The next morning we had breakfast at 7 am, said goodbye to our cook, headed onto the boat with our backpacks to the small town, and met the van which would bring us back. The second to last stop along the way was an animal shelter. Once the van door opened a monkey came jumping in. At the shelter were pigs, monkeys, and parrots (to name a few). The monkeys were extremely friendly. At one point there was a piglet standing at the closed barn door, showing a desire it wished to enter. The monkey seeing this opened the barn door with its tail and the piglet waltzed in. At one point one of the monkeys was hanging around one of our neck’s as the monkey tried to strangle a cat with its tail, and a dog was biting on the cat’s tail so to rescue it from the monkeys grasp. It is amazing the skills the monkeys have.
The way home we hit as many obstacles as possible. As we left the animal rescue center we got stuck behind a truck which was carrying rocks, with one rock on the verge of hitting our car. We were stuck behind this truck for 45 minutes as it drove slowly. Our van driver tried to drive around it but the truck wouldn’t let us pass. That was until there was another car coming on the opposite way and when the truck stopped to let the other car through our driver rapidly sped passed it.
Our last stop was the town we first stopped at on our journey to the Amazon. The town was packed with people in cultural garb, marching bands, and people making food on the streets. They were celebrating the winter solstice (because it is winter here due to its location below the equator). Most of the population does not celebrate it as pagans and new ageists. Though the origin of celebrating the winter solstice does have its roots in the Inca religion festival of Inti Raymi (more on that in a later post).
Inti Raymi was celebrated on the winter solstice (June 21st). It was a time when the Inca Empire would beg the gods for more daylight. Since the colonization of Peru and its widespread conversion to Catholicism the winter solstice has a new meaning. It is now a celebration of Peruvian and Cusco (the Inca Empire capital) culture. The days leading up to the solstice and several days following are all of celebration in the Cusco region and we were witnessing the middle of it all.Groups of private schools were dressed in their English looking uniforms. Traditional dancers were dressed in bright, festive, flamboyant clothing with instruments in hand. After a 20 minute stop of walking around the unique town to stretch our legs from the long car ride we headed back into our car for the rest of our journey.
Along the mountain roads (which were still the length of the van and had no guardrails) we encountered a 6 year old boy herding his cow. After that a van had broken down on the opposite side of the road. So we had to wait 15 minutes for the van to be moved. We then entered another village and were not allowed to drive along the main route because they too were having celebrations for the winter solstice. So we took a 20 minute detour along tiny roads and curves.
One of the best sights I remember from the drive back was seeing two small brothers play soccer on the yellow-green hills as the sun began its early stage of setting. Next to them was their small, simple hut. They were as happy as could be just enjoying each other’s company, the nature, and the game itself in a majestic setting. And as we were about an hour away from making it back to our hotel our van got a flat tire. One could only laugh at how the drive home was going. All these stops and disadvantages were all part of the journey.
Luckily we were right by a gas station and the problem was fixed within a half hour. Next to the gas station were a few cows with horns were grazing. So we dared one of the girls on the trip to pet and feed the cow-which she did (even though it looked like it was about to charge right at her). The van was eventually fixed and along the way we went back to our hotel by 7 pm-only to await the highlight of the trip: the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu.
The trip to the Amazon was an entire adventure, from zip lining, to riding log rafts, and viewing unique animals in their natural habitats. I am extremely grateful to have had this privilege to see this amazing and beautiful part of the world. Each section of the Amazon and Peruvian wilderness is unique with its own biosphere. It is a breathtaking scene. The adventure comes along with living in Peru and the Amazon for that matter; they are one in the same. Yet it was great to know that the Amazon experience would not be the last-the most intense one of all was yet to come.