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Peru the home of mountains and jungles

2010 in Costa Rica was our first encounter with the wonders of the jungle. We were hooked and needed more! It was decided that the fix to our passion for wildlife would be tambopata research center in the depths of the Peruvian rainforest. Apart from jungle , Peru has much more to offer the desert landscapes of the south,Andean high plateau, cloud forests of the west and world class gastronomy.
We took off from Munich and arrived at Lima after 16 hours. We spent 1 night in Westin Lima where we had time to relax and get used to this new time zone. Our hotel is situated in the business area San Isidro where there are many restaurants and malls which gave us a chance to see business people having lunch until 16:00 and enjoying themselves with a bottle of wine.
The next day we flew to Cusco to the capital of Incas. The weather was noticably different than Lima which is expected as Cusco is situated at 3800mt above sea level. Our driver picked us up at the airport and drove us 1,5 hrs to our hotel Tambo del Inka right at the heart of the Sacred Valley. This hotel is very chich, designed with Inca patterns and colours, very comfortable and has dramatic views. You can see the snow topped mountains behind the Urubamba river which makes you feel like you are in a fairy tale. Incas chose this valley to settle not only because of the river but also the rich, fertile soil which gave the the best quality maize on which they built their empire.
Incas took advantage of the soil, overcoming the adversities of the Andean terrain and weather. The adaptation of agricultural technologies that had been used previously allowed the Incas to organize production of a diverse range of crops from the coast, mountains, and jungle regions, which they were then able to redistribute to villages that did not have access to the other regions.We visited Moray, the agriculture experiment station which is like an amphitheater divided into several layers of rings. Each layer has a different depth and orientation with respect to wind and sun and creates a temperature difference of as much as 15 °C between the top and bottom. This large temperature difference was  used by the Incas to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops. This place is considered holy as you are in touch with mother earth(pachamama). We even witnessed a shaman ritual which impressed me deeply maybe because of the peaceful, mystical scene we were in. The high altitude was a new experience for me as I felt like running a 5km marathon after walking 50 mts :) The next mountain we saw nearby was 6500 mts which looked majestic.
The next stop was Maras-Salinas; the salt evaporation ponds which are in use since Inca times.Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds.
After spending 3 days in Sacred valley, we were ready to see the capital of Inca Empire i.e.Cusco. This beatiful colonial city looked like a mixture of Sevilla and Santiago de Compostela. I was so amazed and thought that Cusco deserves to be a much more interesting tourist attraction than e.g. Venice or Florence which somehow is a desired destination for many people at least once in their lives. You are in the middle of Andeas and you can eat Michelin star quality food in many restaurants prepared with wide variety of natural Peruvian ingredients like jungle fruits you've never heard of or 3800 types of potatoes or giant colourful maize types and many more.Don't be surprised if you encounter a Pervuvian girl in native dress with an Alpaca in the streets of Cusco.A woman is recognized in many instances by her hat style, which reflects the culture of her region or village. There are many shops and bazaars selling very colourful pullovers,hats made of Alpaca wool which is unique in Cusco. Most of the world's Alpacas currently live in remote areas of Peru, in harsh, cold climates. The wool is very soft and perfect for cold climates like Germany :)

You can buy a baby alpaca pullover for 30-100€ depending on the quality or a Vicuna scarf for 3000€!

If you are in Cusco, you have to visit the cathedral which was unfortunately very sad for me to find out how much suffering Incas had to go through. Spaniards entered Cusco with the purpose of removing Inca religion and replacing it with Spanish Catholic Christianity.The Spaniards used the Incas as a labour workforce to build the cathedral with the stones of their holy temples. They destroyed all the temples and anything which will remind the prosperity of Incas.
I think beheading the Inca ruler Túpac Amaru was the last drop of humiliation even after stealing all their gold. 50% of the locals still believe in Inca religion which is not surprising if your lives are in the hands of nature.Our guide showed us the hidden Inca symbols and the signs of contempt in the paintings because of what Spanish did in the past. You can see lots of gold in the cathedral which our guide explained was historically percieved as a further insult to the poor.

We are not really museum people, but we loved every piece of precolumbian art museum.You can see very beautiful decorative porcalain and ceramics dated to 5000BC but somehow feels like from future. I think Picasso,Myro and Hundertwasser were inspired by looking at what our ancesters produced. What we call today symbolism and minimalism were the styles they used to capture the essence of nature.
Another museum tipp would be the Inka Museum where  you can read about how Spanish forbid Incas to paint, play instruments, theatre of any ancesters tradition. They are displaying reformated narrow skulls which was accepted as a sign of nobility.
We left Cusco with unforgettable memories and made our way to Peurto Maldonado looking forward to our jungle adventure.
Leaving the Andeas behind, we flew over what seemed to be like a green blanket, uninterrupted by roads or traces of civilization. In fact Puerto Maldonado is the only town within a radius of 300 kms in Peruvian part of the Amazon. Our guide Fernando with whom we spent the next 6 days , picked us up and drove to the Tambopata river. There, a long tail boat was waiting, to take us to our first lodge Posado Amazonas. After 4 hours of open air boat trip, we arrived at our lodge, by 10 mins walk into the forest, welcomed by the sounds of hundreds of birds. On our first tour we saw a giant opposum and a sweet aguti.
Life starts early in forest, to arrive at the location before the animals wake up you have to be even earlier than chickens :)We woke up around 4:30 every morning and had a 3 hour trekking before we came back for breakfast at 7:30. It may sound a bit difficult but for jet lagged Europeans it couldn't have been better. And the experience of walking in the dark forest, not knowing what you can face the next minute, until the sunset which is the trigger for thousands of birds to start their daily concert, can not be explained by words. Close to Posada Amazonas, we visited an Oxbow Lake where we saw black caymans warming up, giant river otter family fishing and Piranhas eating leaves.
Our next stop in the Amazon was Tambopata Research Center; a 6 hour journey from Posado. This part of the Amazon was chosen delibaretly by researches for it's unique  forest environment, with the highest concentrations of avian clay licks in the world. A range of animals comes to satisfy their need for salt along the river banks of the region. Waking up 4:30 in the morning and arriving at this quite place and all of a sudden watching hundreds of macaws and parrots meeting up was an amazing experience. Our guide calls it the "bird disco" because of many of the birds coming not only for salt, but to find a partner on the tree tops, showing off with their colourfull wings and unimaginably loud songs.

We spent the next 6 days looking for different species of birds and mammals in this remote national park which is solely owned by nature.The limited presence of humans had done a wonderful conservation of different ecosystems. There are so many species that surprise any scientist: 1,234 types of different butterflies, 592 of birds, 127 of amphibians, 103 of mammals, 74 reptiles and a lot of varieties.
Our experienced guide was able to reproduce their unique songs to call them somewhere near us so that we can see and if we are lucky to capture them with our camera. I noticed that the animals are much more sociable than humans as birds were immediately attempted to come and check their friends once they hear a similar call, whereas some tourists were hardly ever happy to say good morning in the breakfast area when they saw others. One can wonder which one to call animal :)
Our last destination was Refugio Amazonas Lodge where we watched the thousands of stars and milky way on a 35mt high tower and felt part of this universe and cosmos. The next morning we went all the way back to Puerto Maldonado to take our flight to our next destination to Ecuador via Lima.
In Lima we experienced the wonders of Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine and interesting but little known fact the Japanese settlers specifically the Nikkei created a cuisine which some would argue not only rivals that surpasses that of the Japanese. Having been to Japan we can vouch that Nikkei cuisine is extremely creative and in itself wort the trip to Lima. Try the Nikkei spin on the Peruvian classic Ceviche or sashimi embelished by jalopenas.
We spent 3 days in Marriott hotel in Miraflores district looking onto Pacific ocean indulging ourselves in the luxury treatment which was well deserved after our adventures.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Peru and are looking forward to going back to discover the wonders of the Paracas National Park to see the incredible animals of Islas Bellestas and the Sechura desert.

Pinar & Craig

September 2013

Westin Lima:http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3286

Tambo Del Inka: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/luxury/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3285

Moray: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moray_%28Inca_ruin%29
Maras: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maras,_Peru
Pre Columbian art museum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museo_de_Arte_Precolombino_%28Peru%29
Amazon Lodge travel agency: http://www.perunature.com/

Tambopata Macaw Project: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tambopata_Macaw_Project
Marriott Lima: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/limdt-jw-marriott-hotel-lima/

 

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#1 defne 30-09-2013 10:55
what an adventurous and marvelous trip :)thanks for sharing!!
 

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