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Waking up in the darkness of 4:30 a.m. we began our journey to the Amazon by hopping in a van. Joining us on the tour were three other people. An engaged couple (he was from London & she was from Northern Ireland) and the bride-to-be’s brother. The engaged couple quit their jobs in London and decided to travel for 7 weeks in Asia and 4 weeks in South America before heading back to Ireland to marry and start a new life. Along with the tour guide we had the driver, the cook, and a random assistant who we were not sure what his purpose was. You never know who you are going to meet along the way in traveling.
The first stop along the way to the Amazon was an ancient burial ground. We saw the old tombs.The people of the Inca civilization and the pre-existing civilizations would bury their dead in fetal position as the deceased would await rebirth in the form of reincarnation. From our spot on the burial ground we could see one of the snow capped mountains which the ancient Peruvians believed protected the region of Cusco. Below us was a small village.
It was extremely quiet up on the ancient burial site. The only thing that could be heard was the wind and occasional noise from the small village below. Due to the way the mountains are shaped and the complete silence, it was easy to hear noises from the village way below us.
We got in our small van for another hour & 1/2 until the next small village which was along a river. We descended from the mountains into this small village. It was very European in its exterior with its cobblestone streets, white and blue houses, old stone bridges, and open space market places.
We stopped to get a few snacks because it was going to be a few hours until lunch. Two of the people on the trip decided to get juice. There is no Tropicana or any name brand juices here in Peru. When you want juice you are more than likely to have it cut and squeezed right before you. It is all fresh and mainly just juice, unless the customer requests sugar. But expect nothing else but juice straight from the fruit or vegetable itself. And if you want your juice-it is common that they will put the juice in the plastic bag, tie it up, and stick a straw in it—no to go cups. And if you do decide to drink the juice in the area they will give you old 50’s looking milkshake glasses to drink from. Off we went and ascended into the mountains.
The whole trip was one of ascending to descending from the mountains and then valleys/low lands.Except this time as we moved closer to the Amazon we did nothing but ascend. We drove up into the mountains in the cloud forest, where the clouds were right by our side.
The Peruvians are never in a rush unless they are on the road. To an American one would view Peruvian driving as crazy. They stop only 3 seconds before they have too and always seem to be going faster than necessary. The roads the entire way were purely dirt, no guardrails, and the road was only slightly wider than the van itself. Because we were driving in the mountains, the road was extremely zigzag. So at times the zigzags would hide behind the mountains. We noticed that every time we had to turn the driver would BEEP extremely loudly. This was to let a car know on the other side that another car was coming through so that there wasn’t a car accident. At times we would drive underneath waterfalls. Meanwhile all of this was being done while driving in the cloud forests of at least 1,000 ft + up in the air. For most of the time I could not look outside the window because it looked like we were going to fall off the road and plunge 1,000 ft to our untimely death.
We then descended slightly into the forest and stopped on the side of the mountain for lunch. After lunch we walked for an hour to look at the wild life. The entire view looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park: trees in clouds & mist. We saw waterfalls, interesting plants, and the national bird of Peru: cock-of-the-rock. Along the way the guide who showed us a small yellow flower resembling a dandelion. He told us to pick some and eat them. We chewed on them and within a few seconds our mouths went numb, it was a natural anesthetic which is used for when the natives have toothaches. It was one of the many, many, many plants/herbs/spices they love, cherish, and trust here. If there is an injury or illness-there’s a plant for it! We continued on our walking journey l the van picked us up and brought us to our cabins.
We got out of the van on the side of the road in the cloud forest, walked five minutes into the forest, and found the cabins-along the side of the waterfall. It was the first of many places which one could truly say was in the middle of absolute nowhere. We were than fed dinner (6 pm) and than in bed by 8 p.m. because we had to be up at the crack of dawn for the next day. There was no point in staying up anyway because there was very little electricity and no wifi. The only thing in the cabin were the beds with the mosquito nets over them. It began to rain and pour which put all of us right to sleep as we began to journey deeper and lower into the Amazon.