we used in Peru. Similar to most toilets in Peru, there was a basket beside for the tp, since it could not be flushed. This definitely has taken some getting used to.

At 4:30pm, we met Jorge for our canopy tower hike. The canopy tower here is 37m, ~120ft, tall and provided spectacular views of the jungle around us. We saw some howler monkeys and the silhouettes of the Andes in the distance. Jorge said that they were easier to see in the dry season, May through October. Now we know, visit the Southern Hemisphere during the dry season for better views and less bugs.

Darkness fell quickly during our walk back. Thankfully, we had our headlamps to help us see. Back at Posada Amazonas, Jorge gave us a short lecture on the goal of this place. This lodge is a joint venture between the native community in Infierno and some business men from Lima who founded Rainforest Expeditions. Posada Amazonas is in its 20th year and has numerous awards for Eco-tourism.

Following the lecture, we joined the rest of the guests for dinner: chicken, rice, vegetables, and purple carrot for dessert. Tasty! Then Kari and I went back to our room to shower and get some rest for our next day!