We woke up at 6 am the next day began with breakfast and our malaria pills in the cloud forest.
At breakfast one of the girls mentioned that she cut herself the day before and before long the guide knew a tree which he thought would help heal the cut. After breakfast in the middle of the forest he found the tree. Slightly cutting the tree with his machete and out oozed a light brown sap. He placed the sap on her cut and off we went descending from the mountains to lower altitude going from about 3,000 ft to 500 ft above sea level. We would go from a cold, wet temperature to hot, dry weather. After a 2 hour drive We finally arrived in what was officially known as the Amazon region.
One of the stops along the way along this dirt and rural road was a “village” of half a mile long. We were a little confused on why we stopped here at first because it was in the middle of nowhere of the middle of nowhere. We had to stop to get bread for the next few days because fresh food is the Peruvian mindset. We walked into a villagers backyard with chickens running around, weeds, a broken down car, and laundry hanging up. The guide showed us the “bathrooms” to use since we had been driving for 3 hours since breakfast. The bathrooms were just 5 foot doors with a hole in the ground but you have to make due what one has.
We then walked into the little cement hut of where the bread was being made. Inside was a huge brick oven with fresh bread slowly cooking under the supervision of an old, kind man. The Peruvians love every bit of their food fresh as can be. Our guide bought the fresh bread for the next few days and the kind baker then offered us some fresh bread right out of the oven to try right there. It was some of the best bread I have ever had: fresh, warm, sweet, and natural.
Outside the bakers hut was a cinnamon tree. Our guide took his machete once again and cut into the bark and sliced off a few slivers of cinnamon. It looked exactly on sees on products for cinnamon: brown, curved slices. The leaves when rubbed smelled like cinnamon. A few of us tried the cinnamon tree leaves and it tasted like cinnamon and evergreen-just like a Christmas Yankee candle-well except this was all natural (just like everything else here). Maybe the American should take a hint about eating all natural foods. Off again we were in the van as I saw a few girls and women laying out coca leaves on black tarp in the road so that they can be sun dried and sold off for tea.
Picture above: Our guide with the cinnamon tree.
Along the descent one could see the change in the plantation. The long, tall trees covered in mist were replaced by long grass and drier trees with interesting vegetation growing underneath the heat of the Amazonian sun. Every few hundred feet the entire climate and vegetation would change.It has as many micro-climates and micro-habitations as one can imagine. By 11 a.m. we arrived in another random village-this time instead of walking or driving to our next destination we would white water raft.
We were handed our life jackets and paddles as chickens, pigs, parrots, and dogs ran rampant. We walked to the river along a muddy path and made it to the river. We then pumped our raft while dodging fire ants from biting us. We got in the raft and off we went-paddling down the raging waves. One of the girls dropped her paddle in the river as we were hit unexpectedly by a huge wave. We made it safely to our destination-a small row of shack houses. We got out and got our backpacks and waited for our next mode of transport. In the beating hot sun everyone started to get a little jittery and we all started talking about what our first meal would be once we got back in the states.
We couldn’t talk for long because we were once again handed life vests and had to get in a small wooden boat which looks similar to ones people ride in Asia. We rode the boat for 40 minutes as it shook back and forth to get to our cabins which was down the river on the other side.
Once we stopped we walked to our cabins with little electricity, no wifi, and no service. We were completely cut off from the world (as if we weren’t already)–and it was great. Around the cabins were plants of all sorts banana trees, pepper plants, and all kinds of fruits and vegetables. We had lunch and rested until 5 p.m.
(Our camp site view)
At 5 p.m. we took a night hike into the forest. Though 5 p.m. may not sound like night back in the states this time of year, it is winter here in Peru because of its location below the equator. So it gets dark early here as it usually does in winter. In the darkness of the night we hiked in the forest looking for animals which only emerged in the night. Towards the middle of the hike the tour guide, with machete in hand, asked everyone to shut off their flashlights and be quiet. Everyone obeyed and he said “Just close your eyes and try to be one with nature.” The only thing that could be heard was the distant river rushing. We headed back to our campsite, ate dinner, and off to bed we were to be up at the crack of dawn once again.