La Selva

I don’t even know how to write a description of our Amazon trip that can do it justice.

The trip was absolutely the most amazing thing I have ever done. We flew from Lima to Iquitos, then travelled four hours by car and boat to arrive in Puerto Miguel, a small village on the Amazon. I really didn’t feel like a tourist on this trip (something I am so happy to say) because every day was full of adventures and you never knew what was coming up around the corner.

Our guide, Gumer, was passionate about finding animals to show us and telling us all about life in the Amazon. We learned which trees and plants are used for medicinal purposes, and which are covered in poisonous spines. He showed us different ants and bugs, the ones that bite, and the ones that just carry leaves in single file to the mother lode all day. We found and caught caimanes of various sizes in rivers and lagoons. We found a snake that was relatively harmless, but we also ran into a deadly coral snake and a massive anaconda. Gumer didn’t hesitate to catch both of them and ask if we wanted to hold them. We fed monkeys oranges and bananas. Gumer took us to a tree that is home to night monkeys so territorial they attack people sometimes (!). He proceeded to yell, whistle, and hit the tree with his machete until they woke up from their nap and peered down at us.

400 year old “wimba” tree
Post-swimming in the Amazon
Butterfly larva

Pedro was hungry.
Katie Anne and her constrictor.
Bioribel makes a friend.
Gumer and the piranhas we caught!

Needless to say, there is hardly any other place on earth that crawls with so much life in such concentration. Walking through the woods or boating along the river, life was everywhere. Trees and palms competing for light in strange shapes with huge foliage, mysterious bubbles coming up to the surface in the muddy water, bugs absolutely infinite and everywhere.

Photo credit to Katie Anne and her photo skills

Right before we left the lodge for the last time to return to Lima, Gumer explained the role of tourism in his community. Since there isn’t much governmental presence in la selva, it is up to residents to protect their land and wildlife from exploitation and poaching. Tourism brings money to these communities, so that inhabitants are able to preserve nature and community traditions. I hope that this system truly works for the benefit of these communities, and that tourism continues to serve them well.

Puerto Miguel
Learning how to play “Caracol” in Puerto Miguel

Curuhuinsi Lodge
Curuhuinsi Lodge

Thank you to Gumer, everyone at Curuhuinsi Lodge, and Patty, our Program Coordinator!

The Ultimate Road Trip

I have always loved road trips so much, where conversations stretch over hours, where all sense of time seems suspended, where the familiar sound of tires speeding down the highway hums continuously, where you never know what you’ll discover at the next stop. Our two day trip to Huancaya and Laraos was by far the coolest road trip I can remember. The first pit stop turned into a white-water rafting excursion, barreling down the river between two sets of mountains and the houses on either side. The sun beat down and balanced out the freezing green water. It was so clear you could see all the rocks coming up ahead. The air in la sierra was so different from Lima’s humidity and pollution; it was dry and clear and smelled smoky, dusty, and a little sweet.

Through all the hours in the car that weekend, it was hard for me to peel my eyes away from the window. The color scheme was always uniform: yellow and pale green mountains, low deep-green trees, dusty unpaved roads, bright blue sky. I have never seen mountains sitting so close together and so steep and towering, at least as high as any skyscraper in NYC.

This was the weekend of Fiestas Patrias and the Peruvian independence day, 28 de julio. Every town we drove by was doing something to celebrate: playing music, red and white banners and flags everywhere, families together, eating outside, having parties, people making speeches on microphones.

The highlight for me was our stay in a small town called Laraos, tucked so far up and into the mountains it was quite difficult to get there by car. We had to get out of the van so that the driver could make it up the last stretch of hill. Even considering the separation from valleys and towns below, I was still surprised how well-preserved their lifestyle and culture are.

Our guide, Tio, walked us through his town, explaining all the traditions. Families build their own houses with plaques marked “feliz hogar,” something like “happy home” in English. It really amazed me that every single person we passed on the streets recognized that we were tourists (one way or another) and said “buenos días” with a smile or a nod.

The kids were practicing a choreographed dance at their school for the town’s Fiestas Patrias celebration the next day. Out of nowhere a line of cows ventured onto the basketball court, right in the middle of the dance. Everyone scattered and screamed and one calf slipped on his little spindly legs.

Tio told us stories about spirits he had seen in his life under the stars as we sat around a bonfire that night. I have never seen stars so bright and so innumerous. I brought the Holy Trinity of ingredients from Lima to make s’mores. He didn’t really understand why s’mores were a thing, or how to eat it, but said he liked it.

Laraos at sunset

Que bonita, Huancaya
Fiestas Patrias at Laraos
Trucha frita (fried trout- suuuuper fresh) with chicha morada (purple corn and spice drink). Yum.

Luckily our driver knew what he was doing.

Thank you to Tio, all of Laraos, Casa Hospedaje Katita for a great stay, and Vicky for a great tour!