A Travellerspoint blog

La Amazona

Tambopata Lodge

Hola- This will likely be my last entry. I am leaving Cusco today, making my way to Lima and then tomorrow to Miami and finally to Minneapolis. I don't know that I will have internet access again. My final interesting adventure in Peru was my trip to the Amazon jungle. I booked a 3 day tour to a lodge near Puerto Maldenado. I had to fly there because it takes 21 hours by bus to go only a short distance. There are not any good roads from Cusco to Puerto Maldenado. The flight was only 30 minutes. Once in Puerto Maldenado, we were transported by motor boat for about and hour down the Madre de Dios river to our lodge. IMG_1992.jpg
I ended up in a group with 9 people from Spain and 5 girls from Ireland. The Irish girls also happen to be teachers like me. We stayed in bungalows which were nice, for jungle standards. I had my very own room which was really nice.IMG_1994.jpg
That night, we took a mini-trek in the jungle with our flashlights to see if we could find any creatures. We found some spiders, geckos, and night monkeys. The night monkeys happen to be in a tree right next to my bungalow! The next morning we got up really early and took the boat about a half hour to a nationally protected area. We hiked about 2 1/2 hours to a lake. Once at the lake, we got into a canoe and paddled around to search for creatures. Our group was quite fortunate because we spotted many. We saw turtles sunning on a log in the lake, 2 black caimen alligators peering above the water, jungle turkeys, and we saw a family of giant river otters. Apparently there are pirahna in this lake AND anacondas! Our guide said he once saw an anaconda. Yikes! He assured us that it's not like in the movies. The pirahna will leave you alone if you go into the lake, UNLESS you have some sort of open sore. They love the smell of blood and then will come get some if you are offering. Ha ha! After our canoe expedition, we hiked back to our boat on the river and went back to the lodge for some relaxation. IMG_2046.jpgIMG_2030.jpg
After my trek, I came back to Cusco for some much needed R & R. I have a hotel with a TV and cable! I hadn't watched TV in almost 5 weeks. For those of you that know me well, that is a record! I have read 5 books though, which I have enjoyed a lot. I need to read more when I get home. In an hour, I will be going to my school to take a test. I'm hoping to use my time and study at the school to apply for credits at a University in the States. I may be able to use it toward a lane change at work. I'm a bit nervous about the test though. I hope I pass! I practiced talking with the locals at the market yesterday. They said my Spanish was good, but I know they were just being courteous AND trying to make a sale.
Thanks for reading my blogs and making comments. I really enjoy blogging and reading comments when I travel.
Until my next trip, ADIOS AMIGOS!
Kristin

Posted by Kristinh 08:06 Comments (2)

Taray

and Pisac

For some reason, these last 2 blogs didn't send. Let's try again...

Hello again- It's nice to have some chill out time in Cusco where I can sit at my favorite cafe (with wireless internet!) and write my blog. The last week and a half has been a whirlwind. I have all day today and half a day tomorrow before I fly back to Lima. I plan to get a cheap massage and do all my last minute shopping. I am overnight in Lima on Wednesday and then I'll fly back to the U.S. on Thursday. It's time. I have had a wonderful experience here in Peru, but I'm ready for some comforts of home and the food in the U.S. I have a feeling that after a couple days back home, I'll actually miss Peru. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence isn't it?
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O.K., now I'll write a little bit about my week in Taray. This is a very very small little town that is a 25 minute walk on a dirt road to the town of Pisac. Pisac is known for their great ruins and mainly for their amazing market shopping. Ah, shopping! I spent many afternoons wandering around the market stands looking at all the textiles and other merchandise. I did buy a lot too. It's so much fun because everything is really cheap compared to the U.S. I had class in the morning from 8-noon. Then we had lunch prepared for us by the 2 people who ran the school site there. Let me tell you something about the food in Peru...it's very strange to me (and to all the Europeans who are here too) that they serve rice AND potatoes with every single meal. Wow, that has been hard to get used to. Alot of starch and carbs. Usually, back home it's one or the other with meat and a vegetable. Not here! I have had my fill of rice and potatoes. They put french fries in stirfrys here and then serve it over rice. There is always a potato in your soup too. I have to say, I will not miss Peruvian food. This is a photo of a couple students relaxing on the break between in the middle of our 4 hour class.
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I enjoyed running in Taray. There was a really really long dirt road that went on and on out in the country of farm fields with beautiful mountains surrounding you. Taray is in the sacred valley, so it's surrounded by mountains. I did, however, take a nasty fall while running one day. There are a lot of rocks and other obstacles to avoid. Well, one rock caught me and down I went. Just a few bruises and some scrapes. It was all worth it to run on a mostly flat (meaning few hills, not smooth surface) road. Cusco is SOOO hilly! There is not a flat street to be found here.
That's all for now. Later today, I'll catch up on my blogging with my Amazon Jungle entry. Hasta Luego.
Kristin

p.s. As I have read back over my blogs, I noticed several typos! Oops, thanks for your understanding. I really CAN spell!

Posted by Kristinh 08:05 Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca

don't laugh, that's really the name!

Hello everyone- It's been a while since my last blog. I have been really busy and often out of internet range. I just returned to Cusco from my jungle trek in the Amazon. I have been to Lake Titicaca and a week in Taray (a small town where my school has an alternate site). I'll just be writing about Lake Titicaca in this entry. More to come tomorrow about Taray and the jungle.

Lake Titicaca…where do I begin? This experience was the most intense and cultural that I have had yet in Peru. I traveled with 3 other friends from my school. We booked a trip through the travel agency associated with our school. We took and overnight bus that left at 10:00 p.m. Friday night to Puno, a city on the shore of Lake Titicaca. I thought this sounded like a great idea at the time, but in retrospect, I would not take an overnight bus again unless I absolutely was in a bind and had no other choice. We arrived in Puno at 4:45 a.m. to be met by a tour guide at the bus station. He walked us up to a dingy café in the bus station to sit and wait. We didn’t know the plan ie.. how long we were to wait etc.. Also, we were freezing cold. Puno is even higher in altitude than Cusco. We were all dressed in layers, hats, mittens and scarves. After about a half an hour at the bus café, our guide split us into 3 different taxis, destination unknown. At about 5:30 a.m., we pulled up to a building in Puno. We walked into a room with a big couch and a few chairs. He told us that we would be waiting a couple hours until we would be taken to the boat. So, all 12 of us in the group basically sat down and dozed for 2 hours in this strange room, painted bright green and orange. It was kind of surreal. We were twelve near strangers, sitting in a random, strange room in Puno, not so sure how this tour was going to pan out. All I have to say is…comfort in numbers! It was very weird. Had it just been one friend and I, I would have been much more freaked out. At around 8 a.m., we were taken to the boat and finally began the “real” tour. It was just bizarre in the sense that they didn’t really know what to do with us in the “transition” between bus and boat, so they drop us at this random place to wait.
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So, now the tour really begins. We were taken by boat to the Islas Uros. They are about a one hour boat ride from the dock in Puno. These are man-made floating islands. I thought this was really neat. About 8 families live on each island. They are made of big mud type blocks, held together by wood stakes and rope. They put several underneath and then pile up layers of reeds on top to form the surface of the island. They have houses built out of the same reed materials. The island itself was circular with a diameter of about 10 feet. The people were dressed in colorful, traditional clothing. They were selling their textiles and other things to the tourists. I find the way they live fascinating.
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After the floating islands, we went to the biggest island in Lake Titicaca, Isla Amantani. We were split into pairs and we stayed with a host family.
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I stayed with my friend Sonia. We had an interesting experience at our host home. We lived like they did for only one night. I don't know how they do it. I guess they don't know any different. There is no running water and no electricity. The door to our room was extremely short. The people here are really short.
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In the evening, we were dressed in traditional women's dress and brought to a dance by a bonfire. Wow, I'm so glad I experienced this. It was a very unique experience.
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After our night sleeping in a mud hut on Isla Amantani, we hopped back on our boat and toured another island called Isla Taquille. That was also an interesting place. In the plaza, you can observe the men in traditional dress, knitting. They knit hats. They all wear special hats, indicating if they are married, single, and under 6 years old. Fascinating culture. We at lunch on this island and then headed back to civilization in Puno. We had 5 hours to kill before we hopped back on another overnight bus. Ugh! I was so tired after these 3 days, I had to catch up on some sleep.
More to come tomorrow on my experience in Taray, the small town near Pisac (the great market, shopping city).

Posted by Kristinh 15:37 Comments (5)

Los Taxis

y las Taxistas

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I must dedicate one of my blogs to an interesting phenomenon in Cusco; the taxis. Everyday is an adventure in Cusco when you ride in taxis. First of all, there are so many taxis in this place, it would make your head spin. I would say for every 50 cars that drive by when I'm walking, only 2 or 3 of them are not taxis. This is not an exaggeration! If you think that the paragliding looked like a dangerous adventure, it was nothing compared to many of my rides in the taxis. I often take taxis to and from the plaza because I live a 45 minute walk from my school. I have had ample time to experience the white knuckle rides in "los taxis". Probably my worst ride was one evening after my class. I waved down a taxi (which is quite simple with so many around) and I jumped in without negotiating the price first. Whoops! This is 101 taxi riding: Always negotiate the price before you get in! What can I say, I was tired and not on my game. I remembered once we were driving and I said, "Tres Soles, si?". He said, "no, quatro (4)". I said, "no, cada dia yo pago tres soles (everyday I pay 3 soles)". He argued with me for a while and I finally gave up because I wasn't in the mood to squabble over what is only 30 US cents. It's just the principle of the matter. Anyway, this taxista was certifiably nuts! He sped so fast, weaved in and out of cars, squeezing into spaces so small I thought we'd scrape the other cars. He wailed on his horn constantly and basically scared the living daylights out of me. I was so angry because I was paying more for that ride than all my other rides since I've been here. Luckily, I made it to my house alive and uninjured. Phew, that was a scary one.

Now, let me explain the horn honking. There are no stop signs to be found in this entire city. There are some stop lights only on bigger thoroughfares. When the taxi drivers approach a 4 way stop, they beep on their horn a few times, while not really slowing down their speed, and whip right through the intersection. Also, the horn honking culture is quite different here than in the U.S. Boy do they use their horns here! They honk constantly when there are cars in front of them not moving fast enough, or it seems they honk "just because". They aren't really angry, it's just how it works here. Once in a while, you will see some taxista road rage. Finally, what amazes me most of all is that there are amazingly few car accidents here. One of my teachers said there are hardly any. This is REALLY hard to believe. In my short time here, I think my taxis have been awfully close to a crash. Maybe they are all just very skilled at driving like maniacs, so it just works. This is the end of my taxi dedication.
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I am leaving tonight at 10 p.m. for Puno. This is the city on Lake Titicaca in Southern Peru. I have been told it's even colder there than in Cusco. Brrr! I need my hat, gloves, scarf, warm fleece and a jacket. Wait a minute....isn't is summer? Oh yes, I left the U.S. summer for the South American winter. When I return on an overnight bus on Sunday into Monday, I will leave Cusco to study Spanish at the other school site in Taray. This is located in the Sacred Valley where it is a little warmer. After that, I am taking a 3 day trip to an ecolodge in the Amazon. I need to fly there because there aren't any roads to where I'm going. It is still surprisingly cheap. Well, I gotta go pack for my trip. Until next time. Adios.

Posted by Kristinh 15:43 Comments (4)

Chinchero

Yesterday I literally took a running jump off the edge of a mountain. Yes, that's right and I lived to tell about it. I was attached to a guide AND a big huge parasail. My friend Sonia and I decided to go paragliding. We didn't have anything else to do on a Sunday in Cusco, so we signed up last minute for a one day trip out to Chinchero, in the Sacred Valley. It was about a 1/2 hour drive from Cusco. There were 2 paraglider guides and 2 other guys who were there to spot and help get us off the cliff. The weather wasn't cooperating much early on in the day, so we ended having to wait for a long time until the wind conditions were just right. I didn't mind waiting because I knew we would be safer if the wind conditions were ideal. At about 2:45, we jumped off the cliff. We were up in the air for about 25 minutes. It was incredibly beautiful. Since the wind conditions had improved, we were able to go up extremely high, over the mountain tops. Now I think I know what a bird must feel like. It was an amazing thing to be able to do and to do in such beautiful surroundings. Now I'm back to my Spanish classes this week. I am moving along in the levels, but I don't necessarily feel like I can speak Spanish any better. I am not in the first level of "advanced". That is kind of a joke to me because I feel anything but advanced. I need a lot more practice with conversation and applying the grammar that I have learned. It's really hard! I have a new understanding of our "newcomber" students from other countries that are at Belair. It is really a challenge to learn a new language. Although, I think it may be a tad easier when you are a lot younger than I am! Here are some paragliding photos for your enjoyment...
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p.s. Thanks for all the great blog comments. I love checking for comments after I post a new blog!

Posted by Kristinh 12:59 Comments (13)

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