Saturday, June 27, 2015

iquitos - day 2
saturday, we got up at about 8, for a 9 o'clock tour. first, we loaded the boat to go look for pink and gray freshwater dolphins. we had to go to the reserve, pacaya-samiria, which is bigger than costa rica or belgium; gigantic. we entered the reserve, then quickly got into the river network. this was awesome! the water was so dark, the plants were all aquatic (or at least were able to survive in water), and there were amazing views. one cool thing, was when a wave would hit the (not)shore, the plants would move with it because they are not anchored on the ground. very cool. another cool thing was the water line. it was about 4 or 5 feet above the current water line, that is crazy high river. the amazon is amazing. 
anyway, we traveled a little ways, then saw the dolphins! they were really dolphins! and we even saw a pink one! the guides had funny calls; whistles, clicks, and a farting noise. i die listening to it. the dolphins didn't get hight out of the water, but we could still see them! after seeing them, we kept going in the boat, saw some sloths, monkeys, lots and lots of birds (herons especially) and amazing scenery. no place looks even remotely the same as the other, it was all so unique. even a minute of moving, and you would not think you were even remotely close to the same place.
we kept going for a long time (like three hours) then got into a lagoon where we could swim! the water was black because of the acidness eating and decomposing everything, so it was eery. we jumped in and swam a while! nice and refreshing, cool but not too cold. and we even saw a dolphin or two swimming with us. they stayed around for a few minutes before disappearing. now i can officially say i swam with wild dolphins. we swam for a little more then got back in to go eat. they said loading dinner, and they were right. they just tied us to a tree and our cook from the lodge started cutting open leave wraps filled with rice and chicken. now that was yummy! and cool to look at. after eating, we went to go fish for piranhas. we drove (in a boat of course) and then pulled into a thick area in the marsh. we all got our poles and went at it. right off the bat, the other boat started catching things galore. my boat didn't catch much. . . andrea caught the biggest, and it was huge! i didn't catch anything until the last minute when i went up to the front and fished. they were tiny and i never actually got them in the boat, they got off before then. oh well, i got two, i can say. 
after fishing and keeping about 7 of them, we returned to the bungalows for a bathroom break before heading right back out into a different part of the reserve. we went to a village called 20 de enero, or 20 of january. the villagers are allowed to live there because they lived there before the park was an actual park, but there are restrictions on their food and hunting. while in the village, we learned to climb a palm tree. the villagers used to cut them down, but that takes years for new trees to grow and even more time for the fruit to grow. we all got to climb up. it was tough. there are two groups you had to use and it was hard! i got the highest at about half the tree height. after that, we had to go back because it was getting dark.
it was a little disorienting on the ride back because it was so dark, the river was so big, and i had no idea where i was. but we got back safely, and ate dinner. good, of course. i look the food, and all the rice is amazing! we had the piranha too! it was whole, like the fish i had in costa rica. teeth and all. it was good tho. reminded me of my cabin. and i kept the bottom teeth of one of them. after dinner, it was legend time!
the workers told legends about the forest. like the water god, the animal protector, and the god of the forest. it was really neat! bed shortly after.
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

today i got up at about 3 because we had to be at the isa office at 4 am. i walked. it was really interesting, there were no cares, no people, no honking, nothing. just the streetlights and my thoughts. i got to the isa office and we left for the airport. we got there, checked our bags and went to our gate. we loaded a bus and loaded the plane on the tarmac. it was a nice plane, another baby but it flew nicely. 
we landed in iquitos, which is the capital of the loreto region. it is also one of largest cities in the world that can only be accessed by boat and plane. right off the bat, after getting off the plane, it was hot and sticky, but manageable. having lived in iowa my whole life, humidity is seldom a problem. we claimed our luggage and went to get on the bus that was driving us to the port city. on our way, we stopped at a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center. we walked in, and saw the turtle pits first; there were some really big and also some small ones. there were a ton in the little pit. then we walked a little more and saw some things on the way. the next animal was a sea otter, she was so cute. i love otters so much. right after the otter, there was a monkey and sloth house. it was full of animals but we didn't see any. however, there was a monkey named diego that they had tried to release multiple times, but failed. he keeps coming back, and enjoys humans a lot. he climbed all over you, tried to take your things, tried to kiss you, everything a crazy monkey could do; he did. we kept moving to the main event, the manatees. the manatees are here because of attempted poaching, killed mothers, boats or other accidents. we washed our hands and went to look. they were beautiful. we grabbed some leaves and got to feed them. they were soft and smooth, but their mouths were like spiders. they grabbed and grabbed with their mouths. they were beautiful. we also saw some macaws, and a baby sloth that was held by one of the workers. this was such a cool place. 
we left for the rest of the ride to the port city, nauta. we stopped when we got to the city, and went to a lagoon in the center of the city. we walked up to a view point/gazebo and got some bread. we were trying to feed the paiche, and we succeeded. they are the biggest fish in the amazon, sometimes 3 or 4 meters long. there were catfish, caimans, lots of turtles, and of course paiches. the paiches were gigantic, i mean some were 6 or more feet, and had bright red scales. there were tons of turtles, a few gigantic ones, and also a caiman. after feeding for a while, we went to the dock and loaded a boat for the amazon river tour and trip to our bungalows. 
we went downstream and met where the marañón and ucayali converge to form the official start of the amazon. it was awesome! gigantic, brown with extremely strong currents. i was a little scared to be honest. not for my life, because i am a strong swimmer but for my stuff; these boats were rickety and not exactly level and would often waver side to side. but we were fine, of course. we went up stream about an hour and a half to our bungalows for the next two nights. it was awesome. there were two little ponds, a meeting place, a dining room and the bungalows; all in the middle of the amazon forest. the bungalows were awesome, nice bathroom, a deck, and 7 beds. the one bad thing was there was only electricity from about 6-10 at night. 
we ate lunch, which was great, then had to wait for the rest of the group to arrive (they missed the flight because they slept in). when they arrived, we split into two groups and went on an evening/night hike. the amazon was wonderful. it was similar to the forests of costa rica, but more extravagant. we didn't see many animals, sadly, but we did hear so many sounds. there were bugs, frogs that could be heard for a mile away, birds, monkeys, fish from the river and everything else you could imagine. it was great to walk through the forest, it was very hilly and extremely dark after the sun went down. it was so dark it was disorientating. we walked for a couple hours then went back for dinner. 
dinner was good, of course the cooks are fabulous. after dinner, most headed to bed soon because we all had an extremely long day. i hit the hay quickly. i woke up once in the night to the rain, and it was like a noise machine, i loved it. i should have recorded it so i could fall asleep to it in the future. 
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

the last day in cusco. 
we got up early from our great hotel, for breakfast at about 8.30. we had to check out by 9.30 because the people coming in early from flights have to be able to check in early to combat the altitude sickness (12.000 feet can be killer, trust me). 
we ate then had the whole morning to ourselves. out plan was to watch the parades, one at 9.30 which went right in front of our hotel and the other in the plaza de armas at 10. they weren't on time, surprise, peruvian time, so we went to the plaza de armas to watch that one. we got some souvenirs, after being harassed endless we had to tell them to leave and no one was going to buy anymore (man they are annoying and never-ending. when one leaves, another one swoops in). it was taking way too long to get things going, damn peruvian time, so we just left to go to christo blanco to get a great view of cusco. 
we got a taxi then arrived to the spot. or so we thought. it was the incan ruins city, and of course, i didn't have my pass because i put it away for safe keeping (i am a little ocd), so it would have costed me 130 soles or about $45. i was not about to do that. . . but the amazing people i was with pooled their money and gave me 90 soles, so i paid the remaining and got in. it was worth it. the view was amazing. cusco is situated in a natural depression in the andes mountains. you could see so far and it was beautiful. there were the white capped andes in the distance and it was awesome. we left soon after because we wanted to go to the marked and a few other things. 
the same cab drove us back and we got to the central market of cusco. it was closed, dammit. but there was lots of shops and stands surrounding the market. we (paige, andrea, and i) walked around, got some snacks (amazing kettle puff corn), and some clothes and bought chia. it is so cheap! i want more more more. after walking around most of the shops, we went to eat in the coffee shop and used its wifi, then walked around a little more. we saw the parades (amazing, i am still in awe at how beautiful they are. and all the participants are so passionate and it really shows, it makes me jealous of the pride they have in their country), more shops (about 38210 sol alpaca shops) and the chocolate museum.
it was getting close to time we had to go back to the hotel, so thats what we did. i was thirsty, so i needed to buy a cold coke. i walked to the closest place that had cold coke. when i walked in and grabbed it, the lady talked to me in english and said it was 8 soles, so i purposely ignored her and asked in spanish how much it was and she said 5 soles. see, it proves worth it to talk in spanish. 
we left the hotel and got to the airport for the flight back to lima. it was, of course, the same toy plane we took to get to cusco (i could tell because my ocd kicked in when one of the buttons was on the opposite side as every other button on the whole plane). it was an easy flight, however. 
this was from the night before, this is typical clothes from the old times, and were used in the parades. there were so many variations, and each and every one was more beautiful than the last, and each and every group had a more amazing dance and music than the last. 
cusco was amazing, and i will definitely miss this amazing city. but i know i will be back sooner rather than later. cusco, hasta pronto. 
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

this weekend has been amazing. in the morning, we toured the ruins of ollantaytambo. i couldn't stop thinking about my mom and how much she would love this. incan ruins, terraces, history. it was awesome, and a great view of the surrounding valley and the city of ollantaytambo. ollantaytambo had the typical peruvian and latin american streets with the original water canals and pathways. it was what i had been looking for the whole trip. we left ollantaytambo for our night in cusco.
this city is amazing, i am in love. old fashioned: red roofs (ceramic semi-circle tiles) with stucco walls and small cobblestone and windy roads. we went straight to our hotel, and dropped our stuff off. it was a beautiful hotel, like always. we had extra time, so we got to walk around for lunch. we got lunch in a tiny place that took over 1.5 hours to get our food, but it was great. after, we had to rush to get to the hotel to catch the tour. We got there, and left for the plaza de armas. (there are plaza de armas in every city, it is like a main square) there was a festival, corpus christi, so it was crazy, but awesome! we toured the ancient city, and saw churches and old buildings and old streets. cusco was beautiful, i am falling in love with this country more and more with every minute that passes. 
qosqo was the original name of cusco, but was changed because the spaniards couldn't pronounce it after they conquered the land from the natives who spoke quechua. it was then changed to cuzco, then cusco after that. we saw the festival events, the cusqueñan flag (rainbow, go gay pride haha), the different centers. we toured things like the old incan architecture, the stone work; including the stone with 12 sides that fit perfectly with the congruent sides which clearly displays the intelligence of the natives and their masonry work. 
after seeing the various incan territories and palaces, we went tot eh central market, which was awesome! arts and crafts, food (meet [whole pigs, guinea pigs, everything], fruits of all kinds, some i had never heard of, quinoa and chia [which were extremely cheap, what would have costed about $90 in the states, i got for about $4] and everything else you could think of), and just interesting people. after that we had the rest of the night to ourselves. we split up and went to eat, then on our way back we got some beers for the night. we all met on the roof of our hotel and had a great time. there was a great view of cusco, lights, fireworks, and the stars were amazing. 
we laughed, told stories, and just enjoyed each others' company. i am going to miss this group of amazing people. 
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Monday, June 15, 2015

today was the big day. machu picchu. a big group of us were walking up, so we left at 7 to walk up. we left the hotel, walked through the cool and beautiful aguas clients and left for the hike. the hike to the entrance was easy, the calm before the storm. along a river, between a huge anyone, so beautiful! we walked across a bridge that we had to show our ticket, passport, and student card in order to cross then took a picture with the entrance sign and headed up the trail. 
i went fast and furious, and it was harrrrd. lots of stairs, switchbacks, uneven trails, and even steps up a retaining wall. but, it was extremely worth it, so beautiful! valleys, green mountains, water falls. so beautiful and extremely worth the walk. i got there first, after little over an hour after we left the hotel (average time is 2.5 hours - told you i flew), and waited for people to arrive. once there, paige and i wanted to go in quick and look before it got crowded while everyone waited for the rest of the walkers and the bus riders. we had to show our passport, student id card, and entrance ticket every time we went in, which was multiple times because there are no bathrooms, nor eating inside the actual park. i remember saying to paige how i thought i was going to cry, and shaking from excitement. and it did not let me down (i did not cry, however). we walked up quick, then back down. we got with our group after a while and split up for our guided tour. 
the guided tour was awesome! we learned so much, like 60% of the ruins are underground, as foundation for what is above ground, 90% of the ruins are original, original drainage system that still works for drainage and irrigation. the sun temple is situated with one window perfect situated for the summer solstice and another perfect situated for the winter solstice, tomb under the sun temple is for the royalty that are always buried in the fetal position so they can be reborn easily, the more precise and precious stones are for more important people, and everything was done in order to satisfy the gods, especially pachamama. also, the mountain peak in the picture is huayna picchu (to the north), not machu picchu. machu picchu mountain is behind (to the south) of the ruins.
after touring the various levels for a long time, we had time to ourselves. paige, kayla, and i wanted to quickly do the two hikes, sun road, which is the entrance to machu picchu from the inca trail, and the inca bridge which is a bridge used by the incans. the sun road was amazing. it was far to the south along the ridge of the mountains and it was tough too, uneven original incan trail, steep steps. but so worth it, it was amazing and we saw the other side of the mountain as well as a panoramic view of the mountains. we stayed for a while, then walked back down to go to the inca bridge.
the inca bridge was cool and short, with sheer cliffs (hence the reason we had to sign a book when we leave and return from the hike) on the side and beautiful mountains and the incan bridge was awesome and amazing how they made it.
we went back to sit. it was nice to just sit, meditate and take pictures, and just talk. after hiking, without stopping for over 7 hours, we were pooped. we got lots of pictures after most of the people left, and the sun was going down and peaking through the clouds. beautiful. i could sit there forever. no joke. i wish i had sat there longer, but i wanted to do everything i could. i already want to go back. i was very sad to go. "goodbye machu picchu, i love you," i said multiple times. there was a total of 32,000 steps, 314 flights of stairs, or 14 miles for the whole day. 
after all day of munching on few granola bars and water, i was hungry and i didn't care how much i was going to have to pay to eat in the park. i got a gigantic, like twice as big as subway subs for about $9, which isn't too bad. and it was great. after eating, we rode the bus down, which was crazy but much easier than walking. ha. after getting back to aguas clients, we walked back to the hotel to get some things from our bags then walked downtown. we split up and a few of us went to the markets to look a little more. and thank god we did because i finally found the ring i was looking for! the incan cross. i am so happy, holy shit. 
at about 6.30, we loaded the train for ollantaytambo for our hotel. the train ride was fun again, with no asshole interruptions, thank god! interesting, talking with people. after the train, we walked to our hotel which was interesting. a bunch of different room type things connected, but it was nice. ian and i's room was strange. we think it was originally a one bed, but they needed more room so they stuffed another bed in. no joke, when we opened the door, it hit my bed. there was a desk, that was close to the bed that you couldn't even move the chair, and a bar right by my bed. and the closed was in a hole in the wall behind ian's bed. strange. i don't know about the others, but i was pooped and quickly hit the hay after playing a few rounds of cards. easily one of the most amazing, and life changing days of my life. 
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11.6.2015 - today we got up early and had to be at the isa office at 6 am for our 8.05 flight to cusco! we walked there, then left for the airport, got our tickets and went through security. so easy for domestic flights, minus me having a stupid bottle opener so i got screened, of course. the plane was tiny, like a little toy, to be honest. nice flight, however. landing in cusco was easy. it was really cold in the airport (which was packed with companies trying to sell their products like tours and souvenirs) but not so cold outside. we got some coca candies, which help tremendously with the altitude, and got on the bus to leave for our hotel in aguas clients. 

after a little ways of driving, got to a house type that makes handmade alpaca materials in the town of chinchero. we watched them refine the wool, then dye it with natural products, then make it into a table spread. which can take anywhere from 30-60 days. they were amazing,  extremely beautiful. we had time to buy things, so of course i had to buy a table spread, and some other alpaca things. also, this picture was the happiest moment of my life. i fed and got a picture with an alpaca. my life is now complete.
we left to go through the sacred valley. it was amazing! spectacular, breathtaking, all of the above. i have been all over the states, to all corners of the mountains, deserts, lakes, everything, but this was still breathtaking! there were glaciers, incan terraces, beautiful rolling hills, sharp mountains. we drove down the valley to urubamba, to eat. we drove through the town, which is growing because of tourism, so there was lots of shops and restaurants and even a stadium. we pulled into a gated lot and saw an amazing old style building.  we ate there, buffet style. so good, lots of veggies, rice, desserts and even alpaca. after dinner (i ate 7 plates. 7. huge. plates.) we walked out back to see the valley, which was amazing. it looked a lot like red rock arizona, and there was even a llama, alpaca, and vuqueña. we took pictures with the three for a while, which the vuqueña was a little shit, so mean. after a while, we got back in the bus and got to try chincha, which is an alcoholic drink made of corn. there were two kinds: regular chincha, which was bitter and gross, and the chincha fresa (strawberry), which was great, sweet with just the right amount of alcohol. after the chincha, we left for the train station in ollantaytambo. 
we got to the train station after a little bit, after driving through tiny (more like minuscule) streets and alleys. we got our tickets, and got into the station and into line. after a short wait, we boarded the train. the train was nice, bumpy buy nice, and very scenic!
in the middle of the ride, the back door opened and an attendant and one of the guys from our group walked in. the guy (who, the next day said he doesn't remember anything because he was black out drunk from the bottles of wine he bought at lunch) from our group (whom i never liked, he parties far too much and smokes and constantly talks about himself and is just basically a self-centered party animal) walk in and he starts bitching right away about the attendant who accidentally spilled his drink. these were his words: "that fucking ass-hole spilled a drink on me so i raised hell and got kicked out." how much of an immature child can you be? lets be honest. first, it was an accident; you did not need to react like that. second, do not disrespect the natives like that. just because you are a privileged man, does not give you the right to be a dick to everyone you want to. third, you are in a foreign country and got kicked off you own train car. congratulations, you are the real winner here. i am sorry, i have no respect for people like that. 
anyway, we got to aguas calientes late at night, so it was dark and we took our stuff straight to our rooms. really nice, amazing beds and showers. we went to the market and bought some things then went back to heat to bed for machu picchu the following morning. this. is. it. 
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Sunday, June 7, 2015

7.6.2015 - on the morning of the 7th, we got up early to eat breakfast. i found out brendan got sick too and neither of us felt good at all. and the skimpy breakfast did not help. after breakfast, we found out the pier, that we were going to go on a boat ride in to see sea lions and penguins, was closed due to high wave levels. so, we went to plan b and went to the paracas national reserve. we drove though desert that looked like mars. we saw fossil deposits, from the prehistoric ocean that once occupied this area. 
after the fossil deposits, we got to the coast to see "el catedral" or "the cathedral" which was a cool rock formation in the ocean. it was once connected to the cliff, and somewhat resembled a cathedral, but due to earthquakes, fisherman using dynamite, and many other things, it has deteriorated to what it is today. that was cool, awesome ocean views, boobies (blue footed boobies from the galapagos island's relative), and just great views.
we kept driving, saw more coast, more desert, then got the "visitors center/museum" type of thing. on the water, nearby, there as flamingos! that was cool, and to be completely honest, i didn't think those were even in the wild. i'm just kidding, i thought they were just a zoo kind of thing.
 after going though the museum, we went back to the hotel and left for lunch. we drove for a little while and got to san jose habitacion, which was an old plantation that has been refurbished to be a high end hotel and event/restaurant of sorts. we toured, saw the church (which had a beautiful and gigantic center piece made from mahogany from nicaragua, that was then carven in spain and shipped to eh plantation). after, we went to the "punishment room" which was underground, and small. where the slaves were punished if they misbehaved. creepy stuff. then, we toured the house, and its catacombs which were a labyrinth to escape the pirates of that era. it was really cool to see and learn about the history of the house, slavery, and everything else. then we ate, which was amazing, of course! lots of peruvian cuisine, and the desires of picarones, which are similar to fluffy donuts with a type of honey. i am in love with them. after lunch, we had free time to explore the plantation, in other words, napping in the hammocks. that was glorious. i am going to have to invest in a hammock. after i woke up from my hap, i walked to see the horses which were small and dehydrated by active and healthy. and then explored some more. 

we left the plantation shortly for home. it was a four hour ride through more desert, and along the coast. i got home and was exhausted. i cannot even imagine what the four day cuzco excursion will be like. i am so excited. 
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