Category Archives: Peru

The Amazon Jungle

At the dock, we catch our speedboat to head down the Amazon River; a freighter like tanker was also transporting people traveling to various villages… a very different kind of transportation, hammocks appeared to be the visible option for lying down, looped up and tied in the main foyer, perhaps enough hammocks for 30 passengers. I was as fascinated by the boat, the sleeping quarters and the passengers, as they are of me.The Amazon River is muddy brown coloured, the strong smell of petrol and fish overpower my olfactory senses yet surprisingly, florescent bright pink dolphins also live in these waters and periodically show their bright colors framed against the grey backdrop.

At the edge of the jungle, the lush green of the foliage, heat and out-of-control humidity introduce me to ‘just the beginning’ of the rich jungle life…butterflies, crazy looking bugs, papaya trees, huge mounds of bananas, monkeys, roosters, chickens and foreign insects sporting florescent red, black, bright yellow and indian red colours (with intricate ancient designs on their wings) whiz by. Anthills and ant crossings, with some serious traffic congestion crossour path and huge brown mud-caked-like termite nests are spotted in the lush green tropical trees..

My translator and guide explains that termites are known by the villagers to have insect repellent properties and individuals that reside in the jungle often gather the termites on their arms and rub the insects right in to their skin (apparently, I am told, the termites do not bite humans!). The locals also believe that eating termites is a good treatment for a sore throat. That is a traditional remedy that I will not be trying!

Lunch at the jungle lodge is simple yet delicious…cerviche, camu camu juice (a subtle pink juice, refreshing like our lemonade, but naturally sweet) fried plantains (maduro), steamed yucca, heart of palm (or palmito), rice and beans… a guitarist plays Spanish ballads and traditional Andean tunes…

The jungle is alive with sounds…nature’s orchestra…completely alive and pulsating to its own rhythm… I stop to think, if man believes he has dominance over nature, has mastered and can exert controlover mother earth, then he should spenda night in the jungle!

The Life Force here is awesome, trees are known to slowly move their roots in the direction of moisture and shift their towering tree trunks towards the light and some particularly sensitive jungle plants actually recoil at the contact of a foreign human hand. Then there are the jungle sounds…chirping, cawing, trilling, cooing, a low pitched growling…an endless chatter of community. WOW! Man is but a tiny force (and small voice) compared to the majestic, pulsating life force and strength of voice found in the jungle.

We visit an animal reserve: anacondas, toucans, monkeys, rattlesnakes and alligators. I pick up a tiny alligator, about 2 feet long in length from head to toe…what a nice pet. : )

 I fall in love with a sloth (perhaps one of the slowest animal species in existence), a relatively uninspired-looking koala bear type, with huge friendly eyes and a permanent half grin on its face. Being a vegetarian, it becomes all too evident that the sloths only focus is on eating leaves, which it inhales with great speed compared to all other slow, plodding movements.

After picking one up and petting her wiry, wig-like pelt, I set the sloth back down on the ground; taking advantage of her getaway moment, she begins to move in very slow-motion, arms and legs branched out like a spiders….her half crawling motion is slower than a turtle.

Jungle Markets of Iquitos- Peru

An early morning walk into the market of Iquitos (known to Peruvians as the City of Love), the entrance to the Amazon Jungle; the market area is known in tourist guide books as the’slums’ of Belen but I prefer to think ofthis charming districtas the magical ‘floating city’ of Belen….the community is buzzing with life, morning chatter, live animals and fresh produce of all sorts and colours.

There are 2 seasons in Iquitos, the wet season, or more accurately named, the high water season and the dry season or low water season. Depending largely on the snow melting and the amount of rainfall in the Andean mountains.

In Belen, single room homes with palm tree roofs are built on either basala logs, which float as the water rises, or homes built on stilts to prevent flooding during the rainy or “wet” season; there is no running water or electricity in Belen….

I learn that in the high water season, as the water floods the muddy river banks, Belen is transformed to a floating city; families here typically have 2 canoes which they use to travel from their stilt homes…1 canoe for the parents and the other canoe for the small children, to boat to school.

Wandering into the marketplace, definitely the heart of the city, bustling with life at 6:30 am…WOW….papayas, pineapple, fried plantains, huge avocados and yams the size of an adult thigh, enormous soup pots simmering on open fires, live catfish (cara chama) in wicker baskets and a little old lady singing while twisting the necks of the fish…freshly pressed juices, condiments and powdered herbs stored in plastic bags…

I find the people in the market to be warm, friendly, happy spirits who, of course, are very curious. I doubt that many had ever seen a camera before, let alone seen their picture on a digital camera. After asking permission to take photos, I show them their pictures captured on camera; the results were warm smiles, laughter, looks of surprise and glee. Many women gestured to have pictures taken of their friends and one stall merchant demanded the camera be brought over his way, insisting that his picture be taken also.


Then I find my dream… I turn a corner into a narrow side street and discover the herb market district! Pasaje Paquito. Herbal Medicine of all forms, cats claw, ginger, cinnamon, cactus bulk herbs, tonics, bottles, potions… dried powders and various jungle medicines….

I befriend an herb merchant and his son. He invites me into his small outdoor stall and shows me myrrh gum, paulo santo (a fragrant resinous wood which is burned as incense), potions and amulettes de amore * love potions…

I show the herb merchant my insect bites, memories of some foreign insect attack; the bites still very swollen and red on my leg… he rushes off to find an herbal ointment which he smears on my calf… instantly I feel relief and purchase his ointment…a great interaction / my leg has not felt this good in 4 days!

I later discover that families who live in the Amazon jungle or who fish in the Amazon river can travel up to 1 week in tiny wooden boats (sometimes with 4-5 children on the small boat), camping on the banks of the Amazon river at night -the destination is the large market in Iquitos where theysell their wares, often crates of live fish, bananas, heart of palm or yams.

Andean Mountains: The Sacred Valley of Peru

We have been taking day trips into the Andean mountains… today, on route in our journey; the taxi stopped in the middle of nowhere and went to speak to some people on the side of the road. The taxi driver was gone for awhile then came back, rolling a spare tire that he had borrowed from someone building an adobe house… that sets me up for an optimistic drive into the mountain back roads of the Sacred Valley…

The pavement far behind us, we continue gaining elevation on the steep, bumpy boulder roads, the air thick with dust and the one lane traffic winding through the mountains higher and higher until finally, there were no more mountain peaks looming above us, we were driving on the top of the mountain range….

We finally arrive at a small village -a textile community which rarely sees tourists (my kind of traveling)…The community was dressed in their traditional colours, felt hats for the women and woven beaded hats the colours of the rainbow for the men, colourful cloths to carry their bambinos (babies)…The whole community was like a big family, they weave together, about 50 or so adults…their weaving looms set up in the center of a common yard. Someone is responsible forwinding wool into thread, a section of the yard was set up for dying the lama wool various earthy colours (they use salt and men’s urine to cure or set the colour in the wool) …I will never look at another hand woven cloth the same again….

The community is more like an interdependent family… everyone helps each other, and everyone is responsible for taking care of the village elders. It is a sign of respect to great the elderly as mama and papa, as everyone elder is considered everyone’s mother and father.-Back to the textile community…baby lambs were bleating, puppies and a rooster were roaming around with the numerous small children laughing and playing…When the village stopped working to eat lunch…a large soup pot was carried out of a common room, the whole community was fed, and we were served the smoked soup also… (a clear broth withquinoa, wheat berries, some chewy meat and vegetables)… I was told it was called -in translation… old hen soup….  a rooster was hanging around the soup pot and an older lady kept chasing it away from the soup… hmmm. I wonder if the roosters’ relative ended up in the daily soup??We did get a flat tire on the bumpytravels back to the valley… glad our driver had the foresight to imagine that his thin tires would not last for the journey home.

The Andean People of the Sacred Valley in Peru

I was honored to witness an Andean celebration yesterday, with the procession line heading through the town market of Pisaq, everyone adorned in various colours of sacred dress, the elders and tribal healers wearing proud ceremonial headdresses of feathers, bones, leather and beads… Men and young boys playing wood flutes and young girls wearing woven headbands, huge smiles and carrying armfuls of sage.

I have met so many amazing people in Peru… a wise older woman, bent from years of living, perhaps 4 feet tall, her face lined from the sun and from the memories of a long life… and her eyes….I approached her and made connection, her eyes drew me in….she allowed me to photograph her… not in a way in which she was posing, but instead she connected with some distant memory and truth inside of her, gently smiled and let that truth show through the photo…

There are many children in the market, dressing up in their traditional clothing holding baby lambs or a tiny dog, who want to sell a picture… we pay them to capture the ‘traditional’ looking moment.

The Andean people are so striking, beautiful, their woven alpaca and wool clothing, traditional felt hats (women wear flowers in their hats if they are single and looking for a suitor!), gentle eyes, quick to smile and faces full of character… I often see them traveling with enormous packs on their backs, carrying a pile of eucalyptus leaves tied together, or a child under a colourful blanket.

It is common for the women to travel daily, (from high up in the mountains, down the steep mountain slopes) to the village in the valley, every day to sell their wares…Extremely fit and used to the high altitude, they can almost run up and down the mountains, traveling light footed on the tips of the narrow, steep stairs, (which have been painfully carved out of rock and set into the mountain over many years) They do not fight to balance like me, as I rest my feet carefully on the flat steps themselves (and at times stumble from the steep grade), but instead these skilled hikers balance on the point of the stair and run resting their feet only on the tips of the stairs… definitely Andean acrobatics and sure footing.