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The One with the Amazon, Part 1

This week on “nothing in Peru is close to anything else in Peru”, we spent a grand total of 13 hours on buses. It was 7 hours from Puno to Cusco, where we got to spend a full day before hopping on another bus and driving another 6 hours out to THE AMAZON!

But let’s start with Cusco, because three of our ladies decided to try their hand (feet?) at bungee jumping! Abi, India, and Emma took the plunge off of the highest bungee jump in South America, dropping 405 ft towards the ground before springing back on cables (and they didn’t even get the free t-shirts). Not being inclined to throw ourselves out of perfectly good cable elevators, Davina and I spent the day in Cusco exploring the Museum of Precolumbian Art and the accompanying Textile Shop, where Peruvian women weave tapestries and sell them to tourists (yes, I am absolutely going to buy one).

We joined back up for the rest of the day at an ice cream parlor (where Davina discovered that lime and mint do not really go together) and to repack our bags for THE AMAZON (for future travellers: you are absolutely allowed to leave stuff at hostels in their luggage closet. We left all our winter coats and stuffed the extra space in our packs with cookies).

So now we’re in the Amazon. Specifically, we’re staying at a place called Tierra Linda in El Manu National Park. I don’t know how to describe it so far in a way that does it justice. First of all, it’s hot and it’s humid (we’re all perpetually sticky). Secondly, there is more green here than we’ve seen in five weeks. Thirdly, none of us were prepared for how BIG the jungle feels (India and Abi and I were talking about how it feels similar to the safari ride at Animal Kingdom, but, like, a sad, neat, clean version of the real deal).

We’re staying in an open-air house about 3km off the main road (it feels like 200km). The walls are nothing but screen, so all the natural light and smells and sounds of the river and jungle are with us all the time. We sleep in twin beds under bug nets (there aren’t any mosquitoes; it’s to keep the moths from setting up shop in our ears) and it’s surprisingly chilly at night. We wake up when the sun comes up, and we go to sleep pretty much when the sun goes down (like, we’re up at 6:00 and in bed by 7:30). The food is also delicious: porridge and banana pancakes for breakfast; rice and squash curry for lunch; mashed potatoes and tomato/cucumber salad with vinaigrette for dinner.

Chores so far have included a wide range of activities. We went on a two hour hike through the jungle (India and Emma got machetes) and we had to hack through some of the brush that had fallen across the path (we also got to swing on a vine like Tarzan. It’s harder than it looks; three of us fell off). We planted pineapples after the hike (they are REALLY pointy plants).

After working, we had a bit of free time (siesta lasts from noon to 3:00pm) so we went swimming in a natural pool formed by the river and let little minnows nibble at our toes (no, they weren’t piranha. We asked). We then spent the last two hours before dinner with machetes in hand acting like human weed-whackers, clearing grass and weeds away from the big pineapple plants and chirimoya trees. Fully covered in dirt, it was back in the river before dinner, which we eat by candlelight because electricity isn’t exactly a thing (we charge our phones via solar panel and it’s so cool).

Today, Sunday, is our day off, so we rode out to the local town to use the Internet cafe. Hopefully we’ll be back soon so I can keep posting (and letting everyone know we haven’t been eaten by anything besides mosquitoes yet)!

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